Ishtar was the goddess of love, war, fertility, and sexuality.
Besides the lions on her gate, her symbol is an eight-pointed star. In the Babylonian pantheon, she “was the divine personification of the planet Venus”.
Ishtar had many lovers; however, as Guirand notes,
“Woe to him whom Ishtar had honoured! The fickle goddess treated her passing lovers cruelly, and the unhappy wretches usually paid dearly for the favours heaped on them. Animals, enslaved by love, lost their native vigour: they fell into traps laid by men or were domesticated by them. ‘Thou has loved the lion, mighty in strength’, says the hero Gilgamesh to Ishtar, ‘and thou hast dug for him seven and seven pits! Thou hast loved the steed, proud in battle, and destined him for the halter, the goad and the whip.’ Even for the gods Ishtar’s love was fatal. In her youth the goddess had loved Tammuz, god of the harvest, and—if one is to believe Gilgamesh —this love caused the death of Tammuz.
Her cult may have involved sacred prostitution, though this is debatable. Guirand referred to her holy city Uruk as the “town of the sacred courtesans” and to her as the “courtesan of the gods”.
One of the most famous myths about Ishtar describes her descent to the underworld. In this myth, Ishtar approaches the gates of the underworld and demands that the gatekeeper open them:
If thou openest not the gate to let me enter, I will break the door, I will wrench the lock, I will smash the door-posts, I will force the doors. I will bring up the dead to eat the living. And the dead will outnumber the living.