Συζήτηση:Χαναναίοι

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Παρατίθενται οι πηγές της αρχαιολογίας, αμέσως μετά τη δήλωση σχετικά με την "ηθική εξαχρείωση των Χαναναίων". -- pvasiliadis  00:24, 8 Ιουνίου 2006 (UTC)[απάντηση]

Ο Βιβλικός ιστορικός δεν είναι αρχαιολόγος. Αν έχεις στη διάθεσή σου πηγές αρχαιολογικής μαρτυρίας μπορείς να τις καταθέσεις. Έτσι χαρακτηρίζεις συλλήβδην όλη την αρχαιολογική μαρτυρία ως στηρίζουσα τις παρακάτω απόψεις. Δεν είναι όμως, έτσι, ούτε αρκεί ο βιβλικός μύθος ως μαρτυρία--ΗΠΣΤΓ 00:31, 8 Ιουνίου 2006 (UTC)[απάντηση]

Και επειδή ο βιβλικός ιστορικός δεν είναι αρχαιολόγος και οι δύο μαζί δεν είναι θεολόγοι ή ηθικοί φιλόσοφοι, νομίζω ότι τόσο κατηγορηματικές κριτικές της ηθικής των πολιτισμών που μελετούν θα πρέπει να τις αποφεύγουν. Η θυσία παιδιών (η ανθρωποθυσία γενικότερα) είναι βέβαια ακραίο φαινόμενο με τα μέτρα και τα σταθμά των περισσότερων πολιτισμών, στις συνθήκες κάτω από τις οποίες έγινε ήταν όμως μάλλον «ηθικές» για τον πολιτισμό που την έκανε. Αν π.χ. πίστευαν ότι αυτός ήταν ο μόνος τρόπος να εξευμενίσουν τους θεούς, τότε ανήθικο θα ήταν να αδιαφορήσουν για τη θέληση των θεών. Εκτός αυτού, η διαπίστωση τόσο ακραίων φαινομένων απαιτεί και εξαιρετικά ισχυρές αποδείξεις. Οι συγκεντρωμένοι σκελετοί νεογέννητων σε ένα νεκροταφείο, για να αποδειχτεί το ακραίο φαινόμενο της ανθρωποθυσίας, θα πρέπει να ελεγχθούν από ανθρωπολόγους και ιατροδικαστές, να αποδειχτεί ότι τα πιθανά σημάδια στους σκελετούς δεν είναι αποτέλεσμα χειρουργικών πρακτικών με σκοπό τη θεραπεία ή τελετουργικών πρακτικών (στο νεκρό σώμα) κατά την ταφή κ.λπ. Έχουν γίνει αυτά στη συγκεκριμένη περίπτωση; Φοβάμαι πως τα αρχαιολογικά ευρήματα εκεί ερμηνεύονται μέσα από το πρίσμα της Βίβλου (όπως και στο Αιγαίο με βάση τον Όμηρο). --Philologus 02:44, 8 Ιουνίου 2006 (UTC)[απάντηση]



Βρήκα αυτό το ενδιαφέροντα σχετικά άρθρα του Biblical Archeology Review.

Τεύχος Ιαν/Φεβ 1984:

Child Sacrifice at Carthage—Religious Rite or Population Control?

Archaeological evidence provides basis for a new analysis

By Lawrence E. Stager and Samuel R. Wolff


“Tophet” is a Biblical word. It is the name of a place that was on the south side of ancient Jerusalem in the Valley of Ben-Hinnom, where the Israelites sacrificed their children by fire. It may even refer to the altar on which the sacrifices took place. The book of the prophet Jeremiah describes it: “‘The people of Judah have done evil in my sight,’ saith the Lord … ‘They built the high place* of Tophet, which is in the Valley of Ben-Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in fire. Such a thing I never commanded, nor had in mind’” (Jeremiah 7:30–32).

The Biblical references associate the Tophet with idolatrous worship of Baal: “They rejected the commandments of the Lord … and served Baal. They consigned their sons and daughters to the fire” (2 Kings 17:16–17; see also Jeremiah 32:35).

The Tophet is also mentioned in connection with the non-Israelite god Molech—or at least that is the assumption of most modern translators (2 Kings 23:10 and Jeremiah 32:35). (Later in this article we shall question that assumption.) The Jerusalem Tophet was dismantled by King Josiah in the seventh century B.C.:

“[King Josiah of Judah] defiled Tophet, which is in the Valley of Ben-Hinnom, so that no one might consign his son or daughter to the fire of Molech” (2 Kings 23:10).

Whether this was its first destruction and whether it was thereafter rebuilt, we cannot be sure. These Biblical references have led modern scholars to call by the name Tophet the huge cemetery of sacrificed children at Phoenician Carthage, as well as similar precincts at other Phoenician sites in Sicily, Sardinia and Tunisia.

The Carthaginian Tophet is the largest of these Phoenician sites and indeed is the largest cemetery of sacrificed humans ever discovered. Child sacrifice took place there almost continuously for a period of nearly 600 years.

Although the exact boundaries of the cemetery are unknown because modern villas have been constructed over part of the ancient site, we nevertheless estimate the size of the Carthaginian Tophet during the fourth and probably the third centuries B.C. to be, at the minimum, between 54,000 and 64,000 square feet. Using the density of urns in our excavated area as a standard, we estimate that as many as 20,000 urns may have been deposited there between 400 and 200 B.C. Clearly the deposits were not a casual or sporadic occurrence.

The discovery of a Tophet in Carthage came as no surprise. Indeed, Phoenicians in general and Carthaginians in particular were infamous for their child sacrifices. Phoenician child sacrifice is referred to often in ancient literature. For example, the Greek author Kleitarchos, of the third century B.C., was paraphrased by a later writer as saying:

“Out of reverence for Kronos [the Greek equivalent of Ba‘al Hammon*], the Phoenicians, and especially the Carthaginians, whenever they seek to obtain some great favor, vow one of their children, burning it as a sacrifice to the deity, if they are especially eager to gain success. There stands in their midst a bronze statue of Kronos, its hands extended over a bronze brazier, the flames of which engulf the child. When the flames fall upon the body, the limbs contract and the open mouth seems almost to be laughing, until the contracted [body] slips quietly into the brazier. Thus it is that the ‘grin’ is known as ‘sardonic* laughter,’ since they die laughing.”†

Tertullian (c. 160–c. 225 A.D.), a Church Father who lived most of his life in Carthage, writes: “In Africa infants used to be sacrificed to Saturn, and quite openly, down to the proconsulate of Tiberius, who took the priests themselves and on the very trees of their temple, under whose shadow their crimes had been committed, hung them alive like votive offerings on crosses; and the soldiers of my own country are witnesses to it, who served that proconsul in that very task. Yes, and to this day that holy crime persists in secret. … Saturn did not spare his own children; so, where other people’s were concerned, he naturally persisted in not sparing them; and their own parents offered them to him, were glad to respond, and fondled their children that they might not be sacrificed in tears. And between murder and sacrifice by parents—oh! the difference is great!”†

The Tophet at Carthage was discovered in December of 1921 when P. Gielly, a public official with an interest in antiquities, observed a local trafficker in antiquities down on his hands and knees, removing stelae by moonlight. Gielly reported the incident to Francois Icard, the chief of police of Tunis. Icard, with Gielly, then purchased the property, and the two of them began excavating the site with funds and archaeological expertise provided both by Louis Poinssot, the director of the Service des Antiquités, and by Raymond Lantier, an inspector with the Service. They were also assisted by Count Byron Khun de Prorok, who later purchased the property from Gielly and Icard.

In 1924 Count de Prorok teamed up with Abbé Chabot, a distinguished Semitics epigraphist, for further excavations. Count de Prorok, a dilettante archaeologist and raconteur, wrote of his experiences at the excavation:

“This is a dreadful period of human degeneracy that we are now unearthing in the famous Temple of Tanit [that is, the open-air precinct], but such is archaeology! In one spot we may be uncovering works of priceless art and traces of the advancement of civilization, and in another spot the contrasting decadence shown in the revelation of such a cult as found at Aphrodisium and at Carthage in Africa.†

In 1925, at the behest of Count de Prorok, a joint French-American expedition directed by Francis W. Kelsey of the University of Michigan continued the work. Kelsey was assisted by a young classicist named Donald B. Harden, whose pioneering study of the urns from this excavation established a pottery typology and chronology that still remain generally valid. In 1962, Harden published a superb archaeological and historical survey of the people who created the Tophet. It is called simply The Phoenicians. Revised first in 1971, The Phoenicians was again revised and expanded in 1980 for a Pelican Penguin paperback edition.

The excavations, postponed in 1926, were never continued after Kelsey’s death in 1927. Some years later, Louis Carton purchased the property adjacent to the previously excavated portion of the Tophet with the intention of exploring it. He died before he could begin excavating, but at the urging of Carton’s widow, G. G. Lapeyre of the White Fathers Mission dug there in 1934–1936. In the mid-1940s, Pierre Cintas, the modern doyen of Punic* archaeology, directed another round of excavations.

In all, thousands of burial urns and monuments have been excavated in the Tophet, but, sad to say, very few have been published as cultural assemblages in archaeological context. The problem has not been lack of digging but a failure to publish fully and systematically.

In recent years, the modern city of Tunis has been expanding at a rapid pace toward the ruins of ancient Carthage. In the mid- to late-1970s, UNESCO led an international effort to save the ancient city and to excavate where possible, before it was too late. With the cooperation of the Tunisian authorities, scholars from 12 different countries, including Tunisia itself, the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany, Sweden, Holland, Denmark, Italy and Canada, undertook various archaeological projects at the site.† Eastern European archaeologists were also involved. Polish archaeologists surveyed the buried walls of the circus using modern resistivity techniques that do not require digging. A Bulgarian team explored the Byzantine basilica of Damous el-Karita. The Americans fielded two teams—one from the University of Michigan and the other from the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute. The Chicago team, led by the senior author of this article, undertook to reexamine and reexcavate the Tophet. We also excavated and surveyed aspects of the ancient commercial harbor. Although the contours of the harbor were roughly preserved for almost two millennia, this identification of the harbor was unconfirmed until our excavations.

As a result of our work in the Tophet, we have learned a great deal about child sacrifice as well as about this Tophet. Some long-held notions about child sacrifice by ancient authors and by modern scholars, which we once shared, will now have to be discarded.

The ancient Carthaginian Tophet today is in a lovely archaeological park in the modern suburb of Tunis called, once again, Carthage. Beneath the surface, in the trench we excavated, lay nine stratified levels of Tophet burials. These can be fit into the three larger general “strata” (actually “periods”), already established by the Kelsey team and designated Tanit I, II and III. (Tanit was the leading goddess of Carthage and is identified with the eastern Mediterranean goddess Astarte.) We now date Tanit I from about 750/725 to 600 B.C.; Tanit II from about 600 B.C. to the third century B.C.; and Tanit III from the third century B.C. to 146 B.C. Tanit I had four separate stratigraphic phases, as did Tanit II. Tanit III was so badly disturbed by the Romans that no distinction among its various levels of burial could be discerned.

In 146 B.C. the Romans destroyed and leveled much of the city, fulfilling the oft-reiterated exhortation of Cato the Elder: “Carthage must be destroyed”—”delenda est Carthago.” The Romans put a stop to child sacrifice at Carthage, but it lingered on in other parts of North Africa. As a result of this destruction of Carthage, almost nothing from the Tanit III level was left in situ. The Romans uprooted hundreds of stelae from the uppermost Tanit III period and reused them in construction fills and in walls at the circular harbor and at other sites at Carthage. In the fourth century A.D. they sunk the foundation arches of warehouses into the earlier strata of the Tophet.

The Tophet burials at Carthage do not date as early as the traditional date for the founding of the city. According to the classical author Timaeus, Carthage was founded in 814 B.C. by a Phoenician princess known as Dido to the North Africans but called Elissa in Phoenician. Dido was the sister of Pygmalion (Pummayaton in Phoenician), king of Tyre. When Pygmalion murdered his brother-in-law, Dido’s husband, Dido fled from Phoenicia. First she and the nobles who fled with her landed in Cyprus. There they picked up the High Priest of Astarte. (Astarte is identified at Carthage with Tanit.) In Cyprus, they also kidnapped some temple virgins for the men. Thus augmented, the expedition left Cyprus and ultimately landed in Carthage—which means “new city” in Phoenician.

Dido bargained with the local ruler for some land on which to build a city. The deal they struck was that the Phoenicians would be allowed to settle on as much land as an oxhide could cover. Clever Dido cut an oxhide into the narrowest possible strips, placed the strips end to end, and surrounded the area that was soon to become a major Phoenician city. From a fledgling colony in the ninth or eighth century B.C., it would develop, in the fourth and third centuries B.C., into the center of Punic power in the Mediterranean.

The Phoenicians, of Canaanite ancestry, had earlier (around 1200 B.C.) acquired territory in what is now coastal Lebanon, Syria and Northern Israel. They were famous as merchant traders, sailors and craftsmen. From the Phoenicians, the Greeks borrowed the Semitic alphabet. In the tenth century B.C. Hiram of Tyre provided King Solomon with masons and architects to help build his Jerusalem Temple and ships and crews to service his Ophir and Tarshish expeditions (1 Kings 5:1ff.; 1 Kings 7:13–45; 1 Kings 10:11, 22).

How the Phoenicians actually got to Carthage is difficult to tell because the account of Timaeus is clearly a mixture of legend and history. Although all the details of his account may not be entirely accurate, 814 B.C. does seem a reasonable date for the founding of Carthage.

The earliest archaeological evidence for the occupation of Carthage goes back to about 750 B.C. The first settlement was probably on a hill called Byrsa—located about 1200 yards north of the Tophet. Byrsa has an interesting etymology. It is a Greek word which means “oxhide”—remember how Dido got title to Carthage. The Greeks who named the hill were probably making a pun on the Semitic word brt which means “fortress” or “citadel.” The earliest Phoenicians may have built a fortress or citadel, called brt, on this hill.

Later Phoenician occupation and then the leveling activities of the conquering Romans obliterated the earliest remains on the Byrsa.

The Tophet at Carthage, like other Phoenician Tophets, is located in a special open-air precinct (often called the Precinct of Tanit) enclosed by a thick wall which sets it apart from other areas of the city. Although the wall itself was robbed out in antiquity, we found the trench dug into bedrock, in which the foundation stones of the wall were laid; the trench is over six feet wide.

The Tophet was literally filled with burial urns and burial monuments. Our own excavation uncovered over 400 urns containing charred young human or animal bones and ashes. Each urn was placed in a pit which was sometimes lined with cobbles and capped with a flat stone. Sometimes there were two or three urns in one pit. Some of the urns contained offerings of amulets and beads once strung as necklaces.

Urns from the earliest levels (Tanit I) were frequently decorated with wide red-slipped* and burnished* bands at the waist and vertical line patterns at the shoulder. These Tanit I urns were sealed with unbaked red clay stoppers (probably the same clay used to make the urn) and capped with a bowl or lid. They rested on bedrock in a matrix of black clay.

In the middle period (Tanit II) the clay of the urn and stopper was usually yellow. The most common urn shape was “wasp-waisted.” The urns from Tanit III were mass produced—they were all of a smaller standardized form and were undecorated. The clay of the Tanit III urns was light buff or white. Each burial monument was placed directly above the urn to mark the burial of the sacrifice, although not every urn had a marker.

As with the urns, the style of the burial monuments changed from period to period. Most frequent in the Tanit I levels were L-shaped monuments of sandstone called cippi (singular cippus). The sandstone for the cippi came from nearby Cap Bon.

In Tanit II the cippi were larger and bore elaborate carved motifs on the front. A frequent motif was a cult symbol representing a female deity—carved naturalistically in the shape of a human female figure, set within the sacred portal of a temple facade. Stucco* once covered these sandstone monuments but is, for the most part, unpreserved. From small preserved patches, however, we can tell that the stucco was once painted in bright colors.

Later in the Tanit II period, limestone stelae* rather than sandstone cippi were used as monuments. These Tanit II stelae often have a gable at the top. Carved on the front are inscriptions and symbols, for example, upraised hands symbolizing Tanit and a disk and crescent probably symbolizing Ba‘al Hammon. The inscriptions are written in Punic, which is a variant of Phoenician. In the Tanit III period, the limestone stelae become thinner and the gable is usually flanked by two wings or acroteria. These Tanit II stelae inscriptions include the first appearance of the actual name of the goddess Tanit. Ba‘al Hammon is attested as early as the seventh century B.C.

At Hazor in northern Israel, an amazing discovery paralleling these symbols on the Carthaginian stelae was made. At the center of a group of stelae (masseboth in Hebrew) in a small sanctuary, a 1¾-foot-high massebah was found carved with a relief of upraised hands and a disk and crescent. Although the Hazor sanctuary predates the Tophet by a thousand years, Yigael Yadin, excavator of Hazor, believes that the hands and the disk and crescent symbolize the same deities—Tanit and Ba‘al Hammon. Yadin concludes that “it is quite clear that the Punic culture preserved elements of the Phoenician culture, and the latter was definitely influenced by Canaanite elements, similar to the ones uncovered in Hazor.”

Several scholars have been skeptical about interpreting the Tophet remains as evidence of Carthaginian child sacrifice. The famous archaeologist Claude Schaeffer* who excavated Ugarit, and more recently Hélène Benichou-Safar, who has restudied the various necropoleis of Carthage,† concluded that the children buried in the Tophet had not been the victims of ritual sacrifice but had died of natural causes. The distinguished Biblical scholar Moshe Weinfeld cites Schaeffer with approval, as he attempts to reduce child sacrifice to a “sporadic, non-institutionalized” phenomenon at Carthage and to eliminate it altogether from the Bible as just so much prophetic-poetic hyperbole, with no resemblance to the realities of “Molech worship.”†

Even if we dismiss the classical literary evidence for child sacrifice as ancient slanders spread by foreign antagonists who wanted to discredit the Carthaginians, the growing body of archaeological and epigraphic evidence, provided by the Carthaginians themselves, strongly suggests that the classical and Biblical writers knew what they were talking about.

This evidence includes inscriptions on the stelae. Some of these inscriptions mention a vow made to the deities by the offerants, something that is never inscribed on ordinary funerary stelae. And then there are the offerings themselves, buried beneath the monuments, with the charred remains of children or animals. In some periods, especially Tanit II, we find double or even triple children’s burials in the same urn, presumably offered from a single family. Usually a stillborn or newborn (neonate) is included with a two- to four-year-old child. It seems unlikely that disease or some other disaster would have affected only the two youngest children (that is, the stillborn/newborn and the two- to four-year-old) from the same family in such a regular fashion.

But probably the clearest evidence that this is no ordinary children’s cemetery (which in itself is extremely rare in the ancient world) is the presence of animal burials, mostly young sheep and goats (their bones always charred), which are found in their own individual urns, interspersed with burial urns containing human infants, throughout the precinct. Should we conclude that the Tophet was also a “pet cemetery,” with cremated lambs and kids?

In one seventh-century B.C. urn we found only the bones of a charred male lamb buried beneath an L-shaped sandstone monument placed above the urn. In addition, sheep are depicted on some stelae from the fourth to second centuries B.C.

It seems rather clear that the burned animals were intended as substitute sacrifices for children. This is confirmed by evidence from Phoenician Tophets at other sites. Punic inscriptions on monuments from Malta, Carthage, and Constantine refer to a mlk ’mr. As we shall see later, mlk refers to a live sacrifice of a child or animal. The second word, ’mr, means lamb and indicates that the sacrifice was an animal rather than a human.

Second- and third-century A.D. Latin inscriptions on stelae from Algeria are also revealing. There we find the Phoenician mlk ’mr phrase transcribed in Latin letters as molchomor. These are clearly animal substitution sacrifices, as the following recurring Latin phrases on the same stelae affirm: vita pro vita; sanguine pro sanguine; agnum pro vikario which means “Life for life, blood for blood, a lamb as a substitute.”

There can thus be little doubt that the burnt animal burials at Carthage are animal substitutes for child sacrifices and that this site is not simply a children’s cemetery, but is in fact a precinct of child sacrifice.

But why would the Phoenicians resort to such a barbaric practice as human sacrifice, especially of helpless infants? The Phoenicians were among the most highly civilized and cosmopolitan people in the Mediterranean.

Both the Hebrew Bible and Homer attest to their skills as craftsmen, sailors, and merchants. They built magnificent cities. One of them was, of course, Carthage which our own excavations helped to uncover.

One of the most surprising results of our analyses of the contents of the burial urns is that the demand for human infant sacrifice, as opposed to animal sacrifice, seems to increase rather than decrease with the passage of time.

Our physical anthropologist, Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz of the University of Pittsburgh, systematically examined the contents of 130 of the 400 burial urns we excavated.† Most of the urns fell into two chronological groups. The early group dates to the seventh century B.C.; the later group to the fourth century B.C. In the early sample nearly one out of every three urns contained the charred remains of an animal, usually a sheep or goat. In the later sample only one out of ten urns contained the remains of a burnt animal alone, also usually a sheep or goat. The lambs and kids, like the children, were very young when killed. When the sex of the animals could be determined, the lambs and kids were males. In the early days of the colony, animal substitution was a far more common response to the rigid demands of the sacrificial system than in the period of Carthage’s heyday.

As we have noted, the animal burials probably represent a substitution for a child sacrifice. One is immediately reminded of the paradigm in Genesis 22 of Abraham’s offering to sacrifice Isaac, with the ram in the thicket ultimately sacrificed in his stead. Some cultural anthropologists and historians of religion have seen a “line of development which led from human sacrifice to animal sacrifice to the wafer and the wine of the Eucharist,” and in this development they find “a vindication of the moral doctrine of moral progress and enlightenment.”† According to this cultural evolutionary theory, the “barbaric” practice of human sacrifice was gradually replaced by the more “civilized” practice of animal substitution. Our evidence from Carthage is to the contrary, however. Precisely in the fourth and third centuries B.C., when Carthage had attained the height of urbanity, child sacrifice flourished as never before.

Perhaps in the early days, when Carthage was a fledgling city with few people, animal substitution was widely practiced as an acceptable response to the imperative for Tophet sacrifices. Later, when Carthage was flourishing along the shores of the Gulf of Tunis and the population of the metropolitan area probably exceeded a quarter of a million (Strabo† says 700,000), the demographic situation created little pressure for animal substitution. Indeed, it encouraged child sacrifice. Then, children, not animals, were by far the most common sacrificial victims in the Tophet rites. Some ancient writers have suggested that during times of civic crisis, mass child sacrifice was practiced to appease the gods and ward off calamity. For example, in the late fourth century B.C., the king of Syracuse landed near Carthage at Cap Bon with a large invasionary force. A political crisis ensued, and in 308 B.C. there was an attempted coup at Carthage. The classical Greek historian Diodorus Siculus tells us that during this crisis as many as 500 children were sacrificed in Carthage: “In their zeal to make amends for their omission to sacrifice the noblest children, they selected two hundred of the noblest children and sacrificed them publicly; and others who were under suspicion sacrificed themselves voluntarily, in a number not less than three hundred. 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 thereupon rolled down and fell into a sort of gaping pit filled with fire.”† Our evidence indicates, however, that child sacrifice in times of civic crisis was the exception rather than the rule. We have found no evidence for mass burials. Throughout the nine levels of Tophet burials, dating from about 750 B.C. to 146 B.C., the typical burial pattern involved the careful placement of usually one, sometimes two, and rarely three urns in a single pit.

Infant corpses are composed of a high percentage of cartilage which is destroyed during cremation. Only the hardened bones survive, such as the cranium and the long bones. Teeth are the most heat-resistant, and the stage of dental development provides the most important criterion for determining the approximate age of the victim. The sex of such young individuals cannot be determined from the osteological remains. The skeletal evidence that has been preserved, however, indicates that a conscious effort was made by parents and/or priests to collect from the pyre or altar the particular remains of one or sometimes two individuals and to deposit them in an urn. The absence of the mixing of bones on the pyres, which would have occurred in a mass sacrifice, further indicates that mass sacrifice, if it occurred at all, was rare.

Inscriptions from the Tophet demonstrate that the commonest reason for child sacrifice was the fulfillment of a vow. The Phoenician/Punic word for vow (ndr) frequently appears on inscribed stelae. Taking vows was an old and hallowed Near Eastern custom. As one scholar has described it, “When seeking a certain boon from the deity, the worshipper would promise that upon the granting of this boon he would ‘repay’ his vow by offering a sacrifice, erecting a stele, or some such appropriate act of thanksgiving.”†

The fulfillment of sacrificial vows is described in Psalms 66:13–15: “I will come into thy house with burnt offerings; I will pay thee my vows, that which my lips uttered and my mouth promised when I was in trouble. I will offer to thee burnt offerings of fatlings, with the smoke of the sacrifice of rams; I will make an offering of bulls and goats. Selah.” At the Carthaginian Tophet, there are numerous examples of votive inscriptions. This one is typical: “To our lady, to Tanit, the face of Ba‘al and to our lord, to Ba‘al Hammon that which was vowed (by) PN son of PN, son of PN Because he [the deity] heard his [the dedicant’s] voice and blessed him.”

Tanit was the leading goddess of Carthage; her consort was Ba‘al Hammon, who was probably the Phoenician equivalent of the patriarch of the Canaanite pantheon, El. El appears frequently in the Hebrew Bible as a general term for God, including the Israelite deity. Carthaginian stelae bear witness to the benevolence of the deities and commemorate in a public way “the ritual act of the donor’s repayment of his vow.”†

Incidentally, a new inscription found at Sarepta on the coast of Phoenicia makes it clear that already in the seventh century B.C., Tanit was identified with Astarte, the Canaanite and Phoenician goddess of love and war.† As Astarte or Tanit, we find her carved into the facade of an early sandstone cippus uncovered by earlier excavators of the Carthaginian Tophet; she stands in the sacred portal, with tambourine in hand. She may also be depicted on other Tophet monuments by the more abstract and schematic “sign of Tanit.” Together, Tanit/Astarte and Ba‘al Hammon, the divine couple—mother and father—hear the vow and receive the offerings of the dedicants.

Another surprising conclusion of our research is that child sacrifice at Carthage was largely an upper-class custom, at least until the third century B.C. This conclusion is based principally on the work of our staff epigraphist Dr. Paul Mosca, of the University of British Columbia, who has studied the inscriptions on the stelae.

On several of the stelae is the Semitic word mlk, which we read mulk. Mulk is the technical word in Semitic for a live sacrifice in fulfillment of a Tophet vow, just as other Semitic words are used to indicate cereal offerings and other kinds of animal sacrifices. There are three kinds of mulk sacrifices, of which two are attested at Carthage.

The first type of mulk sacrifice is the *mulk ‘immor* (Arabic ‘immarun; Aramaic ‘immar). As we have already seen, this is probably a sacrifice of a lamb or kid as a substitute offering for a child. The second type of mulk sacrifice is denominated mulk ba‘al. The third, not found at Carthage, is mulk ’adam.* The best interpretation of these terms is that mulk ba‘al refers to the sacrifice of a “ba‘al,” that is, the child of a wealthy mercantile or estate-owning family. ’Adam refers to an ordinary man or commoner. So the mulk ’adam indicates the infant sacrifice of an ordinary Phoenician commoner. These two terms, ba‘al and ’adam, may reflect a basic social stratification in Punic society between the upper classes (estate owners and merchants) and lower classes (peasants). And, indeed, the classical writers refer to the young sacrificial victims as “nobles.” It thus appears that the elite were quite involved in sacrificing their children in the Tophet rites at Carthage.†

Moreover, it seems that the dedicants were the parents of the child or children buried in the urns below the monuments. True, Diodorus mentions the “aberrant” practice of some Carthaginians, who bought the children of the poor or took slave children to offer to the gods as substitutes for their own, but Diodorus cites this as the exception, not the “normal” practice.

The vocations of the dedicants are often recorded on the stelae. In the fourth-century B.C. examples, Mosca has found political and military titles, like shufet (a “judge”) and rab (“magistrate,” literally a “great one”; compare the title rabbi), as well as cultic personnel titles such as priest, high priest, and “awakener of the god(s).” In the third and second centuries he finds more ordinary vocations like doctors, teachers, scribes, weavers, embroiderers, goldsmiths, iron casters, craftsmen, master craftsmen, salt-workers, sailors, surveyors, weighers, perfumers and sellers of incense, among many others. Perhaps, as Mosca has observed, this reflects the “democratization of an originally restricted rite” at a late period.†

The dedicants are also proud of their genealogies. Long genealogical pedigrees usually indicate people from noble families and lineages. Those dedicants holding civic or cultic offices take their genealogies back at least as far as their great-grandfathers. In one case the dedicant traces his ancestry back 16 generations. His grandfather was a rab and his great-grandfather, a shufet. Craftsmen and men of commerce, however, trace their genealogies back only one generation.

Let us return for a moment to the mulk sacrifice. This word suggests that passages from Jeremiah and Kings, quoted at the beginning of this article, contain an incorrect translation. In Jeremiah 32:35 and 2 Kings 23:10, most translations tell us that at the Tophet in Jerusalem, the Israelites had been causing their children to pass through, or into, the “fire of Molech,” an old Semitic deity. The passage probably means rather that the Israelites had been burning their children as a mulk sacrifice. Remember that Semitic languages are written without vowels so that Molech and mulk are both written the same way—mlk. In fact, the Hebrew word for king (melech) is also written this way. Only from the context can you tell which of these words is meant.

From the inscriptions at Carthage, we begin to understand what a mulk sacrifice is—either a young child or a young animal substitute. Mulk seems like a far more appropriate translation of mlk in Jeremiah and 2 Kings than Molech, a god who is not otherwise referred to in connection with Israelite child sacrifice. (Indeed, it is the familiar Baal who is associated with child sacrifice in 2 Kings 17:16–17 and earlier in Jeremiah 32:35.)

Some Biblical scholars have suggested that child sacrifice was limited to first-born males and associate this restriction with the law of the first-born.†

“Thou shalt give me the first-born of thy sons. Thou shalt do the same for thy livestock, big and small. The first-born shall be left seven days with its mother, and then, on the eighth day, thou shalt hand it over to me” (Exodus 22:28–29).†

Our evidence at Carthage undermines this alleged link between the dedication of the first-born and child sacrifice. Although in the early period of our sample (seventh to sixth centuries B.C.), most of the sacrificed children were newborns (or stillborns—the skeletal evidence does not allow us to determine the exact age of such a young victim), in the later period (fourth century B.C.) most of the children were one to three years old. In this “late” sample, one out of three urns with human remains contained two or three children. In the cases of triple interments, the dental morphology indicates that two of the three children were twins (always the stillborn or newborn) and that the older child was two to four years old. The age difference between the newborn and the two- to four-year-old indicates that both were probably from the same family (buried in the same urn under the same monument), since this range is the natural birth interval that can be expected in families not practicing prenatal forms of birth control.

A possible “explanation” for the double interments is suggested in the passage from the Greek writer Kleitarchos already quoted, who tells us that the children were vowed by the parents in order to obtain a great favor from the gods. In fulfillment of a vow for a favor granted, the parent would pledge an unborn child. But if this child was either born dead or died before the time of sacrifice (the premature-newborn individual), this created a problem. To fulfill the vow, the parent was obliged to offer the youngest living offspring (the two- to four-year-old) as an acceptable sacrifice for the favor granted by the gods. During the fourth century B.C. and later, premature and newborn sacrifices may have been of marginal worth. To remove the ambiguity and to insure the efficacy of the sacrifice, parents were willing to offer older offspring.

If this is true, it is clear that child sacrifice was neither limited to the firstborn, nor was the firstborn a special offering.

Thus far we have understood child sacrifice at Carthage from the religious point of view. Certainly the offerants were motivated by religious concerns and the sacrifice was performed in a religious setting.

But from a sociological point of view, child sacrifice may well have served other less obvious functions. The rite of child sacrifice had long-term practical benefits for various strata within urban Carthage. Ritual infanticide, like more “informal,” “secular” forms of infanticide, was probably used as a mechanism for regulating population growth.

Recent work in historical demography, where the sources are much more complete, indicates that infanticide has functioned even in comparatively modern times as a method of population control. French social historians such as Jean-Louis Flandrin and Jean-Claude Peyronnet have shown, for example, that infanticide was the principal means of birth control in France before the 18th century. Peyronnet found that the vast majority of abandoned children in his study of Limoges were legitimate. He also found that “the average age of the abandoned child tended to rise during years of high grain prices, suggesting that the tougher times grew, the older were the children of whom parents were willing to disembarrass themselves.”†

Among the social elite of Punic Carthage the institution of child sacrifice may have assisted in the consolidation and maintenance of family wealth. One hardly needed several children parceling up the patrimony into smaller and smaller pieces. Even where primogeniture was the rule, family claims of one sort or another might easily disperse the wealth too widely.

For the artisans and commoners of Carthage, ritual infanticide could provide a hedge against poverty. For all these participants in this aspect of the cult, then, child sacrifice provided “special favors from the gods.”

From a comparative cultural perspective, child sacrifice, or ritual infanticide, is simply a special form of infanticide. The “non-institutionalized” form has appeared in Graeco-Roman society and in the Christian West with more regularity than we usually are comfortable in admitting. Unwanted or abandoned children have been subjected to exposure, drowning, starvation, strangulation, smothering, and poisoning, but the most common and lethal way of disposing of unwanted children has been simply neglect.†

Infanticide was often preferable to abortion because birth order and sex selection could be taken into account for economic reasons. Infanticide was also less dangerous to the physical well-being of the mother.† What effects it had on her psyche is another matter. This probably varied with the “cultural distance” that was established between mother and infant.

As early as 787 A.D. the first foundling home was established in Milan, followed by hospitals in Rome, Florence, and other cities. This was the church’s answer to a major social problem: infanticide and the abandonment of unwanted children. At the end of the 12th century, Pope Innocent III established the Hospital of the Santo Spirito in Rome “because so many women were throwing their children into the Tiber.”†

London, Paris and St. Petersburg had well-known children’s hospitals. By the mid-1830s, the St. Petersburg hospital had “25,000 children on its rolls and was admitting 5,000 newcomers annually. It was efficient and well-run; nevertheless, 30 to 40 percent of the children died during the first six weeks and hardly a third reached the age of six.”† In the London hospital, by mid-18th century, it was impossible to cope with the number of unwanted children. In the words of John Brownlow, “Instead of being a protection to the living, the institution became, as it were, a charnel-house for the dead.”† To protect parental anonymity, Napoleon had turntables added to French foundling homes in 1811, “so that the mother or her agent could place the child on one side, ring a bell, and have a nurse take the child by turning the table, the mother remaining unseen and unquestioned.”† It was so effective that the hospitals were swamped with babies, and the turntables had to be removed.

Ritual infanticide at Carthage served some of the same ends as informal infanticide did from antiquity till now in other societies. For the Carthaginians, this religious institution was immensely important. Of course, it had the overt support of the state. We feel discomfort with the ostentation of the Carthaginian cult—its special precinct, the painted urns, the inscribed monuments. It is repulsive, but then so too is the way so many children in our tradition have perished in less obvious ways. Perhaps the Carthaginians would have gotten a better press in the West had they concealed their practices more subtly.

Editor, H. S. 2004; 2004. BAR 10:01 (Jan/Feb 1984). Biblical Archaeology Society


Επίσης, στο τεύχος Νοε/Δεκ 1986:

Why King Mesha of Moab Sacrificed His Oldest Son

By Baruch Margalit

In his highly interesting article, “Why the Moabite Stone Was Blown to Pieces,” BAR 12:03, Professor Siegfried Horn recounts the ninth-century B.C. war between Moab and an alliance of Israel, Judah and Edom. When the alliance besieged the Moabite capital of Kir-Hareseth, the Moabite king Mesha, in desperation, sacrificed his eldest son to the god Chemosh. King Mesha offered the crown prince as a burnt offering on top of the city wall in full view of the enemy forces (2 Kings 3:26–27). With this horrifying act, Mesha turned defeat into victory. The allied forces retreated and Moab retained its independence for the next two centuries.

What was the reason for this sudden volte-face of the allied forces? Professor Horn offers a number of speculations, but concludes with the admission that “no one has been able to give a satisfactory answer.”

Recent scholarship places Mesha’s act in a wider cultural context and may even suggest an explanation. In 1978, a cuneiform tablet from the Syrian city of Ugarit* was published,† the text of which indicates that Mesha’s seemingly unprecedented, as well as morally outrageous, act was in fact carried out in accordance with ancient Canaanite laws of “holy war.”

The relevant text of this Ugaritic tablet is short enough to quote in full: Introduction “If an enemy force attacks your [city-]gates, An aggressor, your walls; You shall lift up your eyes to Baal [and pray]: Prayer ‘O Baal: Drive away the [enemy] force from our gates, The aggressor from our walls. We shall sacrifice a bull [to thee], O Baal, A votive-pledge we shall fulfill [viz.]: A firstborn,† Baal, we shall sacrifice, A child† we shall fulfill [as votive-pledge]. A “tenth” [of all our wealth] we shall tithe [thee], To the temple of Baal we shall go up, In the footpaths of the House-of-Baal we shall walk.’ Conclusion “Then shall Baal hearken to your prayers, He shall drive the [enemy] force from your gates, The aggressor from your walls.”

This text can be dated to about 1250–1200 B.C., some four centuries before Mesha of Moab, but the practices it describes are documented as late as the Roman period. Mesha’s actions, and the Israelite retreat, fit perfectly within this Canaanite, later Punic (neo-Canaanite), tradition of a thousand years.

Diodorus of Sicily (about 50 B.C.) writes that “in Sicily the Carthaginians* … were besieging Syracuse, but in Libya Agathocles had brought the Carthaginians under siege—the Carthaginians betook themselves to every manner of supplication of the divine powers … they sent a large sum of money and … expensive offerings to Tyre … when they … saw their enemy encamped before their walls … they selected two hundred of the noblest children and sacrificed them publicly.”†

Additional evidence for this practice of child sacrifice by “Canaanites” under siege is provided by another Roman historian, Quintus Curtius (Rufus) (50 A.D.). The city of Tyre was under siege by Alexander the Great. At first, the citizens hoped for assistance from the colonies in the west. When this failed to materialize, the leaders met to consider emergency measures. According to Rufus: “Some … proposed renewing a sacrifice which had been discontinued for many years (multis saeculis intermissum) … of offering a freeborn boy (ingenuus puer) to Saturn—this sacrifice, handed down from their founders, the Carthaginians are said to have performed until the destruction of their city—and unless the elders … had opposed it, the awful superstition would have prevailed over mercy.”†

This Carthaginian practice of child sacrifice to relieve a siege was traced to the Phoenicians (Canaanites) by the Phoenician historian Sanchuniaton, as transmitted by Philo of Byblos, Porphyrius and the Church father Eusebius. According to this tradition, the Phoenicians, in circumstances of extreme duress, would sacrifice their beloved children to their high god. The eight-volume history of Sanchuniaton was reputedly full of such stories.†

The significance of this material for a proper understanding of the account of Mesha’s child sacrifice in 2 Kings 3 can hardly be exaggerated. Indeed, the correspondence between the theory as presented in the Ugaritic text and the practice as recounted in the Biblical text is nothing short of remarkable. The circumstances—a city under siege—are identical. Mesha’s sacrifice is one of the items mentioned in the prayer section of the text. And the withdrawal of the Israelites is uncannily presaged in the conclusion of the cuneiform tablet from Ugarit.

In the Biblical account we are told only that after Mesha sacrificed his son, “there was bitter indignation against the Israelites, who then withdrew” (2 Kings 3:27). No other explanation is given. The Hebrew word translated “indignation” is ketsef. But in light of the foregoing texts it cannot really be understood as “indignation” or “anger” of the Moabite national god Chemosh. The word denotes the psychological breakdown or trauma that affected the Israelite forces when they beheld the sign of human sacrifice atop the walls of Kir-Hareseth. The author of the Ugaritic text apparently anticipated this reaction of mass hysteria when he confidently predicted the withdrawal of the attacking force. Apparently, it had happened before, elsewhere, and could be counted on as a kind of conditioned reflex. It follows that Mesha’s sacrifice of his son, rather than unprecedented, was in fact an integral, if seldom implemented, part of an age-old Canaanite tradition of sacral warfare.

This consideration might mitigate our moral condemnation of this “degenerate heathen.” Mesha’s sacrifice of his firstborn, seen in this new light, was virtually guaranteed to save the lives of the entire population—men, women and children—of the city under siege. In these circumstances, Mesha’s conduct may be seen as an act of altruism sanctioned—indeed, commended—by venerable religious tradition.

Editor, H. S. 2004; 2004. BAR 12:06 (Nov/Dec 1986). Biblical Archaeology Society

Επίσης, στο τεύχος Ιαν/Φεβ 1990:

(Απόσπασμα από το άρθρο "Searching for the Phoenicians in Sardinia")

Classical writers tell us that the Phoenicians were driven from Tyre in about 815 B.C. (or 825 B.C.—authorities differ on the precise date).† At that time the Phoenician queen, Elissa, established a colony at Carthage on the northern coast of Africa.† In the sixth century B.C., Carthaginian Phoenicians initiated a second wave of colonization, bringing with them the Punic culture, which, centuries later, would clash with the Romans.

One chilling reminder of the Phoenician presence at Tharros is the tophet, or sacred burial ground. Over the ruins of a nuraghic village on the eastern section of the hill known as Su Muru Manno, the early Phoenician colonists in the eighth century B.C. established their tophet, or burial area, where the ancient ritual of child sacrifice was conducted. At the time, the tophet was separated from the rest of the complex, but, with the arrival of the Carthaginians in the sixth century B.C., the exterior walls of the city were extended and modified to include the tophet.

In the museums of archaeology in Oristano and at Cagliari some of the finds from ancient Tharros are preserved: from the tophet, sculptured stelae (burial memorial stones) with characteristic symbols of, and inscriptions to, the goddess Tanit; two sandstone lions that may have guarded the city gates; and typical mushroom-lipped Phoenician jars. Also on display were some burial jars; they resembled those found at Carthage and Sulcis (in southwestern Sardinia) that once contained the bones of infants and small children.

Editor, H. S. 2004; 2004. BAR 16:01 (Jan/Feb 1990). Biblical Archaeology Society


Από το τεύχος Ιου/Αυγ 1991:

Eroticism and Infanticide at Ashkelon

By Lawrence E. Stager

Bones of a Hundred Infants Found in Ashkelon Sewer

This is part III of a three-part article. Part II appeared in the last issue (“Why Were Hundreds of Dogs Buried at Ashkelon?” BAR 17:03).

Throughout most of its 5,000-year history, Ashkelon’s fortunes and destiny were tied to the sea. As a major Mediterranean seaport, it was a commercial and cultural center. From the highlands to the east, a cornucopia of produce and products flowed down to its warehouses before shipment to other ports around the Mediterranean. Olive oil, wine, timber, resin, meat, hides, wool, limestone and chalk, handicrafts and textiles were some of the commodities from the hinterland. The nearby plains and major valleys were breadbaskets for wheat, some of which was also exported through Ashkelon. From the immediate vicinity of the city, fish, wine, garden crops and textiles were, in different periods, part of the local export.

In return special wines, oils, perfumes, pottery, precious metals, such as silver and especially gold, were imported from distant lands. Some of these imported items were then exchanged farther inland. No doubt much of the profit that accrued from this international exchange went into the coffers of the big-time import-export merchants of Ashkelon, who sat astride the major sea-lanes and overland routes and who were the only ones really to know the price differentials between the point of production and the point of final sale at some faraway port. This oligarchy of merchants exercised economic power through the knowledge of supply and demand and gave definition to what was real “port power.” Throughout its history as a seaport, Ashkelon was also a center for intellectual exchange, for the flow of ideas and for the intermingling of different customs and of a variety of languages.

In addition to providing commercial and intellectual exchange, seaports also provided a center for the transmission of disease. Ships carried plagues and epidemics along with their precious cargoes. The sailor’s delight—wine, women and song—promoted and encouraged the spread of social diseases as well. It is not so surprising to find healing cults, such as we associated with deities and dogs in the last issue, located at portside in fifth-century B.C. harbor towns like Ashkelon and like Kition on Cyprus. As we have already seen, a succession of peoples and cultures dominated life in Ashkelon throughout the Bronze and Iron Ages—the Canaanites, followed by the Philistines, and then by the Phoenicians. Foreign merchants, some perhaps living in mercantile enclaves or quarters within the city, added to the variety. In this issue, we will examine the effects of Hellenization on local cultures, the persistence of older customs and ideas along with the introduction of new ones. Then we will examine the relationships of Greco-Romans (pagans), Jews, Christians and Moslems, as powerful new ideas and ideologies vie for the soul of ancient Ashkelon during its last 1,000 years.

By 147 B.C., the Jews, under the leadership of Judas Maccabeus and his brothers, successfully I revolted against their Syrian overlords, the Seleucids, and established a line of succession known as the Hasmonean dynasty. But the war I had not yet ended. Apollonius, the Seleucid I governor, led a powerful army encamped near I the Mediterranean coast not far from the old territory of Philistia. Jonathan, one of the Maccabean brothers who by then not only was the secular leader of the new Jewish nation (the Second Commonwealth) but had also taken the title of high priest, led a force of thousands to challenge Apollonius’ army on the coastal plain. When Jonathan’s forces routed the Seleucid forces, Apollonius’ men fled to the old Philistine town of Ashdod, then known as Azotus. Jonathan pursued them; he “burned and plundered Azotus with its neighboring towns, and destroyed by fire both the temple of Dagon [the old Philistine god] and the men who had taken refuge in it” (1 Maccabees 10:84). To avert a similar disaster, the people of nearby Ashkelon “came out to meet Jonathan] with great pomp.” Ashkelon thus escaped destruction. Jonathan and his army then returned to Jerusalem “laden with much booty,” some of which came from Ashkelon (1 Maccabees 10:86–87; see also 1 Maccabees 11:60). Ashkelon had a knack for maintaining its autonomy. True, when Alexander the Great conquered the Levant in about 332 B.C., Ashkelon, like most of the then-known world, became part of his empire. On Alexander’s death in 323 B.C., his empire split in two—the Seleucids of Syria in the north and the Ptolemies of Egypt in the south claiming different parts of it. The Ptolemies ruled Ashkelon until 198 B.C. Then it was the Seleucids’ turn. But throughout the Maccabean period (152–37 B.C.), Ashkelon retained its autonomy. Indeed, Ashkelon was able to maintain its autonomy throughout the Roman period (37 B.C.–324 A.D.) as well.

From about 375 B.C. to 235 A.D., Ashkelon issued coins almost continuously (see “Eroticism and Infanticide at Ashkelon,” for examples). Bronze and silver coins were minted there during both Ptolemaic and Seleucid rule. During the first century B.C., Ashkelon minted its own silver shekels.

Culturally, like the other cities along the Mediterranean coast, Ashkelon underwent a process of Hellenization in which Greek language, conventions and institutions prevailed. The effects of Alexander’s conquest were long-lasting and essentially irreversible. Yet, despite the Hellenistic overlay, the older substratum of Phoenician culture that we described in the BAR 17:03 was never totally eradicated (see “Why Were Hundreds of Dogs Buried at Ashkelon?”).

In the first century B.C., Ashkelon’s silver shekels bore the dove, symbol of Tyche-Astarte (the Greco-Roman and Phoenician goddess) and symbol of the autonomous city mint. The inscription was in Greek. It read: “Of the people of Ascalon, holy, city of asylum, autonomous.”†

Ashkelon not only had the most active mint in Palestine; the city was also an important banking center. We even know the name of one of its prominent bankers, a certain Philostratus.† As we have already noted, for much of its history, Ashkelon’s prosperity was based mainly on its importance as a seaport. The famous Letter of Aristeas* (c. 150 B.C.) mentions Ashkelon along with Joppa, Gaza and Ptolemais (Acco) as Mediterranean harbors “well placed to serve trade.”† That Ashkelon was a great emporium of commodities as well as a center of exchange during the entire Greco-Roman era is nicely illustrated in a cistern we excavated in the basement of what had once been an impressive villa (Grid 38 [upper]). The cistern went out of use sometime in the last half of the second century B.C. The discarded tableware found in the cistern included fine ceramic imports from Greece and the island of Chios. Also discarded in the cistern when the villa was abandoned were transport amphorae, which were once filled with wines from Rhodes and Italy.

Ashkelon was not only an emporium of commodities, it was also an emporium of ideas. One of its sons, a certain Antiochus (born in about 125 B.C.), became head of the prestigious philosophical Academy in Athens, where he tried to reconcile the philosophies of Plato, Aristotle and the Stoics.† Other philosophers, rhetoricians, orators and grammarians taught in the schools of Ashkelon and Gaza. Dorotheus of Ashkelon compiled a lexicon of Attic Greek. Several Ashkelonites were honored abroad in Italy and Greece, as we know from inscriptions found in such distant places as Naples, Puteoli, Athens and Delos.†

Herod the Great displaced the Hasmonean dynasty of Judea in 37 B.C. He ruled until 4 B.C., but the so-called Herodian period lasted until 70 A.D. when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem. According to one tradition, Herod was born in Ashkelon; his grandfather is said to have been a servant in the temple of Apollo at Ashkelon.†

When Herod became king, he bestowed great honors upon his birthplace by building “baths and ornate fountains for the population of Ascalon, with colonnades [Greek, peristula] remarkable for their workmanship and size.”† Herod also built a palace in Ashkelon for Emperor Augustus. Upon Herod’s death, Augustus bestowed it upon Herod’s sister, Salome.†

The British archaeologist John Garstang, who excavated at Ashkelon in the 1920s, thought he had found Herod’s colonnades (Garstang called it the peristyle-colonnades, or cloisters) adjoining what Garstang called the bouleuterion, or Senate Hall (located in Grids 40 and 47). We consider these to be a single building; because we date it to the second or third century A.D., however, we will consider this building a bit later.

In the southeast corner of the city is a puzzling circular depression. According to tradition, which persisted among Arabs into the 20th century, this circular depression is Bir Ibrahim, or the Wells of Abraham (also called the Well of Abraham). As our staff geologist and polymath, Professor Frank Koucky of Wooster College, was the first to observe, this circular depression is stepped. It is in fact the impression of an ancient theater. The steps indicate where tiers of marble seats were once set. Not far from the theater, Koucky located an upended, carved block of marble, which looked very much like an ancient theater seat as it lay there on the green grass of one of the picnic grounds in what is now Ashkelon’s park. It confirmed Koucky’s suggestion that the circular depression was indeed the remains of a theater.

This lonely theater seat and the tiered crater were all that remained of the ancient theater. The rest of the theater seats, like so much other fine quarried masonry (especially marble) exposed at Ashkelon, had been robbed out, or “recycled,” for use in other buildings; for centuries after Ashkelon’s major destruction in 1191 A.D. and its final destruction in 1270 A.D.—continuing into modern times—boats, barges and even trucks have been hauling away the finest masonry of the ruins for construction elsewhere. Only recently, since the site has been protected by antiquity laws, has the looting been curtailed.

Apparently unaware of the past usage of this circular depression, modern Ashkelonites have erected a theater—much smaller than the ancient one—in the very crater where its Greco-Roman predecessor once stood.

But what of the Arab tradition that this depression is what is left of the Wells of Abraham. Actually, the tradition is also preserved in early Christian sources. The earliest Arab record of the tradition is by the 14th-century writer Ibn Batutah. But long before then, the renowned Wells of Abraham were mentioned by the early Church Fathers Eusebius of Caesarea (260–340 A.D.) and Origen (185/186–254/255 A.D.). The wells were believed to have been dug by the Patriarch himself. As early as the fourth century A.D., Ashkelon was one of the ports of call where Christian pilgrims disembarked. One of the first sites they would have visited was the famous Wells of Abraham. According to Origen, the wells had a “strange and extraordinary style of construction.”† One of Origen’s contemporaries, Eustathius of Antioch, took Origen to task for his allegorical interpretation of the wells.† But perhaps Origen’s description of the wells was more accurate than either Eustathius or modern scholars have given him credit for. If there had once been a theater in the hollow, it probably had a parados, or fountain, with water channels that freshened the air of the theater and separated the spectators from the actors. By the fourth century all that remained was a theater in ruins in which a spring (or well) still flowed.”†

One of the impressive buildings second- and third-century visitors to Ashkelon would have seen was the building Garstang misidentified as a combination of King Herod’s peristyle (colonnades, or cloister) and the apsidal Senate Hall (bouleuterion). It was over 350 feet long and about 115 feet wide. In the center was an open, rectangular courtyard, surrounded by a portico with 24 columns on a side. The columns once stood over 25 feet high, including the Corinthian capitals. The columns, sculpture and wall-facing were made of imported marble. On the south side of the building was an apse, over 40 feet in diameter, flanked on both sides by square rooms. Greek inscriptions found nearby mention two Roman citizens, Aulus Iustulius Tances, a centurion of the Tenth Legion, and Tiberius Julius Micio, a citizen of Ashkelon; both were honored by the council (boulē) and the people (demos) of Ashkelon. On the basis of the style of the capitals, the reliefs and the inscriptions, the late Professor Michael Avi-Yonah of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem dated the building to the late second or early third century A.D.

Several marbles found by Garstang—a small white marble statue of a “Crouching Aphrodite” about a foot and a half high; a marble pillar carved in relief depicting the Egyptian goddess Isis flanked by the infant Horus; and two marble pillars depicting Victoria-Nike, goddess of Victory, holding a wreath and a palm and standing full-front on a globe supported on the shoulders of Atlas—have all been identified by Professor Cornelius Vermeule of Boston College and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts as part of a contemporary program of decoration executed during the Severan dynasty, most likely in the first decade of the third century A.D.†

Another equally impressive basilica at Ashkelon was exposed by Lady Hester Stanhope in 1815. She was looking for a treasure hidden at Ashkelon and marked on an Italian monk’s map that had come to her attention. During her treasure hunt she uncovered the basilica as well as a statue of a cuirassed soldier. In order to prove to the Ottoman sultan that she had no interest in taking antiquities home to England, she ordered the statue smashed. Most early commentators assumed that she destroyed the statue in the hope of finding the treasure of Ashkelon buried therein, but this was not the case.* Fortunately, her personal physician, Dr. Charles Lewis Meryon, who traveled with her, made a sketch of the cuirassed statue before it was smashed. His sketch is sufficient to date the statue and the basilica to the Severan period as well.†

After redating the sculpture and the two monumental peristyle buildings (discovered by Stanhope and by Garstang) to the Severan period, I could then see that the organization of Roman Ashkelon bore a striking resemblance to the New Forum, with its civic center and marketplace, which the emperor Septimius Severus (193–211 A.D.) built along the harbor of his birthplace Lepcis (or Leptis) Magna in Tripolitania, North Africa.

Adjacent to the area where Lady Hester Stanhope’s basilica was located, we excavated a villa in Grid 38 (upper) that was part of a distinctly patrician neighborhood. The villa had a marvelous view to the north, overlooking terraced gardens and the large basilica exposed by Lady Hester. In a small room on the north side of the villa, we found hundreds of eggshell-thin sherds that had once been discs of ceramic oil lamps. Some of the larger fragments bore erotic motifs, others had mythological motifs.

The lamps had all been made in molds. None of them had ever been lit; although a terra-cotta bull and a kneeling ceramic camel laden with amphorae were available to fill the lamps with olive oil, there were no soot marks on any of them from burnt wicks. So it is unlikely they were ever used. When the lamps are pieced together perhaps the purpose of the roomful of lamps will become clearer. The room where they were found does front on a small street, but it seems unlikely that oil lamps were being sold from the ground floor of such a patrician villa. Our best guess at the moment is that this collection of erotic and mythological lamps and other notions found in the room was solely for the amusement of the owner.

Lest the reader conclude that the inhabitants of Ashkelon were unusually lascivious, it should be pointed out that similar erotic lamps have been found in every major city in Palestine as well as elsewhere in the empire during the Roman period. Even in Jerusalem, whose name was changed by the Romans in the second century A.D. to Aelia Capitolina, numerous erotic lamps have been uncovered in the excavations led by Professor Benjamin Mazar adjacent to the Temple Mount.†

Based on the distribution of erotic lamps throughout the Roman world, we conclude that the erotic lamps from Ashkelon probably belonged to a Greco-Roman household, rather than to a Jewish or a Christian household. The Romans no doubt thought the lamps sexually titillating and perhaps even arousing.

Roman attitudes toward human sexuality contrasted sharply with contemporaneous Jewish and Christian attitudes, so much so that the presence of lamps depicting both heterosexual and homosexual scenes would have been quite incongruous in a Jewish or a Christian home.

In Roman families, the ideal daughter was expected to enter marriage a virgin and then to remain faithful to her husband throughout marriage. However, a double standard was applied to males. Little or no stigma was attached to sexual affairs before or during marriage, whether with males or females. For freeborn males, premarital and extramarital affairs were socially acceptable so long as they did not violate norms pertaining to power and status in Roman society. It was socially acceptable, for example, for young bachelors, or a married man and a young bachelor, to have sex together. Sexual relations with a person of inferior status, such as a slave or a foreigner or a prostitute, regardless of gender, fell within the boundaries of acceptable behavior. Adultery, involving the wife of another freeborn Roman, did not. Fleeting liaisons, however, should remain discreet and not be confused with much more serious marital relationships.

The dominant status of the Roman male was also expressed in his domineering role in sexual relationships. Sodomy and, to a lesser extent, pederasty were acceptable behavior—as we see from one of the lamps—so long as the older, higher-born male played the active role of sodomist, not catamite. Because of his dominant status and power, it was considered a gross violation of the moral order for a Roman male to perform fellatio or cunnilingus on his sexual partner—just as it was against nature for a woman to behave like a man, or to mount her lover.

By contrast, contemporaneous Jews and Christians adhered to what we would consider a much stricter sexual code, based on Biblical injunctions. Both groups condemned adultery and homosexuality (see, for example, Exodus 20:14; Leviticus 18:22, 20:13; 1 Corinthians 6:9; Romans 1:26–27, 2:22; 1 Timothy 1:10). Fidelity was the key virtue for both husband and wife, without exception. For many Christians in the later Roman period, celibacy was considered the highest form of devotion to God, surpassing even marriage as a virtue, just as it was for St. Paul (although his celibacy should be understood in the context of his expectation of the imminent Parousia, the second coming of Christ at the end-time). For married couples, both Jewish and Christian, sex was for procreation, not recreation. “Be fruitful and multiply” was the divine blessing (Genesis 1:28). Jews and Christians took a pro-natalist attitude toward conception and children. This attitude must have contributed significantly to prohibitions against homosexual and bisexual behavior. They were adamantly against contraception, abortion and infanticide, whereas the Romans were not, as we shall soon see in the case of infanticide at Ashkelon in the Byzantine period.†

As noted earlier, beneath the heavy veneer of Hellenization and Romanization of Ashkelon, many aspects of the older Oriental culture of the Phoenicians managed to survive. Some of the older religious cults not only survived but actually flourished, especially when they could contribute to, or be incorporated into, the Roman imperial cult. No better example of this phenomenon can be found than the cult of the Phoenician goddess Tanit (mother goddess and virgin bride, consort of Ba’al Hamōn). Tanit was very much a part of the religious life of Ashkelon—and even of Rome—in the third century A.D. Tanit appears together with Roman emperors and empresses on second- and third-century A.D. coins minted in Ashkelon. Tanit is depicted as a war goddess, brandishing a sword and carrying a shield as well as a palm branch. She is identified in Greek as Phanēbalos; this is a transparent Greek transcription of panē Ba‘al, or “Face of Ba‘al,” a favorite epithet in the Phoenician and Punic languages for Tanit, known from hundreds of inscriptions found at Phoenician Carthage.†

The iconography on these Phanēbalos coins suggests that during the Roman period Tanit still had an impressive temple in Ashkelon. Several coins, minted exclusively in Ashkelon, bear a simple temple facade on one side. One, however, depicts an elaborate temple facade rendered in Egypto-Phoenician style.† Among the imperial portraits on the Ashkelon coins with Tanit are Emperor Antoninus Pius (who reigned 138–161 A.D.) and Empress Julia Domna, the second wife of Emperor Septimius Severus (who reigned 193–211 A.D.) and a great-aunt of the young Emperor Elagabalus (203–222), who came from the same priestly family as Julia Domna, a priestly line devoted to the cult of Elagabal in Emesa, Syria.

At the age of 15, Elagabalus was elevated to emperor. He reigned barely four years. To prepare the Roman senators for this eccentric Syrian ruler, his mother sent ahead a portrait of the handsome youth, bedecked in his sacerdotal robes dyed in Phoenician purple and embroidered with gold thread. But this was not warning enough for what they were about to experience. In a very short time, he managed to create one scandal after another, even in jaded Rome. In addition to being a religious fanatic of the god Elagabal (whom most Romans had probably never heard of before his devotee’s arrival), the young emperor was also an exhibitionist—his boyish face, with kohl-darkened eyes and heavily rouged cheeks, peering out from under his jeweled crown. Like many other Roman males, Elagabalus was an ardent bisexual. He frequently made the rounds of the public baths of Rome, sizing up prospective male lovers. Promotions to high office and positions of responsibility were more often made to those who displayed sexual prowess or who granted sexual favors than to those who had competence in governmental matters. His protective mother frequented debates in the Senate and presided over a “female senate,” which deliberated about rules of etiquette.†

To many Roman senators, the young emperor’s effeminate manner must have been disgusting, and a clear violation of the “macho” code for Roman males. His public processions and rituals for the deity Elagabal were no doubt regarded as bizarre. But most intolerable was his political ineptitude, which ultimately led to his (and his mother’s) downfall. An aunt orchestrated the murder of both the emperor and his mother, bringing his reign to an end in 222 A.D.

But who was this obscure Syrian deity Elagabal from whom the youthful emperor took his throne name and ultimately his identity? During his brief reign, Elagabalus transported his favorite deity’s cult image, a conical “black stone” from Syria, and brought the statue and dowry of the Phoenician goddess Tanit from Carthage. Both were enshrined on the Palatine, and as the divine couple they reigned as the leading deities of Rome. And, of course, therein lies the clue to solving the mystery of the identity of Elagabal; he was none other than Tanit’s spouse in Carthage, the well-known Phoenician (and Syrian) deity Ba’al Ḥamōn, or “Lord of the Mt. Amanus.” Actually his Latin name Elagabal disguises another valuable clue to his identity, for it is the latinized form of the Semitic El Jebel, which means “El of the Mountain.”†

In addition to his forays in the public baths, Emperor Elagabalus married at least four wives during his short reign. One of them was a Vestal Virgin, whom he identified with the goddess Tanit. And, of course, he was Elagabal. Their marriage, then, replicated that of the heavenly couple, Ba’al Ḥamōn (alias Elagabal) and Tanit. Thus these Phoenician deities became part of the imperial cult in Rome. Tanit’s temple and cult survived at Ashkelon, and coins bearing her image as Phanēbalos circulated in parts of the Roman world.

Sometime in the fourth century A.D., a bathhouse was built over some earlier Roman villas in Ashkelon, including the villa where we found the erotic lamps. We can’t yet decide whether this was a small public bath or a large private one. In any event, it had a much-repaired mosaic floor, so it was used for many years. Finally, in the sixth century A.D., the bath was replaced by a monumental apsidal building.

The bathhouse itself underwent at least one remodling. In the early phase, the tub was larger. At each corner was a “heart”-shaped column. (Looking down on it, it was shaped like a heart, where two columns had come together at the corner, like this: ) These four columns probably supported a canopy over the plastered tub. In the white mosaic floor was a tabula ansata (a rectangle for an inscription with triangles at each end outside the rectangle and pointing toward it, like this: ). The tabula was outlined with black tesserae; inside the rectangle was an inscription, but unfortunately it was so badly damaged it could not be read. However, in the next phase, when the tub was smaller, another inscription in Greek, also inside a tabula ansata, was written on the outer face of the plaster rim of the tub, just above the spot where the earlier floor inscription had been located. We can surmise that both inscriptions said the same thing. The one on the plastered panel of the tub read in Greek “eiselthe apolauson kai […],” “Enter, enjoy, and…”

At first we thought the bath might also have been a brothel. As we saw in the account of the teenage emperor Elagabalus, public baths, then as today, could serve more than one purpose. We later learned, however, that inscriptions like this were not uncommon in bathhouses during the Roman period, and that they did not have sexual connotations.† The inscription was simply a warm welcome, whether the bath was public or private.

What was not so warm and friendly was a gruesome discovery in the sewer that ran under the bathhouse. The sewer was large enough for a person to stand up inside it; a gutter ran along its well-plastered bottom. The sewer had been clogged with refuse sometime in the sixth century A.D. When we excavated and dry-sieved the desiccated sewage, we found numerous small bones that we assumed to be animal bones. Only later did we learn from our staff osteologist, Professor Patricia Smith of Hebrew University, that they were human bones—of nearly 100 little babies apparently murdered and thrown into the sewer.

Roman attitudes toward infanticide were quite different from those of Jews and Christians, both of whom, as we noted earlier, were pro-natalist and whose moral teachings forbade the practice. The Greeks and the Romans found infanticide to be the most effective form of birth control.* Abandonment and exposure to the elements and to ravaging animals were the most common method mentioned in classical myths and legends, of course, there was always the possibility that the baby would be rescued and nurtured just as Moses was by the pharaoh’s daughter or Romulus and Remus were by the friendly she-wolf.† Egyptians, whose religion also forbade infanticide, were allowed to rescue abandoned babies and adopt them as foundlings or rear them as slaves. Greeks and Romans were in the habit of discarding their unwanted infants on manure piles. To memorialize the rescue, Egyptians often gave these babies “copro-” names (such as Kopreus), relating to the dungheap.

Most revealing, though, of the Greco-Roman attitude toward infanticide, is a letter written June 17, 1 B.C., by a certain Hilarion to his pregnant wife, Alis:

“Know that I am still in Alexandria. And do not worry if they all come back and I remain in Alexandria. I ask and beg you to take good care of our baby son, and as soon as I receive payment I will send it up to you. If you are delivered of child [before I get home], if it is a boy keep it, if a girl discard it. You have sent me word, ‘Don’t forget me.’ How can I forget you. I beg you not to worry.”†

What could be more casual (and callous) than this father’s attitude toward the disposal of his newborn daughter?

After Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity and made that the official religion of the empire, a law was put on the books making infanticide illegal. That law, however, failed to deter those fathers and mothers who discarded their newborns in the sewers of Ashkelon. Were most of the helpless victims girls? At the moment physical anthropologists cannot answer that question from skeletal evidence alone. Someday soon, I hope, advances in analytical testing of bone material will provide an answer.

Ashkelon was founded on an underground river. About 15 million years ago it flowed aboveground. But later in prehistoric times, sands from what became the Nile Delta washed up and over the coastal plain of Canaan, forming north-south ridges of loosely cemented sandstone, now the local bedrock known as kurkar. These sands buried the river channel, making it an aquifer, or “drainpipe,” that carries fresh water to the coastal plain, seeping to the surface at several places. Dozens of wells, some of them quite ancient, tap this underground water source 60 feet or more below today’s picnic grounds of the Ashkelon park. In the past, as today, these fresh waters transformed Ashkelon into a veritable oasis and garden spot.

In the Roman period, Ashkelon was famous for its wheat, henna (still used in the Mediterranean as a vegetable dye for hands and hair), dates and onions, which were displayed at international trade fairs in Gaza as well as Ashkelon.† Ashkelon even lent its name (“Ascalon” in classical sources) to a special variety of onion (caepa Ascalonia) grown there and exported around the Mediterranean to numerous Roman cities.† We know this onion today as the scallion (after Ascalon). (Although Ashkelon lent its name to the onion, it took its name from the old Northwest Semitic, probably Canaanite, word T-KL, meaning “to weigh”; “shekel” comes from this same root.)

In the fifth to sixth centuries A.D., Ashkelon and Gaza became renowned for their wines.† Just how widespread the export of wine from this area was is reflected in the pottery vessels used to transport it. Over 15 years ago, a specialist in Roman pottery, Dr. John Riley, put forth the brilliant hypothesis that a certain type of storage jar—a short and very ugly one he designated Type 2—found at Caesarea actually came from the Gaza region and was “either the container or the forerunner of the container for Gaza wine.”† This type of amphora is found throughout the Mediterranean and in Europe as far northwest as London. Several exemplars have even been found in Trier (Germany) and in the Crimea. The appearance of these jars in the fourth through sixth centuries A.D. matches precisely the period when Byzantine authors mention wine coming from the Gaza region.

Riley also noted that the highest concentrations of his Type 2 amphora had been found in the Gaza region.

When Riley’s exemplars from Caesarea were subjected to petrological analysis, the clay turned out to be from the Gaza area; when compared with a control sample of modern fired clay from Gaza, the clay from the Caesarea amphorae proved to have a similar texture and composition. This confirmed that the Caesarea amphorae had indeed come from the Gaza area.

Our excavations at Ashkelon have now confirmed that these storage jars were used as transport amphorae for exporting local wines.† Dr. Barbara Johnson, our staff ceramist and director of the Ashkelon Laboratory in Jerusalem, has studied literally hundreds of thousands of potsherds from the fourth to sixth centuries A.D. recovered in our excavations. A very high percentage of these sherds comes from so-called Gaza-type—perhaps, now, we should add Ashkelon-type—wine jars.

Ashkelon was clearly an important center for the production of these amphorae. In and around construction sites in the modern city of Ashkelon, Frank Koucky has found several kilns in which these ancient vessels had been fired. In addition, in his systematic archaeological survey of the Ashkelon region, Mitchell Allen of UCLA has discovered numerous kilns for producing these amphorae along the sandstone ridges east of the city. Some of these kilns were found in association with wine presses and other buildings, probably components of agricultural estates in the vicinity.† The wine presses provide another piece of evidence supporting the suggestion that-these transport amphorae should indeed be linked to the wine trade. The coastal region of southern Palestine from south of Gaza north to Ashdod is dotted with manufacturing sites for these storage jars.†

This period—the early Byzantine period—was an especially prosperous one in Palestine. Indeed, it was not exceeded until modern times. The population also reached unprecedented heights, unexceeded until the 20th century. Even the desert—east of the southern coastal plain—bloomed, not because of climatic changes, but because of the economic boom. The export of native wines undoubtedly propelled and sustained the boom. Numerous wine presses, some quite large and elaborate, have been found in the Negev desert at cities such as Shivtah, Avdat and Elusa.† The demand for these wines was apparently so great that even marginal zones, such as the desert, were worth cultivating by floodwater and runoff techniques of irrigation to produce wine grapes.

Why was there such a demand for wines from Ashkelon, Gaza and elsewhere in Palestine—a demand never equaled before or since? The answer lies, at least in part, in the broader historical picture of the Holy Land in the fourth to sixth centuries A.D.

In 324 A.D. the emperor Constantine officially recognized Christianity. By the late fourth and early fifth centuries A.D., monastic life was flourishing near Gaza and Ashkelon as well as in the Judean Desert. Christianity spread not only into the desert but also in the major cities of Palestine. Christian pilgrims began to flock to the Holy Land from around the world. From Europe they came in ships that departed regularly from Gaul and Italy, usually sailing via Antioch or Alexandria. Jerusalem, the holy city, and especially the Holy Sepulchre, were of course primary objectives for these early pilgrims for whom the “testimony of the holy places [was] to substantiate the testimony of the Bible.”† But they also visited other sacred sites—Bethlehem, Mamre (Hebron), Mt. Sinai (St. Catherine’s Monastery) and even Mt. Ararat, where according to the church historian Eusebius “Noah’s Ark” was still visible.† No doubt they also wanted to see the “Wells of Abraham” at Ashkelon, as mentioned by Origen. For many Western pilgrims, Ashkelon was their first port of call in the Holy Land. Of all the coastal cities south of Jaffa, only Ashkelon actually sits on the seacoast. These early pilgrims took home with them all sorts of relics and sacred souvenirs—pieces of the Cross, saints’ remains, fruit from the “garden of John the Baptist,” soil and olive oil used to light lamps at the Holy Sepulchre. The oil was exported in small vials or flasks called ampullae; several examples have turned up in our excavations. According to the anonymous sixth-century Pilgrim of Piacenza, who left us his travel notes, the holy oil was sanctified by bringing the flasks in contact with the wood of the Cross, at which time the oil boiled so furiously that the ampullae popped their stoppers. These had to be immediately replaced to prevent the precious oil from spilling out.†

Like tourists today, pilgrims contributed greatly to the economy of the Holy Land. The relics and souvenirs they brought back must have made a stirring impression on those who could not make, or could not afford, the pilgrimage. There was, however, another commodity, not so easily carried home but apparently also in great demand: wine from the Holy Land, especially wine from the Gaza and Ashkelon regions. It must have been exported in quantity to meet the needs of the churches of Europe. In one sixth-century reference, Gaza wine was bequeathed to a church in Lyons to celebrate the Eucharist.† Ashkelon was an importer as well as an exporter. Barbara Johnson has identified more than 130 different types of transport amphorae found in our excavations that reached Ashkelon from Spain, Italy, North Africa, Crete, the Aegean and the Black Sea area. This is in addition to more than 30 different types of fine wares, including lovely Cypriot, Italian, African Red Slip (Carthaginian), Egyptian and Coptic tablewares.

Thus, the economy boomed as never before. All this a reflection of pilgrimage to the Holy Land—big business, then as now.

In the seventh century A.D. many parts of the Byzantine empire surrendered to the armies of a powerful new religion—Islam. Ashkelon surrendered to the second Caliph of Islam, Omar, in 636, but the Byzantines did not actually evacuate the city until 640. According to the Arab chroniclers, Ashkelon became a beautiful and delightful city once again. Except for pockets of Omayyad pottery in later fills, however, our excavations have not yet recovered significant remains from this period. In the Fatimid period (10th–12th centuries A.D.), lovely houses were built along narrow streets; each had a small pool in the courtyard. In the destruction debris and fill next to one of these houses, we recovered four pieces of exquisite 22-karat gold jewelry. Professor Myriam Rosen-Ayalon of the Hebrew University, an expert on Islamic archaeology—and jewelry in particular—found that all four pieces fit together perfectly and belonged to the same larger ensemble; probably the gold pieces were once attached to a soft textile, such as suede or velvet, which was worn as a belt or sash. Each of the four pieces used the same manufacturing technique, combining filigree and granulation, to which gold beads were then added. We marveled at the extraordinary craftsmanship and intricate decorative design—paisley, almond-shaped, S-shaped and heart-shaped motifs.†

During the Fatimid period the fortifications of Ashkelon were rebuilt—for the last time on a grand scale.† The earliest ramparts had been built by the Canaanites in the Middle Bronze Age II (2000–1550 B.C.). Much of this Canaanite fortification was incorporated into the Fatimid ramparts. Some of the ruined Fatimid ramparts still rise like giant stalagmites around the rim of the last Islamic city. In the Sea Wall rising above the beach, the Fatimids used old Roman columns made of Aswan granite to reinforce their stone and cement masonry. The old Roman columns look like ships’ cannons sticking out of the Fatimid wall. More Roman columns by the hundreds, if not thousands, lie buried just under the beach sands. They were originally shipped from Egypt to Ashkelon during the Roman period and then reused throughout the next millennium.

In the 12th century A.D., William of Tyre visited Ashkelon and wrote the following vivid description of its defenses:

“[Ashkelon] lies upon the seacoast in the form of a semicircle, the chord or diameter of which extends along the shore while the arc or bow lies on the land looking toward the east. The entire city rests in a basin, as it were, sloping to the sea and is surrounded on all sides by artificial mounds, upon which rise the walls with towers at frequent intervals. The whole is built of solid masonry, held together by cement which is harder than stone. The walls are wide, of goodly thickness and proportionate height. The city is furthermore encircled by outworks built with the same solidity and most carefully fortified. There are four gates in the circuit of the wall, strongly defended by lofty and massive towers. “The first of these, facing east, is called the Greater Gate and sometimes the Gate of Jerusalem, because it faces toward the Holy City. It is surmounted by two very lofty towers which serve as a strong protection for the city below. In the barbican before this gate are three or four smaller gates which one passes to the main entrance by various winding ways. The second gate faces the west. It is called the Sea Gate, because through it people have egress to the sea. The third to the south looks toward the city of Gaza…, whence it takes its name. The fourth with outlook toward the north is called the Gate of Jaffa, from the neighbouring city which lies on this same coast.”† Ashkelon’s Moslem rulers were apparently not as hostile to the two other great monotheistic faiths, Judaism and Christianity, as we might suppose, for we know that Jews continued to reside in Ashkelon throughout the Islamic and Crusader periods. And a Byzantine church, which we excavated in 1985, continued in use throughout most of the medieval period.

During the Crusader period this little church, located just inside and to the south of the Jerusalem Gate, was known as Saint Mary the Green (Santa Maria Viridis).†

Originally, in the fifth century, the church was laid out as a basilica, divided into three aisles by two rows of columns made of Aswan granite (imported earlier in the Roman period and reused). The columns supported a gallery and a pitched roof. As we have seen, the basilica plan was used for both secular and sacred architecture during the Roman period at Ashkelon. When the basilica plan was adopted by church architects, the apse was nearly always oriented toward the Holy City, Jerusalem. Thus the apse of our church was located at the east end of the building, next to the city wall. From the apse, water flowed through a lead pipe and settling basin before reaching a marble-lined cruciform baptistry built into the earliest marble floor. The small size and shallowness of the baptistry would indicate that baptism was by sprinkling rather than by immersion.

Santa Maria Viridis continued in use throughout much of the Islamic period until the Fatimids converted it to a mosque in the mid-tenth century. It was restored again as a Byzantine church when the Crusaders conquered Ashkelon. Its plan changed, however: only four of the original six columns were used, suggesting a cruciform vaulted ceiling above the apse. Frescoes were added to the central apse and two side niches. Above the robbed-out bench and bishop’s chair (cathedra) in the central apse were frescoes of four saints/bishops reading Greek scrolls, each scroll containing excerpts from the homilies of St. John Chrysostom (the “golden-mouthed” bishop of Constantinople, 398–407 A.D.), as recognized immediately by our staff epigraphist for Greek and Latin, Vasilios Tzaferis of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Santa Maria Viridis attests not only to the continual presence of a community of Byzantine Christians (sometimes referred to as Oriental, or Syrian, Christians) at Ashkelon from the time of its founding—about 400 A.D.—through the Crusader period, but its architectural history reflects in microcosm the fortunes of the Christian and Muslim political and religious empires during eight centuries (c. 400–1200 A.D.) of competition for the soul of Ashkelon and of the world. The Fatimids dominated Ashkelon until 1153, when the Crusaders conquered the city. Saladin, the great sultan and commander, regained Ashkelon in 1187. But the Crusaders once again conquered the city in 1191; however, before they did so Saladin himself reduced the great seaport to rubble. The agony and pathos of this self-destruction were poignantly recorded in several Arabic sources. Here is the evidence of one writer; the quotation begins after the Crusaders have captured both Acre and Jaffa and are on their way to attack Ashkelon:

“[Saladin was] informed that [the Crusaders] were determined to rebuild Jaffa and strengthen it with soldiers and equipment. He, therefore, convened his advisers and consulted them about Ascalon: whether the right thing to do was to destroy it or not. They agreed upon its destruction for fear lest the enemy would reach it and occupy it, and by means of it he would occupy Jerusalem, and at the same time would cut off the road to Egypt. [As a result of that decision, Saladin] left his brother al-Malik al-’Adil [Abu Bakr] to face the enemy, and he himself went to destroy Ascalon on the dawn of Wednesday, the 18th of Sha’ban 387 [September 11, 1191]. “It was a very painful thing for him. He said: ‘I would rather be bereaved of all my children than destroy a single stone of it. But if God foreordained anything, it is bound to be carried out.’ He started destroying it on the dawn of Thursday, the 19th of Sha’ban [September 12, 1191]. He divided the wall [among the members of his army] and gave each commander and each group of the army a certain section and a certain tower to destroy. “The people entered the town crying and clamoring. Ascalon was a town likable to the heart, with firm walls and mighty structures, which people liked to inhabit. The people of the town were deeply saddened and wailed strongly because of the town’s destruction, and because of their having to leave their homeland… “The Sultan and his sons exerted themselves tremendously in ruining the town, with the purpose that the enemy would not get wind [of the operation], and rush to the town to prevent its destruction. The people [i.e., those who carried out the destruction] were at that night very hard and very exhausted because of what they had endured in the town’s destruction. “A person sent by al-Malik al-’Adil informed [the Sultan] that the Franks discussed with him terms of a settlement, by which the Muslims would have to cede certain lands [towns]. The Sultan found advantage in it [in the proposed settlement agreement], for he knew how much the people were fed up with war and how heavy were their debts. He gave written permission to his brother to that effect, allowing him to conclude a settlement according to his lights. “In the meantime destruction and the mobilization of people [for that purpose] went on, with the Sultan urging them to accelerate that operation. He also let them take whatever there had been in the royal granaries out of fear of the Frankish attack and the inability to move away their contents. He ordered the town set on fire, and fires were set in its houses. The town was an immense fortress. Destruction continued without stop until the last day of Sha’ban of that year [September 21, 1191]. When the destruction and burning were completed, the Sultan left Ascalon.”†

We found considerable evidence of Saladin’s 1191 destruction in many parts of Ashkelon. Near the Jerusalem Gate we found undermined and uprooted towers; the gold jewelry next to the Fatimid houses had been buried in destruction debris. On the beach and underwater, we found Roman columns and other debris that Saladin’s men had used to fill in the medieval harbor, thus rendering it unusable for the Crusaders.

With the demolition of Ashkelon, Saladin initiated a policy of systematically destroying seaports all along the Mediterranean coast—seaports recaptured from the Crusaders. Never again would these seaports fall into Christian hands in usable condition should there be a renewal of the Crusades. According to Professor David Ayalon, this Moslem policy—the destruction of their own ports for defensive purposes—was without parallel in recorded human history. It was a resounding admission of the naval hegemony of Christian Europe over that of Islam, which was established already by the 11th century A.D. without any great sea battle, and has not been seriously challenged since. This absolute victory on the sea reflected the steadily growing technological superiority of Christian Europe in general.†

European naval dominance eventually changed the face of the globe. In searching for the safest and least expensive routes to India in the late 15th century, western Europeans avoided overland routes across vast tracts of Moslem territory. Instead, they sailed, for example, around the Cape of Good Hope. They also sought to reach India by sailing west. And this of course led, quite accidentally, to the discovery of America.

Thus the demolition of Ashkelon, when put in its proper historical perspective, becomes a crucial facet of international power politics, the effects of which continue to be felt to this day. As director of the excavations at Ashkelon, I owe so much to so many: First and foremost, to Ms. Shelby White and Leon Levy, our benefactors, whose intellectual involvement and generous financial support have made this long-term, large-scale project possible; to the Israel Antiquities Authority, its director, Amir Drori, and former director, Avi Eitan, who have facilitated and expedited the research; to Professors Benjamin Mazar and Philip J. King for their wise counsel, to the citizens of Ashkelon and their mayor, the Honorable Eli Dayan, for their boundless hospitality to the hundreds of volunteers for participating in the dig and field school, and to their teachers and supervisors, the professional staff, for bringing Ashkelon’s heritage to light. In addition to staff already mentioned in the text and credits, I would like to thank several senior staff members for their contributions to this multidisciplinary effort: Douglas Esse (former associate director), Moshe (“Musa”) Shimoni (majordomo), Larry and Dorothy Ingalls and Samuel Wolff (administrators and supervisors), Giora Solar and Benny Arubas (architects-draftsmen), Elizabeth Bloch-Smith, David Stacey, Ross Voss, Bill Griswold, Ron Tappy, Jonathan Elias (grid supervisors), Jane Waldbaum (supervisor and classical archaeologist), Charles Adelman and Joelle Cohen (ceramists), Barbara Hall and Valentine Talland (conservators), Ora Mazar (pottery restorer), Heather Campbell and Nicole Logan (registrars), Richard Saley (computer programmer), Ya’akov Meshorer and Haim Gitler (numismnasts), Raphael Ventura (Egyptologist), Bill Grantham (zooarchaeologist), Mordechai Kislev (paleobotanist), Ya’akov Nir (hydrologist) and the late Hanan Lernau (paleoichthyologist). And finally, I want to express my indebtedness to Hershel Shanks, editor, and Steven Feldman, assistant editor, for their many contributions to this series on Ashkelon.


Ένθετο:

Bones of a Hundred Infants Found in Ashkelon Sewer

By Patricia Smith and Gila Kahila

Excavation of the Roman-Byzantine sewer system associated with the bathhouse at Ashkelon revealed the skeletons of nearly 100 infants. They were found mixed in with the garbage more commonly associated with such contexts—broken potsherds, animal bones, murex shells and odd coins. Most of the infant bones were intact, and all parts of the skeleton were represented. Since infant bones are fragile, they tend to fragment when disturbed or moved for secondary burial. The good condition of the infant bones at Ashkelon indicated to us that the infants had been tossed into the drain soon after death with the soft tissues intact. This manner of disposal of the infants indicates a rather callous attitude, suggesting that these might represent abortions or infanticide, rather than death from natural causes.

We focused closely on the age range of the infants as one indication of the cause of death. The rationale for using age range as an indicator of the cause of death is that perinatal death in all populations studied shows a comparable pattern of mortality. There is a high rate of mortality in the first month of life that gradually decreases over the first year, followed by a second peak at weaning. If the drain served as a mass grave following some catastrophe, or was the normal way of disposing of infants who died when young and were not accorded full burial rites, then we should expect some variability in the age of death of the infants in the drain. If on the other hand, these infant skeletons were the result of infanticide practiced immediately after birth, all would be of the same age.

Examination of the Ashkelon sample showed that all the infants were approximately the same size and with the same degree of dental development. Both bone size and dental development were equivalent to that of newborn infants. Moreover, forensic tests showed no neonatal lines in the teeth. These are considered evidence of survival of more than three days after birth. Their absence in the Ashkelon infants reinforces the hypothesis of death at birth.

A sudden increase in the number of deaths which would result in emergency burial measures, such as have been documented following epidemics, warfare or famine, would affect children of all ages. This does not apply to the skeletons found in the Ashkelon sewer, where only newborns were found. Infanticide in the past (as at present) was (and is) usually carried out immediately after birth, before the development of mother-infant bonding. Child sacrifices, on the other hand, were usually made periodically, so that infants of different ages were sacrificed. While it is conceivable that the infants found in the drain were stillborn, their number, age and condition strongly suggest that they were killed and thrown into the drain immediately after birth.

Editor, H. S. 2004; 2004. BAR 17:04 (July/Aug 1991). Biblical Archaeology Society


Τεύχος Μαρ/Απρ 1997:

Απόσπασμα από το άρθρο "Backward Glance: The Ur-Archaeologist, Leonard Woolley and the treasures of Mesopotamia, Editor, H. S. 2004, Biblical Archaeology Society")

Woolley’s most spectacular finds were 16 “Royal Tombs,” dated to around 2600 B.C. (Early Dynastic IIIa). These tombs contained an astonishing group of finely crafted items made of precious stones, metals or wood: earrings, daggers, ribbons, vessels, harps, beads and bracelets. The tombs yielded evidence of mass burials, and Woolley quickly linked this practice to human sacrifice, suggesting that the scores of attendants found in some of the tombs were killed or drugged before these “death pits” were sealed.

Editor, H. S. 2004; 2004. BAR 23:02 (March/April 1997). Biblical Archaeology Society


Βρήκα αυτά τα άρθρα με μια σύντομη ανασκόπηση που έκανα στα τεύχη του Biblical Archaeology Review. Αν μας βοηθάνε στην καλύτερη επεξεργασία του άρθρου της Wiki, καλώς.

-- pvasiliadis  07:11, 8 Ιουνίου 2006 (UTC)[απάντηση]


Να βοηθήσω λίγο την κατάσταση πέρα από το ότι συμφωνώ πως κάθε θεώρηση της ανθρωποθυσίας από σημερινούς μελετητές είναι φρικιαστική όπως και για μένα αλλά και για κάθε εντός αποδεκτών ορίων άνθρωπο:

Ξέρουμ ότι σε Ελλάδα, Αϊγυπτο, Εγγύς Ανατολή, Άπω Ανατολή, Ινδίες, παντού γίνονταν ανθρωποθυσίες , ελευθέρων, δούλων, κυρίως παιδιών λόγω της αθωότητας που πίστευαν πως εξευμένιζε αποτελεσματικά, ακόμα και βασιλιάδων. Στο Μεξικό του 15ου αιώνα, οι πολίτες γιόρταζαν μέσα σε ποτάμια αίματος σφαγμένων αιχμαλώτων που έφταναν και τις 20.000 την φορά.

Πέρα όμως από αυτό.

Κρίνοντας την πορεία κάποιων λαών σε σχέση με το θέμα αυτό, οι ισραηλίτες πριν από όλους ανέπτυξαν μία αποστροφή προς την ανθρωποθυσία:

  • Η θυσία-δοκιμασία του Αβραάμ που δεν πραγματοποιείται με θεϊκή παρέμβαση (Γεν. 22:9-13).
  • Η θυσία (πιθανόν) της κόρης του Ιεφθαέ (Κριτ. 11:39) λόγω της ακραίας υπόσχεσης που έδωσε (Κριτ. 11:30-31) να προσφέρει στον θεό όποιον έβλεπε να βγαίνει από το σπίτι του καθώς θα γύριζε από την μάχη (θα μπορούσε να ήταν ένας επισκέπτης ή το παιδί ενός φίλου κ.λπ.).
Ασφαλώς, Μια τέτοια υπόσχεση, σύμφωνα με τους ιερούς συγγραφείς δεν ζητήθηκε από τον θεό και το κυριότερο ήταν εντελώς αντίθετη με τον Νόμο του:

"ουχ ευρεθησεται εν σοι περικαθαιρων τον υιόν αυτού η την θυγατέρα αυτού εν πυρι μαντευόμενος μαντείαν κληδονιζομενος και οιωνιζομενος φαρμακος" (συνολικά βλ. Δευτ. 18:9–14)

Αλλά και στην Αρχαία Ελλάδα, ενώ οι ανθρωποθυσίες περιγράφονται:
  • Ο Τειρεσίας, διερμηνεύοντας τις βουλές των θεών, διατάσσει τον Κρέοντα να θυσιάσει τον γιο του
  • Ο Ερεχθέας τις κόρες του
  • Ο Αριστομένης θυσιάζει τριακόσιους άνδρες, προσφορά στον Δία επάνω στο φρούριο της Ιθώμης.
  • Στον τάφο του Αχιλλέα προσφέρεται θυσία η Πολυξένη
  • Στον τάφο του Πατρόκλου θυσιάζονται δώδεκα νέοι από την Τροία
  • Στον τάφο του Φιλοποίμενα θυσιάζονται Μεσσήνιοι αιχμάλωτοι
  • Θυσία των τριών νέων Περσών αιχμαλώτων από τον Θεμιστοκλή πριν από τη ναυμαχία της Σαλαμίνας
  • Ο Ηρόδοτος μνημονεύει θυσία δύο νέων στην Αίγυπτο για να πνεύσουν ευνοϊκοί άνεμοι.
εντούτοις, μεγάλη σημασία έχει το περιστατικό της Ιφιγένειας, που την τελευταία στιγμή διασώζεται από το μαχαίρι του μάντη Κάλχα και οδηγείται απο την ίδια τη θεά Αρτέμιδα σε τόπο ασφαλή.

Το γεγονός αυτό είναι δείγμα ότι η ανάπτυξη του ελληνικού πνεύματος αποδοκίμασε και κατάργησε τις ανθρωποθυσίες ως απαράδεκτες και απάνθρωπες συνήθειες του παρελθόντος.

Έτσι, κάθε πρόσωπο ή κοινότητα που γνωρίζουμε ότι επηρεάστηκε από το πνεύμα των ισραηλιτών είτε απευθείας, είτε μέσω του χριστιανισμού, είτε επηρεάστηκε από το ελληνικό πνεύμα του χρυσού αιώνα, όπως οι Ρωμαίοι, δεν είναι ο πιο κατάλληλος για κριτής του πως έκριναν ηθικά τις ανθρωποθυσίες οι λαοί που τις εφάρμοζαν.

Πιστεύω ότι για να αναφέρουμε στο λήμμα με βεβαιότητα (και όχι σε μια συζήτηση) ότι πράγματι οι θυσιάζοντες θεωρούνταν ή ήταν ανήθικοι, θα πρέπει μάλλον να βρούμε σχετικές αναφορές ΣΥΓΧΡΟΝΩΝ ομοϊδεατών ή ομοεθνών τους.

Δεν νομίζω λοιπόν ότι μπορούν να βοηθήσουν λόγω διαφορετικής ιδεολογίας και κοσμοαντίληψης:

  • Οι τοποθετήσεις σημερινών ιστορικών και αρχαιολόγων
  • Οι τοποθετήσεις ελλήνων μετά τον 5ο π.Χ. αιώνα
  • Οι τοποθετήσεις ρωμαίων ιστορικών
  • Οι τοποθετήσεις γενικά λαών ή προσώπων επηρεασμένων από ιουδαϊσμό, χριστιανισμό, κλασσικό ελληνισμό

Αυτή είναι η γνώμη μου για το συγκεκριμένο θέμα

Papyrus 08:14, 8 Ιουνίου 2006 (UTC)[απάντηση]