History of Phoenicia - George Rawlinson


Strength of the religious sentiment among the Phoenicians—Proofs—First stage of the religion, monotheistic—Second stage, a polytheism within narrow limits—Worship of Baal—of Ashtoreth—of El or Kronos—of Melkarth—of Dagon—of Hadad—of Adonis—of Sydyk—of Esmun—of the Cabeiri—of Onca—of Tanith—of Beltis—Third stage marked by introduction of foreign deities—Character of the Phoenician worship—Altars and sacrifice—Hymns of praise, temples, and votive offerings—Wide prevalence of human sacrifice and of licentious orgies—Institution of the Galli—Extreme corruption of the later religion—Views held on the subject of a future life—Piety of the great mass of the people earnest, though mistaken.

There can be no doubt that the Phoenicians were a people in whose minds religion and religious ideas occupied a very prominent place. Religiousness has been said to be one of the leading characteristics of the Semitic race; and it is certainly remarkable that with that race originated the three principal religions, two of which are the only progressive religions, of the modern world. Judaism, Christianity, and Mohammedanism all arose in Western Asia within a restricted area, and from nations whose Semitic origin is unmistakable. The subject of ethnic affinities and differences, of the transmission of qualities and characteristics, is exceedingly obscure; but, if the theory of heredity be allowed any weight at all, there should be no difficulty in accepting the view that particular races of mankind have special leanings and aptitudes.

Still, the religiousness of the Phoenicians does not rest on any a priori arguments, or considerations of what is likely to have been. Here was a nation among whom, in every city, the temple was the centre of attraction, and where the piety of the citizens adorned every temple with abundant and costly offerings. The monarchs who were at the head of the various states showed the greatest zeal in continually maintaining the honour of the gods, repaired and beautified the sacred buildings, and occasionally added to their kingly dignity the highly esteemed office of High Priest. The coinage of the country bore religious emblems, and proclaimed the fact that the cities regarded themselves as under the protection of this or that deity. Both the kings and their subjects bore commonly religious names—names which designated them as the worshippers or placed them under the tutelage of some god or goddess. Abd-alonim, Abdastartus, Abd-osiris, Abdemon (which is properly Abd-Esmun), Abdi-milkut, were names of the former kind, Abi-baal (= "Baal is my father"), Itho-bal (= "with him is Baal"), Baleazar or Baal-azur (= "Baal protects"), names of the latter. The Phoenician ships carried images of the gods in the place of figure-heads. Wherever the Phoenicians went, they bore with them their religion and their worship; in each colony they planted a temple or temples, and everywhere throughout their wide dominion the same gods were worshipped with the same rites and with the same observances.

In considering the nature of the Phoenician religion, we must distinguish between its different stages. There is sufficient reason to believe that originally, either when they first occupied their settlements upon the Mediterranean or before they moved from their primitive seats upon the shores of the Persian Gulf, the Phoenicians were Monotheists. We must not look for information on this subject to the pretentious work which Philo of Byblus, in the first or second century of our era, put forth with respect to the "Origines" of his countrymen, and attributed to Sanchoniatho; we must rather look to the evidence of language and fact, records which may indeed be misread, but which cannot well be forged or falsified. These will show us that in the earliest times the religious sentiment of the Phoenicians acknowledged only a single deity—a single mighty power, which was supreme over the whole universe. The names by which they designated him were El, "great;" Ram or Rimmon, "high;" Baal, "Lord;" Melek or Molech, "King;" Eliun, "Supreme;" Adonai, "My Lord;" Bel-samin, "Lord of Heaven," and the like. Distinct deities could no more be intended by such names as these than by those under which God is spoken of in the Hebrew Scriptures, several of them identical with the Phoenician names—El or Elohim, "great;" Jehovah, "existing;" Adonai, "my Lord;" Shaddai, "strong;" El Eliun, "the supreme Great One." How far the Phoenicians actually realised all that their names properly imply, whether they went so far as to divest God wholly of a material nature, whether they viewed Him as the Creator, as well as the Lord, of the world, are problems which it is impossible, with the means at present at our disposal, to solve. But they certainly viewed Him as "the Lord of Heaven," and, if so, no doubt also as the Lord of earth; they believed Him to be "supreme" or "the Most High;" and they realised his personal relation to each one of his worshippers, who were privileged severally to address Him as Adonai—"my Lord." It may be presumed that at this early stage of the religion there was no idolatry; when One God alone is acknowledged and recognised, the feeling is naturally that expressed in the Egyptian hymn of praise—"He is not graven in marble; He is not beheld; His abode is unknown; there is no building that can contain Him; unknown is his name in heaven; He doth not manifest his forms; vain are all representations."

But this happy state of things did not—perhaps we may say, could not—in the early condition of the human intelligence, last long. Fallen man, left to himself, very soon corrupts his way upon the earth; his hands deal with wickedness; and, in a little while, "every imagination of the thoughts of his heart is only evil continually." When he becomes conscious to himself of sin, he ceases to be able to endure the thought of One Perfect Infinite Being, omnipotent, ever-present, who reads his heart, who is "about his path, and about his bed, and spies out all his ways." He instinctively catches at anything whereby he may be relieved from the intolerable burden of such a thought; and here the imperfection of language comes to his aid. As he has found it impossible to express in any one word all that is contained in his idea of the Divine Being, he has been forced to give Him many names, each of them originally expressive of some one of that Being's attributes. But in course of time these words have lost their force—their meaning has been forgotten—and they have come to be mere proper names, designative but not significative. Here is material for the perverted imagination to work upon. A separate being is imagined answering to each of the names; and so the nomina become numina. Many gods are substituted for one; and the idea of God is instantly lowered. The gods have different spheres. No god is infinite; none is omnipotent, none omnipresent; therefore none omniscient. The aweful, terrible nature of God is got rid of, and a company of angelic beings takes its place, none of them very alarming to the conscience.

In its second stage the religion of Phoenicia was a polytheism, less multitudinous than most others, and one in which the several divinities were not distinguished from one another by very marked or striking features. At the head of the Pantheon stood a god and a goddess—Baal and Ashtoreth. Baal, "the Lord," or Baal-samin, "the Lord of Heaven," was compared by the Greeks to their Zeus, and by the Romans to their Jupiter. Mythologically, he was only one among many gods, but practically he stood alone; he was the chief of the gods, the main object of worship, and the great ruler and protector of the Phoenician people. Sometimes, but not always, he had a solar character, and was represented with his head encircled by rays. Baalbek, which was dedicated to him, was properly "the city of the Sun," and was called by the Greeks Heliopolis. The solar character of Baal is, however, far from predominant, and as early as the time of Josiah we find the Sun worshipped separately from him, no doubt under a different name. Baal is, to a considerable extent, a city god. Tyre especially was dedicated to him; and we hear of the "Baal of Tyre" and again of the "Baal of Tarsus." Essentially, he was the embodiment of the generative principle in nature—"the god of the creative power, bringing all things to life everywhere." Hence, "his statue rode upon bulls, for the bull was the symbol of generative power; and he was also represented with bunches of grapes and pomegranates in his hand,"emblems of productivity. The sacred conical stones and pillars dedicated in his temples may have had their origin in a similar symbolism. As polytheistic systems had always a tendency to enlarge themselves, Baal had no sooner become a separate god, distinct from El, and Rimmon, and Molech, and Adonai, than he proceeded to multiply himself, and from Baal became Baalim, either because the local Baals—Baal-Tzur, Baal-Sidon, Baal-Tars, Baal-Libnan, Baal-Hermon—were conceived of as separate deities, or because the aspects of Baal—Baal as Sun-God, Baal as Lord of Heaven, Baal as lord of flies,, etc.—were so viewed, and grew to be distinct objects of worship. In later times he was identified with the Egyptian Ammon, and worshipped as Baal-Hammon.

Baal is known to have had temples at Baalbek, at Tyre, at Tarsus, at Agadir (Gades), in Sardinia, at Carthage, and at Ekron. Though not at first worshipped under a visible form, he came to have statues dedicated to him, which received the usual honours. Sometimes, as already observed, his head was encircled with a representation of the solar rays; sometimes his form was assimilated to that under which the Egyptians of later times worshipped their Ammon. Seated upon a throne and wrapped in a long robe, he presented the appearance of a man in the flower of his age, bearded, and of solemn aspect, with the carved horn of a ram on either side of his forehead. Figures of rams also supported the arms of his throne on either side, and on the heads of these two supports his hands rested.

The female deity whose place corresponded to that of Baal in the Phoenician Pantheon, and who was in a certain sense his companion and counterpart, was Ashtoreth or Astarte. As Baal was the embodiment of the generative principle in nature, so was Ashtoreth of the receptive and productive principle. She was the great nature-goddess, the Magna Mater, regent of the stars, queen of heaven, giver of life, and source of woman's fecundity. Just as Baal had a solar, so she had a lunar aspect, being pictured with horns upon her head representative of the lunar crescent. Hence, as early as the time of Moses, there was a city on the eastern side of Jordan, named after her, Ashtoreth-Karnaim, or "Astarte of the two horns." Her images are of many forms. Most commonly she appears as a naked female, with long hair, sometimes gathered into tresses, and with her two hands supporting her two breasts. Occasionally she is a mother, seated in a comfortable chair, and nursing her babe. Now and then she is draped, and holds a dove to her breast, or else she takes an attitude of command, with the right hand raised, as if to bespeak attention. Sometimes, on the contrary, her figure has that modest and retiring attitude which has caused it to be described by a distinguished archaeologist as "the Phoenician prototype of the Venus de Medici." The Greeks and Romans, who identified Baal determinately with their Zeus or Jupiter, found it very much more difficult to fix on any single goddess in their Pantheon as the correspondent of Astarte. Now they made her Hera or Juno, now Aphrodite or Venus, now Athene, now Artemis, now Selene, now Rhea or Cybele. But her aphrodisiac character was certainly the one in which she most frequently appeared. She was the goddess of the sexual passion, rarely, however, represented with the chaste and modest attributes of the Grecian Aphrodite-Urania, far more commonly with those coarser and more repulsive ones which characterise Aphrodite Pandemos. Her temples were numerous, though perhaps not quite so numerous as those of Baal. The most famous were those at Sidon, Aphaca, Ashtoreth-Karnaim, Paphos, Pessinus, and Carthage. At Sidon the kings were sometimes her high-priests; and her name is found as a frequent element in Phoenician personal names, royal and other: e.g.—Astartus, Abdastartus, Delaeastartus, Am-ashtoreth, Bodoster, Bostor, etc.

The other principal Phoenician deities were El, Melkarth, Dagon, Hadad, Adonis, Sydyk, Eshmun, the Cabeiri, Onca, Tanith, Tanata, or Anaitis, and Baalith, Baaltis, or Beltis. El, or Il, originally a name of the Supreme God, became in the later Phoenician mythology a separate and subordinate divinity, whom the Greeks compared to their Kronosand the Romans to their Saturn. El was the special god of Gebal or Byblus, and was worshipped also with peculiar rites at Carthage. He was reckoned the son of Uranus and the father of Beltis, to whom he delivered over as her especial charge the city of Byblus. Numerous tales were told of him. While reigning on earth as king of Byblus, or king of Phoenicia, he had fallen in love with a nymph of the country, called Anobret, by whom he had a son named Ieoud. This son, much as he loved him, when great dangers from war threatened the land, he first invested with the emblems of royalty, and then sacrificed. Uranus (Heaven) married his sister Ge (Earth), and Il or Kronos was the issue of this marriage, as also were Dagon, Baetylus, and Atlas. Ge, being dissatisfied with the conduct of her husband, induced her son Kronos to make war upon him, and Kronos, with the assistance of Hermes, overcame Uranus, and having driven him from his kingdom succeeded to the imperial power. Besides sacrificing Ieoud, Kronos murdered another of his sons called Sadid, and also a daughter whose name is not given. Among his wives were Astarte, Rhea, Dioné, Eimarmené, and Hora, of whom the first three were his sisters.There is no need to pursue this mythological tangle. If it meant anything to the initiated, the meaning is wholly lost; and the stories, gravely as they are related by the ancient historian, to the modern, who has no key to them, are almost wholly valueless.

Originally, Melkarth would seem to have been a mere epithet, representing one aspect of Baal. The word is formed from the two roots melek and kartha (= Heb. kiriath, "city"), and means "King of the City," or "City King," which Baal was considered to be. But the two names in course of time drifted apart, and Melicertes, in Philo Byblius, has no connection at all with Baal-samin. The Greeks, who identified Baal with their Zeus, viewed Melkarth as corresponding to their Heracles, or Hercules; and the later Phoenicians, catching at this identification, represented Melkarth under the form of a huge muscular man, with a lion's skin and sometimes with a club. Melkarth was especially worshipped at Tyre, of which city he was the tutelary deity, at Thasos, and at Gades. Herodotus describes the temple of Hercules at Tyre, and attributes to it an antiquity of 2,300 years before his own time. He also visited a temple dedicated to the same god at Thasos. With Gades were connected the myths of Hercules' expedition to the west, of his erection of the pillars, his defeat of Chrysaor of the golden sword, and his successful foray upon the flocks and herds of the triple Geryon. Whether these legends were Greek or Phoenician in origin is uncertain; but the Phoenicians, at any rate, adopted them, and here have been lately found on Phoenician sites representations both of Geryon himself, and the carrying off by Hercules of his cattle. The temple of Heracles at Gades is mentioned by Strabo and others. It was on the eastern side of the island, where the strait between the island and the continent was narrowest. Founded about B.C. 1100, it continued to stand to the time of Silius Italicus, and, according to the tradition, had never needed repair. An unextinguished fire had burnt upon its altar for thirteen hundred years; and the worship had remained unchanged—no image profaned the Holy of Holies, where the god dwelt, waited on by bare-footed priests with heads shaved, clothed in white linen robes, and vowed to celibacy. The name of the god occurs as an element in a certain small number of Phoenician names of men—e.g. Bomilcar, Himilcar, Abd-Melkarth, and the like.

Dagon appears in scripture only as a Philistine god, which would not prove him to have been acknowledged by the Phoenicians; but as Philo of Byblus admits him among the primary Phoenician deities, making him a son of Uranus, and a brother of Il or Kronis, it is perhaps right that he should be allowed a place in the Phoenician list. According to Philo, he was the god of agriculture, the discoverer of wheat, and the inventor of the plough. Whether he was really represented, as is commonly supposed, in the form of a fish, or as half man and half fish, is extremely doubtful. In the Hebrew account of the fall of Dagon's image before the Ark of the Covenant at Ashdod there is no mention made of any "fishy part;" nor is there anything in the Assyrian remains to connect the name Dagon, which occurs in them, with the remarkable figure of a fish-god so frequent in the bas-reliefs. That figure would seem rather to represent, or symbolise, either Hea or Nin. The notion of Dagon's fishy form seems to rest entirely on an etymological basis—on the fact, i.e. that dag means "fish," in Hebrew. In Assyrian, however, kha is "fish," and not dag; while in Hebrew, though dag is "fish," dagan is "corn." It may be noted also that the Phoenician remains contain no representation of a fish deity. On the whole, it is perhaps best to be content with the account of Philo, and to regard the Phoenician Dagon as a "Zeus Arotrios"—a god presiding over agriculture and especially worshipped by husbandmen. The name, however, does not occur in the Phoenician remains which have come down to us.

Hadad, like Dagon, obtains his right to be included in the list of Phoenician deities solely from the place assigned to him by Philo. Otherwise he would naturally be viewed as an Aramean god, worshipped especially in Aram-Zobah, and in Syria of Damascus. In Syria, he was identified with the sun; and it is possible that in the Phoenician religion he was the Sun-God, worshipped (as we have seen) sometimes independently of Baal. His image was represented with the solar rays streaming down from it towards the earth, so as to indicate that the earth received from him all that made it fruitful and abundant. Macrobius connects his name with the Hebrew chad, "one;" but this derivation is improbable. Philo gives him the title of "King of Gods," and says that he reigned conjointly with Astarte and Demarous, but this does not throw much light on the real Phoenician conception of him. The local name, Hadad-rimmon,may seem to connect him with the god Rimmon, likewise a Syrian deity, and it is quite conceivable that the two words may have been alternative names of the same god, just as Phoebus and Apollo were with the Greeks. We may conjecture that the Sun was worshipped under both names in Syria, while in Phoenicia Hadad was alone made use of. The worship of Baal as the Sun, which tended to prevail ever more and more, ousted Hadad from his place, and caused him to pass into oblivion.

Adonis was probably, like Hadad, originally a sun-god; but the myths connected with him gave him, at any rate in the late Phoenician times, a very distinct and definite personality. He was made the son of Cinryas, a mythic king of Byblus, and the husband of Astarte or Ashtoreth. One day, as he chased the wild boar in Lebanon, near the sources of the river of Byblus, the animal which he was hunting turned upon him, and so gored his thigh that he died of the wound. Henceforth he was mourned annually. At the turn of the summer solstice, the anniversary of his death, all the women of Byblus went in a wild procession to Aphaca, in the Lebanon, where his temple stood, and wept and wailed on account of his death. The river, which his blood had once actually stained, turned red to show its sympathy with the mourners, and was thought to flow with his blood afresh. After the "weeping for Tammuz" had continued for a definite time, the mourning terminated with the burial of an image of the god in the sacred precinct. Next day Adonis was supposed to return to life; his image was disinterred and carried back to the temple with music and dances, and every circumstance of rejoicing. Wild orgies followed, and Aphaca became notorious for scenes to which it will be necessary to recur hereafter. The Adonis myth is generally explained as representing either the perpetually recurrent decay and recovery of nature, or the declension of the Sun as he moves from the summer to the winter constellations, and his subsequent return and reappearance in all his strength. But myths obtained a powerful hold on ancient imaginations, and the worshippers of Adonis probably in most cases forgot the symbolical character of his cult, and looked on him as a divine or heroic personage, who had actually gone through all the adventures ascribed to him in the legend. Hence the peculiarly local character of his worship, of which we find traces only at Byblus and at Jerusalem.

Sydyk, "Justice," or, the "Just One," whose name corresponds to the Hebrew Zadok or Zedek, appears in the Phoenician mythology especially as the father of Esmun and the Cabeiri. Otherwise he is only known as the son of Magus (!) and the discoverer of salt. It is perhaps his name which forms the final element in Melchizedek, Adoni-zedek, and the like. We have no evidence that he was really worshipped by the Phoenicians.

Esmun, on the other hand, the son of Sydyk, would seem to have been an object of worship almost as much as any other deity. He was the special god of Berytus, but was honoured also in Cyprus, at Sidon, at Carthage, in Sardinia, and elsewhere. His name forms a frequent element in Phoenician names, royal and other:—e.g. Esmun-azar, Esmun-nathan, Han-Esmun, Netsib-Esmun, Abd-Esmun, etc. According to Damascius, he was the eighth son of Sydyk, whence his name, and the chief of the Cabeiri. Whereas they were dwarfish and misshapen, he was a youth of most beautiful appearance, truly worthy of admiration. Like Adonis, he was fond of hunting in the woods that clothe the flanks of Lebanon, and there he was seen by Astronoe, the Phoenician goddess, the mother of the gods (in whom we cannot fail to recognise Astarte), who persecuted him with her attentions to such an extent that to escape her he was driven to the desperate resource of self-emasculation. Upon this the goddess, greatly grieved, called him Paean, and by means of quickening warmth brought him back to life, and changed him from a man into a god, which he thenceforth remained. The Phoenicians called him Esmun, "the eighth," but the Greeks worshipped him as Asclepius, the god of healing, who gave life and health to mankind. Some of the later Phoenicians regarded him as identical with the atmosphere, which, they said, was the chief source of health to man. But it is not altogether clear that the earlier Phoenicians attached to him any healing character.

The seven other Cabeiri, or "Great Ones," equally with Esmun the sons of Sydyk, were dwarfish gods who presided over navigation, and were the patrons of sailors and ships. The special seat of their worship in Phoenicia Proper was Berytus, but they were recognised also in several of the Phoenician settlements, as especially in Lemnos, Imbrus, and Samothrace. Ships were regarded as their invention, and a sculptured image of some one or other of them was always placed on every Phoenician war-galley, either at the stern or stem of the vessel.They were also viewed as presiding over metals and metallurgy,having thus some points of resemblance to the Greek Hephaestus and the Latin Vulcan. Pigmy and misshapen gods belong to that fetishism which has always had charms for the Hamitic nations; and it may be suspected that the Phoenicians adopted the Cabeiri from their Canaanite predecessors, who were of the race of Ham. The connection between these pigmy deities and the Egyptian Phthah, or rather Phthah-Sokari, is unmistakable, and was perceived by Herodotus. Clay pigmy figurines found on Phoenician sites very closely resemble the Egyptian images of that god; and the coins attributed to Cossura exhibit a similar dwarfish form, generally carrying a hammer in the right hand. An astral character has been attached by some writers to the Cabeiri, but chiefly on account of their number, which is scarcely a sufficient proof.

Several Greek writers speak of a Phoenician goddess corresponding to the Grecian Athene, and some of them say that she was named Onga or Onca. The Phoenician remains give us no such name; but as Philo Byblius has an "Athene" among his Phoenician deities, whom he makes the daughter of Il, or Kronos, and the queen of Attica, it is perhaps best to allow Onca to retain her place in the Phoenician Pantheon. Philo says that Kronos by her advice shaped for himself out of iron a sword and a spear; we may therefore presume that she was a war-goddess (as was Pallas-Athene among the Greeks), whence she naturally presided over the gates of towns, which were built and fortified for warlike purposes.

The worship of a goddess, called Tanath or Tanith, by the later Phoenicians, is certain, since, besides the evidence furnished by the name Abd-Tanith, i.e. "Servant of Tanith," the name Tanith itself is distinctly read on a number of votive tablets brought from Carthage, in a connection which clearly implies her recognition, not only as a goddess, but as a great goddess, the principal object of Carthaginian worship. The form of inscription on the tablets is, ordinarily, as follows:—

'To the great (goddess), Tanith, and

To our lord and master Baal-Hammon.

The offerer is . . . .,

Son of . . . ., son of . . . .'

Tanith is invariable placed before Baal, as though superior to him, and can be no other than the celestial goddess (Dea coelestis), whose temple in the Roman Carthage was so celebrated. The Greeks regarded her as equivalent to their Artemis; the Romans made her Diana, or Juno, or Venus. Practically she must at Carthage have taken the place of Ashtoreth. Apuleius describes her as having a lunar character, like Ashtoreth, and calls her "the parent of all things, the mistress of the elements, the initial offspring of the ages, the highest of the deities, the queen of the Manes, the first of the celestials, the single representative of all the gods and goddesses, the one divinity whom all the world worships in many shapes, with varied rites, and under a multitude of names." He says that she was represented as riding upon a lion, and it is probably her form which appears upon some of the later coins of Carthage, as well as upon a certain number of gems.The origin of the name is uncertain. Gesenius would connect it at once with the Egyptian Neith (Nit), and with the Syrian Anaitis or Tanaitis; but the double identification is scarcely tenable, since Anaitis was, in Egypt, not Neith, but Anta. The subject is very obscure, and requires further investigation.

Baaltis, or Beltis, was, according to Philo Byblius, the daughter of Uranus and the sister of Asthoreth or Astarte. Il made her one of his many wives, and put the city of Byblus, which he had founded, under her special protection. It is doubtful, however, whether she was really viewed by the Phoenicians as a separate goddess, and not rather as Ashtoreth under another name. The word is the equivalent of {...}, "my lady," a very suitable title for the supreme goddess. Beltis, indeed, in Babylonia, was distinct from Ishtar; but this fact must not be regarded as any sufficient proof that the case was the same in Phoenicia. The Phoenician polytheism was decidedly more restricted than the Babylonian, and did not greatly affect the needless multiplication of divinities. Baaltis in Phoenicia may be the Beltis of Babylon imported at a comparatively late date into the country, but is more probably an alternative name, or rather, perhaps, a mere honorary title of Ashtoreth.

The chief characteristic of the third period of the Phoenician religion was the syncretistic tendency, whereby foreign gods were called in, and either identified with the old national divinities, or joined with them, and set by their side. Ammon, Osiris, Phthah, Pasht, and Athor, were introduced from Egypt, Tanith from either Egypt or Syria, Nergal from Assyria, Beltis (Baaltis) perhaps from Babylon. The worship of Osiris in the later times appears from such names as Abd-Osir, Osir-shamar, Melek-Osir, and the like, and is represented on coins with Phoenician legends, which are attributed either to Malta or Gaulos. Osiris was, it would seem, identified with Adonis,and was said to have been buried at Byblus; which was near the mouth of the Adonis river. His worship was not perhaps very widely spread; but there are traces of it at Byblus, in Cyprus, and in Malta. Ammon was identified with Baal in his solar character, and was generally worshipped in conjunction with Tanith, more especially at Carthage. He was represented with his head encircled by rays, and with a perfectly round face. His common title was "Lord" {...}, but in Numidia he was worshipped as "the Eternal King" {...}. As the giver of all good things, he held trees or fruits in his hands.

The Phoenicians worshipped their gods, like most other ancient nations, with prayer, with hymns of praise, with sacrifices, with processions, and with votive offerings. We do not know whether they had any regularly recurrent day, like the Jewish Sabbath, or Christian Sunday, on which worship took place in the temples generally; but at any rate each temple had its festival times, when multitudes flocked to it, and its gods were honoured with prolonged services and sacrifices on a larger scale than ordinary. Most festivals were annual, but some recurred at shorter intervals; and, besides the festivals, there was an every day cult, which was a duty incumbent upon the priests, but at which the private worshipper also might assist to offer prayer or sacrifice. The ordinary sacrificial animals were oxen, cows, goats, sheep, and lambs; swine were not offered, being regarded as unclean; but the stag was an acceptable victim, at any rate on certain occasions. At all functions the priests attended in large numbers, habited in white garments of linen or cotton, and wearing a stiff cap or mitre upon their heads: on one occasion of a sacrifice Lucian counted above three hundred engaged in the ceremony. It was the duty of some to slay the victims; of others to pour libations; of a third class to bear about pans of coal on which incense could be offered; of a fourth to attend upon the altars. The priests of each temple had at their head a Chief or High Priest, who was robed in purple and wore a golden tiara. His office, however, continued only for a year, when another was chosen to succeed him.

Ordinarily, sacrifices were offered, in Phoenicia as elsewhere, singly, and upon altars; but sometimes it was customary to have a great holocaust. Large trees were dug up by the roots, and planted in the court of the temple; the victims, whether goats, or sheep, or cattle of any other kind, were suspended by ropes from the branches; birds were similarly attached, and garments, and vessels in gold and silver. Then the images of the gods belonging to the temple were brought out, and carried in a solemn procession round the trees; after which the trees were set on fire, and the whole was consumed in a mighty conflagration. The season for this great holocaust was the commencement of the spring-time, when the goodness of Heaven in once more causing life to spring up on every side seemed to require man's special acknowledgment.

Hymns of praise are spoken of especially in connection with this same Spring-Festival. Votive offerings were continually being offered in every temple by such as believed that they had received any benefit from any god, either in consequence of their vows, or prayers, or even by the god's spontaneous action. The sites of temples yield numerous traces of such offerings. Sometimes they are in the shape of stone stelae or pillars, inscribed and more or less ornamented,sometimes of tablets placed within an ornamental border, and generally accompanied by some rude sculptures; more often of figures, either in bronze or clay, which are mostly of a somewhat rude character. M. Renan observes with respect to these figures, which are extremely numerous:—"Ought we to see in these images, as has been supposed, long series of portraits of priests and priestesses continued through several centuries? We do not think so. The person represented in these statues appears to us to be the author of a vow or of a sacrifice made to the divinity of the temple . . . Vows and sacrifices were very fleeting things; it might be feared that the divinity would soon forget them. An inscription was already recognised as a means of rendering the memory of a vow more lasting; but a statue was a momento still more—nay, much more efficacious. By having himself represented under the eyes of the divinity in the very act of accomplishing his vow, a man called to mind, as one may say, incessantly the offering which he had made to the god, and the homage which he had rendered him. An idea of this sort is altogether in conformity with the materialistic and self-interested character of the Phoenician worship, where the vow is a kind of business affair, a matter of debtor and creditor account, in which a man stipulates very clearly what he is to give, and holds firmly that he is to be paid in return . . . We have then, in these statues, representations of pious men, who came one after another to acquit themselves of their debt in the presence of the divinity; in order that the latter should not forget that the debt was discharged, they set up their images in front of the god. The image was larger or smaller, more or less carefully elaborated, in a more or less valuable material, according to the means of the individual who consecrated it."

Thus far there was no very remarkable difference between the Phoenician religious system and other ancient Oriental worships, which have a general family likeness, and differ chiefly in the names and number of the deities, the simplicity or complication of the rites, and the greater or less power and dignity attached to the priestly office. In these several respects the Phoenician religion seems to have leant towards the side of simplicity, the divinities recognised being, comparatively speaking, few, priestly influence not great, and the ceremonial not very elaborate. But there were two respects in which the religion was, if not singular, at any rate markedly different from ordinary polytheisms, though less in the principles involved than in the extent to which they were carried out in practice. These were the prevalence of licentious orgies and of human sacrifice. The worship of Astarte was characterised by the one, the worship of Baal by the other. Phoenician mythology taught that the great god, Il or El, when reigning upon earth as king of Byblus, had, under circumstances of extreme danger to his native land, sacrificed his dearly loved son, Ieoud, as an expiatory offering. Divine sanction had thus been given to the horrid rite; and thenceforth, whenever in Phoenicia either public or private calamity threatened, it became customary that human victims should be selected, the nobler and more honourable the better, and that the wrath of the gods should be appeased by taking their lives. The mode of death was horrible. The sacrifices were to be consumed by fire; the life given by the Fire God he should also take back again by the flames which destroy being. The rabbis describe the image of Moloch as a human figure with a bull's head and outstretched arms; and the account which they give is confirmed by what Diodorus relates of the Carthaginian Kronos. His image, Diodorus says, was of metal, and was made hot by a fire kindled within it; the victims were placed in its arms and thence rolled into the fiery lap below. The most usual form of the rite was the sacrifice of their children—especially of their eldest sons—by parents. "This custom was grounded in part on the notion that children were the dearest possession of their parents, and, in part, that as pure and innocent beings they were the offerings of atonement most certain to pacify the anger of the deity; and further, that the god of whose essence the generative power of nature was had a just title of that which was begotten of man, and to the surrender of their children's lives . . . Voluntary offering on the part of the parents was essential to the success of the sacrifice; even the first-born, nay, the only child of the family, was given up. The parents stopped the cries of their children by fondling and kissing them, for the victim ought not to weep; and the sound of complaint was drowned in the din of flutes and kettledrums. Mothers, according to Plutarch, stood by without tears or sobs; if they wept or sobbed they lost the honour of the act, and their children were sacrificed notwithstanding. Such sacrifices took place either annually or on an appointed day, or before great enterprises, or on the occasion of public calamities, to appease the wrath of the god."

In the worship of Astarte the prostitution of women, and of effeminate men, played the same part that child murder did in the worship of Baal. "This practice," says Dr. Dollinger, "so widely spread in the world of old, the delusion that no service more acceptable could be rendered a deity than that of unchastity, was deeply rooted in the Asiatic mind. Where the deity was in idea sexual, or where two deities in chief, one a male and the other a female, stood in juxtaposition, there the sexual relation appeared as founded upon the essence of the deity itself, and the instinct and its satisfaction as that in men which most corresponded with the deity. Thus lust itself became a service of the gods; and, as the fundamental idea of sacrifice is that of the immediate or substitutive surrender of a man's self to the deity, so the woman could do the goddess no better service than by prostitution. Hence it was the custom (in some places) that a maiden before her marriage should prostitute herself once in the temple of the goddess;and this was regarded as the same in kind with the offering of the first-fruits of the field." Lucian, a heathen and an eye-witness, tells us —"I saw at Byblus the grand temple of the Byblian Venus, in which are accomplished the orgies relating to Adonis; and I learnt the nature of the orgies. For the Byblians say that the wounding of Adonis by the boar took place in their country; and, in memory of the accident, they year by year beat their breasts, and utter lamentations, and go through the orgies, and hold a great mourning throughout the land. When the weeping is ended, first of all, they make to Adonis the offerings usually made to a corpse; after which, on the next day, they feign that he has come to life again, and hold a procession (of his image) in the open air. But previously they shave their heads, like the Egyptians when an Apis dies; and if any woman refuse to do so, she must sell her beauty during one day to all who like. Only strangers, however, are permitted to make the purchase, and the money paid is expended on a sacrifice which is offered to the goddess." "In this way," as Dr. Dollinger goes on to say, "they went so far at last as to contemplate the abominations of unnatural lust as a homage rendered to the deity, and to exalt it into a regular cultus. The worship of the goddess (Ashtoreth) at Aphaca in the Lebanon was specially notorious in this respect."Here, according to Eusebius, was, so late as the time of Constantine the Great, a temple in which the old Phoenician rites were still retained. "This," he says, "was a grove and a sacred enclosure, not situated, as most temples are, in the midst of a city, and of market-places, and of broad streets, but far away from either road or path, on the rocky slopes of Libanus. It was dedicated to a shameful goddess, the goddess Aphrodite. A school of wickedness was this place for all such profligate persons as had ruined their bodies by excessive luxury. The men there were soft and womanish—men no longer; the dignity of their sex they rejected; with impure lust they thought to honour the deity. Criminal intercourse with women, secret pollutions, disgraceful and nameless deeds, were practised in the temple, where there was no restraining law, and no guardian to preserve decency."

One fruit of this system was the extraordinary institution of the Galli. The Galli were men, who made themselves as much like women as they could, and offered themselves for purposes of unnatural lust to either sex. Their existence may be traced in Israel and Judah, as well as in Syria and Phoenicia. At great festivals, under the influence of a strong excitement, amid the din of flutes and drums and wild songs, a number of the male devotees would snatch up swords or knives, which lay ready for the purpose, throw off their garments, and coming forward with a loud shout, proceed to castrate themselves openly. They would then run through the streets of the city, with the mutilated parts in their hands, and throw them into the houses of the inhabitants, who were bound in such case to provide the thrower with all the apparel and other gear needful for a woman. This apparel they thenceforth wore, and were recognised as attached to the worship of Astarte, entitled to reside in her temples, and authorised to take part in her ceremonies. They joined with the priests and the sacred women at festival times in frenzied dances and other wild orgies, shouting, and cutting themselves on the arms, and submitting to be flogged one by another. At other seasons they "wandered from place to place, taking with them a veiled image or symbol of their goddess, and clad in women's apparel of many colours, and with their faces and eyes painted in female fashion, armed with swords and scourges, they threw themselves by a wild dance into bacchanalian ecstasy, in which their long hair was draggled through the mud. They bit their own arms, and then hacked themselves with their swords, or scourged themselves in penance for a sin supposed to have been committed against the goddess. In these scenes, got up to aid the collection of money, by long practice they contrived to cut themselves so adroitly as not to inflict on themselves any very serious wounds."

It is difficult to estimate the corrupting effect upon practice and morals of a religious system which embraced within it so many sensual and degrading elements. Where impurity is made an essential part of religion, there the very fountain of life is poisoned, and that which should have been "a savour of life unto life"—a cleansing and regenerating influence—becomes "a savour of death unto death"—an influence leading on to the worst forms of moral degradation. Phoenician religion worked itself out, and showed its true character, in the first three centuries after our era, at Aphaca, at Hierapolis, and at Antioch, where, in the time of Julian, even a Libanius confessed that the great festival of the year consisted only in the perpetration of all that was impure and shameless, and the renunciation of every lingering spark of decency.

A vivid conception of another world, and of the reality of a life after death, especially if connected with a belief in future rewards and punishments, might have done much, or at any rate something, to counteract the effect upon morals and conduct of the degrading tenets and practices connected with the Astarte worship; but, so far as appears, the Phoenicians had a very faint and dim conception of the life to come, and neither hoped for happiness, nor feared misery in it. Their care for the preservation of their bodies after death, and the provision which in some cases they are seen to have made for them, imply a belief that death was not the end of everything, and a few vague expressions in inscriptions upon tombs point to a similar conviction; but the life of the other world seems to have been regarded as something imperfect and precarious—a sort of shadowy existence in a gloomy Sheol, where was neither pleasure nor pain, neither suffering nor enjoyment, but only quietness and rest. The thought of it did not occupy men's minds, or exercise any perceptible influence over their conduct. It was a last home, whereto all must go, acquiesced in, but neither hoped for nor dreaded. A Phoenician's feelings on the subject were probably very much those expressed by Job in his lament:—

'Why died I not from the womb? Why gave I not up the ghost at my birth?

Why did the knees prevent me? or why the breasts that I should suck?

For now should I have lain still and been quiet;

I should have slept, and then should I have been at rest;

I should have been with the kings and councillors of the earth,

Who rebuilt for themselves the cities that were desolate.

I should have been with the princes that had much gold,

And that filled their houses with silver . . .

There they that are wicked cease from troubling,

There they that are weary sink to rest;

There the prisoners are in quiet together,

And hear no longer the voice of the oppressor:

There are both the great and small, and the servant is freed from his master.'

Still their religion, such as it was, had a great hold upon the Phoenicians. Parents gave to their children, almost always, religious names, recognising each son and daughter as a gift from heaven, or placing them under the special protection of the gods generally, or of some single divinity. It was piety, an earnest but mistaken piety, which so often caused the parent to sacrifice his child—the very apple of his eye and delight of his heart—that so he might make satisfaction for the sins which he felt in his inmost soul that he had committed. It was piety that filled the temples with such throngs, that brought for sacrifice so many victims, that made the worshipper in every difficulty put up a vow to heaven, and caused the payment of the vows in such extraordinary profusion. At Carthage alone there have been found many hundreds of stones, each one of which records the payment of a vow; while other sites have furnished hundreds or even thousands of ex votos—statues, busts, statuettes, figures of animals, cylinders, seals, rings, bracelets, anklets, ear-rings, necklaces, ornaments for the hair, vases, amphorae, oenochoae, paterae, jugs, cups, goblets, bowls, dishes, models of boats and chariots—indicative of an almost unexampled devotion. A single chamber in the treasury of Curium produced more than three hundred articles in silver and silver-gilt; the temple of Golgi yielded 228 votive statues; sites in Sardinia scarcely mentioned in antiquity have sufficed to fill whole museums with statuettes, rings, and scarabs. If the Phoenicians did not give evidence of the depth of their religious feeling by erecting, like most nations, temples of vast size and magnificence, still they left in numerous places unmistakable proof of the reality of their devotion to the unseen powers by the multiplicity, and in many cases the splendour, of their votive offerings.