Glass bead, ca. 4th cent., B.C. (The Metropolitan Museum of Art)
The Phoenicians were a seminal force in establishing urban life and literacy in the ancient Mediterranean. They excelled in seamanship, naval warfare, literature, and astronomy. They gave the Greeks the alphabet, papyrus, and celestial navigation, and their merchants, setting out from Lebanon, established outposts across the Mediterranean from Cyprus to the Atlantic shores of Iberia.
The Greeks, beginning with Homer, called these intrepid seafarers Phoenicians after the date-palm (phoenix) native to their homeland. The Roman came to know them as Poeni, which led to the Latin designation Punic. After the 6th century B.C., Carthage became the principal Punic urban center. The city’s formidable naval and commercial power eventually collided with the expanding Roman state and resulted in the devastating Punic Wars.
Archaeologist Robert Stieglitz explores the marvelous cultural heritage of the Phoenicians as revealed by historical sources and impressive archaeological discoveries, notably about religious practices, in the Levan and western Mediterranean colonies.
9:30–10:45 a.m. Phoenician Origins
The Phoenicians were descendants of the Bronze Age coastal Canaanites, and were known as such to their biblical-era Israelite neighbors. The principal Iron Age Phoenician ports, emerging after 1200 B.C. from the upheavals that terminated the Bronze Age, were first Sidon, then Tyre, Byblos, and Arwad. Phoenician maritime expeditions were secretive, as they faced increasing competition from Greek colonization in the Mediterranean.
11 a.m.–12:15 p.m. The World of the Phoenicians
Seeking resources for their metalworking industry and luxury goods for their land and sea trade networks, Phoenician merchant venturers founded assorted coastal and inland colonies. Among the outposts in the western Mediterranean were colonies at Gadir (Cadiz) and Huelva in Spain, Utica and Carthage in Tunisia, and Sulkis and Tharros in Sardinia, as well as settlements in Cyprus and Asia Minor.
12:15–1:30 p.m. Lunch (participants provide their own)
1:30–2:45 p.m. The Maritime Empire of Carthage
By the 6th century B.C., Carthage developed imperial power, and its navy dominated the western Mediterranean from western Sicily and Sardinia to southwest Iberia. Carthaginian navigators also embarked on explorations and established outposts as far as West Africa, Portugal, and Britain, and maintained religious contacts with their ancestral home in the Lebanon.
3–4:15 p.m. The Punic Wars
When Rome collided with Carthage on land and sea in the First Punic War, the battleground was Sicily. During the Second Punic War, the Carthaginian commander Hannibal invaded the Italian mainland by crossing the Alps and nearly ruined Rome. By the third Punic War, Rome was determined to possess the entire Mediterranean and had to destroy, among others, its principal rival Carthage.
Stieglitz, a professor emeritus at Rutgers University, specializes in ancient maritime interconnections. He has excavated at various harbors in Greece and Israel, and has led many archaeological tours in the eastern and western Mediterranean.