Images de page


height, or 53 (80 feet) from the keel to the top of the poop, a crew of 400 sailors, besides 4000 rowers, and near 3000 soldiers. Philopater had another he used on the Nile, upwards of 300 feet in length, and 30 cubits (45 feet) in breadth, and nearly 40 (60 feet) high; and Ptolemy Philadelphus had two of 30 banks, one of 20, four of 14, two of 12, fourteen of 11, thirty of 9, thirtyseven of 7, five of 6, seventeen of 5, and more than twice that number of 4 and 3 banks, with others of smaller size.

Of the origin of navigation no satisfactory conjecture can be offered, nor do we know to what nation to ascribe the merit of having conferred so important a benefit on mankind.

It is evident that the first steps were slow and gradual, and that the earliest attempts to construct vessels on the sea were rude and imperfect.

Ships of burden were originally mere rafts, made of the trunks of trees bound together, over which planks were fastened; which Pliny states to have been first used on the Red Sea; but he is wrong in limiting the era of ship-building to the age of Danaus, and in supposing that rafts alone were employed until that period. Rafts were adopted, even to carry goods, long after the invention of ships, as they still are for some purposes on rivers and other inland waters; but boats, made of hollow trees and various materials, covered with hides or pitch, were also of very early date, and to these may be ascribed the origin of planked vessels. Improvement followed improvement, and in proportion as civilisation advanced, the inventive genius of man was called forth to push on an invention, so essential to those communities, where the advantages of commerce were understood; and numerous causes contributed to the origin of navigation, and the construction of vessels for traversing the sea.

Whatever may have been the date of those expeditions which colonized various parts of Greece and other countries, the people to whom the art of navigation was most indebted, who excelled all others in nautical skill, and who carried the spirit of adventure far beyond any nation of antiquity, were the Phoenicians; and those bold navigators even visited the coast of Britain, in quest of tin.

The fleets of Sesostris, Amosis, and the Remeses, certainly date at a very remote age, and some Phoenician sailors, sent by Neco on a voyage of discovery, to ascertain the form of the African continent, actually doubled the Cape of Good Hope, about twentyone centuries before the time of Bartholomew Diaz, and Vasco de Gama; but it was not till the discovery of the compass that navigation became perfected, and the uncertain method of ascertaining the course by the stars gave place to the more accurate calculations of modern times.

After the fall of Tyre, and the building of Alexandria, Egypt became famous as a commercial country, and the emporium of the East; the riches of India, brought to Berenice, Myos-Hormos, and other ports on the Red Sea, passed through it, to be distributed over various parts of the Roman empire; and it continued to benefit by these advantages, until a new route was opened to India by the Portuguese, round the Cape of Good Hope.

It is difficult to explain how, at that early period, so great a value came to be attached to tin, that the Phoenicians should have thought it worth while to undertake a voyage of such a length, and attended with so much risk, in order to obtain it; even allowing that a high price was paid for this commodity in Egypt, and other countries, where, as at Sidon, the different branches of metallurgy were carried to great perfection. It was mixed with other metals, particularly copper, which was hardened by this alloy; it was employed, according to Homer, for the raised work on the exterior of shields, as in that of Achilles; for making greaves, and binding various parts of defensive armour; as well as for household and ornamental purposes; and it is remarkable, that the word kassiteros, used by the poet, is the same as the Arabic name kasdeer, by which the metal is still known in the East. It is also called kastira in Sanserit.

We have no means of ascertaining the exact period when the Phoenicians first visited our coasts in search of tin; some have supposed about the year 400 or 450 before our era: but that this metal was employed many ages previously, is shown from the bronze vessels and implements discovered at Thebes, and other parts of Egypt. It cannot, however, be inferred that the mines

of Britain were known at that remote period; since Spain and India may have furnished the Egyptians with tin; and the Phœnicians probably obtained it from these countries, long before they visited our distant coasts, and discovered the richness of their productive mines. It is still produced in small quantities in Gallicia and another part of northern Spain. Ezekiel says that the Tyrians received tin, as well as other metals, from Tarshish; and whether this was in India or not, there is sufficient evidence of the productions of that country having been known at the earliest times, as is proved by the gold of Ophir being mentioned in Job. For if Phoenician ships did not actually sail to India, its productions arrived partly by land through Arabia, partly through more distant marts, established midway from India by the merchants of those (as of later) days; and we have evidence of their having already found their way to Egypt, at the early period of Joseph's arrival in that country, from the spices which the Ishmaelites were carrying to sell there. And the amethyst, hæmatite, lapis lazzuli, and other objects discovered at Thebes, of the time of the third Thothmes, and succeeding Pharaohs, argue that the intercourse was constantly kept up.

The first mention of tin, though not the earliest proof of its use, is in connexion with the spoils taken by the Israelites from the people of Midian, in the year 1452 B.C., where they are commanded by Moses to purify "the gold and the silver, the brass, the iron, the tin, and the lead, by passing it through the fire; its combination with other metals is noticed by Isaiah, in the year 760 before our era, who alludes to it as an alloy mixed with a more valuable substance ;* Ezekiel† shows that it was used for this purpose in connexion with silver; and bronze, a compound of tin and copper, is found in Egypt of the time of the 6th Dynasty, more than 2000 years B.C.

Strabo, Diodorus, Pliny, and other writers, mention certain islands discovered by the Phoenicians, which, from the quantity of tin they produced, obtained the name Cassiterides. Though their locality is not given correctly by them, it is evident they

*Isaiah, i. 25.

Ezek. xxii. 18, 20.

all allude to the cluster now known as the Scilly Isles; but these never produced tin, and the Phoenicians invented this story in order to conceal the fact of the mainland of Cornwall being the spot whence they obtained it. For, as Strabo says, the secret of their discovery was carefully concealed, and the Phoenician vessels continued to sail from Gades (Cadiz) in quest of this commodity, without its being known from whence they obtained it: though many endeavours were made by the Romans at a subsequent period to ascertain the secret, and to share the benefits of this lucrative trade.

So anxious, indeed, were the Phoenicians to retain their monopoly, that on one occasion, when a Roman vessel pursued a trader bound to the spot, the latter purposely steered his vessel on a shoal; preferring to suffer shipwreck, provided he involved his pursuers in the same fate, rather than disclose his country's secret; for which he was rewarded from the public treasury.


[ocr errors]

Pliny mentions a report of "white lead," or tin, being brought from certain islands of the Atlantic; yet he treats it as a "fable," and proceeds to state that it was found in Lusitania and Gallicia, and was the same metal known to the Greeks in the days of Homer by the name kassiteros.' Diodorus and Strabo, after noticing the tin of Spain and the Cassiterides, affirm that it was also brought to Massillia (Marseilles) from the coast of Britain; but this was probably after it had been long known to the Phoenicians, who still kept their secret; and it was doubtless through their means that the natives of Britain prevented other foreigners going direct to the mines, supplying them, as they did, with pigs of tin, carried to Vectis, or the Isle of Wight; the established depût where the traders from the Continent were accustomed to purchase the metal. And this having become the established line of commerce probably led to the choice of the neighbouring port of Southampton, as the place whence the Pilgrims in later times crossed over to the Seine.

Spain, in early times, was to the Phoenicians what America, at a later period, was to the Spaniards; and no one can read the accounts of the immense wealth derived from the mines of that country, in the writings of Diodorus and other authors, without

being struck by the relative position of the Phoenicians towards the ancient Spaniards, and the followers of Cortez or Pizarro towards the inhabitants of Mexico or Peru.

[ocr errors]

"The whole of Spain," says Strabo, "abounds with mines and in no country are gold, silver, copper, and iron in such abundance or of such good quality: even the rivers and torrents bring down gold in their beds, and some is found in the sand;" and the fanciful assertion of Posidonius, regarding the richness of the country in precious metals, surpassed the phantoms created in the minds of the conquerors of America.

The Phoenicians purchased gold, silver, tin, and other metals from the inhabitants of Spain and the Cassiterides, by giving in exchange earthenware vessels, oil, salt, bronze manufactures, and other objects of little value, like the Spaniards on their arrival at Hispaniola; and such was the abundance of silver, that after loading their ships with full cargoes, they stripped the lead from their anchors, and substituted the same weight of silver.

Among those bronze implements were very probably the beautiful swords, daggers, and spear-heads found in this country, buried with the ancient Britons; which are of such excellent workmanship and form, that they could only be the work of a highly civilized and skilful people; and as they are neither of a Greek nor Roman type, it is difficult to attribute them to any other people than the Phoenicians.

A strong evidence of the skill of the Egyptians in working metals, and of the early advancement they made in this art, is derived from their success in the management of different alloys; which, as M. Goguet observes, is further argued from the casting of the golden calf, and still more from Moses being able to burn the metal and reduce it to powder; a secret which he could only have learnt in Egypt. It is said in Exodus, that "Moses took the calf which they had made, and burnt it in the fire, and ground it to powder, and strewed it upon the water, and made the children of Israel drink of it ;" an operation which, according to the French savant, "is known by all who work in metals to be very difficult."

"Commentators' heads," he adds, "have been much perplexed

« PrécédentContinuer »