Sacrifices of children at Carthage – the sources

A mention in a post at the Theology Archaeology blog drew my attention to the question of the sacrifice of children at Carthage.

I think that we all remember that the Carthaginians sacrificed their children to their god. It is, indeed, one of the things we think of, when the word “Carthaginian” is mentioned.

But apparently there is some revisionism around. This led me to wonder just what the ancient evidence is.

The following literary sources mention the custom. I have gathered the references from Google searches.[1]

Cleitarchus = Clitarchus = Kleitarchos (ca. 310-300 BC)

This writer was one of the popular biographers of Alexander, and wrote ca. 310-300 BC. His words are found in the Scholia to Plato’s Republic, I, 337A (ed. Bekker, vol. 9, p.68):

Κλείταρχος δέ φησι τοὺς Φοίνικας, καὶ μάλιστα Καρχηδονίους, τὸν Κρόνον τιμῶντας, ἐπάν τινος μεγάλου κατατυχεῖν σπεύδωσιν, εὔχεσθαι καθ᾽ ἑνὸς τῶν παίδων, εἰ περιγένοιντο τῶν ἐπιθυμηθέντων, καθαγιεῖν αὐτὸν τῷ θεῷ. τοῦ δὲ Κρόνου χαλκοῦ παρ᾽ αὐτοῖς ἑστῶτος, τὰς χεῖρας ὑπτίας ἐκτετακότος ὑπὲρ κριβάνου χαλκοῦ, τοῦτον ἐκκαίειν τὸ παιδίον. τῆς δὲ φλογὸς τοῦ ἐκκαιομένου πρὸς τὸ σῶμα ἐμπιπτούσης, συνέλκεσθαί τε τὰ μέλη, καὶ τὸ στόμα σεσηρὸς φαίνεσθαι τοῖς γελῶσι παραπλησίως, ἕως ἂν συσπασθὲν εἰς τὸν κρίβανον παρολίσθῃ.

This is translated (via here) by Paul G. Mosca[2] as:

There stands in their midst a bronze statue of Kronos, its hands extended over a bronze brazier, the flames of which engulf the child. When the flames fall upon the body, the limbs contract and the open mouth seems almost to be laughing until the contracted body slips quietly into the brazier. Thus it is that the ‘grin’ is known as ‘sardonic laughter,’ since they die laughing.

The same material in briefer form is found in the Suda and in the lexicon of Photius under Σαρδάνιος [or Σαρδόνιος] γέλως (= ‘sardonic laughter’). The Suda Online entry (found by searching for ‘sardanios’) includes this:

And Clitarchus and others say that in Carthage, during great prayers, they place a boy in the hands of Cronus (a bronze statue is set up, with outstretched hands, and under it a baking oven) and then put fire under; the boy shrunk by the fire seems to laugh.

The description in Diodorus is apparently derived from this.

Diodorus Siculus (60-30 BC)

Book 13, chapter 86 (via Lacus Curtius):

1. Hannibal, being eager to launch assaults in an increasing number of places, ordered the soldiers to tear down the monuments and tombs and to build mounds extending to the walls. …  2. For it happened that the tomb of Theron, which was exceedingly large, was shaken by a stroke of lightning; consequently, when it was being torn down, certain soothsayers, presaging what might happen, forbade it, and at once a plague broke out in the army, and many died of it while not a few suffered tortures and grievous distress. 3. Among the dead was also Hannibal the general, and among the watch-guards who were sent out there were some who reported that in the night spirits of the dead were to be seen. Himilcar, on seeing how the throng was beset with superstitious fear, first of all put a stop to the destruction of the monuments, and then he supplicated the gods after the custom of his people by sacrificing a young boy to Cronus and a multitude of cattle to Poseidon by drowning them in the sea.

Book 20, chapter 14 (via RogueClassicism and Lacus Curtius):

They [the Carthaginians] also alleged that Cronus had turned against them inasmuch as in former times they had been accustomed to sacrifice to this god the noblest of their sons, but more recently, secretly buying and nurturing children, they had sent these to the sacrifice; and when an investigation was made, some of those who had been sacrificed were discovered to have been supposititious.

When they had given thought to these things and saw their enemy encamped before their walls, they were filled with superstitious dread, for they believed that they had neglected the honours of the gods that had been established by their fathers.

In their zeal to make amends for their omission, they selected two hundred of the noblest children and sacrificed them publicly; and others who were under suspicion sacrificed themselves voluntarily, in number not less than three hundred. There was in their city a bronze image of Cronus, extending its hands, palms up and sloping toward the ground, so that each of the children when placed thereon rolled down and fell into a sort of gaping pit filled with fire.

Quintus Curtius (mid 1st century)

Book 4, chapter 3:

Sacrum quoque, quod equidem dis minime cordi esse crediderim, multis saeculis intermissum repetendi auctores quidam erant, ut ingenuus puer Saturno immolaretur: quod sacrilegium verius quam sacrum Carthaginienses a conditoribus traditum usque ad excidium urbis suae fecisse dicuntur. Ac nisi seniores obstitissent, quorum consilio cuncta agebantur, humanitatem dira superstitio vicisset. (from Lacus Curtius)

Some also advocated the revival of a religious rite which had been discontinued for many generations and which I certainly would not have thought to be at all acceptable to the gods – namely the sacrifice of a free-born male child to Saturn. (Such sacrilege – to use a more appropriate word than sacrifice – the Carthaginians inherited from their founders, and they are said to have continued the practice right down to the time of their city’s destruction.) Had it not been vetoed by the elders, whose judgement carried weight in all matters, cruel superstition would have triumphed over civilized behaviour. (Yardley translation, 2004)

Plutarch (ca. 110 AD)

De superstitione, chapter 13 (via Lacus Curtius):

Would it not then have been better for those Gauls and Scythians 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 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? These were not in the manner that Empedocles describes 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, and her child was sacrificed nevertheless; and the whole area before the statue was filled with a loud noise of flutes and drums took the cries of wailing should not reach the ears of the people.

Justinus (2nd century)

Epitome of Pompeius Trogus, book 18 (via here):

This city was founded seventy-two years before Rome; but while the bravery of its inhabitants made it famous in war, it was internally disturbed with various troubles, arising from civil differences. Being afflicted, among other calamities, with a pestilence, they adopted a cruel religious ceremony, an execrable abomination, as a remedy for it; for they immolated human beings as victims, and brought children (whose age excites pity even in enemies) to the altars, entreating favour of the gods by shedding the blood of those for whose life the gods are generally wont to be entreated.

VII. In consequence of the gods, therefore, being rendered adverse by such atrocities, after they had long fought unsuccessfully in Sicily, …

Tertullian (197 AD)

Apologeticum, chapter 9, 2-3(Thelwall translation):

[2] Children were openly sacrificed in Africa to Saturn as lately as the proconsulship of Tiberius, who exposed to public gaze the priests suspended on the sacred trees overshadowing their temple-so many crosses on which the punishment which justice craved overtook their crimes, as the soldiers of our country still can testify who did that very work for that proconsul. [3] And even now that sacred crime still continues to be done in secret. It is not only Christians, you see, who despise you; for all that you do there is neither any crime thoroughly and abidingly eradicated, nor does any of your gods reform his ways. [4] When Saturn did not spare his own children, he was not likely to spare the children of others; whom indeed the very parents themselves were in the habit of offering, gladly responding to the call which was made on them, and keeping the little ones pleased on the occasion, that they might not die in tears.

Philo Byblus

Phoenician History, as preserved in Eusebius, Praeparatio Evangelica book 1 (via here):

And soon after he says:

‘It was a custom of the ancients in great crises of danger for the rulers of a city or nation, in order to avert the common ruin, to give up the most beloved of their children for sacrifice as a ransom to the avenging daemons; and those who were thus given up were sacrificed with mystic rites. Kronos then, whom the Phoenicians call Elus, who was king of the country and subsequently, after his decease, was deified as the star Saturn, had by a nymph of the country named Anobret an only begotten son, whom they on this account called ledud, the only begotten being still so called among the Phoenicians; and when very great dangers from war had beset the country, he arrayed his son in royal apparel, and prepared an altar, and sacrificed him.’

Porphyry (3rd century)

Quoted in Eusebius, Praeparatio Evangelica, book 4, chapter 16 (via here).  This chapter is a long series of testimonies to human sacrifice, from which only excerpts can be given here.

The Phoenicians, too, in the great calamities of war, or pestilence, or drought, used to dedicate one of their dearest friends and sacrifice him to Kronos: and of those who thus sacrificed the Phoenician history is full, which Sanchuniathon wrote in the Phoenician language, and Philo Byblius translated into Greek in eight books.

‘And Ister, in his Collection of Cretan Sacrifices, says that the Curetes in old times used to sacrifice boys to Kronos. But that the human sacrifices in almost all nations had been abolished, is stated by Pallas, who made an excellent collection concerning the mysteries of Mithras in the time of the Emperor Hadrian. Also at Laodicea in Syria a virgin used to be offered to Athena every year, but now a hind.

Moreover the Carthaginians in Libya used to perform this kind of sacrifice, which was stopped by Iphicrates. The Dumateni also, in Arabia, used every year to sacrifice a boy, and bury him under the altar, which they treated as an image.

Augustine (4-5th century)

The City of God, book 7, chapter 19 (via here):

Then he [Varro] says that boys were wont to be immolated to him [Saturn] by certain peoples, the Carthaginians for instance; and also that adults were immolated by some nations, for example the Gauls-because, of all seeds, the human race is the best.  … He says that Saturn was called kronoj, which in the Greek tongue signifies a space of time because, without that, seed cannot be productive. These and many other things are said concerning Saturn, and they are all referred to seed.

Orosius (4-5th century)

Book 4, chapter 6 (via here):

We must also say something about her disasters and domestic misfortunes, just as Pompeius Trogus and Justin relate them. The Carthaginians have always had domestic and internal misfortunes. Because of this source of discord and its unhappy faculty of causing disturbance they have never yet enjoyed prosperity abroad, or peace at home. When they were suffering from plagues in addition to their other misfortunes, they resorted to homicides instead of to medicines; indeed they sacrificed human beings as victims and offered young children at their altars. In this way they aroused even the pity of the enemy.

Concerning this form of sacred rite—nay, rather of sacrilege—I am perplexed as to what I should discuss in preference to all else. For if some demons have dared to order rites of this character, requiring as they did that the death of men should be propitiated by human slaughter, it must be understood that these demons acted as partners and promoters of the plague and that they themselves killed those whom the plague had not seized; for it was customary to offer healthy and undefiled sacrificial victims. In doing this they not only failed to allay, but rather anticipated, the pestilences.

When the Carthaginians—the gods being alienated, as Pompeius Trogus and Justin admit, because of sacrifices of this kind, and, as we assert, because of their presumption and impiety toward an angered God—had long fought unsuccessfully in Sicily, …

Update (1st June): I have added a couple of further instances, and added a translation of Kleitarchos.

  1. [1]Bill Thayer has helped greatly by digitising this article on The Image of Moloch, Journal of Biblical Literature 16 (1897), p.161-5.
  2. [2]Paul G. Mosca, Child Sacrifice in Canaanite and Israelite Religion. PhD thesis, Harvard, 1975, p.22.  Reference via Bennie H. Reynolds, “Molek: Dead or Alive? The meaning and derivation of mlk and ###”, in Human sacrifice in Jewish and Christian tradition, ed. K. Finsterbusch &c, Leiden: Brill, 2007, p.133-150, p.149 n.68.

Christians in an increasingly hostile society

Via the Trevin Wax blog, I learn of this article by Michael Bird:

As we construct a Christian response to gay marriage, the evangelical and apostolic churches (not the liberals churches who are little more than chaplains for Nero) need to do from an ecclesiology of exile, not from an ecclesiology of christendom. We are on the periphery of society, not in its privileged position. We do it recognizing we are the outsiders, we not the respected authority we once were.

It tends, fittingly, with a long and very relevant quotation from the Epistle of Barnabas.


From my diary

Microsoft do make some rubbish software, don’t they!

This evening I sat down to work with the new Mithras pages that I am working on.  This involves running a little web server on my PC, so that I can run some PHP scripts.

Last weekend I installed (with some difficulty) IIS, FastCGI and PHP on my Windows7 box.  This evening I fired it up again … and it didn’t work.  Permissions problems, you see.

You do not have permission to view this directory or page because of the access control list (ACL) configuration or encryption settings for this resource on the Web server


Now this is me, on my personal PC.  I trust me.  I am happy with anything I want to do.  I am administrator, even.  So … permissions problems?  And why now?  Why is this a new problem?

The error message gives me no idea what the problem is, and less what to do about it.  I open the management console for IIS, and am presented with a baffling array of options.

After half an hour and much Google searching, I stumble across this, which gives the answer.  I change the permissions on the home directory, add a user IUSR (why doesn’t IIS do this?) and another Everyone (ditto) and give both full control, and everything suddenly works.  But I am now too frazzled to do what I originally had in mind.

A web server is the simplest of objects.  All it does is listen on a port, and, when you ask for a .htm file, send it down the pipe.  That’s it.  That is the function that it performs 90% of the time. 

All the rest is minority activity.  We call these “edge cases”, in computing speak.  90% of the user cases is “copy file to port”.  The rest is used much less.

Yet Microsoft have produced a piece of software that fought for half an hour with a highly technical user who simply want to serve up pages to himself on his own PC.  WHY??? 

Of course the reason is obvious.  The developers have added functionality, and added it, and added it and added it until the thing has become a monster.  You could probably connect my PC to the web and run a full-fledged server on it now.  But … I don’t want or need any of that.  I just want to display some html and run some PHP scripts.  Like most people do, most of the time, who start up a web server on their own PC.

Microsoft are very prone to this problem; to lose the main user case in catering to edge cases. 



From my diary

My travelling laptop contains the PDF’s of the books on the “right use of the fathers” which I discussed yesterday.  This evening I sat down to re-download them here, and also sought out the volume by Barbeyrac to which they allude.  In the process, I have stumbled across an interesting book.

In Fathers and Anglicans: The Limits of Orthodoxy (2001), Arthur Middleton discusses how Anglicans in the past have engaged with the fathers.  This includes discussion of the very books  that I was downloading.  There is a preview on Google books here.

Middleton writes from an Anglo-Catholic perspective — preface by “the Lord Bishop of London” — but the material will be new to many.

Tired as I was, I found myself interested enough to read quite a number of pages online; and then to wonder just what a copy of this 400-page book would cost, so that I can read it in the evenings.  Sadly the answer is nearly $25, and that is rather a lot for a book which one might read only once.

It would seem that this book is a perfect candidate to borrow from a library, were it not that my own local library would charge me nearly $10 to borrow it for a fortnight, and make me wait weeks for it.


Sign a US petition that govt-funded research papers be available online to ordinary people

Jona Lendering of draws my attention to a White House petition that should interest everyone:

We petition the Obama administration to:

Require free access over the Internet to scientific journal articles arising from taxpayer-funded research.

We believe in the power of the Internet to foster innovation, research, and education. Requiring the published results of taxpayer-funded research to be posted on the Internet in human and machine readable form would provide access to patients and caregivers, students and their teachers, researchers, entrepreneurs, and other taxpayers who paid for the research. Expanding access would speed the research process and increase the return on our investment in scientific research.

The highly successful Public Access Policy of the National Institutes of Health proves that this can be done without disrupting the research process, and we urge President Obama to act now to implement open access policies for all federal agencies that fund scientific research.

Other bloggers have endorsed the move.  More power to their elbow, I say.  There is no good reason why public money should be spent to create private monopolies.

I suggest that all US readers of this blog take the time and sign the petition.


From my diary

The mobile broadband provided by O2 is of poor quality, in that it took me over an hour to connect to it.  It is very slow, as is proven by my utter inability to download an interesting article from Alin Suciu’s site, despite trying for two nights running; the download always times out.

In desperation I opened a PDF that has sat on this laptop — my travelling laptop — for almost a year, and began to skim the pages.  It is a copy of J. J. Blunt’s On the right use of the early fathers: two series of lectures delivered in the university of Cambridge (1857)[1] which may be readily found online. 

The book is tedious.  The lecturer was responding to a volume written in French, and rewritten in Latin in 1631 by a French Protestant named Daillé, designed to show that Romanist appeals to the fathers had no authority. The volume, we learn, circulated widely.  Each chapter summarises one of Daillé’s arguments, and responds to it.  Blunt advises his hearers — for this is a lecture series — that the Latin version is to be preferred, as augmented from the original French.

The writer does not say so, but Daillé had recently been reprinted and translated into English, in 1843.[2] A less than charitable person might wonder whether Dr Blunt was, in truth, working from the English version that was readily available to him, while praising the Latin to his students.  Such little pieces of self-aggrandisement are  not unknown even today, I believe.  But perhaps we may give the good doctor the benefit of the doubt.

We need not dwell on Daillé.  The urgencies that led him to try to dismiss the fathers, arising from the period of the French wars of religion, are not ours.  Few Catholics  today will attempt to browbeat protestants with the authority of Augustine, and even fewer of those would be wise to try. 

On the other hand there are indeed Catholics who try to argue from the fathers that the early church was the church of the Council of Trent; and that those who believe the bible must also believe the teachings superadded upon it during a thousand years of superstition and ignorance.  Such is a possible opinion, but I myself, with Talleyrand, have always failed to see the necessity.  But it seems unlikely that this polemic will be rebutted in the manner that Daillé attempted, by throwing the fathers out with the indulgence-sellers.

We need not enquire too curiously whether the high-church Cambridge don of 1857 sympathised very much with the Hugenot of two centuries earlier.

The book contains interesting things, among the tedious material.  For instance the Methodist movement is already described as suffering from “decrepitude”, and its continued existence called into question. 

Daillé argues that the works of the fathers are in the main few and fragmentary, and tend to be directed to subjects now obsolete.  He instances, apparently, the anti-gnostic works.  Of course he could hardly have foreseen the manner in which 1960’s hippy fads have reinvigorated this ancient nonsense, but his general point as to their subject matter is valid, and Blunt admits it.  The other point is only partially true, of course.

Blunt responds that the fathers are unmethodical writers.  A study of the table of contents for most patristic works would not inform us as to what subjects are truly introduced.  In consequence, the works of the fathers frequently contain digressions on subjects which no reasonable person would expect to be contained therein, and from which their views on some very contentious subjects not present to their minds at the time — such as transubstantiation — may be inferred. 

There is truth in this; although inferring the opinions of writers on a subject that did not arise until after their time would seem to be a somewhat risky proceeding.

Daillé also accuses the Church of Rome of corrupting the text of the fathers, in the editions published under Catholic auspices during the 17th century.  This should be interesting, but I have not yet reached that portion of the book.

In the course of discussing the use of apocrypha by the fathers[3], Blunt discusses the case of Clement of Alexandria.  His remarks are sound, and worth reproducing.

But does the manner in which Clemens avails himself of Apocryphal writings affect his own credit as an author or a candid Apologist? Certainly he refers to the “Gospel according to the Hebrews;” to the “Gospel according to the Egyptians;” to the “Traditions of Matthias;” to the “Preaching of Peter” to a “certain Gospel” and perhaps to the “Acts of Peter.”

And often he refers without any remark whatever as to the value of the document he is laying under contribution.

But you will bear this in mind, a fact which Daillé altogether overlooks, but a very important one; that on one of these occasions he expressly speaks of no Gospels being of authority except the four.

“On Salome inquiring,” this is the passage, “when the things which she asked about would be known; the Lord replied, when ye shall tread under foot” (or have no need for) “the covering of your shame; and when two shall become one, and the male with the female shall be neither male nor female;” and then Clemens adds, by way of shaking the effect of this paragraph, which was advocating a cause to which he was opposed, “First, then, I contend, that we have not this saying in the four Gospels delivered to us, but in the Gospel according to the Egyptians.”[4]

I say this observation must be carried along with us, when we meet with other quotations from Apocryphal Gospels and like works in Clemens; for however he may not at the moment declare in so many words the comparative estimation in which he holds them, we have it under his own hands, that none of them rank with him at all as the four Canonical Gospels do.

For example, he adduces this same Gospel according to the Egyptians in another place, as follows: “But they who oppose themselves to the Creation of God by their specious continence, allege those things which were addressed to Salome, whereof I have made mention already. They occur, I think,” continues Clemens, “in the Gospel according to the Egyptians.'”

Now here you see the Gospel according to the Egyptians is cited without any notice of distrust in it or any mark of depreciation. Yet from the other passage, already laid before you, it appears, that though he is here silent about its merits, Clemens had no wish to disguise his real opinion of it.

(The paragraphing is mine)

I shall read more of Blunt, I think.  And perhaps I shall look at Daillé also.  These old disputes sometimes contain gems.

  1. [1]Online here.
  2. [2]Jean Daillé, Treatise on the Right Use of the Fathers in the Decision of Controversies, Bohn, 1843.  Online here.  I haven’t looked at this.
  3. [3]p.63
  4. [4]Stromat. III, 13.

Cranmer, the ASA and its gay chairman

Ten days ago I wrote an article on this blog, about the Cranmer blog, and some threats which it had received from the British Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).  The “crime” was that Cranmer had run an innocuous advertisement for the Coalition for Marriage, opposing the current demand by the gay lobby for gay “marriage”.  The ASA demanded that he ‘explain’ himself — a tactic of intimidation familiar from Canada — and they also demanded that he keep their bullying silent.

Well, they picked the wrong blogger.  The mighty and very widely-read Cranmer promptly published their threatening letters on May 11th and demanded an explanation in his turn. He also wondered why his blog was singled out, when the even mightier Guido Fawkes had run the same ad.

Much has happened since.

On May 14th Cranmer published his reply.

His Grace apologises to his readers and communicants for his brief absence from his cyber pulpit: he has been closeted with lawyers and advisers, and has downed one or two vodka-martinis (‘dirty’, two olives) along with sundry bottles of Rioja. It’s interesting how a request to comply with an official investigation and a demand to respond to a formal inquiry becomes distracting and all-consuming: the mere request is a formidable weapon of harassment in itself, sapping energy, time and money (vid. His Grace’s Collection Plate ‘donate’ button on the right: all solidarity contributions welcome).

In particular, apologies are due to those who objected to his use of the word ‘persecution’ in this context: certainly, he, being long-deceased and non-corporeal, is no longer risking life or limb in the proclamation of the gospel. But, with respect, none of those who judge are on the receiving end of the intimidation. In their correspondence, the ASA do not inform one of the limits of their powers: one is simply confronted with specific demands from an organisation styled ‘Authority’. And through all the hours spent consulting, considering and pondering, there is absolutely no clue as to the identity of these 10 complainants, other than that they include the ‘Jewish Gay & Lesbian Group’ (though it is not clear if the complaint was made by individual members of that organisation or corporately on behalf of all members [if the latter, His Grace would dearly like to hear from any affiliated gay or lesbian Jews who place the freedoms of speech and expression above state-imposed moral uniformity]).

The latter paragraph contains a lession for us all.  Note how commenters who support this kind of persecution have developed a standard tactic; they deny that the harassment actually is persecution. 

Of course harassment is persecution.  So what is the purpose of the denial?  Well, it confuses the response.  Instead of asking “why are you beating me?” the victim is sidetracked in a futile debate away from the evildoer onto whether the victim is using “correct language”.  The object is thereby to blunt attempts at self-defence.  It’s worth making a mental note of this, for I have seen the same tactic used in response to other descriptions of harassment of Christians.  Those who adopt this tactic must be considered either fools or enemies, and, I fear, usually the latter.

On May 16th more dirty details emerged.  The ASA, feeling the heat, published a disclaimer on their website.  They did not apologise for their conduct; no indeed: they asserted that their victim had misunderstood!  This cynical ploy to deflect criticism, while continuing their action, was dissected by Cranmer here, although at this point even he did not realise quite what the disclaimer was really about.

But here’s the interesting section:

One of the bloggers on whose blog the ads appeared has raised concerns about us contacting him as part of our investigation. We have long found it useful to ask, in confidence, publishers of ads subject to ‘offence’ complaints for their views, because they can give us a valuable insight into whether or not their readers are likely to be offended. They are not the subject of our investigation, as we have made clear to them in this case, and they are not compelled to respond. 

This sounds so utterly reasonable that His Grace must have been completely mistaken by both the tone and content of their initial communication. Silly him: what a stupid pile of ash to have got so scattered about and worked up over the sweet ASA’s polite request for titbits of information to provide them with important ‘valuable insights’. How unnecessarily histrionic of him to have used the word ‘investigation’ when none has been instigated and he is not even compelled to respond, as they ‘made clear’.

Sadly, this is untrue.

And so it was, as Cranmer proceeds to demonstrate.

On May 17th the ASA replied to Cranmer’s email; or at least, pretended to do so, while actually ignoring all of his questions.  The email was published and fisked.

A reasonable person might wonder what on earth is going on.  He might enquire why on earth a body whose role is to regulate dodgy advertising is writing threatening letters to a blogger?  Why is this body threatening Christian groups who suggest that God might heal?  On May 18th, all became clear

… former Labour MP Chris Smith, now Baron Smith of Finsbury PC, is not only Chairman of the Advertising Standards Authority; he is also Vice President of The Campaign for Homosexual Equality. Mr Smith is widely credited with being Britain’s first openly gay MP, …

But Lord Smith’s courage is not merely historical: he continues to advance his cause. And he does so by exercising an authority which it doesn’t actually possess. He became Chairman of the Advertising Standards Authority in 2006, and Vice President of The Campaign for Homosexual Equality in 2009. He ought to have been wiser and more discerning, for the Campaign for Homosexual Equality is a ‘direct descendant’ of the ‘highly political’ Homosexual Law Reform Society. And they make no secret about it.

If one is a direct descendent, one inherits certain characteristics and retains a distinct pattern of DNA. That Lord Smith is Vice President of a ‘highly political’ campaign is in no doubt: the objective remains that of advocating for ‘gay rights’ and agitating aggressively for favourable legislation, regardless of the extent to which each incremental change impinges upon the rights and liberties of others. The more militaristic homosexuals – often termed ‘gayers’ or ‘homosexualists’ – are now responsible for spreading the very sorts of oppression, persecution and alienation historically suffered by their co-sexualists.

And so now we know.  But this is by no means the end of the story.  Later that day there was a further response from the ASA.  With much conciliatory language, but no indication of any intent to withdraw their “investigation” — what you or I would experience as harassment — they stated that they were now going to go after a couple more blogs!  Cranmer’s comment was wry:

But the report in the Church of England Newspaper appears to suggest that the ASA has now indeed decided to seek the opinions of Guido Fawkes and ConservativeHome on this matter. While the former (being an Irish national with a blog hosted on overseas servers) will doubtless tell them where to go, the latter will tread more carefully.

Meanwhile the fellow-travellers and online warriors who live to support these kinds of persecutions were getting into high gear and shrieking at the victim, as is their custom.  On May 20th Cranmer dealt firmly with them too.

Through the past week of His Grace’s ASA saga, he has received dozens of highly critical emails and hundreds of condemnatory tweets impugning his integrity, orthodoxy and motives. Even this morning, one talked of his ‘hate mongering’ and it being ‘better to drown urself than persecute god’s children’. It is, perhaps, simply the price one pays for expressing an opinion or holding a view which is not quite harmonically consonant with the zeitgeist. If one wishes to avoid criticism, one remains silent and inert.

Most interesting was the endorsement of the persecution from a certain pressure group.  It was understandable in a way: there are some groups that can’t possibly fear state action targeted against ordinary people, and wouldn’t understand the need to resist tyranny:

But perhaps no comment has been more hurtful to His Grace than one received from Peggy Sherwood, President of the Jewish Gay and Lesbian Group. His Grace had politely requested their assistance in clarifying whether or not her organisation had complained to the ASA about the Coalition for Marriage advertisement which is now the subject of a formal investigation. Someone on their behalf had commented on this blog that ‘…this has been done in our name and without our knowledge or agreement’.

This, of course, contradicted the documentation received from the ASA, which informed His Grace that they had received 24 complaints, ‘including the Jewish Gay and Lesbian Group’, which, of course, shifted the weight of opposition from an insignificant number of sundry individuals to an organisation which potentially represents thousands. His Grace informed the JGLG that ‘the ASA have used your corporate identity to inform His Grace (and others) that the JGLG did complain (either about the advertisement being factually incorrect or ‘offensive and homophobic’). This would appear to be a false affirmation which the ASA have not bothered to check with you’. And he enquired to know if one of their members had misled the ASA that he/she was speaking on their behalf, and, since the President apparently knows the identity of this person, whether he/she might be prepared to contact His Grace directly. He also sought to discover what action the leadership of the JGLG might take against this person for (apparently) bringing the JGLG into disrepute.

He received a terse response, instructing him to ‘turn the other cheek’ and assuring him of their best wishes at all times, ‘except those occasions when he appears not to recognize the image of God in the image of others’.

Few will feel anything but revulsion at the cynical response.

On May 21st Cranmer responded to the ASA letter, and put it pretty straight.

It appears that the Advertising Standards Authority is no longer solely concerned with sales promotional advertising. …

By choosing to investigate a promotional campaign which sought merely to uphold the traditional view of marriage, it is clear that you have expanded your remit to incorporate the promotion of political causes and ideas, which the CAP Code states specifically is excluded from the scope of your competence, except where they are ‘direct solicitations of donations for fund-raising’. That is manifestly not the case with the Coalition for Marriage advertisement: the only direct solicitation was for people’s signatures upon a petition. That the campaign is political is in no doubt, because HM Government have decreed it so by their decision to investigate those schools which advocate support of the marriage petition, which a minister has referred to as ‘political campaigning’. Your decision to investigate the complaint with threats and menaces, contra your own online remit, constitutes bullying, harassment and intimidation, which amounts to censorship of the cause for the retention of traditional marriage and the idea that marriage is a union of one man and one woman.

By sending out ‘complaint’ papers which demand responses with such phrases as ‘We require you to respond…’ and ‘we will need to see robust documentary evidence to back the claims and a clear explanation from you of its relevance’; and by doing so with demands to answer your questions by a certain deadline with threats of punitive action for non-compliance, you fraudulently convey an excess of power and claim an authority which you do not, in law, possess. You impress upon the recipient that you are the superior moral agent, and that submission and obeisance are the only appropriate response. …

And Cranmer revealed that the ASA had cheated the public even more than anyone had realised:

Your recent claim (published on 15th May upon your website) that you were seeking His Grace’s voluntary assistance and ‘have made clear’ that he is ‘not compelled to respond’ is not supported by the facts. Not least because this was only ‘made clear’ in your second email to him (which was received at 5.40pm on 15th May). Indeed, it appears that your second email was sent solely to permit you to be able to claim publicly on your website on the same day that you ‘have made clear’ that there is no compulsion to respond. This is not merely mendacious; it is manipulative, which is further harassment.  …

This is not a public body being silly, therefore.  This really is the abuse of power for a political objective:

Your treatment of His Grace is oppressive because you appear to claim the authority of the British Government, the Office of Fair Trading and of the Courts to demand his personal reasons for supporting the English laws regulating marriage. You selected him alone from the blogosphere for this intimidation when larger and more powerful entities had also promoted the same advertisement. And your treatment of His Grace is partisan because, through your decision to escalate to ‘formal investigation’ sundry vexatious and invented complaints, and by your unlawful threats made with reference to the Courts and other available sanctions, you have sought to punish his support of a cause, which has become political, and his commitment to an idea, which is moral. Your Agency is charged with ensuring truth in advertising, not with advancing a political agenda by suppressing the free debate that underpins our democracy. …

It ought to be obvious to any objective, reasonable person, and also to any rational, impartial organisation, that a set of wedding photographs and a quotation from the marriage liturgy cannot possibly be offensive to any reasonable or rational person. They are only deemed to be so by those whose agenda is acutely political. The fact that you subjectively and unreasonably chose to escalate their complaints to the level of ‘formal investigation’ constitutes an intimidating attempt to encroach on the freedom of speech.

Later today, there was another development:

With impeccable (‘interesting’) timing, Lord Smith of Finsbury has come out in favour of the campaign for same-sex marriage.

For all the reasons previously observed, Lord Smith must now resign his position as Chairman of the ASA, who have aggressively and deceptively made demands of His Grace (and others) in relation to a Coalition for Marriage advertisement which merely sought to uphold the traditional view of marriage and English law as it presently stands. Lord Smith now declares that he desires to support the campaign to change that law, and he is apparently using the ASA to achieve his ends.

It is simply not possible for the ASA to assert impartiality and objectivity in adjudicating on matters relating to the promotion of traditional marriage. Lord Smith is simultaneously Chairman of the ASA and Vice President of The Campaign for Homosexual Equality. Now that he has ‘come out’ in support of the agenda of the 10 complainants who reported His Grace for disseminating ‘homophobia’, there can be no expectation that justice can be seen to be done.

Indeed not.  All is explained.

Cranmer is right.  Smith cannot properly remain as Chairman of the ASA.


Facsimile edition of the ms. of Critoboulos’ History of the Fall of Constantinople to be published

I have written before about the history of Kritoboulos of Imbros, which describes the sack of Constantinople in 1453.  The author was a Greek renegade who entered Turkish service.  The text was published in a critical edition in 1983. An English translation from an earlier edition exists by Charles Riggs.  From the latter I learn that:

The original manuscript of this valuable work is one of the treasures of the Seraglio Point Museum Library in Istanbul today, and it is carefully guarded as such. It was discovered in the Library in 1865, and five years later was transcribed by Herr Karl Mueller and printed in Paris in Fragmenta Historicorum Graecorum, Vol. V. The dedicatory Epistle to Mehmed was published separately by Tischendorf in 1870.

It seems that the Greek consul in Istanbul, Vasilis Bornovas, is an enterprising man who is interested in promoting the study of Greek in Istanbul.  According to this report, he started a school in Istanbul to teach Greek in 2009:

The General Consul of Greece in Istanbul Vasilis Bornovas, realized the Greek language and cultural interest by the Turks.  He opened a Greek language school in Sismanogleio Megaro, in Istanbul. According to the Greek Consul: “The first year of opening we had 50-60 students, but last year their number reached 200. This year we expect to have 500-600 students. As I am informed, Greeks express great interest about learning Turkish and in Greece there are 150 schools, while many people come to Istanbul in order to have lessons in TOMER (Turkish Language Learning Center)”.

From the website of the Canellopoulos Foundation here, I learn that he has now arranged for the publication of a photographic copy of the Istanbul manuscript, with Turkish facing translation, doubtless in the same cause of promoting mutual understanding.  The funding is mainly coming from this foundation, who are to be commended for such an interesting project.

The Paul and Alexandra Canellopoulos Foundation is contributing to the costs of publishing the Histories of Critoboulos of Imbros, in response to a proposal by Vasilis Bornovas, Embassy Attaché First Class and former Greek Consul General to Constantinople.

The book contains a Turkish translation of the historical writings of Critoboulos, and is expected to deepen understanding of the historical period of transition from the Byzantine to the Ottoman era.

I learned of all this today when I encountered a rather confused article here, which makes an announcement about this work.

An important manuscript was discovered in Topkapi Palace in Istanbul. … The manuscript found is of significant meaning, because it consists of information regarding the years before the Fall of Constantinople in 1453, but it also describes the early years after Constantinople was turned into Istanbul and became capital of Turkey.

The document belongs to Michael Critovoulos, a Greek politician, scholar and historian, who lived between 1410 and 1470. His birth-name was Kritopoulos, but he changed it to sound more ancient Greek-like.

He experienced the Siege and Fall of Constantinople and wrote about Mehmed II the Conqueror. … The chronicle of destruction and looting of the city by the Ottomans, in order to make it their capital, is also mentioned.

His book, according to the Turkish website, was printed with the contribution of the Pavlos and Alexandra Kanellopoulos Foundation. This will be a bilingual issue, having the original manuscript and the Turkish translation by Aris Tsokonas on the one page and the colourful photocopy of the text on the other.

The consul is to be commended.  Fostering understanding is doubtless part of his job; but what an imaginative way to do this!  Long after all diplomatic endeavours have proven vain, and perhaps in centuries to come, when the names of Greece and Turkey have become merely a historical curiosity to some Chinese overlord of the world, the book that he made possible may transmit the work of Critoboulos to a remote future.


Armenian mss photographed in Syria by HMML

Via Paleojudaica I learn of an interesting article on the PanArmenian website.

PanARMENIAN.Net – Hill Museum & Manuscript Library at St. John’s University completed a manuscript preservation project in the Middle East shortly before the violence worsened in Syria, reports.

“This was our last current project in Syria, and we had done actually a series of projects – about six of them in Syria – in different locations,” said the Rev. Columba Stewart, executive director of the Collegeville-based library.

However, HMML-trained technicians in Aleppo, Syria, were able to complete the digitization of 225 Armenian manuscripts belonging to the Armenian Orthodox Diocese of Aleppo – one of the largest Armenian collections in Syria.

“We began the work before the current turmoil in Syria, and this particular project was finished just as the situation started to get bad in Aleppo, which had been quiet until fairly recently,” Stewart said during a call from Bethlehem. …

“We also work on Islamic projects, so our interests transcend particular denominations or religious groups because all of this handwritten manuscript heritage is really the heritage of all humankind,” Stewart said.

HMML has now completed a series of projects in Aleppo that have included important collections belonging to the Syriac Orthodox, Syriac Catholic and Greek-Catholic communities, for a total of 2,150 digitally preserved manuscripts. …

Adam McCollum is the lead cataloger of Eastern Christian manuscripts at HMML and will be responsible for getting the Armenian collection cataloged once it is at the HMML.

“Once the library has entered into a partnership with people who have collections of manuscripts, a studio is set up there with a digital camera, and entire manuscript collections are photographed and put onto hard drives and mailed back to us,” McCollum said.

One digital copy of the Armenian collection will stay with Bishop Shahan Sarkissian and the Armenian Orthodox Diocese of Aleppo. HMML will keep an additional digital copy of the collection in a highly secure location.

“The general populace in these places is still pretty safe – at least at this point – but we have no idea what’s going to happen in the future,” he said of HMML’s continuing work in Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey, as well as in Ethiopia, southwest India and Malta.

I think that we must all wish this enterprise well.  HMML is doing a rescue job here, and a very necessary one. 

Before the first world war, scholars were very excited to discover that the “mountain Nestorians” in the Turkish empire, in what is now the north of modern Iraq and Iran, were still speaking Syriac.  It was discovered that they had preserved manuscripts of various important patristic works previously thought lost.  They were based in the mountains in order to resist Moslem attacks, mainly by Kurds.  American missionaries set up a base at Urmia and copied whatever they could access.  The Archbishop of Seert, Addai Scher, became a well-known scholar and collected a number of irreplaceable items, including a complete Syriac translation of Theodore of Mopsuestia’s lost work, De incarnatione, discovered in 1905 and unpublished.  

Then the war came, and the Turks orchestrated genocidal attacks on the Armenians in 1915, but also on Christians generally.  Scher was murdered and his library vanished, taking with it any chance that men could ever read De incarnatione.  The losses of manuscripts in that period were severe. 

Likewise the violence in Iraq after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein once again led to Moslem violence against Christians, and the loss of cultural treasures.

The revolutions going on at the moment — and I have no idea what is truly happening there, and I don’t believe our media reports — are very likely to involve the destruction of irreplaceable material. 

The work of HMML in making copies of manuscripts is undoubtedly a wise precaution.

Armenian literature itself is much better known than Old Slavic, but simply cataloguing those manuscript, as Adam McCollum is to do, will itself make material more accessible. 

I once wanted to learn if there was any catena material in Armenian.  I was defeated by the fact that all the titles, in the catalogues of manuscripts that I consulted, were in Armenian script and so unreadable!  A web catalogue will not have this problem.

Yesterday the Slavicists were talking about the need for a Clavis listing all works and authors known in the language, and assigning each a numeric reference.  Is there a Clavis for classical Armenian, I wonder?  If not, why not?