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


One thought on “Carthage

  1. No further go

    Though backs are bent
    We do one more step
    Before we lift our eyes
    To see just where the sun
    Did set.
    As night comes down
    Upon our heads
    Our eyes in blank
    Blindness stare.
    Where now?
    No further will we go.
    We stop and turn
    To face the darkness
    Coming up from below.
    Now we fight
    For home and life.
    Old folk take the children hence
    To where the trees are dark and dense.
    We women with our men
    Will stand
    To face the evil near to hand.
    For children of mothers
    Who will not fight
    Will not live through this night.
    All now must decide
    if they will be here when comes the light
    If it comes again.


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