Ancient Civilizations: The Phoenicians

Figure 1.--

The first well studied people who inhabited modern Lebanon were the Canaanites, a people mentined extensively in the Bible. The Canaanites are better known as the Phoenicians, the Greek term for the people. The Greek word phoinos meant Ďredí referring to the unique purple dye that the Phoenicians produced from murex seashells. The early Phoenicians were of semetic origins and an early seafaring people who settled islands and coastal areas in the eastern Mediterrean. The Phoenicians dominated Crete which was an early center known as the Minoan civilization (2000-1200 BC). The relationshipb between the Minoans and Phoenicians is not well understood. As the Mycenaean Greeks civilization expanded in the Aegean, the center of Phoenician civilization shifted to the mainland of the eastern Mediterrean, especially in the area of what is now Lebanon. Archaeologists have found abundant evidence for related coastal cities and heavily forested mountain strong points (around 4000 BC). These people generally referred to themselves on the basis of the local city where they lived, but referred to their nation as Canaan. They dominated the narrow East-Mediterranean coast and the parallel strip mountains of Lebanon. The Canaanites traded cedar timber, olive oil and wine from Byblos for metals and ivory from Egypt (2800 BC). The Coastal cities were conquered by the Amorites (about 2000 BC). The Egyptians conquered the area (about 1800 BC). The Canaanites managed to achieve independece (about 1200 BC). The Phoenicians were the first great naval power. They mastered the art of navigation and ship building and as a result dominated the Mediterranean and the maritime trade there for more than 500 years. They demonstrated considerable skill in textiles, carving ivory, as well as metal and glass working. The most imporant Phoenician city was Tyre. Other cities included Sidon, Byblos, Berytus (Beirut). The Phoenicians established trading colonies throughout the Mediterrean, including Tripoli, Arvad Island-City, Baalbek and Caesarea as well as Cyprus, Rhodes, Malta, Sicily, Sardinia, Marseilles, Cadiz, and Carthage Around 1000 BC). The most important colony proved to be Carthage which develped into a Meditewrranean superpower. The Phoeniciansy developed trade routes that extended into Europe, Western Asia, and Africa. Phoenician ships were the first to circumnavigate Africa, a thousand years before those of the Portuguese. Perhaps their greatest accomplishment was inventing the alphabet which influenced scripsts throughout the Mediterranean and Niddle East. The Greeks adopted the 22-letter alphabet from the Phoenicians which led to the Latin letters now used in the West. The Phoenicians managed to adjusted to successive land powers who conquered the Levant or parts of it. They thus managed to continue their maritim trade and a fegree of political independence. They fought a number of small groups such as the Amorites and Hebrews for control of the inland vallies and trade routes. The Assyrians invaded Phoenicia from the west (875 BC) Major Phoenician cities (Byblos, Tyre and Sidon) over time rebelled and as a esult werecdestroyed by the Assyrians. brought total destruction to the cities in response. The Babylonians were the next western land power to conquer tThe Phoenicians (585 BC). Phoenician cities rebelled and Tyre was again destroyed. The Persians occupied the Levant region including Phoenicia (%38 BC). The Phoenician navy became an important addition to Persia which was primarily a land power. The Phoenician were thus an important ally during the Greco-Persian wars (490-449 BC). The Phoenicians subsequentlt revolted against the heavy tribute imposed by the Persians.


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Created: 9:29 PM 4/9/2010
Last updated: 9:29 PM 4/9/2010