Qadash Kinahnu, A Canaanite Phoenician Temple

The Deity Temple - Room Three
The Phoenician Deities

Directory of this Room:

HTML refined 21 December 2007

As far as we can tell, most cities had a God and a Goddess pair who were the patron/ matron deities of the city and the primary focus of worship for each city's inhabitants, although this may not always have been the case. Ugarit, for example, had a large temple to the god Ba`al and a smaller temple to his father, Dagan. There are so many deities, i will pick a few either about whom we know something or who appeal to me.

’Adon (Phoenician); ’Adonai (Hebrew); Adonis (Greek)

’Adon means "Lord," a title more than a name, as is common of so many Levantine deities. He is a Phoenician dying-reviving god of vegetation and fertility, son of Myrrha. His cult was centered at Gebal, called Byblos by the Greeks, now called Jebail, which was also the seat of the cult of `Ashtartu/Astarte, with whom he was often partnered. His worship was adopted by Greeks who called him Adonis, eventually spreading throughout the eastern Mediterranean world. His festival was celebrated at harvest time, which in the Near East could be in spring or in late summer. His death and resurrection was celebrated in the Levant in late spring, while the Jews make Gardens of Adonai in late summer just before the final Fall Harvest Festival. In the Greek myth, he was killed by a wild boar beneath a pine tree, his blood becoming the red and purple anemone. Because he was so mourned, he was brought back to life, shared by Persephone and Aphrodite, each for 4 months, but spending the rest wherever he chose. In the original story, his lover is `Ashtartu/ Astarte, assisted by the Sun goddess Shapash, guardian of the dead. His river, the Adon, now called Nahr Ibrahim, runs red with his blood in Spring. In the Levant, the Summer was the time when vegetation appeared dead in the withering heat, to be revived by Winter rains. The story of ’Adon shows similarities to that of Attis and Kybele.

Astronoë, Astronomë

Astronoë or Astronomë is a Phoenician goddess, also called in Latin Coelesti, Heavenly One, whose story is like Kybele's. She is associated at Tyre with the god Melqart; at Sidon with ’Eshmun. It is likely that during Hellenistic times after the Greeks had borrowed Ashtartu as Astarte, She was borrowed back by the Phoenicians, the name changing to Astronoë in the process.

Atar-ata (Phoen.); Atargatis, Derketo (Greek); Dea Syria (Latin, Syrian Goddess)

Atarata is a combined form of the names of the three major Canaanite-Phoenician goddesses, `Athtart (Atar), `Anat (Ata), and ’Athirat. Atargatis is the Greek form of her Phoenician name. She is often depicted as fish-tailed, a mermaid, associated with moisture. As vegetation goddess of generation and fertility, she protects her cities; as a moist sky goddess in cloud-like veil with eagles around her head; as a sea-goddess she is dolphin-crowned. She had a sacred pool with holy oracular fish at her temple at the city of Ashkelon. As the partner of Oannes, she is mother of legendary Queen Semiramis, whose sacred animal is the dove, which Semiramis became. During Roman times celebrated by ecstatically dancing eunuch priests of the Dea Syria, "Syrian Goddess," and equated with the Anatolian Kybele, whose son Attis was often equated with Adon (q.v.).

Ba`al Hammon, Ba`al Khamon

During the long period of trade and exchange between the Canaanite-Phoenicians with the Egyptians, Ba`al was associated with several Egyptian gods. One is Amon, the ram headed god of fertility, agriculture, air or breath of life, whose name means hidden, just as Ba`al is sometimes hidden among the clouds. There may be a relationship between Amon and Ba`al Hammon, as the Canaanites & Phoenician were highly syncretic. As Ba`al Hammon or Ba`al Khamon, he is the chief Carthaginian god of sky and vegetation, depicted as a bearded older man with curling ram's horns, perhaps a merging of ’El and Ba`al. As Ba`al Qarnaim or Ba`al Karnayin, Master of the Horns or the Two-Horned Ba`al, he is a ram-horned god of twilight and the setting sun, and consort of Tanith.

’Eshmun, ’Eshmoun

’Eshmun is the god of health and healing. He was worshipped especially at Tsydon, also called Sidon - now Saida, in Lebanon - where he was chief god, and also at Carthage. He may have had temples and/or priests for dream incubation. His consort was Astronoë, a form of `Ashtartu/Astarte. His sacred animal is the quail. Greeks identified him with Asklepios (Latin, Aesculepius).

Malidthu, Mu Allidta, Mulitta (mldth at Ugarit); Mylitta, Melita, Molis (Greek)/ Mirru (mr at Ugarit); Myrrha (Greek)

According to some sources, her name means "Childbearing" and she is the mother of ’Adon. She is identified as a goddess of love, beauty, fertility, and childbirth. Her shrine was at the sacred spring of Afka, where fire was said to fall into the water, renewing the youth of the goddess, combining the force of earthly flowing water and of heavenly fire. She was sometimes depicted nude riding a tortoise or he-goat.

Melqart, Melkart, Milkert, Milqart (Phoen.); Mi-il-qar-tu (Akkadian); Melkarthos (Greek)

Melqart means King of the City. As prototype of the Good King, he is primarily concerned with the health, prosperity, and general well-being of his people, rather than being an autocratic ruler. Originally the chief god of Tyre, where his consort was `Ashtart or Astronoë, his cult spread throughout the Mediterranean. He was quite popular in Carthage, Spain, and the Western (i.e., North African) colonies. Many scholars believe he is the source for the Greek Herakles (Hercules in Latin) with whom the Greeks identified him.

Tanith, Tanit, Tent (Phoenician and Punic); Tanis (Greek)

Tanit is a Phoenician goddess and the chief goddess of Carthage, consort of Ba`al-Hammon. She is a goddess of fertility and of the heavens, including the stars and the moon. The roots of her name mean "Serpent Lady". This name also appears to be cognate with the Egyptian Tanetu, a form of Hathor as goddess of light. The scholar S. Olyan convincingly argues that she is actually a later form of ’Asherah, although many scholars still identify her with `Ashtartu/ Astarte. Her Punic symbol was a triangle, representing her robe, surmounted by a circle, her head, with a horizontal line between them, her shoulders. Often there is a vertical line rising up from each end of the horizontal bar, as her arms upraised in blessing. She was also the palm tree, the tree of life in the Mediterranean desert areas. Another of her symbols, often called a caduceus, is a vertical line with wavy lines emanating from it, but it is actually the Tree of Life surmounted by her serpents. The Romans associated her with Juno and often represented her as a winged goddess with a zodiac around her head and the sun and moon in either hand, calling her Dea Caelestis, Latin for "Heavenly Goddess."

Back down the hallReturn to Room Two of the Temple of the Deities to learn about 12 more Canaanite deities or groups of deities.
Even farther back down the hallReturn to Room One of the Temple of the Deities to learn about the Major Canaanite Deities: El, Asherah, Baal, and Anat.
Through the Purple ArchReturn to the Gateway. for a complete directory of and links to all the rooms in this Temple.

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