The Periplus of Hanno/Chapter 7

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The Periplus of Hanno by Wilfred Harvey Schoff
Phœnicians and Carthaginians


"The Phœnicians for some centuries confined their navigation within the limits of the Mediterranean, the Propontis, and the Euxine, land-locked seas, which are tideless and far less rough than the open ocean. But before the time of Solomon they had passed the Pillars of Hercules and affronted the dangers of the Atlantic. Their frail and small vessels, scarely bigger than modern fishing-smacks, proceeded southwards along the West African coast, as far as the tract watered by the Gambia and Senegal, while northwards they coasted along Spain, braved the heavy seas of the Bay of Biscay, and passing Cape Finisterre, ventured across the mouth of the English Channel to the Cassiterides. Singularly, from the West African shore, they boldly steered for the Fortunate Islands (the Canaries), visible from certain elevated points of the coast, though at 170 miles distance. Whether they proceeded further, in the south to the Azores, Madeira, and the Cape Verde Islands, in the north to the coast of Holland, and across the German Ocean to the Baltic, we regard as uncertain. It is possible that from time to time some of the more adventurous of their traders may have reached thus far; but their regular, settled and established navigation did not, we believe, extend beyond the Scilly Islands and coast of Cornwall to the northwest, and to the southwest Cape Non and the Canaries. The commerce of the Phœnicians was carried on to a large extent by land, though principally by sea. It appears from the famous chapter (xxvii) of Ezekiel which describes the richness and greatness of Tyre in the 6th century B. C, that almost the whole of Western Asia was penetrated by the Phœnician caravans, and laid under contribution to increase the wealth of the Phœnician trader. . . . Translating this glorious burst of poetry into prose, we find the following countries mentioned as carrying on an active trade with the Phœnician metropolis: Northern Syria, Syria of Damascus, Judah and the land of Israel, Egypt, Arabia, Babylonia, Assyria, Upper Mesopotamia, Armenia, Central Asia Minor, Ionia, Cyprus, Hellas or Greece, and Spain."—G. Rawlinson, History of Phœnicia, ch. 9.

"Though the invincible industry and enterprise of the Phœnicians maintained them as a people of importance down to the period of the Roman empire, yet the period of their widest range and greatest efficiency is to be sought much earlier—anterior to 700 B. C. In these remote times they and their colonists (the Carthaginians especially) were the exclusive navigators of the Mediterranean; the rise of the Greek maritime settlements banished their commerce to a great degree from the Ægean Sea, and embarrassed it even in the more westerly waters. Their colonial establishments were formed in Africa, Sicily, Sardinia, the Balearic Isles and Spain. The greatness as well as the antiquity of Carthage, Utica, and Gades, attest the long-sighted plans of Phœnician traders, even in days anterior to the first Olympiad. We trace the wealth and industry of Tyre, and the distant navigation of her vessels through the Red Sea and along the coast of Arabia, back to the days of David and Solomon. And as neither Egyptians, Assyrians, Persians or Indians addressed themselves to a sea-faring life, so it seems that both the importation and the distribution of the prodducts of India and Arabia into Western Asia and Europe were performed by the Idumæan Arabs between Petra and the Red Sea—by the Arabs of Gerrha on the Persian Gulf, joined as they were in later times by a body of Chaldæan exiles from Babylonia—and by the more enterprising Phœnicians of Tyre and Sidon in these two seas as well as in the Mediterranean."—G. Grote, History of Greece, pt. 2, ch. 18.

"The commerce of Carthage may be conveniently considered under its two great branches—the trade with Africa and the trade with Europe. The trade with Africa . . . was carried on with the barbarous tribes of the inland country that could be reached by caravans, and of the sea-coast. Of both we hear something from Herodotus, the writer who furnishes us with most of our knowledge about these parts of the ancient world. . . . The goods with which the Carthaginian merchants traded with the African tribes were doubtless such as those which civilized nations have always used in their dealings with savages. Cheap finery, gaudily colored clothes, and arms of inferior quality, would probably be their staple. Salt, too, would be an important article. . . . The articles which they would receive in exchange for their goods are easily enumerated. In the first place comes . . . gold. Carthage seems to have had always at hand an abundant supply of the precious metal for use, whether as money or as plate. Next to gold would come slaves. . . . Ivory must have been another article of Carthaginian trade, though we hear little about it. The Greeks used it extensively in art. . . . Precious stones seem to have been another article which the savages gave in exchange for the goods they coveted. . . . Perhaps we may add dates to the list of articles obtained from the interior. The European trade dealt, of course, partly with the things already mentioned, and partly with other articles for which the Carthaginian merchants acted as carriers, so to speak, from one part of the Mediterranean to another. Lipara, and the other volcanic islands near the extremity of Italy, produced resin; Agrigentum, and possibly other cities of Sicily, traded in sulphur brought down from the region of Etna; wine was produced in many of the Mediterranean countries. Wax and honey were the staple goods of Corsica. Corsican slaves, too, were highly valued. The iron of Elba, the fruit and the cattle of the Balearic islands, and to go further, the tin and copper of Britain, and even amber from the Baltic, were articles of Carthaginian commerce. Trade was carried on not only with the dwellers on the coast, but with inland tribes. Thus goods were transported across Spain to the interior of Gaul, the jealousy of Massilia (Marseilles) not permitting the Carthaginians to have any trading stations on the northern coast of that country."—A. J. Church and A. Filman, The Story of Carthage, pt. 3, ch. 3.