Book Sale

Sunday 9 October 2022


One of the most fascinating civilisations in history is that of the Phoenicians. It is the world power most people are not aware off. The inventer of the Phonetic alphabet, that transformed writing forever. And, until it's great city, Carthage, was finally annihilated by the Romans, it was a first rate ancient power, that may have spread beyond the Mediterranean, and perhaps even beyond the African and European coasts

"Transitioning From A Commercial Into A Colonial Superpower

It was a combination of their bravery, creativity, industriousness, commercial talents and knowledge of the seas (in addition to surviving the geopolitical upheaval caused by the Sea Peoples in the late Bronze Age) which gave the Phoenicians the appetite to go beyond the known and into the unknown. Through this sense of adventure, the Phoenicians went in search for new commercial opportunities to places never dared to be visited and hitherto undiscovered. As a result, gradually the Phoenicians ““discovered the whole Mediterranean and filled its shores with their trading posts which they established and their shipyards which they constructed. Thus they had existence everywhere, in Asia Minor, the Aegean Sea, Greece, Southern Italy, Sicily and Libya (North African coast (Mediterranean)), and especially in the major colonies they founded, such as Carthage, and Cadix in Spain in the middle of the XIth century B.C. after they had ventured and discovered the Atlantic Ocean and reached Senegal to the south and the British Isles to the north”” (Harb 2017, p. 139); even exploring and colonizing new places beyond the dangerous Strait of Gibraltar also known as the Pillars of Hercules (Scott 2018).

At the beginning of the 1st Millennium BC, the Phoenicians limited themselves to the establishment of warehouses, bases (these were marine commercial and not naval bases), ports, emporia (a commercial center/market during Antiquity) and trading stations at geostrategic locations that provided potential economic opportunities across: the southern Black Sea region, the Mediterranean and even expanded to the Atlantic Ocean (Scott 2018). Phoenicia’s initial global or more specifically westward expansion whether it was setting up bases, ports and trading stations did not have a militaristic element to it, it was purely for commercial purposes. In other words, the Phoenicians more specifically the Sidonian Phoenicians of Sidon and Tyre had created a trading empire, the first of its kind in world history (Woodman 2012) but certainly not the last. In fact, it was only under the leadership of Tyre that the Phoenicians expanded from a purely commercial power into a colonial empire, which naturally requires possessing a strong navy. As a result of this dramatic change in policy and under Tyre’s stewardship and example, the Phoenicians developed a network of territorial colonies (this despite being a Thalassocracy/sea-based empire) across a vast region which included ‘Cyprus, Iberia, Sardinia (which was rich in minerals), Sicily, Malta, agriculturally prosperous North Africa (initially colonies were established in Carthage and Utica both in present day Tunisia) and the Balearic Islands’ (Scott 2018, p. 29). In addition, the Phoenicians understood the importance of coordination in conducting trade which helps provide a clearer understanding of their decision to set up colonies along the Mediterranean coast from France through Spain, Corsica, Sardinia and Carthage (Woodman 2012)."

The Phoenicians played a major role in the Old Testament. They were one of the major economic powers of late Bronze Age to the early iron age, and the major trading power. They were allied closely with David and Solomon, helping to build the Temple of The Lord, which had clear Phoenician design elements. Their religion was one of the most influential of the era, with their Baals and Asherahs being worshipped widely, and even overtaking much of Israel for large segments of its history. Their Empire was the ancient equivalent of the British Empire, a seagoing power that ruled the waves, right up until Rome ended this reign. 

Israel's most famous Queen, Jezebel, was a Phoenician from Sidon, the daughter of Ethbaal King of the Sidonians and wife of the corrupt Ahab (1 Kings 16:31). She was most responsible for the popular uptake of Baal and Asherah worship through Israel and Judah, though their influence is found in Israel before her time. An extended segment of the book of Ezekiel (chap. 26-28), deals with God's judgement on Tyre and Sidon, for their wicked and abundant trade. They were as influential to the history of Israel in the Old Testament as Rome was in the New. 

They were the sovereigns of Canaan that God judged and handed their land, for a time, to the Israelites. It is in the interplay of these two cultures that much of the Old Testament religion finds its expression. Even Jesus has an interesting encounter with a Syro-Phoenician woman in the gospel (Mark 7:24-30). 

And, among other notable things, they also very likely discovered America, long before it was thought the Old World had travelled that far:

"Finding The Americas

However, arguably the Phoenicians greatest yet rarely discussed achievement was their voyage to the Americas a theory that several scholars have claimed to be authentic. One such scholar was Thomas Crawford Johnston (1913), an Honorary Member of the Geographical Society of California, who claimed that millennia before both Christopher Columbus and the Vikings, Phoenician sailors reached the shores of the New World (Johnston 1913). Mr. Crawford Johnston supported his case through using a methodological and systemic approach. In his research he found strong evidence showing relics of Phoenician trade, artwork, commercial and colonial settlements around the world including on the coasts of Spain, Britain and the Levant. These he compared to ancient remnants that were discovered in the Americas which he concluded were too similar to those found in the aforementioned places, Britain, Spain and the Levant and that therefore, they must have originated from the same source which is Phoenicia (Smeaton in Johnston 1913).

In addition, there is scientific and archeological proof supporting Mr. Johnston’s theory. For example, in 1872 in Pouso Alto of Paraiba State in northeast Brazil, workers found a stone plate which was inscribed in an unfamiliar language. The inscribed text on the stone, which was given the name the Paraiba Stone (after the region in which it was discovered), was confirmed to have been written in the Phoenician language by Dr. Netto a famous 19th Century Brazilian expert on Phoenician archeology and the curator of the National Museum in Rio de Janiero. The inscriptions on the Stone read as a story of a Phoenician voyage to the New World. “ “We are the Sons of Canaan from Sidon, the city of the King. Trading has cast us on this distant shore, a land of mountains. We gave incence offering for the exalted gods and goddesses in the nineteenth year of our mighty King Hiram. We embarked from Ezion-Geber into the Red Sea, and voyaged with ten ships. We were at sea together for two years around the land of Ham (Africa). Then we were separated by the hand of Baal (God of Fertility and the Storm and Mlk/Malik/King of the Gods) and we were no longer with our companions. So we have come here, twelve men and three women, on a… shore which I, Mutastarte, the chief, took possession of” ” (Harb 2017, p. 198). In order to prove the authenticity of the Paraiba Stone text, in 1967 Dr. Cyrus Gordon (an expert in ancient Semitic languages and chair, Department of Middle Eastern Studies at Brandeis University) studied, translated and described the inscriptions on the Paraiba Stone and confirmed that the Stone was a genuine discovery and that the text was authentically Phoenician (Harb 2017). Further proof of the Paraiba Stone’s authenticity was provided by Reverend Dr. Branden, one of the world’s imminent Phoenician linguistic scholars, who affirmed the Stone’s validity through imparting his own translation including an explanation of the religious and historical content of the inscriptions. He was even able to provide an approximate dating of the text, which he relayed back to between the 9th and 10th centuries BC (Harb 2017) when Phoenicia was at the height of its global expansion. Therefore, there is enough evidence proving that so far the Phoenicians were of the first peoples in history to sail to and find the Americas."

Is that not remarkable? 

The ancient world was far more connected than we realize. This might even explain how traces of Cocaine were found in Egyptian mummies

So, the Phoenicians are a great empire, that many people have not heard of. Which is fitting, since they were conquered by the most famous empire in history, which in many senses, stole the Phoenician society's mantle. 

History is more interesting the more you learn. 


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