In the collapse of the ancient Phoenician civilization, the Phoenician literature, of which, if we may believe classical authors, there was considerable, has entirely perished. The comparatively few inscriptions which have been brought to light in recent years, consisting as they do of votive and temple inscriptions and grave stones, can hardly be dignified with the name of literature. These inscriptions, however, such as they are, shed some light on the character of the Phoenician civilization and religion.
From the most famous of Phoenician cities, Tyre, almost no inscriptions have been taken, and none which throws any light upon its religion. To study the pantheon of Tyre, therefore, fragments of information must be pieced together from many outside sources.
That the Baal of Tyre was called Melqart (king of the city), we learn from the Phoenician portion of a bilingual inscription from Malta. The Greek portion of the same inscription shows that Melqart was identified with the Greek Herakles. The temple of Melqart under this Greek name is mentioned by Herodotus, and by Dion and Menander as quoted by Josephus (Antiquities, VIII, 5, 3 and Contra Apion, I, 18).
We should naturally expect from the analogy of other Phoenician pantheons that Ashtart would be worshipped together with Melqart, and the quotations made from Dion and Menander vouch for this also, as does a quotation from Sanchoniathon preserved in the Praeparatio Evangelica of Eusebius (ed. Dindorf,I, 10, 31).
All this is clear. The puzzling part of the problem comes when one endeavors to discover whether the pantheon extended beyond these two deities. Sanchoniathon, as quoted by Eusebius, states that "Astarte, the greatest, Zeus Demarous and Adodos ruled over the country by the consent of Kronos." As this statement occurs in connection with the statement that Astarte settled in the holy Island of Tyre, I had inferred in an article published in the Journal of this Society that this statement referred to Tyre and that it afforded ground for the opinion that the pantheon of Tyre contained a god called Adon, i. e. Eshmun or Tammuz. The process of reasoning on which that opinion was based was not, however, sufficiently stated. AGUSOS is one of the ways by which the name of the god Hadad, the Baal of the Aramaeans, was written in Greek. We have no evidence that there was a temple to Hadad at Tyre, and no special reason appears why there should be. Eusebius is a comparatively late writer, and obtained his information about the writings of Sanchoninthon from Philo of Byblos (Gebal). It would be very natural for the Tyrians to worship Adonis, and also not unnatural that in transmission through so many writers the name should become corrupted and confused with that of Hadad, which in the Greek so much resembles it. This view would, I think, be right if we could be sure that the passage in question referred to Tyre, but that is not certain. Sanchoniathon in these extracts wanders about from pantheon to pantheon grouping the gods without particular system, mingling names which are real with those which are fanciful, so that from his ... inferences are somewhat precarious. It may quite as reasonably be supposed that in this passage he is referring to Astarte, Melqart and Hadad as the three leading Semitic deities of the region.
There is, however, another bit of evidence tending to show that Adonis-Eshmun-Tammuz was worshiped at Tyre. Herodotos mentions in addition to the temple of Herakles already referred to, a temple of Herakles called Thasian. As Sayce perceived, it is not likely, even though the Phoenicians were the first to work the gold mines of Thasos, that the name Thasian is derived from that island.
He conjectured from the fact that one of the hills of Tyre is called 'El-Maashuq' (The beloved), that it was once crowned with a temple of Adonis, and that it is to this that Herodotos refers. This view seems probable. It is much more probable that there should have been a temple of Eshmun in Tyre, than that two temples of Melqart should have stood so near together.Perhaps the Tyrians applied to Adon-Eshmun some epithet akin to ... "The wise," or "skillful" on account of Eshmun's power to heal. It would not be strange for Herodotos to mistake this for the Greek adjective [of the word].
Another view is perhaps more probable. Sayce may be mistaken in thinking that Herodotos was mistaken. The temple and the epithet may have been as we have supposed, and the latter may have been the origin of the name Thasos itself. Pausinias knew a tradition that Thasos was colonized by one Thasos from Tyre, and that the Thasians originally worshipped the same Herakles as the Tyrians did. It is among the possibilities that the Phoenicians who were first attracted by the gold mines of Thasos carried thither the worship of Eshmun, attaching to him especially the epithet which we have supposed, and that it was thus that the name Thasos had its origin. Of course in such a worship Melqart would not be forgotten, so that it would be natural in time that the name Herakles should become associated by the Greeks with both.
At all events, it seems safe to conclude that Eshmun-Adonis was a member of the pantheon of Tyre, and that in these references to the Thasian Herakles we probably have a reference to him.
A 1901 Study on
The Pantheon of Tyre
George A. Barton