Sponsored by: Archaeological Institute of America
This presentation follows the evolution of the Near Eastern goddess of love and war Inanna/Ištar into the Greek goddess of sex Aphrodite and finally into the Roman Venus Victrix, the mother goddess who embodied victory. We consider the textual and iconographic data that show how these deities emerged from one another, starting with the mingling of passionate Inanna and her male, Semitic cognate Athar to form Ištar and, later, western Astarte. From here the lecture goes to Cyprus to watch Aphrodite Kypris emerge from the foam, and finally we travel to Rome to watch the Roman mother goddess become a goddess of battles. Special focus is on the aspects of eroticism and militarism. Contrary to much current understanding, the martial aspect of these goddesses was not maintained over the course of the evolution — Aphrodite herself was a miserable failure in battle (Iliad, book 5), and Venus only emerged as a military deity under the auspices of Sulla and, later, Augustus Caesar. This talk will discuss the chronology of such changes, and how the Near Eastern deities continued to influence the Classical pantheons.