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Cultural and technological advancement in Italy from the Neolithic Age onwards was largely bound up with influences received directly or indirectly from central Europe, the Balkan peninsula, and the Near East. This pattern continued during the period covered in the present chapter, but with far more important consequences. Phoenician and Greek permanent settlement and commercial activity throughout the western Mediterranean brought about major economic, social, and political changes on a hitherto unparalleled scale that led to the rise of true civilization in Italy. Ancient historians continue to debate the nature of the ancient Mediterranean economy during Greek and Roman times, the two antithetical models being primitive and modern. There can be no doubt that agriculture occupied 80 to 90 percent of the inhabitants of classical antiquity, which suggests that the overall economy was primitive. Nevertheless, there also existed a significant amount of both long-distance and short-distance trade for various essential raw materials and manufactured goods as well as luxury commodities, which suggests a modern economic system. Both elements were integral to the ancient Mediterranean in Greek and Roman times. If the economy had been entirely agricultural, Greek and Roman town life and urban culture never would have come into being. They were made possible by the modern-looking aspects of the ancient economy, no matter that their scale appears modest in comparison to contemporary industrialized societies. These new economic conditions arose throughout much of the Mediterranean during the period treated in this chapter and were responsible for drawing Italy into this larger Mediterranean world. Chapter 2 Archaic Italy c. 800–500 B.C. 28 PHOENICIANS IN THE WEST Ancient Phoenicia, located at the eastern end of the Mediterranean, between Syria and Palestine, was a narrow strip of land about two hundred miles in length, enclosed by the Mediterranean Sea and the mountains of Lebanon.1 Its principal towns were Beirut, Byblos, Marathos, Sidon, Tripoli, and Tyre, and the inhabitants spoke a Semitic language closely related to ancient Hebrew. The land’s limited agricultural potential, its easy access to the sea, and the timber of its cedar forests, desired for building by the Egyptians and Mesopotamians from early times, encouraged the Phoenicians to take to the sea and to become famous maritime traders of the ancient world. This seafaring tradition began as early as the Bronze Age, and their voyages do not seem to have been confined to the eastern Mediterranean . In 1956, off the southwestern coast of Sicily near the ancient site of Selinus, a fisherman’s net brought up from the sea a bronze figurine of the Semitic god Resheth, whose style resembles the art of Ugarit during the fourteenth and thirteenth centuries B.C. This find may indicate that Syrian and Phoenician traders were already active in Sicilian waters during the late Bronze Age, and they may have been in part responsible for the distribution of Mycenaean pottery found in eastern Sicily, southern Italy, and the Lipari Islands, mentioned in the preceding chapter. Passages from the Old Testament (1 Kings 10:22 and 2 Chronicles 9:21) record that during the tenth century B.C. the Phoenicians of Tyre were regularly sending out ships on trading missions lasting three years. The vessels returned with cargos of gold, silver, ivory, apes, and baboons. These voyages were probably along the coast of North Africa and perhaps reached as far west as southern Spain, which possessed rich mineral deposits, and where the Phoenicians at some relatively early date founded permanent settlements at Gades (modern Cadiz) and Sexi. Phoenician activity in the western Mediterranean during the ninth century is suggested by six cinerary urns from a cemetery near the ancient site of Sexi, for these funerary containers are adorned with cartouches of Egyptian pharaohs of the ninth century. Also dated to this same period is a stone plaque inscribed with eight lines of Phoenician writing. The stele was discovered in 1773 built into the wall of a church at Nora in southern Sardinia, hence its name, “the Nora Stone.” The text’s date is established by the style of the Phoenician letters, but its interpretation is problematic, because what now survives may not be the complete text of the inscription. Nevertheless, F.M. Cross (1972) has offered the following translation: He fought with the Sardinians at Tarshish, and he drove them out. Among the Sardinians he is now at peace, and his army is at peace: Milkaton son of Subna, general of King Pummay. archaic italy c. 800–500 b...


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