Phoenician religion was inspired by the powers and processes
of nature. Many of the gods they worshiped, however, were localized
and are now known only under their local names. A pantheon was
presided over by the father of the gods, but a goddess was the
principal figure in the Phoenician pantheon.
Gods and Goddesses
- Adon(is), Handsome
- Anath, goddess of Love
and War, the Maiden
- Asherah or Baalat Gubl, Goddess of Byblos
- Astarte (or Ashtarte),
Queen of Heaven
- Baal, El, Ruler of the
Universe, Son of Dagan, Rider of the Clouds, Almighty, Lord of
- Baal-Hammon, God of
Fertility and Renewer of all Energies in the Phoenician colonies
of the Western Mediterranean
- Eshmun or Baalat Asclepius, God of Healing
- Kathirat, Goddesses of marriage and pregnancy
- Kothar, Hasis, the Skilled, God of Craftsmanship
- Melqart, King of the
Underworld and Cycle of Vegetation
- Mot, God of Death
- Resheph and Shamash, Gods of (?)
- Shahar, God of Dawn
- Shalim*, God of Dusk
- Shapash, Sun Goddess
- Tanit, Chief Goddess
- Yamm, God of the Sea (?)
- Yarikh, Moon God
* The name Shalim, God of Dusk, seems strickingly similar
to the author's first name. Could the root of the latter's be
coming from this god's name?
Phoenician Theology, Theogony and Creation Story
For essays on Phoenician theology, theogony (god-idea) and the Phoenician creation story, please use the related links.
Institutions and Practices
The temple typically occupied
a dominating site in the city along with the palace. Like the
palace, it had political, administrative, and economic functions,
as well as its distinctive religious functions. It was staffed
by priests, singers and other musicians, diviners, scribes, and
other specialists. There sacrifices
of animals and children (in some Phoenician colonies in the Mediterranean)
were offered to the gods.
During Roman Empire, one of the most important cities of Phoenicia
was Heliopolis. At Heliopolis (Baalbeck) the Roman emperors,
particularly the Severans, constructed a monumental temple complex,
the most spectacular elements of which were the Temple of Jupiter
Heliopolitanus and the Temple of Bacchus.
Religious Symbolism, Punic Stelae
Cippi and stelae of limestone are characteristic monuments
of Punic art and religion, and are found throughout the western
Phoenician world in unbroken continuity, both historically and
geographically. The majority was set up over urns containing
the ashes of human sacrifices, which had been placed within open-air
sanctuaries. Such sanctuaries constitute
striking relics of the Western Mediterranean Phoenician or Punic
Faith System of Gods and Goddesses
The system of gods and goddesses in Phoenician religion was influences and
has influenced other cultures. As indicated below, there are too many similarities
to be overlooked. In some instances the names of gods underwent very little
change when they were borrowed. Even the legends maintained major similarities.
For example, Ashtarte in Phoenician and Aphrodite in Greek or Adonis in both.
Egyptian, Babylonian, Assyrian, Persian and others had their influences on
the Phoenician faith system and borrowed from it.
The Phoenicians worshipped a triad of deities, each having
different names and attributes depending upon the city in which
they were worshipped, although their basic nature remained the
same. The primary god was El, protector of the universe, but
often called Baal. The son, Baal or Melqart, symbolized the annual
cycle of vegetation and was associated with the female deity
Astarte in her role as the maternal goddess. She was called Asherar-yam,
our lady of the sea, and in Byblos she was Baalat, our dear lady.
Astarte was linked with mother goddesses of neighboring cultures,
in her role as combined heavenly mother and earth mother. Cult
statues of Astarte in many different forms were left as votive
offerings in shrines and sanctuaries as prayers for good harvest,
for children, and for protection and tranquillity in the home.
The Phoenician triad was incorporated in varying degrees by their
neighbors and Baal and Astarte eventually took on the look of
What remains to be said is that Phoenician faith system evolved
and changed as it was influenced by invader who brought along
their own dieties. Hence, Egyptian, Assyrian, Babylonian, Percian,
Greek and Roman gods found their way to Phoencian temples. This
is evident in the writing of Herodotus as well as in the archeaological
Ruler of the Universe
Baal (ba'al), plural Baalim (ba'allm)
[Semitic,= possessor], name used throughout the Old Testament for the deity
of Canaan. The term was originally applied to various local gods,
but by the time of the Ugarit tablets (14th cent. B.C.), Baal
had become the ruler of the universe. Baal (Hadad) is regularly
denominated "the son of Dagan," although Dagan (biblical
Dagon) does not appear as an actor in the mythological texts.
Baal also bears the titles "Rider of the Clouds," "Almighty,"
and "Lord of the Earth." He is the god of the thunderstorm,
the most vigorous and aggressive of the gods, the one on whom
mortals most immediately depend. Baal resides on Mount Zaphon,
north of Ugarit, and is usually depicted holding a thunderbolt.
Baal, also known as El. In 1978, Israeli archaeologists excavating
at an eighth-century B.C. site in the eastern Sinai desert found
several Hebrew inscriptions mentioning Ba'al and El in the form
of "Elohim," a name used to refer to God in the Hebrew
Bible. Further, whenever the Jews refer to God or our God they
use "Eloh, Elohaino or Elohim."
The Ugarit tablets make him chief
of the Canaanite pantheon. He is the source of life and fertility, the
mightiest hero, and
the lord of war. There were many temples of Baal in Canaan, and
the name Baal was often added to that of a locality, e.g., Baal-peor,
Baal-hazor, Baal-hermon. The Baal cult penetrated Israel and
at times led to a syncretism. The practices of holy prostitution
and child sacrifice were especially abhorrent to the Hebrew prophets,
who denounced the cult and its "high places" (temples).
This abhorrence probably explains the substitution of Ish-bosheth
for Esh-baal, of Jerubbesheth for Jerubbaal (a name of Gideon),
and of Mephibosheth for Merib-baal. The substituted term probably
means "shame." The final detestation of the term is
seen in the use of the name Beelzebub (see SATAN), probably the
same as Baal-zebub. 1 Kings 11.4-8; 2 Kings 1. The Baal of 1
Chron. 4.33 is probably the same as RAMAH 3. As cognates of Baal
in other Semitic languages there are Bel (in Babylonian religion)
and the last elements in the Tyrian names Jezebel, Hasdrubal,
Queen of Heaven
Also spelled ASHTART, great goddess of the ancient Near East,
chief deity of Tyre, Sidon, and Elath, important Mediterranean
seaports. She was called Asherar-yam, our lady of the sea, and
in Byblos she was Baalat, our dear lady. Astarte was linked with
mother goddesses of neighboring cultures, in her role as combined
heavenly mother and earth mother. Cult statues of Astarte in
many different forms were left as votive offerings in shrines
and sanctuaries as prayers for good harvest, for children, and
for protection and tranquillity in the home.
Hebrew scholars now feel that
the goddess Ashtoreth mentioned so often in the Bible is a deliberate compilation
of the Greek
name Astarte and the Hebrew word boshet, "shame," indicating
the Hebrew contempt for her cult. Ashtaroth, the plural form
of the goddess's name in Hebrew, became a general term denoting
goddesses and paganism.
King Solomon, married to foreign
wives, "went after Ashtoreth
the goddess of the Sidonians" (I Kings 11:5). Later the
cult places to Ashtoreth were destroyed by Josiah. Astarte/Ashtoreth
is the Queen of Heaven to whom the Canaanites had burned incense
and poured libations (Jer. 44).
Astarte, goddess of love and war, shared so many qualities
with her sister, Anath, that they may originally have been seen
as a single deity. Their names together are the basis for the
Aramaic goddess Atargatis.
Astarte was worshipped as Astarte in Egypt and Ugarit and
among the Hittites, as well as in Canaan. Her Akkadian counterpart
was Ishtar. Later she became assimilated with the Egyptian deities
Isis and Hathor, and in the Greco-Roman world with Aphrodite,
Artemis, and Juno, all aspects of the Great Mother.
of Love and War
Anath, also spelled ANAT, chief West Semitic goddess of love
and war, the sister and helpmate of the god Baal.
Considered a beautiful young girl,
she was often designated "the Virgin" in ancient texts. Probably
one of the best known of the Canaanite deities, she was famous for her
vigour and ferocity in battle; in that respect she was adopted
as a special favourite by the Egyptian king Ramses II (reigned
1279-13 BC). Although Anath was often associated with the god
Resheph in ritual texts, she was primarily known for her role
in the myth of Baal's death and resurrection, in which she mourned
and searched for him and finally helped to retrieve him from
Egyptian representations of Anath show a nude goddess, often
standing on a lion and holding flowers. During the Hellenistic
Age, the goddesses Anath and Astarte (q.v.) were blended into
one deity, called Atargatis (q.v.).
Handsome and Young God
(For a details
about Adonis and his cult, please see the study in this website entitled
"Who was the Phoenician god Adon
(Adonis) and how did his name become "Lord" in
The son of Cinyras and
Myrrha, according to Greek Mythology. He was a young god who was worshiped
country shrine of Aphka
at the source of the river Nahr Ibrahim. His name was/is used
by the Jews whenever they encountered the name of "Yahweh"
(YHWH) in prayer and they pronounced (and still pronounce) it
Lucian (second century A.D.) relates that the death of adon(is)
was marked by annual rites of mourning when the river became
red with the god's blood. One legend of his death happens around
the love affair between him and the goddess Ashtarte which another
god envied. He, in the form of a wild boar, attacks and kills
Adonis and where his blood fell there grows red poppies every
year. However, as Ashtarte weaps for his loss, she promises to
bring him back to life every spring.
The legend of Adonis carries over to Greek Mythology but the
story changes slightly there.
In Greek Mythology, he was Aphrodite's beloved. In fact, he
was so handsome that both Aphrodite and Persephone quarrelled
over him. When their violent dispute was brought before Zeus,
it was ruled that for a third part of the year Adonis was to
dwell by himself; for a third part with Aphrodite; and for a
third part with Persephone.
There is another myth that tells of his death. Aphrodite had
warned Adonis against the dangers of the hunt, telling him to
be especially wary of any wild beasts that would not turn and
flee but stood firm Because he was so fond of hunting, he paid
no heed to Aphrodite. As a result, he was mortally wounded by
a wild boar. In his memory, she transformed his body into an
According to this version, Persephone restored him to life
on the condition that he spend six months of the year with her
and the rest with Aphrodite.
In Greek mythology, Adonis was a handsome young shepherd loved
by APHRODITE. The offspring of a love affair between King Cinyras
of Cyprus and his daughter Myrrha, Adonis was born from the trunk
of the myrrh tree into which his mother had been changed by the
gods. Aphrodite left the infant Adonis in the care of PERSEPHONE,
the queen of the underworld, who also fell in love with him.
While hunting, Adonis wounded a wild boar, which turned on him
and killed him. Aphrodite pleaded that he be restored to her,
but Zeus decided that both goddesses should share him for eternity:
Adonis would spend the spring and summer with Aphrodite and the
rest of the year with Persephone in the underworld. The anemone,
the wild flower that each year blooms briefly and then dies,
is said to have sprung from his blood. Adonis, imported probably
from the Phoenicians, came to be revered as a dying-and-rising
god. Athenians held Adonia, a yearly festival representing his
death and resurrection, in midsummer.
God of Tyre, King of the Underworld
Melqart, Son of Baal (or El, Ruler of the Universe), God of
Tyre, King of the Underworld, Protector of the Universe symbolized
the annual cycle of vegetation and was associated with the female
deity Astarte in her role as the maternal goddess. Also, he was
considered the Heracles or Hercules of the Tyrians though he
came from a more distant past than the Greek Heracles/Hercules.
Melqart was also known as Eshmun by the Sidonians. The Greeks equated Melqart
with Heracles who was held to be the mythical founder of the Macedonian dynasty.
Melqart was also known by other names -- like other Phoenician gods and goddesses.
He was known as Baal- Adon- Eshmun- Melqart and also as Thasian Heracles because
he was worshipped on the island of Thasos. Also, a Temple of Melqart is known
to have been on the island of Sancti Petri near Cadiz.
Many historians such as Josephus Flavius refer to Melqart
and Heracles interchangeably. Also, Herodutus, Theophrastus (Arsistotle's
pupil) and Horace the Roman wrote about Melqart's Temple in Tyre.
It had two pillars one of pure gold and the other of emeralds
which shone brilliantly at night. Melqart made Tyre a Phoenician
Jerusalem whose kings minted Tyrians coins with Melqart riding
on the Phoenician Hippocampus (seahorse/monster). This unique
position of Tyre in Phoenician mythology survived into the Christian
Era as an amazingly modern city. The remains of the Temple of
Eshmun (Sidon's Melqart) have been found in Sidon.
The fame and name of Melqart travelled to the far corners
of the Phoenician colonies around the Mediterranean and the other
dominions and territories where the Phoenicians settled. The
famous Pillars of Hercules of Gibraltar were actually known as
the Pillars of Melqart but as time went by and the two gods became
combined into one, the Pillars became those of Heracles or Hercules.
Goddess of Carthage
Tanit, also spelled TINITH, TINNIT,
or TINT, chief goddess of Carthage, equivalent of Astarte. Although she
seems to have
had some connection with the heavens, she was also a mother goddess,
and fertility symbols often accompany representations of her.
She was probably the consort of Baal Hammon (or Amon), the chief
god of Carthage, and was often given the attribute "face
of Baal." Although Tanit did not appear at Carthage before
the 5th century BC, she soon eclipsed the more established cult
of Baal Hammon and, in the Carthaginian area at least, was frequently
listed before him on the monuments. In the worship of Tanit and
Baal Hammon, children, probably firstborn, were sacrificed. Ample
evidence of the practice has been found west of Carthage in the
precinct of Tanit, where a tofet (a sanctuary for the sacrifice
of children) was discovered. Tanit was also worshiped on Malta,
Sardinia, and in Spain.
The Sign of Tanit, Interpretations
of a symbol
by Pierre Cintas
The greatest triumph of the human intellect probably lies in the opening
up of unlimited possibilities for the expression of abstract concepts in concrete
form. This was achieved and brought to fruition in the East, where the Phoenicians
discerned, through analysis, that a concept as abstract as thought expressed
in the spoken word could ultimately be broken down into various elements.
It could then be reconstituted and fixed by putting the elements together
again, by virtue of the concrete images conveyed by written characters.
The reverberation of this triumphant
achievement echoed as far as Carthage, where the priests took the lead
over the scribes
in producing the symbol erroneously known to us as the "sign
of Tanit". That sign, which an entire civilisation, abandoning
its earthly preoccupations, used for more than a thousand years
to express its hopes and beliefs.
It appears that the primitive form of this sign was a trapezium
closed by a horizontal line at the top and surmounted in the
middle by a circle. The horizontal arm was often terminated either
by two short upright lines at right angles to it or by hooks.
In the course of time the trapezium often became an isosceles
A stele from the sanctuary at Carthage bears an incised representation
of the silhouette of a priest praying with up-raised arms and
wearing a long robe on which the sign is inscribed1.
This suggests that the sign is a diagrammatic representation
of the man who wears it. E. Ronan had already expressed his opposition
to this theory that the sign symbolised the votary2
when P. Berger returned to the first explanation3,
adding the hypothesis that the sign was also a conical image
of the deity, the outline of the sacred cone4.
Meanwhile, Clermont-Ganneau confined
himself to stating that it was now the accepted custom to call this figure
of Tanit", without trying to explain what it represented5.
E. Babelon saw it as the symbol of the Punic trinity which, we
should add, never actually existed, or perhaps a degenerate representation
of the human form6.
Basing his theory on the Phoenician representations of Astarte as Isis Hathor,
quoted by Clermont-Ganneau7, E. Vassel interpreted the figure
as a diagram of the conical stone of Astarte crowned, by assimilation with
with the solar disc between two cow's horns, frequently replaced by the horns
of the "crescent moon"8. Father Lagrange saw it as the
sacred stone itself9 and R.P. Ronzevalle
as an idealised version of the Egyptian ankh, the sign of life10.
Finally, S. Gsell attempted to discover the origin of the
symbol11. While dismissing this last explanation,
along with Goblet d'Alviella's suggestion -- the sign arose from
the fusion of representations of the sacred stone and the Egyptian
handled cross -- he concluded that it must be regarded as a compound
of two basic elements: the cult, represented by the altar at
the bottom, and the deity, represented by a heavenly body at
More than twenty years have passed since I first promised
myself that one day I would come back to the problem of the formation
of this sign13, and I am still stopped by the same
problem, since in the meantime the only conclusion I have formed
is that none of the explanations offered so far is correct because
none of them is complete. The reason is this : throughout the
whole Punic period the sign performs the function of a sort of
pentagram, the number of elements of which is not limited to
five; i.e., as a true diagram, a single entity comprising countless
different elements. It is therefore, and it always will be, impossible
to disentangle the fundamental element, that which was originally
chosen to serve as a base for all the others, for we do not know
the exact date when this or that element was assimilated into
the design. A glance over the catalogue of its variations leaves
no doubt that the details of the sign were elaborated or pared
down at random over the course of the years.
Only one fact is clear. From its
first appearance the symbol was complete, not only comprising all the allusions
have deduced, all of which are well-grounded, but above all permitting
the further inclusion in its design of the whole ecumenical repertoire
of representational imagery. The oldest versions of the -- sign
of Tanit" known to me are already fully developed, whether
they are engraved on stone or in the form of the amulets which
I had the occasion to discover in urns dating to the end of the
sixth century, or more probably the beginning of the fifth, in
the sanctuary at Carthage.
Certainly the explanations given below14 for
or "bottle", signs, which embody other symbolic concepts, are perfectly
acceptable. It will nevertheless be agreed that these signs too are diagrammatic
forms of numerous caricatures, such as Osiris with folded arms, in the sanctuaries,
or the universally diversified sex symbols, the lozenge-shaped or triangular
forms of which have symbolised the female from prehistoric times onwards,
on vases or many other objects.
"Urged by the involuntary
tendency towards simplification, the human intellect spontaneously and
unceasingly combines the
most disparate elements to produce a sort of 'resultant' "15.
And, in connection with the components of the "sign of Tanit",
I have said elsewhere that "the cast of mind which tries
to combat the greatest number of evils simultaneously by pitting
against them an array of different protective powers, sometimes
highly complex, is at the heart of particular practice"16.
I still hold to this opinion.
It is impossible to support the
view that a number of the symbols erroneously called the "sign of Tanit" do
not incorporate the ankh sign, which was known to the
Carthaginians at that time. it cannot be positively stated that
the sign does not represent a votary, when a cippus which I excavated
myself, dating back at least to the fifth century B.C., proves
the contrary. It cannot be denied that several versions of the
symbol, probably by association with the knot of Isis's girdle,
are simply female fertility symbols
The lower half of the symbol, with its lateral appendages representing incense-burners,
unquestionably represents an altar, since this is proved by an altar-cippus
of fifth century date from the sanctuary, although it has a baetylic column
on top instead of a disc. It cannot be argued that the astral baetyl, which
probably never had anything to do with the female symbol, is not interchangeable
with the baetylic column. Another altar-cippus of similar shape and date actually
shows the symbol itself with an astral baetyl on top. Carved in detail on
the stone (unlike some examples, which are finished with little
more than the bare outline of a simple contour), this specimen is one of
richest, if not the earliest, sources of information for an enquiry into
the components of the "sign of Tanit". On the slab of one altar a whole
temple is shown. The incense-burners on each side are in this case the fire-altars
in 7 front of the entrance, just as they appear on another cippus from the
sanctuary which, precisely, reproduces a temple, and on some of the stelae
from Sousse. In other cases they take the form of acroteria at the ends, thus
forming a horned altar. The steps on the back are those of the stair by which
the image of the deity, in the baetylic form of a bottle, a column or a disc,
is approached. Finally, to call this symbol the "sign of Tanit" is
a fundamental error. In the sanctuary at Constantine, which, judging by the
number of votive inscriptions, was dedicated to Baal Addir and Baal Hammon,
the symbol appears just as frequently. It is regularly seen on stelae dedicated
to these gods alone, and on the other hand is frequently absent from stelae
happening to invoke Tanit. The sanctuary at Carthage itself, according to
indisputable epigraphic evidence, was originally dedicated to Baal Hammon.
At the top of one of the earliest examples of the famous sign17 the
written word "Baal" is actually engraved on the stone instead
of the astral disc. It was not until the fifth century that Tanit, who appears
to be the result of an ill-defined Punic syncretism, infiltrated (timidly
at first) into the sanctuary, and succeeded in a remarkably short time in
asserting her own undisputed supremacy there -- a development which was not
apparent anywhere else. In defense of those who are responsible for naming
this diagram the "sign of Tanit", it must be admitted that this
intrusion occurred at a time when a parallel syncretism was clearly taking
place in the realm of symbolic imagery.
of Baal Hammon, Chief God of Carthage
by Louis Foucher
Professor at the Faculty of Letters of the University of Tours
We are comparatively ill informed about the deities worshipped
by the early Phoenicians when they came from the East to set
up trading posts, great and small, along the maritime highway
which took them as far as Caries in Spain. These sailors and
salesmen must primarily have invoked the gods who could ensure
them a safe voyage, permitting them to defy storms or to evade
rocks, and to gain hospitable havens which would shelter them
alike from the hostility of nature and of man. Such, doubtless,
was the substance of the prayers they addressed to the god Resheph,
whose statuette was recovered from the sea near Selinunte in
1961. The foundation of Carthage at the end of the ninth century
B.C. -- for we may retain the traditional date -- encouraged
the more permanent establishment in the Western Mediterranean
of members of the Phoenician pantheon. No longer did merchants
set up temporary trading posts, many of them going back to spend
their old age in Tyre, where they had left their families. Now
there was an aristocracy which had departed from the mother city
never to return, trying to embed their homes and beliefs permanently
in the colonies. For several centuries, however, the new capital's
sphere of influence remained very restricted, and under the aegis
of the Magonid dynasty the Carthaginians continued to look almost
entirely seaward for the increase of their wealth.
The fifth century B.C. marked a political, economic and social
revolution which also had repercussions on religion. While still
Pursuing their maritime activities, the aristocrats sought to
conquer neighbouring territories, to extend their influence further
west, to augment the crop of the wide plains by perfecting new
methods of cultivation. No longer now did they restrict themselves
to maritime commerce; they also turned their attention to agriculture.
In the other cities, Utica and Hadrumetum, which were even older
than Carthage, the same phenomenon occurred: the possession of
land and a more reasoned capital investment enriched a number
of families. The Phoenicians colonies now tended to allot a more
limited role to the secondary deities of the pantheon. They did
this in order to give a wider, almost exclusive predominance
to two great celestial divinities, Baal Hammon and Tanit, representing
the sun and the moon. They fertilise the soil and renew all the
energies of the city. Doubtless very young infants were already
being sacrificed to them, but now their votaries asked more from
them than the warding off of disaster on a capricious and rock-filled
sea. Prayers were for a regular rhythm of the seasons, particularly
rain, to bring abundant harvests of corn, olives and fruit, and
productive flocks. Baal Hammon was still a celestial god, but
he became also, or reverted to being a god of the earth -- at
once a sky and solar deity and a productive and fertilising one.
Faithful to his Asiatic origins, however, Baal Hammon remained
exacting, and the tophets at Carthage, Hadrumetum and Cirta have
revealed to their excavators an impressive quantity of offerings.
After a certain time, at the beginning of the fourth century,
the urns containing the bones of child-sacrifices, soon to be
replaced by small animals, were accompanied by stelae bearing
symbols of the deities. The majority, in fact, carries aniconic
designs, anthropomorphic images of Baal Hammon being comparatively
God Seated on a Throne in the Barque of Osiris
Pierre Cintas has drawn my attention to the bezel of a ring
from Dermech (Carthage) dating at least to the sixth century
B.C. and perhaps to the seventh (Ph. XLV). A solar disc in the
left corner should be related to the boat supporting the god's
throne. The beams of this boat are sketched at both ends and
in the middle: it recalls both the boat of Osiris and the ancient
eastern belief. It relates to after setting, the sun crossed
the kingdom of the dead by boat, in order to reappear at dawn
in the opposite quarter of the sky. Such an image thus asserts
the universality of a god who rules at once in the sky, on earth,
and under the earth. He is shown as a man of middle years, bearded
and with a pointed tiara on his head, seated in an armchair with
a high, curved back which enhances the majestic dignity of his
pose. The armrests are crouching-sphinxes; their wings rising
exactly level with his head. His right hand is lifted in blessing,
while his left hand grasps a staff terminating in an indistinct
object, a grain of corn or a pinecone? In front of him is a fire-altar.
Can this be Baal Hammon? P. Cintas has reminded me that the tiara
turns up on the back of the neck, a characteristic which often
marks Baal Shaman. If the same figure was used for Baal Hammon,
we must admit that, at the end of the sixth century or in the
fifth, the god found his features in lineaments borrowed from
other Phoenician deities.
Scene Showing the Cult of Baal Hammon in the Sanctuary
A representation of Baal Hammon was discovered in the sanctuary
at Hadrumetum excavated in 1946-47 by P. Cintas. It is on a stele
from the second level, where offerings were deposited from the
end of the fifth century to the beginning of the third. As with
most of its neighbours, the back of the stele is carefully shaped
and finished with a bevel on the upper Portion. The decorated
face shows a cult scene above an altar with an Egyptian gorge
now obliterated. The holy place is the simplest of miniature
temple facades, with two pilasters topped by a molded lintel.
on which can be discerned the much worn design of a winged solar
disc flanked by two uraei. This motif is framed by; a series
of little slanting lines, which gradually take a curving path
to the right. The right side of the temple is edged with cross-hatching,
which can be paralleled in the trellising on tombs, or which
is perhaps, in the convention of the stone-cutters, simply an
indication of detail or decoration impossible to depict in full
At the entrance to the temple appear, a profile cult scene
with two figures deriving from a type frequently used by Phoenician
artists many instance, of which are found in the East. The votary
wears a kind of bonnet with a drooping point at the back, and
a long, ankle-length robe; his open right hand is raised level
with his face in a gesture of prayer and submission. As P. Cintas
has explained, the absence of a beard shows him to be a priest
and not just an ordinary worshipper. The god is seated on a throne,
the lofty back of which rises just above his head. Following
a very common Phoenician tradition, numerous variations on which
attest its popularity, the armrests comprise a pair of sphinxes.
As the design is in profile, the left-hand sphinx is hidden.
The other sphinx is furnished with a wing, which rise, to a point
behind it, in line with the back of the throne. The right hind
foot is placed slightly forward and the left is hidden by the
tail. The front feet are covered by the thick folds of a drapery
held in place by bands which no doubt cross on the chest. The
head of the sphinx is bare.
The god is seated firmly in the depths of the armchair; the
body turned three-quarters to the right. He wears a long robe
falling to his ankles. He is bearded and on his head is a high,
pointed tiara with trading ribbons; his long, thick hair covers
the back of his neck. His right hand is lifted Palm outwards
in a gesture of benediction. In his left hand is a long staff
ending in a large car of corn and rising to the height of the
tiara: the disproportion between this attribute, and the figures
is quite normal, and any parallels can be cited. Behind the god's
right hand is an object engraved with perpendicular striations,
in which I would be inclined to see a pine cone, a motif which,
moreover, was regarded by the Phoenicians as prophylactic and
appears among amulets. The attributes assembled in this deeply
religious scene thus symbolise the celestial and solar nature
of this Baal Hammon to whom the People offered such valuable
sacrifices, as well as his fertilising and productive properties.
In addition, the numerous parallels, which have been found in
Phoenician artifacts, based on a similar scheme, from Ugarit
to Sicily and from Africa to Spain confirm that. In spite of
the vicissitude that befell this people, the western colonies
maintained connections with their ancient mother-city, now enslaved.
The Gold Ring from Utica and the Statuette from the Siagu
The gold ring found by P. Cintas in a tomb in a necropolis
at Utica, dating to the fifth century B.C. (Ph. XLIV), bears
a very similar image of the same god engraved on an elliptical
field. Partly from lack of space, but primarily because the basic
function of a ring is to protect its wearer, the votary is not
shown. Baal's throne is less upright than that of Sousse (Hadrumetum),
with a lower back. The sphinx's tail is lifted, and its front
feet are not concealed by drapery; there is no sign of two bands
crossing on the chest; and upon the head of the sphinx is a kind
of skullcap. The god's long robe is covered by lines intersecting
at right angles. The gesture of the right hand is absolutely
identical, and the left hand also holds a staff, ending in an
ear of corn. The tiara is more conical, and is ribbed, with a
padded top. The beard and hair are not so thick. In spite of
these differences in detail, it is quite clear that the artist
intended to produce a figure of Baal Hammon.
We might justly be surprised to find so few images of a god
whose name appears with such frequency in stele inscriptions:
apparently the People Preferred to depict him symbolically. However,
we should remember that for fifth and fourth century Carthage,
the evidence is far from being entirely available. Moreover,
the excavators have noted various terracotta fragments, uncovered
here and there, which may belong to statues of the same god;
such statues must have been produced at Carthage in this period,
doubtless under the influence of techniques developed in the
Greek deities of Sicily. This art became well established, if
we can judge from ornaments and a terracotta statuette from a
necropolis. Now on show in the Museum at Carthage: this shows
an almost identical figure and probably dates to the third century
B.C. The destruction of the Punic capital in 146 had no effect
on the religious beliefs of the Phoenician population already
dispersed over the countryside, or those who reassembled after
the catastrophe. Several finds indicate that Baal Hammon retained
his adherents at least until the first, and sometimes as late
as the second century of the Roman Empire. The most dramatic
discovery was that of a little statue 0.40 m. high found in a
Punic sanctuary at Cape Bell near Siagu, northeast of Bir Bell
Rekba, in 1908, and published by A. Merlin (Ph. 131). We find
practically the same elements. The back of the armchair ends
at the level of the god's shoulders. The wings of the sphinxes
do not rise so high, and their heads were covered with a pointed
bonnet from which a fringe of formal curls escaped to frame around
The god wears a long tunic, the folds of which meet in a point
on the axis of the chest. His right hand is raised, the open
palm turned outwards, while the fingers of the left hand are
closed upon a now vanished attribute; it cannot be a staff, as
in the previous examples, since the forearm is resting on the
knees. The face is quite different. The hair is shorter, with
no hanging locks; the beard is less bushy, carefully cut, and
less pointed; a fierce moustache curls about the corners of the
mouth. The face, grave and serene, displays some Semitic characteristics.
The headdress has changed: no longer a high tiara or a conical
bonnet, but a polos-crown, the base of which encases the top
of the head, while allowing curls of hair to escape out of the
top. The constituents of this headdress, perhaps feathers set
side by side, are scalloped at their upper edge. For the design
of the head the artist seems to have been influenced by models
based on Bryaxis's statue of Sarapis.
Among the quantities of terracotta statuettes from the cemeteries
at Sousse (Hadrumetum) and EI Djem (Thysdrus), we continue to
find the image of Baal Hammon with some variations, up to the
beginning of the third century A.D. One of these is particularly
interesting because the god, as on the tophet stele of at least
500 years earlier, appears in front of an altar flanked by columns
supporting archaic capitals. In spite of the clumsy design and
the worn molding, we can recognise the headdress as similar to
that on the ring from Utica while the sphinxes' bonnets resemble
those from Thinissut. The attribute is an axe. At EI Djem the
headdress is a close parallel to that of the statue from the
sanctuary it Siagu, but the hair is worn in much longer curls,
as in the early examples. We should also mention the base of
a Roman marble statue found at Thuburbo Majus, where we see a
man draped in a long robe and seated between two sphinxes whose
front feet are concealed by a drapery. While we must indeed admit
the existence of variants, certain characteristics, and not always
the same ones, endured over a very long period.
Persistence of the Image of Baal Hammon in the Tunisian
In the greater part of the Roman
proconsular province, Baal Hammon was very soon assimilated to Saturn,
who replaced him
and enjoyed considerable prestige among the peoples of Africa
particularly the smaller tribes. His strongly Romanised image
is somewhat different from the Punic version. In Byzacium and
certain nearby cities, by contrast, the Punic Baal seems to have
survived much longer, as is attested by coins struck at Hadrumetum,
as well as the statuettes previously mentioned. The coins date
to the Augustan period, and give all idea of the problems which
could affect the religious outlook of a city chiefly inhabited
by Phoenician traders and farmers. In 146 these people broke
away from Carthage and opted for Rome. Thereafter, a gathering
of Roman citizens was established and strengthened in their midst,
while families of diverse origins still continued sporadically
to arrive from the eastern Mediterranean. Under the, aegis of
Rome, the city sought to regain its political unity, and its
gods tended to dissolve and merge into one another. As a harbour
city, the patron god of Hadrumetum was Neptune, who should be
equated, at least in part, with an ancient Punic sea deity. But
the great sun god of tradition, who governed the sky and promoted
the fertility of the fields and the productiveness of flocks,
maintained his Prestige. The people continued to bring his offerings
at the tophet until the end of the first century, and over the
urns were placed stelae recalling baetyls and the young animals
sacrificed. The recent settlers assimilated him not to Saturn,
as elsewhere, but simply to the Sun. On several examples of coinage
from 10-5 B.C. we see a bust of the sun god, young and beardless,
sometimes accompanied by an object in which we can perhaps detect
a trident, or more, likely a stem with three grains of corn.
Whether he is shown frontally or in profile, his head is surrounded
by rays. We may surely compare this image oil the Hadrumetum
coins with fragments of terracotta statuettes found at Carthage
by Merlin. Baal's throne still appears, but the god seated between
the two sphinxes is beardless. Perhaps, then, at an unknown but
fairly late period, an element in the Carthaginian population
tried to assimilate Baal Hammon to the sun god Apollo.
Another coin from Hadrumetum, however, dating to 6-5 B.C.
gives us the traditional image of the great god (Ph. 132). The
obverse carries the portrait of the Proconsul Africanus Fabius
Maximus, whose doings in the region are known from other sources.
The reverse carries the bust of Baal Hammon. On his head is a
high tiara in the shape of a truncated cone, with three rows
of overlapping scales; beneath it is fixed a veil which covers
the neck. Level with the shoulder a hand in blessing is sketched,
and in front of the face, near the beard, are some confused marks
that must, in my opinion, represent an ear of corn. Thus we see
that the proconsuls, in accordance with circumstances and their
civil political convictions, tried to conciliate the different
sections of the population.
In the same way as the statuettes from the cemeteries, another
product of officialdom attests the persistence of this religious
image in the Tunisian Sahel (Ph 133). This is the reverse of
an aureus of Clodius Albinos, Caesar to the Emperor Septimius
Severus who sought to dispute the supreme power with that ruler,
took the title of Augustus in 196, and was defeated and killed
leading his followers at Lyon in 197. The Historia Augusta says
that he was a native of Hadrumetum. The information provided
by this source is very often unreliable but on this point the
remarkable character of the coin-reverse allied to the previous
examples adequately support the statement, and confirms that
Baal Hammon in his traditional guise remained the chief god of
Hadrumetum. The throne is shown in three-quarter view, which
reveals the curve of the upper chair back. The visible sphinx
is seen with its front feet on the same plan, while the back
feet suggest an advancing movement already hinted at in other
examples, but more noticeable here. The position of the hand
raised palm outwards in blessing is the same as everywhere else;
the left hand holds ears of corn that we may now legitimately
restore when they are missing or the image is not clear. The
tiara echoes that on the coins of Fabius Maximus' and the neck
is apparently also covered by a veil worn under the headdress.
In front of the god's armchair, but on a far smaller scale, is
the figure of the worshipper; he lifts his hand towards the god
he is invoking, but it is not clear whether or not he is wearing
a headdress. It is ironic to reflect that, of all the images
we have at present (new discoveries are always possible, since
many Punic sites have not yet been explored) this coin from the
very end of the second century A.D. bears the closest resemblance
to the stele of the fourth century B.C. found in the tophet.
Interpretations of a Legend
The legend stamped on this coin has attracted numerous interpretations.
Some people see in it not the name of the god but only the lavish
fertility of the sun, which the inhabitants of the Empire then
enjoyed. For others, SAECULO FRUGIFERO designates a god who could
be 'that Baal imperfectly Romanised as Chronos, Time'. Merlin
links this inscription with the name of the colony of Hadrumetum:
Colonia Concordia Ulpia Trajana Angusto Frugifera Hadrumetina
and believes that in the imperial period the actual name of the
god was Saeculum Frugiferum. Since this legend appears on the
coins of other emperors, it is better simply to regard it as
an invocation not to a deity but to an entity endowed with divine
power. It often occurs that an evocation of the eternal destiny
of the Roman Empire and its beneficent rule over all the inhabitants
of the orbis terrarum
If we do attribute the name of Saeculum Frugiferum to the
god seated between two sphinxes, we must admit that we do not
know under what appellation he was addressed by those who remained
faithful to him up to the time of the Empire, and looked to him
for their prosperity. On the other hand, can we be sure that
all these images, so closely resembling one another, always represented
the same god? Our knowledge of Punic religion and its ramifications
still contains many gaps: for the present we must content ourselves
with noting the variants which mark these examples, so separated
in time, if not in geography. It is in any case likely that the
Africans who 'reproduced this image in the second century A.D.
had forgotten the implacability of Baal Hammon, who clamoured
for human sacrifice at the tophet many centuries before.
Louis Foucher is a Doctor of Letter and was Curator of
the Archaeological Museum at Sousse (Tunisia) from 1949 to 1965,
during which period he was director of excavation in the Tunisian
Sehel. In addition to excavating a very large number of Roman
villas with magnificent mosaic floors, he investigated the cemeteries
at Sousse (Hadrumetum), Lemta (Laptis Minor) and El Djem (Thysdrus).
He was also able to identify many other Punic sites, exploration
of which is likely to lead to fresh discoveries. The results
of his work have appeared in numerous publications, culminating
in a doctoral thesis entitled Hadrumetum. He now lectures in
the Faculty of Letters and Humanities Tours.
The temple, or the temple and
palace together, were often raised and/or walled off in a separate precinct
The temple was the "house" of the god--often so in
both name and form. It was also a storehouse for the god's treasures
and hence sometimes particularly thickly walled. The temple staff
played a leading role in the life of the city.
In the early 3rd millennium the
temples were built on the same plan as houses: a rectangle with the entrance
on one of
the long sides, with a small altar or a niche for the cult statue
opposite the entrance. Sometimes there were benches around the
three uninterrupted walls. An outer court contained the main
altar, where the larger community could participate in worship.
At the beginning of the 2nd millennium the house of the god was
extended by the expansion of the niche into an additional room
("cella") and of the entrance into a porch--the form
later used by the Phoenician architects of Solomon's Temple in
Jerusalem. There were also outdoor shrines, such as the "high
place" at Gezer (near modern Ramla, Israel) with its row
of standing stones and monumental stone basin (and surviving
charred animal remains). Over the centuries there was an increasing
variety of forms at different sites. At particular sites, however,
the plans of temples often remained virtually identical, even
after previous superstructures had been destroyed.
Typical temple furniture included the cult statue, standing
stones, bowls and their stands, altars, and benches around the
walls. Hazor, in the Jordan Valley north of the Sea of Galilee,
has yielded a 13th-century statue of a male deity on a bull-shaped
base. In another temple a set of cultic objects, also from the
13th century, was found behind a stone slab: a seated male figure
and a group of standing stones, the central one of which has
engraved on it a vertical pair of arms with hands outstretched
toward a disk and crescent.
The palace too might have a chapel.
The palace at Mari, on the Euphrates in eastern Syria, housed a statue
of a goddess
holding a vase from which she dispensed flowing ("living")
water; the water was channeled through the statue to the vase.
Wall paintings in the palace depict the same image, as well as
scenes of the king being presented to a god and making offerings
to a god.
A common religious object, not
confined to sacred places, is the "Astarte" figurine, depicting
a nude woman, often with exaggerated breasts and genitalia, and sometimes
a child. This was perhaps a fetish representing the mother goddess
and used to stimulate conception, childbirth, or lactation.
temple was staffed by cultic personnel (priests) under a "chief of priests," and
by practitioners of the various other skills required by the
functions of the temple. These included singers and other musicians,
diviners, scribes, and other specialists, depending on the size
of the temple. The temple staff was sustained by some of the
sacrifices, by supplies from the estates of the temple or palace,
or by direct contributions imposed on the surrounding population.
Its essential religious function was the care of the cult statue,
the offering of sacrifices, and the performance of other rituals
for the welfare of god, monarch, and community.
Typically the monarch and sometimes
other members of the royal family played a leading role in the most significant
and festivals. A king of Sidon refers to himself as "priest
of Astarte." One text from a town near Ugarit concerns a
sacrifice by the queen.
In tombs formed from subterranean
caves beneath the western palace of Ebla during the second quarter of the
skeletal remains and treasures suggest a cult of deceased monarchs.
From Mari and Ugarit researchers have learned of a significant
cult of former rulers (called "Healers" at Ugarit)--from
putative or mythical figures to the most recently deceased--who
supported the reigning monarch with divine blessings. The monarch's
expectations of life after death are expressed in an inscription
on an 8th-century monumental effigy of the god Hadad from Zincirli
(ancient Sam`al) in south-central Turkey. King Panammu directs
that his future heir, when making sacrifice to Hadad, pray that
Panammu's soul may eat and drink with the god. Phoenician kings
of Sidon later refer to a resting place with the Healers, and
the same word is used by the Israelites to refer to all the dead.
People attempted to influence the
gods through animal sacrifices, petitions, and vows (promises
of gifts contingent on the deity's response to a request for
help). Sacrifice was central to the cult. Domestic animals were
the main victims--cattle, sheep, and goats--and also birds. There
is clear evidence for two types of sacrifice: simple gifts and
whole burned offerings. There also is scattered evidence of human
sacrifice, probably limited to situations of unusual extremity
(contrast the account of the sacrifice of his eldest son by the
king of Moab in 2 Kings 3:26-27 with the more abundant evidence
of child sacrifice from Carthage and other Phoenician colonies
in the west.)
The will of the gods was discovered in various ways. Use of
the Mesopotamian technique of liver divination (hepatoscopy)
is evidenced by the discovery of clay liver models (sometimes
inscribed with omens) at such sites as Ugarit and Hazor, as well
as by abundant written testimony at sites closer to Mesopotamia,
such as Mari. Ugarit also had a list of omens based on abnormal
births. King Idrimi of Alalakh refers to divining by observation
of the flight of released birds.
The correspondence from Mari abundantly
testifies to the institution of prophecy--spontaneous pronouncements by
cult personnel and
occasionally others, delivering messages from the deity. By this
means the deity disclosed his or her wishes or gave divine warnings
or promises to the king. The Aramaean king Zakir records that
he appealed to his god in desperation during a siege and that
the god answered him through prophets with promises of deliverance--obviously
fulfilled, since the king makes so much of this in his inscription.
According to the Egyptian "Report of Wen-Amun," a young
man of Byblos went into a trance and resolved a diplomatic deadlock
by announcing that the Egyptian envoy whom the local king had
refused to see had indeed been sent by the Egyptian god Amun.
Biblical narratives portray similar prophetic phenomena in Israel.
The gods also revealed themselves through dreams, which again
were carefully reported to the monarch by his officers at Mari.
According to later classical sources
a central focus of Syrian religion was the rituals surrounding the myth
of the dying god.
The myth, according to these sources, variously draws on other
Middle Eastern or Egyptian traditions but essentially tells of
the deity's death and subsequent sojourn in the underworld and
of an accommodation reached between the queen of the underworld
and the goddess associated with the god that allows him to return
to earth for six months of the year. Associated rituals include
the sacrifice of a male pig, mourning for the dead god in a funeral
procession, cultivating "gardens" in small pots and
baskets, and a threshing rite.
Religious Symbolism, Punic Stelae
by Anna Maria Bisi, Inspector for the Near East at the
Palermo Superintendance of Antiquities
Cippi and stelae of limestone are characteristic monuments
of Punic art and religion, and are found throughout the western
Phoenician world in unbroken continuity, both historically and
geographically. The majority was set up over urns containing
the ashes of human sacrifices, which had been placed within open-air
sanctuaries. To this day such sanctuaries constitute our most
striking relic of the Punic civilisation. Archaeologists conventionally
refer to them under the Biblical name of tophets (1).
These votive monuments appeared early in the sixth century
B.C. in the various parts of the Mediterranean colonised by the
Phoenicians (2). They continued in use until after the destruction
of Carthage, and persisted in belated examples in North Africa
itself, Sardinia and Sicily to the height of the Imperial Roman
Since numerous antecedents of their typology and ornamental
repertoire occur in the art of Canaan and Ugarit in the second
millennium B.C. and that of Phoenicia in the first millennium
(3), we may justifiably conclude that these earlier monuments
passed on one of their leading characteristics to the tophets
of the Punic west. A good example of such cult centres is furnished
by the tophet of Salammbo at Carthage, near the city's
ancient ports. A space open to the sky contains stelae erected
by the earliest inhabitants of Carthage above the urns containing
the ashes of their children who had 'passed through Molk', i.e.
who had been sacrificed in the flaming pyre of the great god
Baal Hammon and his consort Astarte-Tanit.
Today ivy (4) climbs among the cippi of rough stone and the
urns containing the charred bones of children immolated in a
rite of regeneration which probably originated from a very early
form of sun-worship practiced throughout the Mediterranean region
(5). We must discount the prejudices aroused in us by a modern
outlook. The romantic suggestions of people such as Flaubert,
who, even before the tophet at Cartilage lied been excavated,
had already drawn on the horrifying descriptions of child sacrifices
in Diodorus for some of the most sensational passages in his
novel Salammbo. If we are indeed able to ignore all the
emotions, which the sight of one of these bloodthirsty urnfields
can arouse, the cippi and stelae found there could make an important
contribution to our knowledge of the history of the Carthaginian
civilisation. History of its religion in the very early period
-- for which documentary evidence and historical commentaries
are partially or wholly lacking and the, history of the various
influences which, from the city's foundation, affected its artistic
Representations of divinities and abstract designs
Let us first consider the religious side. The cippi from the
oldest levels of the tophet are in the form of small Egyptianising
aedicules in an architectural frame and bear both aniconic images
and anthropomorphic representations. The first group are the
more numerous; these seem to point to the concept of an impersonal
and disembodied deity -- worshipped rather in baetylic symbols
than in human forms either directly delineated or derived from
a cult image -- a concept underlying many Semitic religions.
However, the second group, with their anthropomorphic decoration,
is no less important.
In other areas of Punic colonisation, the most archaic cippi
bear male and female images of a definite typological origin
(almost invariably Egyptian or Cypriot) (Ph. 127). Their attitudes
are an important indication of their functions and nature (as
in the stelae of Motya and Sardinia we see on one-hand representations
of votaries and on the other what are unquestionably images of
gods). In Carthage, by contrast, the cippi have no more than
crude, schematic male silhouettes with Egyptian headdresses,
generally viewed frontally. In a single example a female figure
appears with her arms folded to support her breasts (6) following
an iconographic theme of very early Mesopotamian origin which
is particularly prevalent and seen in numerous variants in Iron
Age Cypriot contexts. We should note that in some instances the
male figure is placed on a pedestal within an Egyptianising niche
-- a motif more common on the stelae of Sulcis and Nora. We have
here a motif of Nilotic origin reproduced in Phoenician religious
scenes, in which tile deity is shown on a higher level than his
faithful adherents do. Hence we may safely conclude that even
the oldest cippi at Carthage (like those of Motya and Sardinia)
bear images of gods.
The situation is complicated, however, by the fact that if
the male figures represent Baal Hammon and the female ones Astarte
(Tanit and the aniconic emblem conventionally termed 'the sign
of Tanit', as we know, appear only from the end of the fifth
or early in the fourth century B.C. probably following a more
abstract and speculative religious trend among the priestly hierarchy
at Carthage), it is hard to understand the extreme rarity of
portrayals of the head of the pantheon on the Carthaginian cippi.
Whereas the few sixth century inscriptions on the tophet
cippi mention him continually (and him alone) as the being in
whose honour the rite of Molk (7) was performed, portrayals of
his consort Astarte appear by the dozen on Sardinian and Silician
ex-votos. Incidentally, it is also interesting to observe that
Baal Hammon in his Eastern Phoenician form -- spear in hand,
wearing a high tiara, his hair curling up on his neck -- has
not yet made his appearance at Carthage, at a time we have already
met him on stelae at Sulcis and Motya (8). This however, is an
argumentum ex silentio, since a large part of the Salammbo
tophet still awaits excavation.
Moreover, except for a few rare instances of a sphinx of armchair
Greek type on stelae of Hellenistic date, monster representations
such as human-headed birds (harpies ? winged images of the dead,
i.e. the child consecrated to Molk, who, by undergoing the dreadful
sacrifice, acquired a kind of supernatural hero-power ?) are
absent from the Carthaginian repertoire, although an example
is seen in the niche of a stele from Motya (Ph. 126).
Interpretations of the symbols
As was stated earlier, aniconic design, are found in considerable
quantity on the tophet cippi -- sufficient for some scholars
to have propounded the view, outdated, that Punic religion evolved
from the aniconic to the representational. Except for the 'sign
of Tanit', which seems to be a product of development, the abstract
images can be classified into three basic types. each with several
variants: the baetyl, the 'lozenge', and the bottle idol' (Ph.
122, 124, 128, 129),
The baetyl, the sides of which may be straight or sometimes
slanting sharply inwards at the top, appears by itself or grouped
in twos or threes, rising from a rectangular base with plain
mouldings or from a trapezoidal altar with Egyptian gorge. It
obviously represents the pillar or phallic symbol which, from
the Canaanite masseboths to the black Mecca-stone of the
Bedouin Arabs on the eve of Islam (i.e. the Ka'aba stone), symbolised
for all Semitic religions the immanent power and fecundity of
It is harder to establish the origin and meaning of the lozenge,
which sometimes assumes a hexagonal shape. Patroni, in connection
with his findings from stelae of Nora, regarded it as representing
female pudenda, following a well-known passage in Herodotus
(Hist. II, 106). However, if we consider the presence of a lozenge
between two baetyls on an archaic cippus at Carthage (Ph. 126),
it is more likely that they all represent sacred stones set up
in both sanctuary and tophet to embody the presence of
the deity. We also recall the standing-stones that gave the Obelisk
Temple at Byblos its name, or the baetylic image from the Temple
of Dagon at Ugarit.
A recent discovery seems to support this second interpretation:
in the sanctuary excavated within the walls of the Punic fortress
at Monte Sirai in Sardinia, a large, unpolished stone has been
found; its almost hexagons outline closely resembles the likely
shape on the Carthaginian stelae. Moreover, several stelae collected
by Whitaker at the beginning of this Century from the tophet
at Motya bear the same design.
Even more uncertainty surrounds
another symbol from Carthaginian sites the so-called 'bottle-idol'. Madame
regards it as a stylised version of a very early fiddle-idol
of the Neolithic Cycladic type. Madame C. Picard believes it
to be an aniconic image used to represent Greek deities up to
the Hellenistic Period. Neither hypothesis seems convincing,
first because of the time-lag between the supposed Aegean models
and their Punic imitations, and secondly because the presence
of the 'bottle' on a stele at Ecdippa (Aczib) in Phoenicia renders
the theory of a Creek source untenable. In all probability we
are here dealing with a baetylic image, or better still, a representation
of the actual urns containing the sacrificial ashes (indeed,
we can observe a late development in accordance with the latter
view on the stelae of the tophet at Sousse, where unmistakable
vases appear, grouped in threes or in several sets of three),
or better again (and this is by far the most likely explanation),
the portrayal of the actual child turned hero after passing through
Molk. In fact, it is only if we accept this last theory that
we can explain two most curious characteristics of the 'bottle-idol':
first the cross motif (known as 'braces') (Ph. 122), which represents
the sacrificial victim's arms folded on its chest; and secondly
the human features (nose, ears, eyes) on the 'bottle' on some
Carthaginian stelae of Hellenistic date. I myself am inclined
to think that the bottle image, in addition to being a strongly
stylised representation of the heroised dead, was also influenced
by the mummified form of the Egyptian Osiris, in which the arms
are likewise folded on the chest, displaying in the royal insignia.
In this we can see an allusion to the after-life of the dead
in divine semblance which the Punic culture burrowed, the better
to symbolise by a subtle yet most logical transference, the heroised
victim of Molk.
The strong influence of Egyptian beliefs on the archaic Punic
religion is moreover paralleled by a similar influence, also
emanating from Pharaonic Egypt, in the field of the arts. Uraei,
winged solar discs, Horus-eyes, Anubis, Sekhmet, Thoth, Bes,
the whole pantheon of gods, demigods, monsters and demons treated
by the fertile Egyptian imagination are readily found in the
products of the minor arts (amulets, amulet-étuis,
necklaces, pendants. medallions, sacred razors) which form a
large part of the grave-goods in the earliest Carthaginian tombs.
If we further remember that several centuries previously the
Eastern Phoenicians had already borrowed a number of elements
from Egyptian religious symbolism and architecture (connections
between Byblos and Egypt go back to the beginning of the Old
Kingdom, if not to the Protohistoric period), and the Phoenicians
of the first millennium in Tyre, Sidon, Aradus and Marathus (Amrit)
had followed suit, it is in no way surprising to find that the
earliest stone art of the Punic world grew up in the shadow of
Egyptian art and bears its imprint.
The cippi from the tophet: forms and structures
According to their structure, we can divide the cippi from
the oldest levels of the tophet at Carthage into two main
categories. On one hand we have those known as throne-cippi (Ph.
123 and 125), imitations of the thrones in the sanctuaries of
the Phoenician mother city, which were regarded as props for
the deity. On the other hand we have authentic little Egyptian
naiskoi (Ph. 124 and 129), made from a solid block and
originally intended to be viewed from all sides, but on which,
in the course of time, the decoration became restricted to the
principal face alone. Further, beneath a high architrave with
a hollow-moulded Egyptian cornice, projecting torus and fringes
of uraei supporting discs and winged solar discs, and sometimes
set on a pedestal of varying height. The uprights of the cella
are left undecorated, unlike those on Phoenician examples, and
within the cella we see the images discussed earlier: aniconic
symbols or male and female figures representing the heroised
dead or, more likely, the deity, at least when they are shown
on a pedestal accompanied by some typical attribute (spear, tiara,
etc.). The throne-cippi (Ph. 123) sometimes have a baetyl on
the seat, but often the space between the arm-rests is left unoccupied
(Ph. 125), the better to express the disembodied immanence of
the deity. The armrests themselves may terminate in pairs of
incense-burners upon trapezoidal pillars with an Egyptian gorge;
the steps that serve to link the two armrests have already appeared
on Egyptian naiskoi of the second millennium.
The foregoing discussion might lead us to think that all the
Salammbo cippi derive from one or other of these two basic types.
But the facts are more complicated. Each type embraces several
variants, chiefly due to the diverse combinations of architectural
elements in the architrave, and moreover each advances towards
a form of stele of more and more two-dimensional construction,
i.e. with the face executed in relief which becomes ever shallower
and more broken up, while the back and sides are left rough.
Meanwhile a typological development provides a valuable indication
of chronology. This is the appearance of non-Egyptian elements
(bands of ovoids of Greek inspiration, leafy or voluted capitals
of the type designated 'proto-Aeolic', originating in Phoenicia
or Cyprus) upon monuments that began as rigidly Nilotic structures.
However, this phenomenon is more noticeable in other regions
under Punic influence (Sardinia, Sicily) than at Carthage, where
such hybrid motifs arrive a little later and can be identified
only on narrow, elongated stelae, sometimes carved in handsome
white marble, in the Hellenistic period (Ph. 122). The Aeolic
and Ionic columns which appear in this context, the elaborate,
pseudo-architectural frames -- deeply engraved but no longer
in relief, the cornices scolled or crowned with tufts of acanthus
and palmettes, all derive, as Madame C. Picard has recently established
(9), from similar botanical cornpositions found on Italiot vases,
particularly those of Apulia, which show scenes beyond the grave.
Fidelity to the Egyptianising form of cippus persisted in
Carthage until the city came under Greek influence. Elsewhere
in those Punic territories least under the political and cultural
sway of mother Carthage, the Egyptianising typology continued
into the third or second century B.C. This is seen on the stelae
with Egyptian architraves surmounted by Aeolic capitals which
come from the Sulcian colony of Monte Sirai in Sardinia. Or,
if we restrict ourselves to the Punic territories on the African
mainland, on some stelae from the tophet of Hadrumetum
(modern Sousse), the architectural frames of which contain a
remarkable hybrid mixture of fringes of uraei, winged solar discs,
fluted Ionic columns and pediments with acroteria in the form
of eagles with outspread wings, of almost Classical type.
Since, in spite of their many variations in detail, the construction
of Egyptianising cippi at Carthage and in the other Punic territories
is identical, we may assume on the one hand that they were modelled
on a single type (i.e. the Egyptian noiskoi already mentioned),
and on the other hand that they were disseminated from a single
centre, Carthage, whence this particular typology extended to
other Phoenician colonies in the west. In addition, the appearance
of the tophets as cult centres characterised by the association
of stelae and funerary urns -- an association which seems to
have had no predecessors in the Phoenician places of sacrifice
-- is apparently of western, and peculiarly Carthaginian, origin.
Thus the votive cippi would have spread from seventh/sixth-century
Carthage to Sardinia and Sicily at the same time as their tophets
were set up: and these, according to our current knowledge, do
not seem to arise earlier than the beginning of the sixth century
B.C. -- at least in the regular form we are considering here,
viz. fields of urns distinguished by cippi and stelae placed
above the receptacles containing the charred bones of the victims.
The evolution of the religious beliefs
At Carthage the Egyptianising cippi vanish abruptly, as has
already been indicated, at the end of the fifth century. The
stele with an architrave and hollow and projecting mouldings
is no longer used in the fourth century. It is replaced by a
stele made of a thin slab of stone with it triangular top, often
ornamented with a true pediment flanked by lateral acroteria.
At the same time the ornamental repertoire changes entirely.
We see few or no instances of symbols such as baetyls or the
bottle: instead new designs appear, chief of which is the sign
of Tanit (Ph. 130). The explanation of this phenomenon (which
is not, of course, simply a change in the style or decoration,
but on the contrary the outcome of far deeper religious and social
preoccupations) lies in the ever increasing influence of Greece,
which was particularly strong after the fourth century, affecting
both the typology and the bulk of the stelae imagery.
Obviously such a simplified hypothesis does not provide an
entirely satisfactory solution of the problem. It is true that
Carthaginian stelae of the Hellenistic period bear human figures
in the tradition of Scopas and Praxiteles, where all the evidence
points to a Greek model -- as is also the case with acanthus
branches, Ionic columns, Dionysiac emblems such as cistae and
craters, and a few rare religious or cultural images: the head
of Hermes, ithyphallic satyrs, etc. (10). However, it is equally
true that there appeared in Carthage at the same period, and
for the first time, other emblems and representations of oriental
origin, and quite unconnected with Creek models. Such, for instance,
are the open hand of the god, the 'temple boy' and the bull's
head on a blazing horned altar which a priest is approaching
to perform the sacrifice.
With regard to the caduceus and the sign of Tanit, taken respectively
as evidence of the introduction of the cults of Hermes and Tanit
at Carthage, they are susceptible of a totally different interpretation.
The former, in fact, is probably a schematic form of thymiaterion
of Phoenician type, with superimposed discs which are the attribute
of Baal Hammon (11). The latter seems to be, applicable to both
god and goddess, and is compounded of elements true nature, is
still obscure, although it must surely be connected with a form
of sun worship (symbolised by the disc placed on a triangular
In conclusion, the history of the Egyptianising votive cippus,
in the two centuries during which it is found in the tophet
at Carthage, is indissolubly linked to the religious development
which conditioned alike its adoption and its dissemination.
The adoption of this type of Egyptianising ex-voto probably
followed on the establishment of a set ritual centering on the
burning of victims to Baal Hammon and the erection of monumental
temples inspired by models in the Phoenician mother. Clearly
the ex-votos of the tophets reproduced in miniature the
form of the Punic cult buildings, today almost entirely lost.
The disappearance of the cippi at the end of the fifth century
is the reflection, in Carthage at least, of a fundamental change
in the stability of the Punic civilisation, which was until then
faithful to its ancient Semitic traditions. This change must
not be underestimated, but we should also beware of exaggerating
it into hellenisation on the strength of a few concessions to
Classical taste in the decorative repertoire of the tophet
stelae when it springs rather from the creation of an outstandingly
abstract symbolism, largely based on a Phoenico-Cypriot heritage.
It reveals an outlook turning back to the attitudes of antiquity.
In conjunction with the changed typology of the tophet
ex-votos which we can recognise as being of later date, in a
wider ethico-cultural environment, this change ultimately results
from the appearance of Tanit as head of the Carthaginian pantheon,
although the origins and nature of this goddess still present
unsolved problems, just like the religious emblem which seems
connected with her, and which is conventially given her name.
After obtaining her doctorate in classical archaeology
at the University of Rome, Dr. Anna Maria BISI specialized in
oriental archaeology under the direction of Prof. Sabatino Moscoti,
Inspector for the Near East at the Superintendence of Antiquities
in Palermo, she has participated in numerous expeditions to the
principal Punic sites in Sicily and the Near East. Dr. Bisi is
the author of two books, Punic Stelae (Rome, 1967) and Kypriaka
(Rome, 1966), which discusses the Cypriots antecedents of Punic
- ADON: (Adonis) The god of youth, beauty and regeneration.
His death happens around the love affair between him and the
goddess Ashtarte which another god envied. He, in the form of
a wild boar, attacks and kills Adonis and where his blood fell
there grows red poppies every year. However, as Ashtarte weaps
for his loss, she promises to bring him back to life every spring.
- AKLM: Creatures who attacked Baal in the desert. Some say
these creatures are grasshopper-like.
- ANATH: This was a
Love and War Goddess, the Venus star. She is also known for slaying
of her brother Baal much
in the same way Hathor slaughtered much of mankind (Anath is
heavily related to Hathor). After the Defeat of Mavet and Yam,
a feast was thrown for Baal. Anath locked everyone inside, and
proceeded to slay everyone (as they had all been fickle toward
Baal with both Mavet and Yam, as well as Ashtar). Baal stopped
her and conveinced her that a reign of peace is what was needed.
She also has confronted Mavet and was responsible for Baal's
liberation from the underworld. She is the twin sister of Marah.
Daughter of Asherah. She is also known as Rahmay- "The Merciful",
and as Astarte. Astarte is the Canaanite Name of Ishtar; just
as Ishtar is the Babylonian Name of Inanna. In all cases the
Name means, simply, "Goddess" or "She of the Womb".
- ARSAY: She of the Earth. Daughter of Baal. An underworld
- ASHERAH: The Mother of the Gods, Qodesh (just like El), Lady
of the Sea, Wife of El. (see El). When the gods decided to entreat
Yam to ease his reign of tyranny, it was Asherah who went to
him and even offered herself. The gods agreed to let her do this,
except for Baal who was enraged at the idea. (See Baal). Asherah
is said to have given birth to seventy gods.
- ASHTAR: Possibly a male version of Ishtar (Astarte in Canaan),
the Venus Star. When Baal was killed by Mavet, Asherah had Ashtar,
her son, placed on the throne. However, Ashtar was not big enough
to fill the position, and resigned (quite possibly a relation
of the Venus star being the last star to shine before the Sun
takes over). I believe one of his titles is Malik (the King)
and other names for him are Abimilki and Milkilu.
- ASTARTE: A Name of
Anath which means "Goddess",
or literally "She of the Womb". Astarte is simply the
Canaanite version of the Name Ishtar.
- ATIK: The Calf of El. Enemy of Baal slain by Anath.
- BAAL: He is the Canaanite
Ruler God (like Marduk). Baal and Yam-Nahar origonally competed for
of the gods. The matter
was brought before El, who decided in favour of Yam. Yam then
proceeded with a reign of tyranny over the gods, and none of
them felt they had the power to defeat Yam. So, they sent Asherah
to entreat him to lossen his grip. Asherah even offered herself
to Yam. Upon hearing this, Baal was enraged, and decided to defeat
Yam. Yam got wind of Baal's plan and sent messengers to El with
the demand that Baal be delivered to him. El, afraid, agreed.
Baal then taunted the gods for their cowardice and went to face
Yam. He had two weapons made, Yagrush (chaser) and Aymur (driver).
He struck Yam on the chest with Yagrush to no avail. Then he
struck him on the forehead with Aymur and fell Yam to the earth.
After Yam's defeat, Baal had a palace built for himself; closely
resembeling the story of Marduk. It also resembles Marduk's story
in that the Primeval Waters threatened the gods, and the High
God and others were afraid to face them, with the exception of
the soon-to-be Ruler God. The Baal epic then continues to describe
his fight against Mavet. Baal is also a Storm God like Marduk,
and a fertility god like Tammuz. Dagon is his father. Baal is
the Canaanite God-force (the goddess force seems to be split
between Anath and Asherah). Baal's proper name is Hadad, relating
to his storm-god aspect. Baal is really a title, meaning "Lord".
Baal's residence is upon Mt. Zaphon. He is known as Rapiu (Shade)
during his summer stay in the underworld.
- BAALAT: Patron Goddess of Gubla. Fertility Goddess associated
with Hathor and Isis.
- DAGON: A vegitation God (especially corn). Father of Baal.
- EL: The Father of
the Gods, the Creator of Created Things, The Kindly, Kodesh. Asherah
is his wife.
When he was young, El
went out upon the sea, and there met Asherah and Her companion
Rohmaya. He then roasted a bird and asked them if They would
be His wives or daughters. They chose to be His wives. El mates
with these Goddesses and Shachar and Shalim (Dawn and Dusk) are
born. This family then builds a sanctuary and lives in the desert
for eight years. This episode may be the closest we have to a
Creation story involving El. El wears bull horns upon his helmet,
and He is a grey haired and bearded patriarch. He resides at "the Source of Two Rivers" upon
- ELSH: Steward of El and Baal's house. His wife is the steward
of the Goddesses.
- ESHMUN: God of healing. A great God of Sidon.
- GAPEN: A messenger of Baal. His name either means Vine or
Field. Probably the former.
- HADAD: See Baal.
Originally the Sumer-Babylonian "Adad"
- HELEL: Or Lucifer.
The Light Bringer, the Morning Star. Son of Shachar. Helel once attempted
his Father's Throne,
but failed (another myth concerning Venus' place as the last
star in the sky each morning, as if trying to defy the Sun).
This is the very Myth which spawned the Christian Myth of the
War in Heaven (see Issaiah 14:12- which, in Hebrew, says "Helel",
and not "Lucifer").
- HIRIBI: God of Summer.
- HIRGAB: Father of Eagles. Husband(?) of S,umul.
- HAURON: A God that is related to Ninurta of Mesopotamia and
Horus of Egypt.
- ITHM: God of sheep.
- ISHAT: "Fire".
The Bitch of the Gods. Enemy of Baal slain by Anath.
- KOSHAROTH, THE: The Wise Goddesses. These may be somewhat
along the lines of the Greek Graces, or the Seven Hathors of
Egypt. As we see them, they are called to set up a Wedding. They
are also sometimes symbolized as sparrows or swallows, which
indicated fertility. They were Goddesses of childbirth. They
are also known as the Daughters of the Cresent Moon, and thus
are the daughers of Yarikh.
- KOSHAR U KHASIS: "Skillfull and Clever".
Craftsman of the Gods. Also known as Chousor and Heyan (Ea) and identified
with Ptah. Built the palaces of both Yam-Nahir and Baal. He also
fashioned the two clubs that Baal used to defeat Yam.
- KOSHARTU: Wife of Koshar.
- LEVIATHAN: Another Name for Lotan or Tannin. See Lotan.
- LOTAN: This may be another story like Apophis, Zu, Asag,
and Leviathan where it is not an actual creation story, but still
involves the same energies, with Baal and Lotan fighting for
supremecy. It is representative of rough winter sea-storms which
calmed in the spring and which were preceded and accompanied
by autumn rains (represented by Baal) which ended summer droughts
and enabled crops to grow. Lotan is a seven headed serpent defeated
by Baal with the help of Mavet. Anath also claims a role in the
defeat of the Serpent. Also known as Tannin or Leviathan.
- MARAH: Merciful Goddess of the Waters. Twin sister of Anath.
Daughter of Asherah.
- MAVET: God of Death and Sterility. His name means Death.
In one hand he holds the scepter of bereavement, and in the other
the scepter of widowhooed. His jaws and throat are described
in cosmic proportions and serve as a euphamism for death. A son
of El. After Baal defeated Yam, he then sent a message to Mavet
demanding that he keep his domain in the underworld city of Miry
where he belonged. Mavet was enraged by this and sent a threatening
message to Baal, who was afraid and attempted to flatter his
way out of it. This, however, was to no avail and Baal was forced
to face Mavet. Mavet defeated him and held him in the underworld
until Anath tracked him (Mavet) down and defeated him herself.
Mavet did not actually die, as he and Baal had to face off once
more seven years later. Neither defeated the other, but Mavet
did give in (at the command of Shapash) and proclaimed Baal the
King of the Gods.
- MELQART: King of the City, the Hunter, Fire of Heaven. Patron
god of Tyre, he was the god of the Metropolis and the monarchy
at Tyre and Carthage. May have been a dying and rising vegetation
god, and associated with the sacred marriage like the Sumerian
Dumuzi. He was ritually immolated in an annual festival. He was
also a god of the sea and was pictured mounted on a hippocampus.
- NIKKAL: Consort of Yarikh. (S = Ningal). Goddess of the fruits
of the Earth. Daughter of Hiribi.
- PIDRAY: Girl of Light. A daughter or consort of Baal.
- QADISH-U-AMRAR: The two messengers of Asherah fused into
one God. He dredges up provisions to entertain her guests from
the sea with a net.
- RAHMAYA: A goddess impregnated, along with Asherah, by El.
The Goddesses then gave birth to the twin gods Shahar and Shalem,
though I don't know who gave birth to whom.
- RADMANU: Or Pradmanu. A minor servitor of Baal.
- REPHAIM, THE: "Shades".
Underworld Deities. They move in chariots, on horseback, and upon wild
- RESHEPH: Probably a War God. Lord of the Arrow. Has gazel
horns on his helmet. He destroys men in mass by war and plague.
He is the porter of the sun Goddess Shepesh (this seems to resemble
Khamael of the Hebrews). He is also called Mekal (Annialator),
and could be related to the Hebrew Michael (Mikal) who is also
a War God (ArchAngel). Related to Nergal of Mesopotamia.
- SHACHAR: "Dawn".
God of dawn. Either a son of Asherah, or of Rohmaya. According to Isaiah
14:12, He is the father of
Helel (or Lucifer) the Light-Bringer and Morning Star.
- SHALEM: "Dusk".
God of sunset. The Contemplation of Day. Either a son of Asherah, or
- SHAMU: Sky God who was the chief of the pantheon at the Syrian
city of Alalakh.
- SHAPASH: Sun Goddess. The Torch of the Gods.
- SHATAQAT: "Drives away".
Demoness sent by El to drive away Keret's (a Canaanite Mythic hero)
- SHEGER: "Offspring of Cattle".
God of Cattle.
- SIN: Moon God. Also a Babylonian God.
- S,UMUL: Mother of the Eagles. She ate the body of Aqhat (a
hero in a Canaanite Myth).
- TALLAY: Girl of Rain. A daughter or consort of Baal.
- TANNIN: Another Name for Leviathan or Lotan. See Lotan.
- TANIT: Lady of Carthage. Face of Baal (Hammon, not Hadad).
- UGAR: A messenger of Baal. His name either means Vine or
Field, probably the latter. He may be the Patron God of Ugarit.
- YAHWEH: Yahweh is added here because there was a short time
in which He was simply part of the Canaanite pantheon. He was
a Son of El; and he was part of the court of El as cupbearer
along with Baal. Later, as the National God of Israel, Yahweh
was equated with El, and Asherah became His wife. H.
- YAM-NAHAR: Yam-Nahar is the Primordial Waters that were defeated
by Baal (see Baal and Asherah). His name means Sea-River. He
was originally given kingship by El, and ruled as a tyrant over
the Gods. Baal finally rose up against him. He may also be Lotan.
- YARIKH: Moon God. Illuminator of myriads of stars. Lamp of
Heaven. Lord of the Sickle (the cresent moon?), and therefore
father of the Kosharoth. Patron God of Qart-Abilim.
- YBRDMY: Daugher of Baal.
- YELLOW ONES OF MAVET: Mavet's henchmen who are slain by Baal
upon his ressurection from defeat at Mavet's hands.
- ZABIB: "Flies".
Enemy of Baal, slain by Anath. There's an obvious relation between
and and Baal Zabib
(Beelzebub- Lord of the Flies).
"In the wish to get the best
information that I could on these matters (worship of the god Hercules),
I made a voyage
to Tyre in Phoenicia, hearing there was a temple of Hercules
at that place, very highly venerated. I visited the temple, and
found it richly adorned with a number of offerings, among which
were two pillars, one of pure gold, the other of emerald, shining
with great brilliancy at night. In a conversation which I held
with the priests, I inquired how long their temple had been built,
and found by their answer that they, too, differed from the Greeks.
They said that the temple was built at the same time that the
city was founded, and that the foundation of the city took place
two thousand three hundred years ago. In Tyre I remarked another
temple where the same god was worshipped as the Thasian Hercules.
So I went on to Thasos, where I found a temple of Hercules which
had been built by the Phoenicians who colonised that island when
they sailed in search of Europa. Even this was five generations
earlier than the time when Hercules, son of Amphitryon, was born
in Greece. These researches show plainly that there is an ancient
god Hercules; and my own opinion is that those Greeks act most
wisely who build and maintain two temples of Hercules, in the
one of which the Hercules worshipped is known by the name of
Olympian, and has sacrifice offered to him as an immortal, while
in the other the honours paid are such as are due to a hero.
Phoenicians take Egyptian cults to Greece
"It is certain that Melampus
introduced the phallus, and that the Greeks learnt from him the ceremonies
now practise. I therefore maintain that Melampus, who was a wise
man, and had acquired the art of divination, having become acquainted
with the worship of Bacchus through knowledge derived from Egypt,
introduced it into Greece, with a few slight changes, at the
same time that he brought in various other practices. For I can
by no means allow that it is by mere coincidence that the Bacchic
ceremonies in Greece are so nearly the same as the Egyptian-
they would then have been more Greek in their character, and
less recent in their origin. Much less can I admit that the Egyptians
borrowed these customs, or any other, from the Greeks. My belief
is that Melampus got his knowledge of them from Cadmus the Tyrian,
and the followers whom he brought from Phoenicia into the country
which is now called Boeotia.
"Almost all the names of
the gods came into Greece from Egypt.
"The following tale is commonly told in Egypt concerning
the oracle of Dodona in Greece, and that of Ammon in Libya. My
informants on the point were the priests of Jupiter at Thebes.
They said "that two of the sacred women were once carried
off from Thebes by the Phoenicians, and that the story went that
one of them was sold into Libya, and the other into Greece, and
these women were the first founders of the oracles in the two
countries." On my inquiring how they came to know so exactly
what became of the women, they answered, "that diligent
search had been made after them at the time, but that it had
not been found possible to discover where they were; afterwards,
however, they received the information which they had given me."
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