Memories from Malta; What links the Phoenician TANIT cult to THANET in Margate, Kent?


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 The Thanet School for Arts in Margate, Kent


As an introduction I have to state what an enormous pleasure it is to me personally to once more be working with LYN FUNNELL, my mentor who ten years ago introduced me to travel writing on her stupendous original site B_C-IngU

We have grown older together but stretch back to our school days in Malta where we both attended the Royal Naval School at Tal-Handaq and many years later met at Horsted Keynes in Sussex for a pub drink together with her hubby Johnny and she induced me to start writing for her which I did for nine whole years.

Lyn’s vast knowledge and mentoring continues and she drew to my attention the locality of Thanet in Margate, Kent – which is described in Wikipedia as:

“Thanet is a local government district in Kent. It came into being on 1st April 1974, and is governed by Thanet District Council. It is on the coastline north east of Kent and its main towns are Margate, Ramsgate and Broadstairs.”

Because of its geo-position, Wikipedia goes on to describe Thanet as “having borne the brunt of invasions from the Continent” many, many hundreds of years ago.

So, having introduced all this, what could possibly be the connection between my home country Malta and Thanet?

Well, about 2,000 years ago we were both “invaded” by the Phoenicians who, I hurriedly add, were not invaders but commercial entrepreneurs who ventured from west of the Mediterranean, along the Middle Sea, around what is now known as The Straits of Gibraltar, up the coasts of Spain and Portugal and the south eastern part of Britain.

Tanit inscriptions


With them they brought the worship of the Goddess-Deity TANIT, widespread around Mediterranean shores, and hence the origins of the name Thanet. One of the Phoenician food exports was fermented and ungutted fish in salt and later this was expanded by the Romans, gutted and thoroughly cleaned and then cooked in a variety of honey, herbs and wines and remains a luxurious dish served in five-star restaurants – although the Romans renamed it Garum.

All areas visited by the Phoenicians have remnants of Tanit effigies and depictions. She was a Fertility Goddess rivalling the Moon Goddess Astarte.

However, she was not so well-known and also went under the name of Tinnit, Tannou and Tangou and was the Chief Deity of the Carthaginians.  Her consort was Baal-Hamon. Her influence was widespread in Ancient Greece and the Roman era. In Carthage, in times of drought, she was invoked to bring rain and was thus referred to as Omek Tannou (Omm in Semitic being “mother” – as it is also in modern-day Maltese. Omek means Your Mother – in Maltese, Ommok).

However, the importance of Tanit remains significant and there is a strong theme of belief that her Deity symbols were later incorporated into Christianity, were used by the early Christians to secretly identify each other and eventually were the structure that led to the Crucifix being used as a universal Christian symbol.

Traces of the Tanit Cult in Malta are somewhat mysterious leading to beliefs that the Neolithic inhabitants worshipped Astarte rather than Tanit.

Tanit inscriptions – did these symbolise the secret of early Christian worship?

However, in Malta, a symbol of the Tanit Cult was found sculpted into a rock-face and was excavated by an Italian Archaeological Mission between 1964 and 1967. Excavations at this sanctuary did not yield any statuettes, leading to the theory that the Tanit cult did not adore images.

This rock-face was subsequently stolen later by a French film crew working at the site. This was recovered some 20 years later and is now on exhibit at the Gozo Archaeology Museum!

A silver ring with the Tanit inscription

Whatever happened in the mists of time remains highly mysterious. However, there is no doubt the Phoenician presence in Malta is manifest everywhere, including the Hypogeum and a number of other catacombs and there is no doubt the Phoenicians had a high influence on the population at the time, including the language influence which remains present unto this day.






  • Albert Fenech

    Albert Fenech was born in Malta in 1946. His family moved to England in 1954 where he spent boyhood and youth before in 1965 returning to Malta. He spent eight years as a journalist with “The Times of Malta” before taking a career in HR Management Administration with a leading international construction company in Libya, later with Malta Insurance Brokers, and finally STMicroelectronics Malta, employing 3,000 employees, Malta’s leading industrial manufacturer. Throughout he actively pursued international freelance journalism/ broadcasting for various media outlets covering social issues, current affairs, sports and travel. He has written in a number of publications both in Malta and overseas, as well as publishing two e-books. For the last eight years he had been writing a “Malta Diary” with pictures for Lyn Funnel’s international travel magazine.

One thought on “Memories from Malta; What links the Phoenician TANIT cult to THANET in Margate, Kent?

  1. Does anyone know about any evidence of Tanit in or around the Thanet area?
    If so, do let us know.

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