Phoenician Secrets: Exploring the Ancient Mediterranean Paperback – 30 Apr 2011
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Thoroughly researched and clearly written . . . a welcome addition to all libraries.
--David Northrup, Ph.D.
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In his introduction, Holst states that there are often varying opinions as to what actually happened in history, but that for the sake of brevity, he has simply presented the explanation of each event best supported by the available evidence. While this approach is pragmatic, it robs the reader of the opportunity to understand where there is consensus about the events Holst is reporting, and where he is venturing into more debatable interpretations. In fact, there are many places where he gives detailed accounts of the motivations of the Phoenicians that we cannot possibly know. At times, his narrative is highly speculative, but presented using language which makes it sound like fact.
Overall, he presents a very one-sided view of the Phoenicians as lovers of peace and equality. Though they quite probably were more peaceful and egalitarian than the societies which surrounded them ( as were many people whose prosperity was based predominantly on trade), it is probable that things were far more nuanced and changeable than the impression Holst gives us.Read more ›
The second thing is that he assumes too much we know what he is speaking about. He is not writing a book for specialists but a book for the wide public. His general tone of story telling more than history telling makes it easy, personal, reader-friendly, but at times the author assumes we know and he puts Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides in the same sentence presented as "classical playwrights" in the same period, Pericles' golden age of Athens, in the same theater of Dionysius and Socrates is in the next line. This does not give us enough about the three of them when we know Aeschylus was 81 when he died and at that moment Sophocles was 39, Euripides only 26, and Socrates hardly 17. The absence of such details makes time fuzzy and we have difficulty following the flow of time.
If we stay on this idea of the timeline, the book is clear and yet not that clear. The books sets the beginning around 6000 BCE but the author does not specify where the Phoenicians were coming from. The Phoenicians are Semitic. There were no Semites in the Levant from 80,000 BCE to 36,000 BCE. So did they arrive after the ice-age and then where did they come from, the Arabic Peninsula, the Southern Levant (and where from before) or Egypt?Read more ›