Happy new year! Well, we let that Rosetta Stone story take us a few thousand years ahead of our timeline. So, we’re going back to roughly 1500 bc., leaving Egypt and hieroglyphics behind so we can move along to the Phoenicians.
Phoenicians were seafaring-trading people who lived in what is now Lebanon, Syria and northern Israel on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. There wasn’t a country called Phoenicia, exactly—it was more like a federation or league of cities: Tyre, Byblos, Sidon.
The Phoenicians traded with other people around the Mediterranean Sea and beyond. The city of Byblos did a big business trading in papyrus and books. The Phoenicians sold expensive purple cloth (they got purple dye from squishing murex mollusks—ew). What drove the Phoenician economy wasn’t so much the production of goods, but buying and selling goods in the free market. You buy papyrus in Byblos where they have lots of it and it’s not so expensive, take that papyrus to somewhere—maybe Cyprus—where they don’t have very much papyrus and they’ll pay much more than it cost you. You use the profit to buy copper for cheap, because Cyprus has lots of copper. You put that copper aboard your ship and take it where they’ll pay you well for it. Buy low, sell high, gang.
Back to the beginning of The Western Civ User’s Guide to Reading & Writing.