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Would it not then have been better for those Gauls 1 and Scythians 2 to have had absolutely no conception, no vision, no tradition, regarding the gods, than to believe in the existence of gods who take delight in the blood of human sacrifice and hold this to be the most perfect offering and holy rite ? Again, would it not have been far better for the Carthaginians to have taken Critias or Diagoras 3 to draw up their law-code at the very beginning, and so not to believe in any divine power or god, rather than to offer such sacrifices as they used to offer to Cronos? 4 These were not in the manner that Empedocles describes 5 in his attack on those who sacrifice living creatures :
Changed in form is the son beloved of his father so pious, Who on the altar lays him and slays him. What folly !
No, but with full knowledge and understanding they themselves offered up their own children, and those who had no children would buy little ones from poor people and cut their throats as if they were so many lambs or young birds ; meanwhile the mother stood by without a tear or moan ; but should she utter a single moan or let fall a single tear, she had to forfeit the money, 6 and her child was sacrificed nevertheless ; and the whole area before the statue was filled with a loud noise of flutes and drums so that the cries of wailing should not reach the ears of the people. Yet, [p. 495] if Typhons or Giants were ruling over us after they had expelled the gods, with what sort of sacrifices would they be pleased, or what other holy rites would they require? Amestris, the wife of Xerxes, caused twelve human beings to be buried alive 7 as an offering in her behalf to propitiate Hades, of whom Plato says 8 that it is because he is humane and wise and rich, and controls the souls of the dead by persuasion and reason, that he has come to be called by this name. Xenophanes, the natural philosopher, seeing the Egyptians beating their breasts and wailing at their festivals, gave them a very proper suggestion: ‘If these beings are gods,’ said he, ‘do not bewail them; and if they are men, do not offer sacrifices to them.’ 9

1 Cf. Caesar, Gallic War, vi. 16 and Strabo, iv. 4. 5.

2 Cf. Herodotus, iv. 70-72.

3 Both Critias and Diagoras were famous atheists of antiquity. Cf. Sextus Empiricus, Adersus Mathematicos, ix. 54; Plutarch, Moralia, 880 D, 1075 A.

4 Plutarch says (Moralia, 175 A and 522 A) that the practice was stopped by Gelon, tyrant of Syracuse, after his victory oer the Carthaginians in 480 B.C. But cf. Diodorus, xx. 14, which suggests that the practice was later revived. Cronos here is, of course, the Greek equivalent of Phoenician El (Hebrew Moloch or Baal). Cf. G. F. Moore in the Journal of Biblical Lit. xvi. (1897), p. 161.

5 Diels, Fragmente der Vorsokratiker, i. p. 275.

6 Since the bad omen of her conduct would nullify the good effect of the sacrifice.

7 Herodotus, vii. 114; but compare iii. 35.

8 The reference is probably to Plato, Cratylus, pp. 403 A-404B, where are repeated the popular etymologies of Pluto from πλοῦτος (wealth), and Hades from πάντα τὰ καλὰ εἰδέναι (all-knowing of good).

9 The saying is quoted also in Moralia, 379 B and 763 C, and referred to in 228 E, cf. also Aristotle, Rhetoric, ii. 23, 27.

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