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Carthage of Phoenicia 814 BC, Founding of

The Phoenicians founded a prosperous city in the northern coasts Africa named Carthage around 813-814 BC which is where it appears on the Bible Timeline Chart with World History. This was during the time of the Kings of a divided Israel and shortly before the first Olympiad.

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map of Carthage’s location

Carthage was one of the wealthiest areas of the Ancient world and found prosperity in its vast trading network which had a far-reaching domain across northern Africa. Carthage of Phoenicia founded 814 BC is now the area that spans modern day Spain into the Mediterranean. Because of the Phoenician empire spreading further into the European regions, many conflicts between Phoenicia, Rome and Greece was evident during this period in history.

Founding

While in the past, several historians debated the exact time of the founding of Carthage, carbon dating done on artifacts place the time of founding at around the Ninth century BC. It was said that the empire lasted for around 650 years since the founding of Carthage. The Roman Empire was especially persistent in bringing down the Phoenician city at around 150 BC. The original city was eventually obliterated around that time but was then rebuilt not long after. It would be another century before Carthage fell into ruin. Because of this, very few artifacts and remains can be excavated which date back to the original Carthage. To date, the ruins of harbors, as well as tombs and burial grounds, can still be visible even from the air.

The Legend

The legend of the founding of Carthage begins with Elissa, daughter of the king of Tyre. She was to be given in marriage to the king’s brother, Sichaeus, who was a priest of Melqart. Elissa was to be handed over to her uncle along with the kingdom. Pygmalion, Elissa’s brother, had thought that the kingdom would go to him and plotted to assassinate his uncle and brother-in-law, Sichaeus. He was killed and came back as a ghost to warn Elissa about her brother. Elissa then took her royal wealth and followers and fled the kingdom.

Elissa and her followers, which are interpreted by most as colonists sent by the king of Tyre, stopped at the northern coast of Africa. Elissa negotiated with the locals for rest within the area and was then told that they could have the surrounding area that could only be covered by an Oxhide. It is this part of the legend that depicts the cleverness and tricky nature of the Phoenicians as Elissa had the hide cut into strips and laid in a crescent shape across the land. The area covered by the hide strips would eventually be Carthage. The coast across Sicily was now the new home of Elissa and her followers which prospered due to the mercantile skills attributed to the citizens of Tyre.

Carthage in History and Literature

Phoenicians were generally considered to be ruthlessly treacherous by the Greeks and Romans. Even in the Homeric works, Phoenicians were referred to as polypaipaloi or “having numerous tricks”. However, Cicero points out that no empire could be held for more than 6 centuries without skilled rule and leadership.

The war between Rome and Carthage during the mid 2nd century BC was called the Third Punic War and the Battle of Carthage was what led to the downfall of the city during 147 BC. This is often referred to as the salting of Carthage. Undeniably, Carthage of Phoenicia founded 814 BC is one of the most important imperial civilizations during the last millennia BC, maintaining a stable rule that lasted for 600 years.

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Phoenicia and The Bible

 Phoenicia was an ancient civilization in Southwest Asia consisting of city-states along the eastern Mediterranean Sea. Today that area covers Syria and Lebanon. It covered most of the western and coastal part of the Fertile Crescent. The name Phoenicia may also appear as Phenice and Phenicia. Basically, Phoenicians were Canaanites who conquered and settled on several landmarks surrounding the Mediterranean coastline.  Phoenicia is found on the Biblical Timeline Chart throughout the years 1500 BC to 300 BC. The places where they occupied and created small civilizations were: Cadiz, Kition, Utica, and Lixis. Greeks were also colonizing side by side with Phoenicians who saw this as a competition between territories. As a result, Phoenicians worked double time to create bigger colonies. They established numerous colonies including Carthage in northern Africa. 

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Phoenecia
The commercial network of Phoenicia

Phoenicians and Their Contributions to the Society

The Phoenician civilization became well-known as the foremost navigators and traders of the Mediterranean by 1250 B.C. They were the early business men who practiced the trading and the industry of marketing.They had a keen ability to trade items with other colonies and tribes in their time. Their popular product was the purple dye made from the snail. This is how they got the name Phoenicia or Phoenix in Greek, meaning purple-red. Another item that they traded were dogs bred to develop their hunting and herding skills. The Phoenicians also produced wines. When Egypt had a hard time producing wine, the Phoenicians took advantage of this and create their own to trade with Egypt. Phoenicians also created trading posts. 

They were also famous for the marine vessel that allowed them to go from one location to another and best remembered for the products that they traded with others. As the Phoenicians traveled to the edges of the known world, they introduced their alphabet that was based on symbols for sounds rather than cuneiform or hieroglyphic representations. Their culture was gradually absorbed by Persian and later Hellenistic civilizations

How Phoenicia colonized Western Europe and Africa

Phoenician did not use brute force as conquerors do. The Phoenician people colonized Western Europe and Africa using trading goods from 1200 BC to 900 BC. Phoenicians, as Canaanites, were a Hamitic tribe that occupied the shores of Lebanon. Those Canaanites trading in Greece were called Phoenicians by the Greeks so that by 3 BC Lebanon became known as Phoenicia. As businessmen, Phoenician went so far that by 200 BC, they had colonized almost all of the Mediterranean shore. They established trading ports and depots all over the great shores. As they searched for more trading partners, they rounded the whole of Africa and went to England as well as Ireland. They founded many cities in Western Europe bringing with them their skills and industry of art, glassware, fragrance and precious stones.

Phoenician Colonies and Settlements

The Phoenicians had established commercial outposts throughout the Mediterranean including Carthage in North Africa and across the narrow straits in Sicily. These are considered the most strategically important ones. With these, they were able to monopolize the Mediterranean trade and keep their rivals from passing through. Some of their colonies were in Cyprus, Corsica, Sardinia, and the Iberian Peninsula. They also founded several small outposts a day’s sail away from each other all along the North African coast en route to Spain’s mineral wealth.

Phoenicians also reached the coast of southern Spain and along the coast of present-day Portugal. They also ventured north into the Atlantic Ocean as far as Great Britain, providing them tin mines and other important materials. Meanwhile, a Carthaginian expedition that was led by Hanno the Navigator explored and colonized the Atlantic coast of Africa as far as the Gulf of Guinea. They also explored south along the coast of Africa.

Basically, the Phoenicians were not an agricultural people because most of the lands in their settlements were not arable. Because of this, they focused on commerce and trading instead which established their identity as great mariners. On the other hand, the Phoenicians influenced other groups around the Mediterranean such as the Greeks who later became their main commercial rivals.

Phoenician Trade in the Bible

Phoenicians often trade their skills with the Israelites.

The people of Israel did not have enough time to master any skills in building even while in Egypt or when they were in the desert with Moses. For this reason, King David, as well as his son King Solomon after him made use of the Phoenician people to build their temples as stated in the Biblical passage in I Chronicles 14:1. King Hiram of one  Phoenician ancient city and a seaport, Tyre, sent his craftsmen to David to provide the King of Israel cedar logs with carpenters and stonemasons so that they could build his palace. When King David died, and Solomon reigned after him, he wrote to King Hiram (I Kings 5:6) to build a temple for him as his father David was so busy warring, he was not able to build a temple for the Lord (I Kings 5:3). King Hiram sent his carpenters and stonemasons once more with cedar logs and pine trees to create the temple (I Kings 5:8-10).

The Phoenician people, especially those craftsmen from Tyre, traded with King Solomon as stated in I kings 7:13-16 where King Solomon, after finishing his house after 13 years, planned to build another one in the forest of Lebanon. Throughout the Bible from Genesis to the time of the disciples in the Book of Acts, Canaanites, Lebanon and the places of Tyre and Sidon (another city in Phoenicia which means fishing) have been mentioned.

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Cadmus Founds Citadel of Thebes

Cadmus is a Phoenician prince in Greek mythology who was said to be the originator of the old Alphabet of the Greeks; the grandfather of the modern alphabet. He was also known as the founder of the city of Thebes. According to the Biblical timeline, Cadmus lived around the time of Ehud, the second Judge of Israel.

He was the son of the king and queen of Tyre, Agenor and Telephassa. His conquests started when he was sent to escort Europa, his sister, who was abducted by Zeus. In is a search for his sister, he later settled in Boeotia. Aside from a sister, Cadmus also had two other siblings, Phoenix and Cilix. Their father sent out all the brothers to search for their sister and commanded them never to return without her.

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Phoenician Writings

Phoenicia was an ancient place located around the area of Canaan. The 14th BC Amama Tablets showed that the people in Phoenicia at that time referred to themselves as Kinaani or Canaanites. They were maritime traders who claimed much of the great Mediterranean coastline. Cadmus sister Europa was said to have been abducted from the very shores of this ancient civilization. Phoenicia was actually a Greek term that referred to the Canaanites’ port towns. They were also known as remarkable seafarers.

Phoenicia has remarkable alphabetic writing that was already established in the first millennium BC. They had 22 letters widely used, especially in one of their cities, Byblos in 1500 BC. These were the letters that, thanks to Cadmus, influenced not only the Greek but the whole modern language of today.

Cadmus the Founder of Thebes

Cadmus is a legendary hero, as written in the history of Greece, who founded the city of Thebes. When Cadmus came to Boeotia in his search for his sister, he started the line of Thebes’ royal family.

When the brothers realized that the search for their sister was futile, Cadmus brothers settled in other places. Phoenix stayed somewhere in Phoenicia and Cilix inhabited and ruled Cilicia as a king.  Cadmus wanderings led him to Delphi. There, he met with the Oracle and he was ordered to stop looking for his sister as she had not been abducted by an ordinary bull but by Zeus. Instead, he needed to follow a cow with a half moon on the flank to find the place in which to build a city. The cow, given by the King of the Phocis, Pelagon, guided Cadmus to a place called Boetia. There, he founded his own city called Thebes.

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Cadmus and the Dragon

Cadmus was said to have so angered Ares when he killed his Dragon that he had to serve him in penance for eight years.  After the penance, he met Harmonia and they got married. However, Cadmus did not have a wonderful life. It was filled with tragedy and ill fortune.

Cadmus in the Bible

The Phoenician scripts were also the first letters used to translate the Bible. It was said that the ancient Hebrew language was, in fact, a Canaanite (Phoenician) language as stated in a Bible passage (Isaiah 19:18) where all the Hebrew people had taken the language as their own.

Cadmus, as the one who influenced so many in their writings, might have come across the Biblical characters due to their timeline.

In fact, the Book of Judges telling the history of Ehud was a part of the historical book, the Greek Septuagint. In the scriptures, the Book of Judges relates the period after Joshua subdued the Canaanites and the land was distributed to the 12 tribes of Israel (Joshua 14:1). This just shows that the Hebrew people had a great influence and might even have crossed path with the Prince of Tyre when the Israelites settled in Canaan or Phoenicia.