Sunday, September 25, 2016

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

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, wile actually being plain businessmen expanding an ever-increasing trade business far closer to home. So why did the Phoenicians sail into the Atlantic? Was it for exploration? Why would they be interested in exploring? They were traders and knew from their land routes to Gaul what lay to the north and their movement along the northern African coast, what lay to the south. They were not investigators, explorers, adventurers in the true sense of the word. They were businessmen and their acts were calculated within the network of their far flung empire of trade.
So why go into the Atlantic?
    When Rome was still a tiny village on the Palatine Hill, Phoenician traders were sailing their ships the length and breadth of the Mediterranean and short distances beyond in search of goods to be sold or traded for a handsome profit. There were great risks in making a long sea voyage and bringing home a valuable cargo, but the enormous profit that could be made from selling the goods made the risks worthwhile. The key was to trade a product that was unique, very desirable, hard to get, or desperately needed for other products that were common in the land of the people with whom you were trading. These products may be rare and desirable someplace else, and the trader now had something with which he could once again make a profit--it was a continual process.
    The Bronze Age (in Europe 3000 BC to 500 BC) saw extensive trade networks develop across Europe. The technology of smelting copper and tin to form a durable alloy is first seen around the copper deposits of Cyprus. The warm Mediterranean world had few tin deposits, forcing them to trade with cold barbarian lands to the North. We know that from 2000 BC tin mining started in Cornwall, initially focusing on alluvial deposits (river gravels containing ore).
    The Phoenicians traded directly with Cornwall. The name “Britain” comes from the Phoenician name “Baratanac,” meaning “Land of Tin.” The Greek historian Herodotus, who is the source for much of the little we know about the ancient world, describes how tin comes from the Cassiterides, ‘lands of tin’ that sat beyond Gaul (France). It’s thought that the Phoenicians, who managed the trade, might have been a little cagey about the exact whereabouts of this economically valuable land.
Tin mine in Cornwall, England, operating since ancient times

    Tin was just such a product in the ancient world. Tin was vital to the ancients because it was needed in the making of bronze. Bronze was an alloy, or a mixture of two or more metals. To make bronze, the metal smith mixed copper with the proper amount of tin. Copper tools and weapons by themselves were too soft and did not long remain sharp. Tin made the copper harder and also made the molten metal fill the mold more completely when it was cast into useful objects like axe heads, hammers, and jewelry. So many useful articles were made of bronze in ancient times that no civilization could thrive very long without a supply of it or the copper and tin needed to make it.
    The deposits of tin in the ancient world were usually small and not very plentiful. As an example, tin is a relatively rare element in the earth’s crust, with about two-parts per million (compared to Iron which is 50,000 ppm, but with gold at 0.005 ppm). Ancient sources of tin were obviously rare and the metal usually had to be traded over very long distances to meet demand in areas which lacked its own deposits. However, its importance was extremely valuable since it was required to make bronze, and bronze was required for harder metals such as those for weapons, axes, and other tools since the tin metal strengthened the sharpness of the copper.
    Phoenician overland expeditions northward discovered the existence of tin in Brittany in Gaul (France) and also across the channel in Devon and Cornwall in England; however, overland travel to obtain these deposits was both lengthy and costly, so they took their ships out into the Atlantic and hugged the coast as they sailed northward. This proved such a lucrative trade bonanza, that the Phoenicians opened guard posts along the Iberian peninsula and attacked any other vessel trying to get through Gibraltar out into the Atlantic in order to safeguard their route to the tin.
The Phoenician’s secret sea route to Cornwall, bypassing the land crossing of Gaul (France) and cutting off many days by pack animal to the south coast of France

    For quite some time, the Phoenicians kept the knowledge of the Cornish tin mines a closely guarded secret so they could control trade in the metal and charge a high price for it. After the Punic wars, Carthage, the one remaining city of the Phoenicians, became less and less an important economic power. With their well-known efficiency and thoroughness, the Romans counted access to the British tin mines as one of the advantages of conquering the island. Julius Caesar knew of the importance of British tin when he invaded the island in 55 to 54 B.C. After the conquest of Britain during the reign of Claudius, the Romans were in control of most of the world's supply of the metal. Hence, the closely guarded treasure secret of Britain's tin passed hands from the Phoenicians to the Romans.
    Though modern historians do not place the reason Rome invaded England as being for Britain’s tin mines, and ancient writers thought the Gallic Wars were for the purpose of giving Caesar sole rule over the Roman Republic, there were those who understood the importance of France’s tin mines as well as those of England, namely Cornwall and Devon. After all, when great military powers invade far-off lands, there are always people who say that their true motivation was to get access to valuable natural resources—and Caesar’s wars in the far off north seem no less for tin than any other reason..
    The point being, the Phoenicians did not sail out into the Pacific like the later explorers of the Age of Sail beginning in the 13th and 14 centuries, but went into the Atlantic to gain access to the known world’s largest tin deposits that would then line their own coffers and expand their territorial trading rights. It was a simple matter of business and cornering the market on a most valuable and limited resource. While the Phoenicians did some marvelous things, they did not discover America, did not cross the Atlantic for the frivolous idea of either planting a flag or opening up such distant trade routes, nor did they allow the Mulekites to book passage on their vessels and carry them to the New World—which they would not have had any idea existed at the time. They were business men and their world was trade and in such a world, you do what you do because it will turn a profit.
The Phoenicians were not pilgrimas seeking religious liberty like the Pilgraims; were not settlers looking for a new land; were not adventurers wanting to conquer other lands or rob and steal the wealth of established nations—they were traders, businessmen, seeking to always increase their trade and the objects others might want. Their very acts would have been based on profit, which would have kept them close to home, which is where they spent their time and efforts

    They might travel some distances to acquire a known product or resource that they know will sell and provide a worthwhile profit, but why would they travel several weeks or months into the unknown area for no apparent reason other than to take a group of people to a far off land, as some Book of Mormon scholars want us to believe, where there could be no profit in its purpose or end result?
    They left the safety of the Mediterranean for tin. They knew both Britain and Gaul had tin mines, had been hauling tin overland for some time to bring it down to the south of France to Mediterranean shores. They knew this was a profitable venture, not only to cut down overland expenses and time, but to create a non-competitive control over the tin industry fueling the entire Mediterranean as well as the silk roads and Frankincense Trails. They also knew they could keep their route secret and with the forts they already had along the Iberian peninsula, and their overall control of the western Mediterranean, they obviously thought they could control that tin trade for some time to come. It was a purpose that could not be ignored. Sail to Britain and Gaul, fill their hulls with tin and sail back. They would sail clear to the eastern end of the Mediterranean and appear there with hulls full of tin as they always had after offloading it from the mule trains crossing Gaul. No one would be the wiser, and no one would be thinking there was a sea route to Britain, and no one did for quite some time.
    It was the only reason that caused Phoenicians to sail into the Atlantic, that and the slave trade to the south along the coasts of Africa. For those who want to sell an untenable idea about Phoenicians reaching the New World hundreds of years before Columbus would never have happened for the reason stated in this series. The Phoenician world did not depend upon the expansion of their state borders and coffers, but in opening and supplying markets all along the Mediterranean where the vast majority of people lived in the time of the Phoenicians. To go into the Atlantic was both risky and had no profitable value other than for products like tin.


  1. As a side note, according to very believable legends, Joseph of Arimathea, the great uncle of Jesus, was a Roman officer in charge of the shipping of tin from Cornwall to places in the Mediterranean. And the legends are that Jesus went with him to Cornwall possibly for many of the years unaccounted for in the gospels. When the time comes for every hidden thing to be revealed in the last days, it will be interesting to see if this is true. But until then one can read books like: "The Drama of the Lost Disciples"

  2. For a Jew (especially of high standing) to be a Roman Officer in the century of Jesus would be highly unlikely. In fact, at this particular time, and beginning in the last century B.C., officers of the army were generally highly motivated by politics and a political ambition (which led to the triumvirate). Rome did not put non-citizens in a position to effect their own inner politics. Even before this time the positions of officers of the Roman army were based social class within the Roman citizenry. For a non-citizen, it took 25 years in the military service to gain citizenship for themselves and their family. It was also a fact that military service of citizens was of paramount importance to a Roman’s political career. War veterans received colonial lands, which, when this did not happen in 14 AD, an army in central Europe mutinied over the State’s failure to provide land plots for soldiers. It should also be noted that officer’s advancements and eventual fortunes were tied directly to their generals’ political careers. Since the Romans hated the Jews and barely tolerated their religion, typically “washing their hands of such matters” the likelihood of a Jew of faith being in the Roman army was unlikely, and being an officer highly unlikely.
    Prior to the time of Christ, beginning around the Second Samnite War (326-304BC), a change in plebian status occurred, and over the next few centuries, plebes achieved certain status and were always working toward nobilitas (nobility) with an eventual political career in mind—which is simply not something that would have been open to non-citizens—even with 25 years service and promotion to citizenship. Rome did not completelyh trust any non-Roman.
    Although nobilitas was not a formal social rank, it was at the same time a social rank of notice, and plebeians whose ancestors were consuls were considered nobles. During this Republican era, in general a plebeian who had attained the consulship was regarded as having brought nobility to his family. Such a man was a novus homo (a new man) or self-made noble and his sons and descendants were nobiles. This was such a highly protected movement in society it was not allowed or even considered for non-citizens. And since serving as a military officer worked toward this achievement, it would be strange indeed to find a Jew as an officer in the Roman army.
    The basic Roman army that we see in movies and read about in stories was the one formed about 40 B.C., and all the legions formed the Roman army’s elite heavy infantry, recruited exclusively from Roman citizens—in fact, most of these legions formed before 40 B.C. were still in service and active two or three centuries later. However, not long after Christ’s time, this changed from legions in control and making up the vast majority of the (citizen) military to auxiliary units which were not citizens.

    1. You sound very convincing. If the office of "Nobilis Decurio" was not a "military" office, possibly it was an office for overseeing other merchants in the tin trade, or something like that.

  3. I started to answer this briefly, and it turned into an extensive article which will appear shortly.