|Author||Lucian of Samosata|
|Publisher||Evinity Publishing Inc|
|Publication Date||June 22, 2009|
Lucian of Samosata's De Dea Syria, (the Syrian Goddess) is one of the most 'notorious' classical writings. Not only does it acknowledge that at one time a paramount Goddess was worshipped in regions of the Ancient Near East, it goes into details of the practices of her devotees which later generations considered reprehensible. Nonetheless De Dea played an important role in the development of modern Neopaganism; Robert Graves cited it as one of the few actual accounts of ancient Goddess-worship.
Lucian recounts his personal observations of the worship of the Goddess Atargatis (a form of Isthar or Astarte) at the temple of Hierapolis, in what is today Turkey. Lucian writes in the style of Herodotus, and, remarkably, in Herodotus' dialect of Greek, which at that time was over five hundred years old. Lucian describes huge phalliform idols, cross-dressing priests who castrated themselves, ritual prostitution of female worshippers, and occasional infant human sacrifice. Unlike most of the other writings of Lucian, he is not being explicitly satirical or ironic, nor is he writing fiction. Strong and Garstang claim that this was largely a historically valid description, supported by other ancient writers, texts, and archaeology. Among other passages of interest, there is a variant account of the Greek flood myth of Deucalion which is here blended with pre-biblical Ancient Near Eastern deluge accounts. --J.B. Hare