Ancient Greece: From the Mycenaean Palaces to the Age of Homer

By Sigrid Deger-Jalkotzy; Irene S. Lemos | Go to book overview

17

PHOENICIANS IN CRETE

Nicholaos Chr. Stampolidis and Antonios Kotsonas


INTRODUCTION

This paper discusses mostly new evidence and interpretations of the interactions between Cretans and Phoenicians1 during the tenth to the seventh centuries BC.2 The topic has lately received significant attention,3 but was first confronted by scholars almost two millennia ago: we are told that in the thirteenth year of the reign of Nero (66 AD) an earthquake occurred at Knossos and opened many tombs, one of which contained bark inscribed with strange writing that was eventually sent to the emperor.4 Although Nero identified the language as Phoenician and summoned experts to translate the text, the preface of the latter's Latin

The authors wish to thank Sir John Boardman for providing them with a copy of his forth-
coming article, Athanasia Kanta for the map in plate 1 (which was modified by A. Kotsonas),
Joseph and Maria Shaw for figures 2 and 8, the British School at Athens for plates 4 and 7.

1 The term Phoenicians is employed here to refer to the people who lived in Phoenicia, as well as
in the areas to the north and north-east of that region (in north Syria). For the term Phoenician
see also Frankenstein's definition, quoted in S. P. Morris 1995: 124.

2 Although the Cypriot connection is discussed where appropriate, the relations between Crete
and Cyprus during the Iron Age deserve a much longer treatment, which falls outside the scope
of this paper (for the latest reviews see: Stampolidis 1998a; Matthäus 1998; Jones 2000: 142–8;
Stampolidis 2003a: 47–51). Further, a review of the role of Crete in the introduction of the
alphabet, which was once – but not any more – regarded prominent (see the review in Powell
1991:13, 55–7), was avoided, since this process is currently strongly connected with the Euboean
sphere of influence (Powell 1991; Whitley 2001: 128–33; Stampolidis 2003a: 61–2); moreover,
this connection is further supported by new finds from Eretria: Kenzelmann et al. 2005. In any
case the resemblance of some Cretan letters to their Phoenician prototypes is notable (Jeffery
1990: 309–14).

3 S. P. Morris 1995; Hoffman 1997; Stampolidis 1998a; Markoe 1998; Jones 2000: 148–65;
Stampolidis 2003c. See also the collection of references in Kourou and Grammatikaki 1998:
237, n. 2. The discussion in Negbi 1992: 607–9 includes several misunderstandings collected in
Hoffman 1997: 123, n. 37. Specialised bibliography is cited below.

The earliest discussion of the topic in modern scholarship does not date to 1884, in connec-
tion with the discovery of the Idaean bronzes (Markoe 1998: 233), but in the third quarter of
the nineteenth century, when Ernst Curtius's The History of Greece was produced (Bernal 1987:
336).

4 After Lucius Septimius (fourth century AD). The text, which is known as Dictys' Journal of the
Trojan War
, is preserved in Greek on a single papyrus fragment from Egypt and in a Latin trans-
lation (Forsdyke 1956: 42, 153–5; Bernal 1987: 385).

-337-

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