South Arabian fragment of a stela, depicts a reclining ibex and three Arabian oryx heads. The ibex was one of the most sacred animals in South Arabia, while the oryx antelope was associated with Athtar, 5th century BC; Walters Art Museum.
South Arabian fragment of a stela, depicts a reclining ibex and three Arabian oryx heads. The ibex was one of the most sacred animals in South Arabia, while the oryx antelope was associated with Athtar, 5th century BC; Walters Art Museum.

Aṯtar (Arabic: عثتر; Musnad: 𐩲𐩻𐩩𐩧) is an ancient Semitic deity whose role, name, and even gender varied by cultures of West Asia. Depicted as either male or female, the deity was identified with the planet Venus. In pre-Islamic South Arabia, it was worshipped as a god of war.

Name and identity

The name appears as Attar (Aramaic), Athtar (South Arabia), Astar (Aksum), Ashtar (Moab), Aṯtar (Ugarit)[1] and Ištar in Akkadian. In both genders, Aṯtar is identified with the planet Venus, the morning and evening star, in some manifestations of Semitic mythology. The deity is also connected to the Hellenistic goddess Astarte.[2]

Attar was worshipped in Southern Arabia in pre-Islamic times. A god of war, he was often referred to as "He who is Bold in Battle". One of his symbols was the spear-point and the antelope was his sacred animal. He had power over Venus, the morning star, and was believed to provide humankind with water.

In ancient times, Arabia shared the gods of Mesopotamia, being so close to Babylon, except the genders and symbols of these deities were swapped. For instance, the sun goddess Shams became the sun god Shamash, and the god Athtar became the goddess Ishtar in Sumer-Akkad. Athtar was a god of the thunderstorm, dispensing natural irrigation in the form of rain. Athtar also represented fertility and water as essential to fertility. When representing water he stood not just for the act of raining itself, but rather for the useful flow of the water after the rain, in the wadi, the Arabian watercourse which is dry except in the rainy season.[3]

In popular culture

Attar appears as the demon Ashtar in Shin Megami Tensei II.

Notes

  1. ^ James Hastings (1908–1927). Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics Part 3. p. 165. ISBN 076613671X.
  2. ^ Smith, Homer W. (1952). Man and His Gods. New York: Grosset & Dunlap. p. 85.
  3. ^ Julian Baldick (1998). Black God. Syracuse University Press. p. 20. ISBN 0815605226.

References