Barbette Stanley Spaeth is Professor Emerita of Classical Studies at William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, co-chair of the Greco-Roman Religions Section of the Society of Biblical Literature, and co-founder and former president of the Society for Ancient Mediterranean Religions. She has held fellowships at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens and the American Academy in Rome and received research grants from the Center for Hellenic Studies, the Loeb Classical Library Foundation, and the Memoria Roman Project. Her work focuses on Roman religion and magic/witchcraft in the Greco-Roman world, and she has published the monograph The Roman Goddess Ceres (University of Texas Press 1996), the edited volumes The Cambridge Companion to Ancient Mediterranean Religions (Cambridge University Press 2013) and The Greenhaven Encyclopedia of Greek and Roman Mythology (Greenhaven Press 2002), and numerous articles in such publications as the American Journal of Archaeology, Hesperia, Historia, Classical World, and Biblical Archaeology Review. She is currently working a manuscript entitled Cult, Memory, and Identity in Roman Corinth on the question of religious continuity from the Greek to the Roman period of the city.
February Bible & Archaeology Fest 2024
Sacred Prostitution and the Cult of Aphrodite/Venus in Ancient Corinth
A notorious aspect of the religion of ancient Corinth is the supposed practice of sacred prostitution in the cult of the goddess Aphrodite/Venus. Sacred prostitution may be defined as performing a ritual sex act for money, with the ritual element requiring the dedication of the sex act and the money paid for it to a divinity. According to the popular view, men clambered up the slopes of the mountain above the city and paid to have ritual sex with the thousand sacred slaves of the Temple of Aphrodite atop Acrocorinth. This view has contributed to the picture of Corinth as a den of iniquity at the time of the apostle Paul’s visit to the city and influenced the interpretation of his First Letter to the Corinthians, in particular 1 Cor. 6:15-20. In this slide-illustrated lecture, Dr. Spaeth will examine the literary evidence for the practice of sacred prostitution in ancient Corinth and survey the known sanctuaries connected to the worship of Aphrodite/Venus in the city for evidence of places where this practice might have occurred.