Monday, September 26, 2016

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

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 ever-increasing trade business far closer to home.    To make sure we understand that these previous posts regarding the Phoenician trade interests were not an isolated part of history and that the Phoenicians had other interests as well, we need to recognize that following the Phoenician trade control of known routes and trading partners, the Greeks and then the Romans rose to power on the sea. One of their interests was in protecting their far-flung empire, and of extending the trade networks they took over from the Phoenicians amid the Mediterranean and as far away as India and Arabia.
    In fact, it was Roman trading ships that sailed to Khor Rori along the southern Arabian Peninsula in what is now Oman, adjacent to the area of Salalah somewhere after 200 B.C., setting in a Sumhuram during the  height of the Frankincense trade there (400 years after Lehi left in the ship Nephi built).
    It might also be pointed at this time that the ships in use by the Phoenicians toward the end of their control of the Mediterranean—these ships were converted by the Romans to follow in the footsteps in trading along the old Phoenician routes and expand out into the Sea of Arabia to India.
Red Line shows where the water line should be. Note how high this ship rides in the water, showing it was a coastal vessel with no ability to sail deep water where high winds and currents would likely capsize it—this vessel would not have sailed the Atlantic. On a more technical note, a short waterline and long, graceful overhangs often tends to hobbyhorse or pitch when to sailing to windward making upwind passages uncomfortable and difficult to impossible. Another drawback is frequently a lack directional stability when sailing downwind in a large following sea

    Regional, inter-regional and international trade was a common feature of the  Roman world. A mix of state control and a free market approach as had existed among the Phoenicians before them ensured goods produced in one location could be exported far and wide. Cereals, wine and olive oil, in particular, were exported in huge quantities whilst in the other direction came significant imports of precious metals, marble, and spices. 
    However, it was war which made Rome a powerful force in the ancient world, not trade, for Rome, splitting its interests between global expansion and control and trade, found that trade required far more attention that the State was giving it. Every year up to 40 ships carried luxury goods consisting of half the export trade of Rome between Rome and India. The imports from India included spices, pearls, muslin ivory, etc, while exports to India were very few and consisted mostly of wine, musical instruments, singing boys and dancing girls. The balance of trade became so adverse that Rome had to pay in Gold Bullion to India every year.
As Gaius Plinius Secundus (23 –79 B.C.), better known as Pliny the Elder (Roman author, naturalist, and philosopher, as well as naval and army commander of the early Roman Empire) commented while remarking about the adverse balance of trade of the Roman empire: “This is the price we pay for our luxuries and our women. At the last reckoning one hundred million sesterces are taken away by India, Seres and Arabia.”
    Periplus of the Erythraean Sea” is an ancient Greek text written between 1st and 3rd centuries A.D., perhaps as important a book as the journal of Marco Polo. This book describes navigation and trading opportunities from Roman Egyptian ports like Berenice along the coast of the Red Sea, and others along Northeast Africa and the Indian subcontinent. Describing the nature of trade, Periplus says;
    Imported into this market-town, are Wine, Italian preferred, also Laodicean (from Laodicea on Syrian coast) and Arabian; copper, tin, and lead; coral and topaz; thin clothing and inferior sorts of all kinds; bright-colored girdles a cubit wide; storax, sweet clover, flint glass, realgar, antimony, gold and silver. Coin, on which there is a profit, when exchanged for the money of the country; and ointment, but not very costly and not much. And for the King there are brought into those places very costly vessels of silver, singing boys, beautiful maidens for the harem, tine wines, thin clothing of the finest weaves, and the choicest ointments. There are exported from these places spikenard, costus, bdellium, ivory, agate and carnelian, lycium, cotton cloth of all kinds, silk cloth, mallow cloth, yarn, long pepper, agate and carnelian and such other things as are brought here from the various market towns.”
Periplus also tells us the names of the ports where, Roman ships birthed in India; the northernmost being at Bhadoch (Barygaza) at the mouth of river Narmada. It says that the region south of Bhadoch is known as Southern Country or “Dakshinadesha” (Dachinabades). There are number of ports (market-towns) in the southern country such as Sopara (Suppara), Kalyan (Celliana), Chaul (Semylla), Sashti (Sandares) and Masulpatnam.
    These (Goods) are brought down to Barygaza from these places by wagons and through the  great tracts without roads, from Paethana, carnelian in great quantity and from Tagara much common cloth, all kinds of muslins and mallow (rough) cloth and other merchandise brought there locally from the regions along the sea coast. And the whole course to the end of Damirica (country of the Tamil people) is seven thousand stadia (about one tenth of mile): but the distance is greater to the coast country.”
    Periplus does not speak about “in land” trade routes, but with Kosambi's contention that the Buddhist rock cut monasteries were all constructed near the trade routes, there were two trade routes, both originating either in Pratisthan or Tagar. The southern route came to Junnar city and from there crossed the difficult mountain region through passes to go to southern ports like Kalyan or Choul. The northern route passed along Ajanta, Kannad pass near Pitalkhore caves to Bhadoch.
    Recent research has shown that the Buddhist monestaries were located where they are, because the trade routes passed by and the larger monastery complexes are found invariably near the junction of such routes. This leads us to another question as to with whom and what kind of trade was going on along these routes so as to necessitate establishment of such large number of monasteries in the region, which according to Kosambi served in many ways to help the traders. It is a well known fact that this substantive trade was mainly carried out with the Roman empire, which replaced the Phoenicians.
The point is, the Phoenicians began or were the founders of the first true trading empire. They were not explorers or adventurers, wanting to see why lay beyond the next mountain. They were driven by trade, which is driven by financial growth and the accumulation of wealth. As Pliny the Elder said, “This is the price we pay for our luxuries.”  Rome simply never learned the trade business as well as they learned the business of war and conquest.
    The Minoans of Crete, the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean and situated off the coast of Greece, the home of the birthplace of Zeus, and perhaps the first serious traders of the world following the Flood. Beginning around the year 2000 B.C., the Minoans traded throughout the Mediterranean, with evidence suggesting they traded extensively in the east with Syria, Asia Minor, and Egypt, and even as far west as the island of Sicily. The biggest exports from Crete were probably olives, olive oil, and grape products. Farming on Crete only allowed the Minoans to support themselves, but the land also allowed for sheep herding and therefore a profitable trade in the export of wool, and also wood. The forests of Crete would have been a valuable source of wood for export to the deserts of Egypt and Southwest Asia.
Perhaps the most important trade role the Minoans played was the transfer of ideas and technology from Egypt and Southwest Asia to the budding civilizations of Europe. In their dealings with the civilizations of the Near East, the Minoans also picked up technologies that they took home with them. As Minoan influence spread throughout the Aegean and the mainland of Greece, so to did Bronze working and other new ideas. Thus, the diffusion of these ideas to Europe was accelerated much more than it would have been otherwise.
    It was the blending or mingling of these two societies, the Cretans and the Phoenicians, that led to the maritime trade empire we give the Phoenicians credit for achieving. It should be kept in mind that the title “Masters of the Sea” given to both cultures, is related to the Mediterranean, not the oceans of the world, such as the Atlantic or the Indian oceans.
    The Mediterranean is a sea where surfers today paddle on boards, where no waves exist, and the waters are placid. Masters of such a sea have nothing to do with deep sea sailing where waves can tower a hundred feet and the force of them slam a wooden sailor to kindling.


  1. I find this series of articles to be quite interesting and informative.

  2. Glad you are. If you have any questions, let me know.