Friday, January 12, 2018

DId the Phoenicians even exist?

PHOENICIAN WATCH: Did the fabled Phoenicians ever actually exist? They were celebrated throughout the ancient world as fearless merchant adventurers — yet they remain as elusive as ever (Justin Marozzi, The Spectator). This is a clickbait title, but the article and the book under review make the legitimate point that no on antiquity called themselves "Phoenicians." They were Tyrians, Sidonians, Carthaginians, and so on. And their national identity would have resided in their city-state rather than in some meta-identity as a Phoenician. Still, it is an etic term that is useful to us and we're not going to stop using it. Nor is there any suggestion that we should. The book is In Search of the Phoenicians, Josephine Quinn, Princeton, pp.360, £27.95. Excerpt from the review:
Ultimately, Quinn is surely right to resist an anachronistic nationhood foisted onto this ancient geographically and culturally diverse community. But one might argue that she is as insistent on a malleable, fluid identity today as the 19th-century European nationalists were with their definition of the Phoenicians as a people. Which is no more than to observe that we are all a product of our times — from the high-spirited Herodotus to today’s careful academics.
This book just came out and I haven't mentioned it before, but I have noted a couple of essays by Professor Quinn here and here.

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