Polytheistic, the Carthaginian religion was very close to that of the Phoenicians. Nevertheless, it should be noted that there were two religions in Carthage: the official one of the state, but also those of popular beliefs. Subject to significant controversy, in particular because of the accusations made on the rites of child sacrifice, it should be known that the Carthaginian religion was, from the 4th century, strongly “Hellenized”, under the influence of exchanges between the Carthaginians and the Greeks of Sicily. In this first article, we will see which were the main gods present in this religion
The mythology of Carthage, as we specified above, is largely inherited from that of the Phoenicians. Its religion, despite a transcription into Latin or Greek in ancient sources, retains throughout its history this deeply West-Semitic character. The pantheon, which has a relatively high number of divinities, is dominated by Ba’al-Hammon who is often accompanied by Tanit, divinity of fertility as consort. Paredre means that Tanit is associated with a more influential god, Baal in this case. Ba’al and Tanit are an association specific to North Africa because, in the East, the consort of Ba’al differs from the Carthaginian deity. Indeed, in the East, it is Astarte and not Tanit, who was his consort. Astarte, even if her cult is proven in the Carthaginian religion, seems much more erased and is replaced by Tanit as a pendant of Ba’al.
Anath and Adon
Apart from the Ba’al-Tanit couple, other gods influenced the religious life of Carthage. Anath, or Anat was the goddess of love and war, she was the sister of the god Baal. A beautiful young girl, she was known for her vigor and ferocity in battle. This Carthaginian deity was adopted as a protector by the Egyptians at the time of Pharaoh Ramses II. Anath is best known for her role in the myth of the death and resurrection of Baal which we will see in a future article. Egyptian representations of Anath show us a naked goddess, standing on a lion and holding flowers. It is important to note that the goddesses Anath and Astarte will later, under Hellenistic influence, be merged into a single deity called Atargatis. Adonis was another influential god. One of the highlights of this god was the legend of his death. This one says that it is a love story between him and the goddess Astarte which was the cause. This turned out badly because this goddess was also coveted by the god of the underworld, her official lover. The latter in the form of a boar, attacks and kills Adonis. His blood falling on the earth will then give the red poppies every year. If these come back every year, it’s because Astarte managed to bring Adonis back to life every spring.
Melqart: god of the underworld
Melqart, Son of Baal, was the king of the underworld, protector of the universe and he symbolized the annual cycle of vegetation. He was also the god of wealth, industry and navigation. It was considered the image of the Sun. To honor him, an eternal flame burned in his temple every year, a huge pyre was raised from the flames from which the priests let an eagle escape, symbol of the reborn year. Melqart was also known as Eshmun. The Greeks considered him the mythical founder of the Macedonian dynasty. Another important fact, it should be noted that Melqart, just like Tanit acquired in various colonies the character of poliad. Poliad means that the divinity is assigned to a city and protects it Tanit, for example could be considered as the poliad of Carthage, while Melqart played this role in Gades. We will also find this idea of a poliad deity in the Greek world with, for example, Athena as the poliad of Athens…
SOURCE OF PHOTOGRAPHY: