Quando Amélia Muge e eu começámos a trocar e pesquisar material relacionado com as nossas tradições, a lusitana-portuguesa e a helénica-grega, muitas pessoas ergueram as sobrancelhas com ironia e descrença:
“Ah, eles são loucos”, pensaram, outros até disseram: “Portugal e Grécia são tão distantes, é impossível encontrar uma base comum”…
Imaginem o que dirão estas pessoas de “sobrancelha erguida” agora que estamos falando num triângulo, não o das… Bermudas, mas de Portugal, Brasil e Grécia. Bom, Portugal e Brasil, tudo bem, a relação é evidente: antiga colónia e metrópole. Mas… a Grécia?!!
Flamenco (de Hyatt Moore): uma arte ligando a Iberia e a India
Posso dizer que os resultados de nossa colaboração até a nós surpreenderam! Devo acrescentar que mesmo a alguém que como eu tem vindo a pesquisar neste campo há muitos anos, concluindo que civilização e cultura são o
resultado do dar e receber, de trocas. Também provei nos meus programas de rádio que lugares tão distantes como Índia e Ibéria por exemplo têm estado interconectados faz milhares de anos, desde os tempos antigos… Bem, quando nós, gregos, dizemos “antigos” significa AEC (antes da era comum) ou AC (antes de Cristo), se preferirem.
Todas essas ideias foram ainda mais reforçadas quando Amélia e eu começamos a trabalhar no Periplus. Claro que mesmo agora ainda há alguns “pontos obscuros”; questões que permanecem sem resposta. É por exemplo uma questão intrigante para mim: como pode a Amélia, uma portuguesa nascida em Moçambique, compor em estilo antigo? Isto porque todos os três temas gregos antigos que temos no Periplus(oEpitáfio de Seikilos, o Primeiro Hino Délfico dedicado a Apolo e o Hino a Némesis de Mesomedes) foram incluídos por causa das composições dela, que me lembraram as canções gregas antigas supra mencionadas. É muito estranho.
Pyxis (Píxis): uma pequena caixa cilíndrica andalusa, de marfim, para cosméticos ou joalharia (séc. X)
Mas fora esses “pontos obscuros”, que sempre nos irão desafiar a encontrar respostas satisfatórias, fomos capazes de organizar o resto do puzzle com algum conforto. E quando o nosso Periplus foi lançado, eu pude dizer:
“As conexões estão aí, esperando por nós para serem descobertas. Só é necessário pesquisar metodicamente, é claro, e com uma bússola adequada” – como vocês dizem, bússula, como nós dizemos.
Mecanismo de Anticítera
A península grega e o seu arquipélago não foram um começo da história da civilização. Os gregos receberam a sabedoria do Oriente (Ásia Menor, Egipto e Mesopotâmia) e transformaram-na em ciência;(b) foi um grande feito! E deixaram uma literatura maravilhosa! A civilização helênica tornou-se por isso a base fundadora das culturas ocidentais.
Victória, a única nau da frota de F. Magalhães que completou o periplus ou circum-navegação à volta da terra (detalhe de um mapa de Ortelius, 1590)
Os periploi (plural de periplus) que chegaram até nós ocorreram no mar Mediterrânico e nos oceanos Índico e Atlântico. Heródoto também escreveu sobre um périplo por África feito pelos fenícios em nome de um faraó egípcio. Um grego de Alexandria (Egipto) descreveu as costas do Oceano Índico na África do leste e Índia. Píteas, da colónia grega de Massália (moderna Marselha, França) viajou pelo norte até às Ilhas Britânicas e Escandinávia e concluiu um periplus europeu navegando através dos rios da Europa do Báltico ao Mar Negro, voltando ao Mediterrâneo. Há também quem acredite que os minoicos cretenses, os gregos, os egípcios, os púnicos e outros povos da antiguidade navegaram até ás Américas antes dos vikings ou de Colombo – ou, é claro, de Fernão de Magalhães que tentou um periplus à volta da terra mas não teve a sorte de concluí-lo.
Mas essas viagens começaram na Idade do Bronze, muito antes dos registos históricos. Há muitos indícios de que os minóicos na época do seu domínio marítimo (talassocracia) viajaram até á Cornualha (Bretanha) à procura de estanho, ou obtinham-no no sul da Gália. O estanho é um componente necessário ao fabrico do bronze (10% de estanho com 90% de cobre). Havia naquela época muito cobre no Mediterrâneo. Chipre por exemplo estava cheio de cobre e o nome desta ilha tem origem nesta palavra. Mas estanho? Não havia muitos lugares no Mediterrâneo que o tivessem e os que o tinham era em pouca quantidade.
Andaluzia com Tartessos e Gadir-Gadeira-Gades-Cádis, uma colónia fenícia em três ilhas com nomes gregos: Erytheia, Kotinoussa e Antipolis, enquanto Melcarte, o deus tutelar, se assemelha a Héracles, o fundador da cidade segundo um mito grego…
Os minoicos e mais tarde os gregos e os fenícios, navegaram até á Ibéria que era rica em minerais. Muito provavelmente teriam sido os andaluzes a levar os cretenses até à Galiza, Bretanha e Cornualha: eles sabiam o caminho… Todos esses lugares, especialmente a Cornualha, possuíam grandes depósitos de estanho. Lá, perto da Galiza, ou talvez da Cornualha, estariam as chamadas Cassitérides Nesoi, as Ilhas de Estanho (cassiteros significa estanho em grego). Heródoto e outros historiadores escreveram também sobre as ligações dos gregos e fenícios com Tartessos na Andaluzia, na foz do Guadalquivir, e há quem nos dias de hoje correlacione Tartessos com a misteriosa Atlântida…
Uma das duas famosas estátuas gregas de tamanho inteiro de guerreiros barbudos despidos, as chamadas Bronzes de Riace, fundidas em cerca de 460-450 AC, redescobertas em 1972 e consideradas como um dos símbolos da Calábria
A minha investigação começou com algumas perguntas muito simples:
• Aonde é que a Idade do Bronze Mediterrânica encontrou estanho para produzir o bronze?
• Quem foram os comerciantes marítimos desse tempo a trazer este metal crucial para o Mediterrâneo e onde é que o encontraram?(c)
A conclusão é que certas necessidades levam as pessoas a viver em conjunto, a comunicar, a fazer trocas entre elas. Foi assim que a sociedade nasceu, as cidades foram criadas, apareceram as classes e a divisão social do trabalho, e a escrita foi inventada. A interacção embora ligada a necessidades materiais transformou os que trabalharam em conjunto também pela troca de ideias e ideais, processo que está na base do nascimento da civilização e da cultura.
Não é assim tão óbvio, mas temos também coisas como um “periplus” noutros empreendimentos humanos. A música nasceu em conjunto com a fala. Num estado mais avançado, na Grécia antiga, música significava quer o instrumental quer a canção. A poesia na Grécia clássica era inconcebível sem música. As duas artes acabaram… por divorciar-se mais tarde, no séc. 4 AC. Contudo, quer antes, quer depois, foi necessário (e ainda é) um “periplus” para combinar sons e palavras, e para expressar o significado das palavras através dos sons. Algo parecido acontece na tradução: neste caso, o “periplus” diz respeito a duas linguagens. É a viagem do texto, o seu sentido e estilo, conteúdo e forma, ao ser adaptado para que comece a respirar num outro ambiente linguístico…
Dante, no seu Inferno, cita outra versão da descida sem retorno de Odisseu ao mundo dos mortos. Segundo ele, o rei de Ítaca passou os Pilares de Hércules e velejando para sul, atravessou o Equador e continuou a viajar durante meses, até chegar a uma baía com uma grande montanha. Nessa altura, um tornado afundou o seu barco…
Não sei porquê, mas acho que essa baía com uma grande montanha é… o Rio de Janeiro! Eu gostaria de poder confirmá-lo…
“Oh, they are loucos”, they thought – some even said. “Portugal and Greece are so far apart. Impossible to find common ground”…
Imagine what people like them, with raised brows, will say now that we are talking about a triangle (not that of the… Bermuda): Portugal, Braziland Greece. Well, Portugal and Brazil, OK, the relation is obvious: former metropolis and colony; but… Greece?!!
Flamenco (by Hyatt Moore): an exciting art interconnecting Iberia and India
I can tell you that the results of our collaboration astonished even us! Even me, I should add, that I have been researching this field for years, arriving to the conclusion that civilization, culture, is the result of give and take, of exchange. I have also shown in my radio programs that lands so far apart, like – say – India and Iberia, have been interconnected for thousands of years, since ancient times… Well, when the Hellenes say “ancient”, they mean BCE (before the common era), or BC (before Christ), if you like.
All these ideas were further reinforced when Amélia and I started working on Periplus. Of course, there are some “dark spots” still now; questions that remain unanswered. A big question for me e.g. is: how can Amélia, a Portuguese born in Mozambique, compose in an ancient style? You see, all three ancient Greek themes we have in Periplus (Seikilos’ Epitaph, the First Delphic Hymnto Apollo, and Mesomedes’ Hymn to Nemesis) were included because of her own compositions that reminded me of the ancient Hellenic songs mentioned above. It’s very strange, indeed.
Andalusian ivory cylindrical pyxis, i.e. a box to keep precious cosmetics or jewelery (10th century)
However, apart from these “dark spots”, which will always challenge us to come up with some satisfactory answers, we were able to assemble the rest of the puzzle rather easily. And when our Periplus was released, I could say:
“You know, the links are there, waiting for us to uncover them. One only needs to search, methodically, of course, with a proper compass”, a bússula, as we say in Greek or bússola as you say in Portuguese.(a)
The Greek peninsula and archipelago was not a beginning in world history. The Hellenes received the wisdom from the Orient (Asia Minor, Mesopotamia and Egypt) and turned it into science;(b) it was a great feat! And what they left behind was a marvelous literature – uma literatura maravilhosa, indeed! Thus the Hellenic civilization became the foundation of the Occidental cultures.
Victoria, the sole ship of Magellan’s fleet to complete the circumnavigation-periplus of the world (detail from a map by Ortelius, 1590)
The extant periploi (plural of periplus) took place in the Mediterranean, the Indian and the Atlantic oceans. Herodotus also wrote about a periplus of Africa by Phoenicians on behalf of an Egyptian Pharaoh. A Greek from Alexandria, Egypt, described the Indian Ocean coasts of eastern Africa and India. Pytheas, from the Hellenic colony of Massalia (modern Marseille, France), voyaged north to the British Isles and Scandinavia and concluded a periplus of Europe sailing via European rivers from the Baltic to the Black Seas and back to the Mediterranean. There are also people that believe the Minoan Cretans, the Greeks, the Egyptians, the Punics, and other ancient peoples sailed to the Americas long before the Vikings or Columbus – or, of course, Magellan, who attempted a periplus of the world but was not fortunate enough to conclude it.
Therefore, these voyages started long before recorded history, in the Bronze Age. There are some historical clues that the Minoans in the time of their thalassocracy travelled as far as Cornwall, Britain, in search of tin – or else they obtained this important metal at ports of southern Gaul. Tin is a necessary component of bronze (± 90% copper plus ± 10% tin). There were vast quantities of copper in the Mediterranean. Cyprus e.g. was full of copper and the name Cyprus comes from copper (and vice versa). But tin? There were very few places in the Mediterranean with tin and in limited quantities.
Andalusia with Tartessos and Gadir-Gadeira-Gades-Cádiz, a Phoenician colony on three islands with Greek names: Erytheia, Kotinoussa and Antipolis, while its patron, Melqart, is a lookalike of Heracles, the city’s founder, according to a Hellenic myth…
The Minoans, and later the Greeks and the Phoenicians, sailed initially to Iberia that was rich in these minerals. The Andalusians probably led the Cretans to Galicia, Brittany and Cornwall: they knew the way… All of these places, especially Cornwall, had massive tin deposits. There, close to Galicia or even Cornwall, were the so-called Cassiterides Nesoi, the Tin Isles (cassíteros is tin in Greek). Herodotus and other historians write also about the links of the Hellenes and Phoenicians with Tartessos, at the mouth of the Guadalquivir, and many people nowadays correlate the legendary Tartessos with the elusive Atlantis…
One of the two famous full-size Greek bronzes of nude bearded warriors, the so-called Riace Bronzes, cast about 460–450 BC and recovered in 1972, considered as one of the symbols of Calabria
This research started out of some very simple questions:
• Where did the Bronze Age Mediterranean find tin to produce bronze?
• Who were the maritime traders of the time to bring this most crucial metal to the Mediterranean and where did they find it?
Our conclusion is that certain needs motivated the humans to live together, to communicate, to exchange. That’s how society was born, the cities were created, the classes and division of labour emerged and writing was invented. The interaction concerned material needs but at the same time transformed the people that worked together exchanging also ideas and ideals, a process that led to the birth of civilization, of culture.
It is not so obvious but we have something like a “periplus” in other human endeavours, too. Music was born together with speech. In an advanced stage, in ancient Hellas, music was either instrumental or song. Poetry in classical Greece was inconceivable without music. The two arts got… divorce later, in the 4th century BCE. However, either before or after, a “periplus” was (and still is) needed to combine sounds with words, and to express the meaning of the words through sounds. Something similar also happens in a translation: then the “periplus” concerns two languages. It is the voyage of a text, its meaning and style, content and form, while it is adapted in order to start breathing in another language environment…
Dante, in his Inferno, cites another version of Odysseus’ descent into the underworld with no return. The king of Ithaca, he writes, went out of the Pillars of Hercules and sailed south, crossed the Equator, continued voyaging for months, until he reached a bay with a big mountain. Then a tornado sank his boat.
I don’t know why, but I think this bay with the big mountain is… the River of January:Rio de Janeiro! I would really love to confirm that…
Minoan fresco fragment of a Dancing Woman at Knossos
Such ‘tangible’, “convincing evidence” in the archaeologists’ hands, i.e. a number of Egyptian trade items found in Spain, is of “a somewhat later period”, after the fall of the Minoans, ca 1400-1200 BCE. Although the possibility of “Phoenician intermediaries” cannot be ruled out, one needs to have in mind that exactly in this “somewhat later period” (late Bronze Age), especially in the western Mediterranean, sea trade was in the hands of those who brought about the fall of the Minoans, that is, the Mycenaeans – who, strangely enough, are not even mentioned by the American professor! Therefore, his assertion that the Egyptian trade items found in Spain “almost surely may be associated with Phoenician intermediaries” is anything but scientific.
Besides, the Aegean presence in Egypt, the country of origin of these trade items, dates back to at least Mycenaean times and more likely even further back into the Minoan age, when a trade settlement was founded in the Nile Delta under the aegis of the Pharaohs, namely Naucratis (Ναύκρατις). It was the first and, for much of its early history, the only permanent Hellenic colony in Egypt, acting as a symbiotic nexus for the interchange of Egyptian and Greek trade items, art and culture.(b) When a historian “forgets” the Mycenaeans and Naucratis, it means he wears “Phoenician myopic glasses”! Under the circumstances, Stanislawski, an expert on Portugal, cannot be suspected of pro-Hellenic bias in his narrative about the same fateful events in Iberia related in the previous Chronicles 6, 7, and 8. At the same time, we can test the accuracy of our own testimony:
The Calydonian Hunt, by Naucratis Painter; ca 555 BC
The earliest passage of Phoenician ships through the Straits of Gibraltar was probably made during the general period of time when the Central European farmers and pastoralists were first entering the Cantabrian region. These events preceded the 1st millennium BC. Later, Greek exploration and trade grew, following the example given by neighboring Phoenicia, perhaps as early as the 9th century and certainly by the end of the 7th century BC. Such contacts can be equated in time with the acceleration of the East-West movement of peoples and cultures which took place in the North with the advent of the Celts, who may have appeared in Iberia as early as 900 BC, and the main force of which was felt by the 6th century. Between the 6th and the 3rd centuries BC, while the lands of the western Mediterranean were developing under the influence of active and aggressive Greeks and Carthaginians, northern Iberia was changing under the influence of Celts of later arrival from beyond the Pyrenees. There was a difference, however, between the early contacts along the Mediterranean coasts and those of the Central Europeans with northern Iberia. It was not opportunity for settlement that drew men along the southern coasts, but trade… It was the attraction of metals that drew the early Greeks beyond the straits of Gibraltar and along the western coasts of Spain.
CONTACTS WITH THE WEST COAST OF IBERIA
It is possible that the early merchant wayfarers sailed up the west coast to trade directly with Galicia. But if they did, the coast of present Portugal represented a gap in their interest, for there is almost no record of them there.(c) It would seem that Portugal was then, as through so many periods of time before and after, apart from the main stream of events. It possessed no great source of silver such as the mines of Andalusia, nor of copper or tin (with slight exceptions in both cases).(d) With her metals, Spain was a magnet for the early traders, whereas Portugal attracted casual traders at most…
HOMOGENEITY OF THE IBERIAN MEDITERRANEAN REGION
At the time of their first contacts with the west, the earliest Phoenicians and Greeks encountered a culture area with fundamentally similar characteristics throughout. It extended along the Mediterranean coasts, slopes, and adjacent interior valleys, from the Pyrenees to the Guadiana River… With their usual perspicacity, the Greeks recognized this area as being essentially homogeneous and sharply different in culture from the Celtic territories of the interior and of the north and west peripheries…
Indisputably, one of the important Iberian groups was that of the Tartessians, wealthy farmers and traders in metals. It was their knowledge of the sources of metals that first brought them in touch with the Phoenicians and Greeks. They knew the coasts to the west and northwest of their home, for the tin and gold that they traded came from Galicia. They were also able to furnish silver, copper, and lead, which came to them from the Guadalquivir River basin. It appears that tin was the product of greatest importance at the time. The early centuries of the pre-Christian millennium were times of great opulence along the coast of Galicia. That this wealth was due to tin may be inferred from the fact that the Greeks used the termCassiteridesto identify the area. However, the question as to the ultimate source of tin is moot. In spite of the lack of archaeological evidence it seems likely that, in the earliest years of trading, it came from alluvial deposits along the river banks of Galicia. There is a possibility, however, that Bronze Age connections with French Brittany and with the British Isles had continued and that the Galicians were merely purveyors of tin from those places. This basic necessity of bronze-users was scarce in the other parts of the Phoenician and Greek world. There was no tin in all of North Africa, Asia Minor, Caucasia, Cyprus, mainland Greece, and the Greek islands. The mines of Tuscany were small. It is no wonder that both Galicia and the Tartessians were prosperous and that the Phoenicians and Greeks were attracted to the area.
“Tin was the product of greatest importance at the time. This basic necessity of bronze-users was scarce in the other parts of the Phoenician and Greek world.” (Dan Stanislawski)
GREEK EXPLORATION AND SETTLEMENT
Hellenic ship, mocaic, ca 1st century BC-CE
The earliest Greek ventures may perhaps be dated as of the 9th or the 8th century BC. Possibly Rhodian and Chalcidian sailors were in the western Mediterranean at this time… The line of Ionian names stretching along the islands and coasts of the western Mediterranean and to the Atlantic coast of Portugal – the names with the -oussa termination – can probably be ascribed to this early period. These names are important in dating the arrival of the Greeks in western waters. They mark the island route of the early Greek navigators. Starting from Syrakoussai [Syracuse] in eastern Sicily, they may be followed through Ichnoussa (Sardinia), Meloussa (Menorca), Rornyoussa (Mallorca) and Pityoussa (Ibiza). The latter three, even now, are identified on maps as the Balearics or Pityusas.(e) The -oussa names extend westward to the straits of Gibraltar and up the Atlantic coast of Portugal to Ophioussa, in the region of Lisbon, and the general area of Portugal plus Galicia may have been vaguely termed Ophioussa.
The “Balearides” (Gymnesian) and the “Pityusae” Isles on an old map
Herodotus said that it was Greeks from the city of Phocaea in Asia Minor who were first to navigate in the western Mediterranean waters. It may seem temerous to question the facts of the father of history, but Antonio García does so convincingly.(f) The Phocaeans, says he, arrived late upon the scene, profiting by earlier maritime contacts. Nor does he accept the statement that the important voyage of Colaeus, the Samian, was a voyage of discovery of Tartessos for the Greeks. This widely heralded 7th century journey was, to him, merely one – although perhaps the most profitable and spectacular up to that time – of many such voyages that had been made by Rhodians, Chalcidians, Samians, and others.(g)
Following the Mediterranean island route, the Phocaeans arrived from Asia Minor to Iberia.
Whatever the dating may be – and the archaeological inquiry has far to go – the Phocaeans certainly became the most active and effective Greeks in the area. Their colonization had energy and breadth and was the only one in the western Mediterranean with lasting results… There is no specific evidence that this activity was connected with the decay of Tyre, but there is such a coincidence in time. Tyrian decline had begun by the end of the 8th century BC and was notable during the following century. This was the time of the voyage of Colaeus the Samian (650 BC), the founding of the Phocaean colony of Massalia, present Marseille (600 BC, or approximately then), and the founding of Alalia in Corsica (640 BC, or approximately 40 years prior to Massalia). Some time before the end of the century, Mainake, the most westerly of Phocaean colonies, was founded near Málaga.(h)
This century was one of intimacy between Phocaeans and Tartessians. The reign of Arganthonios of Tartessos began in the 7th century BC. The ancient sources spoke of his 80-year reign but probably, in typical Greek fashion, they dramatized a dynasty or a period by creating a mythical longevity for a single ruler. Whether this represented one ruler or several does not alter the fact that there was frequent and close contact between Tartessos and Phocaea. This was the period of the Phocaean maritime dominance during which the Tartessian king lent money to the Phocaeans to build their fortifications against the threat of the Persians.
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN GREEKS AND PUNIC PEOPLES IN THEIR RELATIONS WITH IBERIA
The island and bay of Gadir: the Phoenicians’ springboard for attacks against Tartessos
The period of the decline of Tyre was not only important for the Ionian Greeks, but also for the Tyrian colony of Carthage. During the time of Phocaean colonization, Carthage too was expanding. As early as 653 BC it had established the colony on Ibiza of the Balearics, which lay athwart the Greek island route to the west. After 573 BC, when Tyre fell to the Babylonians, Carthage showed increasing independence. Competition for western metals was growing between the two great rivals, Carthage and Greece. It is reasonable to assume that the friendship of Arganthonios (or that of his dynasty), throughalmost a century of time, was more than mere affection and amiability. It probably represented a form of alliance in which the Tartessians aided the Phocaeans in their struggle against the threat to their mother city. In return, Greeks supported the Westerners against the growing aggressiveness of Carthage and the Punic colony of Gadir, which threatened the area of Tartessos. Almost from the time of their founding of Gadir the Phoenicians showed their expansionist tendencies. It was not long before they were using the island as a base of attack against the mainland and the Tartessians.
“The [Greco-Tartessian] friendship represented a form of alliance… against the growing aggressiveness of Carthage and Gadir, which threatened the area of Tartessos. Almost from the time of their founding of Gadir the Phoenicians showed their expansionist tendencies. It was not long before they were using the island as a base of attack against the Tartessians.”
Greek Massaliotes in Iberia
The Greeks were usually neither pacific nor friendly neighbors when the prospect of gain was apparent. In this they differed little from the Phoenicians. However, in their relations with the Tartessians they had no desire, it would seem, for control of land or people, but merely wanted to trade their products, especially olive oil and wine, for Tartessian metals.(i) In fact, the history of Greek contacts with Iberians is one of amity, and the hospitality of the Iberians toward Greeks was proverbial. The purposes of both peoples were served by friendly intercourse and mutual support against the common enemy, especially after the increased importance and the expanded ambition of Carthage. A major clash for complete dominance of the area was inevitable. This was speeded by events in the eastern Mediterranean area…
“The history of Greek contacts with Iberians is one of amity, and the hospitality of the Iberians toward Greeks was proverbial. The purposes of both peoples were served by friendly intercourse and mutual support against the common enemy, especially after the increased importance and the expanded ambition of Carthage. A major clash for complete dominance of the area was inevitable.” (Dan Stanislawski)
In this part of his narrative, Dan Stanislawski turns his attention to the historic developments in Asia Minor: in 546 BCE Cyrus captured Lydia, causing “a mass migration of perhaps half of the population of Phocaea to their Corsican colony of Alalia”. When the Persians took Phocaea, “all the men in this city of probably 5,000 to 7,000 people had gone. This population figure suggests the large number of available vessels, and points to the commercial importance of the city at that time”. There follows the Battle of Alalia“sometime between 540 and 535 BC” with its disastrous results for the Hellenes and also the Tartessians.
Carthage may then have sealed the straits of Gibraltar, as Carpenter suggests. More likely, the straits had been largely sealed for a long time, but after the battle the land route between Mainake and Tartessos was also blocked. Mainake itself was destroyed by the Carthaginians toward the end of the century, to end its traffic and its competition with the Carthaginian settlement in the location of present Málaga…
ECONOMIC CHANGES IN THE WEST
Artemis, Phocaea’s patron goddess, on a Massaliote silver (so-called heavy) drachma, ca 390-220 BC
As Carthage had inherited the western empire of Tyre, so did Massalia fall heir to that of her mother city, Phocaea. Greek trade became centered here, with the end of Phocaean maritime enterprise in the West of the Mediterranean. Trade through France to Brittany and beyond had been undoubtedly important to the Massaliotes previous to this time, but the record had been obscured by the greater drama of the struggle on the Mediterranean. During the last half of the 6th century BC, during which time Carthaginians grasped complete power in the West, the prosperity of Galicia – presumably based upon tin – declined. This decline may have been due to the change from the sea route, by way of the Straits, to that from Massalia, via the French rivers, to the northwest and ultimately to Britain…
“Galicia’s decline may have been due to the change from the sea route, by way of the Straits, to that from Massalia, via the French rivers, to Britain. The direct land route from Massalia skirted the Carthaginian barrier and eliminated Galician middlemen.” (Dan Stanislawski)
Stanislawski offers four possible explanations for the Galician decline; the second one is probably the most important:
More likely, the Galicians had for some time been not producers, but purveyors, of tin from French Armorica or the British Isles. If this were true, the direct land route from Massalia would have skirted the Carthaginian barrier and eliminated Galician middlemen… At approximately the same period of time there was an increased interest in silver… by the avidity with which the Greeks of Asia Minor sought it for coinage… Perhaps the richest of ancient silver mines was that of Mastia (or Massia), a region second only to Tartessos in commercial importance. The ancient prosperity of the region and of its most important city, also named Mastia (or Massia), the later Cartago Nova, and probably the site of the present Cartagena, was based upon silver mining through several centuries. Great amounts were mined under the direction of Hannibal in the 3rd century BC, and it was still a large operation at the time of Polybius in the succeeding century.
CARTHAGINIAN DOMINATION OF THE WESTERN MEDITERRANEAN
The Celts lived mainly in Galicia, the Celtiberians in Portugal and half of Spain, the Iberians in the other half (Andalusia to Catalonia), the Basques in Northeastern Spain and Southwestern France
[After the battle of Alalia] Greek commercial activity in Iberia was ended and Carthage was less inhibited in the spread of its control. Tartessos, which had feared the Carthaginians and had allied itself with the Greeks, was left without support and was destroyed.(j) In the following century, probably 20,000 Iberian mercenaries were fighting in Sicily for the Carthaginians… Celts were also serving as mercenaries in the Carthaginian forces.
There was an increasing reliance upon mercenaries from the peninsula, not only from the fringes but from deep within the interior as well. In the late 3rd century BC, Hannibal’s army included Celtiberians from the northern interior, Galicians from the extreme northwest, Lusitanians from Middle Portugal, Vettones from the middle Tagus drainage – and these do not complete the list. Such troops, however, were something other than pure mercenaries; many had been forcibly impressed into service… During earlier centuries no general antagonism in Iberia seems to have been engendered by the Carthaginians. Locally there may have been antagonism, such as probably existed between the Carthaginians and the Tartessians, but for the tribes of the interior the Carthaginians may have had a friendly appeal. They offered an opportunity to fight with pay. It was later, when the Carthaginians had expanded their power and increased their need for troops that their tactics changed with regard to these tribes of the interior, which had long served as a source of manpower. When Hannibal, in desperate need for troops and under economic pressure, forcibly impressed some of them into his armies, the others reacted in bitter opposition. The tribes of the interior were a bellicose lot. An opportunity to fight for pay was not distasteful to them but a demand that they submit to enslavement was another matter. According to Strabo they resisted Hannibal as they later did the Romans for somewhat the same reasons.
Nevertheless, tens of thousands of mercenaries were introduced to new lands and cultures of the middle and eastern Mediterranean. Since this process had been going on from as early as the 6th century BC and many men had returned to the peninsula, the effect upon attitudes of the peoples of the Meseta[‘Plateau’, in the heart of Iberia] and even some of the remote western coasts may have been considerable.
The harbour of Carthage
Dan Stanislawski’s impartial view of Iberia is almost identical with the historical panorama of the last three Chronicles: Ὅπερἔδειδεῖξαι, as Euclid would say, or quod erat demonstrandum (Q.E.D), or ‘what had to be demonstrated’! There is still one Periplus left, dropping anchor at several emporiain the Mediterranean, to come full circle back to our starting point – a voyage full of surprises with several itinerant artisans, artists, and masters we meet on the way, “members of the Architects’ and Painters’ Guilds”, whose Linear A writing, however, puzzles the famous archaeologist Leonard Woolley…
THE MINOAN civilization, as part of the Aegean cultures in the Bronze Age, arose in the island of Crete, flourished from the 27th to the 15th centuries BCE and then vanished. It came to light again at the outset of the 20th century CE thanks to the British archaeologist Arthur Evans. The term Minoan refers to the legendary Minos. We presume, on no evidence, that it was not a name but a royal title. In the Odyssey, composed centuries after the demise of the Minoans, Homer calls the natives of the island Eteocretans (‘true Cretans’); probably they were true descendants of the Minoans. In addition, there were several settlements in the Aegean and the Ionian Seas, as well as in Sicily and Canaan, known by the name Minoa. The root min- appears in some Aegean languages, toponyms and in the name of the Minyans, an autochthonous people inhabiting the Aegean. We assume that the Cretans were not Indo-Europeans, but a Mediterranean people related to the Pelasgians – the pre-Hellenic dwellers of the Aegean region – and possibly to the Minyans. Crete remained free from invasions for many centuries, and managed to develop an independent and distinct civilization, one of the most advanced in the Mediterranean area during the Bronze Age, together with that of Egypt. Linear A, the Minoan script, has not yet been deciphered; it possibly represents an Aegean language, not related to any Indo-European tongue.
The Ship Procession or the Flotilla frieze at Acroteri, Thera (detail)
“Crete was well placed in relation to sea trading routes”, Eugene Hirschfeld comments, writing on “Grace in the Aegean: the art of the Minoans”. “Thucydides wrote that Minos was the first to build a navy:
‘The first person known to us by tradition as having established a navy is Minos. He made himself master of what is now called the Hellenic sea, and ruled over the Cyclades, into most of which he sent the first colonies… and thus did his best to put down piracy in those waters, a necessary step to secure the revenues for his own use.’ “With their merchant fleet, the Minoans came to dominate the seas, sailing for hundreds of miles in search of trade, from Spain in the west to Syria in the east…(a) It is possibly a measure of both the Minoans’ geographical isolation and the strength of their fleet that their coastal towns seem to have had few fortifications. Thus their period of ascendancy was called by Arthur Evans the Pax Minoica or ‘Minoan peace’ – a time when cities needed no walls.(b) Like Pax Romana, of course, such a peace if it existed would have been the product of military strength rather than pacifism.”
Replica of the Uluburun shipwreck
The Dolphins mural at Knossos
One after the other, the unique features of this marvellous civilization seem to arise from only one: the Minoans’ thalassocracy, their “geographical isolation and the strength of their fleet”, as Hirschfeld says and then explains:
“As a maritime trading civilization, it is unsurprising that the Minoans left us some beautiful fresco images of their ships, wooden sailing vessels superior to any others on the Mediterranean. Perhaps because of this fleet and the protecting seas, military images are unusual in Minoan art. Until the attacks by the Mycenaeans in 1450 BC, there is no real evidence that the Minoans fought wars with any other culture. This is in stark contrast to their contemporaries: the city states of Mesopotamia were constantly at war, celebrating their exploits on such works as the Stele of the Vultures, and Egypt covered tomb walls with images of military pomp. The Minoans preferred leisurely scenes or sports. They loved to decorate walls with murals of dolphins, flowers and fish. Their art has a grace, movement and exuberance distinct from the art of Egypt and Sumer, and… their craftsmanship is second to none.”
This civilization is an astonishing paradox: A great power without a military aristocracy; a palace that was not a royal residence and neither the king was glorified; a religion with no grandeur, while women were equal to men and free.
The Palace of Minos (or the Labyrinth of Minotaur to Greek eyes)
This civilization is an astonishing paradox, indeed: A great power without a military aristocracy; a palace that was not a royal residence and neither the king was glorified; a religion with no grandeur, while women were equal to men and free:
“The Minoans were skilled and sensitive architects, and the palaces count amongst their greatest works of art. The most famous is the palace at Knossos, often called the ‘Palace of Minos’. A multi-storey complex of corridors, rooms and staircases built around a central courtyard, the palace boasted impressive plumbing as well as lovely frescos, columns and gardens. Visitors found its ‘agglutinative’ architecture of over 1000 rooms so confusing that it is thought to have inspired the myth of the Minotaur’s Labyrinth. Knossos was an entire community, a centre for religion, pottery production and storage of trade goods, and a venue for festivals. For this reason the term ‘palace’ is not adequate for describing these Minoan complexes.”
Sacred symbols: bull and labrys
“Sitting at the apex of a trading empire, the Cretan kings were extremely wealthy. It is therefore interesting that they appear to have ordered no sculpture, memorials, king-lists or other works to boast of their power and status… We find nothing like the mighty monuments to the god-kings of Egypt. We have no record either of a king Minos or of any other named monarch, male or female… Historian R. F. Willetts has suggested that the apparent modesty of the Minoan aristocracy can be explained by a difference in religious emphasis: the Minoans did not seek to associate the king with the immortal gods, like the Egyptians or Mesopotamians, but rather worshiped a particular vision of nature. From this standpoint, images glorifying the king were unnecessary.”
Minoan Snake Goddess
“Women seem to have enjoyed higher status in Minoan culture than was usual in the Bronze Age… They served as administrators and priestesses… Women’s relative equality may be because of the absence of military threat, giving far less impetus to the development of a male warrior discourse and thus a greater role and respect for women. It is tempting when looking at images of young women somersaulting over bulls with the men to conclude that women enjoyed considerable freedom… As for religion, Minoan art provides us with faience figurines of a ‘snake goddess’, and frescos… on which women priests outnumber men. No images of male deities have been found from the peak of Minoan civilization. The apparent prominence of women in Minoan religion has led to conjecture that the principal deity or deities of Minoan Crete may have been female, e.g. an earth or mother goddess.”
A Minoan beauty on Thera
What conclusions can we draw?
“Minoan art does show a greater emphasis on spontaneity and invention, and is more secular and informal… less constrained by rigid conventions and geometry”, Eugene Hirschfeld writes. “The absence of battles, kings, boastful inscriptions and historical events in its art is surprising for the time. We need to recognize such distinctions without falling into the crude formulations sometimes used in the past, such as posing cultured Minoans against barbarous Mycenaeans. Arnold Hauser’s first explanation for the particular character of the Minoans’ art is the relatively modest role of religion in their society. Minoan shrines seem to have been small, even in the palaces, kept in people’s homes or built in out of the way places like hills and caves. There is nothing like the great cult of the dead seen in Egypt, or the grandiose works that went with it. There was therefore less impetus towards sternly imposed conventions. He also admires the urbanity of the cultural life that arose around the palaces: ‘The freedom of Cretan art can also be partly explained by the extraordinarily important role which city life and commerce played in the island’s economy… city life was probably nowhere so highly developed as in Crete’. The ‘palace’ was the centre of Minoan life: of trade and agriculture, but also of art. It was perhaps this union of trade and culture in a context of long internal stability that gave Minoan art its urbane liveliness. Crete’s geopolitical situation may also have exerted an influence. With the natural protection of the sea and backed by their fleet, the Minoans had little need to fear invasion. In the absence of a warrior class, not only were women’s rights better than in most Bronze Age cultures, but art was less constrained by the military and religion.”
“The absence of battles, kings, boastful inscriptions and historical events in Minoan art is surprising for the time… It was perhaps this union of trade and culture in a context of long internal stability that gave Minoan art its urbane liveliness.” (Eugene Hirschfeld)
The influence of the Minoan civilization outside Crete manifests itself in the presence of Minoan handicrafts on the Greek mainland. After around 1700 BCE, the material culture of the Hellenes achieved a new, higher, level due to Minoan influence. Connections between Crete and Egypt were prominent. Minoan wares were found there, while several Egyptian items were imported, especially papyrus, as well as artistic ideas. The Egyptian hieroglyphs served as a model for the Minoan pictographic writing, from which the Linear A writing system developed. The Minoan palaces were later occupied by the Mycenaeans (late 15th–early 14th century BCE) who adapted the Minoan Linear A script to the needs of their own language, a form of Greek, which was written in Linear B.(c) The Mycenaeans generally tended to adapt rather than destroy Cretan culture, religion and art, and they continued to operate the economic system and bureaucracy of the Minoans. After about a century of partial recovery, most Cretan cities and palaces went into decline in the 13th century BCE. When the Bronze Age came crashing down some time later, Crete did not feel the agony of death.
The mysterious Disc of Phaestos (Phaistos Disk)
A Theran fisherman
The Minoans were traders, and their cultural contacts reached far beyond Crete – to copper-bearing Cyprus and Asia Minor (Anatolia), Egypt and Canaan (the Levant), the Balkans and the Black Sea area, especially Colchis (Georgia/Abkhazia), Mesopotamia and even faraway Afghanistan. Paintings in Thebes, Egypt, from the 15th century BCE depict a number of Minoans bearing gifts. Inscriptions record these people as coming from the “islands in the midst of the sea”, and may refer to gift-bringing merchants or officials from Crete. Minoan techniques and styles in ceramics also provided models for Helladic Greece. Along with Thera, Cretan ‘colonies’ can be found on Cythera, an island close to the mainland that came under Minoan influence in the 3rd millennium and remained Minoan in culture for a thousand years, until the Mycenaean occupation in the 13th century, as well as in Melos, Kea, Aegina, Rhodes and Miletus. The Cyclades and the Dodecanese were in the Cretan cultural orbit.
Certain locations within Crete emphasize it as an ‘outward looking’ society. The palace of Kato Zakros,e.g., is located within a bay, 100 metres from the modern shore-line. Its large number of workshops and the richness of its site materials indicate a centre for import and export. Such activities are elaborated in artistic representations of the sea with ships and sailors, e.g. the Flotilla fresco on Thera. Homer recorded a tradition that Crete had 90 cities. Multi-room constructions were found even in the ‘poor’ areas, revealing a social equality and even distribution of wealth derived through trade. There was a high degree of organization, with no trace of the military aristocracies that characterized the following civilizations. While the Mycenaeans relied mainly on conquest to expand, the Minoans were a mercantile people engaged primarily in overseas trade. No doubt they should have been involved in the Bronze Age’s most crucial trade of tin: tin, alloyed with copper, obviously from Cyprus, was used to make bronze.(d) The Minoan decline seems to be correlated with the decline in the use of bronze tools in favour of iron ones.
The entire Ship Procession or Flotilla frieze at Acroteri, Thera
Multi-room constructions were discovered even in the ‘poor’ areas, revealing a social equality and even distribution of wealth derived through trade. There was a high degree of organization, with no trace of the military aristocracies that characterized the following civilizations…
Cretan gold ring: four women with long robes and bare breasts in a ‘cult scene’, ca 1500 BCE
The Mediterranean copper island was Cyprus; the word copper comes from the name of the island: from the Latin phrase Cyprium (aes), ‘Cyprian (metal)’. A possible etymological origin of the name Cyprus is the Sumerian words for copper or bronze(zubar/kubar), due to the massive deposits of copper ore found in the island. But where did the Minoans find tin, the necessary component to produce bronze? Tin is very rare in the eastern Mediterranean. The only known source of cassiterite in the area was Kestel-Göltepe in the Taurus Mountains of south-central Anatolia. It supplied tin from the late 4th millennium to the mid-19th century BCE, when the ores became uneconomical or ran out. There were three other sources of tin available to the Minoan traders: the distant northeastern Afghanistan, central Europe (Bohemia), and the West, with vast amounts of tin in places such as Iberia, Brittany in northwestern France, and especially Cornwall in southwestern Britain. For the seafaring Cretans, the Occident was the destination they possibly preferred best. And when the mines in Taurus had shut down, Western tin became more important and the Minoans would have totally monopolized the supply of tin into the Eastern Mediterranean with their navy and shipping. Objects made by Minoans suggest there was an extensive network with mainland Greece, Anatolia, Cyprus, Syria, Egypt, Mesopotamia, and westwards as far as Iberia, and even further, that is, Bohemia, Brittany and, of course, Cornwall. Trade in nearby lands was direct, while in distant places could also be indirect, through middlemen. Undoubtedly, the Cretan ships should have transported British tin. If they also dropped anchor in British harbours is another story.
Where did the Minoans find tin, the necessary component to produce bronze? Undoubtedly, the Cretan ships should have transported British tin. If they also dropped anchor in British harbours is another story.
The blue monkeys fresco on Thera
The Cretans derived their surplus from trade, unlike Babylon and Egypt that mainly relied on agriculture. They were the unrivalled long-distance traders, masters of the sea routes, having developed the most advanced navy that had ever been seen. They traded not only their own manufactured goods ‘Made in Crete’, such as ceramics and metalwork, but also acted as intermediaries, trading raw materials and finished products throughout the Mediterranean and beyond. Their most valuable re-exports were pottery, copper, tin, gold, and silver. They were active not only in the East, but also in the West, founding emporia all around. Their most privileged trade contacts in the Orient were certainly those with the Egyptians, while their most significant Occidental partners should have been the Iberians, as the peninsula was rich in metals, especially silver, but also tin. Trade in tin was very lucrative in the Bronze Age, because, as we have seen, it is an essential component of true bronze, and comparatively rare: only gold and silver are rarer. Apart from the cassiterite deposits in Iberia, the locals obviously knew where the Cassiterides were.(e)
Juanito Apinani‘s speed and bravery in the bullring of Madrid, from the etchings “La Tauromaquia” by Francisco Goya (1815-16)
The metals were just the beginning of a far broader economical and cultural exchange. A lot of Iberians e.g. are nowadays intrigued by the fact that so long ago the Minoans were practicing their own version of ‘bullfights’. In his bilingual book (in Portuguese and English) “Fado– Lyrical Origins and Poetic Motivation”,Mascarenhas Barreto refers to the Neolithichuntingrituals as a possible origin of bull-leaping(“pegas”) and wonders “whether the peoples of the Iberian Peninsula learnt this from the Cretans of the 3rd millennium BC or if they themselves may have been the teachers, since the bulls were taken from their natural habitat in the peninsula to the island of Crete” (see also Voyage 3: Iberia’s Odyssey).(f) But, when one speaks of such extensive exchanges taking place in the 3rd millennium BCE, with customs adopted and bulls transported so far away, is it really so important to know who imitated whom?
Mascarenhas Barreto wonders “whether the peoples of the Iberian Peninsula learnt [bull-leaping] from the Cretans of the 3rd millennium BC or if they themselves may have been the teachers, since the bulls were taken from their natural habitat in the peninsula to the island of Crete.”
Ταυροκαθάψια (bull-leaping) depicted on a Knossos fresco