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The Myth of Sacred Prostitution in Antiquity Paperback – December 14, 2009

ISBN-13: 978-0521178044 ISBN-10: 0521178045 Edition: 1st

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"...meticulous examination...clear argumentation. The book is a thrilling expose' of historiography at its worst." --TLS

"Throughout most of the book the material is presented well and each avenue is thoroughly explored. It provides a good grounding for students studying Ancient Greece and Rome to explore this hotly debated topic." --Rosetta

"This well-researched and often humorously written monograph deals with what the author calls the "myth of sacred prostitution." The author uses the word "myth" to denote something that is widely believed but has no foundation in reality, along the line of the modern expression "urban myth." She makes her point forcefully: although sacred prostitution is regarded in multiple scholarly books and dictionaries as an actual historical phenomenon, it never existed. Budin's book investigates both the ancient Near East and the Mediterranean world. As such, it breaks new ground, as most previous similar studies have dealt exclusively with Mesopotamia." --Review of Biblical Literature

"B. has written a thought-provoking book that forces the reader to rethink the institution of sacred prostitution and even historical method more generally. She collects together and analysis in context all references associated with sacred prostitution, making the book essential reading on the topic. In general, she is convincing in her conclusion that sacred prostitution has no historical authority and that scholars have wrongfully manipulated evidence to support such an institution. Since the belief in sacred prostitution has in many ways impeded the study of prostitution more generally, particularly at Corinth, this conclusion is to be welcomed." --Classical Review

Book Description

This book shows that sacred prostitution did not exist in the ancient world. Whereas many scholars believe that ancient people prostituted themselves for religion, this is simply not the case. This book reexamines texts arguing for the existence of sacred prostitution and disproves these theories.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 382 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1 edition (December 14, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521178045
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521178044
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,250,380 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Sheila Michaels on May 21, 2011
Format: Paperback
Budin previous maintained that ancient figurines of nude women represent female sexuality. They're not "fertility" (maybe, if they hold agricultural produce). They aren't "mother goddesses" (maybe, if they hold children, or maybe not, she has a new book about that). This is how I began following her work.

Here, she debunks stories of Sacred Prostitution that Herodotus heard third-hand. Always it was a calumny against enemies: they practiced it, for their benighted god. (Nicholas Wyatt holds that q'deshim[=holy ones] evicted, with their houses, from Jerusalem's Temple were not male prostitutes, but images of other gods in satellite shrines.)

Our only evidence of actual practice started in 18th Century British India with devadasis: Temple slaves whose performances or prostitution supported the priests, or low-caste dedicated girls whom they sold into brothels. This is not a sacred ritual.

We wouldn't think a prostitute wearing a crucifix practiced sacred sex: not even if she tithed to a church, crossed herself, lived on church-owned property & prayed to St. Nicholas. Ishtar's protection of prostitutes implies no more. Mesopotamian priestesses were noblewomen, not sex workers.

Budin finds no sacred prostitution recorded in Mesopotamian cultures. She tracks down the main mistranslations & repetitions of the story & refutes their premises. I wanted the book for the Mesopotamian & Biblical material, & have not followed the Greek, Roman & early Church parts, though I cannot think they'd be any less useful in studying the classics.

The book has been really helpful in grappling with a bird-brained obloquy repeated unquestioningly through millennia. I find her writing very clear, lacking in academic jargon, & her handling of the material is firm & learned.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By S. M. Baugh on June 10, 2011
Format: Paperback
Imagine if 2,000 years from now, people routinely hold that the daughters of United States senators were actively engaged in sacred prostitution in conjunction with the Washington National Cathedral. Ridiculous. Yet to assert that the daughters of the elite families in the Greco-Roman world (i.e., the ones who held various priesthoods either for set periods or more permanently) engaged in sacred prostitution is just as ridiculous but commonly held today.

Dr. Budin has written a very difficult book, and it is the best for which one can ask. A scholar can relatively easily show that some institution or other did in fact exist in antiquity by analyzing and laying out a case from various historical sources. But how does one prove that something was NOT practiced so long ago? There is no evidence for it except for a few passing remarks in a handful of authors about fanciful practices many centuries before their time or far away where the monopods live and the phoenix regularly rises from its ashes.

I cannot comment on all the periods or cultures Dr. Budin has addressed (which itself is very impressive), but I recommend this book highly for anyone who has been influenced by the myth that sacred prostitution was ever practiced in the Greek and Roman world.
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6 of 42 people found the following review helpful By David Wenkel on December 2, 2010
Format: Hardcover
For a detailed critique with special reference to the Old Testament see the book review by Jay E. Smith in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 53/3 (2010): 638-2.
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