Commerce and Industry

The history of Phoenicia is marked by the big development of the maritime and trade activity basically supported by the exchange of both local natural products (tin, silver, citron wood, oil, wine, salt, dried fish, …), and of valuable crafts (fabrics, glasses, majolicas, jewels and metal objects), and by the exchange of foreign import products. The Phoenician trade and, later, the Punic-Carthaginian one, was never originated by a spirit of conquest, as it was for the Greeks later on; the fueller of the sea trades was always the search of the raw materials needed to the craftsmanship. Herodotus, tells us about the way the trade exchanges were carried out: “The Carthaginians say that there’s a region in Lybia and that there are men living there, beyond the Pillars of Hercules. When they got among these men and they delivered their goods, after arraying them along the shore they got on their ship again and they made a smoke rise. Then the native people, seeing the smoke, went to the beach and they replaced the goods with gold and they withdrew far from the goods. And the Cathaginians, gone astore, watched, and if the gold looked worth their goods they picked it up and got farther and if the gold didin’t look worth it, once back on the ship again, they waited; and those, coming forward, laid more gold, until the others felt satisfied. And they were fair with each other because the former didin’t touch the gold until the latter made it worth the goods, and the latter didin’t touch the goods earlier than when the former had taken the gold” (IV, 196).

In craftsmanship, the Phoenicians reached high achievements especially in transparent and blown glass manufacture (vases called “sidones”), in metals working (gold, silver,bronze), in stone cutting, in manufacturing ivory items, clay vases and statuettes and finally the tailoring and the weaving of cloths, linen or wool fabric, purple- dyed. Among the industrial activities carried out by the Phoenicians great importance is played by the development of the dockyards which provided even foreign purchasers with ships.