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Arabia, and the peninsula of Hindostan, and their very
unequal heating by the sun's rays at different seasons of the
year, produce a regular alternation of currents of air
(Moi^oons), (^*7) favouring navigation to the Myrrhifera
B^o of the Adramites in Southern Arabia, and to the
Persian Gulf, India, and Ceylon. During the season of
north winds in the Bed Sea (April and May to October),
the south-west Monsoon prevails from the eastern shore of
Africa to the coast of Malabar; whilst from October to
April, the north-east Monsoon, which is favourable to the
return, coincides with the period of southerly winds between
the Straits of Bab-el-Mandeb and the Isthmus of Suez.
Hcmng thus described the theatre on which the Greeks

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jnight receive from different quarters foreign elements of
mental cultivation and the knowledge of other countries,
I will next notice other nations dwelling near the Me-
diterranean, who enjoyed an early and high degree of
(Civilisation — ^the Egyptians, the Phoenicians with their north
and west African colonies, and the Etruscans. Immigration
and commercial intercourse were powerful agents : the more
our historical horizon has been extended in the most recent
times, as by the discovery of monuments and inscriptions,
and by philosophical investigations into languages, the
greater we find to have been the influence which, in the
earliest times, the Greeks experienced even from the
Euphrates, from Lycia, and through the Phrygians allied to
the Thracian tribes.

Concerning the valley of the Nile, which plays so large a
part in liistory, IfoUow the latest investigations of Lepsius, {^^^)
and the results of his important expedition which throws light
on the whole of antiquity, in saying that "there exist well-
assured cartouches of kings belonging to the commence-
ment of the fourth dynasty of Manetho, which includes the
builders of the great pyramids of Gizeh (Chephren or Scha&a^
Cheops-Chufu, and Menkera or Menc^ieres). This dynasty
commenced thirty-four centuries before our Christian era,
and twenty-three centuries before the Doric immigration of
the Heraclides into the Peloponnesus. (^^9) The great
stone pyramids of Daschur, a little to the south of Gizeh
and Sakara, are considered by Lepsius to have been the
work of the tliird dynasty : there are sculptural inscriptions
on the blocks of which they aie ccmiposed, but as yet no
kings^ names have been discovered. The latest dynasty of
the '' old kingdom/' which terminated at the invasion of the

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Hyksos, 1200 years before Homer, was the twelfth of
Manetho, to which belonged Amenemha lU. who made the
original labyrinth, and formed Lake Moeris artificially by
excavation and by large dykes of earth to the north and
west. After the eipnjsion of the Hyksos, the ''new king-
dom^^ begins with the eighteenth dynasty (1600 b.c.) The
great Bamses Miamonn (Eamses 11.) was the second
monarch of the nineteenth dynasty. The representations on
stone which perpetuated the record of his victories were
explained to G( rmanicns by the priests of Thebes. (^ He
was known to Herodotus under the name of Sesostris,
probably from a confusion with the almost equally warlike
and powerfal conqueror Seti (Setos), who was the £ttther of
Bamses n.''

I have thought ft right to notice these few chronological
points, in order that, where we have soUd historical ground,
we may determine approximately the relative antiquity of
great events in Egypt, Phcenida, and Greece. As 1 before
described in a few words the Mediterranean and its geo-
graphical relations, so I have thought it necessary here to
indicate the centuries by which the civilisation of the Valley
of the Nile preceded that of Greece. Without this double
reference to place and time, we cannot, from the very
nature of our mental constitution, form to ourselves any
dear and satisfactory picture of history.

by the mental requirements of the people, by the peculiar
physical constitution of their country, and by their hierar-
chical and political institutions, produced there, as everywhere
else on the globe, a tendency to intercourse with foreign na-
ti<Hi8y and to distant military expeditions and setdements. But
VOL. n. K

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the records preserved to us by history and by monumentat
remains indicate only transitoiy conquests by land^ and but
little extensive navigation by the Egyptians themselves.
This civilised nation^ so ancient and so powerfol^ appears to
have done less to produce a permanent influence bqrond its
own borders^ than other races less numerous but more active
and mobile. The national cultivation, favourable rather to
the masses than to individuals, was^ as it were^ geographically
insulated^ and remained^ therefore^ probably unfruitful as
respects the extension of cosmical views. Samses Miamoun
(from 1388 to 1322 B.C., 600 years, therefore, before the
first Olympiad of Coroebus) undertook, according to Hero^
dotus, extensive military expeditions into Ethiopia (where
Lepsius considers that his most southern works are to be
found near Mount Barkal) ; through Pal^tinian Syria; and
passing from Asia Minor into Europe, to the Scythians,
Thracians, and finally to Colchis and the Phasis, on ihe
banks of which, part of his army, weary of thdr wander-
ings, finally settled. Eamses was also the first — ^so said the
priests — ^who, with long ships, subjected to his donunion
the dwellers on the coast of the Erythrean, until at length,
sailing onwards, he arrived at a sea so shallow as to *be no
longer navigable. (^®^) Diodorus says expressly, that
Sesoosis (the great Bamses) advanced in India beyond the
Ganges, and that he also brought back captives from
Babylon. '^Tlie only well-aasured fact in relation to the
nautical pursuits of the native ancient Egyptians is, that
from the earliest times they navigated not only the Nile, but
also the Arabian Gulf. The famous copper mines near
Wadi Magara, on the peninsula of Sinai, were worked as
early as in the time of the fourth dynasty, under Cheops*

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Cihufa. The mscriptions of Hamamat on the Cosseir road,
-which connected the Valley of the Nile with the western
coast of the Bed Sea, reach back as far as the sixth dynasty.
The canal from Suez was attempted under Eamses the
Great, Q^^) the immediate motive being probably the inter-
course with the Arabian copper district/^ Greater maritime
enterprises, such even as the often-contested, but I think,
not improbable, circumnavigation of Africa(i^3j upder Nechos
11. (611 — 595 B.C.), were entrusted to Phoenician vessels.
Nearly at the same period, but rather earlier, under Nechos'g
father^ Fsammetichus (Psemetek), and also somewhat later,
after the dose of the civil war under Amasis (Aahmes),
hired Greek troops, by their settlement at Naucratis, laid
the foundationsof d permanent foreign commerce, of the in-
troduction of foreign ideas, and of the gradual penetra-
tion of Hellenism inte Lower Egypt. Thus was deposited
a germ of mental freedom, — of a greater independence of
local influences, — which developed itself with rapidity and
vigour in the new order of tilings which followed the Mace-
donian conquest. The opening of the Egyptian ports under
Psammetichus marks an epoch so much the more important
ance until that period, Egypt, or at least her northern coast,
had been as completely closed against all foreigners as Japan
now is. 0^)

Amongst the cultivated nations, not Hellenic, who dwelt
around the Mediterranean in the ancient seats where our
modem knowledge originated, we must place the Phoe-
nicians next after the Egyptians. They must be re-
garded as the most active intermediaries and agents in the
connection of nations from the Indian ocean to the west
and north of Europe. Limited in many spheres of intellec-

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tual development^ and addicted rather to the mechanical than
to the fine arts, with little of the grand and creative genins
of the more thoughtful inhabitants of the Valley of the Nil^
the Phcenidans, as an adventurous and far ranging com*
mercial people, and by the formation of colonies, one of
which far surpassed the parent city in political power,
did nevertheless, earlier than aU the ol^er nations sur-
rounding the Mediterranean, influence the course and ex*
tension of ideas, and promote richer and more varied
views of the physical universe. The Phoenicians had Baby-
lonian weights and measures, (^^) and, at least after the
Persian dominion, employed for monetary purposes a stamped
metallic currency, which, singularly enough, was not pos-
sessed by the Egyptians, notwithstanding their advanced
political institutions and skill in the arts. But that by which
the Phoenicians contributed most to the intellectual advance-
ment of the nations with whom they came in contact, was
by the communication of alphabetical writing, of which they
had themselves long made use. Although the whole legen-
dary history of a particular colony, founded in Boeotia by
Cadmus, may remain wrapped in mythological obscurily,
yet it is not the less certain, that it was through the com-
mercial intercourse of the lonians with the Phoenicians that
the Greeks received the characters of their alphabetical writ-
ing, which were long tern led Phoenician signs. {^^) Accord-
ing to the views which, since ChampoUion^s great discovery,
have prevailed more and more respecting the early condi-
tions of the development of alphabetical writing, the
Phoenician and all the (Semitic written characters, though
they may have been originally formed from pictorial writing
are to be regarded as a jf hone tic alphabet; 4. e. as an

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slphabet in which the ideal signification of the pictured
signs is whoDy disregarded, and these signs or characters
are treated exclusively as ^gns of sound. Such a phonetic
alphabet, being in its nature and fundamental form a syllabic
alphabet', was suited to satisfy all the requirements of a
graphical representation of the phonetic system of a language.
"When the Semitic writing,'^ says Lepsius, in his treatise
on the alphabet, '* passed into Europe to Indo-Germanic
nations, who all shew a much stronger tendency to a strict
separation between vowels and consonants (a separation to
which they could not but be led by the much more significant
import of vowels in their languages), this syllabic alphsJ^et
underwent very important and influeatial changes/' {^^'^
Amongst the Greeks, the tendency to do awa^ with the
syllabic character proceeded to its full accomplishment.
Thus not only did the communication of the Phoenician
signs to almost all the coasts of the Mediterranean, and even
to the north-wei^ coast of Africa, facilitate commercial in«
tercourse and form a common bond between several civilised
nations, but this system of written characters, ge^ieralised
by its graphic flexibility, had « yet higher destination.
It became the depository of the noblest results attained by
the Hellenic race in the two great spheres of the intellect and
the feelings, by investigating thought and by creative imagina-
tion ; and the medium of transmission through which this im-
perishable benefit has been bequeathed to the latest posterity.
Nor is it solely as intermediaries, and by conveying an
impulse to others, that the PhoBnicians have enlarged the
elements of cosmical contemplation. They also inde-
pendently, and by their own discoveries, extended the
sphere of knowledge in several directions. Industrial

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prosperity, founded on extensive maritime commerce, and
on the products of labour and skill in the manufactures
of Sidon in white and coloured glass, in tissues, and in
purple dyes, led, as every where else, to advances in
mathematical and chemical knowledge, and especially in the
technical arts. " The Sidonians,^^ says Strabo, " are de-
scribed as active investigators in astronomy as well as in
the science of numbers, having been conducted thereto by
arithmetical skill and by the practice of nocturnal naviga-
tion, both of which are indispensable to trade and to mari-
time intercourse/^ (^^®) In order to indicate the extent of
the earth's surface first opened by Phoenician navigation and
the Phoenician caravan trade, we must name the settlements
on the Bythinian coast (Pronectus and Bythinium), which
were probably of very early formation; the Cyclades and
several islands of the iEgean visited in the Homeric times;
the south of Spain, from whence silver was obtained (Tar-
tessus and Gades) ; the north of Africa, west of the lesser
Syrtis (Utica, Hadrumetum, and Carthage); the countries in
the north of Europe, from whence tin {^^^) and amber were
derived; and two trading factories {^^oj u^ the Persian gulf,
the Baharein islands Tylos and Aradus.

The amber trade, which was probably first directed to the
west Cimbrian coasts, (*^^) and only subsequently to the
Baltic and the country of the Esthonians^ owes its first origin
to the boldness and perseverance of Phoenician coast navi-
gators. In its subsequent extension it ofiers, in the point
of view of which we are treating, a remarkable instance of the
influence which may be exerted by a predilection for even •
single foreign production, in opening an inland trade between
nations and in making known large tract-s of country. In

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the same way that the Phocflean Massilians brought the
British tin across France to the Bhone, the amber was con-
veyed from people to people through Grermany, and by the
Celts on either declivity of the Alps to the Padus, and
through Pannonia to the Borysthenes. It was this inland
traffic which first brought the coasts of the northern ocean
into connection with the Euxine and the Adriatic.

Phoenicians from Carthage, tod probably from the settle-
ments of Tartessus and Gbdes wliich were founded two
centuries earlier, visited an important part of the northwest
coastof Africa, extendingmuchbeyond Cape Bojador; although
the Chretes of Hanno is neither the Chremetes of Aristotle^s
Meteorology, nor yet our Gambia, (^^^j i«his was the locality
of the many towns of Tyrians (according to Strabo even as
many as 300,) which were destroyed by Pharusians and
Nigritians. {^'^^) Among them, Ceme (Dicuil^s Gaulea,
according to Letronne) was the principal naval station and
chief staple for the settlements on the coast. In the west
the Canary islands and the Azores (which latter the son of
Columbus, Don Fernando, considered to be the first Cas-
siterides discovered by the Carthaginians), and in the north
the Orkneys, the Faroe islands, and Iceland, became the in-
termediary stations of transit to the New Continent. They
indicate the two paths by which the European portion of
mankind became acquainted with Central and North America*
This consideration gives to the question of the period when
Porto Santo, Madeira, and the Canaries were first known to
the Phoenicians, either of the mother coimtry or of the cities
planted in Iberia and Africa, a great, I might almost say a
universal, importance in the history of the world. In a
long protracted chain of events we love to trace the first

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links. It is probable that, from the fonndations of Tartessna
and Utica by the Phoenicians, My 2000 years elapsed before
the diBCOTeiy of America by the northern route, i. e. before
Eric Banda crossed the ocean to Greenland (an event which
was soon followed by voyages to North Carolina), and 2500
years before its discoveiy by the south western route taken
by Columbus from a point of departure near the ancient
Phoenician Gadeinu

In following out that generalisation of ideas which be-
longs to the object of this work, I have here r^arded the
discovery of a group of islands situated only 168 geogra*
phical miles from the coast of Africa, as the first link in a
long series of efforts tending in the same direction, and
have not connected it with the poetic fiction, sprung from
the inmost depths of the mind, of the Elysium, the Islands
of the £lest, placed in the far ocean at earth^s extremest
bounds, and warmed by the near presence of the disk of the
setting sun. In this remotest distance was placed the seat
of all the charms of life, and of the most precious produc*
tions of the earth; (i^*) but as the Greeks^ knowledge of the
"Mediterranean extended, the ideal land, the geographical
mythus of the Elysimn, was moved farther and farther to the
west, beyond the Pillars of Hercules. True geographical
knowledge, the discoveries of the Phoenicians,— of the epoch
of which we have no certain information,-^did not probably
first originate the mythus of the Eortunate Islands ; but the
application was made afterwards, and the geographical dis*
covery did but embody the picture which the imagination
had formed, and of which it became^ as it were, the sub-

Later writers, such as the unknown compiler of the

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•* Collection of Wonderful Narrations/' which was ascribed
to Aristotle and of which Timseos made use^ and sach as
the still more circumstantial Diodorus Siculus, when speak*
ing of lovely islands, which may be supposed to be the
Canaries, allude to the storms which may have occa-
sioned their accidental discovery. Phoenician and Cartha-
ginian ships, it is said, sailing to the settlements already
existing on the Coast of Lybia, were driven out to sea;
the event is placed at the early period of tiie Tyrrhenian
naval power, during the strife between the Tyrrhenian Pe-
lasgians and the Phoenicians. Statins Sebosus and the
Numidian King Juba first gave names to the different
islands, but unfortunately not Punic names, althoi:^h cer«
tainly according to notices drawn from Punic books. Plu*
tarch having said that Sertorius, when driven out of Spain^
and after the loss of his fleet, thought of taking refuge
^in a group, consisting of only two islands, situated
in the Atlantic, ten thousand stadia to the west of the
mouth of the Betis,'' he has been supposed to refer to
the two islands of Porto Santo and Madeira, (^75) indi-
cated not obscurely by Pliny as Purpurarise. The strong
current which, beyond the Pillars of Hercules, sets from
north west to south east, may long have prevented the
coast navigators from discovering the islands most distant
from the continent, of which only the smaller (Porto Santo)
was found inhabited in the fifteenth century. The curva-
ture of the earth would prevent the summit of the great
volcano of Teneriffe from being seen, even with a strong
refraction, by the Phoenician ships sailing along the coast of
the continent ; but it appears from my researches (*'^) that
it might have been discovered from the heights near Capo

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Bojador under favourable circumstances^ and especially
during eruptions^ and by the aid of reflection from an ele-
vated cloud above the volcano. It has even been asserted
that eruptions of Etna have been seeji in recent times &om
Mount Taygetos. (^^7)

In noticing the elements of a more extended knowledge
of the earth which early flowed in to the Greeks from other
parts of the Mediterranean^ we have hitherto followed the
Phoenicians and Carthaginians in their intercourse with the
northern countries from whence tin and amber were derived,
and in their settlements near the tropics on the west coast
of Africa. We have now to speak of a southern navigation
of the same people to far within the torrid zone, four thou-
sand geographical miles east of Ceme and Hanno^s western
horn, in the Prasodic and Indian Seas. Whatever
doubts may remain as to the particular locality of the
distant ''gold lands'^ Ophir and Supara, — whether these
gold lands were on the west coast q( ^^^ Indian peninsula,
or on the east coast of Africa^ — ^it is not the less certain that
this active Semitic race, early acquainted with written cha-
racters, roving extensively over the surface of the earth,
and bringing its various inhabitants into relation with each
other, came into contact with the productions of the most
varied chmates, ranging from the Gassiterides to south of
the Straits of Bab-d-Mandeb, and far within the region of
the tropics. The Tyrian flag waved at the same time in
Britain and in the Indian ocean. The Phoenicians had
formed trading settlements in the most northern part of the
Arabian Gulf, in the harbours of Elath and Ezion Geber, as
well as in the Persian Gulf at Aradus and Tylos, where^
according to Strabo, there were temples similar in their

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Btyle of architecture to those of the Mediterranean. (^^®)
The caravan trade which the Phoenicians carried on^ in order
to procure spices and incense, was directed by Palmyra to
Arabia Eelix^ and to the Chaldean or Nabathseic Gerrha^ on
the western or Arabian shore of the Persian Gulf.

The expeditions of Hiram and Solomon, conjoint under-
takings of the Tynans and Israelites, sailed from Ezion
Geber through the Straits of Bab-el-Mandeb to Ophir
(Opheir, Sophir, Sophara, the Sanscrit Supara(^79) of
Ptolemy). Solomon, who loved magnificence, caused a
fleet to be built in the Red Sea, and Hiram suppKed him
with Phoenician mariners well acquainted with navigation,
and also Tyrian vessels, ''ships of Tarshish/^ (^^o) The
articles of merchandise which were brought back from Ophir
were gold, silver, sandal wood (algummim), precious stones,
ivory, apes (kophim), and peacocks (thukkiim). The names
by which these articles are designated are not Hebrew but
Indian. {^®*) The researches of Gesenius, Benfey, and
Lassen, have made it extremely probable that the western
shores of the Indian peninsula were visited by the Phoeni-
cians, who, by their colonies in the Persian Gulf, and by
their intercourse with the Gerrhans, were early acquainted
with the periodically blowing monsoons. Columbus was
even persuaded that Ophir (the El Dorado of Solomon), and
the mountain Sopora, were a part of Eastern Asia — of the
Chersonesus Aurea of Ptolemy. {^^^) IS it seem difficult to
view Western India as a country productive in gold, it will
be sufficient, without referring to the ''gold-seeking ants,^*
or to Ctesias's unmistakable description of a foundry, (in
which, however, according to his account, gold and iron
were melted together), {^^) to remember the vicinity of

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several places notable in this respect Sach are the
Southern part of Arabia^ the Island of Dioscorides (Din
2iOkotora of the modems^ a cormption of the Sausciit
Dvipa Sukhatara)^ cultivated by Indian settlers^ — and the
auriferous East African coast of Sofala. Arabia^ and the
island just mentioned to the south east of the Straits of
Bab-d-Mandeb^ formed for the combined Phoenician and
Hebrew commerce intermediate and uniting links between
the Indian peninsula and the East Coast of Africa. Indians
had settled on the latter from the earliest times as on a
shore opposite to thdr own, and the traders to Ophir might
find in the basin of the Erythrean and Indian Seas other
sources of gold than India itself.

Less influential than the Phoenicians in connecting dif-
ferent nations and in extending the geographical horizon,
and early subjected to the Greek influence of Pelasgic Tyr-
rhenians arriving from the sea, we have next to consider the
austere and gloomy nation of the Etruscans. A not incon-
siderable inland trade with the remote amb^ countries was
carried on by them, passing through Northern Italy, and
across the Alps, where a *' via sacra" (^®*) was protected by all
the neighbouring tribes. It seems to have been ahnost by the
same route that the primitive Tuscan people, the Basense, came
from Bhsetia to the Padus, and even still farther southward.
That which is most important to notice, according to the
point of view which we have selected, and in which we seek
always to seize what is most general and permanent, is the
influence exerted by the commonwealth of Etruria on the

Online LibraryAlexander von HumboldtCosmos, Volume 2 → online text (page 10 of 43)