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The Phoenicians - Sacrifices to Tanit

Flaubert was mistaken: Moloch never existed. The word ‘moloch' (MLK in the vowel-less Phoenician script) meant ‘sacrificed offering', and in Carthage offerings were made to Baal-Hammon and Tanit. In other respects, Flaubert's dramatic account may have been nearer the truth. Diodorus, a Sicilian-Greek historian who lived at about the time of Julius Caesar, gave an account of a desperate Carthaginian sacrifice of 500 children of noble birth in 310 BC when the city of Carthage was under attack by the Sicilian Greeks. Diodorus' history is not altogether reliable, but other, more recent, evidence is more conclusive. In a shrine to Tanit at Salammbo (near the city of Carthage) excavators found thousands of jars containing the cremated remains of children. Most of the children were under two years old when they died, but some were as old as 12. Cremated birds and animals were also found. Probably animal sacrifice gradually replaced human sacrifice in Carthage, as much earlier it had done elsewhere.

In time, the trading and colonial interests of Carthage were challenged by the rising power of Rome. In 264 BC the rivalry of the two powers exploded into bitter and desperate warfare. Three wars were fought - the Punic Wars - and Rome won each of them. (The word Punic is Latin for Phoenician.) In 146 BC Rome gained the final victory, and showed no mercy to the vanquished enemy. Those who resisted the Romans were slaughtered: those who surrendered were sold into slavery. The mighty city, set on fire during the fighting, was deliberately razed to the ground. Scipio, the conqueror of Carthage, then took the final dreadful vengeance on behalf of Rome. He cursed the ruins, and at his command a plough was symbolically drawn over the site of the city and salt dropped into the furrow. The Carthaginian way of life was dead. It was cruel and tasteless; few have mourned its passing.


Mask Introduction The Phoenicians
Mask Page 2 Fortified Cities
Mask Page 3 Dido and the ox hide
Mask Page 4 A terrible religion
Mask Page 5 Sacrifices to Tanit