The Phoenician Explorers

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Pablo Edronkin

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Phoenicians had a natural gift for business, but dedicating yourself to commerce in those days required an adequate combination of natural commercial instincts indeed, with the addition of exploratory abilities as well as military and combat skills.

It was simple: going around in search of new markets implied venturing and trespassing into unknown territories where they had to explore, negotiate and survive against natural as well as human factors. In other words, they often had to fight.

Little by little, Phoenician culture expanded over a good fraction of the Mediterranean coasts, against all odds. As they were excellent naval pilots and navigators, they even surpassed 'Hercules's Pillars', considered to be Gibraltar and a very difficult place to go thorough with a vessel, and settled in the Atlantic coast of Morocco as well as in Spain. There, at the Guadalquivir, they founded a very significant colony called Tartesos, from where they got metals from the British isles. Carthage was nothing more than a Phoenician colony where people settled starting on the year 814 B.C., which slowly gained political and commercial significance until the motherland's political and economical clout decayed sufficiently to allow the African city to become the centre of the Phoenician nation. Its power was extended over a territory half as big as the Roman Empire and the Romans, willing to expand themselves and fearful over Carthage's power, just tried to wipe it out repeatedly, until they succeeded.

In fact, part of the loathing came just from envy: living standards among the wealthy Phoenician people were higher than in Rome. For example, marble floors as well as steam baths and private toilettes were the norm rather than the exception in Carthaginian homesin Africa, and Roman officials and arms control inspectors who visited Carthage after each successive war in which they imposed sanctions against the Phoenicians were often dismayed at the way in which their southern enemies quickly recovered both in military as well as in economic ways.

It was with the destruction of Carthage and with it, the remnants of the Phoenician culture particularly in what is now Libya, Algeria and Tunisia that Rome could begin its imperial expansion: but despite the smear campaign and the propaganda of imperial Rome against the Phoenicians, the legacy that they left us is enormous: that is what the people who have the courage to bet on their luck and ability finally get for themselves and for others.

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