Tuesday, November 19, 2019

A statue of Moloch at the Colosseum?

PUNIC WATCH? Statue of ancient god of child sacrifice put on display in Rome (LifeSiteNews).
The presence of the idol raised particular concern among Catholics, as it was erected nine days before the Amazon Synod and the subsequent scandal over the veneration of the Pachamama idol at the Vatican.

The statue of Moloch, worshipped by both the Canaanites and the Phoenicians, is part of an exhibit dedicated to Ancient Rome’s once-great rival, the city of Carthage. The large-scale exhibition, titled Carthago: The immortal myth, runs until March 29, 2020.
I noted the exhibition here. I leave the debate about the statue to others. But I'll mention a few points of historical interest.

First, it is not clear that there was a Canaanite deity named "Moloch" ("Molech") to whom children were sacrificed. A contrary interpretation of the biblical references and the cognate Punic epigraphic evidence takes the word to be the name of a kind of sacrifice. The Canaanite root MLK has to do with royalty, so perhaps a "royal" sacrifice? But some scholars think there was such a god. John Day argued that case in a book, reviewed here.

Second, unfortunately, even if there wasn't a god named Molech, it sure looks as though the ancient Carthaginians sacrificed children. And the Bible says pretty clearly that some Israelites did too. But there is some debate about the Carthaginian evidence. For past posts on the subject of ancient child sacrifice, see here and here and links.

Third, remember, we don't even know if there really was a god named Molech. So it's not surprising that the controversial statue isn't even a real ancient idol. It's a reconstruction of a prop from a 1914 movie.
"A reconstruction of the terrible deity Moloch, linked to Phoenician and Carthaginian religions and featured in the 1914 film Cabiria (directed by Giovanni Pastore and written by Gabriele D’Annunzio) will be stationed at the entrance to the Colosseum to welcome visitors to the exhibition," stated a press release about the exhibit.
It doesn't look ancient to me. It looks like something from a Lovecraft story.

The article includes a clip from the movie which depicts child sacrifices. The setting isn't very authentic, but it certainly captures the horror of the rite.

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