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date: 18 August 2019

Abstract and Keywords

There was, without a doubt, a Phoenician and Punic literature. Very little of it is extant, but we have enough of it to gauge the great loss. Lacking the advantage of its own manuscript tradition and later cultures devoted to it, Phoenician literature was not systematically preserved, unlike that of the Greeks, Romans, and Israelites. What we have are small pieces that surface among the Classical literary corpus. Despite these unfavorable conditions, an impressive range of literary genres is attested, concentrated in particular genres. Some of this literature aligned with broader ancient Near Eastern tradition: cosmogony, foundation stories, historical records, and other areas that correspond with Phoenician expertise (travel accounts or itineraries, agricultural treatises). Other genres were likely adopted through Greek influence (narrative histories, philosophy). Moreover, from Hellenistic times onward, works by Phoenician authors had to be written and transmitted in Greek in order to survive. Nonetheless, the chapter cautions that we should not lightly categorize them as merely “Greek” literature, at least in the cases in which we know the authors are Phoenicians (including Carthaginians) writing about Phoenician matters.

Keywords: Phoenician literature, agricultural treatise, periploi, cosmogony, foundation story, annals, historiography, Philon of Byblos

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