All of us are in some way a product of assimilation. Throughout history, as in today's world, humans naturally adapt to their environment, transferring ideas between neighbors, and since just about everyone has a neighbor eventually those ideas make their way up or down or across the globe.
A couple of weeks ago I was playing the most annoying game I have ever played (I tried to go back and look for it, but it has already been kicked off the ArmorGames list of new games). In the game, it is your duty to advance your culture to the point ... well ... to the point that you win the game. There are several ways to do this. You can build your culture from the ground up, trade with other cultures, or assimilate with other cultures. Of course, it is impossible not to trade or assimilate for when nomads come by and they either have what you need or are more advanced than you are (and you are fighting the clock to win the game!) you find yourself doing whatever you can to advance to the next level! (And ultimately lose the game each time you play because it is impossible to advance as quickly as is required!!! ... but I digress.)
Aphrodite wasn't Greek?
This week I have been reading about the origins of Aphrodite (check out my G+ picture albums (http://goo.gl/EmRwRK) for an Aphrodite idol/stone from Paphos, Cyprus - one of the earliest). There is question as to whether Aphrodite is of Greek origin, Phoenician origin, or maybe even Mesopotamian origin, but the answer is probably none of the above. It is almost impossible to ever trace an idea back to its origin as any idea goes through a process of adaptation through time and space where thoughts are added from this culture or that one, and then another group takes some out and adds additional thoughts.
The image you see is an image of Astarte (Iron Age II; from Israel) holding what appears to be either a drum or possibly bread. An earlier form of Astarte is what many believe to be a parent idea of the origins of Aphrodite. The problem is that some of the ideas don't match up (e.g., Astarte is known as a huntress, but Aphrodite is not). Now, of interest is the fact that Aphrodite doesn't really appear as a Greek goddess until the Iron Age, but the Phoenicians didn't really begin to settle in areas where they would come into contact with the Greeks until the same period of time - and assimilation takes time.
It's a Slow Fade
Did the ideas transfer? Yes, they did, but they did so slowly, mixed with another culture. It was the prehistorical culture of Cyprus that helped to give way to what we now know as Aphrodite. As the story goes, Aphrodite rose up out of the water for the first time on Cyprus' shores (near the big black rock known as Aphrodite that you will see in my G+ picture album: http://goo.gl/EmRwRK), but she was alive and well in an earlier form before this event.
Without getting too deep, in Cypriot figurines we find aboriginal figurines, but we also find these aboriginal figurines mixed with Aegean and even Near Eastern (Astarte) concepts. We are not sure if Aphrodite ever had an aboriginal Greek form, but the old tails of Aphrodite being born on Cyprus most likely hold water. Someone brought a pot of local delicacies, and then said, "Hey, you Greek people, why don't you throw some of your favorite spices in here," and then turning to the Near Easterners said, "and you, Canaanites, why don't you throw some in here, too." ... After a while, we have Aphrodite. ... Of course, the story doesn't end there, as the Romans came and mixed her with their aboriginal goddess to create a new one ... and on and on and on.
Is This Still Happening?
Question for you. What happened to our holidays? Today is the evening before All Saints Day, a day that quite a long time ago believers held vigil for the saints who have already gone before us. Somehow, somewhere, we are handing out candy and scaring each other. How? That's debated (read a couple of good articles on the non-pagan origins of Halloween this past week). Why? Because that is what cultures do ... we change, we adapt, and we assimilate. ... Resistance is futile.