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Tyrian Trade

Hiram focused his commercial efforts on the continent of Asia. This not only required the land routes to Asia (through Palestine), but a strong presence in the Mediterranean. He produced the strongest commercial/military fleet in the sea. Hiram called himself "King of Tyre and of Phoenicia" but, though it may have been true financially, the actual political reality didn't happen till his son was on the throne.

One of the first efforts he made for Asian trade is the famous commercial treaty signed by him and King Solomon Son of Prophet David. In this document, they agreed to engage in large-scale commercial transactions. Hiram provided advanced technology, building material (cedar and cypress wood to both David and Solomon), specialist technical assistance (architects & craftsmen), services and luxury goods in exchange for Solomon's silver, farm products, and "food for the royal household" (20,000 cors each of wheat and barley and 20,000 baths of olive oil per year). The agricultural products sent to Tyre were received on an annual basis over a period of twenty years. Hiram's craftsmen designed and built the temple of Jerusalem and the Palace of Solomon. Among the furnishings these craftsmen built were two bronze pillars (18 cubits high and 12 cubits in circumference with finely worked bronze capitols on each, rising another 5 cubits), 10 decorated bronze stands (each 4 cubits long, 4 cubits wide, and 3 cubits high) on wheels with bronze axles and each holding a decorated bronze basin (holding 40 baths each), a ‘sea' (large reservoir of water) measuring 10 cubits across and 5 cubits high holding 2,000 baths) as well as the 12 bulls it rested on, and bronze pots, shovels, and sprinkling bowls which were too numerous to count. Palestine also paid 120 talents of gold to Tyre and turned over "twenty cities" in the lands of Galilee as a guarantee of the agreements. Solomon needed more wood and gold-work than he expected. The 20 cities were turned over to him as a surety that the debt would be paid. When it was paid, the cities were returned to Solomon. Tyre, therefore, was given a strong presence in the ‘land of Cabul' (part of the rich wheat and olive oil producing plain of Asdralon). According to Aubet, archeological evidence has proven there to have been Tyrian enclaves in Akhziv, Akko, Tell Keisan and Tell Abu Hawam. Although not mentioned in the agreement, Solomon was receiving horses and carriages from way up in Cappadocia and Cilicia. These had to have come by Phoenician ships, probably Tyrian ones.

To quote from Maria Eugenia Aubet in The Phoenicians and the West, "The second stage in Hiram's expansionist policy coincides with the organization of a joint naval enterprise with Palestine aimed at opening up a new market: the Orient. The biblical texts describe how, on the initiative of Tyre, Solomon and Hiram built a merchant fleet at Ezion-geber, near Elath on the Red Sea (I Kings 9:26). Their ships, manned by Phoenicians, were the ‘Ships of Tarshish' (I Kings 10:22 and 49), which sailed every three years to a distant country, Ophir, and brought back gold, silver, ivory and precious stones [the Bible also mentions apes and baboons (I Kings 10:22)]. The destination of these voyages is generally located on the west coast of the Red Sea (Sudan or Somalia), in Arabia or even in the Indian Ocean. What is certain is that the Old Testament invariably refers to the east, which is why the hypothesis that the destination of these voyages might have been the south of the Iberian peninsula has been definitely discarded nowadays......

The Phoenician incursions into the Red Sea are above all a demonstration of the fact that, during the tenth century, Tyre was already capable of organizing long-distance maritime expeditions.

Except for Ugarit in the 14th and 13th centuries, metals didn't seem to be circulated in large amounts in western Asia before Hiram's time. Neither Assyria, Palestine, nor the Aramaic kingdoms had either the organization or the ships to carry it. Tyre became the premier supplier of metals to the area (starting in Hiram's reign). Carchemish and Damascus also sold metal to Mesopotamia. There was a Phoenician copper refinery in Ezion-geber. They bought gold cheaply in Egypt to sell for a profit in the Hittite Empire. Aside from the already existing metal sources for Tyre (Cyprus, Egypt, Sinai, Ezion-geber & Asia Minor), further metal sources were discovered - if not under Hiram, then under one of the next couple of rulers. Etruria and nearby Elba had tin, copper, and iron. Spain had silver, gold, and tin. The products Mesopotamia usually bought from Tyre were textiles, perfumes, copper, and iron.

After Hiram, trade became a bit more privatized. Under him, it was entirely run by the government. His palace managed all international exchanges for Tyre. The food sent by Solomon, therefore, went directly into the possession of the palace. From here, it was distributed to the people of the city. For this reason, when you read of "food for the royal household" concerning the deal with David and Solomon, you should actually understand that they were providing food to the city. In Palestine, as in Tyre, after the reign of Solomon, privatized trade began to make inroads into the market.

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