it be taken as a survival from savagery, as one of the proofs that the Greeks had passed through the savage status?
The answer is less obvious than might be supposed. Sacrifice has two origins. First, there are honorific sacrifices, in which the god (or divine beast, if a divine beast be worshipped) is offered the food he is believed to prefer. To carnivorous totems, Garcilasso says, the Indians of Peru offered themselves. The feeding of sacred mice in the temples of Apollo Smintheus is well known. Secondly, there are expiatory or piacular sacrifices, in which the worshipper, as it were, fines himself in a child, an ox, or something else that he treasures. The latter kind of sacrifice (most common in cases of crime done or suspected within the circle of kindred) is not necessarily savage, except in its cruelty. An example is the Attic Thargelia, in which two human scape-goats annually bore "the sins of the congregation," and were flogged, driven to the sea with figs tied round their necks, and burned.
The institution of human sacrifice, then, whether the offering be regarded as a gift to the god of what is dearest to man (as in the case of Jephtha's daughter), or whether the victim be supposed to carry on his head the sins of the people, does not necessarily date from the period of savagery. Indeed, these conceptions are rather outside the limits of thought of the lowest races, and it would probably be difficult to find many examples of human sacrifices of an expiatory
- Compare the Marseilles human sacrifice, Petron., 141; and for the Thargelia, Tsetzes, Chiliads, v. 736; Hellad. in Photius, p. 1590 f. and Harpoc. s. v.