Aphrodite Essay Research Paper According to the

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Aphrodite Essay, Research Paper According to the ancient Greeks, Aphrodite was a beautiful, youthful goddess, associated with the attributes of love and life (Schefold 15). Between the 6th century B.C. and the 1st century A.D., she was frequently used as a subject matter in Greek and Hellenistic art. During that period, goddesses related to Aphrodite were often seen in Near Eastern art as well. In fact, Aphrodite’s origins can be found in the goddess Astarte, who was worshipped by the Phoenicians. The Assyrians, who controlled the Near East up to the end of the seventh century B.C., worshipped a goddess named Ishtar who was similar in many ways to Aphrodite. The Babylonians adapted Ishtar to their pantheon and, like the Assyrians, considered her to be not only the goddess

of love and life, but also of warfare (Ghirshman 393). The Persians, who took control of the region in 539 B.C., had a goddess named Anahita. This goddess, like Ishtar, held dominion over love and fertility. Furthermore, Anahita, like Ishtar, not only “ensured the continuity of life” but “was at the same time a goddess of war” (Ghirshman 250). This paradox of a goddess ruling warfare as well as love and life was found among the Greeks as well. Thus, statues of Aphrodite were often worshipped by Greek warriors before going into battle. According to Getty, the beautiful young woman was seen as being a symbol for all that the men were fighting for. Thus, the goddess was “called upon to drive the men into battle-frenzy in order to satisfy their honour and the need to

protect their ‘property’” (Getty 23). Just as there are similarities in theme between the Greek and Near Eastern versions of Aphrodite, there are also certain similarities to be found in comparing her poses and gestures in the art of those two regions. Basically, the Near Eastern depictions of the goddess were less naturalistic than those of the Greeks. The Greeks sought to “humanize” Aphrodite, as well as the other deities, in their art. In this way, an effort was made to show a relationship between human beings and the gods. By contrast, Near Eastern representations sought to maintain a distance between worshipper and deity. The goddess statues of that region often avoided realism by using simple geometric shapes. In fact, in early Near Eastern representations of

Ishtar, the heads were usually “reduced to enormous staring eyes” (Getty 90-91). According to Janson, the ancient Near Eastern artists avoided showing any other details because they wanted to emphasize the eyes, which they considered to be “the windows of the soul” (122). Along with using simple shapes, the Near Eastern artists often depicted their deities in stiff poses. This “Mesopotamian tradition” in art persisted throughout the Hellenistic period and could be seen, for example, even in relatively late Persian works (Janson 135). During the classic period, Greek artists revolutionized Western art by frequently posing Aphrodite in the nude. As a general rule, nude depictions of the goddess are rare in Near Eastern art, although there are some notable exceptions. In

fact, a stone relief of Lilith from about 2000 B.C. is “the first voluptuous female nude known from antiquity” (Hartt 110). It is interesting to note that Lilith, in contrast to Aphrodite, was the Assyrian goddess of death rather than life. Despite being the earliest known female nude, this depiction of Lilith was far from realistic. In fact, she was shown with wings and taloned feet. Furthermore, her pose is rigid and her only gesture is to hold her arms up in front of her. Another rare Near Eastern female nude can be seen in a stone statue from approximately 1000 B.C. In sharp contrast to the norm of the period, this figure of the goddess depicts the nude human body “with loving care” (Parrot 161). Apparently, the Phoenicians went against the Near Eastern tradition in