The Other Coin: The "Phoenician" god Bes

I recently got a rare coin from the Balearic Islands of the god Bes. Bes (Bisu, Aha) was
an ancient Egyptian dwarf god who was originally a god of protection against evil with
his harp or tambourine, swords, maces and knives. He was thought to have been able
to strangle bears, lions, antelopes and snakes with his bare hands. He also became a
god of childbirth, frightening away all of the evil spirits that could kill of the baby of
newborn child. If problems arose during labor, a clay statue of Bes was often placed at
the head of the expectant mother while spells were recited to the god, asking for his
help. As another form of protection, an image of the dwarf god was tattooed on some
women such as girls swimming, female dancers, acrobats and musicians. The women
with the image of Bes tattooed on her upper thigh and around the pubic area might be
sacred prostitutes. This encouraged his association with music and entertainment, as
well as being a protector of women and children, Ra, and the pharaoh.

Now, the coin is Phoenician, which raises the question why the Phoenicians adopted an
Egyptian god as their patron, or perhaps it was popular among the neolithic inhabitants
on the island when the Phoenician came in the 8th century BC, setting up one their
numerous trading ports.

The Phoenicians were the great sailors and explorers (see map below), much earlier
than the Greeks and can be credited with inventing deep sea sailing, sailing beyond the
sight of land. They learned to steer by the stars and use the currents of the sea. Their
empire extended from Asia Minor to England and all along the Mediterranean with such
great cities as Tyre, Sidon, Carthage, and Byblos. They conquered the Hittites,
Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans. Finally loosing to Rome in the Punic Wars. Earlier,
they watched their greatest city Tyre destroyed by Alexander the Great, who poured a
mountain into the sea, so his army could destroy the island city of Tyre. Carthage was
utterly destroyed by Scipio after Hannibal's unsuccessful assault on Rome. Known as
Sea Peoples, Hyksos, Canaanites, the Phoenician trading empire replaced the
Mycenaean civilization and opened trade with India and sub-Sahara Africa. It is unlikely
that they reached China or the Americas, however.

The coins depict the city goddess Tyche, wearing a crown of city walls or the goddess
Astarte/Tanit. As the Bible notes the worship included the sacrifice of infants, ritualized
drunkenness, sacred prostitution, and other habits that encouraged God's command to
wipe them out utterly, when Israelites managed to conquer their towns. The Romans
did just that, leaving little in the way of books (Phoenicians may have been the
inventors of writing in an alphabet as well), monuments, or history other than the coins.

Numismatically yours, David Elliott
Tyche/galley from
"the holy city" Tyre
Coins of Byblos