Historian Dionysius of Halicarnassus confirms the usage of the Cathaginians:
"It is said also that the ancients sacrificed human
victims to Saturn, as was done at Carthage while that city stood and
as is still done to this day among the Gauls and certain other
western nations, and that Hercules, desiring to abolish the custom
of this sacrifice, erected the altar upon the Saturnian hill and
performed the initial rites of sacrifice with unblemished victims
burning on a pure fire. And lest the people should feel any scruple
at having neglected their traditional sacrifices, he taught them to
appease the anger of the god by making effigies resembling the men
they had been wont to bind hand and foot and throw into the stream
of the Tiber, and dressing these in the same manner, to throw them
into the river instead of the men, his purpose being that any
superstitious dread remaining in the minds of all might be removed,
since the semblance of the ancient rite would still be preserved."
(Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Roman Antiquities, Book I, Chapter 38).
The church writer Eusebius provides an excerpt from the Phoenician historian Philo Byblius
giving further information on Phoenician theology and the practice of child sacrifice:
"So then from the aforesaid writing let these passages suffice: but from the first book of Philo's Phoenician History I will quote the following:
"[PHILO BYBLIUS] 'It was a custom of the ancients in the great crises of danger for the rulers of a city or nation, in order to avert the general destruction, to give up the most beloved of their children for sacrifice as a ransom to the avenging daemons: and those who were so given up were slain with mystic rites. Kronos, therefore, whom the Phoenicians call El, who was king of the country, and subsequently, after his decease, was deified and changed into the star Saturn, had by a nymph of the same country called Anobret an only-begotten son (whom on this account they called Jeiid, the only-begotten being still so called among the Phoenicians); and when extreme dangers from war had befallen the country, he arrayed his son in royal apparel, and prepared an altar and sacrificed him.'"
(Eusebius, Preparation for the Gospel, Book IV, Chapter XVI).
Again, the same author, in the Theopania:
"The Phoenicians too, in their greater
calamities, whether wars, pestilences, or famines, sacrificed one of
their friends, who was selected (for this purpose), to Saturn. The
history too of the Phoenicians — composed by Sanchoniatho in
the language of the Phoenicians, and (which) Philo Biblius
translated into the Greek, in Eight Books,— is full of this,
(viz.) as to those who were (so) sacrificed." (Eusebius of Caesaria, Theopania, Second Book, Section 59).
Porphyry, in his treatise commending vegetarianism, On Abstinence from Animal Food,
mentions the practice in passing, "Hence, even to the present time,
not only in Arcadia, in the Lupercal festivals, and in Carthage, men
are sacrificed in common to Saturn, but periodically, also, for the
sake of remembering the legal institute, they sprinkle the altars of
those of the same tribe with blood, although the rites of their
sacrifices exclude, by the voice of the crier, him from engaging in
them who is accused of human slaughter." (Book Two, Chapter 27, On
Abstinence from Animal Food), as do other authors addressing various
Cicero asks, "How many peoples have there been, like the Taurians
on the shores of the Euxine Sea, like the Egyptian King Busiris, and
like the Gauls and the Carthaginians, who have thought that it was
right and pleasing in the sight of the immortal gods to offer human
sacrifices!" (Marcus Tullius Cicero, On the Commonwealth, Book III,
Broadening the focus to include poetry, Silius Italicus' magnum
opus, the epic Punica, incorporates the theme: "The nation which
Dido founded when she landed in Libya were accustomed to appease the
gods by human sacrifices and to offer up their young children — horrible
to tell — upon fiery altars. Each year the lot was cast and the tragedy
was repeated, recalling the sacrifices offered to Diana in the
kingdom of Thoas." (Silius Italicus, Punica, Book IV).
Christian apologists add their testimony:
"First of all, the Greeks bring forward as a God Kronos, that is to
say Chiun (Saturn). And his worshippers sacrifice their children to
him, and they burn some of them alive in his honor." (Aristides the
Philosopher, Apology, Chapter IX, Syriac Version). Were they biased?
This was no new accusation, but what everybody already knew.
Archaeology confirms the practice: "The practice of sacrificing
children, which surfaced during the reign of King Manasseh but was
suppressed by Josiah, was a Phoenician custom. The most important
evidence for this ancient practice comes from the sanctuary of Tanit
at Salambo, Carthage, built by the Phoenicians; the finds there
prove conclusively that the Greek and Roman stories of Punic infant
sacrifices to Molekh were only too true." (Archaeology of the
Bible: Book by Book, by Gaalyah Cornfeld and David Noel Freedman, p. 170).
"These accusations might have been put down to nothing
more than Greek slurs if it had not been for the determined
sleuthing of two minor French colonial officials, Francois Icard and
Paul Gielly, in the 1920's. Icard and Gielly had become increasingly
suspicious of a Tunisian stone-dealer who kept on appearing with
very fine Punic steles. One example had particularly grabbed their
imaginations. It was engraved with the image of a man wearing the
cloak and headdress of a priest, his right hand raised in
supplication and his left cradling a swaddled infant. The
inscription bore the letters MLK. Had the stone-dealer stumbled
across the sacred precinct where the Carthaginians had continued the
macabre traditions of their Phoenician ancestors? One night, acting
on a tip-off, the two Frenchmen surprised their quarry digging up
steles in a field not far from the site of the great rectangular
harbor. After coercing the owner of the land into selling them the
plot, the two men set to work. What they found further fuelled their
suspicions: a series of votive offerings, each consisting of a stele
listing dedications to Baal Hammon and Tanit, and usually
accompanied by a terracotta urn containing calcified bones and
sometimes jewels and amulets. When the contents of the urns were
analyzed, it was ascertained that virtually every one contained the
burnt remains of young children. ('Carthage Must Be Destroyed,'
Richard Miles, p. 70).
How prevalent was the practice of human sacrifice in the ancient
world? It is difficult to say, owing to the ambiguity of practices
like the Romans' habit of throwing the old men off the bridge. .
.or rather, puppets:
"Then, too, the Virgin [the Vestals] is wont
to throw the rush-made effigies of
ancient men from the oaken bridge. He who believes that after sixty
years men were put to death, accuses our forefathers of a wicked crime.
There is an old tradition, that when the land was called Saturnia those
words were spoken by soothsaying Jove: “Do you cast into the water of the
Tuscan river two of the people as a sacrifice to the Ancient who bears
the sickle.” The gloomy rite was performed, so runs the tale, in the Leucadian manner
[the “lover’s leap” at the promontory of Leucas
is well known. A man used to be cast from it every year; but all
possible means were taken to make his fall easy and to save him] every year,
until the Tirynthian hero came to these fields; he cast men of straw into the water,
and now dummies are thrown after the example set by Hercules.
"Some think that the young men used to
hurl the feeble old men from the bridges, in order that they
themselves alone should have the vote. . ." (Ovid,
Fasti, Day Before the Ides of May).
There are two possible interpretations: a.) either the straw
puppets now thrown into the water are substitutes for the 60-year
old men originally thus disposed of, or b.) it was always puppets. Depending
upon the interpretation offered for this common paradigm, human
sacrifice was either once common, or not. But the Phoenician
practice of infant sacrifice is well-attested in either case. Dionysius of
Halicarnassus concurs that the modern puppets were substitutes for
the original living, breathing human beings, (continuing quote from above): "This the Romans continued to do every year even down
to my day a little after the vernal equinox. . .on this day, after
offering the preliminary sacrifices according to the laws, the
pontifices, as the most important of the priests are called, and
with them the virgins who guard the perpetual fire, the praetors,
and such of the other citizens as may lawfully be present at the
rites, throw from the sacred bridge into the stream of the Tiber
thirty effigies made in the likeness of men, which they call Argei."
(Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Roman Antiquities, Book I, Chapter 38).
According to Pliny the Elder, human sacrifice was forbidden by law
657 years after the founding of the city, which seems rather late:
"At last, in the year of the City 657, Cneius Cornelius Lentulus and
P. Licinius Crassus being consuls, a decree forbidding human
sacrifices was passed by the senate; from which period the
celebration of these horrid rites ceased in public, and, for some
time, altogether." (Pliny the Elder, Natural History, Book XXX,
From time to time skepticism has arisen about human
sacrifice; it seems we human beings would like to imagine we are not
capable. But not only does archeology keep uncovering grim
Aztec finds, the practice is broadly documented in literature, for example in
ancient Europe: "The peoples are crude, superstitious, and sometimes
even so monstrous that they used to believe that to the gods the
best and most pleasing sacrificial victim was a human being. Traces
of their savagery remain, even though it has been banned now.
Nevertheless, after they have led their consecrated human victims to
the altars, they still graze them slightly, although they do hold
back from the ultimate bloodshed. And yet, they have both their own
eloquence and their own teachers of wisdom, the Druids." (Pomponius
Mela, Description of the World, Book 3, Section 18, p. 107.) Arrian mentions
a case in southern Europe, "Alexander proceeded to the assault; on which
the enemy sacrificed three boys and three girls and three black rams,
and then made a rush to intercept the Macedonian right wing; but when
the Greeks drew near, they deserted the strong positions they had
occupied, and the newly sacrificed victims were found still lying
there." (Arrian, Anabasis, Book I, Chapter V.) It takes more 'faith' to
believe these things never happened, than that they did. The
Carthaginian variant on this once widespread practice zeroed in on
helpless infant children.
If God had not heard the cries of these little ones and blotted out this heartless and cruel culture, the atheists would present
His refusal to act as an instance of the 'problem of evil,' but because He did act, they present His ridding the world of this evil as an
instance of the 'problem of evil:'