Industry

 

As miners the Phoenicians were particularly famous, and both Greeks and Romans appear to have adopted the methods and principles followed by them in the extraction and working of minerals. Herodotus, when speaking of the gold-mines of Thasos, bears testimony, from personal observation, to the importance of their work. In most branches of metallurgy the Phoenicians appear to have been past-masters, carrying on an extensive trade in all kinds of ornamental metal- work and in jewellery with most of the countries of the Mediterranean, as well as with those further east.

 

Pendant head made of glass, Carthage c. 500 B.C.

 

 

It was, however, not only in jewellery and smaller ornamental metal-work that the Phoenicians excelled, if we are to judge from what we read of the work executed by them on a large, and even colossal scale, for King Solomon's great temple.  Unfortunately, none of this grand work is now in existence, but the examples of highly wrought metal bowls and other vessels, unquestionably of Phoenician workmanship, which have been met with in many ancient tombs in Italy and Cyprus afford evidence of their artistic talent and capabilities in this respect.

 

 

 Byblos Persian period

c 350 BC

 

Of Phoenician coinage little need be said in this brief sketch. Each town and each colony of importance apparently had its own coins and its own devices during some period of its life, the coins themselves and the emblems they bore being, more or less, of a primitive character. Later on Greek art seems to have penetrated into this branch of craftsmanship, as it did into many others, Greek designs being generally adopted, while the coins themselves became less clumsy in size and shape. In addition to metal-work in its various forms, Phoenician manufactures comprised three other branches of industrial art, which were of considerable importance and in which some of the Phoenician towns attained a high degree of excellence. These were glass-work, textile fabrics, and, last but not least, the produc- tion of dyes. Besides these, the manufacture of pottery of various types .

 

2nd BC Phoenician Glass vase

 

In the manufacture of glass vases and similar small vessels, as well as of beads and other glass ornaments, the Phoenicians, and especially the Sidonians, were particularly skilful. They are said to have discovered the manufacture of glass themselves, and by accident, which is quite possible ; although, seeing that the art was apparently known long before to the Egyptians, it is equally possible that it was introduced into Phoenicia from Egypt, with which country, as is well known, the Phoenicians had much intercourse. Be this, however, as it may, the manufacture of glass seems to have been one of the chief industries of Sidon, this being probably due in great measure to the fact of the sand of the neighbouring shores being of a quality specially suited for glass-making.

 

 

 Sadigh Gallery's Phoenician Artifacts Collection

The Phoenicians were skilled artisans noted for their fine crafts, often "borrowing" a basic idea or technology and improving on it. The craft of glass making was raised to a fine art by Phoenician artisans, and they may have been the first to develop blown glass. Their terracotta vessels and pots often show a thoughtful refinement of shape, as do their votive statues.

 

The Sidonians appear also to have been the most skilful and proficient of all the Phoenicians in the manufacture of textile fabrics, and especially in embroidery, the artistic production of their looms being celebrated not only in Phoenicia itself, but in other countries as well. Allusion to the excellence of their work in this respect may be found in the Iliad, when Homer speaks of " the variegated robes, works of Sidonian women, which god-like Paris himself brought from Sidon, sailing over the wide sea, along the course by which he conveyed high-born Helen."  Closely connected with the weaving and textile industry were the manufacture of dyes and the dyeing of stuffs. The renowned purple dye, or Tyrian purple, as it was called, said to have been discovered by the Phoenicians accidentally, as in the case of glass, was apparently obtained chiefly from two species of shell-fish, the Murex trunculus and the Murex brandaris, both of which are found in certain abundance in various parts of the Mediterranean, and particularly on the Syrian coast. The two industries of weaving and dyeing going hand in hand, as they did, caused the double trade to become a most important one, apparently, and it probably spread throughout all the countries with which Phoenicia had commercial relations. Homer, Iliad, vi. 289.

 

 

 

Little is known, comparatively, of Phoenician architecture, owing to the great lack of remains of ancient buildings found in the country, one of the principal reasons for this, apart from that mentioned in the earlier part of this chapter, being possibly the fact that wood may have been employed to a great extent by the Phoenicians in most of their constructions other than fortifications, stone being used exclusively only for the foundations and lower parts of the buildings. Naturally, the wooden top-structures, less durable than stone, will not have lasted long, and in course of time will have disappeared entirely, leaving only the substructures, which, broken up, will no doubt have served as building material for future generations. Unfortunately, few vestiges comparatively of any important constructions remain to us at the present day, but, judging from those that have been found, we gather that the bases of such buildings were usually formed of massive and some- times roughly hewn blocks, laid horizontally, in strata, one on the other, and without any cement. Some of the blocks met with are of colossal dimensions, those, for example, of the substructure of the Temple of Jerusalem measuring, in some cases, as much as 39 feet in length and 7 feet in depth. In some instances the stones were smoothed and carefully bevelled at the edges, but they were often very roughly cut, and occasionally left almost in their natural state. The so-called temples or places of worship in Phoenicia, in the days when the religious services were held in the open air, appear to have been very simple structures, a small shrine, open on one side, and placed on a block of living rock, sufficing for the purpose required. In some cases apparently the quadrangle merely contained a cippus or cone in its centre.

 

 

 Megalithic Enigmas Of Baalbek Lebanon

 

The engineering required in order to be able to deal efficiently with the colossal blocks used in some of the Phoenician constructions must have taxed the ingenuity of the country's architects and master-workmen, but apparently the resourcefulness of the people enabled them to overcome any difficulties that may have presented themselves. As in many other ways, the Phoenicians showed great proficiency in engineering, and their superior knowledge in this respect over others of their day was clearly demonstrated on the occasion of the cutting of the canal through the isthmus of Mount Athos.^ The main and most salient feature of Phoenician architecture was undoubtedly monolithism, the exact opposite of the principle adopted by the Greeks ; and, although modified, to a certain extent, in the later period by Hellenic influence, it appears to have pre- vailed as long as Phoenicia proper lasted.

 

Though there is little still in existence in the way of statuary or sculpture, the few more important Phoenician tombs and sepulchral monuments which have been discovered show consider- able architectural and artistic merit. As a rule, however, Phoenician tombs were mere excavations in the rock or soil, containing one or more chambers, in which the sarcophagi containing the remains of the dead were placed. The sarcophagi themselves, which were either of stone or marble, were sometimes perfectly plain, at other times ornamented with sculpture. Most of those discovered are evidently of a period when Greek art had already made its influence felt in Phoenicia, and when Greek designs had been adopted by the Phoenician sculptor. Excelling as the Phoenicians did in most of the arts and in- dustries of those days, their skilled workmen and artisans were in request even outside their own country ; thus one reads in the Scriptures of King Hiram of Tyre furnishing workmen and materials, first for the construction of King David's palace in Jerusalem,  and afterwards for the building of Solomon's temple, which great and magnificent work may really be regarded as having been a Phoenician creation, probably both designed and mainly built by Tyrian workmen.

 

 

 

 

 

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