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date: 25 July 2021

Abstract and Keywords

By the later empire, Phoenician cultural traits that might have sustained a separate ethnic identity had either disappeared (e.g., language) or been amalgamated into the Greco-Roman mainstream (e.g., the ancient cults). A “Phoenician” was now a person or city from one of the provinces which the Romans labeled Phoenice. Discussion of Phoenician culture by scholars from those provinces (such as Maximos and Porphyry of Tyre) and local constructions of Phoenician identity relied instead on Greek cultural resources—e.g., the tale of Cadmus. The sociological concept of “symbolic ethnicity” is appropriate for these antiquarian constructions, which accommodated the Roman order. Yet perhaps more durable survivals can be detected behind the conventions of classical tropes, for example Philon of Byblos did have access to authentic ancient traditions and Punic survived in the Roman west. In the third century, the city of Emesa became a focal point for discussions of Phoenician culture, especially when the emperor Elabagalus sought to promote its sun-god at Rome. The emperor Julian developed a largely fictitious Phoenician theology based on the creative ethnophilosophy of the Platonist Iamblichus. Finally, Phoenicians feature prominently in the Greek and Latin novels of the Imperial period, prompting questions about the stereotypical traits that made them so suitable for stories about romantic adventures.

Keywords: Roman Empire, Pheonice province, Philon of Byblos, Emesa, Porphyry, Elagabalus, ancient novel

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