1902 Encyclopedia > Geography > Progress of Geographical Discovery. The Phoenicians. Carthage.

(Part 2)


Progress of Geographical Discovery. The Phoenicians. Carthage.

Four main causes have led to geographical discovery and exploration, namely, commercial intercourse between different countries, the operations of war, pilgrimages and missionary zeal, and in later times the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake, which is the highest of all motives.

The Phoenicians are the earliest commercial people of whose discoveries we have any correct accounts. They first explored the shores of the Mediterranean, and eventually extended their voyages through the Straits of Gibraltar, and visited the western shores of Spain and Africa, planting colonies and opening wider fields for their commerce by instructing the natives in their arts and improvements. They also monopolized the trade with India; and their chief emporium, the rich city of Tyre, was the centre whence the products of the East and West were distributed. The trade of the West was brought from the port called Tarshish in Scripture, which is probably identical with Carthage, where the ships arrived from Spain, Africa, and distant Britain. Concerning the far eastern land reached by the Phoenicians, called Ophir in Scripture, there has been much dispute. The voyage to Ophir, we are told, occupie4d three years thither and homeward, and the cargo consisted of gold, ivory, apes, peacocks, and "algum" wood (1 Kings ix. 26, and x. 11). The following reasons lead to the conclusion that Ophir was the Malabar coast of India. In the Hebrew the word for apes is koph (without any etymology in Semitic tongues), in Sanskrit Kaft. Ivory in Hebrew is shen-habbim, in Sanskrit ibha is an elephant. Peacocks is in Hebrew tokki-im from togei, the name still used on the Malabar coast, derived from the Sanskrit. Algum wood, or almug, is corrupted from valgu (ka), sandal wood from Malabar. Thus the Phoenicians were the first great carries of the ancient world, extending their commercial operations from their central mart of Tyre on the Syrian coast to the tin-yielding isles of the Cassiterides in the far west, and to the ports of India in the east.

The great Phoenician colony of Carthage retained in full vigour the commercial spirit of the parent state. The Carthaginians traded on the coasts of Spain and Gaul, and extended their discoveries southwards along the coast of Africa, and to the Fortunate Islands, now known as the Canaries. Herodotus relates how the Phoenicians, setting sail from the Red Sea, made their way to the south, and when autumn approached they drew their vessels to land, sowed a crop, and waited till it was grown, when they reaped it and again put to sea. Having spent two years in this manner, in the third year they reached the pillars of Hercules and returned to Egypt. But the most celebrated voyage of antiquity, undertaken for the purpose of discovery, was the expedition under Hanno, fitted out by the senate of Carthage with the view of attempting the complete survey of the western coast of Africa. Hanno is said in the Periplus Hannonis, to have sail with a fleet of 60 vessels, and the extent of his voyage has been variously estimated as reaching to the river Nun, to a little beyond Sierra Leone, and even as far as the Gulf of Benin. Another famous navigator, who sailed from the Carthaginian Colony of Messilia (Marseilles) in about 320 B.C., was Pytheas. He steered northwards along the coasts of Spain and Gaul, sailed round the island of Albion, and stretching still further to the north, he discovered an island known to the ancients as Ultima Thule, which may possibly have been the Shetland Isles.

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