Phoenician Art And Its Meaning

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Pablo Edronkin

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The Phoenician people practically invented commerce as we know it and they made huge fortunes and prosperity by means of trade, but their quest for riches led them to forget about other aspects of the life of a nation, and thus we owe to that mistake the fact that today we barely know anything about them.

It is not a minor detail for a nation the need to take care of its own culture and its promotion, especially in this world of global markets. We have good and bad things to learn from nations such as the Punics or Phoenicians. These merchants had the ancient world in their hands thirty centuries ago: they dominated the seas and trade within the Middle East, with Africa, Europe and Asia by means of their black ships, covered with tar in order to keep them waterproof. The began by acting as intermediaries, buying some products at one place and selling them in another, but soon discovered how to cut costs by making reproductions and selling them as originals.

They never cared much about style or ornamentation: they mostly cared for profits and the quickest possible sale: pottery from Carthage, for example, is considered among scholars as dull and repetitive, and not for the Phoenicians' lack of knowledge but interest. And to sum up to the whole thing, it is interesting to note that most archaeological remains related to products actually manufactured by the Phoenicians have been found by far, in locations that correspond to other nations, but not Phoenician cities or settlements. Thus, it impossible to know for certain which objects are truly Phoenician.

They made huge amounts of money but acted very carelessly regarding their cultural development: they cared almost solely to make good copies to sell at a good profit, but it is known that their wood carvings - mostly using Cedar wood from Lebanon -, their glass objects like bottles and beads, as well as ivory carvings were quite well handcrafted. They even had farms where they used to breed African and Indian elephants. So it is a real pity that such an active culture left us almost with nothing to tell whom they were, what they used to think and what their true achievements were. This is a lesson that nobody should miss: those nations that give no importance to culture will disappear and vanish, or worse yet, be remembered only based on the description given by their enemies.

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