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Temple of Aphrodite

Wednesday, May 25, 2022, at 8 pm Eastern via Zoom

Sacred Prostitution and the Cult of Aphrodite/Venus in Roman Corinth

Barbette Spaeth

According to the first-century geographer Strabo, "The Sanctuary of Aphrodite at Corinth was so rich that it possessed more than a thousand sacred slaves, prostitutes, whom both men and women dedicated to the goddess."

Many have understood this passage to refer to "sacred prostitution," that is, the practice of payment for sexual acts conducted in a cultic context. The passage has thus been used to elucidate Paul's letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 6), where the apostle rails against the early Christians of the city for having congress with prostitutes. 

What evidence do we have for a cult of Aphrodite, or Venus in Roman terms, in the city and its ties to sacred prostitution? This talk will examine the literary and archaeological evidence for the cult of this goddess in Roman Corinth and consider the premise that this ritual practice occurred in her sanctuaries.

This lecture presents an overview of the textual, artistic, and archaeological evidence for beer in ancient Near Eastern cultures and the recent research that is transforming our understanding of beer's importance in ancient Israel.

Barbette Spaeth is Professor of Classical Studies at the College of William and Mary