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An adaption of Flaubert's Salammb˘ (1862) sets the scene (somewhere near Perth)

Salammbo The beaks of the galleys sparkled, the roof of Khamon appeared to be all in flames, while far within the temples, whose doors were opening, glimmerings of light could be seen. Large chariots, arriving from the country, rolled their wheels over the flagstones in the streets. Dromedaries, baggage-laden, came down the ramps. Money-changers raised the penthouses of their shops at crossways, white sails fluttered, a kangaroo bounded into the hills. In the wood of the Tanith might be heard the tambourines of the sacred courtesans, and the furnaces of baking the clay coffins were beginning to smoke the Mappalian point.

The Melbourne scenario draws on the fascination held by the English for the Phoenician civilisation. Here was a sea-faring and bold race like themselves.

To pass beyond the pillars of Hercules,that is, to sail out of the Straits of Gibraltar, was, in the ancient world, long considered as a most wonderful and dangerous exploit of navigation. It was late before even the Phoenicians and Carthaginians, the most skilful navigators and ship-builders of those old times, attempted it, and they were for a long time the only nations that did attempt it.

Adam Smith (1723 - 1790) The Wealth of Nations 1776


In ancient times, the Phoenicians visited the shores of Cornwall

The Carthagians also tell us that they trade with a race of men who live in a part of Libya beyond the Pillars of Hercules. On reading this country, they unload their goods, arrange them tidily along the beach, and then, returning to their boats, raise a smoke. Seeing the smoke, the natives come down to the beach, place on the ground a certain quantity of gold; and if they think it represents a fair price for their wares, they collect it and go away; if, on the other hand, it seems too little, they go back aboard and wait, and the natives come and add to the gold until they are satisfied. There is perfect honesty on both sides; the Carthagians never touch the gold until it equals in value what they have offered for sale, and the natives never touch the goods until the gold has been taken away.

Herodotus (484 - 425 B.C.E.) Histories, 449 B.C.E. , 4.196


The image of the Tyrian sailor, making his arduous journey to Cornwall, provided a focus for poetic reverie on the relationship between the English and the ancient peoples.

As some grave Tyrian trader, from the sea,
Descried at sunrise an emerging prow
Lifting the cool-haired creepers stealthily
The fringes of a southward-facing brow
Among the Aegean isles;
And saw the merry Grecian coaster come,
Freighted with amber graps, and Chian win,
Green, bursting figs, and tunnies steeped in brine -
And know the intruders on his ancient home,

The young light-hearted masters of the waves -
And snatched his rudder, and shook out more sail;
And day and night held on indignantly
O're the blue Midland waters with the gale,
Betwixt the Syrtes and soft Sicily,
To where the Atlantic raves
Outside the western straits; and unbent sails
There, where down cloudy cliffs, through sheets of foam,
Shy traffickers, the dark Iberians come;
And on the beach undid his corded bales.

Matthew Arnold (1822 - 1888) `The Scholar Gypsy' 1852


Phlebas the Phoenician, a fortnight dead,
Forgot the cry of gulls and the dead sea swell
And the profit and loss.
A current under sea
Picked his bones in whispers. As he rose and fell
He passed the stages of his age and youth
Entering the whirlpool.
Gentile or Jew
O you who turn the wheel and look to windward,
Consider Phlebas, who was once handsome and tall as you.

Thomas Stearns Eliot (1888 - 1965) `The Waste Land' 1922


THERE runs a road by Merrow Down-
A grassy track to-day it is-
An hour out of Guildford town,
Above the river Wey it is.
Here, when they heard the horse-bells ring,
The ancient Britons dressed and rode
To watch the dark Phoenicians bring
Their goods along the Western Road.
And here, or hereabouts, they met
To hold their racial talks and such-
To barter beads for Whitby jet,
And tin for gay shell torques and such.
But long and long before that time
(When bison used to roam on it)
Did Taffy and her Daddy climb
That down, and had their home on it.
Then beavers built in Broadstonebrook
And made a swamp where Bramley stands;
And bears from Shere would come and look
For Taffimai where Shamley stands.
The Wey, that Taffy called Wagai,
Was more than six times bigger then;
And all the Tribe of Tegumai
They cut a noble figure then!

Rudyard Kipling (1865 - 1936) `How the First Letter was Written' 1902


The historical question of possible actual Phoenician influence on English culture is a suitable source of conjecture for the gentleman scholar, such as Sherlock Holmes

In every direction upon these moors there were traces of some vanished race which had passed utterly away, and left as its sole record strange monuments of stone, irregular mounds which contained the burned ashes of the dead, and curious earthworks which hinted at prehistoric strife. The glamour and mystery of the place, with its sinister atmosphere of forgotten nations, appealed to the imagination of my friend, and he spent much of his time in long walks and solitary meditations upon the moor. The ancient Cornish language had also arrested his attention, and he had, I remember, conceived the idea that it was akin to the Chaldean, and had been largely derived from the Phoenician traders in tin. He had received a consignment of books upon philology and was settling down to develop this thesis when suddenly, to my sorrow and to his unfeigned delight, we found ourselves, even in that land of dreams, plunged into a problem at our very doors which was more intense, more engrossing, and infinitely more mysterious than any of those which had driven us from London.

Arthur Conan Doyle (1859 - 1930) Devil's Foot 1910


More recently, the historical re-orientation of Mark Bernal has opened the question of a potential greater influence of Phoenician culture on western thought than previously believed.

Relating Phoenicians to their own activities on the sea and in banking. Its ambiguity on the Phoenicians' Semitic nature is also telling, for it Semites were the epitome of parasitism and passivity, then the Phoenicians - who were active in sailing, manufacture and trade rather than Jewish `financing' - could not have been truly semitic.

Martin Bernal Black Athena 1987, p. 351


Finally, just as the English could fancy themselves having direct contact with the bold peoples of the ancient times, so an occasional Australian writer might conject the same course for the southern land.

From 3000BC Arabs and Egyptians bargained across a corner of the Mediterranean for frankincense and myrrh, the embalming perfumes, for copper, timber and spice, the utilities and flavour of other lands. Two thousand years later the extraordinary Phoenicians sailed the known world and beyond from their tiny strip of country on the eastern Mediterranean. They carried grain and linen cloth from Egypt, the surface tin collected by the Celts in Cornwall and the Sicily Isles. What language did they speak to the gruff, taciturn Celts? Master shipbuilders, they built for themselves and for sale to other countries. With a knowledge of navigation and astronomy that could not be laughed at today, they were rounding the Cape of Good Hope by 600BC and trading with India for things marvellous and beautiful: gold, silver, jewels, incense, ivory, apes, peacocks. It is possible, and even more than likely, that Phoenician barques were caught in westerly storms and driven as far as Australia's west coast.

Eric Rolls Sojourners 1992, p. 2

The purple people

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