The Late Bronze Age


Trade and Phoenician Development in the Late Bronze Age

Little is known about the Phoenician way of life other than the fact that they were a society founded on trade with other, larger nations. These people made use of their natural resources to establish trade with such nations as Egypt and Assyria. The geographical locations of the Phoenician city-states were also advantageous to their role as a trading state. Located on the east coast of the Mediterranean, where Israel lies today, the Phoenicians were able to trade with virtually all of the Mediterranean nations. Little else is known about their actual culture, other than what is written about them in other nation’s texts. In a text from the seventh century, the rules of trade are established, and appear to have been independent of any local rulers, traders acted on their own accord. Phoenicia became one of the greatest trading states in all of history, due to the fact that they possessed a large amount of valuable materials, a good location for trade, and an unsurpassed knowledge of the sea. It is through these advantages that Phoenicia was able to become such an influential state.
Phoenicia was located in what is now present-day Israel, a very valuable plot of land even today. This was an undeniable resource for the Phoenicians, and without it there success as a trading nation would have been severely deterred. Being located on the Mediterranean, the Phoenicians had equal access to both Egypt and Assyria, the two most influential nations in the region. In the text, it is clearly stated that should a trader be stranded in another nation they should be returned to their home, but their ‘booty’ is free for the taking (Kuhrt, 407). This fact made trade easier, due to the idea that fear of capture was greatly reduced by the trade rules. Clearly, if Phoenicia had not been located where it was, their influence on trade would have been dramatically decreased. By making use of their location the Phoenicians capitalized on trade, and their wealth of resources contributed greatly to their role.
Phoenicia was rich in natural resources such as timber and metal. “Because of the demands made on them . . . the coastal cities appear to have concentrated their energy and resources on the production of luxury commodities such as ivory inlaid furniture for royal consumption” (Kuhrt, 407). This fact produced a wealth of skilled craftsmen, who are still famous today for their creations. By far the most valuable resource in Phoenicia was their timber, which was easily tradable with the nations of Egypt and Assyria, who had no timber, for other resources. Mercantile companies along the coast were in charge of trade, not local rulers, although they were probably very important to these companies as investors (Kuhrt 407). This aspect of trade amassed much wealth for non-royalty, and most likely created a strong middle class in Phoenicia, although little is known about their culture. Phoenicia used its neighbors to make itself a powerful nation. Clearly, capitalization through trade was a key aspect of life in ancient Phoenicia, while knowledge of the sea was another.
From the few times the Phoenicians are mentioned in other nations texts, one fact is clear, they were very knowledgeable of the sea. This fact played a key role in their success as a trading nation. There is evidence that the Phoenicians traded with nearly every nation in the Mediterranean, and possibly some nations on the west coast of Africa. This widespread trade is another reason why Phoenicia was so successful; they did not rely solely on the support of Egypt and Assyria. References to the Phoenicians can be found in texts from Greece, and early Rome, as well as Egypt and Assyria. Clearly Phoenicia was the trading giant of late Bronze age. This aspect of Phoenician trade was another reason why trade rules were established. If a trader from Phoenicia were shipwrecked they were assured a passage back home, although their cargo became the possession of the nation whose water’s the ship wrecked in. Through their knowledge of the sea, the Phoenicians established trade with all the nations of the Mediterranean.
In conclusion, the Phoenician city-states were founded and maintained through trade. This aspect of Phoenician life