Saturday, September 24, 2016

Why Did the Phoenicians Sail into the Atlantic? – Part II

Continuing from the previous post on why the Phoenicians seem unlikely to have been explorers and adventurers, and thus sailing for little or no reason to the Americas, as plain businessmen expanding an every-increasing trade business far closer to home
Most ships at this time sailing on the Mediterranean were powered more by oars than sails, and served for transporting military troops from one place to another, or actually conducting war on the sea. While such military use of the sea was a requirement for expansion and protection, governments were not interested in trade and business, relying on private sources to keep the products needed moving across this inner sea to the numerous ports of the known world at the time. What the sea didn’t provide in such trade, the Silk Road in the north all the way to China, and the camel Caravan roads in the south along the sea of Arabia. Where protection was needed, it was often provided by governments, such as Egypt, Greece and later Rome, but on land, caravans were protected only by their own size and members. As Greece, then Rome began to expand, they threatened the stronghold of the Phoenicians and eventually drove the Phoenicians into obscurity.
Small, coastal sailing ships dominated the coasts and these small trading vessels were involved in short, day-time sailing and did not venture into deep water where they could be pounded incessantly and damaged or sunk. Note the flat bottom and keel-less construction, typical of coastal vessels
    Of course, small coastal craft were flimsy built and needed careful attention to remain seaworthy. They were mostly used for fishing for personal and some commercial use as a supplemental food source. When it came to moving products from one place to another, much larger and stronger ships were needed, and the Phoenicians, guardedly secretive of their trade routes and locations, rose in size and power to fill that need. But once again, their purpose was always in the trade business, that is to make money through the buying and selling of products—often buying from afar and selling in locales where the product was not normally available.
    Today Lebanon, the home of the early Phoenicians, is a small densely populated country of just 6500-square-miles, about a thousand square miles smaller than the land mass of New Jersey, which would make it the fifth smallest state in the United States. Lebanon’s strategic location has, from the earliest times, made it the center of the Middle East’s vital history. The earliest inhabitants of coastal Lebanon were people who came from the Arabian Peninsula shortly after the Flood. The Greeks eventually named these seafaring people Phoenicians and they established city-states and spread their 22-letter alphabet throughout the Mediterranean region. They were traders from the beginning, and export led activities in goods and services in Lebanon really started to develop ever since that ancient time. They established a large colonial network along the eastern maritime coast of the Mediterranean, since that was where the Frankincense Trails and the Silk Road ended and began in a never-ending circuit of trade movement.
    Phoenician reputation as the best sailors and navigators of the pre-classical world has come down to us over the ages, and no doubt they deserve that praise; however, the mistake historians often make is to combine the Age of Sail (which took place some 500 years after the end of the Phoenicians) with the time of the Phoenicians. That is, the exploits and purposes of the exploration period with the time of the Phoenicians who were traders long before exploration became of any importance to growing nations and kingdoms looking for an expansion of both territory and wealth.
No doubt the Phoenicians used the knowledge and abilities achieved by their predecessors, the Minoans of Crete, they built their maritime trading empire, which consisted of five Phoenician States, which included Akiso, Tyre, Sidon, Beirut and Byblos, with Tyre dominating the other four. Thus, Tyre in Phoenicia and Antioch in Turkey were the two ports along the eastern Mediterranean where the Silk Road caravans did business, and the Phoenicians took full advantage of this.
    They entered into business agreements and partnerships with other states, and created a business relationship with Solomon in the 10th century B.C. For Israel, Hiram of Tyre, the Phoenician, provided skilled craftsmen and materials, particularly lumber, including cedar from the forests of Lebanon, and over time Phoenicia became well known for its luxury goods, such as sandalwood, ivory, monkeys and peacocks from Ophir where three year voyages of Phoenician ships brought back such exotic goods for trade. There was fine linen and the famous rare Tyrian purple dye, and the blown glass from Sidon. As middlemen the Phoenicians took custody on much greater cornucopia of precious goods as Exekiel grudgingly admitted.
This was the time known in history as the development of commerce and industry, and specifically the growing trade industry. This was the period of Solomon, and his numerous commercial and industrial activities (1 Kings 10). This was the time when Solomon’s Temple was built, requiring goods, products, and manpower from other countries, such as Lebanon and all of Syria; it was the time when Solomon entered into a large building program throughout his empire, in places such as Beth-shan, beth-shemesh, Gezer, Hazor, and Megiddo, with many of his building programs at Jerusalem, and built a palace that took thirteen years to construct (1 Kings 7:1), and his “House of the Forest of Lebanon (1 Kings 7:2) was probably a great armory, and his own residence was part of the great courtly complex as was the private house for Pharoah’s daughter (1 Kings 7:8). No doubt influenced by the Phoenician success, Solomon endeavored to conquer the seas with his own, great trading program, and with help from the Phoenician ship-builders and sailors, he established a large fleet of ships and a commercial port at Ezion-Geber, at the head of the Gulf of Aqaba in the south for trade upon the Sea of Arabia and the ports along the shores of the coasts to the east.
    In the north, this was the time of the great Silk Roads that ended along the eastern Mediterranean, of the Frankincense Trails that traveled northward from Egypt through Israel to Syria. It was a time when almost any product known throughout the world was available somewhere around the eastern Mediterranean where all these trade routes, both land and sea, came together at the apex of the Phoenician empire.
    The Phoenicians are widely known today for their writing and alphabet, an absolute must for any huge trading organization for book and record keeping. At the time, the writing of Egypt, Mesopotamia and China all required the scribe to learn a large number of separate characters—each of them expressing either a whole word or a syllable. By contrast the Phoenicians, in about 1500 BC, developed an entirely new approach to writing. The marks made by their scribes (working in the cuneiform tradition, with a stylus on damp clay) attempted to capture the sound of a word. This required an alphabey of individual letters.
Obviously, the trading and seafaring skills of the Phoenicians resulted in a network of colonies, spreading westward through the Mediterranean, mostly on the string of islands in the center of the Mediterranean Crete, Sicily, Malta, Sardinia, Ibiza, and along the north African coast, especially opposite of Sicily where the narrowest channel on the main Mediterranean sea route was located—opposite of the area where the Phoenicians built Carthage as a means of guarding the western Mediterranean from settlement and exploitation by other peoples.
    So with all of this going for them, why did the Phoenicians decide to go out into the Atlantic Ocean?
(See the next post, “Why Did the Phoenicians  Sail into the Atlantic? – Part III,” for more information as to why the Phoenicians seem unlikely to have been explorers and adventurers as plain businessmen expanding an ever-increasing trade business)


  1. Have you read the story on page 18 of Priddis book about some Canaanites (Phoenicians) that were blown off course around Africa? If true this is quite interesting.

  2. Like the part of the title of your blog that says "Lehi never saw mesoamerican" and you should add "Lehi never saw south america." I have seen your maps and the distances, but in now way fit the distances described in the BoM. BoM describe short mileage, not hundereds or thousands of miles. Seems you attack Olive's books, which is the most accurate of all to the truths of the BoM, yet you ignore your imense level of flaws... mileage being one big one.

  3. iterry: Answer will appear in a post forthcoming pretty soon.

    Miles: If you are going to criticize a view, perhaps you should know more about the view you are criticizing. As for these distances, we have discussed this more times than I can count, specifically in the two areas of: 1) No distances are described in the Book of Mormon that can be used with any semblance of accuracy, and 2) while the events described in the Book of Mormon tend to show a more compact area, we need to keep in mind that most of the text deals with events between the Land of Nephi and the Land of Zarahemla, or between the Land of Zarahemla and the Land of Bountiful, or at the end, only in the Land Northward, with most of that close to the narrow neck. Such reading can be misleading. As an example, how far did Nephi travel from the Land of First Inheritance to what they called the Land of Nephi? Secondly, how on earth can you come up with any distances at all other than the 21 days of Alma’s travels, and that is completely misleading because we don’t know where he started and we don’t know where he was after the 21 days other than in the Land of Zarahemla.