Punica – Chapter 1

Book Punica written by J.B. Chabot published 1918 in French. Translated using Google Translate.

We bring together under this title a series of observations and notes concerning a number of Punic inscriptions and neopunics still unpublished or imperfectly explained.


Sardinia provided the Corpus with several interesting inscriptions (Pars prima, n° 139-163). Since the time of this publication, excavations carried out in various places in the island brought the discovery of new texts. Some votive inscriptions collected at Nora have been correctly published in 1892, by A. Pellegrini (¹), and again, in 1900, by Baron von Landau(2); the latter completely misunderstood the meaning and the nature of these texts which he regards as funerary (¹). In 1900, we found a long Punic inscription at Tharros (2) . It is still unpublished, if I don’t mislead me. In 1911, in the ruins of ancient Olbia, today Terranova Pausania, on the eastern coast of the island, an interesting text was brought to light which was published in facsimile in volume VIII of the Notizie degli scavi di Antichità (pp. 235, 240-241). In 1912, another dedication was discovered near Cagliari (3). [Cf. below, S XIII.]

The Olbia Inscription, now deposited in the Royal Museum of Sassari, is engraved on a flat stone intended to be embedded in a base which was also found in the excavations among the materials reused in Roman times. The text was deciphered with great sagacity by Professor Ign Guidi. We give it opposite with its transcription in Hebrew characters and its Latin translation.

We borrow the following remarks from the commentary from Mr. Guidi:

  1. It should perhaps read, at the beginning, n; but the tracks that remain do not allow the usual formula to be read לתנת פן בעל. After אדן we can’t לבעל.
  2. The last proper name is doubtful; he counted, it seems, six letters; אד-נבעל is therefore preferable to דנבעל.
  3. בדצד is on. עבדתיון; the divine element of this name — compound is unknown in Phoenician.
  4. Proper nouns stuff יםא ,נרא ,פתא and חל are abbreviated colloquial forms of longer nouns. (Mr. Guidi brings חל from בעלחל; but we also know חל is for חנבעל C.I.S. , I, 3006).
  5. A space that separates the n from the following letter prevents reading תבדכם.

We will add that a slight space seems to separate the words or certain groups of words, and that word בן is always joined, without spaces, to the following name.

This observation aims to establish the possibility of reading, in line 4, חלבן instead of בן חל. This avoids the difficulty resulting from the consecutive presence of two בן, expression which would normally mean “grandson”, and which does not fit with the interpretation that we will propose.

  1. Mag[nae?]… Adon Ha[mon?]… [what] he vowed the people.
  2. Carthage’s son, Hannibal, son of Himilcat, son of Germelqart, son of [Ado]niba’al (?) son.
  3. Maharba’al son of Gerašmûn son of Bodsed son of Baʻalšama son of `Abdrywn son.
  4. Fata’ son of Ariš son of Gera’ son of Yma’ son of Ḥal son of son of Hilleṣba’al son of Milkṣed.
  5. Because he heard his voice even in the assembly he blessed them.

If we stick to the meaning suggested by the translation, we encounters several difficulties:

  1. the dedicant’s proper name would be omitted;
  2. the genealogy would continue to the fifteenth generation, hitherto done without example throughout Phoenician epigraphy;
  3. in such a long enumeration, no individual would bear the name of his grandfather, according to a well-known custom;
  4. finally, although this is of less weight, there is in this enumeration a variety of proper names such that none is repeated;

the theophoric names are formed with the divine names צר, אשמן, מלקרת, בעל; however, other genealogies show us that we loved in the same family the names borrowed from the same divinity; this is how we meet a אבדמלקרת son of נרמלקרת (C.I.S. , I , 845 ); a בעלחנא, son of עזרבעל; a אבדאשמן grandson of אשמניתן, another עבדשמן, son of בדאשמן, and grandson of אשמנעמס. These examples could be multiplied.

These various considerations led us to seek if the Punic text was not susceptible of another interpretation. We came to the following conclusion: dedication emanates from a community, perhaps fifteen families Phoenicians settled in Olbia or the surrounding area.

The word can read חנבעל is used here in the constructed form of the plural, and we refer to the Bene Hanniba al, the Benē Ḥamilcat (¹), etc. This form of the constructed state of the plural has already been encountered C.I.S. , I, 88 , 122 , etc. It also seems that the plurality of dedicants is expressly indicated in the text.
the last word ברכם “he blessed them”. It is true that we read before: שמעקלא “he heard his voice”; but there is only a contradiction in appearance. Word קלא, can be heard by the voice of the assembly or of the assembled people, and ברכם particular individuals. A construction of this kind is no stranger to the genius of Semitic languages. Analogous turns of phrase are found in Hebrew, for example: ישראל לשמע אליהם ואל-תחנת עמך “He sent the people back to their tents” (II Chron., VII, 10), etc.

The author of an anonymous note (1) published in The Athenaeum (December 11, 1915, p. 444, col. 2) insinuates that our inscription may contain the genealogy of the family of the great Hannibal, and to have been erected by his son. This conjecture has no other basis than the words in line 2 interpreted “son of Hannibal, son of Ḥamilcat (=Amilcar)”. Even though one should translate thus, the meeting of these two names, extremely frequent in the Punic onomastics (2), can be quite fortuitous. We have an example of this in the Carthaginian exvoto which gives the Corpus the number 2040. In addition, the palaeography invites us to postpone our inscription to the middle of the first century, that is to say at a time when the son of Hannibal, and perhaps Hannibal himself, was not born.