The Origin and Development of the Moral Ideas - Vol. 1

By Edward Westermarck | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIX
HUMAN SACRIFICE

IT still remains for us to consider some particular cases in which destruction of human life is sanctioned by custom or law.

Men are killed with a view to gratifying the desires of superhuman beings. We meet with human sacrifice in the past history of every so-called Aryan race.1 It occurred, at least occasionally, in ancient India, and several of the modern Hindu sects practised it even in the last century.2 There are numerous indications that it was known among the early Greeks.3 At certain times it prevailed in the Hellenic cult of Zeus;4 indeed, in the second century after Christ men seem still to have been sacrificed to Zeus Lycæus in Arcadia.5 To the historic age likewise belongs the sacrifice of the three Persian prisoners of war whom Themistocles was compelled to slay before the battle of Salamis.6 In Rome, also, human sacrifices, though

____________________
1
See Hehn, Wanderings of Plants and Animals from their First Home, p. 414sqq.
2
Weber, Indische Streifen, i. 54 sqq. Wilson, "'Human Sacrifices in the Ancient Religion of India,'" in Works, ii. 247sqq. Oldenberg, Religion des Veda, p. 363sqq. Barth, Religions of India, p. 57sqq. Monier Williams , Brāhmanism and Hindūism, p. 24. Hopkins, Religions of India, pp. 198, 363. Rájendralála Mitra, Indo-Aryans, ii. 69sqq. Crooke, Popular Religion and Folk-Lore of Northern India, ii. 167sqq. Chevers, Manual of Medical Jurisprudence for India, p. 396sqq.
3
See Geusius, Victimæ Humanæ, passim; von Lasaulx, Sühnofper der Griechen und Römer, passim; Farnell, Cults of the Greek Slates, i. 41sq.; Stengel, Die griechischen Kultusaltertümer, p. 114sqq.
4
Cf. Farnell, op. cit. i. 93; Stengel, op. cit. p. 116.
5
Pausanias, viii. 38. 7.
6
Plutarch, Themistocles, 13.

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