Dismissed as propaganda, it was true
that Carthaginians sacrificed the youth
to please and mollify the gods they knew,
but most did not believe it true, because
they did not want to think our ancestors
capable of such atrocities.
So temple priests and acolytes would mourn
the children as they watched their bodies brown.
But for the greater good they let them burn.
Infanticidal Cronus cast in bronze,
his arms extended, swallowed up the bones
that tophets later held in ritual urns,
and Diodorus wrote of parents’ grief
at failure to make sacrifice of youth
that led to their misfortunes in this life.
Across millennia, far but not that far,
a hundred generations but no more,
you can almost hear them chanting to the air:
‘Take this our offering, make us strong and wise
against those who would harm our families,
and let us crush in war our enemies;
‘O heed our words, gods generous to a fault,
and bless and keep this city we have built.’
The Romans came and sowed the land with salt.
This poem © Oliver Tearle 2021