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Ancient cult prostitutes. Source: stockcrafter / Adobe Stock.

Ancient Goddess Cults and Temple Prostitution (Video)


In the depths of ancient civilizations, a peculiar practice intertwined sexuality with religious devotion. Revered as sacred, this ritual, known as sacred temple prostitution, involved engaging in erotic activities within the context of worship. Scholars have long contemplated the existence of such practices in the ancient world, although some prefer the term "sacred sex" to "sacred prostitution" when monetary transactions were not involved.

Along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, ancient Near Eastern societies erected numerous shrines and temples dedicated to various female deities like Aphrodite and Ishtar. Within these sacred spaces, the rites performed included the infamous act described by Herodotus as the "foul list Babylonian custom." According to his account, every woman was obliged to sit in the temple of Aphrodite and engage in intercourse with a stranger at least once in her lifetime. However, the implications of this ancient tradition extended far beyond mere sexual gratification, as societal factors and religious beliefs intermingled.

Top image: Ancient cult prostitutes. Source: stockcrafter / Adobe Stock.

By Robbie Mitchell



As for monetary transactions not being involved directly, one would expect the temple and priests received some substantial sums in donations resulting from the activities of the young women.

Whether directly or indirectly, it is still forced religious prostitution. However, given the modern push to rephrase such matters, that's probably not going to be how it's described in the curriculum. After all, a Babylonian-style sex and death cult still rules the World and constant playing with words is one key to that success. That I have similar ability with words was crucial to my discovering that decades ago.

"Foul list" or 'foulest'?

Even the latter is debatable though, given the Babylonians' foul list of customs...

Robbie Mitchell's picture


I’m a graduate of History and Literature from The University of Manchester in England and a total history geek. Since a young age, I’ve been obsessed with history. The weirder the better. I spend my days working as a freelance... Read More

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