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ANAHITA  January 1999

ANAHITA January 1999

Subject:

Re: Child sacrifice etc.

From:

Jim Miller <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Women and Gender in the Ancient World <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 14 Jan 1999 20:55:16 EST

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (46 lines)

        Gail H inquired about parallels between Greek and ancient near eastern child
sacrifice.  First, I would note that the substitution of a doe for Iphigenea
is a late, Helleinstic ending appended to Euripides' play Iphigenea at Aulis.
In his earlier play Iphigenea Among the Taurians Iphigenea describes herself
as being removed from Aulis with her throat slit and bleeding, and Orestes
confirms that everyone thought Iphigenea was dead from her father's knife-
stroke.
        As to parallels, where do I begin?  The Bible provides the most material for
parallels.  There is Phrixos and Isaac.  In the most developed form of the
story (which alas is Hellenistic) the parallels are numerous.  The father's
first wife is divine (Nephele) or divinely chosen (Sarah) and the second wife
is decidedly lower class.  The wives and their sons are rivals, and the son of
the first wife is sacrificed.  However, the sacrifice of this son is
interrupted by a ram and by an angel (messenger) or Hermes (the messenger
God).  Meanwhile the second wife is driven out with her son.  On the Greek
story, it is a messy matter determining how much of the Hellenistic story was
in this shape in the Hellenic period.
        You mentioned the king of Moab sacrificing his son on the city wall during a
siege.  Likewise Menoekos (Phoenician Women, Euripides) sacrificed himself on
the city wall during the siege of Thebes.  It is intriguing that Teresias had
to explain in detail why Menoekos could stand in for the first-born son, even
though he is the second-born of Creon.  It is also interesting that although
Isaac was Abraham's second son, at the beginning of chapter 22 God refers to
him as Abraham's only son.
        It is important that first-born sacrifice transcends the gender boundary in
both cultures.  Even though Agamemnon had a son, Orestes, it was his first-
born, Iphigenea who was sacrificed.  Likewise the Hebrew Bible speaks of child
sacrifices of both genders.
        I have two chapters on human sacrifice in my book The Western Paradise
(tooting my own horn again).  Have your library order it today! (toot, toot)
Jim Miller

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