Abbildungen der Seite

narrow tract was generally rugged and mountainous, and the soil in the valley, though moderately fertile, did not afford sufficient supplies of food, to feed the population. Libanus and its dependent ridges were, however, covered with timber, suitable for ship building; and besides Tyre and Sidon, Phoenicia possessed the ports of Tripoli, Byblos, Berytus, etc. In this situation, occupying a country unable to supply them with sufficient quantities of corn—hemmed in by mountains and powerful and warlike neighbors, on the one hand, and having, on the other, the wide expanse of the Mediterranean, studded with islands, and surrounded by fertile countries, to invite the enterprise of her citizens—they were naturally led to engage in maritime and commercial adventures, and became the boldest and most experienced mariners, and the greatest discoverers, of ancient times.


From the remotest antiquity, a considerable trade seems to have been carried on, between the Eastern and Western worlds. The spices, drugs, precious stones, and other valuable products of Arabia and India, have always been highly esteemed in Europe, and have been exchanged for the gold and silver, the tin, wines, etc., of the latter. At the first dawn of authentic history, we find Phoenicia the principal centre of this commerce.


Her inhabitants are designated, in the early sacred writings, by the name of Canaanites—a term which, in the language of the East, means merchants. The products of Arabia, India, Persia, etc., were originally conveyed to her by companies of traveling merchants, or caravans, which seem to have performed exactly the same part, in the commerce of the East, in the days of Jacob, that they do at present. (Genesis, xxxvii, 25, etc.) At a later period, however, in the reigns of David and Solomon, the Phoenicians, having formed an alliance with the Hebrews, acquired the ports of Elatli and Eziongeber, at the northeast extremity of the Red Sea. Here they fitted out fleets, which traded with the ports on that, and probably with those of Southern Arabia, the west coast of India, and Ethiopia. The distance of the Red Sea from Tyre being very considerable, the conveyance of goods from one to the other, by land, must have been tedious and expensive. - To lessen this inconvenience, the Tyrians, shortly after they got possession of Elath and Eziongeber, seized upon Rhinoculura, the port on the Mediterranean, nearest the Red Sea. The products- of Arabia, India, and adjacent countries, being carried thither, were then put on board ships, and conveyed, by a brief and easy voyage, to Tyre. If we except the transit by Egypt (overland), this was the shortest and most direct, and for that reason, no doubt, the cheapest channel, by which the commerce between Southern Asia and Europe could then be conducted. But it is not believed, that the Phoenicians possessed any permanent footing on the Red Sea, after the death of Solomon. The want of it does not, however, seem to have sensibly affected their trade, and Tyre continued, till the foundation of Alexandria, to be the grand emporium for Eastern products, with which it was abundantly supplied, by caravans from Arabia, the bottom of the Persian Gulf, and from Babylon, by way of Palmyra.


The commerce of the Phoenicians with the countries bordering on the Mediterranean, was still more extensive and valuable. At an early period, they established settlements in Cyprus and Rhodes. The former was a very valuable acquisition, from its proximity, the number of its ports, its fertility, and the variety of its vegetable and mineral productions. Having passed, successively, into Greece, Italy and Sardinia, they proceeded to explore the southern shores of France and Spain, and the northern shores of Africa. They afterwards adventured upon the Atlantic, and were the first people, whose flag was displayed beyond the pillars of Hercules.


Nor were the Phoenicians celebrated only for their wealth, and the extent of their commerce and navigation. Their fame, and their right to be classed amongst those who have conferred the greatest benefits on mankind, rest on a still more unassailable foundation. Antiquity is unanimous in ascribing to them the invention and practice of all those arts, sciences and contrivances, that facilitate the prosecution of commercial undertakings. They are held to be the inventors of arithmetic, weights and measures, of money, of the art of keeping accounts, and, in short, of everything that belongs to the business of a counting-house. They were also famous for the invention of ship building and navigation; for the discovery of glass; for their manufacture of fine linen and tapestry; for their skill in architecture, and in the art of working metals and

« ZurückWeiter »