Rivalry Between The Phoenicians And Hellenes

While in Italy the Etruscans and, although in a lesser degree, the Latins thus stood opposed to the Hellenes, warding them off and partly treating them as enemies, this antagonism to some extent necessarily affected the rivalry which then above all dominated the commerce and navigation of the Mediterranean--the rivalry between the Phoenicians and Hellenes. This is not the place to set forth in detail how, during the regal period of Rome, these two great nations contended for supremacy on all the shores of the Mediterranean, in Greece even and Asia Minor, in Crete and Cyprus, on the African, Spanish, and Celtic coasts. This struggle did not take place directly on Italian soil, but its effects were deeply and permanently felt in Italy. The fresh energies and more universal endowments of the younger competitor had at first the advantage everywhere. Not only did the Hellenes rid themselves of the Phoenician factories in their own European and Asiatic homes, but they dislodged the Phoenicians also from Crete and Cyprus, gained a footing in Egypt and Cyrene, and possessed themselves of Lower Italy and the larger eastern half of the island of Sicily. On all hands the small trading stations of the Phoenicians gave way before the more energetic colonization of the Greeks. Selinus (126) and Agrigentum (174) were founded in western Sicily; the more remote western sea was traversed, Massilia was built on the Celtic coast (about 150), and the shores of Spain were explored, by the bold Phocaeans from Asia Minor. But about the middle of the second century the progress of Hellenic colonization was suddenly arrested; and there is no doubt that the cause of this arrest was the contemporary rapid rise of Carthage, the most powerful of the Phoenician cities in Libya--a rise manifestly due to the danger with which Hellenic aggression threatened the whole Phoenician race. If the nation which had opened up maritime commerce on the Mediterranean had been already dislodged by its younger rival from the sole command of the western half, from the possession of both lines of communication between the eastern and western basins of the Mediterranean, and from the monopoly of the carrying trade between east and west, the sovereignty at least of the seas to the west of Sardinia and Sicily might still be saved for the Orientals; and to its maintenance Carthage applied all the tenacious and circumspect energy peculiar to the Aramaean race. Phoenician colonization and Phoenician resistance assumed an entirely different character. The earlier Phoenician settlements, such as those in Sicily described by Thucydides, were mercantile factories: Carthage subdued extensive territories with numerous subjects and powerful fortresses. Hitherto the Phoenician settlements had stood isolated in opposition to the Greeks; now the powerful Libyan city centralized within its sphere the whole warlike resources of those akin to it in race with a vigour to which the history of the Greeks can produce nothing parallel.

Phoenicians And Italians In Opposition To The Hellenes

Perhaps the element in this reaction which exercised the most momentous influence in the sequel was the close relation into which the weaker Phoenicians entered with the natives of Sicily and Italy in order to resist the Hellenes. When the Cnidians and Rhodians made an attempt about 175 to establish themselves at Lilybaeum, the centre of the Phoenician settlements in Sicily, they were expelled by the natives--the Elymi of Segeste--in concert with the Phoenicians. When the Phocaeans settled about 217 at Alalia (Aleria) in Corsica opposite to Caere, there appeared for the purpose of expelling them a combined fleet of Etruscans and Carthaginians, numbering a hundred and twenty sail; and although in the naval battle that ensued--one of the earliest known in history-the fleet of the Phocaeans, which was only half as strong, claimed the victory, the Carthaginians and Etruscans gained the object which they had in view in the attack; the Phocaeans abandoned Corsica, and preferred to settle at Hyde (Velia) on the less exposed coast of Lucania. A treaty between Etruria and Carthage not only established regulations regarding the import of goods and the giving due effect to rights, but included also an alliance-in-arms (--summachia--), the serious import of which is shown by that very battle of Alalia. It is a significant indication of the position of the Caerites, that they stoned the Phocaean captives in the market at Caere and then sent an embassy to the Delphic Apollo to atone for the crime.

Latium did not join in these hostilities against the Hellenes; on the contrary, we find friendly relations subsisting in very ancient times between the Romans and the Phocaeans in Velia as well as in Massilia, and the Ardeates are even said to have founded in concert with the Zacynthians a colony in Spain, the later Saguntum. Much less, however, did the Latins range themselves on the side of the Hellenes: the neutrality of their position in this respect is attested by the close relations maintained between Caere and Rome, as well as by the traces of ancient intercourse between the Latins and the Carthaginians. It was through the medium of the Hellenes that the Cannanite race became known to the Romans, for, as we have already seen,(7) they always designated it by its Greek name; but the fact that they did not borrow from the Greeks either the name for the city of Carthage(8) or the national name of the -Afri-,(9) and the circumstance that among the earlier Romans Tyrian wares were designated by the adjective -Sarranus-,(10) which in like manner precludes the idea of Greek intervention, demonstrate--what the treaties of a later period concur in proving--the direct commercial intercourse anciently subsisting between Latium and Carthage.

The combined power of the Italians and Phoenicians actually succeeded in substantially retaining the western half of the Mediterranean in their hands.

Italian Books
Theodor Mommsen
Classic Literature Library

All Pages of This Book