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Priestesses and Power: The Potency and Privilege of Prostitution

  • Author(s): Qin, Christine R
  • Advisor(s): Cooney, Kara
  • et al.
Abstract

From our present day perspective, prostitution is viewed as a shameful, dishonorable profession. However, in ancient Mesopotamia from the 3000 BCE to 900 BCE, sacred prostitution performed by women in temple spaces was revered as practices essential to the annual renewal of fertility rites. These women were able to wield considerably more power than their domestic counterparts, due to their honorable reputations closely linked with the cultural ideology in ancient Mesopotamia. Through various myth texts, legal codes, and written correspondences, it is evident that priestesses performing sacred prostitution duties within the temple retain much more ideological, sexual, legal, and economic power compared to women working inside the domestic sphere.

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