Bronze figure of Ba'alat Gebal
Roman, first century AD
From the coastal Levant
The 'Goddess of Byblos'
This bronze figurine represents Astarte, an ancient fertility goddess widely worshipped in Syria and Palestine. In this version she is depicted in a classical pose. In 332 BC the Levant was conquered by Alexander the Great, king of Macedonia and leader of the Greeks, and Greek art was widely adopted. Astarte was associated by the Greeks with Aphrodite, the goddess of love, whose sacred creature was the dove. Here, therefore, Astarte wears an elaborate headdress consisting of a dove supporting the horned sun-disc of the Egyptian goddess Isis. However, the two tall feathers along with the horns identify her as a version of Astarte called Ba'alat Gebal, 'Goddess of Byblos'.
This statuette dates to the time of Roman control of the east which was built upon the ruins of the Seleucid kingdom (the Seleucids were the successors of Alexander the Great in the region). This kingdom was incorporated by the Roman general Pompey as the province of Syria and extended by the progressive absorption of 'client kingdoms' friendly to Rome such as Judaea. Roman occupation made little difference to the cultural life of the area. Greek remained the language of the upper classes, who also retained Greek ideas and customs.
D. Collon, Ancient Near Eastern art (London, The British Museum Press, 1995)