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offered, was Saturn, known in scripture by the name
m Plut. de superstit. p. 171. Παρειςήκει δε η μητηρ ατεγήθος και απενακλος, &c. The cruel and pitiless mother stood by as an unconcerned spectator ; a groan or a tear falling from her would have been punished by a fine ; and still the child must have been sacrificed. Plut. de superstitione.
• Tertul. in Apolog.
1 1 1 p Minut. Felix.
strength of mind, or rather savage barbarity, was car. ried to such excess, that even mothers would endeav. our, with embraces and kisses, to hush the cries of their children; lest, had the victim been offered with an unbecoming grace, and in the midst of tears, it should anger the god: Blanditiis et osculis comprimebant vagitum, ne flebilis hostia immolaretur. They afterwards contented themselves with making their children pass through the fire ; in which they frequently perished, as appears from several passages of scripture.
The Carthaginians retained the barbarous custom of offering human sacrifices to their gods till the ruin of their city:" an action which ought to have been called a sacrilege rather than a sacrifice. Sacrilegium veriùs quàm sacrum. It was suspended only for some years, from the fear they were under of drawing upon themselves the indignation and arms of Darius I. king of Persia, who forbade them the offering up of human
9 Q. Curt. I. iv. c. 5. * It appears from Tertullian's Apology, that this barbarous custom prevailed in Africa long after the ruin of Carthage. “Infantes penes Africam Saturno immolabantur palam usque ad proconsulatum Tiberii, qui eosdem sacerdotes in eisdem arboribus templi sui obumbraticibus scelerum votivis crucibus exposuit, teste militia patriæ nostræ, quæ id ipsum munus illi proconsuli functa est.” i.e. Children were publicly sacrificed to Saturn down to the proconsulship of Tiberius, who hanged the sacrificing priests themselves on the trees which shaded their temple, as on so many crosses, raised to expiate their crimes ; of which the militia of our country are witnesses, who were the actors of this execution at the command of this proconsul. Tert. Apol. c.9. Two learned men are at variance about the proconsul, and the time of his government. Salmasius confesses his ignorance of both, but rejects the authority of Scaliger, who, for “proconsulatum,” reads, “ proconsulem Tiberii,” and thinks Tertullian, when he wrote his Apology, had forgot his name. However this be, it is certain that the memory of the incident here related by Tertullian, was then recent, and probably the witnesses of is had not been long dead.
sacrifices, and the eating the flesh of dogs: But they soon resumed this horrid practice, since, in the reign of Xerxes, the successor to Darius, Gelon the tyrant of Syracuse, having gained a considerable victory over the Carthaginians in Sicily, made the following condition, among the other articles of peace he granted them, viz. " That no more human sacrifices should be offered to Saturn.” And doubtless, the practice of the Carthaginians, on this very occasion, made Gelon use this precaution. For during the whole engagement, which lasted from morning till night, Hamilcar, the son of Hanno their general, was perpetually offering up to the gods sacrifices of living men, who were thrown on a flaming pile ; and seeing his troops routed and put to flight, he himself rushed into the pile, in order that he might not survive his own disgracę i and to extinguish, says Ambrose, speaking of this action, with his own blood this sacrilegious fire, when he found that it had not proved of service to him."
In times of pestilence, " they used to sacrifice a great number of children to their gods, unmoved with pity for a tender age, which excites compassion in the most cruel enemies ; thus seeking a remedy for their evils in guilt itself, and endeavouring to appease the gods by the most shocking kind of barbarity.
· Plut. de sera vindic. deorum, p. 552. Herod. I. vii.c. 167. u In ipsos quos adolebat sese præcipitavit ignes, ut eos vel cruore sua extingueret, quos sibi nihil profuisse cognoverat. St. Amb.
Cum peste laborarent, cruenta sacrorum religione et scelere pro rem, edio usi sunt. Quippe homines ut victimas immolabant, et impuberes (quæ ætas etiam hostium misericordiam provocat), aris admovebant, pa. cem deorum sanguine eorum exposcentes, pro quorum vita dii maxime rogari solent. Justin. l. xviii.c.6. The Gauls as well as Germans ise od to sacrifice mén, if Dionysius and Tacilus may be credited.
"Diodorus relates an instance of this cruelty which strikes the reader with horror. At the time that Agathocles was just going to besiege Carthage, its inhabitants, seeing the extremity to which they were reduced, imputed all their misfortunes to the just anger of Saturn, because that, instead of offering up children nobly born, who were usually sacrificed to him, he had been fraudulently put off with the children of slaves and foreigners. To atone for this crime, two hundred children of the best families in Carthage were sacrificed to Saturn; besides which upwards of three hundred citizens, from a sense of their guilt of this pretended crime, voluntarily sacrificed themselves. Diodarus adds, that Saturn had a brazen statue, the hands of which were turned downward ; so that when a child was laid on them, it dropped immediately into an hollow, where was a fiery furnace.
Can this, says * Plutarch, be called worshipping the gods ? Can we be said to entertain an honourable idea of them, if we suppose that they are pleased with slaughter, thirsty of human blood, and capable of requiring or accepting such offerings ? Religion, says this judicious author, is placed between two rocks, that are equally dangerous to man, and injurious to the Deity ; I mean impiety and superstition. The one, from an affectation of free thinking, believes nothing; and the other from a blind weakness believes all things. Impiety, to rid itself of a terror which galls it, denies the very existence of the gods ; whilst superstition, to calm its fears, capriciously forges gods, which it makes
Lib. ii p. 756. * De superstitione, p. 169–171.
y Idem in Camill. p. 132
not only the friends, but protectors and models of crimes. Had it not been better, says he farther, for the Carthaginians to have had a Critias, a Diagorus, and such like open and undisguised atheists for their lawgivers, than to have established so frantic and wicked a religion ? Could the Typhons and the giants, the open enemies to the gods, had they gained a victory over them, have established more abominable sacrifices ?
Such were the sentiments which a heathen entertained of this part of the Carthaginian worship. But one would scarce believe that mankind were capable of such madness and frenzy. Men do not generally entertain ideas so destructive of all those things which nature considers as most sacred, as to sacrifice, to murder their children with their own hands, and to throw them in cool blood into fiery furnaces ! Such sentiments, of so unnatural and barbarous a kind, and yet adopted by whole nations, and even by those that pas. sed for civilized, as the Phenicians, Carthaginians, Gauls, Scythians, and even the Greeks and Romans, and consecrated by custom during a long series of ages, can have been inspired by him only, who was a murderer from the beginning, and who delights in nothing but the humiliation, misery, and perdition of man.
FORM OF THE GOVERNMENT OF CARTHAGE.
The government of Carthage was founded upon principles of the most consummate wisdom ; and it is with reason that a Aristotle ranks this republic in the
: De superstitione.
- De rep. I. ii. c. 11.