Carthaginian Mythology
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Basic Information

Carthaginian Mythology refers to the religion and mythology of Ancient Carthage. Owing to the settlement and founding of Carthage by the Phoenicians from Tyre, a Semitic-language-speaking peoples, there is some degree of overlap between Carthaginian Mythology, Phoenician Mythology, Canaanite mythology, and Semitic Mythology.

The main deities of Carthage were Tanit and Baal Hammon. It is noteworthy that a goddess, Tanit, was very active at the top of the power structure, and her name usually appears before Hammon's when inscriptions from the area/era listed them both.

One of the most disturbing and controversial religious rites in Ancient Carthage was Child Sacrifice in a firey pit at the feet of a golden statue of Tanit. Most of the details we have of Carthaginian Mythology are from writers of Ancient Rome, with little if any native Carthaginian perspectives surviving. As Rome was frequently at war with Carthage (and probably had a good rivalry going even in times of peace), there may be a high degree of propaganda or at least a little bias to the tales they told.

While a mass grave of baby corpses have been found in the ruins of Carthage, scholars are at least somewhat divided on whether Tanit (or her clergy/worshipers) actually demanded the sacrifice of newborns. Some instead think the mass graves are a sign that she consoled grieving would-be mothers who'd had miscarriages or stillborn babies. Amongst the ruins of Carthage are several drawings and sculptural details of priests holding babies, which could be offering up a live child for sacrifice, or possibly some more mundane childhood ritual blessing.

Deities and other Mythological Characters:

Note that the Carthaginian honorifics Baal and Baalah translate as "lord" and "lady" (or "master" and "mistress" in some contexts) - hence their frequent appearance in the names of deities.

They weren't always at war with Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome, so Interpretatio Graeca and some lucrative trade partnerships in times of peace led to some level of cross-culturalism with figures from Classical Mythology. We don't really know to what degree that may have happened or what stories and beliefs have been lost to time. We do know that the Egyptian Isis and the Greek Demeter and Persephone all were adopted by Carthage to one extent or another.

See Also:


Game and Story Use

  • While a few names from Carthage may strike your players (or readers) as familiar, chances are good they won't know a lot of details. This means you as GM or author have a bit more freedom to fill or twist those details to your liking (much as the Romans probably did).
    • There are also a lot of minor divinities and mythological characters from the region about whom nothing (or next to it) has survived. So feel free to name-drop Baal Iddir, Baal Marqod, Baal Oz, Baal Qarnem, Baal Sapon, Baal Shamin, Erish, Hawat, Hudis, Kese, Kusor, Kusorit, Pumai, Rasap, Resef, Secun, Semes, Shadrap or Sid. Chances are, your players won't be able to search up many details about them on the internet, and you'll be free to fill in or make up "facts" that suit the needs of your campaign. Have fun.
  • Was Child Sacrifice a legit part of their religious practices, or is that just a smear campaign started by their political enemies?
    • If the accusations are legit and accurate, that implies some serious evil going on in Carthage. This makes them, or their perpetually hungry deities, prime Big Bad Evil Guy material.
    • If it's all just bad press, Tanit might instead be a much more sympathetic figure, patroness of those in mourning over lost children. This is the direction you probably want to spin things if you're looking to make Carthage out to be the plucky underdogs in a war against the Roman Empire.
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