Abstract: Aphrodite and Her Near Eastern Sisters: The Generation of the Goddess
Lecturer: Nancy Serwint
The goddess worshipped in Cyprus, variously known from inscriptional sources as Wanassa or Paphia, is linked by Homeric and Hesiodic sources to a Greek tradition of the divinity who explicitly embodied sexuality and sensual pleasures. In the Greek world, the goddess is known as the powerful Aphrodite. The character of the Cypriot goddess, however, was of abundant complexity and the various aspects of her persona argue for influence from Near Eastern sources--primarily the Sumerian Inanna and her subsequent manifestations as Ishtar and the Canaanite/Phoenician goddesses Astarte, Anat, and even Asherah. Examination of textual material as well as select iconographic representations suggest three primary spheres of influence which these goddesses encompassed: sexuality, fertility, and ferocity. Though decidedly female in the Near Eastern literary and artistic tradition, these goddesses reflected a gamut of roles associated with women and engendered the Cypriot goddess with a spectrum of qualities through which she could be revered for her infinite variety.