The Phoenician Trade Network: Tracing a Mediterranean Exchange System



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The Phoenicians were known as artisans, merchants, and seafarers by the 10th century B.C.E. They exchanged raw and finished goods with people in many cultural spheres of the ancient world and accumulated wealth in the process. A major factor that aided their success was the establishment of colonies along the Mediterranean and eastern Atlantic coasts. These colonies, established by the eighth century B.C.E., supplied valuable raw materials to the major Phoenician cities in the Levant, while also providing additional markets abroad. Excavations at a myriad of these colonial sites have recovered materials that can be used to identify connections between the colonies, the Levantine cities, and non-Phoenician cultures across the ancient world. By establishing these connections the system of maritime exchange can be better understood and modeled as the Phoenician Trade Network. This network involved both direct and indirect exchange of raw and finished products, people, as well as political and cultural ideas. The colonies were involved in various activities including ceramics production, metallurgy, trade, and agriculture. Native peoples they interacted with provided valuable goods, especially metals, which were sent east to supply the Near Eastern Markets. The Phoenician Trade Network was a system of interconnected, moderately independent population centers which all participated in the advancement of Phoenician mercantilism and wealth. Ultimately, the network collapsed in the sixth century B.C.E. allowing other powers such as the Romans, Carthaginians, and Greeks to replace them as the dominant merchants of the Mediterranean.