Al-Mina (Arabic "the port") is the modern name given by Leonard Woolley to an ancient trading post on the Mediterranean coast of northern Syria, in the estuary of the Orontes, near present-day Samandag in Turkey's province (il) of Hatay.
The site was excavated in 1936 by Leonard Woolley, who considered it to be an early Greek trading colony, founded a little before 800 BC, in direct competition with the Phoenicians to the south. He argued that substantial amounts of Greek pottery at the site established its early Euboean connections, while the Syrian and Phoenician cooking pottery reflected a cultural mix typical of an emporium.
Woolley's critics point out that he discarded coarse undecorated utilitarian wares, and that the relative numbers of Greek, Syrian and Phoenician populations have not been established. The controversy whether Al Mina is to be regarded as a native Syrian site, with Syrian architecture and cooking pots and a Greek presence, or as an Iron Age Greek trading post, has not been resolved.
Al-Mina served as an entrepôt for cultural influences that accompanied trade with Urartu and the shortest caravan route to Assyrian cities of upper Mesopotamia. Through Al-Mina and Greek traders in Cyprus the Phoenician alphabet and other technology were transmitted to Euboea and mainland Greece in the eighth century BC. Al-Mina was destroyed about 700 BC, perhaps by Sennacherib, who repressed a rebellion at Tarsos in 696 BC, but it was immediately rebuilt. Pottery recovered from later levels of the site shows that a Greek presence remained at Al-Mina through the fourth century BC, with pottery imported from Miletus and deftly imitated locally, apparently by Greek potters.
The excavations at Al-Mina were initiated in 1936 by Leonard Woolley, who was disappointed in not finding a Bronze Age port and soon moved his interests to the earlier, more urbane site of Alalakh. Al-Mina has been largely overlooked in popular surveys. Later work considered Al-Mina as key to understanding the role of early Greeks in the east at the outset of the Orientalizing Period of Greek cultural history.
Robin Lane Fox has made a case for the Greek name of the site to have been the Potamoi Karon that is mentioned in Diodorus Siculus' account of Ptolemy I Soter's ravaging of the coastline in 312 BC; he notes its unusual word order and suggestively links it to karu, "trading post", in the inscription text of Tiglath-Pileser III's conquests, which would give "River(s) of the Trading Posts". Woolley, on separate grounds, dated the final extinction of the Al-Mina settlement to the late fourth century BC, perhaps damaged during construction of the port of Seleucia Pieria just to the north. Lane Fox suggests instead this same voyage of coastal destruction was undertaken by Ptolemy in 312 BC.
- Lehmann (2005)
- R. Kearsley, "Greeks Overseas in the 8th Century B.C.: Euboeans, Al Mina and Assyrian Imperialism,"; J. Boardman, "The Excavated History of Al Mina," in Ancient Greeks West and East, ed. G. Tsetskhladze (Leiden, Boston, 1999); Waldbaum (1997)
- The impact of north Syrian techniques and objects on Greek craftsmen of the 8th and 7th centuries in Aegean islands and the mainland had already been established, for example, in F. Poulsen, Der Orient und der frügriechischen Kunst 1912, as noted by Lane Fox 2008:99 note 5.
- Greek traders are also present at Tarsos and somewhat later at Tell Sukas, see Burkert (1992), p. 11.
- Burkert (1992)
- Such as Eric M. Meyers (ed.), The Oxford Encyclopaedia of Archaeology in the Near East 1997, which barely makes passing reference
- Waldbaum (1997), Lane Fox (2008) remarks on the frequency of Posideion as a Greek placename along coastlines.
- Lane Fox, Travelling Heroes in the Epic Age of Homer 2008:97ff
- Diodorus Siculus, 19.79.6
- Lane Fox gives as a parallel the Greek Koile Syria, which A. Schalit (1954) and M. Sartre (1988) correctly identified as a Greek transcription of Aramaic kul, "whole, entire" (Lane Fox 2008: notes to ch. 7, p 378f).
- Boardman, John (1980). The Greeks Overseas: Their Early Colonies and Trade. London: Thames and Hudson. ISBN 0-500-25069-3.
- ——— (1990). "Al-Mina and history" Oxford Journal of Archaeology 9 pp 169–90. doi:10.1111/j.1468-0092.1990.tb00221.x
- Braun, T.F.R.G. (1982). "The Greeks in the Near East" in Cambridge Ancient History III.3 (Cambridge University Press)
- Burkert, Walter (1992). The Orientalizing Revolution: Near Eastern Influences on Greek Culture in the Early Archaic Age. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-64363-1.
- Coldstream, J.N. (1982). "Greeks and Phoenicians in the Aegean" and P.J. Riis "Griechen in Phönizien" in H.G. Niemeyer, Phönizier im Westen. Mainz, pp 261–72 and 237-55. ISBN 3-8053-0486-2
- Lane Fox, Robin (2008) Travelling Heroes in the Epic Age of Homer (New York:Knopf) In the UK Travelling Heroes: Greeks and Their Myths in the Epic Age of Homer(London: Allen Lane, Penguin Books), 2008
- Lehmann, G. (2005). “Al-Mina and the East: A Report on Research in Progress,” in Alexandra Villing (ed.), The Greeks in the East. London: British Museum Research Publication vol. 157, pp. 61–92. ISBN 0-86159-157-7
- Luke, Joanna (2003). Ports of Trade: Al Mina and Geometric Greek Pottery in the Levant. Oxford: Archaeopress. ISBN 1-84171-478-X.
- Waldbaum, Jane C. (1997). "Greeks in the East or Greeks and the East?: Problems in the Definition and Recognition of Presence". Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 305: 1–17 : http://www.jstor.org/stable/1357743. doi:10.2307/1357743.
- Woolley, Leonard (1948). "The Date of Al-Mina". Journal of Hellenic Studies 68: 148. doi:10.2307/626304.
- ——— (1953). A Forgotten Kingdom (Harmondsworth: Penguin)