Salammbo HTML version
CHAPTER V: TANITH
After leaving the gardens Matho and Spendius found themselves checked by the
rampart of Megara. But they discovered a breach in the great wall and passed
The ground sloped downwards, forming a kind of very broad valley. It was an
"Listen," said Spendius, "and first of all fear nothing! I shall fulfil my promise—"
He stopped abruptly, and seemed to reflect as though searching for words,—"Do
you remember that time at sunrise when I showed Carthage to you on
Salammbo's terrace? We were strong that day, but you would listen to nothing!"
Then in a grave voice: "Master, in the sanctuary of Tanith there is a mysterious
veil, which fell from heaven and which covers the goddess."
"I know," said Matho.
Spendius resumed: "It is itself divine, for it forms part of her. The gods reside
where their images are. It is because Carthage possesses it that Carthage is
powerful." Then leaning over to his ear: "I have brought you with me to carry it
Matho recoiled in horror. "Begone! look for some one else! I will not help you in
this execrable crime!"
"But Tanith is your enemy," retorted Spendius; "she is persecuting you and you
are dying through her wrath. You will be revenged upon her. She will obey you,
and you will become almost immortal and invincible."
Matho bent his head. Spendius continued:
"We should succumb; the army would be annihilated of itself. We have neither
flight, nor succour, nor pardon to hope for! What chastisement from the gods can
you be afraid of since you will have their power in your own hands? Would you
rather die on the evening of a defeat, in misery beneath the shelter of a bush, or
amid the outrages of the populace and the flames of funeral piles? Master, one
day you will enter Carthage among the colleges of the pontiffs, who will kiss your
sandals; and if the veil of Tanith weighs upon you still, you will reinstate it in its
temple. Follow me! come and take it."
Matho was consumed by a terrible longing. He would have liked to possess the
veil while refraining from the sacrilege. He said to himself that perhaps it would
not be necessary to take it in order to monopolise its virtue. He did not go to the
bottom of his thought but stopped at the boundary, where it terrified him.
"Come on!" he said; and they went off with rapid strides, side by side, and
The ground rose again, and the dwellings were near. They turned again into the
narrow streets amid the darkness. The strips of esparto-grass with which the
doors were closed, beat against the walls. Some camels were ruminating in a
square before heaps of cut grass. Then they passed beneath a gallery covered
with foliage. A pack of dogs were barking. But suddenly the space grew wider
and they recognised the western face of the Acropolis. At the foot of Byrsa there
stretched a long black mass: it was the temple of Tanith, a whole made up of