Christogenea Europe: The Phoenicians

cornish celtic cross with christ risen and crucified against dramatic sky

Christ as a boy in Cornwall, wearing a Phoenician tunic.


With William Finck and Sven Longshanks

By William Finck:

See the related material at Christogenea found under the title Identifying the Phoenicians.

From Herodotus, The Histories, 3.115:

“Of the extreme tracts of Europe towards the west I cannot speak with any certainty; for I do not allow that there is any river, to which the barbarians give the name of Eridanus, emptying itself into the northern sea, whence (as the tale goes) amber is procured; nor do I know of any islands called the Cassiterides (Tin Islands), whence the tin comes which we use. For in the first place the name Eridanus is manifestly not a barbarian word at all, but a Greek name, invented by some poet or other; and secondly, though I have taken vast pains, I have never been able to get an assurance from an eye-witness that there is any sea on the further side of Europe. Nevertheless, tin and amber do certainly come to us from the ends of the earth.”

We are going to offer George Rawlinson’s comments upon this passage, after we read a paragraph from Strabo.

From Strabo’s Geography, 3.5.11:

The Cassiterides are ten in number, and lie near each other in the ocean towards the north from the haven of the Artabri. [According to Strabo, the Artabri (or Arrotrebae) were an ancient Gallaecian Celtic tribe, living in the extreme north-west of modern Galicia, at the far northwest corner of Iberia] One of them is desert, but the others are inhabited by men in black cloaks, clad in tunics reaching to the feet, girt about the breast, and walking with staves, thus resembling the Furies we see in tragic representations. They subsist by their cattle, leading for the most part a wandering life. Of the metals they have tin and lead; which with skins they barter with the merchants for earthenware, salt, and brazen vessels. Formerly the Phœnicians alone carried on this traffic from Gades, concealing the passage from every one; and when the Romans followed a certain ship-master, that they also might find the market, the shipmaster of jealousy purposely ran his vessel upon a shoal, leading on those who followed him into the same destructive disaster; he himself escaped by means of a fragment of the ship, and received from the state the value of the cargo he had lost. The Romans nevertheless by frequent efforts discovered the passage, and as soon as Publius Crassus, passing over to them, perceived that the metals were dug out at a little depth, and that the men were peaceably disposed, he declared it to those who already wished to traffic in this sea for profit, although the passage was longer than that to Britain. Thus far concerning Iberia and the adjacent islands.

Publius Crasus lived during the times of the Punic Wars between Rome and Carthage, which consisted of three great wars fought from 246 down to 188 BC. According to Livy, the Romans were not really sailors at all, and had no military navy, before this time. It was out of their necessity to wage the wars that through much trial and error they developed a navy and the skills required to fight with the Phoenicians at sea.

Many commentators and historians simply take it for granted that the Greek name Cassiterides, or Tin Islands, applied to the islands which are now known as the Scilly Islands. However the Scilly Islands are not ten in number, but 27, including hundreds of rocks and small islets. Furthermore, the route from the Artabri to the Scilly Islands is much shorter than the route to Britain, and certainly not longer. Therefore I have always rejected the notion that the Cassiterides are the Scilly Islands, and do not even mention them in my essay on the Phoenicians, although I have discussed them elsewhere. I cannot prove it, but I do believe, that the Scilly Islands are the place where this Phoenician sea captain described by Strabo ran his boat onto the rocks, rather than circumnavigating them to reach some point in Wales north of them, and around the northern side of the peninsula called Cornwall today. The Cassiterides, with absolute certainty, are the promontories and islands of Wales and especially of Cornwall.

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