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M. B. Synge

Out of the Shadowland

"Worlds on worlds are rolling ever

From creation to decay."


M EANWHILE the Phœnicians were still masters of the Great Sea, though their colony of Carthage was destined to outshine them in course of time.

Under Neco, King of Egypt, it is said, they attempted to sail right round Africa. Neco, with a view to commerce, wished the coast of Africa to be explored as far as possible, so he applied to the Phœnicians, as the first sailors of their day, for help. Had they not braved the terrors of the Atlantic, outside the Pillars of Hercules? Had they not manned Solomon's navy with their finest navigators?

The Phœnicians, as usual, seemed ready to go, and Neco started them off, from a port in the Red Sea, with orders to sail southwards, keeping the coast of Africa on their right, and to return to Egypt if possible by way of the Great Sea. There is some doubt among the old historians as to whether they succeeded or not.

Coasting along the shores of the Red Sea, they would pass through the narrow Straits of Bab-el-Mandeb and enter the Indian Ocean. So much they had already done; but instead of going off to India, they would hug the coast of East Africa, past Somaliland, Zanzibar, and Zululand, till they reached South Africa. How the Phœnician boats, with their many sails and oars, rounded the Cape of Storms, which defied the Portuguese sailor two thousand years later, is not related; but, according to the old story, they coasted up the west side of Africa, entered the Great Sea by the Straits of Gibraltar, and reached Egypt. It took them three years to perform the voyage, and Neco the king must have given them up as lost long ago, for he knew they had no food to last them so long. But the Phœnicians had been equal to the occasion. Every autumn they had landed on the coast, ploughed up a tract of land, sowed it with grain, and awaited the ripening of the corn the following spring.

And so, if this story be true, Africa was circumnavigated six hundred years B.C.

It seems strange to think that such a nation of adventurers should so completely have died out. Before relating the story of the fall of Phœnicia from her high pedestal of fame and glory, let us just glance at some of the quaint old stories of the childhood of Greece, that nation that should play such a large part in the history of the world.

While Moses was leading the children of Israel from Egypt to Canaan, and the men of Tyre were conquering the seas, Greece was beginning to awake from her legendary shadowland and to take her part in the world's struggles.

These people dwelt on the opposite shores of the Great Sea. Their broken coast faced North Africa, a little to the west of where the river Nile empties itself into the sea. Of course it was much too far to see across to the other side, so they imagined all sorts of things.

First, these old Greeks thought that there were twelve gods and goddesses who lived at the top of a real mountain called Olympus. They had not yet learnt, as the children of Israel had, that there was but one God over all. Their chief god they called Zeus, and he had a brother, Neptune, who was the god of the ocean. The goddess of the moon was called by them, Diana, the god of the sun Apollo. In the far east lived Aurora, the dawn, who opened the gates of the flat world with her rosy fingers, and out came the golden car of the sun with its glorious white horses. Then there was Venus, the goddess of beauty; Mars, the god of victory; Hercules, the god of strength, and a great many more. It was this god Hercules, who came to the end of the Great Sea, and set up the two pillars on each side of the Straits of Gibraltar, which cost the Phœnicians so much trouble to pass.

They had an old story, and a very strange one, which told of the peopling of their country.

A fair lady, they said, named Europa, was playing in the meadows on the coast of Phœnicia, between the mountains of Lebanon and the Great Sea. One day a great white bull came to her; he let her wreath his horns with flowers, lay down, and invited her to mount his back. No sooner had she done so than he rose, trotted down with her to the sea, and swam out of sight. He took her first to the island of Crete or Candia, not far from the coast of Greece; and as settlers came over there from the East, they called the name of the country after Europa, and it is known to this day by the name of Europe.

But this, like the story of Dido and the founding of Carthage, is but a legend made up by the old Greeks when they were creeping out of their shadowland.