History of Phoenicia - George Rawlinson

Phoenician Writing, Language, and Literature

The Phoenician alphabet—Its wide use—Its merits—Question of its origin—Its defects—Phoenician writing and language—Resemblance of the language to Hebrew—In the vocabulary—In the grammar—Points of difference between Phoenician and Hebrew—Scantiness of the literature—Phoenician history of Philo Byblius—Extracts—Periplus of Hanno—Phoenician epigraphic literature—Inscription of Esmunazar—Inscription of Tabnit—Inscription of Jehav-melek—Marseilles inscription—Short inscriptions on votive offerings and tombs—Range of Phoenician book-literature.

The Phoenician alphabet, like the Hebrew, consisted of twenty-two characters, which had, it is probable, the same names with the Hebrew letters, and were nearly identical in form with the letters used anciently by the entire Hebrew race. The most ancient inscription in the character which has come down to us is probably that of Mesha, the Moabite king, which belongs to the ninth century before our era. The next in antiquity, which is of any considerable length, is that discovered recently in the aqueduct which brings the water into the pool of Siloam, which dates probably from the time of Hezekiah, ab. B.C. 727-699. Some short epigraphs on Assyrian gems, tablets, and cylinders belong apparently to about the same period. The series of Phoenician and Cilician coins begins soon after this, and continues to the time of the Roman supremacy in Western Asia. The soil of Phoenicia Proper, and of the various countries where the Phoenicians established settlements or factories, as Cyprus, Malta, Sicily, Sardinia, Southern Gaul, Spain, and North Africa, has also yielded a large crop of somewhat brief legends, the "inscription of Marseilles" being the most important of them. Finally there have been found within the last few years, in Phoenicia itself, near Byblus and Sidon, the three most valuable inscriptions of the entire series—those of Jehavmelek, Esmunazar and Tabnit—which have enabled scholars to place the whole subject on a scientific basis.

It is now clear that the same, or nearly the same, alphabet was in use from a very early date over the greater part of Western Asia—in Phoenicia, Moab, Judaea, Samaria, Lycia, Caria, Phrygia, etc.—that it was adopted, with slight alterations only, by the Etruscans and the Greeks, and that from them it was passed on to the nations of modern Europe, and acquired a quasi-universality. The invention of this alphabet was, by the general consent of antiquity, ascribed to the Phoenicians;and though, if their claim to priority of discovery be disputed, it is impossible to prove it, their practical genius and their position among the nations of the earth are strong subsidiary arguments in support of the traditions.

The Phoenician alphabet, or the Syrian script, as some call it,did not obtain its general prevalence without possessing some peculiar merits. Its primary merit was that of simplicity. The pictorial systems of the Egyptians and the Hittites required a hand skilled in drawing to express them; the cuneiform syllabaries of Babylonia, Assyria, and Elam needed an extraordinary memory to grasp the almost infinite variety in the arrangement of the wedges, and to distinguish each group from all the rest; even the Cypriote syllabary was of awkward and unnecessary extent, and was expressed by characters needlessly complicated. The Phoenician inventor, whoever he was, reduced letters to the smallest possible number, and expressed them by the simplest possible forms. Casting aside the idea of a syllabary, he reduced speech to its ultimate elements, and set apart a single sign to represent each possible variety of articulation, or rather each variety of which he was individually cognisant. How he fixed upon his signs, it is difficult to say. According to some, he had recourse to one or other of previously existing modes of expressing speech, and merely simplified the characters which he found in use. But there are two objections to this view. First, there is no known set of characters from which the early Phoenician can be derived with any plausability. Resemblances no doubt may be pointed out here and there, but taking the alphabet as a whole, and comparing it with any other, the differences will always be quite as numerous and quite as striking as the similarities. For instance, the writer of the article on the "Alphabet" in the "Encyclopaedia Britannica" (1876) derives the Phoenician letters from letters used in the Egyptian hieratic writing, but his own table shows a marked diversity in at least eleven instances, a slight resemblance in seven or eight, a strong resemblance in no more than two or three. Derivation from the Cypriote forms has been suggested by some; but here again eight letters are very different, if six or seven are similar. Recently, derivation from the Hittite hieroglyphs has been advocated, but the alleged instances of resemblance touch nine characters only out of the twenty-two. And real resemblance is confined to three or four. Secondly, no theory of derivation accounts for the Phoenician names of their letters, which designate objects quite different from those represented by the Egyptian hieroglyphs, and equally different from those represented by the Hittite letters. For instance, the Egyptian a is the ill-drawn figure of an eagle, the Phoenician alef has the signification of "ox;" the b of the Egyptians is a hastily drawn figure of a crane, the Phoenician beth means "a house."

On the whole, it seems most probable that the Phoenicians began with their own hieroglyphical system, selecting an object to represent the initial sound of its name, and at first drawing that object, but that they very soon followed the Egyptian idea of representing the original drawing in a conventional way, by a few lines, straight or curved. Their hieroglyphic alphabet which is extant is an alphabet in the second stage, corresponding to the Egyptian hieratic, but not derived from it. Having originally represented their alef by an ox's head, they found a way of sufficiently indicating the head by three lines {...}, which marked the horns, the ears, and the face. Their beth was a house in the tent form; their gimel a camel, represented by its head and neck; their daleth a door, and so on. The object intended is not always positively known; but, where it is known, there is no difficulty in tracing the original picture in the later conventional sign.

The Phoenician alphabet was not without its defects. The most remarkable of these was the absence of any characters expressive of vowel sounds. The Phoenician letters are, all of them, consonants; and the reader is expected to supply the vowel sounds for himself. There was not even any system of pointing, so far as we know, whereby, as in Hebrew and Arabic, the proper sounds were supplied. Again, several letters were made to serve for two sounds, as beth for both b and v, pe for both p and f, shin for both s and sh, and tau for both t and th. There were no forms corresponding to the sounds j or w. On the other hand, there was in the alphabet a certain amount of redundancy. Tsade is superfluous, since it represents, not a simple elemental sound, but a combination of two sounds, t and s. Hence the Greeks omitted it, as did also the Oscans and the Romans. There is redundancy in the two forms for k, namely kaph and koph; in the two for t, namely teth and tau; and in the two for s, namely samech and shin. But no alphabet is without some imperfections, either in the way of excess or defect; and perhaps we ought to be more surprised that the Phoenician alphabet has not more faults than that it falls so far short of perfection as it does.

The writing of the Phoenicians was, like that of the majority of the Semitic nations, from right to left. The reverse order was entirely unknown to them, whether employed freely as an alternative, as in Egypt, or confined, as in Greece, to the alternate lines. The words were, as a general rule, undivided, and even in some instances were carried over the end of one line into the beginning of another. Still, there are examples where a sign of separation occurs between each word and the next; and the general rule is, that the words do not run over the line. In the later inscriptions they are divided, according to the modern fashion, by a blank space; but there seems to have been an earlier practice of dividing them by small triangles or by dots.

The language of the Phoenicians was very close indeed to the Hebrew, both as regards roots and as regards grammatical forms. The number of known words is small, since not only are the inscriptions few and scanty, but they treat so much of the same matters, and run so nearly in the same form, that, for the most part, the later ones contain nothing new but the proper names. Still they make known to us a certain number of words in common use, and these are almost always either identical with the Hebrew forms, or very slightly different from them, as the following table will demonstrate:—

Note: Table is missing special characters

Phoenician Hebrew English
Ab {...} {...} father
Aben {...} {...} stone
Adon {...} {...} lord
Adam {...} {...} man
Aleph {...} {...} an ox
Akh {...} {...} brother
Akhar {...} {...} after
Am {...} {...} mother
Anak {...} {...} I
Arets {...} {...} earth, land
Ash {...} {...} who, which
Barak {...} {...} to bless
Bath {...} {...} daughter
Ben {...} {...} son
Benben {...} {...} grandson
Beth {...} {...} house, temple
Ba'al {...} {...} lord, citizen
Ba'alat {...} {...} lady, mistress
Barzil {...} {...} iron
Dagan {...} {...} corn
Deber {...} {...} to speak, say
Daleth {...} {...} door
Zan {...} {...} this
Za {...} {...} this
Zereng {...} {...} seed, race
Har {...} {...} mountain
Han {...} {...} grace, favour
Haresh {...} {...} carpenter
Yom {...} {...} day, also sea
Yitten {...} {...} to give
Ish {...} {...} man
Ishath {...} {...} woman, wife
Kadesh {...} {...} holy
Kol {...} {...} every, all
Kol {...} {...} voice
Kohen {...} {...} priest
Kohenath {...} {...} priestess
Kara {...} {...} to call
Lechem {...} {...} bread
Makom {...} {...} a place
Makar {...} {...} a seller
Malakath {...} {...} work
Melek {...} {...} king
Mizbach {...} {...} altar
Na'ar {...} {...} boy, servant
Nehusht {...} {...} brass
Nephesh {...} {...} soul
Nadar {...} {...} to vow
'Abd {...} {...} slave, servant
'Am {...} {...} people
'Ain {...} {...} eye, fountain
'Ath {...} {...} time
'Olam {...} {...} eternity
Pen {...} {...} face
Per {...} {...} fruit
Pathach {...} {...} door
Rab {...} {...} lord, chief
Rabbath {...} {...} lady
Rav {...} {...} rain, irrigation
Rach {...} {...} spirit
Rapha {...} {...} physician
Shamam {...} {...} the heavens
Shemesh {...} {...} the sun
Shamang {...} {...} to hear
Shenath {...} {...} a year
Shad {...} {...} a field
Sha'ar {...} {...} a gate
Shalom {...} {...} peace
Shem {...} {...} a name
Shaphat {...} {...} a judge
Sopher {...} {...} a scribe
Sakar {...} {...} memory
Sar {...} {...} a prince
Tsedek {...} {...} just

The Phoenician numerals, so far as they are known to us, are identical, or nearly identical, with the Hebrew. 'Ahad {...} is "one;" shen {...}, "two;" shalish {...}, "three;" arba {...}, "four;" hamesh {...}, "five;" eshman {...}, "eight;" 'eser {...}, "ten;" and so on. Numbers were, however, by the Phoenicians ordinarily expressed by signs, not words—the units by perpendicular lines: | for "one," || for "two," ||| for "three," and the like; the tens by horizontal ones, either simple, {...}, or hooked at the right end, {...}; twenty by a sign resembling a written capital n, {...}; one hundred by a sign still more complicated, {...}.

The grammatical inflexions, the particles, the pronouns, and the prepositions are also mostly identical. The definite article is expressed, as in Hebrew, by h prefixed. Plurals are formed by the addition of m or th. The prefix eth {...} marks the accusative. There is a niphal conjugation, formed by prefixing n. The full personal pronouns are anak {...} = "I" (compare Heb. {...}); hu {...}, "he" (compare Heb. {...}); hi {...}, "she" (compare Heb. {...}); anachnu, "we" (compare Heb. {...}); and the suffixed pronouns are -i, "me, my;" -ka, "thee, thy;" -h (pronounced as -oh or -o), "him, his" (compare Heb. {...}); -n "our," perhaps pronounced nu; and -m, "their, them," pronounced om or um (compare Heb. {...}). Vau prefixed means "and;" beth prefixed "in;" kaph prefixed "as;" lamed prefixed "of" or "to;" 'al {...} is "over;" ki {...} "because;" im {...}, "if;" hazah, zath, or za {...}, "this" (compare Heb. {...}); and ash {...}, "who, which" (compare Heb. {...}). Al {...} and lo {...} are the negatives (compare Heb. {...}). The redundant use of the personal pronoun with the relative is common.

Still, Phoenician is not mere Hebrew; it has its own genius, its idioms, its characteristics. The definite article, so constantly recurring in Hebrew, is in Phoenician, comparatively speaking, rare. The quiescent letters, which in Hebrew ordinarily accompany the long vowels, are in Phoenician for the most part absent. The employment of the participle for the definite tenses of the verb is much more common in Phoenician than in Hebrew, and the Hebrew prefix m is wanting. The ordinary termination of feminine singular nouns is -th, not -h. Peculiar forms occur, as ash for asher, 'amath for 'am ("people"), zan for zah ("this"), etc. Words which in Hebrew are confined to poetry pass among the Phoenicians into ordinary use, as pha'al ({...}, Heb. {...}), "to make," which replaces the Hebrew {...}.

"It is strange," says M. Renan, "that the people to which all antiquity attributes the invention of writing, and which has, beyond all doubted, transmitted it to the entire civilised world, has scarcely left us any literature." Certainly it is difficult to give the name of literature either to the fragments of so-called Phoenician works preserved to us in Greek translations, or to the epigraphic remains of actual Phoenician writing which have come down to our day. The works are two, and two only, viz. the pretended "Phoenician History" of Sanchoniathon, and the "Periplus" of Hanno. Of the former, it is perhaps sufficient to say that we have no evidence of its genuineness. Philo of Byblus, who pretends that he translated it from a Phoenician original, though possibly he had Phoenician blood in his veins, was a Greek in language, in temperament, and in tone of thought, and belonged to the Greece which is characterised by Juvenal as "Graecia mendax." It is impossible to believe that the Euemerism in which he indulges, and which was evidently the motive of his work, sprang from the brain of Sanchoniathon nine hundred years before Euemerus existed. One is tempted to suspect that Sanchoniathan himself was a myth—an "idol of the cave," evolved out of the inner consciousness of Philo. Philo had a certain knowledge of the Phoenician language, and of the Phoenician religious system, but not more than he might have gained by personal communication with the priests of Byblus and Aphaca, who maintained the old worship in, and long after, his day. It is not clear that he drew his statements from any ancient authorities, or from books at all. So far as the extant fragments go, a smattering of the language, a very moderate acquaintance with the religion, and a little imagination might readily have produced them.

A few extracts from the remains must be given to justify this judgement:—"The beginning of all things," Philo says, "was a dark and stormy air, or a dark air and a turbid chaos, resembling Erebus; and these were at first unbounded, and for a long series of ages had no limit. But after a time this wind became enamoured of its own first principles, and an intimate union took place between them, a connection which was called Desire {pothos}: and this was the beginning of the creation of all things. But it (i.e. the Desire) had no consciousness of its own creation: however, from its embrace with the wind was generated Mot, which some call watery slime, and others putrescence of watery secretion. And from this sprang all the seed of creation, and the generation of the universe. And first there were certain animals without sensation, from which intelligent animals were produced, and these were called 'Zopher-Semin,' i.e. 'beholders of the heavens;' and they were made in the shape of an egg, and from Mot shone forth the sun, and the moon, and the lesser and the greater stars. And when the air began to send forth light, by the conflagration of land and sea, winds were produced, and clouds, and very great downpours, and effusions of the heavenly waters. And when these were thus separated, and carried, through the heat of the sun, out of their proper places, and all met again in the air, and came into collision, there ensued thunderings and lightnings; and through the rattle of the thunder, the intelligent animals, above mentioned, were woke up, and, startled by the noise, began to move about both in the sea and on the land, alike such as were male and such as were female. All these things were found in the cosmogony of Taaut (Thoth), and in his Commentaries, and were drawn from his conjectures, and from the proofs which his intellect discovered, and which he made clear to us."

Again, "From the wind, Colpia, and his wife Bahu (Heb. {...}), which is by interpretation 'Night,' were born Aeon and Protogonus, mortal men so named; of whom one, viz. Aeon, discovered that life might be sustained by the fruits of trees. Their immediate descendants were called Genos and Genea, who lived in Phoenicia, and in time of drought stretched forth their hands to heaven towards the sun; for him they regarded as the sole Lord of Heaven, and called him Baal-samin, which means 'Lord of Heaven' in the Phoenician tongue, and is equivalent to Zeus in Greek. And from Genos, son of Aeon and Protogonus, were begotten mortal children, called Phos, and Pyr, and Phlox (i.e. Light, Fire, and Flame). These persons invented the method of producing fire by rubbing two pieces of wood together, and taught men to employ it. They begat sons of surprising size and stature, whose names were given to the mountains whereof they had obtained possession, viz. Casius, and Libanus, and Antilibanus, and Brathy. From them were produced Memrumus and Hypsuranius, who took their names from their mothers, women in those days yielding themselves without shame to any man whom they happened to meet. Hypsuranius lived at Tyre, and invented the art of building huts with reeds and rushes and the papyrus plant. He quarrelled with his brother, Usous, who was the first to make clothing for the body out of the skins of the wild beasts which he slew. On one occasion, when there was a great storm of rain and wind, the trees in the neighbourhood of Tyre so rubbed against each other that they took fire, and the whole forest was burnt; whereupon Usous took a tree, and having cleared it of its boughs, was the first to venture on the sea in a boat. He also consecrated two pillars to Fire and Wind, and worshipped them, and poured upon them the blood of the animals which he took by hunting. And when the two brothers were dead, those who remained alive consecrated rods to their memory, and continued to worship the pillars, and to hold a festival in their honour year by year."

Once more—"It was the custom among the ancients, in times of great calamity and danger, for the rulers of the city or nation to avert the ruin of all by sacrificing to the avenging deities the best beloved of their children as the price of redemption; and such as were thus devoted were offered with mystic ceremonies. Kronus, therefore, who was called El by the Phoenicians, and who, after his death, was deified and attached to the planet which bears his name, having an only son by a nymph of the country, who was called Anobret, took his son, whose name was Ieoud, which means 'only son' in Phoenician, and when a great danger from war impended over the land, adorned him with the ensigns of royalty, and, having prepared an altar for the purpose, voluntarily sacrificed him."

It will be seen from these extracts that the literary value of Philo's work was exceedingly small. His style is complicated and confused; his matter, for the most part, worthless, and his mixture of Greek, Phoenician, and Egyptian etymologies absurd. If we were bound to believe that he translated a real Phoenician original, and that that original was a fair specimen of Phoenician literary talent, the only conclusion to which we could come would be, that the literature of the nation was beneath contempt.

But the "Periplus" of Hanno will lead us to modify this judgment. It is so short a work that we venture to give it entire from the translation of Falconer, with a few obvious corrections.

The voyage of Hanno, King of the Carthaginians, round the parts of Libya beyond the Pillars of Hercules, which he deposited in the Temple of Kronos.

"It was decreed by the Carthaginians that Hanno should undertake a voyage beyond the Pillars of Hercules, and there found Liby-Phoenician cities. He sailed accordingly with sixty ships of fifty oars each, and a body of men and women, to the number of thirty thousand, and provisions, and other necessaries.

"When we had weighed anchor, and passed the Pillars, and sailed beyond them for two days, we founded the first city, which we named Thymiaterium. Below it lay an extensive plain. Proceeding thence towards the west, we came to Soloeis, a promontory of Libya thickly covered with trees, where we erected a temple to Neptune (Poseidon), and again proceeded for the space of half a day towards the east, until we arrived at a lake lying not far from the sea, and filled with abundance of large reeds. Here elephants and a great number of other wild animals were feeding.

"Having passed the lake about a day's sail, we founded cities near the sea, called Caricon-Teichos, and Gytta, and Acra, and Melitta, and Arambys. Thence we came to the great river Lixus, which flows from Libya. On its banks the Lixitae, a wandering tribe, were feeding flocks, amongst whom we continued some time on friendly terms. Beyond the Lixitae dwelt the inhospitable Ethiopians, who pasture a wild country intersected by large mountains, from which they say the river Lixus flows. In the neighbourhood of the mountains lived the Troglodytes, men of various appearances, whom the Lixitae described as swifter in running than horses. Having procured interpreters from them, we coasted along a desert country towards the south for two days; and thence again proceeded towards the east the course of a day. Here we found in the recess of a certain bay a small island, having a circuit of five stadia, where we settled a colony, and called it Cerne. We judged from our voyage that this place lay in a direct line with Carthage; for the length of our voyage from Carthage to the Pillars was equal to that from the Pillars to Cerne. We then came to a cape, which we reached by sailing up a large river called Chrete. The lake had three islands larger than Cerne; from which, proceeding a day's sail, we came to the extremity of the lake. This was overhung by huge mountains, inhabited by savage men, clothed in skins of wild beasts, who drove us away by throwing stones, and hindered us from landing. Sailing thence, we came to another river, that was deep and broad, and full of crocodiles and river horses (hippopotami), whence returning back, we came again to Cerne. Thence we sailed towards the south for twelve days, coasting along the shore, the whole of which is inhabited by Ethiopians, who would not wait our approach, but fled from us. Their language was unintelligible, even to the Lixitae who were with us. On the last day we approached some large mountains covered with trees, the wood of which was sweet-scented and variegated. Having sailed by these mountains for two days, we came to an immense opening of the sea; on each side of which, towards the continent, was a plain; from which we saw by night fire arising at intervals, either more or less.

"Having taken in water there, we sailed forward during five days near the land, until we came to a large bay, which our interpreter informed us was called 'the Western Horn.' In this was a large island, and in the island a salt-water lake, and in this another island, where, when we had landed, we could discover nothing in the daytime except trees; but in the night we saw many fires burning, and heard the sound of pipes, cymbals, drums, and confused shouting. We were then afraid, and our diviners ordered us to abandon the island. Sailing quickly away thence, we passed by a country burning with fires and perfumes; and streams of fire supplied thence fell into the sea. The country was untraversable on account of the heat. So we sailed away quickly from there also, being much terrified; and, passing on for four days, we observed at night a country full of flames. In the middle was a lofty fire, larger than the rest, which seemed to touch the stars. When day came, we discovered it to be a huge hill, called 'the Chariot of the Gods.' On the third day after our departure thence, after sailing by streams of fire, we arrived at a bay, called 'the Southern Horn;' at the bottom of which lay an island like the former one, having a lake, and in the lake another island full of savage people, far the greater part of whom were women, whose bodies were hairy, and whom our interpreters called 'gorillae.' Though we pursued the men, we could not catch any of them; but all escaped us, climbing over the precipices, and defending themselves with stones. Three women were, however, taken; but they attacked their conductors with their teeth and nails, and could not be prevailed upon to accompany us. So we killed them, and flayed them, and brought their skins with us to Carthage. We did not sail further on, our provisions failing us."

The style of this short work, though exceedingly simple and inartificial, is not without its merits. It has the directness, the perspicuity, and the liveliness of Caesar's Commentaries or of the Duke of Wellington's Despatches. Montesquieu says of it:—"Hanno's Voyage was written by the very man who performed it. His recital is not mingled with ostentation. Great commanders write their actions with simplicity, because they receive more honour from facts than words." If we may take the work as a specimen of the accounts which Phoenician explorers commonly gave of their travels in unknown regions, we must regard them as having set a pattern which modern travellers would do well to follow. Hanno gives us facts, not speculations—the things which he has observed, not those of which he has dreamt; and he delivers his facts in the fewest possible words, and in the plainest possible way. He does not cultivate flowers of rhetoric; he does not unduly spin out his narrative. It is plain that he is especially bent on making his meaning clear, and he succeeds in doing so.

The epigraphic literature of the Phoenicians, which M. Renan considers to supply fairly well the almost complete loss of their books,scarcely deserves to be so highly rated. It consists at present of five or six moderately long, and some hundreds of exceedingly short, inscriptions; the longer ones being, all of them, inscribed on stones, the shorter on stones, vases, paterae, gems, coins, and the like. The longest of all is that engraved on the sarcophagus of Esmunazar, king of Sidon, discovered near the modern Saida in the year 1855, and now in the museum of the Louvre. This has a length of twenty-two long lines, and contains 298 words. It is fairly legible throughout; and the sense is, for the most part, fairly well ascertained, though the meaning of some passages remains still more or less doubtful. The following is the translation of M. Renan:—

"In the month of Bul (October), in the fourteenth year of the reign of King Esmunazar, king of the Sidonians, son of King Tabnit, king of the Sidonians, King Esmunazar, king of the Sidonians, spake, saying—I am snatched away before my time, the child of a few days, the orphan son of a widow; and lo! I am lying in this coffin, and in this tomb, in the place which I have built. I adjure every royal personage and every man whatsoever, that they open not this my chamber, and seek not for treasures there, since there are here no treasures, and that they remove not the coffin from my chamber, nor build over this my chamber any other funeral chamber. Even if men speak to thee, listen not to their words; since every royal personage and every other man who shall open this funeral chamber, or remove the coffin from this my chamber, or build anything over this chamber—may they have no funeral chamber with the departed, nor be buried in tombs, nor have any son or descendant to succeed to their place; but may the Holy Gods deliver them into the hand of a mighty king who shall reign over them, and destroy the royal personage or the man who shall open this my funeral chamber, or remove this coffin, together with the offspring of the royal personage or other man, and let them not have either root below, or any fruit above, or glory among such as live beneath the sun. Since I am snatched away before my time, the child of a few days, the orphan son of a widow, even I.

"For I am Esmunazar, king of the Sidonians, the son of King Tabnit, king of the Sidonians, and the grandson of Esmunazar, king of the Sidonians, and my mother is Am-Ashtoreth, priestess of our lady Ashtoreth, the queen, the daughter of King Esmunazar, king of the Sidonians—and it is we who have built the temples of the gods, the temple of Ashtoreth in Sidon on the shore of the sea, and have placed Ashtoreth in her temple to glorify her; and we too have built the temple of Esmun, and set the sacred grove, En Yidlal, in the mountain, and made him (Esmun) dwell there to glorify him; and it is we who have built temples to the (other) deities of the Sidonians, in Sidon on the shore of the sea, as the temple of Baal-Sidon, and the temple of Asthoreth, who bears the name of Baal. And for this cause has the Lord of Kings given us Dor and Joppa, and the fertile cornlands which are in the plains of Sharon, as a reward for the great things which I have done, and added them to the boundaries of the land, that they may belong to the Sidonians for ever. I adjure every royal personage, and every man whatsoever, that they open not this my chamber, nor empty my chamber, nor build aught over this my chamber, nor remove the coffin from this my chamber, lest the Holy Gods deliver them up, and destroy the royal personage, or the men (who shall do so), and their offspring for ever."

The inscription on the tomb of Tabnit, Esmunazar's father, found near Beyrout in 1886, is shorter, but nearly to the same effect. It has been thus translated:—"I, Tabnit, priest of Ashtoreth, and king of Sidon, lying in this tomb, say—I adjure every man, when thou shalt come upon this sepulchre, open not my chamber, and trouble me not, for there is not with me aught of silver, nor is there with me aught of gold, there is not with me anything whatever of spoil, but only I myself who lie in this sepulchre. Open not my chamber, and trouble me not; for it would be an abomination in the sight of Ashtoreth to do such an act. And if thou shouldest open my chamber, and trouble me, mayest thou have no posterity all thy life under the sun, and no resting-place with the departed."

A stelé of a Byblian king, Jehavmelek, probably somewhat more ancient than these, bears an inscription of a different kind, since it is attached to a votive offering and not to a sepulchre. The king represents himself in a bas-relief as making an offering to Beltis or Ashtoreth, and then appends an epigraph, which runs to fifteen long lines, and is to the following effect:—"I am Jehavmelek, king of Gebal, the son of Jahar-baal, and the grandson of Adom-melek, king of Gebal, whom lady Beltis of Gebal has made king of Gebal; and I invoke my lady Beltis of Gebal, because she has heard my voice. And I have made for my lady Beltis of Gebal the brazen altar which is in this temple, and the golden carving which is in front of this my carving, and the uraeus of gold which is in the middle of the stone over the golden carving. And I have made this portico, with its columns, and the capitals that are upon the columns, and the roof of the temple also, I, Jehavmelek, king of Gebal, have made for my lady Beltis of Gebal, because, whenever I have invoked my lady Beltis of Gebal, she has heard my voice, and been good to me. May Beltis of Gebal bless Jehavmelek, king of Gebal, and grant him life, and prolong his days and his years over Gebal, because he is a just king; and may the lady Beltis of Gebal obtain him favour in the sight of the Gods, and in the sight of the people of foreign lands, for ever! Every royal personage and every other man who shall make additions to this altar, or to this golden carving, or to this portico, I, Jehavmelek, king of Gebal, set may face against him who shall so do, and I pray my lady Beltis of Gebal to destroy that man, whoever he be, and his seed after him."

The inscription of Marseilles, if it had been entire, would have been as valuable and interesting as any of these; but, unfortunately, its twenty-one lines are in every case incomplete, being broken off, or else illegible, towards the left. It appears to have been a decree emanating from the authorities of Carthage, and prescribing the amount of the payments to be made in connection with the sacrifices and officials of a temple of Baal which may have existed either at Marseilles or at Carthage itself. To translate it is impossible without a vast amount of conjecture; but M. Renan's version seems to deserve a place in the present collection.


"The temple of Baal . . . Account of the payments fixed by those set over the payments, in the time of our lords, Halats-Baal, the Suffes, the son of Abd-Tanith, the son of Abd-Esmun, and of Halats-Baal, the Suffes, the son of Abd-Esmun, the son of Halts-Baal, and of their colleagues:—For an ox, whether as burnt sacrifice, or expiatory offering, or thank offering, to the priests (shall be given) ten (shekels) of silver on account of each; and, if it be a burnt sacrifice, they shall have besides this payment three hundred weight of the flesh; and if the sacrifice be expiatory, (they shall have) the fat and the additions, and the offerer of the sacrifice shall have the skin, and the entrails, and the feet, and the rest of the flesh. For a calf without horns and entire, or for a ram, whether as burnt sacrifice, or expiatory offering, or thank offering, to the priests (shall be given) five (shekels) of silver on account of each; and if it be a burnt sacrifice, they shall have, besides this payment, a hundred weight and a half of the flesh; and if the sacrifice be expiatory, they shall have the fat and the additions, and the skin, and entrails, and feet, and the rest of the flesh shall be given to the offerer of the sacrifice. For a he-goat, or a she-goat, whether as a burnt sacrifice, or expiatory offering, or thank offering, to the priests (shall be given) one (shekel) and two zers of silver on account of each; and if it be an expiatory sacrifice, they shall have, besides this payment, the fat and the additions; and the skin, and entrails, and feet, and the rest of the flesh shall be given to the offerer of the sacrifice. For a sheep, or a kid, or a fawn (?), whether as burnt sacrifice, or expiatory offering, or thank offering, to the priests (shall be given) three-fourths of a shekel of silver and . . . zers, on account of each; and if it be an expiatory sacrifice, they shall have, besides this payment, the fat and the additions; and the skin, and the entrails, and the feet, and the rest of the flesh (shall be given)to the offerer of the sacrifice. For a bird, domestic or wild, whether as thank offering, or for augury, or for divination, to the priests (shall be given) three-fourths of a shekel of silver and two zers on account of each, and the flesh shall be for the offerer of the sacrifice. For a bird, or for the holy first-fruits, or for the offering of a cake, or for an offering of oil, to the priests (shall be given) ten zers of silver on account of each, and . . . In every expiatory sacrifice that shall be offered before the deities, to the priests (shall be given)the fat and the additions, and in the sacrifice of . . . For a meat offering, or for milk, or for fat, or for any sacrifice which any man shall offer as an oblation, to the priests (there shall be given) . . . For every offering that a man shall offer who is poor in sheep, or poor in birds, (there shall be given) to the priests nothing at all. Every native, and every inhabitant, and every feaster at the table of the gods, and all the men who sacrifice . . . those men shall make a payment for every sacrifice, according to that which is prescribed in (this) writing . . . Every payment which is not prescribed in this tablet shall be made proportionally to the rate fixed by those set over the payments in the time of our lords, Halats-Baal, the son of Abd-Tanith, and Halats-Baal, the son of Abd-Esmun, and their colleagues. Every priest who takes a payment beyond the amount prescribed in this tablet shall be fined . . . And every offerer of a sacrifice who shall not pay (the amount) prescribed, beyond the payment which (is here fixed, he shall pay) . . ."

Of the shorter inscriptions of the Phoenicians, by far the greater number were attached either to votive offerings or to tombs. Some hundreds have been found of both classes, but they are almost wholly without literary merit, being bald and jejune in the extreme, and presenting little variety. The depositor of a votive offering usually begins by mentioning the name and title, or titles, of the deity to whom he dedicates it. Then he appends his own name, with the names of his father and grandfather. Occasionally, but rarely, he describes his offering, and states the year in which it was set up. Finally, he asks the deity to bless him. The following are examples:—


"To the lord Baal-Shamaim, (the vow) which was vowed by Abdelim, son of Mattan, son of Abdelim, son of Baal-Shomar, of the district of Laodicea. This gateway and doors did I make in fulfilment of it. I built it in the 180th year of the Lord of Kings, and in the 143rd year of the people of Tyre, that it might be to me a memorial and for a good name beneath the feet of my lord, Baal-Shamaim, for ever. May he bless me!"


"To the lady Tanith, and to our master, the lord Baal-Hammon; the offerer is Abd-Melkarth, the Suffes, son of Abd-Melkarth, son of Hanno."


"To our lord Melkarth, the lord of Tyre. The offerer is thy servant, Abd-Osiri, and my brother, Osiri-Shomar, both (of us) sons of Osiri-Shomar, the son of Abd-Osiri. In hearing their voice, may he bless them."


"On the sixth day of the month Bul, in the twenty-first year of King Pumi-yitten, king of Citium and Idalium, and Tamasus, son of King Melek-yitten, king of Citium and Idalium, this altar and these two lions were given by Bodo, priest of Reseph-hets, son of Yakun-shalam, son of Esmunadon, to his lord Reseph-hets. May he bless (him)."


"On the seventh day of the month . . . in the thirty-first year of the Lord of Kings, Ptolemaeus, son of Ptolemaeus . . . which was the fifty-seventh year of the Citians, when Amarat-Osiri, daughter of . . . son of Abd-Susim, of Gad'ath, was canephora of Asinoe Philadelphus, these statues were set up by Bathshalun, daughter of Maryichai, son of Esmunadon, to the memory of his grandsons, Esmunadon, Shallum, and Abd-Reseph, the three sons of Maryichai, son of Esmunadon, according to the vow which their father, Maryichai, vowed, when he was still alive, to their lord, Reseph-Mikal. May he bless them!"

There is a little more variety in the inscriptions on tombstones. The great majority, indeed, are extremely curt and dry, containing scarcely anything beyond the name of the person who is buried in the tomb, or that together with the name of the person by whom the monument is erected; e.g.

"Athad, the daughter of Abd-Esmun, the Suffes, and wife of Ger-Melkarth, the son of Ben-hodesh, the son of Esmunazar"; or "This monument I, Menahem, grandson of Abd-Esmun, have erected to my father, Abd-Shamash, son of Abd-Esmun"; or "I, Abd-Osiri, the son of Abd-Susim, the son of Hur, have erected this monument, while I am still alive, to myself, and to my wife, Ammat-Ashtoreth, daughter of Taam, son of Abd-melek, (and have placed it) over the chamber of my tomb, in perpetuity." But, occasionally, we get a glimpse, beyond the mere dry facts, into the region of thought; as where the erector of a monument appends to the name of one, whom we may suppose to have been a miser, the remark, that "the reward of him who heaps up riches is contempt;" or where one who entertains the hope that his friend is happier in another world than he was upon earth, thus expresses himself—"In memory of Esmun. After rain, the sun shines forth;"or, again, where domestic affection shows itself in the declaration concerning the departed—"When he entered into the house that is so full (of guests), there was grief for the memory of the sage, the man that was hard as adamant, that bore calamities of every sort, that was a widower through the death of my mother, that was like a pellucid fountain, and had a name pure from crime. Erected in affection by me his son to my father."

With respect to the extent and range of the Phoenician book literature, the little that can be gathered from the notices remaining to us in the Greek and Roman writers is the following. In Phoenicia Proper there were historical writers at least from the time of Hiram, the contemporary of David, who wrote the annals of their country in a curt dry form somewhat resembling that of Kings and Chronicles. The names of the kings and the length of their reigns were carefully recorded, together with some of the more remarkable events belonging to each reign; but there was no attempt at the philosophy of history, nor at the graces of composition. In some places, especially at Sidon, philosophy and science were to a certain extent cultivated. Mochus, a Sidonian, wrote a work on the atomic theory at a very early date, though scarcely, as Posidonius maintained, one anterior to the Trojan war. Later on, the Sidonian school specially affected astronomy and arithmetic, in which they made so much progress that the Greeks acknowledged themselves their debtors in those branches of knowledge. It is highly probable, though not exactly capable of proof, that the Tyrian navigators from a very remote period embodied in short works the observations which they made in their voyages, on the geography, hydrography, ethology, and natural history of the counties, which were visited by them. Hanno's "Periplus" may have been composed on a model of these earlier treatises, which at a later date furnished materials to Marinus for his great work on geography. It was, however, in the Phoenician colony of Carthage that authorship was taken up with most spirit and success. Hiempsal, Hanno, Mago, Hamilcar, and others, composed works, which the Romans valued highly, on the history, geography, and "origines" of Africa, and also upon practical agriculture. Mago and Hamilcar were regarded as the best authorities on the latter subject both by the Greeks and Romans, and were followed, among the Greeks by Mnaseas and Paxamus, among the Romans by Varro and Columella. So highly was the work of Mago, which ran to twenty-eight books, esteemed, that, on the taking of Carthage, it was translated into Latin by order of the Roman Senate. After the fall of Carthage, Tyre and Sidon once more became seats of learning; but the Phoenician language was discarded, and Greek adopted in its place. The Tyrian, Sidonian, Byblian and Berytian authors, of whom we hear, bear Greek names: and it is impossible to say whether they belonged, in any true sense, to the Phoenician race. Philo of Byblus and Marinus of Tyre are the only two authors of this later period who held to Phoenician traditions, and, presumably, conveyed on to later ages Phoenician ideas and accumulations. If neither literature nor science gained much from the work of the former, that of the latter had considerable value, and, as the basis of the great work of Ptolemy, must ever hold an honourable place in the history of geographical progress.