Tanit

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Stele with Tanit's symbol in Carthage's Tophet, including a crescent moon over the figure

Tanit[1] was a Punic and Phoenician goddess, the chief deity of Carthage alongside her consort Ba`al Hammon.[2][3] She was also adopted by the Berber people.

Tanit is also called Tinnit and Tannou. The name appears to have originated in Carthage, though it does not appear in local theophorous names.[4] She was equivalent to the moon-goddess Astarte, and later worshipped in Roman Carthage in her Romanized form as Dea Caelestis, Juno Caelestis or simply Caelestis.

In today's Tunisia it is customary to invoke "Oumek Tannou" (Mother Tannou) the years of drought to bring rain; just as we speak of "Baali" farming, for non-irrigated farming, to say that it only depends on god Ba`al Hammon.[5]

Worship[edit]

A Punic coin featuring Tanit, minted in Carthage between 215-205 BC.

Tanit was worshiped in Punic contexts in the Western Mediterranean, from Malta to Gades into Hellenistic times. From the fifth century BC onwards Tanit's worship is associated with that of Ba`al Hammon. She is given the epithet pene baal ("face of Baal") and the title rabat, the female form of rab (chief).[6] In North Africa, where the inscriptions and material remains are more plentiful, she was, as well as a consort of Baal Hammon, a heavenly goddess of war, a virginal (not married) mother goddess and nurse, and, less specifically, a symbol of fertility, as are most female forms. Several of the major Greek goddesses were identified with Tanit by the syncretic interpretatio graeca, which recognized as Greek deities in foreign guise the gods of most of the surrounding non-Hellene cultures.

Tanit with a lion's head

Her shrine excavated at Sarepta in southern Phoenicia revealed an inscription that identified her for the first time in her homeland and related her securely to the Phoenician goddess Astarte (Ishtar).[7] One site where Tanit is uncovered is at Kerkouane, in the Cap Bon peninsula in Tunisia.

Child sacrifice[edit]

The origins of Tanit are to be found in the pantheon of Ugarit, especially in the Ugaritic goddess Anat (Hvidberg-Hansen 1982), a consumer of blood and flesh. There is significant, albeit disputed, evidence, both archaeological and within ancient written sources, pointing towards child sacrifice forming part of the worship of Tanit and Baal Hammon.[8]

The place in the cult of Tanit of child sacrifice has been confirmed by archaeological findings in the Carthage Tophet. Child sacrifice to Tanit was carried out openly until the time of emperor Tiberius according to the North African Christian writer Tertullian.[9]

Other usage[edit]

Long after the fall of Carthage, Tanit was still venerated in North Africa under the Latin name of Juno Caelestis, for her identification with the Roman goddess Juno.[10] The ancient Berber people of North Africa also adopted the Punic cult of Tanit.[11] In Egyptian, her name means Land of Neith, Neith being a war goddess. Her symbol, found on many ancient stone carvings, appears as a trapezium (trapezoid) closed by a horizontal line at the top and surmounted in the middle by a circle: the horizontal arm is often terminated either by two short upright lines at right angles to it or by hooks. Later, the trapezium is frequently replaced by an isosceles triangle. The symbol is interpreted by Hvidberg-Hansen as a woman raising her hands. Hvidberg-Hansen (Danish professor of Semitic philology), notes that Tanit is sometimes depicted with a lion's head, showing her warrior quality.[12]

In modern times the name, with the spelling "Tanith", has been used as a female given name, both for real people, Tanit Phoenix and, more frequently, in occult fiction.

Cultural references[edit]

In Gustave Flaubert's historical novel Salammbô (1862), the title character is a priestess of Tanit. Mâtho, the chief male protagonist, a Libyan mercenary rebel at war with Carthage, breaks into the goddess' temple and steals her veil.[13]

In Kate Elliot's Spiritwalker Trilogy, Tanit is one of many deities commonly worshiped in a polytheistic Europa. The narrator, Catherine, frequently appeals to "Blessed Tanit, Protector of Women", and the goddess occasionally appears to her.

See also[edit]


Notes[edit]

  1. ^ 'TNT in Phoenician and Punic inscriptions.
  2. ^ Richard Miles Carthage Must Be Destroyed (Penguin, 2011), p.68
  3. ^ F. O. Hvidberg-Hansen, La déesse TNT: une Etude sur la réligion canaanéo-punique (Copenhagen: Gad) 1982, is the standard survey. An extensive critical review by G. W. Ahlström appeared in Journal of Near Eastern Studies 45.4 (October 1986), pp. 311–314.
  4. ^ Claas Jouco Bleeker; Geo Widengren (1988). Historia Religionum, Volume 1 Religions of the Past. BRILL. pp. 209–. ISBN 90-04-08928-4. "At Carthage the great goddess is called Tinnit (formerly read Tanit) ... It would seem that Tinnit is the specific Carthaginian form of Astarte, but strangely enough there are no theophorous names containing the element Tinnit, while there are a few with Astarte. The name seems to have originated in Carthage ..." 
  5. ^ Ottavo contributo alla storia degli studi classici e del mondo antico Arnaldo Momigliano - 1987 p240 "There Juno Caelestis (or simply Caelestis, destined to considerable veneration outside Africa) is Tanit (Tinnit), the female companion of Baal Hammon. ... Victoria was already recognized as a goddess during the Samnite Wars. She was later ...
  6. ^ Markoe 2000:130.
  7. ^ James B. Pritchard, Recovering Sarepta, a Phoenician City (Princeton: Princeton University Press) 1978.; see Sarepta. The inscription reads TNT TTRT and could identify Tanit as an epithet of Astarte at Sarepta, for the TNT element does not appear in theophoric names in Punic contexts (Ahlström 1986 review, p 314).
  8. ^ Markoe, p. 136
  9. ^ The Cambridge Ancient History Alan K. Bowman, Edward Champlin, Andrew Lintott 1996 vol.10 p614 "Above all, the Punic moon-goddess Tanit never ceased to be venerated in Roman Carthage in her Romanized form as Dea Caelestis. The child sacrifice associated with this cult was carried out 'openly', according to the African, Christian ..."
  10. ^ Tate, Karen (2008). Sacred Places of Goddess. CCC Publishing, p. 137. ISBN 1-888729-11-2
  11. ^ Michael Brett and Elizabeth Fentress The Berbers (Blackwell, 1997), p.269
  12. ^ The Phoenician solar theology by Joseph Azize, page 177.
  13. ^ Laurence M. Porter Gustave Flaubert's "Madame Bovary": A Reference Guide (Greenwood, 2002), p.xxxi

References[edit]

External links[edit]