MoboReader> History > History of Phoenicia


History of Phoenicia By George Rawlinson Characters: 36672

Updated: 2017-11-28 00:07

Phoenician textile fabrics, embroidered or dyed-Account of

the chief Phoenician dye-Mollusks from which the purple was

obtained-Mode of obtaining them-Mode of procuring the dye

from them-Process of dyeing-Variety of the tints-

Manufacture of glass-Story of its invention-Three kinds of

Phoenician glass-1. Transparent colourless glass-2. Semi-

transparent coloured glass-3. Opaque glass, much like

porcelain-Description of objects in glass-Methods pursued

in the manufacture-Phoenician ceramic art-Earliest

specimens-Vases with geometrical designs-Incised

patterning-Later efforts-Use of enamel-Great amphora of

Curium-Phoenician ceramic art disappointing-Ordinary

metallurgy-Implements-Weapons-Toilet articles-Lamp-

stands and tripods-Works in iron and lead.

Phoenicia was celebrated from a remote antiquity for the manufacture of textile fabrics. The materials which she employed for them were wool, linen yarn, perhaps cotton, and, in the later period of her commercial prosperity, silk. The "white wool" of Syria was supplied to her in abundance by the merchants of Damascus,81 and wool of lambs, rams, and goats seems also to have been furnished by the more distant parts of Arabia.82 Linen yarn may have been imported from Egypt, where it was largely manufactured, and was of excellent quality;83 while raw silk is said to have been "brought to Tyre and Berytus by the Persian merchants, and there both dyed and woven into cloaks."84 The price of silk was very high, and it was customary in Phoenicia to intermix the precious material either with linen or with cotton;85 as is still done to a certain extent in modern times. It is perhaps doubtful whether, so far as the mere fabric of stuffs was concerned, the products of the Phoenician looms were at all superior to those which Egypt and Babylonia furnished, much less to those which came from India, and passed under the name of Sindones. Two things gave to the Phoenician stuffs that high reputation which caused them to be more sought for than any others; and these were, first, the brilliancy and beauty of their colours, and, secondly, the delicacy with which they were in many instances embroidered. We have not much trace of Phoenician embroidery on the representations of dresses that have come down to us; but the testimony of the ancients is unimpeachable,86 and we may regard it as certain that the art of embroidery, known at a very early date to the Hebrews,87 was cultivated with great success by their Phoenician neighbours, and under their auspices reached a high point of perfection. The character of the decoration is to be gathered from the extant statues and bas-reliefs, from the representations on pater?, on cups, dishes, and gems. There was a tendency to divide the surface to be ornamented into parallel stripes or bands, and to repeat along the line a single object, or two alternately. Rosettes, monsters of various kinds, winged globes with ur?i, scarabs, sacred trees, and garlands or blossoms of the lotus were the ordinary "motives."88 Occasionally human figures might be introduced, and animal forms even more frequently; but a stiff conventionalism prevailed, the same figures were constantly repeated, and the figures themselves had in few cases much beauty.

The brilliancy and beauty of the Phoenician coloured stuffs resulted from the excellency of their dyes. Here we touch a second branch of their industrial skill, for the principal dyes used were originally invented and continuously fabricated by the Phoenicians themselves, not imported from any foreign country. Nature had placed along the Phoenician coast, or at any rate along a great portion of it, an inexhaustible supply of certain shell-fish, or molluscs, which contained as a part of their internal economy a colouring fluid possessing remarkable, and indeed unique, qualities. Some account has been already given of the species which are thought to have been anciently most esteemed. They belong, mainly, to the two allied families of the Murex and the Buccinum or Purpura. Eight species of the former, and six of the latter, having their habitat in the Mediterranean, have been distinguished by some naturalists;89 but two of the former only, and one of the latter, appear to have attracted the attention of the Phoenicians. The Murex brandaris is now thought to have borne away the palm from all the others; it is extremely common upon the coast; and enormous heaps of the shells are found, especially in the vicinity of Tyre, crushed and broken-the débris, as it would seem, cast away by the manufacturers of old.810 The Murex trunculus, according to some, is just as abundant, in a crushed state, in the vicinity of Sidon, great banks of it existing, which are a hundred yards long and several yards thick.811 It is a more spinous shell than the M. brandaris, having numerous projecting points, and a generally rough and rugged appearance. The Purpura employed seems to have been the P. lapillus, a mollusc not confined to the Mediterranean, but one which frequents also our own shores, and was once turned to some account in Ireland.812 The varieties of the P. lapillus differ considerably. Some are nearly white, some greyish, others buff striped with brown. Some, again, are smooth, others nearly as rough as the Murex trunculus. The Helix ianthina, which is included by certain writers among the molluscs employed for dyeing purposes by the Phoenicians,813 is a shell of a completely different character, smooth and delicate, much resembling that of an ordinary land snail, and small compared to the others. It is not certain, however, that the helix, though abounding in the Eastern Mediterranean,814 ever attracted the notice of the Phoenicians.

The molluscs needed by the Phoenician dyers were not obtained without some difficulty. As the Mediterranean has no tides, it does not uncover its shores at low water like the ocean, or invite man to rifle them. The coveted shell-fish, in most instances, preferred tolerably deep water; and to procure them in any quantity it was necessary that they should be fished up from a depth of some fathoms. The mode in which they were captured was the following. A long rope was let down into the sea, with baskets of reeds or rushes attached to it at intervals, constructed like our lobster-traps or eel-baskets, with an opening that yielded easily to pressure from the outside, but resisted pressure from the inside, and made escape, when once the trap was entered, impossible. The baskets were baited with mussels or frogs, both of which had great attractions for the Purpur?, and were seized and devoured with avidity. At the upper end of the rope was attached to a large piece of cork, which, even when the baskets were full, could not be drawn under water. It was usual to set the traps in the evening, and after waiting a night, or sometimes a night and a day, to draw them up to the surface, when they were generally found to be full of the coveted shell-fish.815

There were two ways in which the dye was obtained from the molluscs. Sometimes a hole was broken in the side of the shell, and the fish taken out entire.816 The sac containing the colouring matter, which is a sort of vein, beginning at the head of the animal, and following the tortuous line of the body as it twists through the spiral shell,817 was then carefully extracted, either while the mollusc was still alive, or as soon as possible after death, as otherwise the quality of the dye was impaired. This plan was pursued more especially with the larger species of Purpur?, where the sac attained a certain size; while with a smaller kinds a different method was followed. In their case no attempt was made to extract the sac, but the entire fish was crushed, together with its shell, and after salt had been added in the proportion of twenty ounces to a hundred pounds of the pulp, three days were allowed for maceration; heat was then applied, and when, by repeated skimming, the coarse particles had been removed, the dye was left in a liquid state at the bottom. It was necessary that the vessel in which this final process took place should be of lead, and not of bronze or iron, since those metals gave the dye a disagreeable tinge.818

The colouring matter contained in the sac of the Purpur? is a liquid of a creamy consistency, and of a yellowish-white hue. On extraction, it is at first decidedly yellow; then after a little time it becomes green; and, finally, it settles into some shade of violet or purple. Chemical analysis has shown that in the case of the Murex trunculus the liquid is composed of two elementary substances, one being cyanic acid, which is of a blue or azure colour, and the other being purpuric oxide, which is a bright red.819 In the case of the Murex brandaris one element only has been found: it is an oxide, which has received the name of oxyde tyrien.820 No naturalist has as yet discovered what purpose the liquid serves in the economy, or in the preservation, of the animal; it is certainly not exuded, as sepia is by the cuttle-fish, to cloud the water in the neighbourhood, and enable the creature to conceal itself.

Concerning the Phoenician process of dyeing, the accounts which have come down to us are at once confused and incomplete. Nothing is said with respect to their employment of mordants, either acid or alkali, and yet it is almost certain that they must have used one or the other, or both, to fix the colours, and render them permanent. The gamins of Tyre employ to this day mordants of each sort;821 and an alkali derived from seaweed is mentioned by Pliny as made use of for fixing some dyes,822 though he does not distinctly tell us that it was known to the Phoenicians or employed in fixing the purple. What we chiefly learn from this writer as to the dyeing process is823-first, that sometimes the liquid derived from the murex only, sometimes that of the purpura or buccinum only, was applied to the material which it was wished to colour, while the most approved hue was produced by an application of both dyes separately. Secondly, we are told that the material, whatever it might be, was steeped in the dye for a certain number of hours, then withdrawn for a while, and afterwards returned to the vat and steeped a second time. The best Tyrian cloths were called Dibapha, i.e. "twice dipped;" and for the production of the true "Tyrian purple" it was necessary that the dye obtained from the Buccinum should be used after that from the Murex had been applied. The Murex alone gave a dye that was firm, and reckoned moderately good; but the Buccinum alone was weak, and easily washed out.

The actual tints produced from the shell-fish appear to have ranged from blue, through violet and purple, to crimson and rose.824 Scarlet could not be obtained, but was yielded by the cochineal insect. Even for the brighter sorts of crimson some admixture of the cochineal dye was necessary.825 The violet tint was not generally greatly prized, though there was a period in the reign of Augustus when it was the fashion;826 redder hues were commonly preferred; and the choicest of all is described as "a rich, dark purple, the colour of coagulated blood."827 A deep crimson was also in request, and seems frequently to be intended when the term purple ({porphureos}, purpureus) is used.

A third industry greatly affected by the Phoenicians was the manufacture of glass. According to Pliny,828 the first discovery of the substance was made upon the Phoenician coast by a body of sailors whom he no doubt regarded as Phoenicians. These persons had brought a cargo of natrum, which is the subcarbonate of soda, to the Syrian coast in the vicinity of Acre, and had gone ashore at the mouth of the river Belus to cook their dinner. Having lighted a fire upon the sand, they looked about for some stones to prop up their cooking utensils, but finding none, or none convenient for the purpose, they bethought themselves of utilising for the occasion some of the blocks of natrum with which their ship was laden. These were placed close to the fire, and the heat was sufficient to melt a portion of one of them, which, mixing with the siliceous sand at its base, produced a stream of glass. There is nothing impossible or even very improbable in this story; but we may question whether the scene of it is rightly placed. Glass was manufactured in Egypt many centuries before the probable date of the Phoenician occupation of the Mediterranean coast; and, if the honour of the invention is to be assigned to a particular people, the Egyptians would seem to have the best claim to it. The process of glass-blowing is represented in tombs at Beni Hassan of very great antiquity,829 and a specimen of Egyptian glass is in existence bearing the name of a Usurtasen, a king of the twelfth dynasty.830 Natrum, moreover, was an Egyptian product, well known from a remote date, being the chief ingredient used in the various processes of embalming.831 Phoenicia has no natrum, and not even any vegetable alkali readily procurable in considerable quantity. There may have been an accidental discovery of glass in Phoenicia, but priority of discovery belonged almost certainly to Egypt; and it is, upon the whole, most probable that Phoenicia derived from Egypt her knowledge both of the substance itself and of the method of making it.

Still, there can be no doubt that the manufacture was one on which the Phoenicians eagerly seized, and which they carried out on a large scale and very successfully. Sidon, according to the ancients,832 was the chief seat of the industry; but the best sand is found near Tyre, and both Tyre and Sarepta also seem to have been among the places where glassworks were early established. At Sarepta extensive banks of débris have been found, consisting of broken glass of many colours, the waste beyond all doubt of a great glass manufactory;833 at Tyre, the traces of the industry are less extensive,834 but on the other hand we have historical evidence that it continued to be practised there into the middle ages.835

The glass produced by the Phoenicians was of three kinds: first, transparent colourless glass, which the eye could see through; secondly, translucent coloured glass, through which light could pass, though the eye could not penetrate it so as to distinguish objects; and, thirdly, opaque glass, scarcely distinguishable from porcelain. Transparent glass was employed for mirrors, round plates being cast, which made very tolerable looking-glasses,836 when covered at the back by thin sheets of metal, and also for common objects, such as vases, urns, bottles, and jugs, which have been yielded in abundance by tombs of a somewhat late date in Cyprus.837 No great store, however, seems to have been set upon transparency, in which the Oriental eye saw no beauty; and the objects which modern research has recovered under this head at Tyre, in Cyprus, and elsewhere, seem the work of comparatively rude artists, and have little ?sthetic merit. The shapes, however, are not inelegant.

The most beautiful of the objects in glass produced by the Phoenicians are the translucent or semi-transparent vessels of different kinds, most of them variously coloured, which have been found in Cyprus, at Camirus in Rhodes, and on the Syrian coast, near Beyrout and elsewhere.838 These comprise small flasks or bottles, from three to six inches long, probably intended to contain perfumes; small jugs (oenocho?) from three inches in height to five inches; vases of about the same size; amphor? pointed at the lower extremity; and other varieties. They are coloured, generally, either in longitudinal or in horizontal stripes and bands; but the bands often deviate from the straight line into zig-zags, which are always more or less irregular, like the zig-zags of the Norman builders, while sometimes they are deflected into crescents, or other curves, as particularly one resembling a willow-leaf. The colours are not very vivid, but are pleasing and well-contrasted; they are chiefly five-white, blue, yellow, green, and a purplish brown. Red scarcely appears, except in a very pale, pinkish form; and even in this form it is uncommon. Blue, on the other hand, is greatly affected, being sometimes used in the patterns, often taken for the ground, and occasionally, in two tints, forming both groundwork and ornamentation.839 It is not often that more than three hues are found on the same vessel, and sometimes the hues employed are only two. There are instances, however, and very admirable instances, of the employment, on a single vessel, of four hues.840

The colours were obtained, commonly, at any rate, from metallic oxides. The ordinary blue employed is cobalt, though it is suspected that there was an occasional use of copper. Copper certainly furnished the greens, while manganese gave the brown, which shades off into purple and into black. The beautiful milky white which forms the ground tint of some vases is believed to have been derived from the oxide of tin, or else from phosphate of chalk. It is said that the colouring matter of the patterns does not extend through the entire thickness of the glass, but lies only on the outer surface, being a later addition to the vessels as first made.

Translucent coloured glass was also largely produced by the Phoenicians for beads and other ornaments, and also for the imitation of gems. The huge emerald of which Herodotus speaks,841 as "shining with great brilliancy at night" in the temple of Melkarth at Tyre, was probably a glass cylinder, into which a lamb was introduced by the priests. In Phoenician times the pretended stone is quite as often a glass paste as a real gem, and the case is the same with the scarabs so largely used as seals. In Phoenician necklaces, glass beads alternate frequently with real agates, onyxes, and crystals; while sometimes glass in various shapes is the only material employed. A necklace found at Tharros in Sardinia, and now in the collection of the Louvre, which is believed to be of Phoenician manufacture, is composed of above forty beads, two cylinders, four pendants representing heads of bulls, and one representing the face of a man, all of glass.842 Another, found by M. Renan in Phoenici

a itself, is made up of glass beads imitating pearls, intermixed with beads of cornaline and agate.843

Another class of glass ornaments consists of small flat plaques or plates, pierced with a number of fine holes, which appear to have been sewn upon garments. These are usually patterned, sometimes with spirals, sometimes with rosettes, occasionally, though rarely, with figures. Messrs. Perrot and Chipiez represent one in their great work upon ancient art,844 where almost the entire field is occupied by a winged griffin, standing upright on its two hind legs, and crowned with a striped cap, or turban.

Phoenician opaque glass is comparatively rare, and possesses but little beauty. It was rendered opaque in various ways. Messrs. Perrot and Chipiez found that in a statue of Serapis, which they analysed, the glass was mixed with bronze in the proportions of ten to three. An opaque material of a handsome red colour was thus produced, which was heavy and exceedingly hard.845

The methods pursued by the Phoenician glass-manufacturers were probably much the same as those which are still employed for the production of similar objects, and involved the use of similar implements, as the blowpipe, the lathe, and the graver. The materials having been procured, they were fused together in a crucible or melting-pot by the heat of a powerful furnace. A blowpipe was then introduced into the viscous mass, a portion of which readily attached itself to the implement, and so much glass was withdrawn as was deemed sufficient for the object which it was designed to manufacture. The blower then set to work, and blew hard into the pipe until the glass at its lower extremity began to expand and gradually took a pear-shaped form, the material partially coolling and hardening, but still retaining a good deal of softness and pliability. While in this condition, it was detached from the pipe, and modelled with pincers or with the hand into the shape required, after which it was polished, and perhaps sometimes cut by means of the turning-lathe. Sand and emery were the chief polishers, and by their help a surface was produced, with which little fault could be found, being smooth, uniform, and brilliant. Thus the vessel was formed, and if no further ornament was required, the manufacture was complete-a jug, vase, alabastron, amphora, was produced, either transparent or of a single uniform tint, which might be white, blue, brown, green, &c., according to the particular oxide which had been thrown, with the silica and alkali, into the crucible. Generally, however, the manufacturer was not content with so simple a product: he aimed not merely at utility, but at beauty, and proceeded to adorn the work of his hands-whatever it was-with patterns which were for the most part in good taste and highly pleasing. These patterns he first scratched on the outer surface of the vessel with a graving tool; then, when he had made his depressions deep enough, he took threads of coloured glass, and having filled up with the threads the depressions which he had made, he subjected the vessel once more to such a heat that the threads were fused, and attached themselves to the ground on which they had been laid. In melting they would generally more than fill the cavities, overflowing them, and protruding from them, whence it was for the most part necessary to repeat the polishing process, and to bring by means of abrasion the entire surface once more into uniformity. There are cases where this has been incompletely done and where the patterns project; there are others where the threads have never thoroughly melted into the ground, and where in the course of time they have partially detached themselves from it; but in general the fusion and subsequent polishing have been all that could be wished, and the patterns are perfectly level with the ground and seem one with it.846

The running of liquid glass into moulds, so common nowadays, does not seem to have been practised by the Phoenicians, perhaps because their furnaces were not sufficiently hot to produce complete liquefaction. But-if this was so-the pressure of the viscous material into moulds cannot have been unknown, since we have evidence of the existence of moulds,847 and there are cases where several specimens of an object have evidently issued from a single matrix.848 Beads, cylinders, pendants, scarabs, amulets, were probably, all of them, made in this way, sometimes in translucent, sometimes in semi-opaque glass, as perhaps were also the plaques which have been already described.

The ceramic art of the Phoenicians is not very remarkable. Phoenicia Proper is deficient in clay of a superior character, and it was probably a very ordinary and coarse kind of pottery that the Phoenician merchants of early times exported regularly in their trading voyages, both inside and outside the Mediterranean. We hear of their carrying this cheap earthenware northwards to the Cassiterides or Scilly Islands,849 and southwards to the isle of Cerné, which is probably Arguin, on the West African coast;850 nor can we doubt that they supplied it also to the uncivilised races of the Mediterranean-the Illyrians, Ligurians, Sicels, Sards, Corsicans, Spaniards, Libyans. But the fragile nature of the material, and its slight value, have caused its entire disappearance in the course of centuries, unless in the shape of small fragments; nor are these fragments readily distinguishable from those whose origin is different. Phoenicia Proper has furnished no earthen vessels, either whole or in pieces, that can be assigned to a time earlier than the Greco-Roman period,851 nor have any such vessels been found hitherto on Phoenician sites either in Sardinia, or in Corsica, or in Spain, or Africa, or Sicily, or Malta, or Gozzo. The only places that have hitherto furnished earthen vases or other vessels presumably Phoenician are Jerusalem, Camirus in Rhodes, and Cyprus; and it is from the specimens found at these sites that we must form our estimate of the Phoenician pottery.

The earliest specimens are of a moderately good clay, unglazed. They are regular in shape, being made by the help of a wheel, and for the most part not inelegant, though they cannot be said to possess any remarkable beauty. Many are without ornament of any kind, being apparently mere jars, used for the storing away of oil or wine; they have sometimes painted or scratched upon them, in Phoenician characters, the name of the maker or owner. A few rise somewhat above the ordinary level, having handles of some elegance, and being painted with designs and patterns, generally of a geometrical character. A vase about six inches high, found at Jerusalem, has, between horizontal bands, a series of geometric patterns, squares, octagons, lozenges, triangles, pleasingly arranged, and painted in brown upon a ground which is of a dull grey. At the top are two rude handles, between which runs a line of zig-zag, while at the bottom is a sort of stand or base. The shape is heavy and inelegant.852

Another vase of a similar character to this, but superior in many respects, was found by General Di Cesnola at Dali (Idalium), and is figured in his "Cyprus."853 This vase has the shape of an urn, and is ornamented with horizontal bands, except towards the middle, where it has its greatest diameter, and exhibits a series of geometric designs. In the centre is a lozenge, divided into four smaller lozenges by a St. Andrew's cross; other compartments are triangular, and are filled with a chequer of black and white, resembling the squares of a chessboard. Beyond, on either side, are vertical bands, diversified with a lozenge ornament. Two hands succeed, of a shape that is thought to have "a certain elegance."854 There is a rim, which might receive a cover, at top, and at bottom a short pedestal. The height of the vase is about thirteen inches.

In many of the Cyprian vases having a geometric decoration, the figures are not painted on the surface but impressed or incised. Messrs. Perrot and Chipiez regard this form of ornamentation as the earliest; but the beauty and finish of several vases on which it occurs is against the supposition. There is scarcely to be found, even in the range of Greek art, a more elegant form than that of the jug in black clay brought by General Di Cesnola from Alambra and figured both in his "Cyprus"855 and in the "Histoire de l'Art."856 Yet its ornamentation is incised. If, then, incised patterning preceded painted in Phoenicia, at any rate it held its ground after painting was introduced, and continued in vogue even to the time when Greek taste had largely influenced Phoenician art of every description.

The finest Phoenician efforts in ceramic art resemble either the best Egyptian or the best Greek. As the art advanced, the advantage of a rich glaze was appreciated, and specimens which seem to be Phoenician have all the delicacy and beauty of the best Egyptian fa?ence. A cup found at Idalium, plain on the outside, is covered internally with a green enamel, on which are patterns and designs in black.857 In a medallion at the bottom of the cup is the representation of a marshy tract overgrown with the papyrus plant, whereof we see both the leaves and blossoms, while among them, rushing at full speed, is the form of a wild boar. The rest of the ornamentation consists chiefly of concentric circles; but between two of the circles is left a tolerably broad ring, which has a pattern consisting of a series of broadish leaves pointing towards the cup's centre. Nothing can be more delicate, or in better taste, than the entire design.

The most splendid of all the Cyprian vases was found at Curium, and has been already represented in this volume. It is an amphora of large dimensions, ornamented in part with geometrical designs, in part with compartments, in which are represented horses and birds. The form, the designs, and the general physiognomy of the amphora are considered to be in close accordance with Athenian vases of the most antique school. The resemblance is so great that some have supposed the vase to have been an importation from Attica into Cyprus;858 but such conjectures are always hazardous; and the principal motives of the design are so frequent on the Cyprian vases, that the native origin of the vessel is at least possible, and the judgment of some of the best critics seems to incline in this direction.

Still, on the whole, the Cyprian ceramic art is somewhat disappointing. What is original in it is either grotesque, as the vases in the shape of animals,859 or those crowned by human heads,860 or those again which have for spout a female figure pouring liquid out of a jug.861 What is superior has the appearance of having been borrowed. Egyptian, Assyrian, and Greek art, each in turn, furnished shapes, designs, and patterns to the Phoenician potters, who readily adopted from any and every quarter the forms and decorations which hit their fancy. Their fancy was, predominantly, for the bizarre and the extravagant. Vases in the shape of helmets, in the shape of barrels, in the shape of human heads,862 have little fitness, and in the Cyprian specimens have little beauty; the mixture of Assyrian with Egyptian forms is incongruous; the birds and beasts represented are drawn with studied quaintness, a quaintness recalling the art of China and Japan. If there is elegance in some of the forms, it is seldom a very pronounced elegance; and, where the taste is best, the suspicion continually arises that a foreign model has been imitated. Moreover, from first to last the art makes little progress. There seems to have been an arrest of development.863 The early steps are taken, but at a certain point stagnation sets in; there is no further attempt to improve or advance; the artists are content to repeat themselves, and reproduce the patterns of the past. Perhaps there was no demand for ceramic art of a higher order. At any rate, progress ceases, and while Greece was rising to her grandest efforts, Cyprus, and Phoenicia generally, were content to remain stationary.

Besides their ornamental metallurgy, which has been treated of in a former chapter, the Phoenicians largely employed several metals, especially bronze and copper, in the fabrication of vessels for ordinary use, of implements, arms, toilet articles, furniture, &c. The vessels include pater?, bowls, jugs, amphor?, and cups;864 the implements, hatchets, adzes, knives, and sickles;865 the arms, spearheads, arrowheads, daggers, battle-axes, helmets, and shields;866 the toilet articles, mirrors, hand-bells, buckles, candlesticks, &c.;867 the furniture, tall candelabra, tripods, and thrones.868 The bronze is of an excellent quality, having generally about nine parts of copper to one of tin; and there is reason to believe that by the skilful tempering of the Phoenician metallurgists, it attained a hardness which was not often given it by others. The Cyprian shields were remarkable. They were of a round shape, slightly convex, and instead of the ordinary boss, had a long projecting cone in the centre. An actual shield, with the cone perfect, was found by General Di Cesnola at Amathus,869 and a projection of the same kind is seen in several of the Sardinian bronze and terra-cotta statuettes.870 Shields were sometimes elaborately embossed, in part with patterning, in part with animal and vegetable forms.871 Helmets were also embossed with care, and sometimes inscribed with the name of the maker or the owner.872

Some remains of swords, probably Phoenician, have been found in Sardinia. They vary from two feet seven inches to four feet two inches in length.873 The blade is commonly straight, and very thick in the centre, but tapers off on both sides to a sharp edge. The point is blunt, so that the intention cannot have been to use the weapon both for cutting and thrusting, but only for the former. It would scarcely make such a clean cut as a modern broadsword, but would no doubt be equally effectual for killing or disabling. Another weapon, found in Sardinia, and sometimes called a sword, is more properly a knife or dagger. In length it does not exceed seven or eight inches, and of this length more than a third is occupied by the handle.874 Below the handle the blade broadens for about an inch or an inch and a half; after this it contracts, and tapers gently to a sharp point. Such a weapon appears sometimes in the hand of a statuette.875

The bronze articles of the toilet recovered by recent researches in Cyprus and elsewhere are remarkable. The handle of a mirror found in Cyprus, and now in the Museum of New York, possesses considerable merit. It consists mainly of a female figure, naked, and standing upon a frog.876 In her hands she holds a pair of cymbals, which she is in the act of striking together. A ribbon, passed over her left shoulder, is carried through a ring, from which hangs a seal. On her arms and shoulders appear to have stood two lions, which formed side supports to the mirror that was attached to the figure's head. If the face of the cymbal-player cannot boast of much beauty, and her figure is thought to "lack distinction," still it is granted that the tout ensemble of the work was not without originality, and may have possessed a certain amount of elegance.877 The frog is particularly well modelled.

Some candlesticks found in the Treasury of Curium,878 and a tripod from the same place, seem to deserve a short notice. The candlesticks stand upon a sort of short pillar as a base, above which is the blossom of a flower inverted, a favourite Phoenician ornament.879 From this rises the lamp-stand, composed of three leaves, which curl outwards, and support between them a ring into which the bottom of the lamp fitted. The tripod880 is more elaborate. The legs, which are fluted, bulge considerably at the top, after which they bend inwards, and form a curve like one half of a Cupid's bow. To retain them in place, they are joined together by a sort of cross-bar, about half-way in their length; while, to keep them steady, they are made to rest on large flat feet. The circular hoop which they support is of some width, and is ornamented along its entire course with a zig-zag. From the hoop depend, half-way in the spaces between the legs, three rings, from each of which there hangs a curious pendant.

Besides copper and bronze, the Phoenicians seem to have worked in lead and iron, but only to a small extent. Iron ore might have been obtained in some parts of their own country, but appears to have been principally derived from abroad, especially from Spain.881 It was worked up chiefly, so far as we know, into arms offensive and defensive. The sword of Alexander, which he received as a gift from the king of Citium,882 was doubtless in this metal, which is the material of a sword found at Amathus, and of numerous arrowheads.883 We are also told that Cyprus furnished the iron breast-plates worn by Demetrius Poliorcetes;884 and in pre-Homeric times it was a Phoenician-Cinyras-who gave to Agamemnon his breast-plate of steel, gold, and tin.885 That more remains of iron arms and implements have not been found on Phoenician sites is probably owing to the rapid oxydisation of the metal, which consequently decays and disappears. The Hiram who was sent to assist Solomon in building and furnishing the Temple of Jerusalem was, we must remember, "skilful to work," not only "in gold, and silver, and bronze," but also "in iron."886

Lead was largely furnished to the Phoenicians by the Scilly Islands,887 and by Spain.888 It has not been found in any great quantity on Phoenician sites, but still appears occasionally. Sometimes it is a solder uniting stone with bronze;889 sometimes it exists in thin sheets, which may have been worn as ornaments.890 In Phoenicia Proper it has been chiefly met with in the shape of coffins,891 which are apparently of a somewhat late date. They are formed of several sheets placed one over the other and then soldered together. There is generally on the lid and sides of the coffin an external ornamentation in a low relief, wherein the myth of Psyché is said commonly to play a part; but the execution is mediocre, and the designs themselves have little merit.

Free to Download MoboReader
(← Keyboard shortcut) Previous Contents (Keyboard shortcut →)
 Novels To Read Online Free

Scan the QR code to download MoboReader app.

Back to Top