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Book 4. Sacred History or Phoney History?

The Hebrews: People of Abarnahara




The identity of the Israelites and the Canaanites is falsified in the scriptures, doubtless to justify the biblicists in painting the Israelites as worshippers of the True God and the Canaanites as monstrous idolaters to be suppressed. They are the same race as the Jews, Semites, but Genesis makes them sons of Ham.

Phœnicians call themselves Canaanites, and still called themselves Canaanites when they lived in their colonies such as Carthage in north Africa (Tunisia), as S Augustine who lived there confirms even in the fifth century AD. The Greeks and Romans called them “Phoinikes”. The words Phœnician and Canaanite both refer to the red cloth that these people were world famous for producing using the dye from a marine snail. Phœnician is from the Greek word for it, and Canaanite is their own word for it, named in the Nuzi texts as “kinahhu”.

Phœnicia was in contact with Eighteenth dynasty Egypt at a time (1570-1300 BC, conventionally) when the Canaanites lived in the remainder of the Levant from the Orantes to the Egyptian border. They wrote to the Egyptian ministries letters on clay tablets in Babylonian cuneiform. The fourteenth century BC correspondence found at Amarna is also on clay tablets. Abimilki of Tyre, Ribaddi of Byblos and Zimridi of Sidon, all wrote to their overlords in Egypt pledging allegiance or begging for help against insurgents and rebels. Akhnaton was too busy with his religious reforms but the next dynasty, the Nineteenth did help, under Rameses II.

Even as far back as the fourth millennium, the peoples of the ancient Near East were thoroughly mixed from the successive waves of settlers coming from every direction. The Canaanites had settled in Syria by about 2000 BC, and Canaanite names appeared in Sumerian third dynasty Ur soon after 2000 BC. Canaanites seem to have been employed by Sumerians as soldiers and workers. The locals called them “Amurru” meaning “Westerners”. Scholars thought they were a different race and called them Amorites. They were wrong. Amorites were similar people to the Phœnicians, simply spreading out seeking opportunities for employment in the higher civilisations. Some went to Egypt. About the middle of the second millennium, a new wave of Canaanites entered the Levant and became the Phœnicians.

About the same time the Hurrians were arriving from the east, and conquered much of the region at one time or another, only Babylon resisting them. They were a substantial proportion of the Hittite kingdom, and were the same or a related race to the Indo-European Mitannians who arrived about 1500 BC, and eventually set up their own kingdom. Above all, they seemed to have found a good base in Urartu in the second millennium, but signs of a Urartian state only exists after about 900 BC.

It seems to have been the admixture of the Sea Peoples, arriving about 1200 BC, with the Aramaeans of the northern coast of the Levant that led to the coastal people turning to the sea for trade and exploration, and their separation in history from the land locked Aramaeans that we now call Canaanites to distinguish them from the Phœnicans. They settled along the coast, in city states built on islands or rocky promontories that offered natural harbours.

The Phœnicians that emerged from this blend developed a widespread sea trade, flourishing in the second quarter of the first millennium BC and staying important into the Persian period when for 200 years they provided the Persians with a Mediterranean fleet. Their cities, Byblos, Tyre, Sidon and Arqad were like the Hanseatic League or the Cinque ports of later times, dominating trade and becoming fabulously wealthy. They traded throughout the Mediterranean and beyond into the Atlantic—with Cyprus, Asia Minor, Greece, Italy, Spain, North Africa, Egypt and even India. The biblical association of Solomon with Hiram of Tyre was to obtain reflected glory, but there was no basis for such wealth in Jerusalem, a landlocked city on top of a mountain, miles from any caravan routes.

Ashurnasipal (B 76 British Museum) took tribute from the Phœnician cities in 876 BC, and Shalmaneser did the same, as several monuments including the Black Obilisk testify. Jehu the son of Omri appears in the Black Obilisk too. Hiram III of Tyre and Sidon paid tribute to Tiglath-Pileser in 741 BC. Luli follows him and is mentioned by Shalmaneser V as the king of both Phœnician cities. Luli reigned about 30 years and is mentioned also in the annals of Sargon II and Sennacherib. He was unsuccessfully seiged in Tyre and made alliances with Egypt and with Judah before he was made to flee to Cyprus.

Phœnicia ended with the fall of Tyre to the Babylonian king Nebuchandnezzar in 573 BC. They were then subject to the Persians when the kings of the cities were replaced by councils of elders, and at Tyre magistrates (judges!) took executive roles. A senate and general assembly also existed. The magistrates had power through their wealth not through heredity. In 332 BC, Alexander the Great sieged and subdued Tyre, and the Phœnicians joined the Hellenistic world. Syrian traders who were likely Phœnicians, stayed prominent for hundreds more years, though the cities never regained any independence.

Hebrew Script

It is to the Phœnicians that we owe our alphabet. According to Wolfram Von Soden (The Ancient Orient), alphabets all derive from a single initial one, the earliest sure form of which is the Phœnician one. A cuneiform alphabet was used at Ugarit, and the Phœnician letters must have been adopted later than then. Writing was vital to trading people and they developed their script—often called, for no good reason, old Hebrew—from Egyptian hieratic script, passed it to the Greeks and from them, it came to us. The Greeks took up Phœnician script in time for Homer and Hesiod to be written down in it. The archaic Greek alphabet was derived from a proto-Canaanite script about 1050 BC when the proto-Canaanite became Phœnician. This chronology is compatible with Herodotus’s claim that the alphabet was brought to Greece by Phœnician colonists. Writing in the Phœnician alphabet appeared in Syria-Palestine around 1200 BC, and these letters appeared on the sarcophagus of Ahiram of Byblos, dated about 1000 BC. The consonants were probably originally syllables with the indistinct vowel “uh”. Otherwise vowels were omitted.

The Canaanite language is what is now called Hebrew, because it was the language of the people of the Persian province of Abarnahara. The script of the Jewish scriptures was Aramaic script, quite a different way of writing, although the language was still Hebrew. After 900, the Aramaeans began to use “w”, “y” and “h” for the long vowels “u”, “e” and “a”, the first use of vowels, introduced fully by the Greeks. Proto-Canaanite, as suggested by Ugaritic, had 28 letters apparently meant to correspond with the days of the month. Archaic Greek kept 27 of the original letters, though seven of them were reallocated as vowels. The Phœnicians reduced the letters to 22. Early in the first millennium BC, under influence of the Phœnician alphabet, the Greeks reorganized their alphabet and took the Phœnician names of those 22 letters, and their order, putting non-Phœnician letters at the end. Martin Bernal writes:

This fits well with the historical and archeological evidence for close contact between the Levant and the Aegean in this period.


About 800 BC, varieties of Phœnician are called—by scholars more influenced by the bible than scholars ought to be—early Hebrew. About 700 BC, early Aramaic script derived from Phœnician. About 650 BC, Latin derived from Greek. About 200 BC, Square Hebrew (or Jewish) derived from Aramaic. Diringer says the distinctive Palestinian Jewish type of script, the Square Hebrew script, can only be traced from the second and the first centuries BC.

One of the distinctive differences between the Phœnician early Hebrew, and the Aramaic Square Hebrew, is the presence for some characters of a dual form in the final letter. W F Albright says Jewish script became standardized just before the Christian era, but the dual forms found in the Square Hebrew style go back to the period before the various offshoots of the Aramaic script assumed their distinctive features, such as in some third-century BC cursive documents in Egypt, in Nabataean inscriptions, and in the earliest Square Hebrew inscriptions and other documents. Only during the second century AD did the present Square Hebrew script, become more or less fixed, and it was only in this period did the consistent Massoretic tradition become established.

Regarding numerals, Georges Ifrah says that Greek ones go back to before the end of the fourth century BC, appearing in papyri in 311 BC and on coins in 266 BC. The oldest examples of the Jewish system go back only to the beginning of the first century BC or, at most, to the last few years of the second century, the oldest example being a coin dated to 103 BC. Before then the people of Palestine used Egyptian hieratic before the Persian period, and then Assyro-Babylonian sexagesimal.

This brief review suggests that written and spoken Hebrew before the Persian period (“the exile”) was Phœnician and, after it, when Aramaic script was adopted by the Persian Chancellery, the Aramaic script was introduced for expressing Hebrew too. Eventually it was seen as the Jewish script. The only numbering system was the Babylonian system used in Persia until the Greek type of system was adopted in Hellenistic times.


The Canaanites north of the Phœnician coastal strip and east of it in the Orantes valley and the plain that stretched to the Euphrates were culturally indistinguishable from those to the south and the supposedly different people, the Israelites. All took influences from elsewhere, notably the greater civilizations of Egypt and Mesopotamia, and formed them into their own amalgam.

Phœnician towns of any size were walled and their water supplies were based on cisterns. An impermeable lime plaster was invented at the start of the Iron Age and was used thereafter by all Canaanites to line cisterns. The same treatmant is widespread in the Palestinian hill country.

Phœnicians liked colour and wore multi-coloured garments. Homer, writing about 700, mentioned the many-coloured (polychrome) clothes worn by the Sidonians. Joseph’s coat of many colours sounds Phœnician, but Joseph was about 600 years too early, if biblical dating is accepted, and there is no good reason why he only should have had such a coat since they were always fashionable—except to create a story. Egyptians preferred white.

The supposed influx of Canaanites under Joshua made no noticeable difference to the Canaanite culture of the south as even Yigael Yadin, sometime Israeli general and archaeologist, has shown from his excavations at Hazor. What did make a difference throughout the Levant in the first millennium was the change to Aramaic, a change encouraged by the Persians who adopted it to replace Elamite as the official language of the chancellery. Then Greek replaced Aramaic after the conquest of Persia by Alexander.

Greeks adopted coinage from the Lydians in the sixth century BC, but the Phœnicians seemed to prefer bartering for a longer time. The Persians under Darius took to coinage about the end of the sixth century, so the Phœnicians, by then part of the Persian empire, had the chance of introducing it, but the Persians mainly used their “darics” and “sigloi” for trading in Anatolia with the Greeks and Lydians, sticking to bartering by weighing elsewhere. Persian coinage got more used after the Persian wars in the fifth century when the Persians employed more Greek soldiers and merchants. This was the time when Tyre struck its first coins, and Sidon, Aredus and Byblos followed in the next few decades.

In the Persian period at least, the whole of the coastal plain of the Levant, including the coastal regions of David’s supposed former kingdom, as far south as Askelon in Philistia, was ruled from Phœnicia, not from Yehud. On a funerary inscription of the Sidonian king, Eshmunezer II who reigned in the mid fifth century BC (Corpus Inscriptionum Semiticarum, Pars Prima: Inscriptiones Phœnias Continens I (Paris 1881), cited in Second Temple Studies II Sheffield Academic Press), the king says the Persians allowed the Sidonian king to rule:

Dor and Joppa, the mighty lands of Dagon, which are in the plains of Sharon, in accordance with the important deeds that I did. And we added them to the borders of the country, so that they would belong to Sidon forever (trans F Rozenthal, ANET 662).


This was at the time the Persians were setting up temple state of Yehud. If the Phœnicians were using their own script at this time and not Aramaic script, then the religious books of the Jews would have been written in the script of the local administration—Phœnician = Hebrew script, the script of the province of Abarnahara. Shortly afterwards, the Persians made Aramaic the official language of diplomacy and Aramaic script will have replaced Hebrew script, but evidently not the actual language of the holy books.

The Phœnicians made human sacrifices of children up to the age of adulthood (13 years) in their topheth or sacrificial temples, as the Israelites also did according to the bible, probably until the arrival of the Persians. A description of the topheth temple in the valley of Hinnom (Gehenna), Jerusalem, appears in the scriptures:

And he defiled Topheth, which is in the valley of the children of Hinnom, that no man might make his son or his daughter to pass through the fire to Molech.
(2 Kg 23:10)


Children were sacrificed to “Molech”, the name of a god akin to Melkart, meaning the King, presumably of the city of Jerusalem. The cremated bones of the sacrificed children were put in urns and placed in the courtyard of the topheth, where they were treated with solemn reverence. Excavations show that sometimes birds or lambs were substituted. Josiah is supposed to have stopped all such primitive and uncultured practices a hundred years before the country was colonized by the “returners” from Persia, but no such religious change of consciousness could have made any sense before the Persian conquest. The name Josiah gives away the fact that the king is a saviour—it is a cognate of Joshua. Saviours were imposed by conquerors like the Assyrians and the Persians.

Canaanite Religion

Though the Phœnicians were influenced by their powerful neighbours, Egypt and Babylonia, they stuck largely to their own gods and ritual, taking them into their colonies, where however, they sometimes had different names although they were recognizably the same gods from their characteristics.

Each locality had a deity known by the general name of Baal, whose power was limited to the place in which he was worshipped. In Roman times, there were in Africa and Spain many dedications to the “Genius municipii.” As most of the places where these inscriptions have been found had formerly been settlements of the Phœnicians, the worship of the local Baal of the Phœnicians seems to have continued under the Roman name of “Genius municipii.”

Claude F A Schaeffer’s work at Ugarit, on the northern coast, revealed a civilization of the thirteenth century BC closely similar to that in Palestine. The Ras Shamra tablets found there describe a complicated Canaanite mythology written in an alphabetic cuneiform that the Phœnicians replaced by an alphabet suitable for writing on parchment rather than clay, inventing the western alphabet.

El was a bull and sun god who lived in the fields of El in the West. His wife was Asherat Yahm, “Our Lady of the Sea”, a mother goddess, and Baal was the god of the mountains, the storm and the rain, a horned god with a thunderbolt. Baal was also called Aliyan meaning the mighty or the victorious, and in Byblos Asherat was Baalat, “Our Lady.” The temple to Baal at Ugarit and the one nearby to Dagon both consisted of an inner sanctum and an outer one opening on to a courtyard with an altar, just like the description of the Jerusalem temple. Dagon was a corn god, not a merman. The god of Sidon was Eshmun, identified by the Greeks with Asklepios (Aesculepius), the healing god whose characteristics and titles were many of those Christians later adapted to Christ. In the Ugaritic texts, Yahm is an alternative name for Yehouah, a sea god whose consort was also Asherat. Baal and Yahm are in conflict and El urges Yahm to drive Baal out. It seems the antagonism between Baal and Yehouah was an ancient feature of Canaanite religion.

The myth of Baal is that he struggles with Mot, a death god representing the heat of the summer, is defeated and dies because he is described as descending into the earth to the abode of the dead. His sister-wife, Anat, is distraught at his disappearance and, lovelorn, she seeks everywhere for him. Finding him among the dead she retrieves his body, and takes it to the heights of Saphon where she buries him with proper ritual. Then full of fury she seeks out Mot and butchers him with a sickle, winnowing the pieces and sowing them into the fields. With Mot dead, Baal returns to life and sits on Mot’s throne, life ascendant over death for a season, allowing vegetation to grow again.

The Anat and Baal fertility myth was echoed throughout the ancient Near East as Venus and Adonis, Isis and Osiris, Ishtar and Tammuz, and as Astarte and Esmmun at Sidon. The Phœnician goddess was Astarte, the Israelite Ashtoreth, known in Carthage as Tanit, though the appearance of the word might suggest Anat as the source. “Astart” appears often as part of a girl’s name but Tanit never does. Perhaps Astarte and Anat had merged their characteristics and Tanit had emerged as a compound name, which however was only ever seen as the goddess’s nickname. Astarte had acquired the characteristics of a Great Mother, so might well have taken on Anat’s too, and indeed must have in Sidon at least. Tanit was little known in the east but the goddess is often depicted as a triangle or cone shape, and such cones of the third century BC with the triangular image of Tanit, weights carrying her image and Greek styled lamps with it have been found at Beit Jibrin in southern Palestine.

The High God, El, simply means God, and the word for gods which, in the scriptures, appears most often for God is “elohim” which means “the gods!” Baal means “Lord” and Baalat means “Lady.” Adon also means “Lord” and Adoni My Lord. Milk means “king.” A stele from Byblos is dedicated to Yahawmilk. It shows a cloaked and bearded man making an offering to Hathor, the Egyptian goddess. Yahawmilk means “Yehouah is king.”

The god of Tyre was “ha Melkart” which simply means “the king of the city”, and he is also given the title Baal so that he is “Baal Melkart.” A large effigy of him was solemnly burned every year. Josephus speaks of a festival at Tyre called the “Awakening of Hercules.” Melkart was the equivalent of Hercules who immolated himself on a funeral pyre, and ascended in a cloud to heaven. From Tyre the Phœnicians, the great colonists and navigators, took Melkart over the seas to their colonies like Carthage, where it is found in Carthaginian names like Hamilcar. Carthage sent special envoys to the celebration in the mother-city every year. As far away on the coast of Spain, at Gades (Cadiz), which the Phœnicians founded, a great effigy of Melkart was fired annually, and the god would rise. Even in Tarsus of Cilicia, where Paul lived, there was a similar annual celebration.

The menorah, the seven branched candlestick, often considered an exclusively Jewish symbol, has been found in a distinctive style at Carthage. Seven lamps, containers or candlesticks are arranged along a branch about a foot long. To the front is a head rather like the goddess Hathor and, in front of that, the head of a long horned bull.

Phœnician Colonies

The mistaken belief that Solomon was a real and powerful king of the tenth century BC who traded with Tartessos—supposedly the biblical Tarshish—in Spain has misled everyone. Besides their colonies and trading posts in the Mediterranean, Strabo says the Phœnicians founded colonies outside the straits of Gibralter just after the Trojan War, but the oldest ones seem to be about the eighth century. The explanation is that the Trojan War has been wrongly dated 400 years too early, so Strabo is not necessarily exaggerating. It is simply that the Trojan War was not as ancient as modern scholars have thought. Neither Phœnicians nor Greeks had arrived in Spain at 1200 BC or even 1000 BC to suit Solomon, and Tartessos was never a mighty kingdom in the west.

The north African Phœnician city of Carthage must have been founded earlier and it was founded about 800 BC, remaining strong until ploughed with salt by the Romans after the third Punic War in l46 BC. It was not rebuilt for a hundred years.

Herodotus, in book 1 of his Histories, says that Tartessos was discovered by the Phocaeans, sailing in pentaconters, fifty oared longships that replaced the older round, square-rigged ships, with just a few oars used mainly for manoeuvring in port, used before. Late eighth century Attic and Corinthian vases show ships with twenty oars on either side, either an artistic convention for a pentaconter or a precursor of it. So, they must have been first introduced around 700 BC. The Phocaeans must then have discovered Tartessos in the first part of the seventh century.

When the Persians invaded Asia Minor, in the sixth century, the Phocaeans uprooted their whole city and emigrated to Corsica, which they must already have discovered on their way to Tartessos. Their explorers must have sailed from Corsica to Sardinia, then across to the Balearic Islands and thus discovered Spain and the Pillars of Hercules. Syracuse in Sicily was established in about 730 BC, so the Greeks were undoubtedly active in the western Mediterranean about this time.

Elsewhere, in Histories (Book IV), Herodotus tells a different story about the discovery of Tartessos. A ship captained by a mariner from Samos was blown off course by a gale while it was passing from Crete to Egypt. He found at Tartessos what he called an untouched virgin market, emphasizing that this Samian was the discoverer of the place. He brought back 60 talents of silver of which 6 talents were dedicated to the Goddess Hera according to the normal practice that good fortune or a windfall gain should merit an offering to a favoured deity of a tenth. The offering was to purchase a large Argive cauldron decorated with sphinxes and supported by massive kneeling men. This type of cauldron was popular in the seventh century but soon went out of fashion tending to confirm the date of the story.

That any ship should have been blown so far off course is impossible. It only becomes possible if the ship was already in the western Mediterranean, so it sounds like an early cover story to hide the fact that the captain already found it worthwhile trading in the west. Samos and Phocaea were both in the Ionian league and Herodotus might not have known which was really responsible for the discovery, and gave two stories to hedge his bets. Herodotus had lived a long time in Samos and had plenty of time to hear these stories and see offerings like the giant bowl dedicated to Hera, examples of which have been found in several Greek sanctuaries, in the tomb of king Midas, and even in Spain itself.

Herodotus could perhaps be expected to puff the Greeks at the expense of the Phœnicians, so which of them actually went into the Atlantic first is not so certain. Modern discoveries of Phœnician colonies in Spain favour the Phœnician claim, and certainly the Phœnicians eventually sealed the Straits of Gibraltar to prevent their rivals from passing through them.

In the middle of the seventh century BC, Majorca was under Greek influence and Ibiza was controlled by the Phœnicians, so both Greeks and Phœnicians seem to have arrived in Spain at about the same time. Phœnician graves have been excavated on Ibiza, and many excellent contemporary Greek figurines have been found on Majorca. The graves on Ibiza suggest that a Punic colony existed there, while the Greeks had only a trading post on Majorca. In the last few years an astonishing number of finds of Phœnician trading posts have been found in Portugal, and a cave shrine to Melkart has been investigated at the foot of the Rock of Gibralter.

The Phœnicians had an influence on the initial growth of Rome. They had a trading colony with a temple to Melkart in the Forum Boarum. There was another Phœnician settlement at Pyrgi in Etruria, not far off, only twenty miles north. In the first Roman treaty with Carthage, the Carthaginians were content to leave Rome in control in central Italy, presumably content that the Phœnician presence was sufficient safeguard.

The Phœnician colonies were left speaking Phœnician (Punic) when the parent country had lost it through multiple conquests. Augustine confirms that the people of north Africa still spoke Punic in his own time, though it is unlikely to have been written. In Acts the inhabitants of Malta were called “barbaroi” meaning that they did not speak a civilized tongue—Latin or Greek. It must have been Punic—Hebrew!—the same language, allowing for regional variation (dialect) as the Jewish scriptures and the Moabite stone, the scripts being the same (not modern Hebrew script which is Aramaic) but more like Greek. Evidently Paul, the Pharisee did not recognize it!


Herodotus says the Phocaeans knew the ruler of Tartessos as Arganthonios, evidently a title rather than a name. Herodotus understood him to have been a man who lived to the age of 120, and whom the Phocaeans dealt with for 80 years. Supposedly he subsidized a city wall for the Phocaeans to protect themselves against the Medes. The truth might be that the wall was paid for by the lucrative trade in silver that the Phocaeans had with Tartessos at first.

“Argant” is the Celtic word for silver presumably adopted into Latin as argent. Arganthon is a form of name often coined by Greeks especially for mountains. Strabo and Pliny confirm that the source of the Quadalquivir was a mountain called “Mons Argentarius”, or Silver Mountain. Arganthonios is therefore a name or title coined from the name of the mountain and therefore meaning “The One of the Silver Mountain.”

The early sixth century poet, Stesichoros, called Tartessos the “silver-rooted river.” Earlier writers make it a river though later ones make it into a city, except Aristotle who still calls it a river. Pausanias, following Strabo, says the river in the land of the Iberians (Spain) that gives its name to “Tartessian bronze” had two mouths between which was a city. Adolf Shulten spent years trying to find this city but failed. The Celts did not build cities, and the Greeks did not have to understand a “polis” as a built city, but as an inhabited area. That Herodotus calls its leader a king makes it sound important, but “basileus” in Greek did not imply any great power, simply meaning a ruler, so Arganthonios could have been a tribal chief. The city was probably a few villages, perhaps specializing in selling silver from the mines in the hills and so not meant to be permanent in any way and long ago washed away by floods.

Romans called the Guadalquivir the “Baetis”, but Livy says the locals called it the “Tertis.” This must be the local word rendered in Greek as Tartessos and by the Phœnicians in Hebrew as Tarshish. Strabo says that the Baetis rose in the Silver Mountain, so called because of its silver mines, and he adds that “the ancients knew the Baetis under the name Tartessos, and Gades with its neighbouring islands under the name Erytheia.”

Of the two islands in the sheltered bay at the mouth of the river, the Phœnicians chose to fortify the larger one calling it “Gadir”, meaning “Stronghold.” The Romans Latinized this to Gades, and thence it came down to us as Cadiz. The smaller island, Erytheia, was used by Greek merchant adventurers and entered Greek legend as the limit of the West where Geryn kept a herd of cattle that Hercules had to sail west to find. Later the Punic blockade kept the Greeks out, and the Carthaginians controlled trade beyond the Pillars of Hercules. Despite this Phœnician remains before the fifth century have not been found in Cadiz, though the earlier settlements could have been washed away by flood or more likely dug away when the immense sea walls of the present city were built. A late seventh century Greek bronze helmet was found during dredging in 1938, half a dozen miles only from Erytheia. The type of helmet was soon superceded so its date is certain.

The rivers Odiel and Tinto emerge at the sea at the port of Huelva, where copper is an important resource still (Riotinto Zinc), and where coastal deposits have to be dredged continuously to keep the port open to large ore carriers. Odiel is a strangely Canaanite sounding name for a Spanish river, meaning “God is My Glory.” Is this a Punic name? Bronze Celtic swords and daggers are often dredged up in this constant work and among them has been found a late sixth century bronze Greek helmet, one would imagine among the last goods traded from Greece before the gates were slammed by the Phœnicians’ fortress at Cadiz. No later Greek objects have been found but Phœnician objects become more common.

A Phœnician cemetary at Cerro de San Cristobel in Spain yielded alabaster jars with cartouches of Osorkon II (870-847 BC) and Takelothis (847-823 BC), and imitation cartouches including one of Soshenq II (847 BC). Despite the presence of these apparently ninth century vessels, the cemetary is not older than 700, judging from artefacts of Greek style. Interestingly, a Phœnician mining settlement at Riotinto is at a place called “Solomon’s Hill.” This will be the Phœnician god, Shalmi, probably the original Solomon, anyway.

It seems that while the Phœnicians in the Levant were made subjects of the Persians, and the Greeks became absorbed in wars with their Asian enemy and among themselves, the Carthaginians took the chance of cornering the markets in the west. Greek poets romanticized the Pillars of Hercules as the limit of the west because they were unable to pass beyond by the Carthaginians, not for any natural reason, and Pindar knew that Gades was further west. Not until Pytheas was another Greek to pass that way and tell us he did.

The Phœnicians in Spain

Melkart was worshipped in the city of Gades (Cadiz). In Gades there were two temples one to Cronus and one to Melkart. The Greeks identified Melkart with Hercules. The Pillars of Hercules, always considered to have been the headlands on either side of the strait of Gibraltar, were, according to Strabo, quoting the local Iberians and Moors, the twin pillars characteristic of Canaanite temples of the temple of Melkart in Cadiz. Herodotus says the temple of Melkart at Tyre had the two pillars—one of gold and one of silver. The biblical equivalents, Boaz and Jachin in Solomon’s temple, not mentioned by Herodotus, were made of bronze.

The god, Hercules Gaditanus, probably Melkart, was popular among the Romans, and his name is often found on coins. Hercules was popular in southern and eastern Spain where twenty inscriptions to him have been found. At Carteia (Rocadilo) and Epora (Montoro) not far from Gades, mention is made on the inscriptions of the “priests of Hercules.”

Silius of Italica near Seville in the first century AD described the worship at the temple of Cadiz, which he believed was still practiced in the fashion of the ancient Phœnicians. There were no cult images, the priests were barefoot and wore only a white linen, close fitting tunic and a cap on a shaven head, and they maintained an ever burning fire. Silius was mistaken because these practices clearly derive from the Persian period of Phœnician history. They are pure Zoroastrianism, but will give a good impression of what happened in the Jerusalem temple. Phœnician priesthoods were hereditary, like the Jerusalem priesthood, and they also habitually wore white, as the Jerusalem priesthood did except for special occasions when a celestially decorated garment was worn.

Necho’s Circumnavigation of Africa

Having discovered the outer ocean, conceived of as an ever flowing river surrounding the continents, Greeks and Phœnicians around 600 BC felt that it ought to be possible to sail along it to get from one side of a continent to another. The idea came to the attention of the Egyptian Pharaoh, Necho (610-595 BC), who had tried to open a canal to join the Nile to the Red Sea and apparently had failed. Perhaps he thought it would be easier to sail round Africa! Though he had no idea of the extent southwards of Africa, that is what he decided to try to do, and he commissioned Phœnician sailors to make the attempt.

The journey down the Red Sea to the mysterious places of Punt and Ophir were done regularly, and these will be the truth behind Solomon’s trips to Tarshish. Conceivably Punt could have been as far as Zanzibar but perhaps was more likely to have been in what is now Yemen and perhaps Eritrea or Somalia on the opposite coast. To get to Zanzibar would have been quite an adventure in itself but the Arabs did it and the Indians, so perhpas the Egyptians did too. If not, Ophir or Punt in Arabia was a trading station from which the Egyptians purchased rarities and novelties perhpas brought there from places further afield.

They will have thought that Africa was a triangle or segment, and the Egyptians knew the distances south to Somalia where they saw the coast turning to the west, and the Phœnicians knew the journey west to the Pillars of Hercules where the coast turned south and then, they thought east, to join up after a long but tolerable distance for such experienced mariners. Necho’s father, Psamtik I, had set up a Greek city specially for trading with the northerners called Naukratis, and it is here where Herodotus heard of the Phœnician admiral’s journey, sponsored by Necho. He records that Necho through this sponsorship established that Africa was indeed surrounded by water except where it joined Asia at the tiny isthmus that Necho could not span by canal.

The Phœnician fleet sailed south along the Red Sea to the southern ocean. The total journey took three years, perhaps the source of the Solomon interval between visits of the Tarshish ships, including two half year stoppages to plant and harvest wheat for provisions. In the third year they arrived back at the Nile Delta.

Herodotus, a much better observer than many give him credit for, observed that he did not believe one aspect of the story. This was that, for part of the trip, the westward sailing fleet had the sun on its right hand. Sailing west in the northern hemisphere means the sun is to the port side. Only south of the equator does the sun appear on the starboard. This is a detail that could not have been invented. No one could have conceived of passing over the equator because they did not perceive the world as a sphere but as a disc. The sun was the epitome of reliability and could not have been thought of as behaving so peculiarly. Here was an actual experience considered astonishing enough to remark upon but too astonishing for some to accept.

Circumnavigating Africa in this clockwise direction is fortunately assisted by favourable winds and currents, whereas it is much harder in the opposite direction. The total distance to be covered is about 16,000 miles, and it was done in about 1000 days, needing an average speed of only 16 miles a day. Even allowing for the long stopovers, the speed would only have to double and remains quite feasible for pentaconters. The first stopover would have been in South Africa and the second on the coast of Morocco.

However, it is hard to believe that the Phœnicians would have needed to do this. Most of the shores of Africa are inhabited, and Homer in the Odyssey describes Phœnicians not only as “skilled mariners” but also “crafty” and with “many a trinket.” In other words, they knew the art of bartering, and travelled expecting to do it. Surely they would have used this skill to barter provisions with the Ethiopians.

After another hundred years, according to Herodotus, the Persian king, Xerxes, tried to repeat Necho’s feat. Sataspes, a son of Teispes (Chishpish), possibly the same one as founded the Achaemenids if “son of” can be read as “a descendent of”, seduced the virgin daughter of Megabyxos, himself of noble blood. Punishment was to be crucifixion, but Sataspes’ mother pleaded that the son be allowed to prove himself, so Xerxes told him to circumnavigate Africa for his sin.

Sataspes fitted out a ship in Egypt, but we have no idea whether the crew were Phœnicians or Greeks except that he aimed to go round from the Pillars of Hercules and to find his way back to the Red Sea. Thus, a passage through the Pillars would have been needed and implies that the crew were Phœnician if they were to get Carthaginian authority to pass through the Straits of Gibralter, as they would have had to in the reign of Xerxes (486-465 BC). His story is that he sailed until his ship would not move in the water, presumably because he faced a strong adverse current, not merely windless conditions because the ship would have been a pentaconter and could have been rowed were that the problem. He reported on seeing small men dressed in palm leaves, presumably pigmies, but returned to Xerxes having failed in his task. Xerxes was not satisfied by this, saying his punishment was to complete the task, so Sataspes was crucified anyway.

Hanno of Carthage

Herodotus gives the impression that after the failure of Sataspes, the next successful attempt was by Carthaginians, but he gives us no more information. A whole book of the Histories is missing, being that very one that dealt with the Levant and Mesopotamia, and containing too many home truths for Christian editors to cope with. Perhaps it would have been here, in a discussion of the history of the Phœnicians that we might have discovered about further successful attampts, but in the extant Histories nothing more is said about them. Not until the time of Ptolemy Philadephus did any other king show enough interest in exploration to want to sponsor expeditions.

A Carthaginian failed to circumnavigate Africa just as Sataspes did, but left a record that has come down to us. His adventure, which might have been roughly contemporary with that of Sataspes, is given in a little book called the Periplous of Hanno. The tenth century copy we now have is confirmed and corrected by several references by classical authors who seemed to have been impressed by it. Aristotle in the fourth century seemed not to know of it but later Aristotelians did, and thereafter it is mentioned widely in Greek and Roman writings. Pliny notes that Hanno’s commission was to explore Africa when the power of Carthage was at its height, probably after the Persian conquest of Phœnicia but before the Punic Wars began, but he also makes him a contemporary of Himilco who lived about 500 BC.

Many Phœnician goods have been found at Morocco on the Atlantic coast, and there is no reason to doubt that Phœnician merchants traded as far south as Dakar. An island called Kerne, in the delta of the river Senegal, was the scene of the Phœnicians trading with Ethiopians (Africans) according to Hanno’s account. Hanno might have gone well beyond there—to Cameroon.

The Periplous begins with an explanation that the account of the voyage was deposited in a sanctuary to Baal (Melkart) and dedicated to the god. It would therefore probably have been seen almost exclusively by Phœnicians. Hanno set out with a large fleet of sixty pentaconters especially to found Phœnician colonies on the Atlantic coast of Africa, which suggests it is after the coast had been surveyed and found suitable for colonizing. About 450 BC seems a reasonable guess. Having done his duty and founded the colonies, he seems to have set off on an adventure further south, probably with just a few ships, not the full fleet of sixty.

The account in the Periplous gives distances in days’ sailing, a rather indistinct measure. What is more, the descriptions of the coastal visages in Greek are imprecise because Greece is imprecise in its use of certain words. Polis has already been mentioned but “oros” (a mountain) is similar, being a word that can be applied to almost any raised up ground, but tends to mean what seems dramatic rather than objectively big. Thus a steep 200 foot cliff that the ship sails by is not distinguished from a 13,000 feet high mountain in the distance. “Lakes” and “horns” are spoken of meaning apparently “lagoons” and “bays”, or estuaries, but with little indication of size.

To get an idea of speed in ancient vessels, the Greek geopgrapher, Scylax, says the 1000 miles from Carthage to the Pillars of Hercules took a week to cover in favourable conditions of continuous sailing. This speed of about 140 miles a day seems astonishingly good, however, and 80 miles a day was probably closer to a typical speed. The current through the Straits of Gibralter is all against the westerly sailing vessel because the inland seas are evaporating at a rate faster than they can be replenished by rivers flowing into them, leaving a water deficit that has to be made up by an inflow from the Atlantic. Prevailing winds would also be generally against, so time would have to be wasted waiting for good conditions or a few days of heavy rowing against the current might have been needed.

Once the fleet had got well past the Straits, and begun to turn to the southwest to follow the coast, conditions would have improved, the circulation of the ocean current being southwards along the coast. Only a few days out, Hanno founded his first colony at a place he called Thymiaterion, probably Port Lyautry or Mehedia.

Five more colonies were founded and named Carian Fort, Gytte, The Heights, Melitta and Arambys. The Punic word for “fort” can be seen in Mogador and Agadir, so these are possibly two of the bases. He also mentions a place called Soloeis, thought to have been Cape Cantin, described as a “headland covered in trees”, though there are none there now. It was common practice to set up a shrine at any new headland being rounded to bring good fortune from the gods, so Hanno set one up to Poseidon (Yahm?) to appease the sea god.

Another problem leads some scholars to view the whole story as a romance—Hanno says he sailed towards the sunrise, only for half a day, but it is not possible here at all. It is hard to imagine a Phœnician admiral getting elementary directions wrong, so one has to suspect that some of the directions might have been deliberately wrong to discourage any rivals. Alternatively, this might be the rounding of a cape further to the south, implying that the tale has been garbled in the telling. A lagoon with elephants and wild animals feeding was probably Wadi Tensift, a large river when in flood in the spring from the thawing of the Atlas snows. Then its coastal marshes flooded giving the impression of a lagoon. Again there are no large wild animals there now, particularly elephants, all doubtless victims of centuries of Roman “games”, but there probably were then.

From this point on for a thousand miles, the Sahara desert runs into the Atlantic, and there is little of anything onshore let alone anything to attract a merchant adventurer. He found a river called the Lixos populated by friendly nomads pasturing their herds. This must have been the Dra’a, which at one time had a clear mouth but which now is dispersed into irrigation channels before it reaches the sea. The admiral says the explorers spent “some considerable time” with them exploring the interior. The language of these people by the river Dra’a was obviously known to the Carthaginians, probably because they spoke Berber, a language that has little in the way of dialect and must have been well known to the Carthaginian people. Hecataeus confirms that there was a river “Lizus” (Lixos) and a “city of the Libyans” called “Melissa.”

Numbers seem to have gone awry, but on the assumption that a theta has been mistaken for a beta, the proper text can be restored and is confirmed from the classics. This means that Hanno will have sailed the 1000 miles in nine days, a feasible time with the current as it is. The river Chretes is next mentioned and seems certain to be the Senegal river. A base camp was set up on an island called Kerne apparently in the estuary of this large river. Again the river seemed to be in flood, making the season the autumn after the summer rains. The reason is that he loses the river itself, seeming to sail into a large lake, which was probably the flooded plain. Then he found the course of the river once more and found it infested with crocodiles and hippopotamuses, so he turned back to his base camp. The Senegal river is well known for having a swarming population of crocodiles.

A further twelve days of sailing south seemed to bring the explorers to Sierra Leone, which was hilly and wooded, the wood being “odorous sweet and of great variety.” The natives now, Hanno observed were negroes who fled from them and could not be understood by the Lixite interpreters. Two more days on was a great inlet of the sea, possibly the Sherbro river. The Carthaginians were amazed by the fires visible even by night, probably caused by deliberate stubble or grass burning. Mungo Park writing more than 2000 years later (Travels in the Interior District of Africa) noted the practice too. Near the end of the journey, Hanno mentions a “heaven high fire greater than the rest” and a “lofty mountain that was called called the Chariot of the Gods.” Many people can only see the huge volcano of Mount Cameroon in this description, but if it is, Hanno’s journey times musty be even more amiss, because he has not suggested he had enough time to get so far east, and has observed on no features between.

At this point they captured three hairy female apes which their translators said were called gorillas. Gorillas, though are from central Africa, so they must have been mandrills or chimpanzees. They had run out of supplies and so had to return.

West Africa

Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus, called Africanus because he conquered Africa, was the Roman general who put paid to Carthage for good in 146 BC. At this time he was friendly with Polybius, a pro-Roman Greek of Megalopolis in Arcadia. Both were together in Gades after the Roman victory and Scipio peculiarly offered Polybius a squadron of the Roman navy to check the Carthaginian colonies on the Moroccan coast. Polybius seems to have done so and tracked Hanno as far as the trading post at Kerne in the estuary of the Senegal.

Nothing more is known, though the Roman indifference to the colonies suggests that they thought they were not worth any bother. It was to be almost another 200 years before they were officially annexed to Rome and then it was done by land, the infantry footslogging around to assert Roman authority. Another Greek called Euthymenes had also checked the African coast in Hanno’s wake but other than that he too reached the river full of crocodiles, nothing more is said. A barely known explorer, Midacritus, is mentioned by Pliny as the “first to import lead from the tin land.” Britain is presumed but nothing more is known.

Solomon and Tarshish

The Jewish scriptures refer to “ships of Tarshish” several times.

For the king had at sea a navy of Tarshish with the navy of Hiram. Once in three years came the navy of Tarshish, bringing gold, and silver, ivory, and apes, and peacocks.
(1 Kgs 10:22)
Jehoshaphat made ships of Tarshish to go to Ophir for gold: but they went not, for the ships were broken at Eziongeber.
(1 Kgs 22:48;cf 2 Chr 20:35-37)


Every three years the Tarshish ships returned with ivory, peacocks and so on, items that would not have come from a Spanish town. If Tarshish means a place, it does not mean a place in Spain. It could with almost equal difficulty mean Tarsus in Cilicia, but “Tarshish ships” normally does not mean ships of the navy of Tarshish but simply describes a type of ship. The Tarshish ships that Jehoshephat made were obviously his own ships. The word also means a precious stone like a topaz, so it might simply mean that they were ships meant to be laden with wealth, or were simply the finest of ships. Tarshish appears in Esther in the bible as the name of a Persian, and Teresh, a similar Persian name, is the name of a eunuch of Xerxes.

The ships going to Tarshish went from Eziongeber at the head of the Red Sea. Bryn Mawr Professor, Rhys Carpenter (Beyond the Pillars of Hercules), writing in 1965 assures us that “excavations by Nelson Glueck leave no doubt as to its location or of its importance as a shipping station in biblical times.” Dr Carpenter is a classicist and should take no notice of anything that a biblicist like Glueck ever says. Glueck excavated in 1938-40 where he expected to find his bible vindicated, and so it was. The trouble is that it was almost entirely fancy. Besides the seaport, he found King Solomon’s mines with “flues”, “crucibles” and “slag.” All of it was false, but it still resides in Carpenter’s book as leaving “no doubt.” Glueck was still writing soft articles about it forty years after he did the archaeology, but William Dever tells us in Lutterworth’s Dictionary of the Bible:

Glueck did not live to publish the site beyond preliminary reports that left most of the data problematic.


How do these “scholars” get away with it for a full lifetime? They root around in the earth scrambling up the strata, make up whatever they like, then do not even bother to publish any of the hard data in respected academic journals, but only impressions in popular articles. Glueck’s work is manifestly not only worthless but, like most biblicist “scholarship”, is actually harmful and misleading, yet scholars like Carpenter never question the garbage biblicists present as discovery. It is time that scientific scholars moved into this field to clear up the biblicists’ mess.

It took Necho’s sailors three years to circumnaviagate Africa and this might be the allusion in the bible of the three year journey, but to return the same way would double the trip, so it had to mean a one way trip leaving from Eziongeber and arriving back at Tyre, whence the mention of Hiram. However, it must be sheer romance to think that these ships did the journey around Africa regularly. So far as we know, it was a one-off adventure, and, if this is a memory of it, it has been fictionalized to magnify the Jewish kings. None of the references to Tarshish in the scriptures can convincingly be considered a place on the Atlantic coast of Spain. It is much more plausible that Tarshish ships meant ships of Tyre—the type of ships used by the Phœnicians.

Carpenter’s own reason led him to doubt certain things about this fleet of Solomon:

  1. His people had no experience of the sea.
  2. His land grew no timber suitable for ship building.
  3. He depended on Phœnicians for his crews, for his timber and doubtless for shipmaking skills.
  4. The timber for the ships to be built on the gulf of Aqaba must have been floated down the coast from Lebanon, then transported overland to Eziongeber!


All that there was at Glueck’s Eziongeber was a modest fortified building that had been modified over the years. Dating was by pottery, the only certain dates of which were post-Assyrian, down to about the fourth century. There was no evidence of a great seaport and nothing certain that was tenth century. If Solomon or the Phœnicians had a port on the gulf of Aqaba, it was not here! Yet the bible tells us that each three years trip to Ophir brought back 420 talents of gold! Solomon’s income from this source alone was 140 talents annually, a huge sum—something like the total yearly taxation of Abarnahara under the Persians. Indeed, it makes more sense to believe that this was the taxation of Abarnahara, collected by Solomon’s temple staff and paid on to the Persian treasury.

The mention of peacocks which come from southern India and Ceylon, suggest that Ophir was meant to be India. Is it possible that the Phœnicians did trade with India? Indeed it is, and Greeks too. Eudoxus of Cyzius is said, in Strabo’s Geography Book II, to have been a Black Sea Greek who twice made the run down the Red sea to India for the Ptolemies. Note we are talking here of the third century BC not the tenth. Eudoxus was annoyed that the profits that he hoped to make on the trips were all claimed by the Egyptian kings who sponsored the trip, so decided to have a go himself, bypassing Egypt by sailing around Africa. He was shipwrecked but managed to get back to try again, but then he apparently disappeared and was never seen again.

To make the orthodox Red Sea run to India the ship departs in the late summer to catch the wind funnelling down the Red Sea toward the Southern Ocean. Once in the ocean, the ship catches the south west monsoon and the ship is carried quickly across the sea to India, which it should reach by late autumn. It might just be possible if a cargo is ready to load that the ship could return immediately by catching the north east monsoon which starts to blow just at this time. More feasibly, the ship would coast around India trading for a year before catching the north eastern winds the following year. The winds up the Red Sea would also then be favourable and the ship should be back by the spring. By counting years inclusively, as was the norm then, the ships will have been away for three years (one whole year and two part years).

Eudoxus had done this trip twice for the Ptolemies, and the Phœnicians must have done it even more regularly. If there was an outlet to the sea on the Gulf of Aqaba, the Phœnicians will have had access to it under the Persians, and probably will have administered it themselves. Rhys Carpenter does show a healthy degree of skepticism when he notes that such voyages could hardly have been made in the tenth century. He observes that the books of kings in which Solomon’s fleet appears takes biblical history to the time of the loss of Jerusalem to Nebuchadrezzer in 586 BC, and so must have been written later.

Later conditions could have been anachronistically ascribed to Solomon’s time, so that sea voyages to India [were] in themselves entirely authentic.


They were authentic but were much later in time. In other words the sources of Solomon’s incredible wealth did not exist, and neither did he. All of it was written back into the past, the method used throughout the scriptures to create a bogus history.

The story of Satapses trying to sail around Africa proves that the notion was well known in Persia at about the time the Jewish scriptures were being compiled, so the subtle allusion to the fictional Jewish king, Solomon, doing it is simply giving the mythical character an additional kudos that could not have been his—or even Hiram’s!






The Two Judahs: Yehud Benjamin and Yaudi Bar Samal





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