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Gaius Paulinus Maximus

Carthaginian Sacrifices

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Your argument would be persuasive if the Romans--who were at various times enemies of the Gauls, Spaniards...had leveled the charge of baby-killing against their other enemies. But they didn't.

As a matter of fact, there is an ongoing similar controversy regarding the extent of human sacrifice among the Celts.

Here comes CJ Caesar, Commentarii de Bello Gallico, Liber VI, Cp. XVI:

 

"The nation of all the Gauls is extremely devoted to superstitious rites; and on that account they who are troubled with unusually severe diseases and they who are engaged in battles and dangers, either sacrifice men as victims, or vow that they will sacrifice them, and employ the Druids as the performers of those sacrifices; because they think that unless the life of a man be offered for the life of a man, the mind of the immortal gods cannot be rendered propitious, and they have sacrifices of that kind ordained for national purposes. Others have figures of vast size, the limbs of which formed of osiers they fill with living men, which being set on fire, the men perish enveloped in the flames. They consider that the oblation of such as have been taken in theft, or in robbery, or any other offence, is more acceptable to the immortal gods; but when a supply of that class is wanting, they have recourse to the oblation of even the innocent."

 

And Ibid., Cp. XIX:

 

"...Their funerals, considering the state of civilization among the Gauls, are magnificent and costly; and they cast into the fire

all things, including living creatures, which they suppose to have been dear to them when alive; and, a little before this period, slaves and dependants, who were ascertained to have been beloved by them, were, after the regular funeral rites were completed, burnt together with them."

 

 

As in the case of Carthage, some scholars consider these reports as Roman negative propaganda.

 

Even if Caesar didn't specifically mention any child sacrifice, there has been found some archaeological, evidence; vg. at Woodhenge (Britannia).

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I have been doing a little research into what has been posted on this thread here and elsewhere so feel it is time to recap and deconstruct what is on the net:

 

As far as I can see so far two main arguments have been made on the net for and against the case for the Phonecians practicing child sacrifices. On one hand we have Lawrence E. Stager and Joseph A. Greene both representing the Harvard Semitic Museum, with in the case of Greene at least apparently several seasons of practical archaeological work in Tunisia. On the other we have M

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Child sacrifice has always been a Semitic practice which was a well documented Syrian and Phoenician practice. It is more than likely they caried it over into North Africa and continued the practice there.

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Thanks--it's useful to have the two arguments side-by-side. The notion that the only children 'sacrificed' were the ones who had died prematurely is a creative reconstruction of the physical evidence, but it requires our ignoring a fair amount of independent testimony of child sacrifice--from Kleitarchos, Diodorus, Plutarch, Tertullian, and the various authors of the Hebrew Bible--that is equally consistent with the physical evidence. I find it difficult to believe that this testimony is all based on a misunderstanding.

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I've also heard that in times of peace and properity Carthaginians would instead of sacrificing children, sacrifice criminals and hostages and returned to sacrificing their own children only when they felt the gods 'turned on them.'

 

Interesting thought.

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Melvadius, is there anywhere in the Mediterranean world that 'child sacrifice' occurred?

 

 

I would not necessarily say that child sacrifice never occured in the Mediterranean world - history is too wide an area of study to say 'never' with any 100% guarantee ;) .

 

To slightly recap what I have already posted:

 

I believe that there is some archaeological evidence indicating ritualized killing in a few isolated instances. However for the reasons I have indicated above I believe that the claims by Diodorus et al are unproven. The arguments posted by Stager and Greene fail as archaeological proof on the simple basis that they have not provided any statistical breakdown of the archaeological evidence. For an honest interpretation of facts I would have expected them to include information on the percentages found of children in each age group, how many urns contained votive offerings, how many animal remains and the breakdown of mixed groups of votive offerings and child remains. They have not provided any usable information of this type.

 

I am also concerned about their contention that cremated remains provided evidence of the children having been sacrificed. I have seen cremated remains and suspect that even with full forensic tests in the majority of cases it would be extremely hard to say with any degree of certainty what was the cause of death.

 

Regarding Kleitarchos as I have already said the only source for his comments is Diodorus which in effect means half of the four 'independent' ancient authors quoted by Stager and Greene are the same person :hammer:.

 

The biblical sources are a matter of interpretation but in my view they should not be read in isolation and reading of closely associated passages either side of the quoted sources indicates that they do not actually provide evidence of carthaginian or Phonecian human sacrifice.

 

Despite claims by their supporters to the contrary, personally I do not believe everything posted on Wickipedia, et al is based on fact. :oops:

 

Melvadius

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Despite claims by their supporters to the contrary, personally I do not believe everything posted on Wickipedia, et al is based on fact.

 

Did I miss something? Where did anyone use Wikipedia as a source?

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Despite claims by their supporters to the contrary, personally I do not believe everything posted on Wickipedia, et al is based on fact.

 

Did I miss something? Where did anyone use Wikipedia as a source?

 

During my research it quickly became obvious that most of the available web references are simply regurgitated postings from elsewhere with no verifiable reference to original archaeological material and no attempt at deconstruction of what was said in the historical and biblical sources referenced as I have attempted - only blind acceptance.

 

Thus the Wikipedia et al comment as one of the offenders that I found. :hammer:

Edited by Melvadius

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Firstly, it's good to see documented evidence on both sides of the story, great work Melvadius.

 

 

I believe that there is some archaeological evidence indicating ritualized killing in a few isolated instances. However for the reasons I have indicated above I believe that the claims by Diodorus et al are unproven. The arguments posted by Stager and Greene fail as archaeological proof on the simple basis that they have not provided any statistical breakdown of the archaeological evidence. For an honest interpretation of facts I would have expected them to include information on the percentages found of children in each age group, how many urns contained votive offerings, how many animal remains and the breakdown of mixed groups of votive offerings and child remains. They have not provided any usable information of this type.

 

 

I agree, some evidence to back up their arguments would have helped but what about your opening article in the case against child sacrifice by Hassin Fanter which begins with....

 

What if, however, the classical sources are unreliable? Indeed, what if all the evidence regarding the burials

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Firstly, it's good to see documented evidence on both sides of the story, great work Melvadius.

 

<SNIP>

 

I agree, some evidence to back up their arguments would have helped but what about your opening article in the case against child sacrifice by Hassin Fanter which begins with....

 

What if, however, the classical sources are unreliable? Indeed, what if all the evidence regarding the burials
Edited by Melvadius

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Good reiteration of the argument.

 

Me personally I see the case for child sacrifice actually being carried out as not established enough by the physical and literary evidence.

 

However, I would far from dismiss the notion entirely since the barbarity of all peoples back then was pretty harsh.

 

Leaving unwanted babies out to die, gruesome executions, horrible tortures, genocidal razings of cities etc.

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Good reiteration of the argument.

 

Me personally I see the case for child sacrifice actually being carried out as not established enough by the physical and literary evidence.

 

However, I would far from dismiss the notion entirely since the barbarity of all peoples back then was pretty harsh.

 

Leaving unwanted babies out to die, gruesome executions, horrible tortures, genocidal razings of cities etc.

 

Excavations of Tophets in many Carthaginian settlements do seem to confirm a widespread practice of child sacrifice. However, this is one of the great debates. The majority of the remains appear to be of very young children, the eldest being around five. Could the Tophet urns simply be a burial ground for infants? That many of the urns contain animal remains may suggest not.

 

Obviously we should be cautious; for example Livy and Polybius make no reference to the practice and they surely would have done had they been aware of it. Child sacrifice by fire is thought to have occurred mostly after Carthage's defeat by the Greeks at Himera (480 BCE), which in the following political chaos saw her lose ties with her mother city of Tyre and the preservation of the cult of Melquarth and Astarte.

 

The Carthaginians elevated Baal Hammon and Tanit within their own pantheon and as their power spread, so did this cult. Children were said to be placed upon the upturned palms of Baal Hammon's statue, from which they rolled into a furnace.

 

However, it is also widely thought that after the introduction of the cults of Demeter and Kore at the beginning of the 4th century BCE, there was a gradual Hellenisation of the Carthaginian religion and personal dedications were made to Tanit rather than to Baal Hammon and slowly, religious practice became gentler.

 

My guess is, that on balance, the sacrifice of children was widespread in the Carthaginian world, but only so widespread within a relatively short period. I am puzzled as to why Diodorus is so confident in his descriptions and why Livy, Polybius and others fail to mention it.

Edited by marcus silanus

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I've heard mention of a Tunisian tophet having traditional burials as late as the 2nd century CE. Unfortunately those findings were yet to be published back when I was doing my thesis on the period and I haven't kept up to date on it really. :(

 

Would not surprise me one bit however. Roman Africa was still a country unto itself even in late Antiquity.

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I've heard mention of a Tunisian tophet having traditional burials as late as the 2nd century CE. Unfortunately those findings were yet to be published back when I was doing my thesis on the period and I haven't kept up to date on it really. :(

 

Would not surprise me one bit however. Roman Africa was still a country unto itself even in late Antiquity.

 

I have found another part of the site which I referred to in my previous postings which may be of interest as it also discusses the contentious issue of 'chald sacrifice'. It may be of particular interest as it mentions findings by Piero Bartoloni, Head of the Department of Phoenician-Punic Archaeology at Universita' di Sassari, Italy (reported in 2007) from excavations at Zama. Bartolioni noted that this child cemetery contained a large number of foetus burials (he believes that around 7 in 10 children died within their first year with only one in ten reached adulthood), He argues that the number of infant bodies found in this cemetery reflect the high infant mortality rate rather than supporting the myth of 'child sacrifice'.

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