Book Review: ‘In Search of the Phoenicians’ — Josephine Quinn

Book Review In Search of the Phoenicians
Updated 24 March 2018
0

Book Review: ‘In Search of the Phoenicians’ — Josephine Quinn

In this provocative, brilliant and original book, Josephine Quinn not only sheds new light on the ancient civilization of Phoenicia but actually questions its very existence. Quinn argues that while the Phoenicians as a people certainly existed, as did the Phoenician language, there is no historical evidence that they ever constituted an ethnic group or nation or that they ever claimed to.
Quinn’s interest in Phoenicia was aroused by Virgil’s epic poem, “The Aeneid” and particularly the beautiful, fiercely independent Dido, the founder and first queen of Carthage.
Later, Quinn saw an exhibition on Carthage at Paris’ Petit Palais that opened her eyes to the ancient Mediterranean beyond Greece and Rome.
Quinn went on to give three groundbreaking lectures at Tufts University, which form the basis for “In Search of the Phoenicians.” Her thought-provoking research debunks several myths and uncovers unexpected truths.
It is surprising to learn, for example, that Phoenician craftsmanship has only a weak link with Phoenicia: “It is well known, for instance, that the beautiful metal bowls with mythological and hunting scenes discovered in Italy, Cyprus, Iraq and Iran, which are regularly labeled ‘Phoenician’ in museums and textbooks, have never actually been found in ‘Phoenicia’ or in Levantine settlements abroad,” Quinn writes.
Quinn’s multi-level research cannot fail to impress, but I found myself wishing for the discovery of at least one piece of evidence of Phoenicia’s existence. Alas, one learns that the Near Eastern powers which ruled the Levantine coast from the tenth to the fourth centuries BCE never treated the Phoenicians as a nation. In fact, the Persians who governed the region from 539 BCE to 332 BCE considered Tyre Sidon, Byblos and Beirut as relatively autonomous.
This political approach reflected the situation on the ground. Indeed, Phoenicia’s most famous cities — Tripoli, Tyre, Sidon, Byblos and Beirut — never succeeded in forming a political entity. This inherent separatist fiber has continued through the centuries and still runs deep in the social fabric of today’s modern Lebanon.
The history of the ancient Mediterranean is being rewritten. Civilization itself is under scrutiny. Who is next?


What We Are Reading Today: Varoufakis on how Marx predicted our present crisis

Updated 23 April 2018
0

What We Are Reading Today: Varoufakis on how Marx predicted our present crisis

‘Marx predicted our present crisis and points the way out,’  writes Yanis Varoufakis in The Guardian’s Long Read Series.

Most people think communism has been consigned to the dustbin of history, but Yanis Varoufakis, former Greek finance minister, goes back to the source and examines “The Communist Manifesto,” written by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, and published in 1848.

Varoufakis said the book remains unsurpassed as a work of literature that foresaw the predatory global capitalism of the 21st century.

“Today, a similar dilemma faces young people: conform to an established order that is crumbling and incapable of reproducing itself, or oppose it, at considerable personal cost, in search of new ways of working, playing and living together?” Varoufakis wrote. “Even though communist parties have disappeared almost entirely from the political scene, the spirit of communism driving the manifesto is proving hard to silence.”

Marx and Engels forecast that a powerful minority would prove “unfit to rule” over polarized societies.

“The manifesto gives its 21st-century reader an opportunity to see through this mess and to recognize what needs to be done so that the majority can escape from discontent into new social arrangements,” Varoufakis said.