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XXI

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Astarte





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ASTARTE-called in Scripture "Ashtroth" was the favorite goddess of the Sidonians, Tyrians, Philistines, and Syro-Phoenicians generally. She appears to have been identical with the Greek Aphrodite, and in Roman Venus Genetrix, being believed by the ancients to be the goddess of generation, as well as of beauty. By Milton, in his Paradise Regained, a place is assigned to her among the fallen angels: With these in troop came Astoreth, whom the Phoenicians called Astarte, queen of Heaven, with crescent horns; To whose bright image nightly by the moon Sidonian virgins paid their vows and songs.

Among the imperial colonies in the east, the cities of Berytus, Bostra, Sidon, and Tyre, are those in which Astarte was chiefly worshipped; and on the respective coins of which she appears,

under the image of a young woman, wearing a tuft-like, head dress; and clothed in a tunic, high in the neck- sometimes (as in the annexed engraving from a Tyrian coin), not reaching lower than the knees; sometimes with a longer dress, but with the right knee exposed, and the foot planted on a ship's prow.

This object of gross idolatry had a fine temple a Bostra; and on a large brass, struck there and dedicated to Julia Mamaea, the idol, as above described, stands within a portico of six columns, holding a cruciform staff in the right hand, and a cornucopia in the left. Of Berytus also she was a great tutelary goddess; for which reason Nonnus calls that city "the habitation of Venus." The Tyrians also paid supreme adoration to Astarte, and their city contained a superb temple erected to her honor. The fact that this deity was the Venus of the Tyriaus is corroborated by what passage of Cicero (lib. iii. De Nat. Deor.) in which he affirms, that the goddess, whom the Tyrians worshipped under the name of Astarte, was the Syrian Venus, who was said to have been married to Adonis. Josephus records the building of a magnificent temple by Hiram, King of Tyre, in honor of Ashtaroth (Astarte). Coincident with which, we find a second brass of Elagabalus, exhibiting the goddess, with her usual attributes, standing within a temple. As the chief local deity of Tyre, she sometimes appears on Roman coins of that colony, standing together with the figure of Angerona, Goddess of silence. The Sidonians, like their Tyrian neighbors and rivals, were blind votaries to this "abomination" of Assyria; and their city also had a fine temple of Astarte, Amongst the numerous numismatic dedications made by the Roman colonists at Sidon, to Elagabalus and the female members of his family, are first and second brass coins, which exhibit the effigy of Astarte standing (see the annexed woodcut) with her right hand placed on a trophy, whilst she carries in her left the hasta crosswise. At her left hand a figure of Victory, placed on a column, presents to her a crown. At her left foot is the conchylium, or shell fish, from whose blood the famous purple was said to have been made. The palm tree is a symbol common to Phoenicia and Palestine. This reverse is repeated on other colonial medals of Tyre and Sidon, with the addition of representing the idol within its temple.

In Vaillant's Colonies are given a coin of Septimius Severus, and another of Diadumenian?, the former bearing the following legend and type on the reverse, viz. COL. AELIA CAPIT. (established by Hadrian on the ruins of Jerusalem.)- On this reverse Astarte, or Venus, holds, in one hand, the head of Serapis, and in the other the hasta; her right foot being placed on the crouching figure of a river-god. In the coin dedicated to the youthful son of Macrinus, two winged Victories are added, standing at her feet on each side. The same learned writer, in describing the well-known type which accompanies Indulgentia Augg. in Carth, on a denarius of the Emperor Severus, says of Cybele vecta leone currente-"This goddess is the Astarte of Carthage." -See Aelia Capitolina-Bostra- Berytus-Sidon, and Tyrus, in their respective places.

Astarte is also typified on many Greek coins of cities and people. Likewise on some Greek Imperial, struck under Caracalla, Geta, Elagabalus, Alexander Severus, Gordian III Pius, etc.


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