Flight of the Phoenix
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 Sumer. 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 exploitation.
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.
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?).
Now it 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.