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Sacred prostitution in ancient Babylon; Herodotus

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posted on Oct, 14 2014 @ 09:02 AM
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I just received another pile of books from the vast sea of knowledge, and one of them contains the nine volumes of 'The Histories' by the Greek historian Herodotus Halicarnassus who lived and wrote between c. 484–425 BC according to Wikipedia. Towards the end of Book I (IX in total), we can read the following:


Now the most shameful of the customs of the Babylonians is as follows: every woman of the country must sit down in the precincts of Aphrodite once in her life and have commerce with a man who is a stranger


According to Herodotus it was common practice in Babylonia around the time of the Jewish captivity, every woman had to...


--in the sacred enclosure of Aphrodite sit great numbers of women with a wreath of cord about their heads; some come and others go; and there are passages in straight lines going between the women in every direction, through which the strangers pass by and make their choice.


Did Babylonian regulations really demand that all women at some time in life should work as street hookers? John the Scribe's "Babylon, Mother of Harlots" comes to mind. Anyway…


Here when a woman takes her seat she does not depart again to her house until one of the strangers has thrown a silver coin into her lap and has had commerce with her outside the temple, and after throwing it he must say these words only: "I demand thee in the name of the goddess Mylitta": now Mylitta is the name given by the Assyrians to Aphrodite


Looks like Herodotus has been to one of them clubs and instead of the thinking the obvious, that it's a sex club and organised sex-trade, he understands it as something profound and religious, quite funny. The name of the goddess he ascribes the Assyrians is unknown to me, and I couldn't find any references to her in my books, so for now, I guess Herodotus' explanation that this 'Mylitta' is to be understood as Aphrodite, Greek goddess of love, is good I suppose. Aphrodite was known to the Hebrews as Ishtar or Astarte, goddess of love, sex and fertility, but also a goddess of war.

I find it amusing that Herodot seems to have gained deep insights into these ehrm, mysteries, and he seems to have been a diligent in his research to uncover all the details, complete with secret cloathing, code phrase and...


the silver coin may be of any value; whatever it is she will not refuse it, for that is not lawful for her, seeing that this coin is made sacred by the act


Now isn't that convenient?


and she follows the man who has first thrown and does not reject any: and after that she departs to her house, having acquitted herself of her duty to the goddess, nor will you be able thenceforth to give any gift so great as to win her. So then as many as have attained to beauty and stature are speedily released, but those of them who are unshapely remain there much time, not being able to fulfil the law; for some of them remain even as much as three or four years: and in some parts of Cyprus too there is a custom similar to this.


I don't quite know what to make of all of this, but I found the quoted text rather amusing, and thought I'd share. I also find the link between Gr. Aphrodite (Bab. Inanna, Heb. Ishtar) and religiously motivated prostitution intriguing. All over the ancient Middle East there seem to have been organised prostitution connected to certain temples and gods. Some of this is reflected by the Old Testament, and in Hosea, God actually orders the prophet to buy two prostitutes and have children with them. Guess things were different back then. Any thoughts?

Source for text ==> www.sacred-texts.com...
edit on 14-10-2014 by Utnapisjtim because: ...




posted on Oct, 14 2014 @ 09:17 AM
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hi ho kafusalem the harlot of Jerusalem prostitute of ill repute the daughter of the rabbi. chorus with hundreds of verses.
second line, worse than the first.



posted on Oct, 14 2014 @ 09:26 AM
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It doesn't look like things have improved much since then for the women of ISIS, judging from -this- thread.
edit on 14-10-2014 by aboutface because: (no reason given)



posted on Oct, 14 2014 @ 09:35 AM
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a reply to: Utnapisjtim

I've never seen it put so poetically. "Be pretty or life will suck"

Have we been attempting to convince women of their debt to men since the beginning of time? Is it a result of natural selection being the prettiest mate more, so over millions of years that becomes the heart of what it is to be a female?

That's what I took away from that. The warning to unshapely girls lol. Craziness. It's a hip hop video from 450bc lol



posted on Oct, 14 2014 @ 10:13 AM
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a reply to: mindseye1609

I could imagine a statue would be proper, depicting some rejected woman sitting there outside the temple covering her face and a dried up wreath around her head, as if turned to stone, not by Medusa or some artist, but by time itself and the steady flow of tears. Hm, can make one's mood poetic. However:


and many women who do not deign to mingle with the rest, because they are made arrogant by wealth, drive to the temple with pairs of horses in covered carriages, and so take their place, and a large number of attendants follow after them


Interesting to see Herodotus is dismayed by certain wealthy and 'arrogant' women who protest against these customs even though he calls this temple prostitution the 'most shameful of the customs' in the intro of the chapter. Denial?



posted on Oct, 14 2014 @ 10:26 AM
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originally posted by: Utnapisjtim
Did Babylonian regulations really demand that all women at some time in life should work as street hookers? John the Scribe's "Babylon, Mother of Harlots" comes to mind. Anyway…


Calling them street hookers is a little low. This is clearly describing a whore house, albeit a holy whore house. While still prostitution, it is really a step up from street whoring.


Looks like Herodotus has been to one of them clubs and instead of the thinking the obvious, that it's a sex club and organised sex-trade, he understands it as something profound and religious, quite funny. The name of the goddess he ascribes the Assyrians is unknown to me, and I couldn't find any references to her in my books, so for now, I guess Herodotus' explanation that this 'Mylitta' is to be understood as Aphrodite, Greek goddess of love, is good I suppose. Aphrodite was known to the Hebrews as Ishtar or Astarte, goddess of love, sex and fertility, but also a goddess of war.

I find it amusing that Herodot seems to have gained deep insights into these ehrm, mysteries, and he seems to have been a diligent in his research to uncover all the details, complete with secret cloathing, code phrase and...


Yeah, I'm sure it took MUCH... erm... "studying" on his part.


I don't quite know what to make of all of this, but I found the quoted text rather amusing, and thought I'd share. I also find the link between Gr. Aphrodite (Bab. Inanna, Heb. Ishtar) and religiously motivated prostitution intriguing. All over the ancient Middle East there seem to have been organised prostitution connected to certain temples and gods. Some of this is reflected by the Old Testament, and in Hosea, God actually orders the prophet to buy two prostitutes and have children with them. Guess things were different back then. Any thoughts?


Translation from that passage:
She accepts the first man who claims her without rejecting anyone, then accepts the money he handed her without question, and then when she is done having sex, her duty to the goddess is done and she can go back home. Also you aren't allowed to give her any gifts to win her heart (this is all STRICTLY platonic apparently). Then he goes on to say that all the hot girls cycle through this phase quickly while the ugly ones stay behind unable to fulfill their duty to the goddess, staying as long as three or four years.

By the way to your point that things were different back then. Prostitution has only been illegal for about 100 years or so. Other than that, it's been a 100% legal and accepted profession for women. To be honest, it should be legal again, but that isn't the point of the thread. S&F
edit on 14-10-2014 by Krazysh0t because: (no reason given)



posted on Oct, 14 2014 @ 10:54 AM
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originally posted by: Krazysh0t

originally posted by: Utnapisjtim
Did Babylonian regulations really demand that all women at some time in life should work as street hookers? John the Scribe's "Babylon, Mother of Harlots" comes to mind. Anyway…


Calling them street hookers is a little low. This is clearly describing a whore house, albeit a holy whore house. While still prostitution, it is really a step up from street whoring.


Well, the picking up part happened inside the temple complex, but the hrm, commerce itself, was done outside, in the street while people watched, err I mean worshipped.



Looks like Herodotus has been to one of them clubs and instead of the thinking the obvious, that it's a sex club and organised sex-trade, he understands it as something profound and religious, quite funny. The name of the goddess he ascribes the Assyrians is unknown to me, and I couldn't find any references to her in my books, so for now, I guess Herodotus' explanation that this 'Mylitta' is to be understood as Aphrodite, Greek goddess of love, is good I suppose. Aphrodite was known to the Hebrews as Ishtar or Astarte, goddess of love, sex and fertility, but also a goddess of war.

I find it amusing that Herodot seems to have gained deep insights into these ehrm, mysteries, and he seems to have been a diligent in his research to uncover all the details, complete with secret cloathing, code phrase and...


Yeah, I'm sure it took MUCH... erm... "studying" on his part.


Hmm. It's an interesting subject, but I get the feeling he is not being completely sincere somehow.



I don't quite know what to make of all of this, but I found the quoted text rather amusing, and thought I'd share. I also find the link between Gr. Aphrodite (Bab. Inanna, Heb. Ishtar) and religiously motivated prostitution intriguing. All over the ancient Middle East there seem to have been organised prostitution connected to certain temples and gods. Some of this is reflected by the Old Testament, and in Hosea, God actually orders the prophet to buy two prostitutes and have children with them. Guess things were different back then. Any thoughts?


Translation from that passage:
She accepts the first man who claims her without rejecting anyone, then accepts the money he handed her without question, and then when she is done having sex, her duty to the goddess is done and she can go back home. Also you aren't allowed to give her any gifts to win her heart (this is all STRICTLY platonic apparently). Then he goes on to say that all the hot girls cycle through this phase quickly while the ugly ones stay behind unable to fulfill their duty to the goddess, staying as long as three or four years.

By the way to your point that things were different back then. Prostitution has only been illegal for about 100 years or so. Other than that, it's been a 100% legal and accepted profession for women. To be honest, it should be legal again, but that isn't the point of the thread. S&F


In Norway prostitution was legal until a few years back when the new sex-trade laws were made effective. Now it is still legal to sell sex (i.e. work as a prostitute) but it is illegal to pay for sex, and the fines are sky-high. Procuring or pimping has been illegal since quite some time though. That this is all messed up is an understatement. Prostitution is called the oldest trade in the world. And it is outlawed. Ironic.



posted on Oct, 14 2014 @ 11:05 AM
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originally posted by: Utnapisjtim

Well, the picking up part happened inside the temple complex, but the hrm, commerce itself, was done outside, in the street while people watched, err I mean worshipped.


I don't see it specifically saying that the act takes place on the street (though I wouldn't rule it out), just that it happened to be outside the temple. For all we know, they went to a room somewhere else or there was a designated area to do the nasty.


Hmm. It's an interesting subject, but I get the feeling he is not being completely sincere somehow.


Lol, What gave you that idea? The fact that he goes into considerable detail about how this all takes place? I'm surprised he didn't describe the clothes they are wearing as well. He would be a better man than I if he could do all that studying without getting some first hand experience. I'm sure he participated, in fact, you'd have to present evidence that he DIDN'T participate for me to believe otherwise.


In Norway prostitution was legal until a few years back when the new sex-trade laws were made effective. Now it is still legal to sell sex (i.e. work as a prostitute) but it is illegal to pay for sex, and the fines are sky-high. Procuring or pimping has been illegal since quite some time though. That this is all messed up is an understatement. Prostitution is called the oldest trade in the world. And it is outlawed. Ironic.


We can thank the Abrahamic religions for that "blessing"...



posted on Oct, 14 2014 @ 11:10 AM
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Sacred prostitution


it seems that modern ISIS & Its Islamic Legal Authorities are building upon that ancient Sex & sex-slaves as a intregal aspect of Islam...

the article is on Yahoo News (if you can get Yahoo site to stabilize, I have real problems with the Yahoo page crashing today (oct 14th noon eastern time)



posted on Oct, 14 2014 @ 11:26 AM
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originally posted by: Krazysh0t

originally posted by: Utnapisjtim

Well, the picking up part happened inside the temple complex, but the hrm, commerce itself, was done outside, in the street while people watched, err I mean worshipped.


I don't see it specifically saying that the act takes place on the street (though I wouldn't rule it out), just that it happened to be outside the temple. For all we know, they went to a room somewhere else or there was a designated area to do the nasty.


Yes, I suppose you are right. But on page 152 (fig. 124) in 'Gods, Demons and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia' ISBN 978-0-292-70794-8 -- you can see "...from the Middle Assyrian temple of Ishtar at Assur. A lead figurine in the form of a scene of sexual intercourse, apparently taking place on an altar." They weren't shy back then, so public Ishtar bang... worship in the streets may have been commonplace for all we know.

But back to Herodotus and his claims, there seem to be doubts of his report's validity.



Hmm. It's an interesting subject, but I get the feeling he is not being completely sincere somehow.


Lol, What gave you that idea? The fact that he goes into considerable detail about how this all takes place? I'm surprised he didn't describe the clothes they are wearing as well. He would be a better man than I if he could do all that studying without getting some first hand experience. I'm sure he participated, in fact, you'd have to present evidence that he DIDN'T participate for me to believe otherwise.


I don't know, I just find it a bit funny that he seems very interested in these "most shameful of the customs of the Babylonians" as he puts it. I suspect that he is putting more weight on the religious part of this custom, and downplaying the obvious, almost seeing the sex part as something arbitrary to this highly religious aspects of it all... get it?



In Norway prostitution was legal until a few years back when the new sex-trade laws were made effective. Now it is still legal to sell sex (i.e. work as a prostitute) but it is illegal to pay for sex, and the fines are sky-high. Procuring or pimping has been illegal since quite some time though. That this is all messed up is an understatement. Prostitution is called the oldest trade in the world. And it is outlawed. Ironic.


We can thank the Abrahamic religions for that "blessing"...


I wouldn't blame anyone actually. It's the way the world has turned out. Never has there been more sex-trade, and never have the laws against it been as strict. So yes, all iron in clay.



posted on Oct, 14 2014 @ 11:46 AM
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originally posted by: St Udio
Sacred prostitution


it seems that modern ISIS & Its Islamic Legal Authorities are building upon that ancient Sex & sex-slaves as a intregal aspect of Islam...


I think you should distinguish between things "Islamic" contra things "Islamist" there's a huge difference. And I fail to see how your concerns are relevant to this thread?


the article is on Yahoo News (if you can get Yahoo site to stabilize, I have real problems with the Yahoo page crashing today (oct 14th noon eastern time)


Well, I can only imagine which words you used in the search over at Yahoo! News, but there is a possibility that the combination of certain words in your search might have flashed a bulb or two over at Langley. I don't know.



posted on Oct, 14 2014 @ 11:53 AM
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My copy of Herodotus has this image on the cover

The Sumerians, Akkadians, Babylonians, Assyrians practiced ritual sex and primarily it was between the King of a city-state and priestesses, to represent the god and goddess of a city copulating, for fertility of crops and whatnot.

I think its more just institutionalised subjugation of women. It still happens today. Wealth is a way for men who otherwise couldnt get a mate to take whoever they please - for example the king with young priestesses. It still happens today. Think of the wealthy influential people all caught up in prostitution rings. And of course the sacred prostitution of Eyes Wide Shut, where the women were of course, expendable...



posted on Oct, 14 2014 @ 12:06 PM
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a reply to: Ridhya

Yes, and Herodotus mentions the Ziggurat of Babylon dedicated to Bel (identified with Zeus by Herodotus) which seems to amaze Herodotus, that it still stands to his day, as if he was standing by the very own Tower of Babel, where Nimrod was said to shoot arrows into the heavens. In chapter 181 of Book I we can read


and on the top of the last tower there is a large cell, and in the cell a large couch is laid, well covered, and by it is placed a golden table: and there is no image there set up nor does any human being spend the night there except only one woman of the natives of the place, whomsoever the god shall choose from all the woman, as say the Chaldeans who are the priests of this god.


This also has a certain hint of divine sexy-time. The king together with the high priestess on top of the very Tower of Babylon, now that's classy! Must have been the ancient equivalent of "sex in zero gravity". Apparently it is supposed to represent or symbolise the union between Heaven and Earth. Classic.



posted on Oct, 14 2014 @ 12:15 PM
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a reply to: Utnapisjtim
Yep heaven and earth, a.k.a. the mother and father gods, the creators of mankind, the divine duality.

Also: institutionalised way to pick the hottest girl around and have sex with her, even though you're an old wrinkly priest.



posted on Oct, 14 2014 @ 12:22 PM
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originally posted by: Utnapisjtim
Yes, I suppose you are right. But on page 152 (fig. 124) in 'Gods, Demons and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia' ISBN 978-0-292-70794-8 -- you can see "...from the Middle Assyrian temple of Ishtar at Assur. A lead figurine in the form of a scene of sexual intercourse, apparently taking place on an altar." They weren't shy back then, so public Ishtar bang... worship in the streets may have been commonplace for all we know.


Fair enough. Like I said, I wouldn't rule it out. I mean there had to be SOME reason that Babylon is considered the capital of decadence and evil by the Abrahamic religions. While I think most of their claims about ancient Babylon are embellished through horror stories, they probably have some truth to them. Of course accounts like the one in the OP don't help the situation regardless of the validity of the claims.


But back to Herodotus and his claims, there seem to be doubts of his report's validity.


Guess he didn't do enough "studying" then. Man that joke doesn't get old. Lol.


I don't know, I just find it a bit funny that he seems very interested in these "most shameful of the customs of the Babylonians" as he puts it. I suspect that he is putting more weight on the religious part of this custom, and downplaying the obvious, almost seeing the sex part as something arbitrary to this highly religious aspects of it all... get it?


Yeah I get it. I'm just poking a little fun.


I wouldn't blame anyone actually. It's the way the world has turned out. Never has there been more sex-trade, and never have the laws against it been as strict. So yes, all iron in clay.


Well black market trade causes the particular good or service that was banned to flourish better than when it was legal since there are no restrictions on the sales. Since everything is the same legality, there are no price increases attached to mandatory regulations from the government, just one simple price hike due to the danger of engaging in illegal activity. I'd even say that black markets are the most pure form of a free market since they inhibit trade the least of any other market.

So it is natural that since prostitution is illegal, the trade is more prevalent than ever. Time and again, history has born out that placing restrictions on morality has the opposite effect than what is desired. Yet the idea to put people in jail for violating moral laws is so ingrained into the American consciousness that even mentioning a change to it gets wild accusations flung at you and insane slippery slope fallacies applied. It's beyond stupid.



posted on Oct, 14 2014 @ 12:51 PM
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a reply to: Utnapisjtim

Sounds like a form of ancient Eugenics. The most attractive women would be released from the temple the soonest, leading them to breed while the "unshapely" ones would be held out of circulation for awhile. It would also create a condition whereby lateral gene transfer could occur, allowing for the gradual breaking down of tribal lines. I don't think it is fair to force anyone into something like this, but it is an interesting idea for an ancient people.

It would be interesting in the modern day to have an institute for sexual magic where you paid your instructor for their training, not the sex, leading to a more spiritually advanced understanding via that mechanism. I know for me, sex became almost transcendental when I was a teenager.



posted on Oct, 14 2014 @ 12:52 PM
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Many historians believe that Herodotus never actually visited Babylon, and that a significant amount of this was made up. I haven't checked recently but I don't believe there are any other references to these practices in the many available sources which would seem odd given the nature of them. Babylonians liked to write down laws.

The issue with it now is that it fits many people's political agendas from the religious to the feminist so it just doesn't receive the level of doubt that it should just as back then it was salacious and easy to believe. Why would a Greek argue about information that makes them feel superior?

Let me know if you find anything out more solid on this, because as far as I know we still haven't found any evidence for it.



posted on Oct, 14 2014 @ 12:59 PM
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originally posted by: Ridhya
a reply to: Utnapisjtim
Yep heaven and earth, a.k.a. the mother and father gods, the creators of mankind, the divine duality.


Seems to be about right, apart from mixing in duality. Marriage is not about duality, the opposites of a dualist relationship would break it apart before the union would be made. Marriage is more about complementation or two better halves, not two opposing halves.


Also: institutionalised way to pick the hottest girl around and have sex with her, even though you're an old wrinkly priest.


Well, I'm not sure, but who knows, if some goddess of beauty came around looking for one Bel or Marduk she'd invited to her Babel Tower penthouse.... let me think.... WHAT would Jesus do?.... I guess it would depend who would have the wrinkles



posted on Oct, 14 2014 @ 01:09 PM
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a reply to: Nechash

Funny that you should mention this. I read an article back about parenting and family formation in the Western world, and as it turns out only about half the men in the west will ever become a father, while nearly all the women will become mothers. This basically means that women recycle the fathers and women typically have children with several different fathers. Now, as you mention this can have certain benefits in tribal societies, but in the modern world I can only imagine the problems this must lead to. I'm talking about inbreeding, in a few generations everyone is each other's cousin. We may be witnessing a genetic bottleneck in the making, and for all we know, 200 years from now, arranged weddings is possibly a necessity.
edit on 14-10-2014 by Utnapisjtim because: ...



posted on Oct, 14 2014 @ 01:23 PM
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originally posted by: Pinke
Many historians believe that Herodotus never actually visited Babylon, [...] Let me know if you find anything out more solid on this, because as far as I know we still haven't found any evidence for it.


Indeed. I know Herodotus is controversial. Then again, we know about temple prostitutes from other sources too, and in the same area, but as far as I know only Herodotus talks of how all Babylonian women had to "at least once in their life" sell their bodies for a symbolic price of one silver coin. It could be one of them things people of a certain nationality or caste "should do at least once in their lifetime" in order to be a true such patriot. See what I mean? Perhaps Herodotus' Babylonian guide was a joker? I don't know.
edit on 14-10-2014 by Utnapisjtim because: ...


ETA: Herodot's description of the supposed union between Bel and the Babylonian high priestess does seem to fit the concepts explained in The Seven Hymns of Inanna. And there's another reference to sacred prostitution in "The Holy One" (Third hymn to Inanna), looks like they had gigolos even in ancient Babylon:

The below is from page 97 in 'Inanna - Queen of Heaven and Earth' by Wolkstein and Kramer ISBN 978-0-06-090854-6

I say Hail to Inanna, First daughter of the Moon!
The male prostitutes comb their hair before you.
They decorate the napes of their necks with coloured scarfs,
They drape the cloak of the gods about your shoulders.
The righteous man and woman walk before you.
They hold the soothing harp by their sides.
They grasp the spear in their hands.

edit on 14-10-2014 by Utnapisjtim because: eta + page number



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