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By far the largest part of the main body of known Punic inscriptions (several thousand, as we mentioned before) can be classed as religious literature. The longest and usually the most interesting of them are those dealing with the customary sacrifices in the Punic sanctuaries. These are the sacrificial tariffs promulgated by the magistrates in charge of the administration of the cult, who laid down the share due to the priests, according to the animal and the nature of the offering. Every sanctuary had its own particular tariff. Fragments of these lists have been found at Carthage, but the most complete text is that found at Marseilles in 1844 in the old port district (now in the Musée Borély), which originally came from Carthage. It read as follows:
This Carthaginian sacrificial tariff is strikingly reminiscent, in its contents as well as its style, of the sacrificial rulings of the Israelites as they are detailed in the book of Leviticus.
The larger part of the religious texts comprises the innumerable votive inscriptions, mostly dedicated to the goddess Tanit or the god Baal Hammon, the chief deities of Carthage. These votive inscriptions are engraved on limestone stelae, often very ornate, which were apparently set up in various sanctuaries. The contents of the inscriptions are generally very much alike. They follow sacred formulae established once and for all, but fortunately an occasional sentence is found with some slight modification, innovation or addition. If these texts seem monotonous to the historian or to the unprejudiced observer, the same cannot be said of the epigraphist. Studied judiciously and minutely (which has not yet been done) they could without a doubt reveal a great deal of valuable information about religious, economic, social and even political life in Carthage. Here are some samples.
These examples suffice to show, in a manner of speaking, the variations in the apparent uniformity of the votive stelae. It is this variety, very much greater in reality than is generally apparent, which gives these brief inscriptions their importance.
Another, much less numerous, category is composed of funerary inscriptions. I will confine myself to two examples.
The most interesting of the Punic epitaphs and also, unfortunately, the most difficult to read and interpret, is without a doubt that of Milkpilles, which was erected in his memory by a faithful friend. It also comes into the category of Punic texts relating to wills. What follows is the translation proposed by Mr. J.-G. Février.
"Milkpilles, son of Bodmelqart, son of Milkpilles, son [...] Milkpilles, son of Melqartpilles, organizer of the sacred affairs, son [...] Milkherem. A stele in righteous aid I, Ashtzaph... in memory above the burial place of his remains, I have erected because he delighted in holy things... because, as a priest, he made holy offerings and served the gods with all his might during his lifetime, according to the writing and the plan; and I have written his name on high on the front (of the stele) for ever... in goodwill to him and for the greater glory of his remains. The chief of the clan, Sa[karbaal, son of] Yaroah. The temple of Isis. And I have engraved the inscription on [this] tablet."
Commemorative inscriptions, although rare, are particularly interesting. All the known examples were, until the present, dedications of religious monuments. A short time ago, however, a new Punic inscription was found at Carthage, which was the first to commemorate a great public work, probably of the third century B.C. This inscription will be published by the young Tunisian scholar Mr. Mohamed Hassine Fantar. Rather than offer my own translation, which, in view of the difficulties of the Punic text, would require a detailed philological study for which this present article is unsuitable, I prefer to quote an English translation of the suggested version with notes and comments by Mr. André Dupont-Sommer.
"Opened and made this street
in the direction of the square at the New Gate in the south (?) wa[II,
the people of Carthage, in the year] of the Suffetes Shafat and Adonibaal,
in the time of the magistracy of Adonibaal, son of Eshmunkhilletz, son
of... [son of Bodinel]qart, son of Hanno and their colleagues. (Were)
in charge of this work Abdmelqart [son of.... son of. ---(as) foreman
(?)]; Bodmelqart son of Baalhanno, son of Bodmelqart (as) chief engineer
of public highways; Yehawwielon brother [of Bodmelqart (as) quarrier (?)].
[Also contributing to the enterprise were all] the merchants, the porters,
the packers (?) who dwell in the level ground of the city, the weighers
of small coinage (?) and [those] who have no [money, neither gold [?]
nor silver (?), and also] those who have (money), the goldsmiths, the
potters (?) and the (staff of) the workshops with kilns, and the sandal-makers
(?) (all) together. And [if anyone shall (erase) this inscription] our
accountants shall punish that man with a fine of 1000 (shekels of) silver
-- one thousand -- in addition to [X] minae [to pay for the inscription