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The Phoenicians and the West - María Eugenia Aubet

The Phoenicians and the West - María Eugenia Aubet

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Published by Nippurean
Maria Eugenia Aubet's highly praised book (1993) incorporates the most recent research findings on the ancient civilization of Phoenicia and includes an updated bibliography. The Phoenicians established the first trading system in the Mediterranean basin between the eighth and sixth centuries B.C. Continuous archaeological research over the past decades has transformed our understanding of Phoenicia, its colonies and their relationship to local communities.

Dr. María Eugenia Aubet Semmler

(Professor of Prehistory, Director of the Archaeology Laboratory and Editor of the journal Cuadernos de Arqueología Mediterránea, Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona, Spain)

http://www.upf.edu/huma/es/professors/aubet.html

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Maria Eugenia Aubet's highly praised book (1993) incorporates the most recent research findings on the ancient civilization of Phoenicia and includes an updated bibliography. The Phoenicians established the first trading system in the Mediterranean basin between the eighth and sixth centuries B.C. Continuous archaeological research over the past decades has transformed our understanding of Phoenicia, its colonies and their relationship to local communities.

Dr. María Eugenia Aubet Semmler

(Professor of Prehistory, Director of the Archaeology Laboratory and Editor of the journal Cuadernos de Arqueología Mediterránea, Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona, Spain)

http://www.upf.edu/huma/es/professors/aubet.html

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http://books.google.com/books?id=B7SLWT2vpNcC&source=gbs_navlinks_s

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Published by: Nippurean on Feb 25, 2011
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04/15/2013

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María Eugenia Aubet,
The Phoenicians and the West: Politics, Colonies and Trade
Review:
This is the English translation of the second edition of María Eugenia Aubet Semmler's
Tiro y las colonias fenicias de occidente
, published by Ediciones Bellaterra (Barcelona) in 1994; thefirst Spanish edition appeared in 1987, and its English translation in 1993. Professor Aubet hasestablished Phoenician Archaeology as a lively and ever-changing field in Hispanicarchaeology, whose discoveries often get reported in the national media, and the mostinteresting new parts of the second edition are the final sections on the Western Mediterranean,including Ibiza, Portugal and Morocco as well as the amazing discoveries recently investigatedon the coast of Andalucía. She writes with an admirable clarity verging on baldness, and theEnglish translator, Mary Turton, manages to do the same, despite a few hints of translationese.Since Professor Aubet has admirably concluded that she needs to present the current picture of the whole of the Phoenician civilization and enterprise as the framework in which to understand
 
the nature of the Iberian settlements, the result is as good an overall account of the Phoeniciancivilization as we could hope to find. Since this is a fast-moving field, and apparently smalldiscoveries can re-shape the archaologists' appreciation of a whole period, it is unlikely to seemdefinitive for long. The already copious bibliography has been much enlarged in this edition (pp.382-425), but is infuriating to try to use; it is almost impossible to find there any particular study,since the whole is split into so many separate sub-sections.The topic is specifically that of the Phoenicians. The Carthaginians are discussed in so far asthey are in origin a Phoenician colony, but the period which follows the eclipse of thePhoenicians and the rise of the Carthaginians (in the sixth century B.C.) is not in the focus of this book. The original Spanish title refers to Tyre, rather than to the Phoenicians, and, onceTyre ceases to have any hold over the Western Mediterranean, events are out of this study'sbrief. But the great length of the book, which is accompanied by many excellent photographs,not only from the Iberian Peninsula, almost no padding and only a small amount of repetition,shows what a great deal is now known, or can at least be now deduced, about theseremarkable people.The need for a second edition is due not just to the discoveries in Andalucía, of course, not leastbecause Tyre and the Lebanon in general have been more available for archaeological studysince the general end of hostilities there. The book starts with the question (the title of Chapter 1), "Who were the Phoenicians?" They were the Biblical Canaanites, based roughly within theborders of modern Lebanon. Not the least of the virtues of this book are the many excellentmaps, which enable us to visualize the geography and the connections between the people of different places at several different times. Thus the map on page 15 makes it clear how far thePhoenicians were indeed confined to the Mediterranean coast, despite trading with the areas totheir East. Their ports and their maritime expertise and contacts are shown as dominating their relations with neighbouring civilizations throughout this period. They were not a unified state,which is why it makes sense to see the westwards expansion as an enterprise of Tyre rather than of the whole of Phoenicia.Professor Aubet has mixed feelings about the debate between modern historians andarcheologists over the different kinds of evidence for dates and events. The controversybetween those who accept early dates given by historians (most notably Velleius Paterculus,pp.195-97) for the founding of Gadir (Cádiz), in the second millennium B.C., and thearchaeological evidence for its founding in the eighth century B.C., is seen firmly from thearchaeologists' camp, and her own evidence seems more or less conclusive.The ancient historiographers, it is suggested, wished to tie in the founding of Gadir directly withthe siege of Troy, and an elastic insouciance over chronology was the byproduct of thatartistically-inspired desire. But the same Classical historians also tell us that the Phoenicians'empire was inspired by its silver trade, and here archaelogy supports their assessment. In fact,written accounts of many kinds are thoughtfully exploited where they can be helpful in thereconstruction of events, and necessarily so, for without written accounts she and her colleagues are "faced with a mass of decontextualized empirical information" (27).
 
This is why she is grateful for, and relies extensively on, the story of the journey of Wen-Amonto Phoenicia from Egypt in, probably, 1070 B.C. (reprinted in English as Appendix I, pp.356-62).Biblical accounts also are used as historical evidence where they can be, bearing in mind howthe Israelites did not often feel kindly towards the Canaanites, as is Homer; and as areinscriptions and art-works representing ships and historical events.Tyre itself was founded from Sidon, and of no significance in its own land until the tenth centuryB.C. At the height of its power, though, it was probably more densely populated than themodern city is now. Considerable care is spent on reconstructing the geographical nature of Tyre up to the sixth century B.C., and it becomes indisputably clear that the kind of offshoreisland and peninsular terrain near the mouth of a smallish river characteristic of mostPhoenician sites elsewhere (including, notably, Cádiz) is no accident; they were modelled onTyre, in the sense that the Phoenicians often chose to settle in places that reminded them of home, not just for sentimental reasons but because they understood how to exploit such placesboth for defensive military purposes and practical matters concerned with their warehouses andtheir merchant fleet. Many of these sites have been extensively silted and remodelled by thetides since then, but reconstructions are usually possible and revealing.There is little doubt that the prime impetus for the expansion of Tyre to the West lay in thedesire for trade, and in particular that in luxury goods; Professor Aubet demonstrates that theydominated this trade in the Eastern Mediterranean to such an extent that their economy came todepend on it, which is why such enormous effort was spent on developing the alreadyproductive silver-mines of Tartessos in the far distant South-West Iberian Peninsula. "Only if themerchandise has real value will it compensate for the enormous costs of transport" (p.95). Theextensive fertile lands inland of the city of Tyre, which were expanding during the period studied,provided it with food, wood, and drinking water, which made the city more vulnerable than wasconvenient in times of war. And there were many of those, although the successful negotiationsbetween the rulers of Tyre and their Egyptian, Assyrian, Israelite and other rivals andneighbours are reconstructed here, and, if accurate, show that Tyre, at least, preferred peaceand commerce to war.The interpretations of the actual excavations, as ever, depend extensively on pottery. It isvaluable and incontrovertible evidence; the fact that pottery datable to the second half of theeighth century B.C. in Tyre itself is almost identical to that found in the oldest levels of Phoenician occupation yet found in the Iberian Peninsula is sufficient to clarify the dating of thelatter. The many settlements made by Tyre in the Mediterranean as its citizens expandedwestwards are each studied carefully and at length in this account, which makes for somerepetition in that they followed a similar pattern in many places, but the attention to detail isimpressive throughout.

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