‘Phonecian Civilization: A History from Beginning to End’

Phoenicians were more than smart ancient people who ruled the Mediterranean before the grandeur of Rome took over the world under the sandals. They were brilliant seafaring merchants, navigating the open waters with the direction of the Polaris, the occupants of Canaan, the biblical land of honey and milk, the high-end manufacturer of Tyrian purple, and the inventor of the alphabet. They were adventurous and impetuous, wild and civilized, just as Dido, the queen of Phoenician Carthage, was to Aeneas and General Hannibal to his Roman enemy force.

As aforesaid, Phoenicians were Canaanite of Semite groups that shared the same cultural and linguistic roots with Jews. Interestingly, Phoenicia was not a single country but a confederate of city-states located along the eastern Mediterranean Sea, comprising modern-day Syria, Israel, and Lebanon about 3,000 B.C. Phoenicians sailed across unknown seas of antiquity, always bringing seeds of vine tree with them to sow them on foreign lands, propagating the bliss of wine everywhere they went. So they went to North Africa and established their city-state called Carthage, located in what is now known as Tunisia, and planted vine trees producing melliferous wine. Perhaps it’s the aura that the land of vine trees infatuated Aeneas, a Trojan prince, destined to become the founder of the Roman race, in the person of sultry queen Dido. Sure, Dido was a Baal worshipper. So was Hannibal because Phoenicians regarded Baal, the dignitary in the circles of hell, to Christians, as the god of fertility and weather, with El, the father of all gods, and Astarte, the progenitor of Greek Artemis and Aphrodite. Moreover, human sacrifices of children during natural disasters or wars were performed, while sacred prostitution to honor their gods Adonis and Astarte, just as Babylonian women did in the temple of Ishtar. It seems that except for the Jews, the ancient peoples from the Middle East, near the Middle East, and the Mediterranean seem to regard physical pleasure as the essential component of euphoria that accounted for sacred ecstasy in the worship of their deities.

Such is my impression of ancient Phoenicians whom Alexander the Great couldn’t even dominate. Romans destroyed Phoenician city-state Carthage, after which it was said that a priest cursed Phoenicians, sprinkling grain of salt on the conquered land, lest they arise again, evermore. Whether it was true, the curse proved not as effective as the Romans wished because the Phoenician legacy continues in the form of cultural influence as aforesaid.

‘Hittites: A History From Beginning to End’ by Hourly History – book review

Hittites: A History From Beginning to End by Hourly History
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The name Uriah always fascinated me from British Rock band Uriah Heep to the biblical Uriah, whose beautiful wife led him ultimately to death, willy-nilly, by King David infatuated with her sensuousness. When I learned that the ancestor of Uriahs was the founder of the Hittites race, being the great-grandson of Noah, the biblical patriarch, I had a Eureka moment. Consequently, I picked up this concise but comprehensive book on the Hittites to know a little more about the people whose founder had the great name.

Before the splendor of ancient Greek contributions to our human cultural progress as a collective enterprise, there was the forgotten but enduring legacy of the Hittites, the mysterious Indo-European trailblazers of civilizations at the crossroads of the East and the West in the vast plain of modern-day Turkey. The Hittites were an integral people to solve the mystery of mythological and biblical events anchored in the real world, thus dissolving fact and legend into one another like a genie from an empire that vanished into the dunes of time and comes alive in the calling. The calling of these mysteriously vanished people came first from British Reverends Archibald Henry Sayce and William Wright in the early 19th century. They discovered the artifacts and sites of the Hittites. Their discovery led to more remarkable discoveries. During the middle Bronze age and Iron age, the Hittites were the first to utilize iron from the region of present Armenia to craft tools and weapons. Also, the Hittites were deft at commerce, developing the city of Carchemish as an ancient mercantile hubbub in which they imported products from Phoenicia and exported them to Assyria (the North) and Babylon (the South) in Mesopotamia. In this fabulous ancient city, Israelites of the Old Testament acted as intermediaries in trade between Egyptians for exporting horses and chariots and the Hittites for importing them.

Like all those famous entertainers who sparkled then lost the lusters, the Hittites as a collective empire fell from splendor gradually by outside forces: some pointed the fingers at the Sea People, while the others blamed a certain barbarous Kaska people. But, perhaps, such clandestine ending of the Hittites is what makes them formidably alluring and mysteriously fascinating, blurring the boundary of fact and legend. Suppose you are keen on the history of ancient civilizations other than Greece and Egypt. In that case, this elegant primer for the history of the Hittites will equip you with fundamental knowledge enough to whet your craving for more and more profound knowledge about the Hittites.



View all my reviews

Philosopher, Poet, and Doctor

Edgar Allan Poe’s tribute of “To the glory that was Greece” sprang from my mind when I received this month’s subscription to a British history magazine BBC History Revealed. It came in the magnificent package of ancient Greece Special, ranging from the Archaic to Hellenistic periods, from slaves to Socrates, and from Auspices to trepanation. I feel dutiful that writing about my thoughts from the reading serves a purpose of writing to achieve experiential value to gain refreshing knowledge about the famously glorious ancient Greece and creative value to record my thoughts about following impressive findings.

Surprising Opponent of Democracy
Socrates was the one who called upon Philosophy from celestial paradise into the world, took her to the villas and huts of mortals, and persuaded her to stay among them. He was indubitably the father of philosophy as Herodotus was of western narrative history. His submission to drinking fatal poison as execution for corrupting the Athenian youth by saying “Bad law is still law” is immortalized in works of art from painting to engraves, poems and plays. Woe betides anyone who would disbelieve that the most democratic thinker opposed democracy in his time. Yet don’t let sorrow turn into disappointment in betrayal because democracy in Socrates’s time was different from our modern concept and practice of republican democracy. Athenian democracy directly involved people of all classes in politics without representations for constituents. Any Athenian citizen- excluding women, slaves, and foreigners- could voice out and execute their wills however uncouth and unreasonable. This form of mob-style demagoguery without desires being reined by the judgment is what Socrates criticized, not freedom of human spirits. Naturally, having seen his venerable teacher killed by the will of demagogues, Plato was an even stronger opponent of Athenian democracy that ceased to reign in the early 4th century BC following the Greeks’ unsuccessful revolt against Macedonia rule.

Nothing is better than the simple.
Anyte of Tegea was a very popular poet of circa 3rd century BC. Anyte is considered one of the first poets to focus on the simplicity of beauty found in nature and life, which is different from most ancient Greek poetry eulogizing the mighty achievements of heroes and the majestic powers of gods. Her eloquently crafted poetry with comprehensively accessible use of simple language gorgeously manifests richly delicate emotional sensitivity that collapses the millenniums between her writing and our reading them. Although her popularity earned her the sobriquet of “Female Homer,” a comparison to nineteen-century American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow is deemed more apposite and understandable for both poets sublimated the ordinary to the sublime with the feeling of beauty and love for nature and life.

A hole into the skull
Trepanation was a medical technique that Hippocrates, the father of medicines and doctors, codified in circa 5th century BC. He believed that there were four humors in the human body: Blood – Air, Yellow bile – Fire, Black bile – Earth, and Phlegm – Water. The idea of humourism consisted of thus: if one of them was redundant or deficient, ailments of spiritual and physical kinds arose. Therefore, drilling a hole into the skull of the affected suffering from depression, headache, fractures, or other symptoms of a mystical condition, would relieve the patient of malady. The Inca civilization was indeed famous for successful cases of trepanation, more favorably effectuated than those of 19th century American Civil War experience. However, it was Hippocrates who contextualized the procedural and impacts of the prehistoric operation. Trepanation is still performed today in the name of craniotomy.

The mists of the past seem strangely distant due to our conditioned sense of evolutionary scale in the continuum of prehistoric and modern times. However, history shows us in today’s world that the people who lived before us millenniums ago had emotions and concerns similar to ours and that human cultural progress is a collective enterprise without fully recognizing it within the circumferences of time and space. Just as Herodotus was gobsmacked by the sight of great pyramids built centuries before him, our descendants will be awe-struck to see the ancient ruins of the Statue of Liberty or the Empire State Building and the tires of the New York City or of Los Angeles. Time and culture are ephemeral, but cultural heritage and artifacts in the treasure of works of art and humanities passed down to posterity are eternal as long as the human race exists.