Phoenician Secrets: Exploring the Ancient Mediterranean by Sanford Holst
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I read the author's first book on the Phoenicians a few years ago and thought it was great. I learned a lot about the Phoenicians and their contributions to the development of the Mediterranean that I never knew before or could even imagine. When I bought this book I was expecting to learn something new. Short I was in the expectation of this book continuing where the other one left off. You can well understand my disappointment when I thought to myself while reading this book that hmm I read this before. I was read a few more chapters into the book it dawned on me that this was the same book just a different title.
As I read further on I realized that there was up to 30-40% new information. An update of an older work. Would have been nice if they kept the same title. Then again I might now have invested in the book. The book is a great read for the lay man. It is not burdened with overly academic language and vocabulary and it is very understandable. Such easy reading is refreshing. There is one drawback though and that is the lack of footnotes. I want to track down some of this information. Some of it I have questions about and want to make further inquiries, a bit difficult if the footnotes are not in place. In short I would advise getting this book as opposed to the older one. In fact the author's website is advertising this book not the old one. Very telling.
The Phoenicians are a fascinating group of people. The book give a great surface over view of that. The group started out in Byblos, a city by the sea. At first they were fishermen who made their living from the sea. Their first boats were made from dugout Cedar logs. Eventually their boat building became more advanced and they began trading with distant villages. The result what a rising standard of living. They hit the jackpot with Egypt. Egypt bought lots of timber for their Temple dedicated to Horus in Hierankopolis. The First Pharoah to unite the divided land was their best customer. The author has some new information here detailing the rise of Egypt from the Scorpion king, Aha Menas etc.
The Phoenician expanded their base of trade to the Mediterranean Sea basin and the Aegean. They traded with Cyprus, and founded colonies in Santorini, Malta and Gozo. They brought wares from different places and traded them all over their network. They kept their sources a secret. Secrecy was one of their principles. The Phoenician found a race of people who built nice temple to the Mother Goddess. The Phoenicians being great middle men introduced them to the Egyptians who hired them to build their pyramids. Strange that one day all the inhabitants of the island disappeared. The Egyptians may have taken them enmasse to build their pyramids.
The Pheonicians were of Canaanite stock but they were way different from the other Canaanites. For one they worshiped mother nature an eventually added in a horned god. The Canaanite were more warlike and had a pantheon of gods. One of the Phoenician secrets was to negotiate rather then fight. They also blended in with the others so it was hard to tell the difference. Women were also treated equally and their input was valued.
When the Amorites continued in conquering their main city Byblos rather than fight they made for themselves a new home. They packed up and shipped off to Crete.In Crete they blended in with the locals and formed the Minoan empire. Prior to the Minoan
Empire the Phoenicians set up up other Cities along the Lebanese coast. Cities like Sidon, Arwad and Tyre. As they settled Crete many would leave Tyre and Sidon and those areas were abandoned for up to 500 years after.
The Myceneans were the ones who would change things for the Phoenicians. They were aggressive and warlike. Eventually they would storm the island of Crete. The Phoenicians would simply pack up and leave when negotiations failed them. They ended up resettling their old cities. Things still started looking down for the Phoenicians. Their trading partners, the Egyptians got more and more aggressive. The Hittites rose to power and were hostile as well. The volcano on Santorini exploded destroying numerous Phoenicians colonies in the Aegean. New trading centers arose like Ugarit who offered stiff competition.
Salvation would come in the form of the Kaska people who lived near the Black sea area and were oppressed by the Hittites. The Phoenicians made friends with them and let them to have use of their ships. This provoked in an invasion of the Sea Peoples and they would storm the Aegean and the entire Middle East. All the obstacle the Phoenicians faced were obliterated. Everyone experienced conflict save for the Phoenicians.
Things went great for while until the Greeks started expanding out. They were rather aggressive. They would expand out under the Alexander the Great. Alexander sacked the entire middle east those that surrender were treated mercifully cities like Tyre who put up great resistance for 9 months faced horrible consequences. Tyre was an island city that held out against the Assyrians for 13 years before their leader finally gave up. The other cities just joined in and Hellenized.
Once colony that was immune to all of this was Carthage, set up by wealthy Phoenicians they engaged in farming and became a regional power. Later on Rome would go to war with them in a series of wars called " The Punic Wars" Hannibal became famous from all of this. Eventually Rome won out and Carthage fell. The author believes the Phoenicians still live on. They might. You will have to read the book and find out for yourself.
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