Ancient History

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Ancient History Sourcebook:
Hellenes & Phoenicians, c. 430 BCE

Book I, ''1-2

The Phoenicians, who had formerly dwelt on the shores of the Persian Gulf, having migrated to the Mediterranean and settled in the parts which they now inhabit, began at once, they say, to adventure on long voyages, freighting their vessels with the wares of Egypt and Assyria. They landed at many places on the coast, and among the rest at Argos, which was then pre-eminent above all the states included now under the common name of Hellas. Here they exposed their merchandise, and traded with the natives for five or six days; at the end of this time, when almost everything was sold, there came down to the beach a number of women, and among them the daughter of the king, who was, they say, agreeing in this with the Hellenes, Io, the child of Inachus. The women were standing by the stern of the ship intent upon their purchases, when the Phoenicians, with a general shout, rushed upon them. The greater part made their escape, but some were seized and carried off. Io herself was among the captives. The Phoenicians put the women on board their vessel, and set sail for Egypt. Thus did Io pass into Egypt, and thus commenced the series of outrages. . . .At a later period, certain Greeks, with whose name they are unacquainted, but who would probably be Cretans, made a landing at Tyre, on the Phoenician coast, and bore off the king's daughter, Europa. In this they only retaliated. The Cretans say that it was not them who did this act, but, rather, Zeus, enamored of the fair Europa, who disguised himself as a bull, gained the maiden's affections, and thence carried her off to Crete, where she bore three sons by Zeus: Sarpedon, Rhadamanthys, and Minos, later king of all Crete.

Book V, ''57-59

Now the Gephyraean clan, claim to have come at first from Eretria, but my own enquiry shows that they were among the Phoenicians who came with Cadmus to the country now called Boeotia. In that country the lands of Tanagra were allotted to them, and this is where they settled. The Cadmeans had first been expelled from there by the Argives, and these Gephyraeans were forced to go to Athens after being expelled in turn by the Boeotians. The Athenians received them as citizens of their own on set terms. These Phoenicians who came with Cadmus and of whom the Gephyraeans were a part brought with them to Hellas, among many other kinds of learning, the alphabet, which had been unknown before this, I think, to the Greeks. As time went on the sound and the form of the letters were changed. At this time the Greeks who were settled around them were for the most part Ionians, and after being taught the letters by the Phoenicians, they used them with a few changes of form. In so doing, they gave to these characters the name of Phoenician. I have myself seen Cadmean writing in the temple of Ismenian Apollo at Boeotian Thebes engraved on certain tripods and for the most part looking like Ionian letters.



From: Herodotus, The History, George Rawlinson, trans., (New York: Dutton & Co., 1862).

Scanned by: J. S. Arkenberg, Dept. of History, Cal. State Fullerton. Prof. Arkenberg has modernized the text.

This text is part of the Internet Ancient History Sourcebook. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts related to medieval and Byzantine history.

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© Paul Halsall, August 1998

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