Trade of the The Phoenicians


Phoenicians trading for tin in Cornwall, England . Tin

was needed to add to copper, to make bronze .

from the mural 'Brass through the Ages'

by Robert Lambdin .



The Phoenicians began to expand their trade farther afield once the power of the Minoan and Mycenaean traders was smashed by northern invaders around 1200 B.C. In the Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age, only kings and Palaces were involved in maritime trade . By the beginning of the 8th cent B.C. a strong trading aristocracy starts to develop . Phoenician shipping was carried out by commercial trading syndicates known as huburs .

In the 11th century B.C. Story of Wenamun there is a report of a hubur of 20 ships managed by the King of Byblos and the Egyptian Pharaoh Smendes . In the Old testament, it is related that King Hiram and Solomon entering into such am arrangement for their expedition to Ophir on the Red Sea .



The commerce of the Phoenicians with Egypt was ancient, and very extensive. "The wares of Egypt" are mentioned by Herodotus as a portion of the merchandise which they brought to Greece before the time of the Trojan War.The Tyrians had a quarter in the city of Memphis assigned to them, probably from an early date. According to Ezekiel, the principal commodity which Egypt furnished to Phoenicia was "fine linen"—especially the linen sails embroidered with gay patterns, which the Egyptian nobles affected for their pleasure-boats. They probably also imported from Egypt natron for their glass-works, papyrus for their documents, earthenware of various kinds for exportation, scarabs and other seals, statuettes and figures of gods, amulets, and in the later times sarcophagi. Their exports to Egypt consisted of wine on a large scale, tin almost certainly, and probably their peculiar purple fabrics, and other manufactured articles.




The Phoenician trade with Arabia was of especial importance, since not only did the great peninsula itself produce many of the most valuable articles of commerce, but it was also mainly, if not solely, through Arabia that the Indian market was thrown open to the Phoenician traders, and the precious commodities obtained for which Hindustan has always been famous. Arabia is par excellence the land of spices, and was the main source from which the ancient world in general, and Phoenicia in particular, obtained frankincense, cinnamon, cassia, myrrh, calamus or sweet-cane, and ladanum.

The Phoenician trade with Babylonia and Assyria was carried on probably by caravans, which traversed the Syrian desert by way of Tadmor or Palmyra, and struck the Euphrates about Circesium. Here the route divided, passing to Babylon southwards along the course of the great river, and to Nineveh eastwards by way of the Khabour and the Sinjar mountain-range. Both countries seem to have supplied the Phoenicians with fabrics of extraordinary value, rich in a peculiar embroidery, and deemed so precious that they were packed in chests of cedar-wood, which the Phoenician merchants must have brought with them from Lebanon .

The colonies sent out from Phoenicia were, except in the single instance of Carthage, trading settlements, planted where some commodity or commodities desired by the mother-country abounded, and were intended to secure to the mother-country the monopoly of such commodity or commodities. For instance, Cyprus was colonised for the sake of its copper mines and its timber; Cilicia and Lycia for their timber only; Thasos for its gold mines; Salamis and Cythera for the purple trade; Sardinia and Spain for their numerous metals; North Africa for its fertility and for the trade with the interior.

Outside the Pillars of Hercules the Phoenicians had only savage nations to deal with, and with these they seem to have traded mainly for the purpose of obtaining certain natural products, either peculiarly valuable or scarcely procurable elsewhere. Their trade with the Scilly Islands and the coast of Cornwall was especially for the procuring of tin. From the time that the Phoenicians discovered the Scilly Islands—the "Tin Islands" (Cassiterides), as they called them—it is probable that the tin of the civilised world was almost wholly derived from this quarter .

If the Phoenicians visited, as some maintain that they did, the coasts of the Baltic, it must have been for the purpose of obtaining amber. Amber is thrown up largely by the waters of that land-locked sea, and at present especially abounds on the shore in the vicinity of Dantzic. It is very scarce elsewhere. The Phoenicians seem to have made use of amber in their necklaces from a very early date;9106 and, though they might no doubt have obtained it by land-carriage across Europe to the head of the Adriatic, yet their enterprise and their commercial spirit were such as would not improbably have led them to seek to open a direct communication with the amber-producing region, so soon as they knew where it was situated. The dangers of the German Ocean are certainly not greater than those of the Atlantic; and if the Phoenicians had sufficient skill in navigation to reach Britain and the Fortunate Islands, they could have found no very serious difficulty in penetrating to the Baltic. On the other hand, there is no direct evidence of their having penetrated so far, and perhaps the Adriatic trade may have supplied them with as much amber as they needed.

The trade of the Phoenicians with the west coast of Africa had for its principal objects the procuring of ivory, of elephant, lion, leopard, and deer-skins, and probably of gold. Scylax relates that there was an established trade in his day (about B.C. 350) between Phoenicia and an island which he calls Cerne, probably Arguin, off the West African coast






 Phoenician expansion overseas

Phoenicians ships

Phoenicians  colonies


 Government of

the Phoenicians