dinsdag 2 juli 2013





A personal view.


Generally is the scientific basis of the year 1200 BC, when the question is raised whether you can speak of the Phoenicians. This opening sentence contains already two untruths. Firstly: 1200 BC is too late chosen and secondly: No Phoenicians. Both corrections are also in contradiction with each other. I will try to explain.
The Phoenicians predicate is affixed by the Greeks and a few centuries later "they" were called Punics by the Romans. That 'they' will be also labeled as Carthaginian is right, because that was the name of their capital at that time.
Who are "they"?
"They" called themselves men of Sidon, of Tyre, Byblos, of Kition, of Carthage etc, etc, etc. If they already were forced to concur under one flag, then they called themselves if necessary Canaanites.
The most recent testimony of Canaanites occurs at St. Augustinus of Hippo in Numidia (also a misnomer!). The farmers in the hinterland of Hippo (today Annaba) still called themselves Canaanites in the late 4th century AD, and they spoke a language that was related to it.
Even Jesus in the New Testament met so around 30 AD still near Sidon and Tyre in Lebanon a Canaanite woman, who also is called Syro-Phoenician.
The Canaanites as a branche of the Amorites occur already at least 2300 years earlier in the Levant, when the countries they have come to inhabit, we now know as Syria, Lebanon, Israel and Jordan. In this immensely long time they were constantly invasions of foreign tribes and nations. Their nature and character changed so constantly and yet they continued to call themselves Canaanites. The immigrants are numberless. To name just a few: Gerzean-people, Mitanni, Egyptians, Mycenaean’s, Cretans, Hittites, Hurrites, Aramaic’s, Hebrews, Hyksos, Assyrians, Greeks and tribes form the Arabic Peninsula.
Despite the fact that their absorption was boundless great, they had to do in a spatial sense eventually give up territory and so the Canaanites increasingly cooperate in and around Lebanon. Their living space was increasingly constrained by the logical consequence that they increasingly resorted to the sea and went searching across the sea. The Greeks came to call them when Phoenicians, but a much better name is Sea-Canaanites.
In Hebrew Canaanite it has the meaning of: merchant / traveler!
Once over the sea they went into their new countries partly again to their original occupation of farmer and they brought the countries of Africa, Sardinia and Iberia for example to agriculture and mine-areas.

But why do we have around 1200 BC according to the scientific world the beginning of the 'Phoenician' identity? And while only around 800 BC the Greeks were called them as such. It has to do with legends, myths and legends (which otherwise may contain a grain of truth!) And also it has to do with to the renewal of the script. I'm not saying: the invention of alphabetic writing, which is around 1200 BCE good throughput, but renewal. The alphabetical turning fact already is found earlier. But around 1200 BC was the "Phoenician" script got a good application and began to spread across the known world. You can not speak of a 'Phoenician' scripture, because it was just a Canaanite alphabetic script.
The year 1200 also has to do with the influx of the Sea Peoples, of which more lately.

But what should we do with all those classic traditions, which let come the "Phoenicians" of the Red Sea or the Persian Gulf? Herodotus, Strabo, Diodoros and others have a thing or thereabouts collected and / or transcribed of each other. Incidentally, there is a single classical witness, who reports that the "Phoenicians" were autochthonous, but most of them are convinced, that they came from elsewhere.
I can imagine that several tribes from Arabia probably located on the Mediterranean coast have settled. Probably this happened gradually, almost stealthily. I can imagine that such a strain (under a different name unknown to us) the temporary nature of a port city on the Levant coast determined, but finally absorbed the Canaanites everything and everyone. I can not imagine that the "Phoenician" nation as a whole Lebanon and surroundings would be marching inside and that the whole thing would have been taken over by them. I believe more in the multiple-origin hypothesis of multiple (unknown) strains probably in different periods. For this reason Tyrus, Sidon, Byblos and Arvad for example differ so much from each other.

Coming back to the Sea Peoples (and indeed also country nations). Around 1200 BC, and after bringing those different states in the Levant to fall or severely cornered. They have done this over decades, but this is also done with an immense shock. Also for the Canaanites. Several coastal cities come in the hands of Sea Peoples. And yet even these Sea Peoples and their maritime knowledge are eventually absorbed. The result is that the process of seafaring Canaanites is accelerated. From Canaanites, who went at sea to wander or for fishing, they became now full Sea-Canaanites. The Sea Peoples were as it were, the ignition mechanism for this process.

I'm now back on the aforementioned legends, myths and legends, that in the wake of the Sea Peoples have arisen. Kadmos, Thasos, Danaos and possibly Elisha are few of them. We will never know what really is exactly true of these stories, but that once a Sea-Canaänite went to Hellas and there have spread the letters, that's for sure. That anyone ever went from Tyre to Carthage to found that city, that's for sure. All these stories let us see the great impact to which the Sea-Canaanites had on especially the Greeks.

Back to the beginning of this essay. Despite that I have explained that we can better speak of Sea-Canaanites, we have to live with the name 'Phoenicians', since it has become so common that we can no longer ignore it.

H.R.van Diessen
January 21, 2011.

Revision in 2012.