Ishtar, with her cult-animal the lion, and a worshipper, modern impression from a cylinder seal, …—Courtesy of the Oriental Institute, University of Chicago

In Mesopotamian religion, the goddess of war and sexual love. Known as Ishtar in Akkadia, she was called Astarte by western Semitic peoples and was identified with Inanna in Sumeria. In early Sumeria she was the goddess of the storehouse as well as of rain and thunderstorms. Once a fertility goddess, she evolved into a deity of contradictory qualities, of joy and sorrow, fair play and enmity. In Akkadia she was associated with the planet Venus and was the patroness of prostitutes and alehouses. Her popularity became universal in the ancient Middle East, and she was called Queen of the Universe.

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