Carthaginians, Mythology of

Carthaginians, Mythology of The Carthaginians had, like their progenitors, the Phoenicians, a very imperfect mythology. The account which the Romans or Greeks give us is, therefore, doubtful, as they always identified other deities with their own. So much, however, is certain, that the religion of the Carthaginians was a branch of the fire and star worship which was universal in Phoenicia and the Orient. In general, like the Greeks and Romans, they had a kind of Polytheism of a rough, barbaric nature. Their supreme god seems to have been Moloch, or Baal (q.v.), the sun, whom all the tribes of Canaan and the neighboring countries worshipped under this name. Astarte, the second principal deity, was the receiving principle; her worship was even wilder and more profligate than the worship of Venus in Cythera, or the worship of Anaitis (q.v.); and Carthage was therefore called by the Romans Regnum Veneris. This cultus lasted long after Christianity had sprung up. The emperor Constantine, and, later, Theodosius, were obliged to publish edicts against it. A third deity was Melcarth, who seems to bear the closest relation to the Tyrian Hercules. The worship of Esmun is compared to that of Jesculapius. The worship of Ceres and Proserpine came from Sicily, and that of Iolaus from Sarldinia, the oldest colony of Carthagre. Native heroes, however, are Dido and Hamilcar, who had temples in Carthage. The Carthaginians, like the Romans, had their field-worship, their tabernaculusm augurale, under a tent, beside an altar which, in important ceremonies, was turned into a funeral pile, or pyre. It is certain that the Penates and Larcs were domestic deities of the Carthaginians; they took them along on journeys, for Hannibal had so many and such large idols that he was able to hide his treasures in them, when he fled from Crete. The Carthaginians considered the mountain-tops as habitations of the gods, and gave them names, as if they were the car or throne of the deities. They did riot have a separate caste of priests, like the Egyptians and Indians. Their generals, high officials, and kings performed the sacrifices. The Carthaginians, although for over seven hundred years a powerful nation, still, on account of their barbaric and bloody religion, made no progress in civilization, and by their human sacrifices they became an object of abhorrence. The superstition of the people was of a wild and inhuman nature, and cruel both to foreigners and natives. Many a Carthaginian general died on the cross because he was unsuccessful in battle; besieged tribes were horribly misused; often the inhabitants of large cities were cut down without respect to age or sex; the corpses were torn from the graves, the temples destroyed, the statutes of the deities broken to pieces, and if they were of precious metal, they were melted and carried off. Such acts of violence, however, were common in many other ancient nations. SEE PHOENICIA.

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