Child Sacrifice, Ancient and Modern

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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.

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Rome’s 9/11

No one needs to remind me that Sept. 11, 2001 was a Tuesday.  It is one of those details that is lodged in my brain and comes out when people begin to ask, “Where were you when…?”  I remember it was a Tuesday, because I woke up that morning and turned the TV on so that I could watch sports highlights while I finished getting ready.  The TV was on ABC because the night before I had been watching Monday Night Football.  It seems a silly bit of minutia but it serves to remind me of the great divide.  One evening you are watching the Giants and Broncos toss the pigskin, the next morning you realize that the world you knew when you went to bed has died in the night.  Everything has been changed forever.  Calamities like these are not just tragedies, they are watershed tragedies: cataclysmic events which cause the waters of  history to flow in a different direction.

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The Fall of the American Republic?

Augustus of Prima Porta, statue of the emperor...

Last week my colleague Steven Jones posted a helpful piece comparing the fall of the Roman Republic and America’s contemporary political situation. If you haven’t read it yet, you can find it here. It’s worth your time.

While I concur with much of Steve’s analysis, I think his last phrase misses the mark. He ends the piece with: “Thus I would argue that America is indeed in danger of following Rome down her path, but that the risk to America today is not that it will collapse into obscurity but descend into tyranny.” I agree that America is unlikely to collapse anytime soon, but applying the phrase “descend into tyranny” to imperial Rome seems too rhetorical for a couple of reasons. Continue reading

America and Rome: Legends of the Fall

When people find out my area of expertise is Ancient Rome, the conversation eventually turns to the similarities between Rome and America usually culminating with some version of the question “Do you think America will fall like Rome did?”

Such questions are indeed appropriate. The American Founding fathers borrowed heavily from the Ancient Romans, asking themselves as they founded a new nation: “What caused the success of the Ancient Romans and can we copy it?  And oppositely, what caused the Fall of Rome, and can we do something to avoid it?”

In latter posts, I hope to discuss specific areas of imitation and innovation.  For this post, the point I wish to make is this:  America does have a great deal to learn from the flow of Roman history, but if we were to compare America’s trajectory to that of Rome’s, we would discover we are not at the end of the story, but in the middle, at a far more critical juncture

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