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The 5th-century BC historian Herodotus's account and some other testimony from the Hellenistic Period and Late Antiquity suggest that ancient societies encouraged the practice of sacred sexual rites not only in Babylonia and Cyprus, but throughout the Near East.

According to Herodotus, the rites performed at these temples included sexual intercourse, or what scholars later called sacred sexual rites: The foulest Babylonian custom is that which compels every woman of the land to sit in the temple of Aphrodite and have intercourse with some stranger at least once in her life.

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and this has served as a starting point for several generations of scholars.

Frazer and Henriques distinguished two major forms of sacred sexual rites: temporary rite of unwed girls (with variants such as dowry-sexual rite, or as public defloration of a bride), and lifelong sexual rite.

Some scholars prefer the term sacred sex to sacred prostitution in cases where payment for services was not involved.

Ancient Near Eastern societies along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers featured many shrines and temples or houses of heaven dedicated to various deities.

Budin regards the concept of sacred prostitution as a myth—arguing that the practices described in the sources simply never existed.

A more nuanced view, espoused by Pirenne-Delforge, suggests that ritual sex did exist in the Near East, but not in the Greek or Roman worlds in classical or Hellenistic times.

You shall not bring the hire of a prostitute (zonah) or the wages of a dog (kelev) into the house of the Lord your God to pay a vow, for both of these are an abomination to the Lord your God.

Male priests who engaged in same-sex sacred prostitution were called kadesh or qadesh (literally: male holy one); the word evolved semantically in ancient Hebrew to take on a similar meaning to sodomite.

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'streetwalker.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors.

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