Still Born Fetuses in Urns & the Perpetuated Lie of Diodoro Siculo
Translated from Italian by kind courtesy of Pasquale Mereu, Karalis, Sardinia, Italy
From IGN Italy Global Nation (May 2007)
Excavations in Zama, Tunis, reveal that the practice of sacrificing children by the Phoenicians is a myth. The myth was born in the Greco-Roman age with Diodoro Siculo. He made a claim that in 310 B.C. the Carthaginians remembered that they did not honor their god Chronos with the annual sacrifice of children of noble families. Because of that, in few days, they slaughtered two hundred children. Recent archaeological discoveries have disavowed this macabre religious tradition, demonstrating that among Phoenicians there is no trace of human sacrifices. This appears in an interview, in the new issue of the Italian review: "Archeologia Viva," with professor Piero Bartoloni, Head of the Department of Phoenician-Punic Archaeology at Universita' di Sassari, Italy, and a favorite student of famous archaeologist Sabatino Moscati. He undertook a major excavation campaign in Zama, Tunisia, that is linked to the fall of Carthage after the battle of Zama in 202 B.C. The battle ended the second Punic war. He declares that, "In ancient times, for every ten children that were born, seven died within the first year and out of the remained three, only one became an adult. Now I ask: is it reasonable that, with such a high level of infant mortality, these people killed their own children?” Ten necropolises are the resting places of children. Actually it has been discovered -- Bartoloni reveals -- that the greater part of approximately 6,000 children urns found in Carthage, contain bones of fetuses, therefore of still born babies. The little older children remain a problem. They most probably passed away before their initiation, a ceremony that corresponds to Catholic baptism. Flames in some way were involved, because the same initiation included the "passage of fire” of the child, accompanied by its godfather. They jumped on burning coals, as written in the Bible, the Book of the Kings.
Curriculum Vitae et Studiorum di
Piero Bartoloni (in Italian)
Piero Bartoloni si è laureato in Lettere presso l`insegnamento di Filologia Semitica, relatore Sabatino Moscati, con una tesi sull`insediamento di Monte Sirai (Carbonia-Cagliari), conseguendo la votazione di 110 e lode.
Piero Bartoloni è stato Dirigente di Ricerca del Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche presso l`Istituto per la Civiltà fenicia e punica, del quale è stato Direttore dal 1997 al 2002. Attualmente è Professore Straordinario di Archeologia fenicio-punica presso l`Università di Sassari. Inoltre, dal 1990 al 1994 è stato Professore di Archeologia del Vicino Oriente e dal 1994 al 2000 di Archeologia fenicio-punica nell`Università di Urbino.
Piero Bartoloni dal 1962 ha effettuato missioni archeologiche, prospezioni terrestri e subacquee e viaggi di studio in Italia, in Europa, in Africa e nel Nord-America. Attualmente, per conto del Dipartimento di Storia dell`Università di Sassari, dell`Istituto di Studi sulle Civiltà italiche e del Mediterraneo antico del Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, dirige gli scavi archeologici a Zama Regia (Siliana- Tunisia) e, in collaborazione con la Soprintendenza Archeologica per le Province di Cagliari e Oristano, a Sulcis e a Monte Sirai (Cagliari).
Piero Bartoloni è Coordinatore dell`XI Dottorato "Il Mediterraneo in età classica. Storia e culture", è Membro del Comitato Nazionale per gli Studi e le Ricerche sulla Civiltà fenicia e punica del Ministro per i Beni Culturali e Ambientali e Membro dell`Istituto Italiano per l`Africa e l`Oriente. Piero Bartoloni è Direttore del Museo Archeologico Comunale "Ferruccio Barreca" di Sant`Antioco (Cagliari)
Piero Bartoloni è autore di circa duecento (two hundreds) pubblicazioni a carattere scientifico, tra le quali dieci libri.
for and against the claim that the Phoenician/Punic practiced child
sacrifice by M'hamed Hassine Fantar and Lawrence E. Stager and Jospeh
A Greene, as well as a letter in support of M'hamed Fantar's view.
The Phoenician/Punic did not practice Child Sacrifice
The Phoenician/Punic practiced Child Sacrifice
Tophet was the final resting place for the still- born and for children
who died in early infancy.
(see letter below in support of this
Were it not
for a few classical accounts, scholars would probably not attribute
the burials in the Carthage Tophet to child sacrifice. Some of the
more sensational stories, such as those related by the first-century
B.C. historian Diodorus Siculus, have been picked up in modern times
and passed off as the entire truth. In the 19th century, for instance,
Gustave Flaubert described Punic child sacrifices in his novel Salammbô;
he had no evidence at all, except for the classical sources.
What if, however,
the classical sources are unreliable? Indeed, what if all the evidence
regarding the burials‹either from literary sources or archaeological
excavations‹is unreliable or inconclusive?
Here is Diodorus's
account of how the Carthaginians sacrificed their children: "There
was in their city a bronze image of Cronus, extending its hands,
palms up and sloping toward the ground, so that each of the children
when placed thereon rolled down and fell into a sort of gaping pit
filled with fire" (Library of History 20.6- 7).
This is the
stuff of myth, not history. Diodorus, who was from Sicily, was probably
mixing up stories about Carthage with ancient Sicilian myths‹
specifically the myth of the great bronze bull, built for the Sicilian
tyrant Phalaris, in which the king's enemies were roasted alive.
Now, when we
come to more credible sources, like the Roman historian Polybius
(c. 200-118 B.C.), there is no mention of Carthaginian child sacrifice.
Polybius, we know, was with the Roman general Scipio Aemilianus
when he destroyed Punic Carthage in 146 B.C. Polybius had no love
of Carthage; he fought against the city. His evidence would have
been decisive. But he does not make the least allusion to child
sacrifice at Carthage.
Nor does the
Roman historian Livy (c. 64 B.C.-12 A.D.), a more reliable contemporary
of Diodorus. Livy was relatively well informed about Carthage, yet
he was not so affectionate toward the city as to cover up what would
have been in his eyes the worst of infamies: the deliberate slaughter
*For more information
on the meaning of the word "Moloch," see Lawrence E. Stager
and Samuel R. Wolff, "Child Sacrifice at Carthage‹Religious
Rite or Population Control? Biblical Archaeology Review, January/February
1984. (This issue is out of print. To order a photocopy of this
article, call us at 1-800-221-4644.) So it is not clear at
all from the classical sources that the Carthaginians sacrificed
their children to the gods. What about the biblical verses often
taken as evidence of child sacrifice among the Canaanites‹particularly
the Phoenicians, who established Carthage? The word "Tophet"
is only known from the Hebrew Bible; it occurs several times in
Jeremiah, once in Isaiah and once in Kings, always in the same context:
"He [the late- seventh-century B.C. Judahite king Josiah] defiled
Tophet, which is in the valley of Ben-hinnom, so that no one would
make a son or a daughter pass through fire as an offering to Moloch"
(2 Kings 23:10).* So strong a connection has been presumed between
such biblical passages and the Punic sanctuaries that these sacred
grounds in Carthage and elsewhere are now called Tophets. The fact
is, however, that the biblical passages do not mention sacrifice.
They only refer to passing children through fire.
classical sources nor the biblical passages provide conclusive evidence
concerning the events that took place in the Carthage Tophet. What
about the physical facts?
The Tophet was
a sacred space where urns containing the incinerated bones of children
were buried. These remains, moreover, were no doubt buried ritually,
in accord with Punic religious or cultic laws. Marking some urns
are stelae bearing Phoenician inscriptions, along with symbols (like
the triangular symbol of the goddess Tanit) and figural images.
The incinerated remains are those of very young children, even fetuses;
in certain urns, the bones of animals have been discovered. In some
cases the urns contain the remains of children and animals mixed
together. How do we account for these facts?
such as the French scholar Hélène Benichou-Safar,
have proposed that the Carthage Tophet was simply a children's cemetery
in which incineration was the method of burial. This interpretation,
however, confronts a sizable obstacle: Many of the thousands of
inscriptions engraved on the burial stelae are votive. The inscriptions
make offerings and vows to the gods, and they plead for the gods'
blessing. Not one of these inscriptions, however, mentions death.
Tophet, like other Tophets in Sicily and Sardinia, was not a necropolis.
It was a sanctuary of the Punic god Ba'al Hammon.
The texts of
the inscriptions in the Carthage Tophet suggest that the sanctuary
was open to everyone, regardless of nationality or social status.
We know that Greek-speaking people made use of the sanctuary, for
instance, since some inscriptions have the names of the gods transcribed
in Greek characters. Foreigners who visited the Tophet clearly did
not offer Ba'al Hammon their offspring. Nor is it likely that visitors
from other Punic settlements visited the Carthage Tophet to bury
or sacrifice their children. One inscription, for example, mentions
a woman named "Arishat daughter of Ozmik." The inscription
tells us that Arishat was a "Baalat Eryx," or noble woman
of Eryx, a Punic community in Sicily. It seems reasonable to assume
that Arishat, while visiting the great city of Carthage, simply
felt the need to pay homage to the Punic gods‹or to utter
a vow or make a request.
Tophet was a sacred sanctuary where people came to make vows and
address requests to Ba'al Hammon and his consort Tanit, according
to the formula do ut des ("I give in order that you give").
Each vow was accompanied by an offering.
Some of the
stelae suggest that animals were sacrificed and then offered to
the gods. For example, some stelae bear engraved depictions of altars
and the heads of the animal victims.
of the incinerated bones of very young children, infants and even
fetuses is puzzling. If the Tophet was not a cemetery (as the presence
of animal bones suggests), why do we find infants and fetuses buried
in a sanctuary?
It is very common,
all over the world, to find that children who die young, and especially
fetuses, are accorded special status. Many cultures believe that
these are simply not ordinary deaths. The Italian archaeologist
Sabatino Moscati has pointed out that in certain Greek necropolises
children were incinerated and their tombs were located in a separate
sector, quite distinct from the burial place used for adults. This
is also the case in some Islamic necropolises, where sections are
reserved exclusively for the tombs of infants. Even today, Japanese
children who die young, called Gizu, are placed in special areas
of a temple, and they are represented by carved figurines that suggest
their holy status.
children who died young possessed a special status. They were accordingly
incinerated and buried inside an enclosure reserved for the cult
of lord Ba'al Hammon and lady Tanit. These children were not "dead"
in the usual sense of the word; rather, they were retroceded. For
mysterious reasons, Ba'al Hammon decided to recall them to himself.
Submitting to divine will, the parents returned the child, giving
it back to the god according to a ritual that involved, among other
things, incineration and burial. In return, the parents hoped that
Ba'al Hammon and Tanit would provide a replacement for the retroceded
child‹and this request was inscribed on a funeral stela.
Thus the Tophet
burials were not true offerings of children to the gods. Rather,
they were restitutions of children or fetuses taken prematurely,
by natural death.
did not sacrifice their children to Ba'al Hammon in the Tophet.
This open-air site, accessible to all who cared to visit the place,
was a sacred sanctuary presided over by Ba'al Hammon and his consort
Tanit. The human remains found in the urns buried in the Tophet
were of children recalled to the presence of the gods; that is why
they were buried in the sanctuary. To this sanctuary came grieving
parents, who gave their children back to Ba'al Hammon and Tanit.
Sometimes the parents would offer animal sacrifices to the gods
to solicit their favor. Then they had funeral stelae carved and
inscribed with vows, along with the poignant request that the divine
couple grant them further offspring.
thousands of individual burials, the several mass burials and the
animal burials all demonstrate that these were sacrifical offerings
to the gods.
E. Stager and Joseph A. Greene
that Phoenicians ritually sacrificed their children comes from four
sources. Classical authors and biblical prophets charge the Phoenicians
with the practice. Stelae associated with burial urns found at Carthage
bear decorations alluding to sacrifice and inscriptions expressing
vows to Phoenician deities. Urns buried beneath these stelae contain
remains of children (and sometimes of animals) who were cremated
as described in the sources or implied by the inscriptions.
scholars like Dr. Fantar deny that the Phoenicians sacrificed their
children. They dismiss the texts as tendentious or misinformed,
and they ignore the sacrificial implications of the inscribed stelae.
The archaeological evidence, however, especially the bones found
inside the burial urns, cannot be so easily explained away.
classical authors. Ancient authors, both Greco-Roman historians
like Kleitarchos, Diodorus and Plutarch and Church fathers like
Tertullian, condemn the Carthaginians for the practice of child
sacrifice. Some add lurid but unverifiable details‹sacrifices
witnessed by distraught mothers, grimacing victims consumed by flames,
human offerings received in the outstretched arms of a brazen statue.
On one point these sources are completely in accord: The Carthaginians
sacrificed their children to their supreme deities.
To be sure,
some historians who wrote about Carthage, such as Polybius, took
no note of this practice. Why Polybius failed to mention Carthaginian
child sacrifice is a mystery. He was a member of Scipio's staff
in 146 B.C., and he must have known the city well. The revisionists
seize on such omissions as an excuse to dismiss all reports of Phoenician
child sacrifice as pure fabrications arising from anti-Phoenician
bias. But this is a non sequitur. The fact that Polybius does not
mention Carthaginian child sacrifice does not mean that other testimonies
are false; it simply means that he has nothing to say on this point.
the Hebrew Bible. The sixth-century B.C. prophet Jeremiah accused
syncretizing Judahites of setting up a "high place of Tophet"
in the Valley of Ben-Hinnom outside Jerusalem (Jeremiah 7:30-32),
where they "burn (sharaf) their sons and their daughters in
the fire (b'esh)." This is clearly not a description of sons
and daughters "passing through" the fire in some sort
of rite of passage from which they emerge singed but not incinerated.
These children, both male and female, "burn ... in the fire,"
that is, they are cremated, according to Jeremiah. This testimony
is not from a foreigner who accuses the Judahites of evil ways;
it is from one of their own. Any Jerusalemite who thought that the
prophet might have been fabricating charges of child sacrifice could
have taken a short walk down the valley of Ben-Hinnom and become,
like Jeremiah, an eyewitness to the human sacrifices taking place
The word "Tophet"
can be translated "place of burning" or "roaster."
The Hebrew text does not specify that the Judahite victims were
buried, only burned, although the "place of burning" was
probably adjacent to the place of burial. Indeed, soil in the Carthage
Tophet was found to be full of olive wood charcoal, no doubt from
the sacrificial pyres. We have no idea how the Phoenicians themselves
referred to the places of burning or burial or to the practice itself,
since no large body of Phoenician writing‹no Phoenician "Bible,"
as it were‹has come down to us.
Phoenician inscriptions. What have come down to us are thousands
of Phoenician inscriptions, the vast majority of which are from
the Carthage Tophet. These inscriptions, however, are highly formulaic
and tantalizingly laconic. None refers explicitly to child sacrifice,
only to vows made to Tanit and Ba'al Hammon. For example, an inscription
on a stela from the Tanit II period (sixth to third century B.C.)
reads: "To our lady, to Tanit ... and to our lord, to Ba'al
Hammon, that which was vowed." The placement of such stelae
immediately above the jars containing burned remains strongly suggests
that these vows had something to do with the cremated individuals,
human or animal, inside the jars.
*For more information
on the meaning of the word "Moloch," see Lawrence E. Stager
and Samuel R. Wolff, "Child Sacrifice at Carthage‹Religious
Rite or Population Control? Biblical Archaeology Review, January/February
1984. (This issue is out of print. To order a photocopy of this
article, call us at 1-800-221-4644.) Somewhat unexpectedly,
inscribed stelae in the Carthage Tophet occasionally mark jars containing
animal remains, incinerated and buried in the same careful fashion
as the human victims. In this regard, a second- or third-century
A.D. Neo-Punic stela from Cirta (Constantine), in Algeria, is relevant.
The stela is inscribed in Latin: vita pro vita, sanguis pro sanguine,
agnum pro vikario (Life for life, blood for blood, a lamb for a
substitute). This act of substitution is reminiscent of the biblical
Akedah, in which Abraham's sacrifice of his son Isaac was forestalled
by the miraculous provision of a ram as a substitute (Genesis 22:13).*
archaeology. The burned bones found inside jars from the Carthage
Tophet provide conclusive evidence for Phoenician child sacrifice.
Animal remains, mostly sheep and goats, found inside some of the
Tophet urns strongly suggest that this was not a burial ground for
children who died prematurely. The animals were sacrificed to the
gods, presumably in place of children. It is highly likely that
the children unlucky enough not to have substitutes were also sacrificed
and then buried in the Tophet.
osteological evidence reveals that most of the victims were children
two to three months old, though some were as old as age five. So
far no skeleton has shown any signs of pathological conditions that
might have caused death. These were healthy children deliberately
killed as sacrifices in the manner described in the classical and
The sex of the
victims is unclear. We do not know for certain whether they were
exclusively males, as some have asserted, or both males and females.
Some biblical texts suggest that firstborn males were chosen as
the ultimate sacrifice to the deity. For example, during a military
engagement between the Moabites and the Israelites, the king of
Moab "took his firstborn son who was to succeed him, and offered
him as a burnt offering." Upon witnessing this sacrifice, the
Israelites retreated and "returned to their own land"
(2 Kings 3:27). The prophet Micah lists the sacrifice of the firstborn
male as the highest form of offering a human can give to a god‹even
better than "calves a year old," rams or "rivers
of olive oil" (Micah 6:6-7). Other texts, however, specify
that both "sons and daughters" were sacrificed in the
Tophet (Jeremiah 7:31 and 2 Kings 23:10).
are insufficiently developed to allow the determination of sex on
the basis of bone morphology alone. Ongoing DNA analysis of bones
from the jars, however, may resolve the question of whether the
victims were all males or a mix of males and females.
and biblical texts, as well as the archaeology, all indicate that
healthy living children were sacrificed to the gods in the Tophet.
Our purpose in making this case is not to malign the Phoenicians
but to understand them.
Excavations in Ashkelon prove that the Romans drowned, threw away their male babies
DNA Analysis Sheds New Light on Oldest Profession at Ashkelon
By Lawrence E. Stager and Patricia Smith
From Biblical Archaeology Review BAR 23:04, Jul/Aug 1997
The latest scientific techniques using DNA analysis have enabled us to conclude that the fourth- to sixth-century A.D. building at Ashkelon we confidently identified as a bathhouse also served as a brothel.
Its identity as a bathhouse of the late Roman period was never in doubt. Its architecture included a hypocausta and a tub. The real question was, Did it also serve as a brothel? During this period there is ample textual evidence to indicate that “mixed bathing” led to more than just cleanliness. One author, writing in the time of Nero, describes a father who went to the baths, leaving one child at home, only to return from the baths as the prospective father of two more. The poet Martial wrote that the “bathman lets you in among the tomb-haunting whores only after putting out his lantern.”
Our suspicions that the Ashkelon bathhouse might also have been a brothel were aroused by the Israeli archaeologist and epigraphist Vasilios Tsaferis, who read a tantalizingly incomplete Greek inscription scrawled on the side of the tub as “Enter, enjoy and …” But the epigraph was too short to be decisive.
The sewer system we found beneath the bathhouse was more suggestive. The sewer was high enough for an adult to stand up inside it. The whole system had been clogged and had gone out of use by the sixth century A.D. The sewer was filled with rubbish of all kinds, including potsherds, coins and animal bones.
In addition, the shallow gutter that ran below and along the line of the sewer was filled with the skeletons of about a hundred babies. Analysis of these remains by physical anthropologists Patricia Smith and Gila Kahila indicated that the infants were newborns, discarded within a day of birth. Analysis of teeth that had not yet erupted revealed bloodstains, indicating that the infants were either strangled or drowned. Because the infant remains were found in the gutter of the sewer, it seems likely that they were intentionally drowned.
For centuries, infanticide was an accepted practice for disposing of unwanted female babies—and, less often, male babies. This was especially true in ancient Roman society. In a letter (dated to June 17 of the year 1 B.C. by our calendar), a certain Hilarion writes to his wife Alis: “I ask and beg you to take good care of our baby son … If you are delivered of child [before I get home,] if it is a boy keep it; if a girl, discard it.”
Knowing that the Ashkelon bathhouse was an unlikely institution for either the city’s Jews or Christians, both of whom were overwhelmingly “pro-natal,” we assumed the bathhouse/bordello made sense in a Roman context. There should, according to conventional wisdom and calculations, be more female than male babies discarded in the sewers of Ashkelon. This determination could not be made by the analysis usually used by physical anthropologists. It is impossible to determine the sex of prepubescent humans from skeletal observations alone: Such diagnostic features as the pelvis have not yet reached a significant developmental stage.
Our only hope of determining the gender of the Roman infants from Ashkelon was DNA analysis. If the relevant ancient DNA could be isolated and successfully extracted, the X and Y chromosomes could be distinguished.
Drs. Ariella Oppenheim and Marina Faerman, of the hematology and anatomy departments at Hebrew University, determined that the sewer sample contained both sexes. They restricted the ancient DNA samples to left femurs so that they would not duplicate bones from the same infant. They tested 43 exemplars found in the gutter. The femurs were examined using three different tests, from which they could be confident in determining the sex of 19 individuals, based on DNA analyses. Of these, 14 were male and 5 female.
The high proportion of males supports the intriguing possibility that the infants discarded in the sewer were the unwanted offspring of bathhouse courtesans. The prostitutes of the establishment may have preferred to preserve a higher proportion of illegitimate female offspring to meet the future needs of the largely heterosexual institution.
in support of M'hamed Hassine Fantar published as is.
letter to the Editor: about child sacrifice in Carthage
Date: Tuesday, February 3, 2004 2:50 PM
From: Salvatore Conte <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: Salim Khalaf
I read the
interesting article you published about child sacrifice in Carthage
(with theses by M'hamed Hassine Fantar from one
side, and by Lawrence E. Stager and Joseph
A. Greene from the other one).
I'm an Italian
independent scholar and I focus my studies over historical problems
produced by "Romancentrism": a totalitarian point of view
of Mediterranean ancient history, based on false witnesses and on
the absence (from the "trial") of Carthage libraries burned
by the greatest vandal (and criminal) of ancient times: Publius
Cornelius Scipio Aemilianus Africanus minor.
I share Prof.
is clear and gets my humble admiration.
Not only Prof.
Moscati, but three eminent scholars (Michel Gras, Pierre Rouillard,
Javier Teixidor: "L'univers phénicien", Arthaud,
1989) are agree with him too.
So I think
this is the truth:
children who died young possessed a special status. They were
accordingly incinerated and buried inside an enclosure reserved
for the cult of lord Ba'al Hammon and lady Tanit. These children
were not "dead" in the usual sense of the word; rather,
they were retroceded. For mysterious reasons, Ba'al Hammon decided
to recall them to himself. Submitting to divine will, the parents
returned the child, giving it back to the god according to a ritual
that involved, among other things, incineration and burial. In
return, the parents hoped that Ba'al Hammon and Tanit would provide
a replacement for the retroceded children and this request was
inscribed on a funeral stela (M'hamed Hassine Fantar).
But I'd wish
rising here another question: the "classical sources"
(Fantar's words) which talk about children sacrifices in Carthage
are nearly the same which talk about the suicide (in the fire) of
Carthage foundress, Elissa of Tyrus (Dido).
I think these
two topics are just one.
We know Tanit
is the most important Goddess in Carthage, and she's protagonist
in the Tophet too.
We know also
that Astarte and Tanit are not the same one.
We know that
no sign of Tanit is dated older than IX-VIII century B.C (Elissa
And we know
Elissa was deified, but we don't know her divine name.
know Tanit cult will survive in Carthage very long, until the end
of "classical age" (5th century C.E.), with a strong identification
with the city, even if no more Punic.
So I think
Tanit is the divine name of Elissa, and since she was devoted to
Astarte, she probably was considered the "incarnation"
or "revelation" of Astarte.
peaceful, "miraculous" foundation and fast development
of Carthage, the good relations with Lybian peoples, a long and
stable government, agriculture and urban improvements, a special
- feminine - care of childhood to favor the growth of the new city
(as Prof. Fantar explains by his better words), and at last a mild
passage to the Republic form, probably led to her deification.
But also to
the grudge by hostile foreign leaders and their "classical
In any case,
so many evidences seem to exclude the fanciful, contradictories
inventions about her suicide made by some "classical sources"
("the voice of the enemy", as writes Gerhard Herm).
I publish on
my website (www.queendido.org <http://www.queendido.org> )
complete references (but mainly on Italian language).
But I wish
proposing here a confirm by an excellent Author: Virgil.
I study his
Aeneid from a different, not common, point of view: "double
writing" system by French Prof. Jean-Yves Maleuvre.
this theory, Virgil was a fierce opponent of Emperor Augustus.
By this reason,
he disappointed Augustus expectations about Aeneas heroism, and
he secretly built his Poem around Dido's character (I call this
"Didocentrism" in Virgil's Work).
very well the famous historical anachronism between Aeneas and Dido
(three/four centuries far): Virgil was completely disinterested
attention is for Dido's times. We have several examples: for instance,
he perfectly knew when Phoenicians colonized Cyprus (IX century
B.C., according to Gras/Rouillard/Teixidor; see Aeneid, I, 621-622).
line we discover several important things.
One of these
is that Virgil probably knew Phoenician/Punic "child religious
philosophy"; in this way he writes in the Aeneid, 6th Book,
426-429 (T.C. Williams translation):
hears he sobs, and piteous, lisping cries
Of souls of babes upon the threshold plaining;
Whom, ere they took their portion of sweet life,
Dark Fate from nursing bosoms tore, and plunged
In bitterness of death.
eyes, Virgil describes a special area of Underworld where the souls
of soon dead children stay, separated from the other souls (this
aspect is different from Homer's Underworld). So probably Virgil
knew this Punic convention and he accepted it, introducing it in
notice that Virgil doesn't explain children deaths by human actions.
virgilian narrator is often "internal" (I mean "not
omniscient"), and since Aeneas "travel" in Underworld
is indeed a dream of the Trojan, the thing is even more interesting:
Aeneas comes from Carthage long stay, at Dido's court; in this way,
he has "absorbed" Phoenician/Punic vision of Underworld,
where very little children can't be judged by "Minos, the judge"
of Underworld, because (as Fantar says so well) "these children
were not dead in the usual sense of the word; rather, they were
also that Dido's suicide in the Aeneid is merely apparent, but this
is another story...
and requiring Ovid knowledge.
I can just
invite here to reflect about the fact that "comites aspiciunt"
(read "Trojans hope for"), of IV, 664, introduces a subjective
vision (internal narration): pyre's fire "deceives" Aeneas
and companions. They wish seeing Dido's death, and they see it,
by their mind, in the way they prefer: ugly and bloody (check narrative/subjective
echos among IV, 665, and Trojans' leaving from Carthage, IV, 581-583).
That's the exact meaning of Dido's words in IV, 661/662, I think.
(Fasti), and Silius Italicus (Virgil's follower), demolish "classical
sources" in the name of a common vision of Mediterranean history:
one, unique people - one, unique great civilization - one story
only, with no ostility and no hate towards other parts of this same
in Rome of Tanit cult with a temple close to Juno's one (I remember
Dido is "daughter" and First Priestess of Juno in Virgil's
Poem), is the summa of this concept.
Thank you for
your work, dear Editor.