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  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: May 2011
  • First published in: 1896



It has been shown that in the cult of Aphrodite, Greek religion was mainly conservative of Oriental ideas; the ritual, the attributes, and most of the characteristics of the goddess are derived from the East.

On the other hand, the comparison of the monuments of the two nations proves, perhaps more than any other archaeological study, the freedom and the originality of the Hellene. ‘La déesse de la fécondité sera devenue pour les contemporains de Scopas et de Praxitele la déesse de la beauté.’ It was the signal achievement of Greek art to have replaced the Oriental type, of which the forms were often gross and at best had little more than a merely hieratic meaning, with a type that became of significance for religion through its depth of spiritual expression, and of the highest importance for the history of art through its embodiment of the perfected forms of corporeal beauty.

The debt of Greece in this worship to the art of the East, was only superficial; yet the monuments of the Oriental cult are of very great importance in their bearing on the religious question discussed in the preceding chapter; for they strengthen the conclusion derived from other evidence that Aphrodite was of Semitic birth.

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