It was otherwise with the more western gulf. There, certainly, from time to time, the Phoenicians launched their fleets, and carried on a commerce which was scarcely less lucrative because they had to allow the nations whose ports they used a participation in its profits. It is not impossible that, occasionally, the Egyptians allowed them to build ships in some one or more of their Red Sea ports, and to make such port or ports the head-quarters of a trade which may have proceeded beyond the Straits of Babelmandeb and possibly have reached Zanzibar and Ceylon. At any rate, we know that, in the time of Solomon, two harbours upon the Red Sea were open to them—viz. Eloth and Ezion-Geber—both places situated in the inner recess of the Elanitic Gulf, or Gulf of Akaba, the more eastern of the two arms into which the Red Sea divides. David’s conquest of Edom had put these ports into the possession of the Israelites, and the friendship between Hiram and Solomon had given the Phoenicians free access to them. It was the ambition of Solomon to make the Israelites a nautical people, and to participate in the advantages which he perceived to have accrued to Phoenicia from her commercial enterprise. Besides sharing with the Phoenicians in the trade of the Mediterranean, he constructed with their help a fleet at Ezion-Geber upon the Red Sea, and the two allies conjointly made voyages to the region, or country, called Ophir, for the purpose of procuring precious stones, gold, and almug-wood. Ophir is, properly speaking, a portion of Arabia, and Arabia was famous for its production of gold, and also for its precious stones. Whether it likewise produced almug-trees is doubtful; and it is quite possible that the joint fleet went further than Ophir proper, and obtained the “almug-wood” from the east coast of Africa, or from India. The Somauli country might have been as easily reached as South-eastern Arabia, and if India is considerably more remote, yet there was nothing to prevent the Phoenicians from finding their way to it. We have, however, no direct evidence that their commerce in the Indian Ocean ever took them further than the Arabian coast, about E. Long. 55º.
Surface gathering of metals, anterior to mining—Earliest known mining operations—Earliest Phoenician mining in Phoenicia Proper—Mines of Cyprus—Phoenician mining in Thasos and Thrace—in Sardinia—in Spain—Extent of the metallic treasures there—Phoenician methods not unlike those of the present day—Use of shafts, adits, and galleries—Roof of mines propped or arched—Ores crushed, pounded, and washed—Use of quicksilver unknown—Mines worked by slave labour.
The most precious and useful of the metals lie, in many places, so near the earth’s surface that, in the earliest times, mining is unneeded and therefore unpractised. We are told that in Spain silver