(Ashtoreth) An important Levantine Goddess adopted into Egyptian cult under a narrow aspect as a Goddess of war, especially of the chariot. Like the Levantine Goddess Anat, Astarte was regarded by Egyptians as a daughter of Re and a wife of Seth, although Astarte is also sometimes regarded as the daughter of Ptah. Astarte is depicted in an Egyptian context as an armed naked woman on horseback wearing the atef crown or a bull-horned headdress.

A fragmentary papyrus probably of the time of Amenhotep II recounts a myth involving Astarte (trans. in Simpson, ed. 2003). In the myth the sea, Yamm, is ruler of the cosmos and exacts tribute from his subjects, which apparently consists at first of the produce of the harvest, since mention is made of Renenutet. Astarte is sent to deliver the tribute to Yamm, and perhaps to intercede in some fashion on behalf of the other Gods. Yamm refers to her as “you furious and tempestuous Goddess.” Nevertheless it appears that the sea makes Astarte his wife, or some kind of co-ruler, for when she next appears before the other Gods “the great ones saw her and got up to meet her, and the lesser ones saw her and lay down on their bellies. Her throne was given to her, and she sat down.” Extensive gaps make reconstructing the story a matter of conjecture, but something is presented to Astarte, possibly a dowry to be offered to Yamm as her husband-to-be. Some demand is made of the other Gods which requires them to surrender their very adornments to Yamm; mention is made of beads from around the neck of Nut (the stars?) and a signet ring of Geb. Subsequently a threat is made by Yamm to submerge the earth; Seth enters the story and “sits himself down calmly,” but the rest is lost. From scattered allusions elsewhere it would appear that the story ended with Seth battling Yamm and putting an end to the sea’s insatiable demands, a fragment near the end of the papyrus being reconstructed as “And the sea left…”. Of Astarte’s further actions in the myth nothing is however known.

Astarte is also mentioned in a spell against crocodiles on the river from the Harris Magical Papyrus (spell F ll. 14-16=col. 3/5-10), in which five Gods are asked to seal what is in the river “like the mouth of the vulva of Anat and Astarte, the two great Goddesses who are pregnant without giving birth, is sealed.” It is explained that “They were closed by Horus. They were opened by Seth,” (Ritner 1984, 216). That is, Seth “opened” or impregnated them, and then their vulvas were closed by Horus, that they might not give birth to, in the particular case, crocodiles, since Maga, the son of Seth, is depicted as a crocodile.

Ritner, Robert K. 1984. “A Uterine Amulet in the Oriental Institute Collection.” Journal of Near Eastern Studies Vol. 43, No. 3: 209-221.
Simpson, W. K., ed. 2003. The Literature of Ancient Egypt. 3d ed. New Haven: Yale University Press.

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