In her study of Roman gladiatorial combat and arenas (Blood in the Arena: The Spectacle of Roman Power) Alison Futrell describes the Phoenician practice of human sacrifice transplanted to Carthage: “The young victim was placed in the arms of the bronze image of Ba’al Hammon, arms that sloped downward toward a pit or large brazier filled with burning embers. Once the child had been cremated, the ashes were removed and placed in an urn, which in turn was placed in a pit, sometimes lined with cobbles, and then covered over. A burial marker, a cippus or stela, was often placed above the urn.”
Carthage belies the theory that cultures outgrow this barbarism as they become more educated and sophisticated: “At Carthage . . . expansion of political hegemony, cultural sophistication, and child sacrifice simultaneously peaked, in the fourth and third centuries B.C.” When Syracuse invaded in the early fourth century, “the nobles of Carthage sacrificed some two hundred of their children.”
I watch or read atheists make statements about human nature that look to me for all the world like blind faith. Are we going to claim that “religion” made otherwise good people burn their children to death? But that just pushes the question back further. Why not say, “Screw you, gods. We’re keeping our children no matter what you do to us or don’t do for us.” I mean, we have these people’s myths. There’s no way these people had respect for these gods beyond hoping for gifts and fearing curses. So why not choose to live or die with one’s children
Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a really (ne0)pagan show in many ways, but Buffy’s insistence that even if a god was going to eventually kill her sister, at least that last thing she would see was Buffy fighting to protect her, was nothing like these Phoenicians (or many others).