Researchers discover a surprising connection of more than two thousand years between the Carthaginian Empire and the primitive Germanic people of northern ancient Europe.
The city of Carthage, in modern Tunisia, was founded in the 9th century BC by the Phoenicians. The Carthaginian Empire took on the ancient role played by the Phoenicians, creating its own sphere of influence from the Mediterranean in the east, to the Atlantic in the west, and more to Africa in the south. The empire was destroyed in 146 BC after an epic struggle against the Romans.
The Carthaginians’ presence in the Iberian Peninsula is well documented, and it is commonly assumed that they maintained commercial relations with the British Isles. But they are generally not believed to have had a permanent physical presence in northern Europe.
In one article published on the scientific portal The Conversation, Australian university professor Robert Mailhammer reported making a surprising discovery with researcher Theo Vennemann.
“Language can be an important source of historical knowledge. Words can tell stories about their speakers, even if there is no material evidence from archeology or genetics. The many early Latin words in English, such as ‘street’, ‘wine’ and ‘wall’, are evidence of the influence of Roman civilization, “writes Mailhammer.
In studying the origin of Germanic language keywords, the researchers found traces of a Semitic superpower in northern Europe.
Punic was the language of the Carthaginians. It is a Semitic language and related to Hebrew. However, few texts in that language have reached our days, so researchers often turn to Hebrew to fill in the gaps.
Protogermanic was spoken in what is now northern Germany and southern Scandinavia for more than 2,000 years, being the ancestor of contemporary Germanic languages, such as English, German, Norwegian and Dutch.
The identification of traces of punic in protogermanic languages reveals surprising evidence.
According to the researchers, the Germanic words “shilling” and “penny” referring to coins have Punic origin.
Shilling is derived from shekel – one of the main coins minted in Carthage and which is still the currency of Israel today.
The word “penny” is derived from the Punic word for “face”, pane. Punic coins were minted with the face of the goddess Tanit, so Mailhammer argues that pane would have been a Carthaginian coin.
In the study of words and languages, we can find surprising historical connections
This combination of languages in one word shows that the first Germanic peoples must have been familiar with the Punic.
Cultural and social domain
Currency name sharing could have been the result of commercial relationships.
However, the researchers, studying other words, suggest that the Carthaginians and the first Germanic peoples had a much closer relationship than one might think.
Analyzing the etymological root of words related to both agricultural instruments and social status, the researchers concluded that Carthaginians were culturally and socially dominant.
Intersections of language and culture
The researchers announce that they discovered that the Punic also strongly influenced the grammar of the beginning of Germanic, Germanic mythology and the runic alphabet used in the inscriptions in Germanic languages, until the Middle Ages.
Shillings, gods and runes: clues in language suggest a Semitic superpower in the north of ancient
This new evidence suggests that many Germanic people learned the Punic language and worked for the Carthaginians, married them and had bilingual and bicultural children.
When Carthage was destroyed, this connection was lost. But the traits of this Semitic superpower remain in modern Germanic languages, in its culture and in its ancient letters.