ALTHOUGH the Gauls were more advanced than the earlier peoples in France, there were other early nations far more civilized than they—such as the Phœnicians and the Greeks.
The Phœnicians owned only a narrow strip of land in Asia, but they were born sailors and traders, and soon learned to know all the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. When some Phœnician traders first reached the southern shore of Gaul, perhaps as early as 1300 b.c. , they made friends with the natives, as usual, and began to trade their goods and trinkets for furs and metal.
The Phœnicians were manufacturers as well as traders, and were anxious to get as much metal as possible to make fine weapons. They therefore taught the Gauls how to become good miners, and encouraged them to bring tin from the British islands, as well as gold, silver, and copper from the interior of Gaul.
For many years the Phœnicians were the only strangers to land in Gaul, but in the ninth century some traders came from the island of Rhodes, and it was they, we suppose, who named the river Rhone after their island. After the Phœnicians and Rhodians came some Greeks, who not only carried on trade with Gaul, but founded some settlements there.
Sailors, you know, like to spin yarns, which are often interesting, even if they are not true. The ancient sailors were like those of to-day. Some of them made up a long story which told of the visit of the god Hercules in Gaul. While there, they said, he was attacked by the sons of Neptune, god of the sea, who would have defeated him, had not his father Jupitor caused a rain of stones to fall down from heaven to rout the enemy. If any one doubted this story, he was told to look at the plain near the mouth of the Rhone River, where stones lay in heaps—the very missiles which had rained down from the sky!
It was also said that Herculues founded the city of Nimes (neem) in Gaul; that he made great gaps in the Alps, so the people could trade with Italy; and that he then wandered off to Spain, where he tore some huge rocks apart, to open a passage so that the waters of the Mediterranean could flow out into the Atlantic Ocean. The heights on either side of the Strait of Gibraltar were therefore called the Pillars of Hercules.
An interesting story was told about the first voyage of Greeks to Gaul. A gallic chief, it is said, invited the Greek captain to attend a feast which he was giving to all the unmarried men in the neighborhood. The stranger accepted this invitation, enjoyed the feast, and when it was over, saw the chief's daughter enter the hall carrying a cupful of wine. Clad in white, with broad ornaments of gold clasped around her arms and waist, and heavy braids of golden hair falling nearly to her feet, this maiden seemed so beautiful that the Greek captain stared at her in surprise.
On of the guests then told him that, according to the custom of the country, the girl was going to choose a husband among her father's guests, by handing the cup she carried tot he man who pleased her most. To the amazement of all, the maiden gave this cup to the stranger. He married her and settled down in her country, where he is said to have founded the city of Marseilles (mar-sālz') in 600 b.c.
There is no doubt that about this time the Greeks began to trade all along the seashore, and that they founded not only Marseilles but several other cities in southern France. They encouraged art and learning as well as trade, and for a long time Marseilles was the most important city in Gaul; so, many young men went there to study, just as they go to some famous college now.