Earlier this week The Guardian ran a story about human sacrifice and ancient Roman history. During the third century BC, the chief rival of Rome was the city of Carthage on the North African coast.
Carthage was a Phoenician city, and Roman sources always accused the Carthaginians of sacrificing their own children to their gods. I have always believed the Roman stories of Carthaginian child sacrifice, but many scholars dismissed these stories as mere propaganda. They just couldn’t be true.
But some archeologists have been amassing material evidence that seems to support the Roman sources. It looks like the Carthaginians really did sacrifice their children. One of the archeologist told The Guardian that she is experiencing some pushback from her findings.
Quinn said many of her academic colleagues were appalled by her conclusions.
“The feeling that some ultimate taboo is being broken is very strong. It was striking how often colleagues, when they asked what I was working on, reacted in horror and said, ‘Oh no, that’s simply not possible, you must have got it wrong.’”
“We like to think that we’re quite close to the ancient world, that they were really just like us – the truth is, I’m afraid, that they really weren’t.”
Some things are just so horrible that we do not want to think about them. We do not want to believe they are true. This archeologist correctly notes that we ought to look at the Carthaginians honestly. But I think we need to look at ourselves honestly too.
She said, “We like to think that we’re quite close to the ancient world, that they were really just like us—the truth is, I’m afraid that they really weren’t.” I, on the other hand, am afraid that we are too much like them.
How is American abortion so very different from what the Carthaginians did? Priests killed their children in a temple, and abortionists kill our children in a clinic. Carthaginian parents expected favors from their gods if they offered their children. They expected a better life. Why do we abort our children?
Americans abort their children because they believe they’ll have a better life. Maybe they want better health by not undergoing the rigors of pregnancy. Maybe they expect that their career opportunities will be better without a child. Maybe they just don’t want to shop at Costco.
Carthaginians killed babies because they wanted a better life. We kill babies because we want a better life. The only difference that I can see is that the Carthaginians sacrificed children to their gods, while we just sacrifice them to ourselves.
But this level of selfishness is too terrible to think about, so most of us will turn a blind eye to our atrocities, just as most scholars have refused to see the atrocities of the Carthaginians.
[Originally posted at First Things]