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Mercenaries or Merchants?

On the Role of Phoenicians at Elephantine in the Achaemenid Period


During the fifth century bce the Persians had constructed a border garrison on and around the island of Elephantine in the Nile in order to protect their territory and their trade interests. The Aramaic and Demotic documents testify for the presence of at least twelve different ethnic groups in this community. Among them were Phoenicians. Which role did they play within the multi-ethnic community? In scrutinizing the available evidence, this article arrives at the conclusion that in and around Elephantine the Phoenicians continued to play their age old role as merchants.