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Littell's Living Age/Volume 140/Issue 1805/The Phœnicians in Greece

Herodotus begins his history by relating how Phœnician traders brought "Egyptian and Assyrian wares" to Argos and other parts of Greece, in those remote days when the Greeks were still waiting to receive the elements of their culture from the more civilized East. His account was derived from Persian and Phœnician sources, but, it would seem, was accepted by his contemporaries with the same unquestioning confidence as by himself. The belief of Herodotus was shared by the scholars of Europe after the revival of learning, and there were none among them who doubted that the civilization of ancient Greece had been brought from Asia or Egypt, or from both. Hebrew was regarded as the primæval language, and the Hebrew records as the fountain-head of all history; just as the Greek vocabulary, therefore, was traced back to the Hebrew lexicon, the legends of primitive Greece were believed to be the echoes of Old Testament history. Ex Oriente lux was the motto of the inquirer, and the key to all that was dark or doubtful in the mythology and history of Hellas was to be found in the monuments of the Oriental world.

But the age of Creuzer and Bryant was succeeded by an age of scepticism and critical investigation. A reaction set in against the attempt to force Greek thought and culture into an Asiatic mould, The Greek scholar was repelled by the tasteless insipidity and barbaric exuberance of the East; he contrasted the works of Phidias and Praxiteles, of Sophocles and Plato, with the monstrous creations of India or Egypt, and the conviction grew strong within him that the Greek could never have learnt his first lessons of civilization in such a school as this. Between the East and the West a sharp line of division was drawn, and to look for the origin of Greek culture beyond the boundaries of Greece itself came to be regarded almost as sacrilege. Greek mythology, so far from being an echo or caricature of Biblical history and Oriental mysticism, was pronounced to be self-evolved and independent, and K. O. Müller could deny without contradiction the Asiatic origin even of the myth of Aphrodite and Adonis, where the name of the Semitic sun-god seems of itself to indicate its source. The Phœnician traders of Herodotus, like the royal maiden they carried away from Argos, were banished to the nebulous region of rationalistic fable.

Along with this reaction against the Orientalizing school, which could see in Greece nothing but a deformed copy of Eastern wisdom, went another reaction against the conception of Greek mythology on which the labors of the Orientalizing school had been based. Key after key had been applied to Greek mythology, and all in vain; the lock had refused to turn. The light which had been supposed to come from the East had turned out to be but a will-o'-the-wisp; neither the Hebrew Scriptures nor the Egyptian hieroglyphics had solved the problem presented by the Greek myths. And the Greek scholar, in despair, had come to the conclusion that the problem was insoluble; all that he could do was to accept the facts as they were set before him, to classify and repeat the wondrous tales of the Greek poets, but to leave their origin unexplained. This is practically the position of Grote; he is content to show that all the parts of a myth hang closely together, and that any attempt to extract history or philosophy from it must be arbitrary and futile. To deprive a myth of its kernel and soul, and call the dry husk that is left a historical fact, is to mistake the conditions of the problem and the nature of mythology.

It was at this point that the science of comparative mythology stepped in. Grote had shown that we cannot look for history in mythology, but he had given up the discovery of the origin of this mythology as a hopeless task. The same comparative method, however, which has forced nature to disclose her secrets has also penetrated to the sources of mythology itself. The Greek myths, like the myths of the other nations of the world, are the forgotten and misinterpreted records of the beliefs of primitive man, and of his earliest attempts to explain the phenomena of nature. Restore the original meaning of the language wherein the myth is clothed, and the origin of the myth is found. Myths, in fact, are the words of a dead language to which a wrong sense has been given by a false method of decipherment. A myth, rightly explained, will tell us the beliefs, the feelings, and the knowledge of those among whom it first grew up; for the evidences and monuments of history we must look elsewhere.

But there is an old proverb that "there is no smoke without fire." The war of Troy or the beleaguerment of Thebes may be but a repetition of the time-worn story of the battle waged by the bright powers of day round the battlements of heaven; but there must have been some reason why this story should have been specially localized in the Troad and at Thebes. Most of the Greek myths have a background in space and time; and for this background there must be some historical cause. The cause, however, if it is to be discovered at all, must be discovered by means of those evidences which will alone satisfy the critical historian. The localization of a myth is merely an indication or sign-post pointing out the direction in which he is to look for his facts. If Greek warriors had never fought in the plains of Troy, we may be pretty sure that the poems of Homer would not have brought Akhilles and Agamemnon under the walls of Ilium. If Phœnician traders had exercised no influence on primeval Greece, Greek legend would have contained no references to them.

But even the myth itself, when rightly questioned, may be made to yield some of the facts upon which the conclusions of the historian are based. We now know fairly well what ideas, usages, and proper names have an Aryan stamp upon them, and what, on the other hand, belong rather to the Semitic world. Now there is a certain portion of Greek mythology which bears but little relationship to the mythology of the kindred Aryan tribes, while it connects itself very closely with the beliefs and practices of the Semitic race. Human sacrifice is very possibly one of these, and it is noticeable that two at least of the legends which speak of human sacrifice - those of Athatnas and Busiris - are associated, the one with the Phœnicians of Thebes, the other with the Phœnicians of the Egyptian Delta. The whole cycle of myths grouped about the name of Herakles points as clearly to a Semitic source as does the myth of Aphrodite and Adonis; and the extravagant lamentations that accompanied the worship of the Akhæn Demeter (Herod. v. 61) come as certainly from the East as the olive, the pomegranate, and the myrtle, the sacred symbols of Athena, of Hera, and of Aphrodite.[1]

Comparative mythology has thus given us a juster appreciation of the historical inferences we may draw from the legends of prehistoric Greece, and has led us back to a recognition of the important part played by the Phœnicians in the heroic age. Greek culture, it is true, was not the mere copy of that of Semitic Asia, as scholars once believed, but the germs of it had come in large measure from an Oriental seed-plot. The conclusions derived from a scientific study of the myths have been confirmed and widened by the recent researches and discoveries of archæology. The spade, it has been said, is the modern instrument for reconstructing the history of the past, and in no department of history has the spade been more active of late than in that of Greece. From all sides light has come upon that remote epoch around which the mists of a fabulous antiquity had already been folded in the days of Herodotus; from the islands and shores of the Ægean, from the tombs of Asia Minor and Palestine, nay, even from the temples and palaces of Egypt and Assyria, have the materials been exhumed for sketching in something like clear outline the origin and growth of Greek civilization. From nowhere, however, have more important revelations been derived than from the excavations at Mykenæ and Spata, near Athens, and it is with the evidence furnished by these that I now propose mainly to deal. A personal inspection of the sites and the objects found upon them has convinced me of the groundlessness of the doubts which have been thrown out against their antiquity as well as of the intercourse and connection to which they testify with the great empires of Babylonia and Assyria. Mr. Poole has lately pointed out what materials are furnished by the Egyptian monuments for determining the age and character of the antiquities of Mykenæ. I would now draw attention to the far clearer and more tangible materials afforded by Assyrian art and history.

Two facts must first be kept well in view. One of these is the Semitic origin of the Greek alphabet. The Phœnician alphabet, originally derived from the alphabet of the Egyptian hieroglyphics and imported into their mother country by the Phœnician settlers of the Delta, was brought to Greece, not probably by the Phœnicians of Tyre and Sidon, but by the Aramæans of the Gulf of Antioch, whose nouns ended with the same "emphatic aleph" that we seem to find in the Greek names of the letters, alpha, beta, gamma (gamla). Before the introduction of the simpler Phœnician alphabet, the inhabitants of Asia Minor and the neighboring islands appear to have used a syllabary of some seventy characters, which continued to be employed in conservative Cyprus down to a very late date; but, so far as we know at present the Greeks of the main land were unacquainted with writing before the Aramæo-Phœnicians had taught them their phonetic symbols. The oldest Greek inscriptions are probably those of Thera, now Santorin, where the Phœnicians had been settled from time immemorial; and as the forms of the characters found in them do not differ very materially from the forms used on the famous Moabite stone, we may infer that the alphabet of Kadmus was brought to the West at a date not very remote from that of Mesha and Ahab, perhaps about 800 B.C. We may notice that Thera was an island and a Phœnician colony, and it certainly seems more probable that the alphabet was carried to the mainland from the islands of the Ægean than that it was disseminated from the inland Phœnician settlement at Thebes, as the old legends affirmed. In any case, the introduction of the alphabet implies a considerable amount of civilizing force on the part of those from whom it was borrowed; the teachers from whom an illiterate people learns the art of writing are generally teachers from whom it has previously learnt the other elements of social culture. A barbarous tribe will use its muscles in the service of art before it will use its brains; the smith and engraver precede the scribe. If, therefore, the Greeks were unacquainted with writing before the ninth century B.C., objects older than that period may be expected to exhibit clear traces of Phœnician influence, though no traces of writing.

The other fact to which I allude is the existence of pottery of the same material and pattern on all the prehistoric sites of the Greek world, however widely separated they may be. We find it, for instance, at Mykenæ and Tiryns, at Tanagra and Athens, in Rhodes, in Cyprus, and in Thera, while I picked up specimens of it in the neighborhood of the treasury of Minyas and on the site of the Acropolis at Orchomenus. The clay of which it is composed is of a drab color, derived, perhaps in all instances, from the volcanic soil of Thera and Melos, and it is ornamented with geometrical and other patterns in black and maroon red. After a time the patterns become more complicated and artistic; flowers, animal forms, and eventually human figures, take the place of simple lines, and the pottery gradually passes into that known as Corinthian or Phœniko-Greek. It needs but little experience to distinguish at a glance this early pottery from the red ware of the later Hellenic period.

Phœnicia, Keft as it was called by the Egyptians, had been brought into relation with the monarchy of the Nile at a remote date, and among the Semitic settlers in the Delta or "Isle of Caphtor" must have been natives of Sidon and the neighboring towns. After the expulsion of the Hyksos, the Pharaohs of the eighteenth and nineteenth dynasties carried their arms as far as Mesopotamia and placed Egyptian garrisons in Palestine. A tomb-painting of Thothmes III. represents the Kefa or Phœnicians, clad in richly embroidered kilts and buskins, and bringing their tribute of gold and silver vases and earthenware cups, some in the shape of animals like the vases found at Mykenæ and elsewhere. Phœnicia, it would seem, was already celebrated for its goldsmiths' and potters' work, and the ivory the Kefa are sometimes made to carry shows that their commerce must have extended far to the east. As early as the sixteenth century B.C., therefore, we may conclude that the Phœnicians were a great commercial people, trading between Assyria and Egypt and possessed of a considerable amount of artistic skill.

It is not likely that a people of this sort, who, as we know from other sources, carried on a large trade in slaves and purple, would have been still unacquainted with the seas and coasts of Greece where both slaves and the murex or purple-fish were most easily to be obtained. Though the Phœnician alphabet was unknown in Greece till the ninth century B.C., we have every reason to expect to find traces of Phœnician commerce and Phœnician influence there at least five centuries before. And such seems to be the case. The excavations carried on in Thera by M. M. Fouqué and Gorceix,[2] in Rhodes by Mr. Newton and Dr. Saltzmann, and in various other places such as Megara, Athens, and Melos, have been followed by the explorations of Dr. Schliemann at Hissarlik, Tiryns, and Mykenæ, of General di Cesnola in Cyprus, and of the Archæological Society of Athens at Tanagra and Spata.

The accumulations of prehistoric objects on these sites all tell the same tale, the influence of the East, and more especially of the Phœnicians, upon the growing civilization of early Greece. Thus in Thera, where a sort of Greek Pompeii has been preserved under the lava which once overwhelmed it, we find the rude stone hovels of its primitive inhabitants, with roofs of wild olive, filled with the bones of dogs and sheep. and containing stores of barley, spelt, and chickpea, copper and stone weapons, and abundance of pottery. The latter is for the most part extremely coarse, but here and there have been discovered vases of artistic workmanship, which remind us of those carried by the Kefa, and may have been imported from abroad. We know from the tombs found on the island that the Phœnicians afterwards settled in Thera among a population in the same condition of civilization as that which had been overtaken by the great volcanic eruption. It was from these Phœnician settlers that the embroidered dresses known as Theræan were brought to Greece; they were adorned with animals and other figures. similar to those seen upon Corinthian or Phœniko-Greek ware.[3]

Now M. Fr. Lenormant has pointed out that much of the pottery used by the aboriginal inhabitants of Thera is almost identical in form and make with that found by Dr. Schliemann at Hissarlik, in the Troad, and he concludes that it must belong to the same period and the same area of civilization. There is as yet little, if any, trace of Oriental influence; a few of the clay vases from Thera, and some of the gold workmanship at Hissarlik, can alone be referred, with more or less hesitation, to Phœnician artists. We have not yet reached the age when Phœnician trade in the West ceased to be the sporadic effort of private individuals, and when trading colonies were established in different parts of the Greek world; Europe is still unaffected by Eastern culture, and the beginnings of Greek art are still free from foreign interference. It is only in certain designs on the terra-cotta discs, believed by Dr. Schliemann to be spindle whorls, that we may possibly detect rude copies of Babylonian and Phœnician intaglios.

Among all the objects discovered at Hissarlik, none have been more discussed than the vases and clay images in which Dr. Schliemann saw a representation of an owl-headed Athena. What Dr. Schliemann took for an owl's head, however, is really a rude attempt to imitate the human face, and two breasts are frequently moulded in the clay below it. In many examples the human countenance is unmistakable, and in most of the others the representation is less rude than in the case of the small marble statues of Apollo (?) found in the Greek islands, or even of the early Hellenic vases where the men seen furnished with the beaks of birds. But we now know that these curious vases are not peculiar to the Troad. Specimens of them have also been met with in Cyprus, and in these we can trace the development of the owl-like head into the more perfect portraiture of the human face.[4] In conservative Cyprus there was not that break with the past which occurred in other portions of the Greek world.

Cyprus, in fact, lay midway between Greece and Phœnicia, and was shared to the last between an Aryan and a Semitic population. The Phœnician element in the island was strong, if not preponderant; Paphos was a chief seat of the worship of the Phœnician Astarte, and the Phœnician Kitium, the Chittim of the Hebrews, took first rank among the Cyprian towns. The antiquities brought to light by General di Cesnola are of all ages and all styles - prehistoric and classical, Phœnician and Hellenic, Assyrian and Egyptian - and the various styles are combined together in the catholic spirit that characterized Phœnician art.

But we must pause here for a moment to define more accurately what we mean by Phœnician art. Strictly speaking, Phœnicia had no art of its own; its designs were borrowed from Egypt and Assyria, and its artists went to school on the banks of the Nile and the Euphrates. The Phœnician combined and improved upon his models ; the impulse, the origination came from abroad; the modification and elaboration were his own. He entered into other men's labors, and made the most of his heritage. The sphinx of Egypt became Asiatic, and in its new form was transplanted to Nineveh on the one side and to Greece on the other. The rosettes and other patterns of the Babylonian cylinders were introduced into the handiwork of Phœnicia, and so passed on to the West, while the hero of the ancient Chaldean epic became first the Tyrian Melkarth, and then the Herakles of Hellas. It is possible, no doubt, that with all this borrowing there was still something that was original in Phœnician work; such at any rate seems to be the case with some of the forms given to the vases; but at present we have no means of determining how far this originality may have extended. In Assyria, indeed, Phœnician art exercised a great influence in the eighth and seventh centuries B.C.; but it had itself previously drawn its first inspiration from the empire of the Tigris, and did but give back the perfect blossom to those from whom it had received the seed. The workmanship of the ivories and bronze bowls found at Nineveh by Mr. Layard is thoroughly Phœnician; but it cannot be separated from that of the purely Assyrian pavements and bas-reliefs with which the palaces were adorned. The Phœnician art, in fact, traces of which we find from Assyria to Italy, though based on both Egyptian and Assyrian models, owed far more to Assyria than it did to Egypt. In art, as in mythology and religion, Phœnicia was but a carrier and intermediary between East and West; and just as the Greek legends of Aphrodite and Adonis, of Herakles and his twelve labors, and of the other borrowed heroes of Oriental story came in the first instance from Assyria, so too did that art and culture which Kadmus the Phœnician handed on to the Greek race.

But Assyria itself had been equally an adapter and intermediary. The Semites of Assyria and Babylonia had borrowed their culture and civilization from the older Accadian race, with its agglutinative language, which had preceded them in the possession of Chaldea. So slavishly observant were the Assyrians of their Chaldean models that in a land where limestone was plentiful they continued to build their palaces and temples of brick, and to ornament them with those columns and pictorial representations which had been first devised on the alluvial plans of Babylonia. To understand Assyrian art, and track it back to its source, we must go to the engraved gems and ruined temples of primeval Babylonia. It is true that Egypt may have had some influence on Assyrian art at the time when the eighteenth dynasty had pushed its conquests to the banks of the Tigris: but that influence does not seem to have been either deep or permanent. Now the art of Assyria is in great measure the art of Phœnicia, and that again the art of prehistoric Greece. Modern research has discovered the prototype of Herakles in the hero of a Chaldean epic composed, it may be, four thousand years ago; it has also discovered the beginnings of Greek columnar architecture and the germs of Greek art in the works of the builders and engravers of early Chaldea.

When first I saw, five years ago, the famous sculpture which has guarded the Gate of Lions at Mykenæ for so many centuries, I was at once struck by its Assyrian character. The lions in form and attitude belong to Assyria, and the pillar against which they rest may be seen in the bas-reliefs brought from Nineveh. Here, at all events, there was clear proof of Assyrian influence; the only question was whether that influence had been carried through the hands of the Phœnicians or had travelled along the highroad which ran across Asia Minor, the second channel whereby the culture of Assyria could have been brought to Greece. The existence of a similar sculpture over a rock-tomb at Kumbet in Phrygia might seem to favour the latter view.

The discoveries of Dr. Schliemann have gone far to settle the question. The pottery excavated at Mykenæ is of the Phœnician type, and the clay of which it is composed has probably come from Thera. The terra-cotta figures of animals and more especially of a goddess with long robe, crowned head, and crescent-like arms, which Dr. Schliemann would identify with ßοώπις Ήοη, are spread over the whole area traversed by the Phœnicians. The image of the goddess in one form or another has been found in Thera and Melos, in Naxos and Paros, in Ios, in Sikinos, and in Anaphos, and M. Lenormant has traced it back to Babylonia and to the Babylonian representation of the goddess Artemis-Nana.[5] At Tanagra the image has been found under two forms, both, however, made of the same clay and in the same style as the figures from Mykenæ. In one the goddess is upright, as at Mykenæ, with the polos on her head, and the arms either outspread or folded over the breast; in the other she is sitting with the arms crossed. Now among the gold ornaments exhumed at Mykenæ are some square pendants of gold which represent the goddess in this sitting posture.[6]

The animal forms most commonly met with are those of the lion, the stag, the bull, the cuttle-fish, and the murex. The last two point unmistakably to a seafaring race, and more especially to those Phœnician sailors whose pursuit of the purple-trade first brought them into Greek seas. So far as I know, neither the polypus nor the murex, nor the butterfly which often accompanies them, have been found in Assyria or Egypt, and we may therefore see in them original designs of Phœnician art. Mr. Newton has pointed out that the cuttle-fish (like the dolphin) also occurs among the prehistoric remains from Ialysos in Rhodes, where, too, pottery of the same shape and material as that of Mykenæ has been found, as well as beads of a curious vitreous substance, and rings in which the back of the chaton is rounded so as to fit the finger. It is clear that the art of Ialysos belongs to the same age and school as the art of Mykenæ and as a scarab of Amenophis III. has been found in one of the Ialysian tombs, it is possible that the art may be as old as the fifteenth century B.C.

Now Ialysos is not the only Rhodian town which has yielded prehistoric antiquities. Camirus also has been explored by Messrs. Biliotti and Saltzmann; and while objects of the same kind and character as those of Ialysos have been discovered there, other objects have been found by their side which belong to another and more advanced stage of art. These are vases of clay and metal, bronze bowls, and the like, which not only display high finish and skill, but are ornamented with the designs characteristic of Phœnician workmanship at Nineveh and elsewhere. Thus we have zones of trees and animals, attempts at the representation of scenery, and a profusion of ornament, while the influence of Egypt is traceable in the sphinxes and scarabs, which also occur plentifully. Here, therefore, at Camirus, there is plain evidence of a sudden introduction of finished Phœnician art among a people whose art was still rude and backward, although springing from the same germs as the art of Phœnicia itself. Two distinct periods in the history of the Ægean thus seem to lie unfolded before us; one in which Eastern influence was more or less indirect, content to communicate the seeds of civilization and culture, and to import such objects as a barbarous race would prize; and another in which the East was, as it were, transported into the West, and the development of Greek art was interrupted by the introduction of foreign workmen and foreign beliefs. This second period was the period of Phœnician colonization as distinct from that of mere trading voyages - the period, in fact, when Thebes was made a Phœnician fortress, and the Phœnician alphabet diffused throughout the Greek world. It is only in relics of the later part of this period that we can look for inscriptions and traces of writing, at least in Greece proper; in the islands and on the coast of Asia Minor, the Cypriote syllabary seems to have been in use, to be superseded afterwards by the simpler alphabet of Kadmus. For reasons presently to be stated, I would distinguish the first period by the name of Phrygian.

Throughout the whole of it, however, the Phœnician trading-ships must have formed the chief medium of intercourse between Asia and Europe. Proof of this has been furnished by the rock tombs of Spata, which have been lighted on opportunely to illustrate and explain the discoveries at Mykenæ. Spata is about nine miles from Athens, on the north-west spur of Hymettos, and the two tombs hitherto opened are cut in the soft sandstone rock of a small conical hill. Both are approached by long, tunnel-like entrances, and one of them contains three chambers, leading one into the other, and each fashioned after the model of a house. No one who has seen the objects unearthed at Spata can doubt for a moment their close connection with the Mykenæan antiquities. The very moulds found at Mykenæ fit the ornaments from Spata, and might easily have been used in the manufacture of them. It is more especially with the contents of the sixth tomb discovered by Mr. Stamatáki in the enceinte at Mykenæ after Dr. Schliemann s departure, that the Spata remains agree so remarkably. But there is a strong resemblance between them and the Mykenæan antiquities generally, in both material, patterns, and character. The cuttle-fish and the murex appear in both; the same curious spiral designs, and ornaments in the shape of shells or rudely-formed oxheads; the same geometrical patterns; the same class of carved work. An ivory in which a lion, of the Assyrian type, is depicted as devouring a stag, is but a reproduction of a similar design met with among the objects from Mykenæ, and it is interesting to observe that the same device, in the same style of art, may be also seen on a Phœnician gem from Sardinia.[7] Of still higher interest are other ivories, which, like the antiquities of Camirus, belong rather to the second than to the first period of Phœnician influence. One of these represents a column, which, like that above the Gate of Lions, carries us back to the architecture of Babylonia, while others exhibit the Egyptian sphinx, as modified by the Phœnician artists. Thus the handle of a comb is divided into two compartments - the lower occupied by three of these sphinxes, the upper by two others, which have their eyes fixed on an Assyrian rosette in the middle.[8] Similar sphinxes are engraved on a silver cup lately discovered at Palestrina, bearing the Phœnician inscription, in Phœnician letters, "Eshmun-ya'ar, son of Ashta'."[9] Another ivory has been carved into the form of a human side face, surmounted by a tiara of four plaits. On the one hand the arrangement of the hair of the face, the whisker and beard forming a fringe round it, and the two lips being closely shorn, reminds us of what we find at Palestrina; on the other hand, the head-dress is that of the figures on the sculptured rocks of Asia Minor, and of the Hittite princes of Carchemish. In spite of this Phœnician coloring, how ever, the treasures of Spata belong to the earlier part of the Phœnician period, if not to that which I have called Phrygian: there is as yet no sign of writing, no trace of the use of iron. But we seem to be approaching the close of the bronze age in Greece - to have reached the time when the lions were sculptured over the chief gateway of Mykenæ, and the so-called treasuries were erected in honor of the dead.

Can any date be assigned, even approximately, to those two periods of Phœnician influence in Greece? Can we localize the era, so to speak, of the antiquities discovered at Mykenæ, or fix the epoch at which its kings ceased to build its long-enduring monuments, and its glory was taken from it? I think an answer to these questions may be found in a series of engraved gold rings and prisms found upon its site - the prisms having probably once served to ornament the neck. In these we can trace a gradual development of art, which in time becomes less Oriental and more Greek, and acquires a certain facility in the representation of the human form.

Let us first fix our attention on an engraved gold chaton found, not in the tombs, but outside the enceinte among the ruins, as it would seem, of a house.[10] On this we have a rude representation of a figure seated under a palm-tree, with another figure behind and three more in front, the foremost being of small size, the remaining two considerably taller and in flounced dresses. Above are the symbols of the sun and crescent moon, and at the side a row of lions' heads. Now no one who has seen this chaton, and also had any acquaintance with the engraved gems of the archaic period of Babylonian art, can avoid being struck by the fact that the intaglio is a copy of one of the latter. The characteristic workmanship of the Babylonian gems is imitated by punches made in the gold which give the design a very curious effect. The attitude of the figures is that common on the Chaldean cylinders ;the owner stands in front of the deity, of diminutive size, and in the act of adoration, while the priests are placed behind him. The latter wear the flounced dresses peculiar to the early Babylonian priests; and what has been supposed to represent female breasts, is really a copy of the way in which the breast of a man is frequently portrayed on the cylinders.[11] The palm-tree, with its single fruit hanging on the left side, is characteristically Babylonian; so also are the symbols that encircle the engraving, the sun and moon and lions' heads. The chaton of another gold ring, found on the same spot, is covered with similar animal heads. This, again, is a copy of early Babylonian art, in which such designs were not unfrequent, though, as they were afterwards imitated by both Assyrian and Cyprian engravers, too much stress must not be laid on the agreement.[12] The artistic position and age of the other ring, however, admits of little doubt. The archaic period of Babylonian art may be said to close with the rise of Assyria in the fourteenth century B.C.; and though archaic Babylonian intaglios continued to be imported into the West down to the time of the Romans, it is not likely that they were imitated by Western artists after the latter had become acquainted with better and more attractive models. I think, therefore, that the two rings may be assigned to the period of archaic Babylonian power in western Asia, a period that begins with the victories of Naram-Sin in Palestine in the seventeenth century B.C. or earlier, and ends with the conquest of Babylon by the Assyrians and the establishment of Assyrian supremacy. This is also the period to which I am inclined to refer the introduction among the Phœnicians and Greeks of the column and of certain geometrical patterns, which had their first home in Babylonia.[13] The lentoid gems with their rude intaglios, found in the islands, on the site of Heræum, in the tombs of Mykenæ and elsewhere, belong to the same age, and point back to the loamy plain of Babylonia where stone was rare and precious, and whence, consequently, the art of gem-cutting was spread through the ancient world. We can thus understand the existence of artistic designs and other evidences of civilizing influence among a people who were not yet acquainted with the use of iron. The early Chaldean empire, in spite of the culture to which it had attained, was still in the bronze age; iron was almost unknown, and its tools and weapons were fashioned of stone, bone, and bronze. Had the Greeks and the Phœnicians before them received their first lessons in culture from Egypt or from Asia Minor, where the Khalybes and other allied tribes had worked in iron from time immemorial, they would probably have received this metal at the same time. But neither at Hissarlik nor at Mykenæ is there any trace of an iron age.

The second period of Western art and civilization is represented by some of the objects found at Mykenæ in the tombs themselves. The intaglios have ceased to be Babylonian, and have become markedly Assyrian. First of all we have a hunting-scene, a favorite subject with Assyrian artists, but quite unknown to genuine Hellenic art. The disposition of the figures is that usual in Assyrian sculpture, and, like the Assyrian king, the huntsman is represented as riding in a chariot. A comparison of this hunting-scene with the bas-reliefs on the tombstones which stood over the graves shows that they belong to the same age, while the spiral ornamentation of the stones is essentially Assyrian. Equally Assyrian, though better engraved, is a lion on one of the gold prisms, which might have been cut by an Assyrian workman, so true is it to its Oriental model, and after this I would place the representation of a struggle between a man (perhaps Herakles) and a lion, in which, though the lion and attitude of the combatants are Assyrian, the man is no longer the Assyrian hero Gisdhubar, but a figure of more Western type. In another intaglio, representing a fight between armed warriors, the art has ceased to be Assyrian, and is struggling to become native. We seem to be approaching the period when Greece gave over walking in Eastern leading-strings, and began to step forward firmly without help. As I believe, however, that the tombs within the enceinte are of older date than the treasuries outside the Acropolis, or the Gate of Lions which belongs to the same age, it is plain that we have not yet reached the time when Assyro-Phœnician influence began to decline in Greece. The lions above the gate would alone be proof to the contrary.

But, in fact, Phœnician influence continued to be felt up to the end of the seventh century B.C. Passing by the so-called Corinthian vases, or the antiquities exhumed by General di Cesnola in Cyprus, where the Phœnician element was strong, we have numerous evidences of the fact from all parts of Greece. Two objects of bronze discovered at Olympia may be specially signalized. One of these is an oblong plate, narrower at one end than at the other, ornamented with repousé work, and divided into four compartments. In the first compartment are figures of the non-descript birds so often seen on the "Corinthian" pottery; in the next come two Assyrian gryphons standing, as usual, face to face; while the third represents the and the contest of Herakles with the kentaur, thoroughly Oriental in design. The kentaur has a human forefront, covered, how ever, with hair; his tail is abnormally long, and a three-branched tree rises behind him. The fourth and largest compartment contains the figure of the Asiatic goddess with the four wings at the back, and a lion, held by the hind leg, in either hand. The face of the goddess is in profile. The whole design is Assyro-Phœnician, and is exactly reproduced on some square gold plates, intended probably to adorn the breast, presented to the Louvre by the Duc de Luynes. The other object to which I referred is a bronze dish, ornamented on the inside with repoussé work which at first sight looks Egyptian, but is really that Phœnician modification of Egyptian art so common in the eighth and seventh centuries B.C. An inscription in the Aramaic characters of the so-called Sidonian branch of the Phœnician alphabet is cut on the outside, and reads: "Belonging to Neger, son of Miga."[14] As the word used for "son" is the Aramaic bar and not the Phœnician ben, we may conclude that the owner of the dish had come from northern Syria. It is interesting to find a silver cup embossed with precisely the same kind of design, and also bearing an inscription in Phœnician letters, among the treasures discovered in a tomb at Palestrina, the ancient Præneste, more than a year ago. This inscription is even briefer than the other: "Eshmun-ya'ar son of 'Ashtâ,"[15] where, though ben is employed, the father's name has an Aramaic form. Helbig would refer these Italian specimens of Phœnician skill to the Carthaginian epoch, partly on the ground that an African species of ape seems sometimes represented on them;[16] in this case they might be as late as the fifth century before the Christian era.

During the earlier part of the second period of Phœnician influence, Phœnicia and the Phœnician colonies were not the only channel by which the elements of Assyrian culture found their way into the West. The monuments and religious beliefs of Asia Minor enable us to trace their progress from the banks of the Euphrates and the ranges of the Taurus, through Cappadocia and Phrygia, to the coasts and islands of the Ægean. The near affinity of Greek and Phrygian is recognized even by Plato;[17] the legends of Midas and Gordius formed part of Greek mythology, royal house of Mykenæ was made to come with all its wealth from the golden sands of the Paktolus; while on the other hand the cult of Mâ, of Attys, or of the Ephesian Artemis points back to an Assyrian origin. The sculptures found by Perrot[18] and Texier constitute a link between the prehistoric art of Greece and that of Asia Minor; the spiral ornaments that mark the antiquities of Mykenæ are repeated on the royal tombs of Asia Minor; and the ruins of Sardis, where once ruled a dynasty derived by Greek writers from Ninus or Nineveh, "the son of Bel," the grandson of the Assyrian Herakles,[19] may yet pour a flood of light on the earlier history of Greece. But it was rather in the first period, which I have termed Phrygian, than in the second, that the influence of Asia Minor was strongest. The figure of the goddess riding on a leopard, with mural crown and peaked shoes, on the rock-tablets of Pterium,[20] is borrowed rather from the cylinders of early Babylonia than from the sculptures of Assyria; and the Hissarlik collection connects itself more with the primitive antiquities of Santorin than with the later art of Mykenæ and Cyprus. We have already seen, however, the close relationship that exists between some of the objects excavated at Mykenæ and what we may call the pre-Phœnician art of Ialysos, - that is to say, the objects in which the influence of the East is indirect, and not direct. The discovery of metallurgy is associated with Dodona, where the oracle long continued to be heard in the ring of a copper chaldron, and where M. Karapanos has found bronze plates with the geometrical and circular patterns which distinguish the earliest art of Greece; now Dodona is the seat of primeval Greek civilization, the land of the Selloi or Helloi, of the Graioi themselves, and of Pelasgian Zeus, while it is to the north that the legends of Orpheus, of Musæus, and of other early civilizers looked back. But even at Dodona we may detect traces of Asiatic influence in the part played there by the doves, as well as in the story of Deucalion's deluge, and it may, perhaps, be not too rash to conjecture that even before the days of Phœnician enterprise and barter, an echo of Babylonian civilization had reached Greece through the medium of Asia Minor, whence it was carried, partly across the bridge formed by the islands of the Archipelago, partly through the mainland of Thrace and Epirus. The Hittites, with their capital at Carchemish, seem to have been the centre from which this borrowed civilization was spread northward and westward. Here was the home of the art which characterizes Asia Minor, and we have only to compare the bas-relief of Pterium with the rock sculptures found by Mr. Davis associated with "Hamathite" hieroglyphics at Ibreer, in Lycaonia,[21] to see how intimate is the connection between the two. These hieroglyphics were the still undeciphered writing of the Hittite tribes, and if, as seems possible, the Cypriote syllabary were derived from them, they would be a testimony to the western spread of Hittite influence at a very early epoch. The Cypriote characters adopted into the alphabets of Lycia and Karia, as well as the occurrence of the same characters on a hone and some of the terra-cotta discs found by Dr. Schliemann at Hissarlik, go to show that this influence would have extended, at any rate, to the coasts of the sea.

The traces of Egyptian influence, on the contrary, are few and faint. No doubt the Phœnician alphabet was ultimately of Egyptian origin, no doubt, too, that certain elements of Phœnician art were borrowed from Egypt, but before these were handed on to the West, they had first been profoundly modified by the Phœnician settlers in the Delta and in Canaan. The influence exercised immediately by Egypt upon Greece belongs to the historic period; the legends which saw an Egyptian emigrant in Kekrops or an Egyptian colony in the inhabitants of Argos were fables of a late date. Whatever intercourse existed between Egypt and Greece in the prehistoric period was carried on, not by the Egyptians, but by the Phœnicians of the Delta; it was they who brought the scarabs of a Thothmes or an Amenophis to the islands of the Ægean, like their descendants afterwards in Italy, and the proper names found on the Egyptian monuments of the eighteenth and nineteenth dynasties, which certain Egyptologists have identified with those of Greece and Asia Minor, belong rather, I believe, to Libyan and Semitic tribes.[22] Like the sphinxes at Spata, the indications of intercourse with Egypt met with at Mykenæ prove nothing more than the wide extent of Phœnician commerce and the existence of Phœnician colonies at the mouths of the Nile. Ostrich-eggs covered with stucco dolphins have been found not only at Mykenæ, but also in the grotto of Polledrara near Vulci in Italy; the Egyptian porcelain excavated at Mykenæ is painted to represent the fringed dress of an Assyrian or a Phœnician, not of an Egyptian; and though a gold mask belonging to Prince Kha-em-Uas, and resembling the famous masks of Mykenæ, has been brought to the Louvre from an Apis chamber, a similar mask of small size was discovered last year in a tomb on the site of Aradus. Such intercourse, however, as existed between Greece and the Delta must have been very restricted; otherwise we should surely have some specimens of writing, some traces of the Phœnician alphabet. It would not have been left to the Aramæans of Syria to introduce the "Kadmeian letters" into Greece, and Mykenæ, rather than Thebes, would have been made the centre from which they were disseminated. Indeed, we may perhaps infer that even the coast of Asia Minor, near as it was to the Phœnician settlements at Kamirus and elsewhere, could have held but little intercourse with the Phœnicians of Egypt from the fact that the Cypriote syllabary was so long in use upon it, and that the alphabets afterwards employed were derived only in directly from the Phœnician through the medium of the Greek.

One point more now alone needs to be noticed. The long-continued influence upon early Greek culture which we ascribe to the Phœnicians cannot but have left its mark upon the Greek vocabulary also. Some at least of the names given by the Phœnicians to the objects of luxury they brought with them must have been adopted by the natives of Hellas. We know that this is the case with the letters of the alphabet; is it also the case with other words? If not, analogy would almost compel us to treat the evidences that have been enumerated of Phœnician influence as illusory, and to fall back upon the position of K. O. Müller and his school. By way of answer I would refer to the list of Greek words, the Semitic origin of which admits of no doubt, lately given by Dr. August Müller in Bezzenberger's "Beiträge zur Kunde der indogermanischen Sprachen."[23] Amongst these we find articles of luxury like "linen" (byssus), "shirt" (χιτών), "sackcloth" (σύκκος) "myrrh" and "frankincense," "galbanum" and "cassia," "cinnamon" and "soap" (νιτρον), "lyres"(νάβλας) and "wine-jars" (κύδος), "balsam" and "cosmetics" (φύκος) as well, possibly, as "fine linen" (όθόνη) and "gold," along with such evidences of trade and literature as the "pledge" or άρραβών, the mina, "the writing-tablet" (δέλτος), and the "shekel." If these were the only instances of Semitic tincture, they would be enough to prove the early presence of the Semitic Phœnicians in Greece. But we must remember that they are but samples of a class, and that many words borrowed during the heroic age may have dropped out of use or been conformed to the native part of the vocabulary long before the beginning of written literature, while it would be in the lesser known dialects of the islands that the Semitic element was strongest. We know that the dialect of Cyprus was full of importations from the East.

In what precedes I have made no reference to the Homeric poems, and the omission may be thought strange. But Homeric illustrations of the presence of the Phœnicians in Greece will occur to every one, while both the Iliad and the Odyssey in their existing form are too modern to be quoted without extreme caution. A close investigation of their language shows that it is the slow growth of generations; Æolic formulæ from the lays first recited in the towns of the Troad are embodied in Ionic poems where old Ionic, new Ionic, and even Attic jostle against one another, and traditional words and phrases are furnished with mistaken meanings or new forms coined by false analogy. It is difficult to separate the old from the new, to say with certainty that this allusion belongs to the heroic past, this to the Homer of Theopompus and Euphorion, the contemporary of the Lydian Gyges. The art of Homer is not the art of Mykenæ and of the early age of Phœnician influence; iron is already taking the place of bronze, and the shield of Akhilles or the palace of Alkinous bear witness to a developed art which has freed itself from its foreign bonds. Six times are Phœnicia and the Phœnicians mentioned in the Odyssey, once in the Iliad[25] elsewhere it is Sidon and the Sidonians that represent them, never Tyre.[26] Such passages, therefore, cannot belong to the epoch of Tyrian supremacy, which goes back, at all events, to the age of David, but rather to the brief period when the Assyrian king Shalmaneser laid siege to Tyre, and his successor Sargon made Sidon powerful at its expense. This, too, was the period when Sargon set up his record in Cyprus, "the isle of Yavnan" or the Ionians, when Assyria first came into immediate contact with the Greeks, and when Phœnician artists worked at the court of Nineveh and carried their wares to Italy and Sardinia. But it was not the age to which the relics of Mykenæ, in spite of paradoxical doubts, reach back, nor that in which the sacred bull of Astarte carried the Phœnician maiden Europa to her new home in the west.



  1. ^  See E. Curtius: Die griechische Götterlehre vom geschichtlichen Standpunkt`', in Preussische Jahrbücher, xxxvi. pp. 1-17. 1875.
  2. ^  See Fouqué's Mission Scientifique à l'île de Sanlorin (Archives des Missions 2e série, iv 1867); Gorceix in the Bulletin de l'Ecole française d'Athènes, i.
  3. ^  Hesychius, s. v. Θήραιον, Θήροειδείς; Pollux, Onom. vii. 48, 77. See II. 289.
  4. ^  See, for example, Di Cesnola's Cyprus, pp. 401, 402.
  5. ^  Gazette Archéologique, ii. 1, 3.
  6. ^  See Schliemann's Mycenæ and Tiryns, pl. 273.
  7. ^  Given by La Marmora in the Memorie della Reale Accademia delle Scienze di Tarino (1854), vol. xiv. pl. 2, fig. 63.
  8. ^  See the Άθηνοίον, 1877, pl 1.
  9. ^  Given in the Monumenti d. Istituto Ramano, 1876
  10. ^  Schliemann: Mycenæ and Tiryns, p. 530.
  11. ^  See, for instance, the example given in Rawlinson's Ancient Monarchies (1st edit.), i., p. 118, where the flounced priest has what looks like a woman's breast. Dancing boys and men in the East still wear these flounces, which are variously colored (see Loftus: Chaldes and Susiana, p. 22; George Smith: Assyrian Discoveries, p. 130).
  12. ^  See, for example, Layard: Nineveh and Babylon, pp. 604, 606; Di Cesnola: Cyprus, pl. 31, No. 7 pl. 32, No. 19. A copy of tile Mykenæan engravings is given in Schliemann's Mycenæ and Tiryns, p1. 531.
  13. ^  More especially the examples in Rawlinson's Ancient Monarchies, iii. p. 403, and i. 413. For Mykenæan examples see Schliemann's Mykenæ and Tiryns, ppl. 149, 152, etc. Some of the more peculiar patterns from Mykenæ resemble the forms assumed by the "Hamathite" hieroglyphics in the unpublished inscription copied by Mr. George Smith from the back of a mutilated statue at Jerablûs (Carchemish).
  14. ^  LNGR. BR. MIGA'
  15. ^  ASIIMNYA'R. BNA' SHTA.
  16. ^  Annali d. Istituto Romano, 1876.
  17. ^  Kratylus, 410 A.
  18. ^  Exploration Archéologique de la Galatie et de la Bithynie.
  19. ^  See Herodotus, i. 7.
  20. ^  Texier: Description de l'Asie Mineure, i. 1, pl. 78.
  21. ^  Transactions of the Society of Biblical Archæology, iv. 2, 1876.
  22. ^  I have given the reasons of my scepticism in the Academy, of May 30, 1874. Brugsch Bey, the leading authority on the geography of the Egyptian monuments, would now identify these names with those of tribes in Kolkhis, and its neighborhood.
  23. ^  i., pp. 273-301 (1877).
  24. ^  Phœnicia, Od. iv. 83; xiv. 291. Phœnicians, Od. xiii. 272; xv. 415. A Phœnician, Od. xiv. 288. A Phœnician woman, Od. xiv. 288; IL. xiv. 321.
  25. ^  Sidon, Sidonia, II. vi. 291 Od. xiii. 285; xv. 425. Sidonians, II. vi. 290; Od. iv. 84, 618; xv. 118.


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