The Phoenicians or Canaanites are linguistically regarded as Semitic people, who among their many achievements are credited with giving us our alphabet (without vowels). Both Strabo and Herodotus claim that they originally came from Bahrain(p), but this origin is denied by the phoenicia.org website(q). The correctness of these two ancient writers has been heavily criticised(r).
Nevertheless, Dhani Irwanto in a 2019 article(ab) on his website insists that the Phoenicians originated somewhere in the Indian Ocean. Irwanto suggests “that perhaps the most significant contribution of the Phoenicians was an alphabetic writing system that became the root of the Western alphabets.” However, Irwanto has gone further and proposed that the Phoenicians also influenced the development of at least three of the scripts of South Sumatera in Indonesia!
The widespread idea that Phoenician writing inspired the development of European alphabets, such as that of the Greeks, conflicts with the discovery of the Dispilo Tablet(ad) in Greece which has pushed back the use of writing in Greece to around 5200 BC, which is long before the people recognised as Phoenician emerged in the 2nd millennium BC(ac)!
A recent essay explicitly claims that there was never any such entity as ‘Phoenicia’! It also charts the manner in which ‘Phoenicians’ have been arbitrarily claimed as ancestors by distant nations, having been “enlisted in support of the nationalist histories of Lebanon, Britain, and Ireland, and in some cases seriously distorted by them. Despite claims by various partisans of Lebanese, British and Irish nationalism to enlist the Phoenicians as their ancient progenitor, the Phoenicians never existed as a self-conscious community, let alone a nascent nation.” (y)
The Phoenicians flourished during the 1st and 2nd millennia BC. The late Joseph Robert Jochmans has suggested(c) that similarities between Phoenician names and those of the sons of Poseidon are more than coincidental. The descendants of the Phoenicians are still to be found in great numbers in modern Lebanon as well as elements of the Phoenician language. Contrary to popular belief the Maltese language is more related to Phoenician than Arabic(g). Similarly, in a mountainous and isolated northeast corner of Asia Minor, its people still speak Greek in a dialect known as Romeyka(l). Dr Ioanna Sitaridou of Queen’s College, Cambridge explains that ‘Although Romeyka can hardly be described as anything but a Modern Greek dialect, it preserves an impressive number of grammatical traits that add an Ancient Greek flavor to the dialect’s structure – traits that have been completely lost from other Modern Greek varieties.’
A more radical view of the Phoenicians has been expressed by Professor Josephine Quinn(o) who declared “the Phoenicians never existed as a self-conscious community, let alone a nascent nation.” In a lengthy article, she suggests that “‘‘Phoenician’ was just a generic label invented by ancient Greek authors for the Levantine sailors they encountered in their own maritime explorations. Although some of these Greek writers entertain a mild stereotype of these Phoenicians as rather cunning or tricksy, they never use the term as a description of a distinct ethnocultural community.”
The Phoenicians have been frequently identified as the Atlanteans of Plato’s narrative. Peter Dawkins’ Zoence Academy website has the following logic-stretching gem – “Atlas also is known by other names, such as Enoch or The Phoenix, (hence Atlantis is Phoenicia, the land of the Phoenix)(v).
Keith Hunt noted on his website that “Prof. George Rawlinson (1812-1902), in his “Story of Phoenicia,” tells us that Phoenicia derived its name from the forests of date or Phoenix palms which grew there in great luxuriance. So far so good; but whence did the Phoenix palm derive its name? Horapollo says: “A palm branch was the symbol of the Phoenix.” Yes, but what or who was the Phoenix? Sanchomathon, the Phoenician writer, states that “Phoenix was the first Phoenician.” Phoenix, then, was a man. Now, the word Phoenix is the Greek form of the Egyptian term “Pa-Hanok,” the house of Enoch. In Hebrew Enoch also is Hanok. Thus the mystery of that ancient race is solved: they were the sons and descendants of Enoch and of Noah and his three sons, who after the Flood started their westward march. Their descendants have kept it up since, settled, first north of the Persian Gulf in the bushlands of Mesopotamia, where they found a dusky race in occupation of the land, the ancient Sumerians, and from thence towards the Mediterranean.” (w)
James Nienhuis has recently identified Canaanites as Atlanteans(m)! The supporters of a Bronze Age date for the invasion of the Atlanteans see in the Phoenicians the powerful far-flung maritime civilisation described by Plato. However, this identification is in conflict with Plato’s statement that Atlantis or its influence extended as far as Tyrrhenia and Libya, whereas the Phoenicians had their original base further east in the region of modern Lebanon and Israel. It also runs counter to Plato’s clear account of the Atlanteans attacking from their bases in the Central Mediterranean (Tim.25b & Crit.114c).
The Phoenicians were never unilaterally at war with Greece and/or Egypt, but their successors, the Carthaginians, whose main military campaigns were directed against the Roman Empire, did clash with the Greeks in Sicily.
It is accepted that the Phoenician commercial empire began with the three cities of Tyre, Sidon, and Byblos. They expanded with the establishment of trading settlements along the Mediterranean coast of North Africa usually separated by a day’s rowing – somewhere between 30 to 60 miles.
It is claimed that the Phoenicians together with the Egyptians had an influence on the development of the Minoan culture(e).
Jonas Bergman recently presented a paper to the 2005 Melos Atlantis Conference on the subject of a Phoenician association with the Atlantis story. He outlined how Plato’s description of Atlantis was similar to the western colonies of the Phoenicians.
“Roderic O’Flaherty (Ruaidrhí Ó Flaithbheartaigh) was the first Irish scholar to suggest in his influential work Ogygia (1685) that the Phoenicians formed part of Irish ancestry. In the 18th century, O’Flaherty’s theory of the Phoenicians as progenitors of the Irish became very popular among the Protestant Ascendancy as well as Gaelic intellectuals.”(y)
Joaquín Lorenz Villanueva (1757-1837) was a Spanish historian, who moved to Dublin in later life, where he wrote Ibernia Phœnicea , which was an attempt to prove that Ireland had been colonised by the Phoenicians. This was translated into English and published by Henry O’Brien in 1833 as Phoenician Ireland .
Phoenicians in America
Some German writers in the 19th century such as Robert Prutz and later Jakob Kruger have advocated the idea that Phoenicians had discovered America, where he also placed Atlantis. However, in spite of the fact that there is widespread support for this concept and the even more extreme claim of Phoenicians in Australia, a Lebanese website (now offline), in the original home of Phoenicia, discounted all such claims for lack of evidence. Nevertheless, attention-seeking Rex Gilroy persists in promoting the idea of Phoenicians in Australia(h).
A paper by Christian C. Karam, who believes that Atlantis had been located in the Atlantic has expanded on the idea of a Phoenician presence in Brazil three thousand years ago(n).
In 1886, the American novelist Ann Eliza Smith (1819-1905) published a fantasy novel(j), Atla, that tells the tale of the discovery of the Atlantis civilization by the Phoenicians.
In 1889, Enrique Onffroy de Thoron proposed that Atlantis had been Phoenician and situated in America. Indeed, claims still persist that the Phoenicians did reach South America(f). However, Onffroy was not the first to suggest this, as he was preceded by Robertus Comtaeus Nortmannus as early as 1644 and Georg Horn in 1652.
Paul Gallez (1920-2007) was a Belgian-born cartographer, historian and linguist. Atlantisforschung noted that “On the occasion of the celebrations of the 500th anniversary of the alleged discovery of America by Christopher Columbus (the ‘Columbus Day’ of the year 1992), Gallez wrote and published in 1996 a whole series of articles about much earlier voyages of discovery, e.g. by Phoenicians, Egyptians, Chinese and Vikings in the journal La Nueva Provincia , in which he also considered proto-Semitic influences in pre-Columbian America“(ah).
Arguably, the best-known exponent of the ‘Phoenicians in America’ school of thought was Bernardo Silva Ramos(i). In the 1930s he studied inscriptions at Pedra de Gavea and concluded that they were Phoenician and offered a translation that read “Tyre, Phoenicia, Badezir, Firstborn of Jethbaal”. This supposedly refers to a ruler of Phoenicia named Baal-Eser I, who ruled Tyre in the mid-9th century, c. 850 BC. Jacques de Mahieu decided that the inscriptions were not Phoenician but, in keeping with his Nazi background, they were Nordic runes!(ae) Otto Muck also bought into the Phoenicians in Brazil idea and according he accepted the translation of Bernardo Silva Ramos(af).
Paul Gaffarel wrote a number of papers between 1875 and 1890 on pre-Columbian trans-Atlantic voyagers from Europe. He presented a 38-page paper on the Phoenicians’ voyages to America to the Congrès International des Américanistes in Nancy (France) in 1875. Other essays concerned the Vikings and ancient Irish(ag).
Nevertheless, John Denison Baldwin, writing in the late 19th century, was highly critical of the Phoenicians being early colonisers in America and after reviewing the arguments in favour of the idea, he concluded that “if it were true that the civilization found in Mexico and Central America came from people of the Phoenician race, it would be true also that they built in America as they never built anywhere else, that they established a language here radically unlike their own, and that they used a style of writing totally different from that which they carried into every other region occupied by their colonies. All the forms of alphabetical writing used at present in Europe and Southwestern Asia came directly or indirectly from that anciently invented by the race to which the Phoenicians belonged, and they have traces of a common relationship that can easily be detected. Now the writing of the inscriptions at Palenque, Copan, and elsewhere in the ruins has no more relatedness to the Phoenician than to the Chinese writing. It has not a single characteristic that can be called Phoenician any more than the language of the inscriptions or the style of architecture with which it is associated; therefore we can not reasonably suppose this American civilization originated by people of the Phoenician race, whatever may be thought relative to the supposed ancient communication between the two continents and its probable influence on civilized communities already existing here.”(x)
Jason Colavito published articles written by Thomas Crawford Johnston in 1892(z). that he later developed into his 1913 book Did the Phoenicians Discover America [1902+] which is available online(aa).
In his 2009 book, Uncovering Archaeology, Dennis Cassinelli outlines in some detail his Atlantis theory, which he locates in Central America(s). He suggests that the Phoenicians landed in Central America and on seeing the Mayan cities concluded that they had landed in Atlantis. Not unexpectedly, Jason Colavito had a few words to say about this idea(t).
Jean Mazel favourably discussed the idea of the Phoenicians in South America in his 1968 book Avec le Phéniciens.
Hugh Fox (1932-2011) wrote of the early peoples of the Americas in his well-received Gods of the Cataclysm. The ‘cataclysm’ referred to is the biblical Deluge, in respect of which he follows the ideas of Velikovsky and the Christian catastrophist Donald W. Patten (1929-2014), who attributed Noah’s Flood to a close encounter with a massive extraterrestrial body around 2800 BC. Fox explicitly claims that before the Flood, transoceanic travel was commonplace, with the Chinese in America, Indian theology in the Mediterranean and that after the Flood we had the Phoenicians and Odysseus in America.
More recently, Andrew Collins has drawn attention to the extraction of purple dye from shellfish in a number of Central and South American countries [072.357], commenting that “quite clearly, the presence of purple dye processes in Costa Rica, Mexico and Ecuador, as well as in Peru, could well constitute positive proof of transoceanic contact with ancient seafarers from the eastern Mediterranean.” Collins also quotes Thomas Crawford Johnston’s Did the Phoenicians Discover America [1902+] – “There is probably no stronger evidence of the presence of the Phoenician in the New World than can be drawn from the use of dyes.” Collins also notes that similar sentiments were expressed by Wolfgang Born in a 1937 paper.
Collins has also noted [p361] how cotton was widely produced in the Americas before the Spanish conquest and that genetic studies have shown “that the variety of cotton cultivated in the New World from very earliest times is a hybrid form derived from an Old World species crossed with species native only to the American continent. Crawford Johnston also claimed that the compass had been invented by the Phoenicians!
Peter de Roo, writing in 1900 [890.1.195] stated “that the Phoenicians at some time landed on American soil could not well be denied in the presence of ancient reports; but as Gravier justly observes. if any vague account of their discoveries was kept, it reached us disfigured by Hellenic fanciful imagination.”
The late Sabatino Moscati, a renowned linguist and archaeologist, wrote a highly regarded work on the subject of the Phoenicians. Additionally, there is an invaluable website(a) on offer from Salim George Khalaf, a modern Phoenician from Lebanon. This huge site with its 2,000 pages covers all aspects of Phoenician culture. This same site(b), drawing on the work of Ignatius Donnelly, identifies the kings of Atlantis with the Phoenician pantheon and claims that the gods of the Greeks were also the deified Atlantean kings.
Jacques Hébert, who places Atlantis in the Indian Ocean on the island of Socotra, suggests that the Atlanteans had a colony in the Eastern Mediterranean whose inhabitants developed into the Phoenicians!
(g) See: Archive 2852
(i) https://pt.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bernardo_de_Azevedo_da_Silva_Ramos (Portuguese)
Ogygia is the home of Calypso, referred to by Homer in Book V of his Odyssey. It is accepted by some as an island in the Mediterranean that was destroyed by an earthquake before the Bronze Age. The Greek writers Euhemerus in the 4th century BC and Callimachus who flourished in the 3rd century BC, identified the Maltese archipelago as Ogygia. Others have more specifically named the Maltese island of Gozo as Ogygia. Anton Mifsud has pointed out that Herodotus, Hesiod and Diodorus Siculus have all identified the Maltese Islands with Ogygia.
John Vella has added his support to the idea of a Maltese Ogygia in a paper published in the Athens Journal of History (Vol.3 Issue 1) in which he noted that “The conclusions that have emerged from this study are that Homer’s Ogygia is not an imaginary but a reference to and a record of ancient Gozo-Malta.”
Adding to the confusion, Aeschylus, the tragedian (523-456 BC) calls the Nile, Ogygian, and Eustathius, a Byzantine grammarian (1115-1195), claimed that Ogygia was the earliest name for Egypt(j).
Isaac Newton wrote a number of important works including The Chronology of Ancient Kingdoms Amended , in which he discussed a range of mythological links to Atlantis, including a possible connection with Homer’s Ogygia. There is now evidence that he concurred(c) with the idea of a Maltese Ogygia in The Original of Monarchies(d).
Strabo referred to “Eleusis and Athens on the Triton River [in Boiotia]. These cities, it is said, were founded by Kekrops (Cecrops), when he ruled over Boiotia (Boeotia), then called Ogygia, but were later wiped out by inundations.”(i) However, Strabo also declared that Ogygia was to be found in the ‘World Ocean’ or Atlantic (j). To say the least, these two conflicting statements require explanation.
Richard Hennig opted for Madeira following the opinion of von Humboldt. Spanuth argued strongly against either Madeira or the Canaries[0017.149] and gave his support to the Azores as the most likely location of Calypso’s Island.. Not unexpectedly the Azores, in the mid-Atlantic, have also been nominated as Ogygia by other 20th century researchers such as Sykes(e) and Mertz. In a 2019 paper(f), Gerard Janssen also placed Ogygia in the Azores, specifically naming the island of Saõ Miguel, which both Iman Wilkens [610.239] and Spanuth [015.226] also claimed. Spanuth added that until the 18th-century Saõ Miguel was known as umbilicus maris, which is equivalent to the Greek term, omphalos thallasses, used by Homer to describe Ogygia in chapter eight of the Odyssey!
Homer in his Odyssey identifies Ogygia as the home of Calypso. The Roman poet Catullus writing in the 1st century BC linked Ogygia with Calypso in Malta(g). However, Gozo’s claim is challenged by those supporting Gavdos in Crete(k). This opinion has been expounded more fully by Katerina Kopaka in a paper published in the journal Cretica Chronica(l), where her starting point is the claim that Gavdos had been previously known as Gozo!>Another Greek claimant is Lipsi(o) in the Dodecanese. We must also add Mljet in Croatia to the list of contenders claiming(p) to have been the home of Calypso. Mljet is also competing with Malta as the place where St. Paul was shipwrecked!
Mifsud quotes another Roman of the same period, Albius Tibullus, who also identified Atlantis with Calypso. Other Maltese writers have seen all this as strong evidence for the existence of Atlantis in their region. Delisle de Sales considered Ogygia to be between Italy and Carthage, but opted for Sardinia as the remains of Calypso’s island.
Other researchers such as Geoffrey Ashe and Andrew Collins have opted for the Caribbean as the home of Ogygia. Another site supports Mesoamerica as the location of Ogygia, which the author believes can be equated with Atlantis(h). An even more extreme suggestion by Ed Ziomek places Ogygia in the Pacific(b)!
In the Calabria region of southern Italy lies Capo Collone (Cape of Columns). 18th century maps(m) show two or more islands off the cape with one named Ogygia offering echoes of Homer’s tale. Respected atlases as late as 1860 continued to show a non-existent island there. It seems that these were added originally by Ortelius, inspired by Pseudo-Skylax and Pliny(n) . Additionally, there is a temple to Hera Lacinia at Capo Colonne, which is reputed to have been founded by Hercules!
By way of complete contrast, both Felice Vinci and John Esse Larsen have proposed that the Faeroe Islands included Ogygia. In the same region, Iceland was nominated by Gilbert Pillot as the location of Ogygia and Calypso’s home. Ilias D. Mariolakos, a Greek professor of Geology also makes a strong case(a) for identifying Iceland with Ogygia based primarily on the writings of Plutarch. He also supports the idea of Minoans in North America.
A more recent suggestion has come from Manolis Koutlis , who, after a forensic examination of various versions of Plutarch’s work, in both Latin and Greek, also placed Ogygia in North America, specifically on what is now the tiny island of St. Paul at the entrance to the Gulf of St. Lawrence in Canada, a gulf that has also been proposed as the location of Atlantis.
Jean-Silvain Bailly also used the writings of Plutarch to sustain his theory of Ogygia, which he equated with Atlantis having an Arctic location[0926.2.299], specifically identifying Iceland as Ogygia/Atlantis with the islands of Greenland, Nova Zembla and Spitzbergen as the three islands equally distant from it and each other.
>The novelist Samuel Butler (1835-1902) identified Pantelleria as Calypso’s Island, but the idea received little support(q).<
However, Ireland has been linked with Ogygia by mainly Irish writers. In the 17th century historian, Roderick O’Flaherty(1629-1718), wrote a history of Ireland entitled Ogygia, while in the 19th century, Margaret Anne Cusack (1832-1899) also wrote a history in which she claimed a more explicit connection. This was followed in 1911 by a book by Marion McMurrough Mulhall in which she also quotes Plutarch to support the linking of Ireland and Ogygia. More recently, in The Origin of Culture Thomas Dietrich promotes the same view, but offers little hard evidence to support it.
This matter would appear to be far from a resolution.
(c) See: Archive 3439
(e) ‘Where Calypso may have Lived’ (Atlantis, 5, 1953, pp 136-137)
(g) Lib. iv, Eleg. 1
(i) Strabo, Geography 9. 2. 18
(n) See: Note 5 in Armin Wolf’s Wayback Machine (archive.org)