What did the Carthaginians worship



Gods in Carthage

1 Introduction

The term “God” is defined in the lexicon as a supersensible power in personal form, creator and ruler of all natural events and human destiny, which is revered in all religions. Whether Christianity, Judaism or Islam, all of these religions are geared towards belief in one or more gods. What would the religions of this world be without their gods? Presumably without orientation or confession and without belief. Just like all followers of known and unknown religions, the Carthaginians have fallen into the world of gods. And that is exactly what the content of our short presentation should be.

2. Religion

The religion is very much dominated by women. Although there is also the possibility for men to take up the priesthood, the Carthaginians see this more as a woman's profession. There is no uniform church, only the individual cults of the various gods. In order to ensure the cooperation of the cults and temples with one another on the one hand and the cults with the state on the other hand, a ten-member committee of the prefects of sacred things was introduced, which controls the temples. Church and state are thus closely intertwined and influence one another. Each temple is headed by a high priestess (only women can acquire this office). Under the high priestess there is a ramified hierarchy as well as many specialists, such as musicians, fortune tellers, scribes and a few others (which one might not suspect in a temple, in principle almost any profession can be represented [depending on the largest of the temple] ). More precisely, the actual priests are directly below the high priestess, then the priests of the second rank come and below these are the assistants (the chief of whom are the clerks, in principle the assistants are mostly responsible for the administration). Among these are the cult assistants, i.a. Butchers who are there to cut up the sacrificial meat; Temple servants who light the lights in the sanctuary and consecrated barbers who shear the hair of priests and simple believers who wanted to be admitted (the temples may only be entered with shaved hair, so the priests are always shaved, interestingly, the lower ones are also shaved Ranks within the temple hierarchy that do not enter the sanctuary are shorn [but not the high ranks that do not enter the sanctuary]). In last place is the crowd of general temple servants (sometimes they are simple believers who serve voluntarily, sometimes hired servants, but in most cases simple temple slaves [mainly used for the unpleasant and filthy duties that no one else does want to do]). The temple servants can be cleaning people, temple decorators or employees of the temple's own workshops and other business operations. This great staff is sustained by the offerings, the great temple possessions and businesses, and church taxes. Only the priests of Kothar, Malagbel, Mot, Reshep, and Shapash are expected to abstain. Priests of all other cults are allowed to marry and pass on their office by inheritance. The main religious offices are reserved for certain families who exercise a monopoly over them. The priests are subject to a strict discipline that makes worldly activities almost impossible for them. Since priests have the highest rank within the Carthaginian class hierarchy, most people of rank and name (in addition to their actual occupations) are also priests of some cult. Interestingly, these dignitaries from the ranks of the political aristocracy are exempt from constant obedience, the prohibition of secular activities and the other precepts imposed on their class. A temple is seen as the "palace of god" (in complete contrast to earlier times, when it was forbidden to worship gods in a man-made building). In the temple not only the individual gods are worshiped, there is not only prayer, sacrifice and supplication, but many riches are also kept in the temple. The temple's offerings and treasures are all kept within the temple, making temples thriving businesses. Sacrifices are made to the gods, sometimes also human - especially child sacrifices, which happens especially before and after wars. The gods and people are not depicted, as it is feared that magical powers may lurk in pictures and statues. So when we speak of representations of gods, this refers either to Phoenician, non-Carthaginian areas or to ideas that are recorded in writing but not figuratively. The main gods are

3. The gods

Adonis (Priestly Class: Fertility and Death)
This god was also adapted as a hero by the Greeks. Its name is derived from the Semitic word adoni, which means "my lord". He is the most beautiful of the gods. The main seat of His worship is the Phoenician city of Byblos, which is also where His largest temple is located. Adonis symbolizes the vegetation parched by the hot summer sun. He is one of the dead and born again gods found among many peoples. He now lives after his death (he had a relationship with the goddess Tanit and was killed by a rival in the form of a wild boar in a ravine) in the underworld and, thanks to Tanit's influence, is allowed to come back whenever the rivers of Phenicia separate from the earth that the rain washes off the mountains, color them red. At this time, pots of flowers are placed in front of every house, their rapid blooming and withering symbolizing Adonis' life and death. The Adonia are magnificent festivals that commemorate the death of the god. The women keep repeating the word "adoni".

Atargatis (Priestly Class: Fertility, War, and Chaos)
Atargatis arose from the union of the cults of the Anath (goddess of love, fertility and war) and the Astarte (goddess of love, the sky and the stars), from which a very strange deity emerged. On the one hand lovely, gentle and beautiful, on the other hand cruel, warlike and bringing chaos, death and ruin. She is considered a sister (often also wife) or daughter of Baal Melqart of Baal Hammon. In her capacity as Anath, you abandoned all who prayed to Baal Hammon and only gave up your bloody activities when Baal promised to reveal to her the secret of the lightning over which she has had power since then. During the struggle of the three gods for supremacy (see "Baal Hammon" and "Mot"), Baal Hammon was killed by Mot. Atargatis, however, descended into the underworld, dismembered Mot, distributed his remains over the earth and thus broke his power, whereby Baal Hammon was able to return. But Atargatis is also heavenly mother and mother earth. In her capacity as Astarte she is queen of heaven, incense and libations are offered. In the course of contacts with foreign civilizations Atargatis took many elements and myths of the foreign mother goddesses Hathor, Isis, Aphrodite, Artemis and Juno. Temple prostitution is part of the cult of the Atargatis in their form as Astarte.

Baal Hammon / El (Priestly Class: Fertility, War / Storm and Dominion)
The name of this god means "Lord of the Incense Altars". Baal is the supreme deity of many Phoenician tribes. Above all, he is a god of fertility, which explains his epithet, the epithet Frugifer, "fruit bearer". His titles are "Rider of the Clouds", "Almighty" and "Lord of the Earth". Many children are sacrificed to him above all. He is also the god of prophecy and time, which makes him similar to the Roman Saturn, who also combines elements of the Greek Kronos with the meaning of fertility. Many kings relate their ancestry to Baal Hammon, which also makes him the god of rulership. He is also equated with the ammonite god Moloch. According to an old legend, the supreme god El grew old and his powers of procreation weakened. So he left the rule to his son Baal. However, this was contested by other gods. First Yam, the god of the sea, demanded rule. El said he had to defeat Baal to do this. However, Baal managed to defeat Yam with the help of Kothar, the god of magic and crafts, who gave Baal two magic clubs. Now Kothar Baal was building a palace, which resulted in Baal leading himself almighty, which led to a dispute with Mot. Mot killed Baal by forcing him to eat mud, the food of death. However, Mot was killed by Atargatis, breaking his power and allowing Baal to return to life and now become ruler of the gods. In the course of time, the cults of Baal and El were merged, since both were gods of rulership. Therefore, Baal Hammon and El are now the same God. Temple prostitution and child sacrifice are an elementary part of the Baal cult. Representations as El show him as an old man on a throne with bull horns on his head. With Atargatis, Baal begat Shahar and Shalim, sunrise and sunset.

Baal Melqart (Priestly Class: Fertility [Baal Eshmun], War and Trade / Crafts)
Baal Melqart is the son of Baal Hammon. He is the city god of Tire, king of the underworld and protector of the universe, symbolized by the annual change of vegetation. He is also associated with Atargatis in her role as maternal Astarte, who is sometimes considered to be His daughter. One aspect of the Baal Melqart is the Baal Eshmun. As such, he is the god of healing. He is associated with Heracles or Hercules by the Greeks and Romans, which led to the fact that the priesthood of Baal Melqart is politically committed to an alliance with the Macedonian Empire (Alexander the Great is said to be descended from Hercules). Many of the myths surrounding Hercules are also part of the stories about Baal Melqart. So z. B. the "Pillars of Hercules", the Strait of Gibraltar, as the Greeks call it, called "Pillars of Melqart" by the Carthaginians. Baal Melqart is also considered the god of trade, merchants, roads, traffic, and weights and measures.

Demeter (Priestly Class: Fertility / Earth)
This goddess was adopted from the Greek culture. She is the mother goddess of fertility and vegetative life. She is the mother of grain and the goddess of grain. Your attribute is the ear of wheat and your sacred animal is the bee. Demeter collected the grain from all sorts of herbs and invented how it was to be sowed, threshed, ground and baked and how to till the field again from the retained seeds. She also gave the people laws. Your preferred sacrificial animal is the piglet. The pig is considered a particularly fertile domestic animal and has a special connection to the earth mother through its rooting with its trunk. Demeter is the mother of Persephone. Part of the Demeter priesthood tries to strengthen your influence and worships you as the Great Goddess, who is not inferior to anyone and from whom all gods are descended. This makes the goddess Tanit dispute this rank, which is why the cult of the Tanit and the extreme wing of Demeter are in constant conflict. The Demetrien are a festival of Demeter. The cult is provided by special Greek priests from the Pömeniden family. It is a rite of demetria to whip oneself with a braided bark called Morotton.

Juno (Priestly Class: Fertility, Dominion, and War)
The goddess Juno was adopted by the Romans, enemies of Carthage. Accordingly, it has little support from the population. As the protective goddess of women, Juno protects female sex life and childbirth. As Juno Domiduca, you worship the brides so that they may bring happiness in the couple's new household. The sacred symbols of Juno are peacock and lily. In her honor, the Matronalia is celebrated on March 1st. Juno also has a weak war aspect. She gives and takes life. Since the Roman Juno was equated with the Greek Hera, Juno also has a weak lordship aspect.

Kothar (Priestly Class: Craft and Magic)
Kautar too. He is the god of handicrafts and blacksmiths and invented iron and fishing tools. But He is also Lord of Spells and most Carthaginian schools of magicians are dedicated to Him. He is also a servant of the highest god Baal Hammon / El. The Kotarat ("the experienced", singers and mourners who sing at births, weddings and funerals) got their name from Kothar.

Malagbel (priestly class: trade)
God of trade and messenger of the gods. He brings the mortal news of the gods and sends visions and visions.

Mot (Priestly Class: Death)
He is the god of death, drought and sterility. He rules the underworld. In times of drought, the whole land is His. The food of death is mud, and mud is also offered to the mot, strange as that sounds. He was killed by Atargatis for having cunningly killed your brother (and consort) Baal Hammon by luring him down into his underworld and forcing him to eat mud. This was done in revenge for His banishment into the wasteland by Baal. When Mot refused to bring Baal back to life, Atargatis killed him in a ritual bloodbath: "With her sickle she divides him. With her scourge she beats him. With fire she burns him. With millstones she grinds him. On the fields He scattered them in order to destroy His strength so that He could no longer hold back the harvest ... "After Mot's death, the supreme god El saw in a dream oil raining from heaven and the rivers carrying honey. Then He knew that Baal had returned. However, Mot is not completely destroyed and after the resurrection of Baal, He challenged Him again. However, the dispute was settled by the sun goddess Shapash by proclaiming the will of the highest god El that Baal Hammon should rule in the future. Mot is the son of El, although the Jewish historian Philo ascribes to him that He was created when the forces of chaos mingled with the air.

Persephone (Priestly Class: Fertility and Death)
Perephone was taken over from the Greek culture area. She is a goddess of the underworld and resurrection. Like your mother Demeter, she is the goddess of vegetative life, which awakens in spring and dies in autumn. Persephones attributes are ear of wheat and pomegranate. Persephone was kidnapped into the underworld when she was picking flowers near Etna. There she became ruler of the underworld, but can be with her mother Demeter as fertility goddess for two thirds of the year, but one third she has to stay in the underworld, where she is trapped like the seeds in nature in the darkness of the earth. The extreme wing of the Demeter priesthood, who worships Demeter as the Great Goddess, also gives Persephone special adoration.

Reshep (Priestly Class: Death, Chaos, and War)
Also called Reshef. He is the god of lightning and epidemics. He is called "Lord of the Arrow" because that is how He spreads disease. However, He is also asked for healing. Sometimes He is considered the consort of the goddess Atargatis in her form as the cruel Anath. He is depicted with an ax. He corresponds to the Mesopotamian epidemic god Namtar. In Egypt he is worshiped as the god of war.

Shadrach (Priestly Class: Fertility, Storm, Chaos)
Shadrach is the god of intoxication and ecstasy. During his orgiastic rites there are regular escalations that sometimes end fatally. Therefore, the Carthaginian government tries to contain the cult as best it can.

Shapash (Priestly Class: Reign)
The great and powerful goddess of the sun is also known as the "lamp of the gods". She settled the dispute between Baal Hammon and Mot by proclaiming the will of the king of the gods El, that Baal should be his successor.

Tanit (Priestly Class: Fertility and Sea, Rarely War)
Tanit is the supreme goddess of Carthage, she is the Carthaginian version of the Phoenician goddess Astarte. She is the queen of heaven and ruler of the light beings. But above all she is the goddess of love and fertility, mother earth and goddess of nature. In some legends she is the wife of Baal Hammon and one of her titles is "Face of Baal". The firstborn children, incense and drinks are offered to Tanit. Temple prostitution is also part of your cult. Since she has 70 children with Baal Hammon, she is the mother of all gods. Tanit also has aspects of a sea goddess. One of your titles is "Our Lady of the Sea". Another is "Beloved Mistress" or "Caelistis" ("the Heavenly". Like Atragatis in her appearance as Astarte, Tanit has absorbed elements of the strange mother goddesses Isis, Hathor, Artemis, Aphrodite and Juno, making her a universal mother goddess Tanit also has (very few) aspects of war. Tanit is also associated with the annual cycle: She destroys in autumn and during periods of drought and returns to earth in spring as the constructive mother goddess to connect with the god of heaven (Baal) As a result of the holy wedding, the fresh green sprouts and all animals mate. Tanit is celebrated with orgiastic rites.

Yam (Priestly Class: Sea)
Yam is also called Jam or Jamm, one of His nicknames is "Ruler River". He is god of water and the sea.He asked the supreme god El to give him power over the other gods. El agreed, but warned him that in order to do this, he first had to be victorious against the fertility god Baal. He went into battle with magical weapons made by the blacksmith gods, defeated Yam and scattered His remains. Then Baal proclaimed himself king of the gods. Oddly enough, some myths of Yam deal with the aftermath of this battle, meaning that He either survived or was reborn. According to a myth, the gods give Atargatis to Yam as compensation for his defeat as a wife. He is represented as a dragon, snake or the sea monster Leviathan.

As already written, there are a lot of Baals. Almost every tribe and every city has its own, which is then usually the highest god (next to El). The Carthaginian Baal is Baal Hammon. Baal Melqart also occurs, but only as a secondary deity, since, as has already been said, he is actually god of the city of Tire. The Carthaginians also know the other Baals, but usually do not worship them because they do not belong to them.


Ammon can also be found in the figure of the originally Semitic Baal Hammon on Carthage. He is encountered for the first time in an inscription from the Phoenician Zindschirli, the name is interpreted as "Lord of the Incense Altars". Baal Hammon was the main god of Kathargo, and he was also represented in Malta, Sicily and Sardinia. His wife was probably originally Libyan Tanit (Astarte). On Carthage, god and goddess were the sun and moon, which made the soil fertile and renewed the energy of Carthage. Human sacrifice was also a religious practice in Carthage. The sacrifice of infants should put Baal Hammon and Tanit mercifully. During these ceremonies, flutes and drums were played so loudly that they drowned out the screams of the sacrificed children.


4. Sacrifice

Types: Atonement (10 shekels of silver or 300 shekels of meat)
Peace offering (burnt offering: ankles and joints  priest
Paws, thighs, rest of the meat  sacrificial)
Burnt offering

- Child sacrifice (Punic "Molk")
- later Molchomor (lamb sacrifice)
- In addition to animal sacrifices, also libations with milk and offerings of oil and flour
- Incense offering with incense





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