Extract from Legend—the Genesis of Civilisation by David Rohl.
We have now reached
a crucial point in our story. So far I have brought you down from the
mountains of Eden in the footsteps of the antediluvian patriarchs and
their followers. We then watched the generations of Enoch and Irad establish
settlements, first in the Susiana plain and then in the marshlands of
These resourceful humans soon learnt to build reed ships so that
they might journey out into the Lower Sea in search of new horizons of
Evidence of their explorations abounds in the form of Ubaid
pottery found at scores of sites along the Arabian coast of the Gulf.
This sea-going element of Adam's descendants have led us away from Mesopotamia
and the devastating flood into the reborn world of the postdiluvian era
and the migration of the sons of Ham.
We are now at the threshold of a
great new adventure as we board the ships of Cush, Mizraim, Put and Canaan
for the long journey to Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean.
In order to trace
the journey of this second generation of explorers I need to introduce
you to a fascinating and tenacious legend which lies outside both the
Mesopotamian and the biblical tradition, although the latter does hint
at a knowledge of what we are about to discuss.
Go to visit a Lebanese school and sit in on a history class. There you will hear the teacher
explain to the children that the modern Lebanese are descended from the
ancient Phoenicians who, in turn, originated from the islands of the Persian Gulf. The legendary origins of the Phoenicians are not an invention of the Lebanese Christian community purely to provide a separate ethnic tradition from their Muslim neighbours.
The idea that the ancestors of the Phoenicians
came from far-off Bahrain to found the new cities of Canaan on the Eastern Mediterranean coast was well known to the classical writers. Justin, Pliny, Ptolemy and Strabo all regarded the original homeland of the Phoenicians in the Gulf as an historical fact. I need only quote from one to establish the point.
Ancient Sumer was a conglomeration of city states located in the southern part of Mesopotamia, in the region where the rivers Tigris and Euphrates meet. This area falls mainly in modern Iraq. Each city had its own patron god or goddess and a ruling priest or priest king.. Sumerian innovations include irrigation, writing, the wheel, mathematics, laws, astronomy and architecture.
On sailing farther (down the Erythraean Sea), one comes to the other islands, I mean Tyre and Aradus, which have temples like those of the Phoenicians. It is asserted, at least by the inhabitants of the islands, that the islands and cities of the Phoenicians which bear the same name are their own colonies.
The Tyrians (citizens
of Tyre) proclaimed their original homeland as the island of Tylos in
the Erythraean Sea. Now the Erythraean or 'Red' Sea was not in ancient
times what we know as the Red Sea today - that is to say the long gulf
which lies between the western shore of Arabia and the eastern coast of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia.
Confusing as it may seem, the ancient name
of the modern Red Sea was the Arabian Gulf! The original Red Sea was what
we today call the Persian or Arabian Gulf and the lndian Ocean beyond.
It was named as such after Erythraeas who, according to legend, was buried
within a great mound on the island of Tylos. Of course, Erythraeas is
a Greek name which has the meaning the 'Red One' (hints of Adam?).
is usually accepted within scholarship that the Greek Tylos is
a late rendition of the Akkadian Tilmun. Thus the Phoenicians
of the eastern Mediterranean believed that they originated from
the sacred paradise isle of Sumerian legend.
Could it be that
the seafaring inhabitants of the Persian Gulf in the third and
second millennia BC were the ancestors of the seafaring Phoenician
inhabitants of the Mediterranean? Michael Rice neatly encapsulates
the historical dilemma.
We are reasonably certain that the Dilmunites were not Phoenicians; we are by no means certain now that the Phoenicians were not Dilmunites.