Phoenicians and the Making of the Mediterranean

by Carolina López-Ruiz

Hardcover, 2022



Call number



Harvard University Press (2022), 440 pages


The first comprehensive history of the cultural impact of the Phoenicians, who knit together the ancient Mediterranean world long before the rise of the Greeks. Imagine you are a traveler sailing to the major cities around the Mediterranean in 750 BC. You would notice a remarkable similarity in the dress, alphabet, consumer goods, and gods from Gibraltar to Tyre. This was not the Greek worldit was the Phoenician. Based in Tyre, Sidon, Byblos, and other cities along the coast of present-day Lebanon, the Phoenicians spread out across the Mediterranean building posts, towns, and ports. Propelled by technological advancements of a kind unseen since the Neolithic revolution, Phoenicians knit together diverse Mediterranean societies, fostering a literate and sophisticated urban elite sharing common cultural, economic, and aesthetic modes. The Phoenician imprint on the Mediterranean lasted nearly a thousand years, beginning in the Early Iron Age. Following the trail of the Phoenicians from the Levant to the Atlantic coast of Iberia, Carolina Lpez-Ruiz offers the first comprehensive study of the cultural exchange that transformed the Mediterranean in the eighth and seventh centuries BC. Greeks, Etruscans, Sardinians, Iberians, and others adopted a Levantine-inflected way of life, as they aspired to emulate Near Eastern civilizations. Lpez-Ruiz explores these many inheritances, from sphinxes and hieratic statues to ivories, metalwork, volute capitals, inscriptions, and Ashtart iconography. Meticulously documented and boldly argued, Phoenicians and the Making of the Mediterranean revises the Hellenocentric model of the ancient world and restores from obscurity the true role of Near Eastern societies in the history of early civilizations.… (more)

Media reviews

The book is at the heart of the long-lasting debate about the origins of “Western culture.” For several decades the opinion prevailed among scholars that these origins have to be sought in Greek culture at the exclusion of any other Western or Oriental, more specifically Phoenician, influence.
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López-Ruiz seeks to demonstrate that the Phoenicians played an instrumental role in the formation of Mediterranean, and by extension, “Western” culture. She argues that their influence was either sidelined or altogether rejected by scholars while Greek culture was overstated, as was the case with the interpretation of the material cultures of al-Mina, Lefkandi, and Pithekoussai that the author cites as examples to make her case (47-52). She says that the only way to understand the historical role of the Phoenicians is “to overcome the sclerotic Mediterranean model of the classics, dominated by Greek and Roman cultures, which allow ‘others’ to enter only as a concession” (61).
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Original language


Physical description

440 p.; 9.25 inches


0674988183 / 9780674988187
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