Ashtart (either "the Star", or "She of the Womb&"), is better known by the name Astarte, the Greek version of Her name. Ashtart is a Semitic Goddess of love and war and the Canaanite Great Goddess who is the cult partner of Ba'al (the King). Semitic describes a group of languages, and by extension, kindred cultures of the Near East and Africa which include Phoenician, Arabic, Hebrew and Assyrian. She is the Deity of the Planet Venus and a Fertility Goddess, and Her cult was known throughout the ancient world for its practice of temple prostitution. She was the main Deity of the cities Sor (more familiarly Tyre), Zidon (Sidon) and Gubla (Byblos), and is frequently shown as an archer either beside or standing on a lion, much like the Babylonian Ishtar, who is quite similar. Snakes and the cypress tree are sacred to Her; and, like the related Arabic Goddess Al-Uzza, whose name, "the Mighty One", is an epithet of Ashtart, the acacia tree is also Hers.
As with many of the other Near Eastern Goddesses of the planet Venus, two of Her aspects are that of the Goddess of War and the Goddess of Love. As Venus the Morning Star, Ashtart is a Goddess of War and Hunting; and as the Evening Star, She is the Goddess of Love, Sex, Fertility and Vitality, depicted as a nude woman. In Her role as Goddess of Love She was honored with sexual rites, especially in the city of Sidon or Zidon, and some of Her priests and priestesses there were chosen from the royal family.
In the legends of Ugarit (the modern Ras Shamra on the coast of Syria) of the 14th century BCE, Ashtart is mentioned with the virgin Warrior-Goddess Anath (Anat) as restraining the young God Ba'al, who wishes to overthrow the River God, Yam. When Yam is taken captive, Ba'al kills him, and Ashtart rebukes him for the murder, cursing Him with His own name. She is sometimes called "Ashtart-Name-of-Ba'al" which may refer to Her magical knowledge of His secret name in which His power resides; the idea of a secret or cult name of a Deity, known only to the initiated, was not uncommon in the area: Jehovah is supposed to possess a secret name of power, uttered by Lilith when She left the Garden; and in a legend of Isis, the great Egyptian Goddess, She brings about the downfall of the aging God Ra by speaking his hidden name.
Several gold pendants from Ugarit, dating to about 1300 BCE depict Ashtart in a highly stylized manner. From a flat gold plate, roughly teardrop-shaped, Her face and breasts emerge; and Her pubic area is depicted as a triangle with dots, I assume representing hair. There is also, however, what appears to be a stylized tree "growing" from that triangle and which ends just below Her navel. This "tree" is perhaps to be equated with the Near Eastern Tree of Life.
Ashtart was worshipped with the young God 'Adon, son of Malidthu, in the town of Aphek or Aphaca in Palestine, the modern Afka. 'Adon is a title, rather than a name (as is common among the Phoenicians) meaning "Lord", and He may actually be Eshmun, the young God of Health. The site of the town Aphek was known for its stunning beauty, as it was situated high on a cliff from which a river issued to fall in a great torrent. Under the Greek name Adonis (which also means "Lord"), He was a young and very beautiful God with Whom Aphrodite (the Greek equivalant of Athtart) fell in love. Alas, one day while out hunting He was killed by a boar and the Goddess mourned terribly for Him. He represents the young vegetation/crops that are killed in the droughts of the dry season, and the river at Aphek was said to run red with His blood in the rainy season. He had a famous festival in midsummer celebrating His death and resurrection that eventually spread with His worship to Greece, Egypt and Rome, and which was celebrated primarily by women.
For some time Ashtart under the name Ashtoreth seems to have been worshipped side by side with the Hebrew God as His consort; He was early on called Ba'al, a general title meaning "Lord", used in the area to refer to each people's particular patron God, though their real (and sometimes secret) names were different. This fell out of favor in time as the Hebrews transitioned to monotheism. Apparently they had a hard time with this, though, as Jehovah is forever chiding His people for "backsliding" and returning to the worship of Ba'al and Ashtoreth. Ashtoreth in the Bible is worshipped in groves called after Her asherah and may have been honored as a pillar of wood, or as manifest in the grove itself. In one tale from the Biblical book Judges, Jehovah has Gideon destroy his own father's shrines to Ba'al and Ashtoreth, which he does in the middle of the night under cover of darkness, as he was too scared of the repercussions to do it in broad daylight.
King Solomon, famous for his great wisdom, was said to have had seven hundred wives, many of whom were from neighboring, Pagan, tribes. To accommodate their religions, he built for them temples to their Gods, including a sanctuary to Ashtart in Jerusalem. Jehovah, known far and wide for His jealousy, couldn't tolerate this and brought about Solomon's death. On other occasions when the Hebrews reverted to the old religion, Jehovah in a divine fit of pique "gave them over into the hands of their enemies" (also from Judges).
Ashtart also had temples in Ascalon in Philistia, about forty miles southwest of Jerusalem, and Beth-shean, or Scythopolis, near the Sea of Galilee. She is also said to be the mother of the maiden Yabarodmay, by Ba'al.
The Goddess Athirat-of-the-Sea, who also features in the Ba'al legend, is the wife of El, the Father of the Gods; She has much in common with Ashtart and the two may be aspects of the same Goddess. Some sources make Athirat the Goddess worshipped by the Hebrews as Jehovah's consort; the two are quite confused, both by modern scholars and the ancients.
Ashtart's name has many variations depending on the language or city in which She was worshipped. Some examples: She is Astarte to the Greeks, Ashtoreth or Ashtaroth among the Hebrews, 'Attart or 'Athtart in the city of Ugarit, Astartu in Akkadian.
Epithets: "Goddess of Heaven", "Ashtart-Name-of-Ba'al", "Ashtart-of-the-Sky-of-Ba'al", "the Strong One", "Ashtart-of-the-Fields", "Ashtart-of-the-Battle"; and Kbd, "Glory"
She is the western Semitic equivilant of the Eastern Semitic Inanna of the Sumerians and Ishtar of the Babylonians; the Greeks identified Her with their Aphrodite, who may have Her origins in Ashtart anyway, as She was believed to have come from the East. Atargatis is confused or equated with Her, and may have originally been the same Goddess; Ba'alat, "the Lady" of Gubla (Byblos) is likely a title for Ashtart. She was equated by the Etruscans with their Mother and Sky Goddess Uni, and is related to Tanit of Carthage.