The Social. History of Achaemenid Phoenicia: Being a Phoenician, Negotiating Empires. By VADIM S. JIGOULOV. London: EQUINOX, 2010. Pp. x + 276, illus. $95. [Distributed by The David Brown Book Co., Oakville, Ct.]
In this published form of his 2006 University of Michigan dissertation, Vadim Jigoulov sets out to establish the economic and cultural history of Phoenicia under the Persian Empire through the approach of social history, examining the subject on the levels of the household, the city-state, and the imperial administrative unit. The book's five chapters correspond to the "five configurations of primary data that constitute the basis for our historical knowledge of Achaemenid Phoenicia: classical writings, north-west Semitic inscriptions, coinage, material cultural artifacts, and ancient Jewish traditions" (p. 6).Curiously, the author never describes the physical setting of Phoenicia, thus excluding geography as a factor in the economic and cultural development of the region.
Before exploring the primary data, Jigoulov surveys the current state of Phoenician studies, and describes in bullet points the current issues he sees in the field, which include the tendency to neglect mainland Phoenicia in favor of its western expansion, the lack of interdisciplinary analysis, and the importance of studying the Phoenicians within an imperial context. As a branch of history writing, socio-historical approaches have the ability to address these questions; yet Jigoulov cites only one article on social history writing in general. Furthermore, the author does not offer any specific examples of social histories of the Mediterranean world or similar approaches such as the Annales School, which has had much influence in archaeological circles. For these reasons the book is not able to engage in any productive critique of earlier attempts at socio-historical reconstructions of the ancient Levant, nor does it offer any clear idea of how a social history of Phoenicia should be written. As a result, the book does not succeed in rising above a descriptive account of Phoenician history based largely on cursory readings of primary sources.
The first chapter covers the description of Phoenicia in classical writings, carefully reviewing the sources and the problems involved, such as their limited scope and their subjectivity. Chapter 2 addresses epigraphic sources in the Phoenician language, although the author approaches language as a transhistorical entity...