Excerpt from My Forthcoming Book The Last Carthaginian

From The Last Carthaginian, part one: In the Wake of Hannibal. Gisco is told by the high priest of Tanit and Baal-Hammon that his infant son must be sacrificed as a burnt offering to the gods.

In winter I returned to Khart Hadasht to find Sansara big with child. Within a month she had our second son, whom we named Hanno. Our little Hanno was a most beautiful baby with fair skin like his mother, grey eyes and chestnut hair. He attracted attention wherever we went. The child’s spectacular beauty made me uneasy, because it is well known that beautiful children attract the evil eye.
When spring arrived Mago led our forces to the Upper Baetis, where we took up positions to protect our silver mines. We could not let these mines fall into the hands of the Romans. A few days before the summer solstice, I received a summons from the high priest of the temple of Tanit and Ba-al Hammon. Utterly perplexed, I took it to Mago. He was as perplexed as I was. “I suppose you had better go and see what this is all about,” he said. It was a two days ride on horseback to Khart Hadasht. I brought along my two body slaves Palonis and Motigon.

I arrived to find my wife in distress. She had heard snatches of conversations here and there which she couldn’t quite comprehend but had found disturbing. Women had been looking furtively at little Hanno and then turning away, apparently fighting tears. “Why are you home so soon, my husband?” she asked. “I don’t understand what is happening. All of these women who used to be so nice and friendly to me, they avoid me. What have I done?”
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I had no good answer for her. “I don’t know what’s going on, Sansara, but I will find out. I suspect it may have something to do with the Ba-al.”
“I don’t understand,” said Sansara. “Have I offended the Ba-al? I didn’t intend to. I don’t understand your Carthaginian gods. We have our own gods among my people.”
“I’m sure you have done nothing to offend the Ba-al. I will talk to the priest and find out what is going on.” I took her in my arms, kissed her lips, and stroked her hair. “Let us relax tonight and feast and make love. I will talk to the priest tomorrow.” I picked up each of the children in turn and hugged and kissed them. Giscana was now six, Gisco three and Hanno five months. When I went to pick him up, Hanno held out his arms and smiled with pleasure. He trusted me completely.
The next day I climbed up to the Byrsa and entered the temple of Tanit. I was ushered in to see Indibal, the Rab Kohanim, or high priest. Indibal sat on a golden throne. He was dressed in a long robe, richly embroidered with images of birds, animals, sacred plants and heavenly bodies. He was a short man, but his striking and elaborate head dress rendered him imposing. The smell of incense hung heavy in the stagnant air. Behind him I could see a larger than life statue of the goddess Tanit, a serene smile on her face, like that of a mother contemplating her sleeping children. “You sent for me, Holy One?” I asked.
“Yes, Gisco son of Gisco. Welcome. You are blessed of Tanit and of Ba-al Hammon.” He replied in a high-pitched, nasal voice. “You are the one by whose sacrifice Carthage will be saved.”
A strong feeling of anxiety came over me. “I don’t understand.”
“You must have perceived how the gods have turned away from Carthage in the past year. It has been divined that Tanit and Ba-al Hammon demand sacrifice, and that this must be a perfect male child. We have made a search and you are the only one who possesses a child of this quality. I know that this is not an easy thing for you to do, but your nation demands this sacrifice of you and it must be carried out.”
I was utterly stunned! “No. I can’t permit this. My wife is not Carthaginian, she won’t understand. It would kill her.”
“Your wife, Sansara, is blessed among women.” said Indibal. “Tanit will favor her with whatever she desires.”
“No!” I said, “I can’t . . . I can’t.”
“Gisco, son of Gisco, refusing the gods is not an option. Our entire nation is at stake. Bring the child here at dawn tomorrow morning. You may go.”

Comments

  1. Very interesting to see what life was like in those times I can’t even start understood how a man could be expected to sacrifice his son It will be interesting to see what the outcome will be.

  2. A very interesting situation for a man to have to face. I can’t wait to see what the out come will be.

  3. My next excerpt will provide the answer to Gisco’s dilemma. Not an entirely happy choice for him, but solves his immediate problem.

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