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for 'goddess,' elōt; but the all-inclusive term for nature spirits was baʻalîm, who represented holy stones, trees, water, and mountains, the word ba'al meaning primarily 'owner, master, lord,' and expressing the totality of character and powers possessed by all deities. Melqart, the great national god of Tyre, who was equated with Herakles, bore this name and was known as Ba'al Melqart ('Lord City-King'); and kings often had baʻal as a component of their names or compounded them with those of deities to secure divine protection, as Eshmun'asōr ('Eshmun hath helped'), their real names in many instances being unknown.2


The chief goddess of the pantheon was Ba'alath or 'Astart, the Hebrew 'Ashtoreth, who was mistress of the city of Gebal, or Byblos, and she was one of the most important deities of Phoenicia. She represented love, fertility, and the general reproductive powers of nature; and was assimilated to Ishtar of Babylonia and Assyria, Kybele of Phrygia, and Aphrodite of Greece, having numerous temples in Phoenicia and being worshipped in its colonies and wherever Phoenician influence extended. Hierodules (qědhëshîm, 'sacred men,' and qĕdhësôth, 'sacred women') frequented the temples of the goddess; and sacred prostitution, which was general in similar cults throughout Western Asia, was a prominent feature of her rites (Herodotos, i, 199); women, even virgins, sacrificing their chastity in honor of the goddess and to gain her favor (Lucian, de Dea Syria, 6). 'Astart does not appear as having a definite association with healing (unless possibly in her general divine capacity), except as suggested by the myth that she discovered the meteor 2 L. B. Paton, "Phoenicians," in ERE ix, 889.

3 Frazer, Adonis, Attis, Osiris, 3d ed., i, 17-18, 37, 70 ff.

stone, or stones with souls which breathed a prophetic spirit and cured diseases.*

Functions of deity.

The Phoenician deities were over-lords and rulers of the people; and each town had its own tutelary divinity, a ba'al who was its owner, king, lord, ruler, or protector, and the source of the fertility of its fields and of its prosperity. The gods were conceived and described as good, and as helpers who heard, knew, guarded, sheltered, judged, redeemed, and saved their people; these relations being based upon the general Semitic conception of the majesty of deity and the subjection of men; hence, the people frequently declared themselves as the slaves of such and such a divinity.

Shrines and temples.

The situation of shrines and temples was determined by the sacred character attributed to some natural object, as a tree, pillar, standing stone, spring, or stream, in which a ba al dwelt; and such a spot was called a bama, or 'high-place,' fenced about or walled off as a sacred enclosure in which worship was performed. In early times there was neither temple nor image, merely a venerated altar; but at a later period idols came into limited use. In towns and cities permanent structures, roofed and with a pillared wall at the entrance, were erected to shelter the deity and the treasures of the sanctuary. Both priests (kõhănîn) and priestesses (kõhănōth) had charge of the religious exercises; and diviners, or sophe, are also mentioned as being in attendance (CIS i, 124, 6).

Hirschell, Compendium der Geschichte der Medicin, p. 27; and for further details, see L. B. Paton, "Ashtart (Ashtoreth), Astarte," in ERE ii, 115-118.

Religious rites.

Relatively little remains to indicate the character of the worship of the Phoenicians, but it is highly probable that their religious ceremonies were in all essentials similar to those of other West-Semitic peoples of the same period and stage of civilization. Their rites consisted of prayers, sacrifices, hymns, and votive offerings; and animals (Philon Byblios, 35 b; especially the first-born, ib., 38 d) were sacrificed, a part of the flesh becoming the perquisite of the temple attendants, and the remainder being consumed by the worshippers (CIS i, 165, 12; 166, 3, 7, 167). First-fruits (CIS i, 5) were also offered, usually with libations; and sacrifice of human victims, usually of first-born children, were made in times of great distress (Philon Byblios, 40 c), and also others than first-born, or children (Diodoros, xx, 65).






A DIVINITY, Ba' al-marpe (or Ba' al-mǝrappē), 'Lord of Healing' (or 'Healing Lord'), is mentioned in a Phoenician inscription from Cyprus (CIS i, 41), though marpē ('healing place'), or mǝrappē ('healer') may have been merely the name of a medicinal spring, whence the 'lord' in question would be only a local baʻal."


ESHMUN, one of the great deities of the Phoenician pan

5 Cooke, op. cit., pp. 117-121.

8 Paton, in ERE ix, 896.

"L. B. Paton, "Baal, Beel, Bel," in ERE ii, 289.


theon, was the god of healing, and the chief male divinity of Sidon, possessing uranic and cosmic aspects in addition to his therapeutic powers. A female deity of Sidon, Ashima (t), his consort, is mentioned in inscriptions as though she was superior to him (CIS I, iv, 5); but it is claimed that this goddess was none other than 'Astart." It has been suggested that Eshmun was originally a nature-divinity, and possibly of spring vegetation, especially if he was identical with the Babylonian Tammuz,1o and that, being a favorite deity of the people, he was brought with them in their migration to the Mediterranean, where, as the Phoenicians developed prosperity and influence, he was advanced in rank from a humble place until he stood next to Ba'al, Melqart, and 'Astart in the pantheon. Under this assumption, Eshmun has been considered a counterpart of Tammuz of Babylonia, and as holding the same intimate relations with 'Astart at Sidon as that deity sustained toward Ishtar in Assyria and Babylonia.11

By repute, Eshmun was 'the most beautiful of all gods,' and a legend runs that when the mother-goddess Astronoë fell in love with him while hunting in the forest, Eshmun, to escape her, emasculated himself. Afterward 'Astart transported him to the skies (Damaskios, apud Photios, Bibliotheca, p. 573), where he became a god of the northern heavens and the moon-deity; and another myth gives him a celestial aspect, related to the starry sphere.

The meaning of the word Eshmun is by no means cer

8 Cf. II Kings, xvii, 30.

9 Eiselen, Sidon, p. 127.

10 W. W. Baudissin, "Der phönizische Gott Esmun," in ZDMG, 1905, lix, 502; also Jastrow, The Religion of Babylonia and Assyria, p. 588.

11 Eiselen, op. cit., p. 126.

tain, Damaskios and Philon Byblios regarded him as 'the Eighth,' evidently through confusion with Phoenician šymuna ('eight'). Possibly Eshmun may be cognate with the Hebrew shāmēn, 'fat, robust,' and Arabic samina, 'to be fat,' whence the name may mean 'very stout, very strong." Following a late tradition, Damaskios (ib., 352 b) makes Eshmun the eighth son of Sydyk;13 while Philon Byblios states (36 a) that seven of Sydyk's sons were the Kabeiroi, and that one of the Titanides bore him as the eighth, Asklepios (i.e., Eshmun). On the authority of Sanchuniathon, Philon further writes: "From Sydyk came the Dioskouroi, the Kabeiroi, or Korybantes, or Samothrakes, who were the first to invent a ship. From them have sprung others who discovered herbs, and the healing of venomous bites, and charms. These things did the seven sons of Sydyk, the Kabeiroi, and Asklepios, their brother, the eighth son, first of all write down in the records, as the god Tauut [i.e., Thoth or Thout] had enjoined them," and to whom he disclosed the cosmogony which they passed on.1


The name of the divinity first appears in Assyro-Babylonian treaty between Asarhaddon and the King of Tyre (seventh century B.C.) in the form Ia-su-mu-nu,15 and later as 'ŠMN, conventionally pronounced Eshmun. Although the god is vaguely portrayed in the myths and scanty records of Phoenicia, he emerges from antiquity through the medium of inscriptions and the writings of classical authors, with a more distinct personality and a

12 Baudissin, Adonis und Esmun, pp. 203 ff.; also Lidzbarski, "Der Name des Gottes Esmun," in ESE, 1915, iii, 260-265.

13 I.e., 'just, righteous.' A Phoenician and Canaanite divinity bore this name (L. B. Paton, "Canaanites," in ERE iii, 183; also in ib., ix, 893).

14 E. Meyer, "Esmun," in Roscher, i, 1385-1386.

15 Baudissin, op. cit., p. 205; also Winckler, "Bruchstücke von Keilschrifttexten," in AF, 1898, i, 12; note p. 192, line 14.

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