Carolina López-RuizMar 14, 2022
Phoenicians and the Making of the Mediterranean
Harvard University Press 2021
Long before Herodotus told the story of the Greeks, the ancient Mediterranean teemed with what the Greeks themselves would recognize as hallmarks of civilization: trade and commerce, cities and colonies, luxury goods and craftsmanship, cults and votives, inscriptions and their prerequisite, written language. Behind this vast network, stretching as it did across hundreds of miles and years, were a group of canny Levantine urbanites, the Phoenicians. But, due to a dearth of surviving literature and, more directly, western investment in the charmed “miracle” of Greek civilization, this is a story few of us know.
In an incisive study that ranges over as many miles and centuries as the Phoenicians themselves, Carolina López-Ruiz corrects the record. The Phoenicians and the Making of the Mediterranean (Harvard University Press, 2021) puts the Phoenicians back into the spotlight where they belong. We see them as merchants and artisans who shaped—and were shaped by—the interconnected world of the Iron Age Mediterranean. It is an index of this study’s strength that López-Ruiz manages both to assert their agency in stitching together this Levantine “koine” and capture the unique contours of this hybridity everywhere it appeared—from Iberia to Sicily, Etruria to Assyria. The Phoenicians is thus not merely the history of a particularly industrious group of seafarers. It is also a glimpse into colonization and coexistence, indigenous response and adaptation, cultural innovation, and the foundations of a shared past.
Jonathan Megerian is a doctoral candidate in history at Johns Hopkins University. He works on late medieval and Renaissance England. His dissertation explores the role of historiography in the formation of imperial ideologies in Renaissance England.