2685Re: [ANE-2] Berossus and Genesis items of interest
- Oct 7, 2006David,
You very competently summarize the traditional arguments favoring an
identification of the biblical Tarshish with Tartessos, the Phoenician outpost at Gades (modern Cadiz) in Spain. In the discussion of Tarshish at pp 150-152 in my chapter on the Table of Nations - which argues that the division into Shem, Ham and Japhet corresponds remarkably well to the political boundaries of the Seleucids, Ptolemies, and independent states in c. 273-272 BCE - I also make note of these same facts and a few others such as references to the mineral wealth of Tartessos in Pliny and Herodotus. Unfortunately, archaeological evidence for Phoenician presence at Tartessos begins no earlier than 770-760
BCE, which is a little late to accommodate the Nora Inscription, which is dated to the ninth century BCE on paleographical grounds.
Note that Ezek. 27:12-15 associates Tarsus with other Anatolian toponyms and that the Cilician mountains above Tarsus were an important ancient source for silver, iron and tin (and are indeed referred to in Assyrian records as the "Mountains of Silver"). Tarsus has thus been considered another important candidate for the biblical Tarshish.
The Nora Inscription translates approximately as follows:
From Tarshish he was driven!
In Sardinia he found refuge.
His forces found refuge.
Milkuton, son of Subon,
the previous commander.
Previous discussions have universally assumed without argumentation that Tarshish was a western Mediterranean location, Tartessos being the most common suggestion. Cross assumes that the "battle of Tarshish" was part of Phoenician measures to "pacify the native tribes and to protect mining interests." But there is nothing in the text to place Tarshish in the west, and both literary and archaeological evidence indicate that Phoenician trade in the west was conducted peacefully until the Carthaginians attempted to enforce a trade monopoly around 600 BCE after the fall of Nineveh, at which point the Phoecaeans, e.g., were forced to conduct trade in warships. This suggests that the Tarshish of the Nora Inscription was instead the Phoenician point of origin in the east. There are other examples in antiquity of western colonies having begun with a flight by ship from military troubles in the east. The fall of
Tarsus to Shalmaneser III in 833 BCE as part of his subjection of Que (Cilicia) is documented in Assyrian records (and indeed constitutes the first inscriptional mention of Tarsus) and falls squarely within the period assigned the Nora Inscription by paleographers. Phoenician presence at Tarsus is amply
demonstrated archaeologically. IMO these considerations settle the issue in favor of identifying Tarshish with Tarsus, which is also consistent with the geographical parameters of the Table of Nations.
As you note, the toponym Goshen appears to date no earlier than the Persian period. The LXX renders "the land of Goshen" by "the land of Gesham" or "the land of Gesham of Arabia," reflecting the dynastic name of the Qedarite rulers whose presence in eastern Egypt began as a result of the Persian conquest. Qainu the son of Gesham is famously mentioned in a Persian Era inscription from an Arab garrison at Tell el-Mashkuta in the Wadi Tumillat (which is
universally identified with Goshen). In my Chapter 10 discussion of toponyms associated with the Route of the Exodus, I also point out that Pihahiroth appears in the early Ptolemaic era Pithom Stele, and that Migdol and Baalzephon first appear (as adjacent fortresses) in a Ptolemaic era geographical text(Cairo Demotic Papyrus no. 31169).
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