SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: Asherah, Ashtoreth, Ashtart CATEGORY: deity DEFINITION: The goddess of the ancient Near East that was the chief deity of many important sites and the fertility goddess of the Phoenicians and the Canaanites. She is sometimes equated with Egyptian Isis, Babylonian Ishtar, Carthaginian Tanit, and Greek Aphrodite, Cybele, and Hera. She originated in Syria as a war goddess, probably introduced into Egypt in the 18th Dynasty (1550-1295 BC). Astarte was usually portrayed as a naked woman on horseback wearing a headdress or bull horns.
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: Bet She'an, Baysan (Arabic), Beisan (modern); Scythopolis CATEGORY: site DEFINITION: A very large tell of northeastern Israel, site of one of the oldest inhabited cities of ancient Palestine. Overlooking the town to the north is Tel Bet She'an (Arabic Tall al-Husn), one of the most important stratified mounds in Palestine. It was excavated in 1921-1933 by the University of Pennsylvania, which discovered the lowest strata date from the late Chalcolithicperiod in the country (c 4000-3000 BC) through Bronze Age and Iron Age levels and upward to Byzantine times (c AD 500). Buildings, including temples and administrative buildings, span the Egyptian period -- the earliest from the time of Thutmose III (ruled 1504-1450 BC), and the latest dating to Rameses III (1198-66 BC). Important stelae (stone monuments) show the conquests of Pharaoh Seti I (1318-1304 BC) and of the worship of the goddess Astarte. During the Hellenistic period, the city was called Scythopolis; it was taken by the Romans in 64 BC and given the status of an imperial free city by Pompey. In 1960 a finely preserved Roman amphitheater, with a seating capacity for about 5,000, was excavated. The city was an important center of the Decapolis (a league of 10 Hellenistic cities) and under Byzantine rule was the capital of the northern province of Palaestina Secunda. All these periods were also represented in the surrounding cemeteries. It declined after the Arab conquest (636 AD).
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: Inanna CATEGORY: deity DEFINITION: In Mesopotamian religion, the goddess of war, love, and procreation. She was the Akkadian counterpart of the West Semitic goddess Astarte. Her husband was Tammuz. Part of her cult worship probably included temple prostitution, and her cult center, Erech, was filled with courtesans and harlots. She was popular throughout the ancient Middle East.
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: Tinith, Tinnit, Tint CATEGORY: deity DEFINITION: Chief goddess of Carthage, equivalent of Astarte, who was a mother goddess, represented mainly by fertility symbols. She was probably the consort of Baal Hammon (or Amon), the chief god of Carthage. Children, probably firstborn, were sacrificed to Tanit. Evidence of the practice has been found, where a tofet (a sanctuary for the sacrifice of children) was discovered.