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Phoenicia () was an
ancient Ancient history is a time period from the beginning of writing and recorded human history to as far as late antiquity. The span of recorded history is roughly 5,000 years, beginning with the Sumerian cuneiform script. Ancient history cov ...
thalassocratic A thalassocracy or thalattocracy sometimes also maritime empire, is a state with primarily maritime realms, an empire at sea, or a seaborne empire. Traditional thalassocracies seldom dominate interiors, even in their home territories. Examples ...
civilization A civilization (or civilisation) is any complex society characterized by the development of a state, social stratification, urbanization, and symbolic systems of communication beyond natural spoken language (namely, a writing system). ...
originating in the
Levant The Levant () is an approximate historical geographical term referring to a large area in the Eastern Mediterranean region of Western Asia. In its narrowest sense, which is in use today in archaeology and other cultural contexts, it is ...
region of the eastern Mediterranean, primarily located in modern
Lebanon Lebanon ( , ar, لُبْنَان, translit=lubnān, ), officially the Republic of Lebanon () or the Lebanese Republic, is a country in Western Asia. It is located between Syria to Lebanon–Syria border, the north and east and Israel to Blue ...
. The territory of the Phoenician city-states extended and shrank throughout their history, and they possessed several enclaves such as Arwad and
Tell Sukas Tell Sukas (ancient Shuksi or Suksi) is a Late Bronze Age archaeological mound on the Eastern Mediterranean coast about south of Jableh, Syria. Overview Tell Sukas was located at the center of the fertile plain of Jableh on a hill with access to ...
(modern Syria). The core region in which the Phoenician culture developed and thrived stretched from Tripoli and
Byblos Byblos ( ; gr, Βύβλος), also known as Jbeil or Jubayl ( ar, جُبَيْل, Jubayl, locally ; phn, 𐤂𐤁𐤋, , probably ), is a city in the Keserwan-Jbeil Governorate of Lebanon. It is believed to have been first occupied between 8 ...
in northern Lebanon to Mount Carmel in modern
Israel Israel (; he, יִשְׂרָאֵל, ; ar, إِسْرَائِيل, ), officially the State of Israel ( he, מְדִינַת יִשְׂרָאֵל, label=none, translit=Medīnat Yīsrāʾēl; ), is a country in Western Asia. It is situated ...
. At their height, the Phoenician possessions in the Eastern Mediterranean stretched from the Orontes River mouth to
Ashkelon Ashkelon or Ashqelon (; Hebrew: , , ; Philistine: ), also known as Ascalon (; Ancient Greek: , ; Arabic: , ), is a coastal city in the Southern District of Israel on the Mediterranean coast, south of Tel Aviv, and north of the border wit ...
. Beyond its homeland, the Phoenician civilization extended to the Mediterranean from Cyprus to the Iberian Peninsula. The Phoenicians were a Semitic-speaking people of somewhat unknown origin who emerged in the Levant around 3000 BC. The term ''Phoenicia'' is an
ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language used in ancient Greece and the ancient world from around 1500 BC to 300 BC. It is often roughly divided into the following periods: Mycenaean Greek (), Dark Ages (), the Archaic p ...
exonym that most likely described one of their most famous exports, a dye also known as Tyrian purple; it did not correspond precisely to a cohesive culture or society as it would have been understood natively. It is debated whether Phoenicians were actually distinct from the broader group of Semitic-speaking peoples known as Canaanites. Historian Robert Drews believes the term "Canaanites" corresponds to the ethnic group referred to as "Phoenicians" by the ancient Greeks; However, according to archaeologist Jonathan N. Tubb, " Ammonites, Moabites, Israelites, and Phoenicians undoubtedly achieved their own cultural identities, and yet ethnically they were all Canaanites", "the same people who settled in farming villages in the region in the 8th millennium BC." The Phoenicians came to prominence in the mid-12th century BC, following the decline of most influential cultures in the Late Bronze Age collapse. They were renowned among contemporaries as skilled traders and mariners, becoming the dominant commercial power for much of classical antiquity. The Phoenicians developed an expansive maritime trade network that lasted over a millennium, helping facilitate the exchange of cultures, ideas, and knowledge between major cradles of civilization such as Greece, Egypt, and Mesopotamia. After its zenith in the ninth century BC, the Phoenician civilization in the eastern Mediterranean slowly declined in the face of foreign influence and conquest; its presence endured in the central and western Mediterranean until the mid-second century BC. The Phoenicians were organized in
city-state A city-state is an independent sovereign city which serves as the center of political, economic, and cultural life over its contiguous territory. They have existed in many parts of the world since the dawn of history, including cities such as ...
s, similar to those of
ancient Greece Ancient Greece ( el, Ἑλλάς, Hellás) was a northeastern Mediterranean Sea, Mediterranean civilization, existing from the Greek Dark Ages of the 12th–9th centuries BC to the end of Classical Antiquity, classical antiquity ( AD 600), th ...
, of which the most notable were Tyre, Sidon, and
Byblos Byblos ( ; gr, Βύβλος), also known as Jbeil or Jubayl ( ar, جُبَيْل, Jubayl, locally ; phn, 𐤂𐤁𐤋, , probably ), is a city in the Keserwan-Jbeil Governorate of Lebanon. It is believed to have been first occupied between 8 ...
. Each city-state was politically independent, and there is no evidence the Phoenicians viewed themselves as a single nationality. The Phoenicians established colonies and trading posts across the Mediterranean; Carthage, a settlement in northwest Africa, became a major civilization in its own right in the seventh century BC. Phoenician society and cultural life centered on commerce and seafaring; while most city-states were governed by some form of kingship, merchant families likely exercised influence through oligarchies. The Phoenicians were long considered a lost civilization due to the lack of indigenous written records, and only since the mid-20th century have historians and archaeologists been able to reveal a complex and influential civilization. Their best known legacy is the world's oldest verified alphabet, whose origin was connected to that of the
Hebrew script The Hebrew alphabet ( he, אָלֶף־בֵּית עִבְרִי, ), known variously by scholars as the Ktav Ashuri, Jewish script, square script and block script, is an abjad script used in the writing of the Hebrew language and other Jewish ...
via the Proto-Sinaitic script, and which was transmitted across the Mediterranean and used to develop the Arabic script and
Greek alphabet The Greek alphabet has been used to write the Greek language since the late 9th or early 8th century BCE. It is derived from the earlier Phoenician alphabet, and was the earliest known alphabetic script to have distinct letters for vowels as w ...
and in turn the
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally a dialect spoken in the lower Tiber area (then known as Latium) around present-day Rome, but through the power of the ...
and
Cyrillic alphabet , bg, кирилица , mk, кирилица , russian: кириллица , sr, ћирилица, uk, кирилиця , fam1 = Egyptian hieroglyphs , fam2 = Proto-Sinaitic , fam3 = Phoenician , fam4 = Gr ...
s. The Phoenicians are also credited with innovations in shipbuilding, navigation, industry, agriculture, and government. Their international trade network is believed to have fostered the economic, political, and cultural foundations of Classical Western civilization.


Etymology

Being a society of independent city-states, the Phoenicians apparently did not have a term to denote the land of Phoenicia as a whole; instead, demonyms were often derived from the name of the city an individual hailed from (e.g. ''Sidonian'' for Sidon, ''Tyrian'' for Tyre, etc.) If the Phoenicians ''did'' possess an etymon to denote the land overall, some scholars believe that they would have used " Canaan" and therefore referred to themselves as "Canaanites". According to one reconstruction, the Honeyman inscription, dated to 900 BCE by William F. Albright, seems to contain a reference to the Phoenician homeland, calling it ''Pūt'' ( Phoenician: 𐤐𐤕).Honeyman, A. M. �
The Phoenician Inscriptions of the Cyprus Museum
�� Iraq, vol. 6, no. 2, 1939, pp. 104–108 see p.106-107, number 8.
'' Poenulus'', a Latin comedic play written in the early second century BCE, appears to preserve a
Punic The Punic people, or western Phoenicians, were a Semitic people in the Western Mediterranean who migrated from Tyre, Phoenicia to North Africa during the Early Iron Age. In modern scholarship, the term ''Punic'' – the Latin equivalent of t ...
term for "Phoenicians" which may be reconstructed as *''Pōnnīm''. The name ''Phoenicians'', like
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally a dialect spoken in the lower Tiber area (then known as Latium) around present-day Rome, but through the power of the ...
' (adj. ', later '), comes from
Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece, a country in Southern Europe: *Greeks, an ethnic group. *Greek language, a branch of the Indo-European language family. **Proto-Greek language, the assumed last common ancestor ...
('). The word ' (not to be confused with the mythical bird
phoenix Phoenix most often refers to: * Phoenix (mythology), a legendary bird from ancient Greek folklore * Phoenix, Arizona, a city in the United States Phoenix may also refer to: Mythology Greek mythological figures * Phoenix (son of Amyntor), a ...
, which shares this spelling) meant variably "Phoenician person", " Tyrian purple, crimson" or " date palm." Homer used it with each of these meanings. It is difficult to ascertain which meaning came first, but it is understandable how Greeks may have associated the crimson or purple color of dates and dye with the merchants who traded both products. A derivative, ''po-ni-ki-jo'', is already attested in
Mycenaean Greek Mycenaean Greek is the most ancient attested form of the Greek language, on the Greek mainland and Crete in Mycenaean Greece (16th to 12th centuries BC), before the hypothesised Dorian invasion, often cited as the '' terminus ad quem'' for th ...
Linear B from the 2nd Millennium BC. In these records, it means "crimson" or "palm tree" and does not denote a group of people. Likewise, obelisks at Karnak describe
Thutmose III Thutmose III (variously also spelt Tuthmosis or Thothmes), sometimes called Thutmose the Great, was the sixth pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty. Officially, Thutmose III ruled Egypt for almost 54 years and his reign is usually dated from 2 ...
smiting the prominent men of
Retjenu Retjenu ('' rṯnw; Reṯenu, Retenu''), was an ancient Egyptian name for Canaan and Syria. It covered the region from the Negev Desert north to the Orontes River. The borders of Retjenu shifted with time, but it generally consisted of three reg ...
(the region of Canaan and Syria) and a land belonging to what it calls the '' fnḫw'', which is sometimes identified with Phoenicia, as it would represent a reasonable point of origin for the Linear B term ''po-ni-ki-jo'', and seems to be the plural form of the Ancient Egyptian word for "carpenter", ''fnḫ'', befitting of the crucial station Phoenicia served in the lumber trade of the Levant.


History

Since little has survived of Phoenician records or
literature Literature is any collection of written work, but it is also used more narrowly for writings specifically considered to be an art form, especially prose fiction, drama, and poetry. In recent centuries, the definition has expanded to include ...
, most of what is known about their origins and history comes from the accounts of other civilizations and inferences from their material culture excavated throughout the Mediterranean. The scholarly consensus is that the Phoenicians' period of greatest prominence was 1200 BC to the end of the Persian period (332 BC). The Phoenician
Early Bronze Age The Bronze Age is a historic period, lasting approximately from 3300 BC to 1200 BC, characterized by the use of bronze, the presence of writing in some areas, and other early features of urban civilization. The Bronze Age is the second prin ...
is largely unknown. The two most important sites are
Byblos Byblos ( ; gr, Βύβλος), also known as Jbeil or Jubayl ( ar, جُبَيْل, Jubayl, locally ; phn, 𐤂𐤁𐤋, , probably ), is a city in the Keserwan-Jbeil Governorate of Lebanon. It is believed to have been first occupied between 8 ...
and Sidon-Dakerman (near Sidon), although, as of 2021, well over a hundred sites remain to be excavated, while others that have been are yet to be fully analysed. The Middle Bronze Age was a generally peaceful time of increasing population, trade, and prosperity, though there was competition for natural resources. In the
Late Bronze Age The Bronze Age is a historic period, lasting approximately from 3300 BC to 1200 BC, characterized by the use of bronze, the presence of writing in some areas, and other early features of urban civilization. The Bronze Age is the second prin ...
, rivalry between Egypt, the Mittani, the Hittites, and Assyria had a significant impact on Phoenicians cities.


Origins

The Canaanite culture that gave rise to the Phoenicians apparently developed ''in situ'' from the earlier
Ghassulian Ghassulian refers to a culture and an archaeological stage dating to the Middle and Late Chalcolithic Period in the Southern Levant (c. 4400 – c. 3500 BC). Its type-site, Teleilat Ghassul ( Teleilat el-Ghassul, Tulaylat al-Ghassul), is loc ...
chalcolithic The Copper Age, also called the Chalcolithic (; from grc-gre, χαλκός ''khalkós'', "copper" and  ''líthos'', "stone") or (A)eneolithic (from Latin '' aeneus'' "of copper"), is an archaeological period characterized by regular ...
culture. Ghassulian itself developed from the Circum-Arabian Nomadic Pastoral Complex, which in turn developed from a fusion of their ancestral Natufian and Harifian cultures with Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB) farming cultures, practicing the domestication of animals during the 8.2 kiloyear event, which led to the Neolithic Revolution in the
Levant The Levant () is an approximate historical geographical term referring to a large area in the Eastern Mediterranean region of Western Asia. In its narrowest sense, which is in use today in archaeology and other cultural contexts, it is ...
. The Late Bronze Age state of Ugarit is considered quintessentially Canaanite archaeologically,Tubb, Jonathan N. (1998), "Canaanites" (British Museum People of the Past) even though the
Ugaritic language Ugaritic () is an extinct Northwest Semitic language, classified by some as a dialect of the Amorite language and so the only known Amorite dialect preserved in writing. It is known through the Ugaritic texts discovered by French archaeologist ...
does not belong to the Canaanite languages proper. . . The fourth-century BC Greek historian
Herodotus Herodotus ( ; grc, , }; BC) was an ancient Greek historian and geographer A geographer is a physical scientist, social scientist or humanist whose area of study is geography, the study of Earth's natural environment and human society ...
claimed that the Phoenicians had migrated from the Erythraean Sea around 2750 BC and the first-century AD geographer Strabo reports a claim that they came from Tylos and Arad (
Bahrain Bahrain ( ; ; ar, البحرين, al-Bahrayn, locally ), officially the Kingdom of Bahrain, ' is an island country in Western Asia. It is situated on the Persian Gulf, and comprises a small archipelago made up of 50 natural islands and an ...
and
Muharraq Muharraq ( ar, المحرق, al-Muḥarraq) is Bahrain's third largest city and served as its capital until 1932 when it was replaced by Manama. The population of Muharraq in 2012 was 176,583. The city is located on Muharraq Island. Bahrain Int ...
). Some archaeologists working on the Persian Gulf have accepted these traditions and suggest a migration connected with the collapse of the
Dilmun civilization Dilmun, or Telmun, ( Sumerian: , later 𒉌𒌇(𒆠), ni.tukki = DILMUNki; ar, دلمون) was an ancient East Semitic-speaking civilization in Eastern Arabia mentioned from the 3rd millennium BC onwards. Based on contextual evidence, it was ...
ca. 1750 BC. However, most scholars reject the idea of a migration; archaeological and historical evidence alike indicate millennia of population continuity in the region, and recent genetic research indicates that present-day Lebanese derive most of their ancestry from a Canaanite-related population.


Emergence during the Late Bronze Age (1479–1200 BC)

The first known account of the Phoenicians relates to the conquests of Pharaoh
Thutmose III Thutmose III (variously also spelt Tuthmosis or Thothmes), sometimes called Thutmose the Great, was the sixth pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty. Officially, Thutmose III ruled Egypt for almost 54 years and his reign is usually dated from 2 ...
(1479–1425 BC). The Egyptians targeted coastal cities which they wrote belonged to the '' Fenekhu'', "carpenters", such as Byblos, Arwad, and Ullasa for their crucial geographic and commercial links with the interior (via the
Nahr al-Kabir The Nahr al-Kabir, also known in Syria as al-Nahr al-Kabir al-Janoubi ( ar, النهر الكبير الجنوبي, lit=the southern great river, by contrast with the Nahr al-Kabir al-Shamali) or in Lebanon simply as the Kebir, is a river in Syria ...
and the Orontes rivers). The cities provided Egypt with access to Mesopotamian trade and abundant stocks of the region's native cedarwood. There was no equivalent in the Egyptian homeland. By the mid-14th century BC, the Phoenician city-states were considered "favored cities" to the Egyptians. Tyre, Sidon, Beirut, and Byblos were regarded as the most important. The Phoenicians had considerable autonomy, and their cities were reasonably well developed and prosperous. Byblos was the leading city; it was a center for bronze-making and the primary terminus of precious goods such as tin and lapis lazuli from as far east as
Afghanistan Afghanistan, officially the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan,; prs, امارت اسلامی افغانستان is a landlocked country located at the crossroads of Central Asia and South Asia. Referred to as the Heart of Asia, it is bordere ...
. Sidon and Tyre also commanded interest among Egyptian officials, beginning a pattern of rivalry that would span the next millennium. The Amarna letters report that from 1350 to 1300 BC, neighboring Amorites and
Hittites The Hittites () were an Anatolian people who played an important role in establishing first a kingdom in Kussara (before 1750 BC), then the Kanesh or Nesha kingdom (c. 1750–1650 BC), and next an empire centered on Hattusa in north-centra ...
were capturing Phoenician cities, especially in the north. Egypt subsequently lost its coastal holdings from Ugarit in northern Syria to Byblos near central Lebanon.


Ascendance and high point (1200–800 BC)

Sometime between 1200 and 1150 BC, the Late Bronze Age collapse severely weakened or destroyed most civilizations in the region, including the Egyptians and Hittites. The Phoenicians appear to have weathered the crisis relatively well, emerging as a distinct and organized civilization in 1230 BC. The period is sometimes described as a "Phoenician renaissance." They filled the power vacuum caused by the Late Bronze Age collapse by becoming the sole mercantile and maritime power in the region, a status they would maintain for the next several centuries. The recovery of the Mediterranean economy can be credited to Phoenician mariners and merchants, who re-established long-distance trade between Egypt and Mesopotamia in the 10th century BC. Early into the
Iron Age The Iron Age is the final epoch of the three-age division of the prehistory and protohistory of humanity. It was preceded by the Stone Age ( Paleolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic) and the Bronze Age ( Chalcolithic). The concept has been mostl ...
, the Phoenicians established ports, warehouses, markets, and settlement all across the Mediterranean and up to the southern Black Sea. Colonies were established on Cyprus,
Sardinia Sardinia ( ; it, Sardegna, label=Italian, Corsican and Tabarchino ; sc, Sardigna , sdc, Sardhigna; french: Sardaigne; sdn, Saldigna; ca, Sardenya, label=Algherese and Catalan) is the second-largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, after ...
, the Balearic Islands,
Sicily (man) it, Siciliana (woman) , population_note = , population_blank1_title = , population_blank1 = , demographics_type1 = Ethnicity , demographics1_footnotes = , demographi ...
, and
Malta Malta ( , , ), officially the Republic of Malta ( mt, Repubblika ta' Malta ), is an island country in the Mediterranean Sea. It consists of an archipelago, between Italy and Libya, and is often considered a part of Southern Europe. It lies ...
, as well as the coasts of North Africa and the Iberian Peninsula. Phoenician hacksilver dated to this period bears lead isotope ratios matching ores in Sardinia and Spain, indicating the extent of Phoenician trade networks. By the tenth century BC, Tyre rose to become the richest and most powerful Phoenician city-state, particularly during the reign of
Hiram I Hiram I ( Phoenician: 𐤇𐤓𐤌 ''Ḥirōm'' "my brother is exalted"; Hebrew: ''Ḥīrām'', Modern Arabic: حيرام, also called ''Hirom'' or ''Huram'') was the Phoenician king of Tyre according to the Hebrew Bible. His regnal years have b ...
(c. 969–936 BC). During the rule of the priest Ithobaal (887–856  BC), Tyre expanded its territory as far north as Beirut and into part of Cyprus; this unusual act of aggression was the closest the Phoenicians ever came to forming a unitary territorial state. Once his realm reached its largest territorial extent, Ithobaal declared himself "King of the Sidonians," a title that would be used by his successors and mentioned in both Greek and Jewish accounts. The Late Iron Age saw the height of Phoenician shipping, mercantile, and cultural activity, particularly between 750 and 650 BC. The Phoenician influence was visible in the "orientalization" of Greek cultural and artistic conventions. Among their most popular goods were fine textiles, typically dyed with Tyrian purple. Homer's ''Iliad,'' which was composed during this period, references the quality of Phoenician clothing and metal goods.


Foundation of Carthage

Carthage was founded by Phoenicians coming from Tyre, probably initially as a station in the metal trade with the southern Iberian Peninsula. The city's name in
Punic The Punic people, or western Phoenicians, were a Semitic people in the Western Mediterranean who migrated from Tyre, Phoenicia to North Africa during the Early Iron Age. In modern scholarship, the term ''Punic'' – the Latin equivalent of t ...
, , means "New City". There is a tradition in some ancient sources, such as Philistos of Syracuse, for an "early" foundation date of around 1215 BC—before the
fall of Troy In Greek mythology, the Trojan War was waged against the city of Troy by the Achaeans (Greeks) after Paris of Troy took Helen from her husband Menelaus, king of Sparta. The war is one of the most important events in Greek mythology and has ...
in 1180 BC. However,
Timaeus Timaeus (or Timaios) is a Greek name. It may refer to: * ''Timaeus'' (dialogue), a Socratic dialogue by Plato *Timaeus of Locri, 5th-century BC Pythagorean philosopher, appearing in Plato's dialogue *Timaeus (historian) (c. 345 BC-c. 250 BC), Greek ...
, a Greek historian from Sicily c. 300 BC, places the foundation of Carthage in 814 BC, which is the date generally accepted by modern historians. Legend, including Virgil's Aeneid, assigns the founding of the city to Queen Dido. Carthage would grow into a multi-ethnic empire spanning North Africa, Sardinia, Sicily, Malta, the Balearic Islands, and southern Iberia, but would ultimately be destroyed by Rome in the Punic Wars (264–146 BC) before being rebuilt as a Roman city.


Vassalage under the Assyrians and Babylonians (858–538 BC)

As a mercantile power concentrated along a narrow coastal strip of land, the Phoenicians lacked the size and population to support a large military. Thus, as neighboring empires began to rise, the Phoenicians increasingly fell under the sway of foreign rulers, who to varying degrees circumscribed their autonomy. The Assyrian conquest of Phoenicia began with King Shalmaneser III. He rose to power in 858 BC and began a series of campaigns against neighboring states. The Phoenician city-states fell under his rule, forced to pay heavy tribute in money, goods, and natural resources. Initially, they were not annexed outright—they remained in a state of vassalage, subordinate to the Assyrians but allowed a certain degree of freedom. This changed in 744 BC with the ascension of
Tiglath-Pileser III Tiglath-Pileser III ( Neo-Assyrian cuneiform: , meaning "my trust belongs to the son of Ešarra"), was the king of the Neo-Assyrian Empire from 745 BC to his death in 727. One of the most prominent and historically significant Assyrian kings, T ...
. By 738 BC, most of the Levant, including northern Phoenicia, were annexed; only Tyre and Byblos, the most powerful city-states, remained tributary states outside of direct Assyrian control. Tyre, Byblos, and Sidon all rebelled against Assyrian rule. In 721 BC, Sargon II besieged Tyre and crushed the rebellion. His successor
Sennacherib Sennacherib ( Neo-Assyrian cuneiform: or , meaning " Sîn has replaced the brothers") was the king of the Neo-Assyrian Empire from the death of his father Sargon II in 705BC to his own death in 681BC. The second king of the Sargonid dynas ...
suppressed further rebellions across the region. During the seventh century BC, Sidon rebelled and was destroyed by Esarhaddon, who enslaved its inhabitants and built a new city on its ruins. By the end of the century, the Assyrians had been weakened by successive revolts, which led to their destruction by the Median Empire. The Babylonians, formerly vassals of the Assyrians, took advantage of the empire's collapse and rebelled, quickly establishing the Neo-Babylonian Empire in its place. Phoenician cities revolted several times throughout the reigns of the first Babylonian King, Nabopolassar (626–605 BC), and his son Nebuchadnezzar II (c. 605–c. 562 BC). In 587 BC Nebuchadnezzar besieged Tyre, which resisted for thirteen years, but ultimately capitulated under "favorable terms".


Persian period (539–332 BC)

In 539 BC, Cyrus the Great, king and founder of the Persian Achaemenid Empire, took Babylon. As Cyrus began consolidating territories across the Near East, the Phoenicians apparently made the pragmatic calculation of " ieldingthemselves to the Persians." Most of the Levant was consolidated by Cyrus into a single satrapy (province) and forced to pay a yearly tribute of 350 talents, which was roughly half the tribute that was required of Egypt and Libya. The Phoenician area was later divided into four vassal kingdoms—Sidon, Tyre, Arwad, and Byblos—which were allowed considerable autonomy. Unlike in other empire areas, there is no record of Persian administrators governing the Phoenician city-states. Local Phoenician kings were allowed to remain in power and given the same rights as Persian satraps (governors), such as hereditary offices and minting their coins. The Phoenicians remained a core asset to the Achaemenid Empire, particularly for their prowess in maritime technology and navigation; they furnished the bulk of the Persian fleet during the
Greco-Persian Wars The Greco-Persian Wars (also often called the Persian Wars) were a series of conflicts between the Achaemenid Empire and Greek city-states that started in 499 BC and lasted until 449 BC. The collision between the fractious political world of t ...
of the late fifth century BC. Phoenicians under
Xerxes I Xerxes I ( peo, 𐎧𐏁𐎹𐎠𐎼𐏁𐎠 ; grc-gre, Ξέρξης ; – August 465 BC), commonly known as Xerxes the Great, was the fourth King of Kings of the Achaemenid Empire, ruling from 486 to 465 BC. He was the son and successor of D ...
built the
Xerxes Canal The Xerxes Canal ( el, Διώρυγα του Ξέρξη) was a navigable canal through the base of the Mount Athos peninsula in Chalkidiki, northern Greece, built by king Xerxes I of Persia in the 5th century BC. It is one of the few monuments lef ...
and the pontoon bridges that allowed his forces to cross into mainland Greece. Nevertheless, they were harshly punished by the Persian King following his defeat at the Battle of Salamis, which he blamed on Phoenician cowardice and incompetence. In the mid-fourth century BC, King Tennes of Sidon led a failed rebellion against
Artaxerxes III Ochus ( grc-gre, Ὦχος ), known by his dynastic name Artaxerxes III ( peo, 𐎠𐎼𐎫𐎧𐏁𐏂𐎠 ; grc-gre, Ἀρταξέρξης), was King of Kings of the Achaemenid Empire from 359/58 to 338 BC. He was the son and successor of ...
, enlisting the help of the Egyptians, who were subsequently drawn into a war with the Persians. The resulting destruction of Sidon led to the resurgence of Tyre, which remained the dominant Phoenician city for two decades until the arrival of Alexander the Great.


Hellenistic period (332–152 BC)

Phoenicia was one of the first areas to be conquered by
Alexander the Great Alexander III of Macedon ( grc, Ἀλέξανδρος, Alexandros; 20/21 July 356 BC – 10/11 June 323 BC), commonly known as Alexander the Great, was a king of the ancient Greek kingdom of Macedon. He succeeded his father Philip II to ...
during his military campaigns across western Asia. Alexander's main target in the Persian Levant was Tyre, now the region's largest and most important city. It capitulated after a roughly seven month siege, during which many of its citizens fled to Carthage. Tyre's refusal to allow Alexander to visit its temple to Melqart, culminating in the killing of his envoys, led to a brutal reprisal: 2,000 of its leading citizens were
crucified Crucifixion is a method of capital punishment in which the victim is tied or nailed to a large wooden cross or beam and left to hang until eventual death from exhaustion and asphyxiation. It was used as a punishment by the Persians, Carthagin ...
and a puppet ruler was installed. The rest of Phoenicia easily came under his control, with Sidon surrendering peacefully. Alexander's empire had a
Hellenization Hellenization (other British spelling Hellenisation) or Hellenism is the adoption of Greek culture, religion, language and identity by non-Greeks. In the ancient period, colonization often led to the Hellenization of indigenous peoples; in the H ...
policy, whereby Hellenic culture, religion, and sometimes language were spread or imposed across conquered peoples. However, Hellenisation was not enforced most of the time and was just a language of administration until his death. This was typically implemented through the founding of new cities, the settlement of a Macedonian or Greek urban elite, and the alteration of native place names to Greek. However, there was no organized Hellenization in Phoenicia, and with one or two minor exceptions, all Phoenician city-states retained their native names, while Greek settlement and administration appear to have been very limited. The Phoenicians maintained cultural and commercial links with their western counterparts. Polybius recounts how the Seleucid King Demetrius I escaped from Rome by boarding a Carthaginian ship that was delivering goods to Tyre. The adaptation to Macedonian rule was likely aided by the Phoenicians' historical ties with the Greeks, with whom they shared some mythological stories and figures; the two peoples were even sometimes considered "relatives." When Alexander's empire collapsed after his death in 323 BC, the Phoenicians came under the control of the largest of its successors, the
Seleucids The Seleucid Empire (; grc, Βασιλεία τῶν Σελευκιδῶν, ''Basileía tōn Seleukidōn'') was a Greek state in West Asia that existed during the Hellenistic period from 312 BC to 63 BC. The Seleucid Empire was founded by the M ...
. The Phoenician homeland was repeatedly contested by the Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt during the forty-year Syrian Wars, coming under Ptolemaic rule in the third century BC. The Seleucids reclaimed the area the following century, holding it until the mid-first 2nd century BC. Under their rule, the Phoenicians were allowed a considerable degree of autonomy and self-governance. During the
Seleucid Dynastic Wars The Seleucid Dynastic Wars were a series of wars of succession that were fought between competing branches of the Seleucid royal household for control of the Seleucid Empire. Beginning as a by-product of several succession crises that arose from ...
(157–63 BC), the Phoenician cities were mainly self-governed. Many of them were fought for or over by the warring factions of the Seleucid royal family. Some Phoenician regions were under the control and influence of the Jews, who revolted and succeeded in defeating Seleucids in 164 BC. The Seleucid Kingdom, including Phoenicia, was seized by
Tigranes the Great Tigranes II, more commonly known as Tigranes the Great ( hy, Տիգրան Մեծ, ''Tigran Mets''; grc, Τιγράνης ὁ Μέγας ''Tigránes ho Mégas''; la, Tigranes Magnus) (140 – 55 BC) was King of Armenia under whom the ...
of Armenia in 82 BC, ending the Hellenistic influence on the region. With their strategically valuable buffer state absorbed into a rival power, the Romans intervened and conquered the territory in 62 BC. Shortly after that, the territory was incorporated into the Roman province of Syria. Phoenicia became a separate province in the third century AD. With the Roman invasion, whatever political autonomy Phoenicians had was dissolved, and the region was romanized. Roman Empire ruled the province up to 640s when the Muslim Arabs invaded the region successfully, and a process of
Islamisation Islamization, Islamicization, or Islamification ( ar, أسلمة, translit=aslamāh), refers to the process through which a society shifts towards the religion of Islam and becomes largely Muslim. Societal Islamization has historically occurre ...
and Arabisation started.


Demographics

The people now known as Phoenicians, similar to the neighboring Israelites, Moabites and
Edomites Edom (; Edomite: ; he, אֱדוֹם , lit.: "red"; Akkadian: , ; Ancient Egyptian: ) was an ancient kingdom in Transjordan, located between Moab to the northeast, the Arabah to the west, and the Arabian Desert to the south and east.N ...
, were a Canaanite people. Canaanites are a group of ancient Semitic-speaking peoples that emerged in the
Levant The Levant () is an approximate historical geographical term referring to a large area in the Eastern Mediterranean region of Western Asia. In its narrowest sense, which is in use today in archaeology and other cultural contexts, it is ...
in at least the third millennium BC. Phoenicians did not refer themselves as such but rather are thought to have referred to themselves as "Kenaʿani", meaning Canaanites. One 2018 study of mitochondrial lineages in Sardinia concluded that the Phoenicians were "inclusive, multicultural and featured significant female mobility," with evidence of indigenous
Sardinians The Sardinians, or Sards ( sc, Sardos or ; Italian and Sassarese: ''Sardi''; Gallurese: ''Saldi''), are a Romance language-speaking ethnic group native to Sardinia, from which the western Mediterranean island and autonomous region of Italy de ...
integrating "peacefully and permanently" with Semitic Phoenician settlers. The study also found evidence suggesting that south Europeans may have settled in the area of modern Lebanon.


Genetic studies

A 2008 study led by Pierre Zalloua found that six subclades of Haplogroup J-M172 (J2)—thought to have originated between the Caucasus Mountains,
Mesopotamia Mesopotamia ''Mesopotamíā''; ar, بِلَاد ٱلرَّافِدَيْن or ; syc, ܐܪܡ ܢܗܪ̈ܝܢ, or , ) is a historical region of Western Asia situated within the Tigris–Euphrates river system, in the northern part of the ...
and the
Levant The Levant () is an approximate historical geographical term referring to a large area in the Eastern Mediterranean region of Western Asia. In its narrowest sense, which is in use today in archaeology and other cultural contexts, it is ...
—were of a "Phoenician signature" and present amongst the male populations of coastal Lebanon as well as the wider Levant (the "Phoenician Periphery"), followed by other areas of historic Phoenician settlement, spanning Cyprus through to Morocco. This deliberate sequential sampling was an attempt to develop a methodology to link the documented historical expansion of a population with a particular geographic genetic pattern or patterns. The researchers suggested that the proposed genetic signature stemmed from "a common source of related lineages rooted in
Lebanon Lebanon ( , ar, لُبْنَان, translit=lubnān, ), officially the Republic of Lebanon () or the Lebanese Republic, is a country in Western Asia. It is located between Syria to Lebanon–Syria border, the north and east and Israel to Blue ...
". Another study in 2006 found evidence for the genetic persistence of Phoenicians in the Spanish island of Ibiza. In 2016, the rare U5b2c1 maternal haplogroup was identified in the DNA of a 2,500-year-old male skeleton excavated from a Punic tomb in Tunisia. The lineage of this "Young Man of Byrsa" is believed to represent early gene flow from Iberia to the Maghreb. According to a 2017 study published by the
American Journal of Human Genetics The ''American Journal of Human Genetics'' is a monthly peer-reviewed scientific journal in the field of human genetics. It was established in 1948 by the American Society of Human Genetics and covers all aspects of heredity in humans, includin ...
, present-day Lebanese derive most of their ancestry from a Canaanite-related population, which therefore implies substantial genetic continuity in the Levant since at least the
Bronze Age The Bronze Age is a historic period, lasting approximately from 3300 BC to 1200 BC, characterized by the use of bronze, the presence of writing in some areas, and other early features of urban civilization. The Bronze Age is the second prin ...
. More specifically, the research of geneticist Chris Tyler-Smith and his team at the
Sanger Institute The Wellcome Sanger Institute, previously known as The Sanger Centre and Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, is a non-profit British genomics and genetics research institute, primarily funded by the Wellcome Trust. It is located on the Wellcome Ge ...
in Britain, who compared "sampled ancient DNA from five
Canaanite people Canaan (; Phoenician: 𐤊𐤍𐤏𐤍 – ; he, כְּנַעַן – , in pausa – ; grc-bib, Χανααν – ;The current scholarly edition of the Greek Old Testament spells the word without any accents, cf. Septuaginta : id est Vetus T ...
who lived 3,750 and 3,650 years ago" to modern people, revealed that 93 percent of the genetic ancestry of people in Lebanon came from the Canaanites (the other 7 percent was of a Eurasian steppe population). In a 2020 study published in the
American Journal of Human Genetics The ''American Journal of Human Genetics'' is a monthly peer-reviewed scientific journal in the field of human genetics. It was established in 1948 by the American Society of Human Genetics and covers all aspects of heredity in humans, includin ...
, researchers have shown that there is substantial genetic continuity in Lebanon since the
Bronze Age The Bronze Age is a historic period, lasting approximately from 3300 BC to 1200 BC, characterized by the use of bronze, the presence of writing in some areas, and other early features of urban civilization. The Bronze Age is the second prin ...
interrupted by three significant admixture events during the
Iron Age The Iron Age is the final epoch of the three-age division of the prehistory and protohistory of humanity. It was preceded by the Stone Age ( Paleolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic) and the Bronze Age ( Chalcolithic). The concept has been mostl ...
,
Hellenistic In Classical antiquity, the Hellenistic period covers the time in Mediterranean history after Classical Greece, between the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC and the emergence of the Roman Empire, as signified by the Battle of Actium in ...
, and Ottoman period, each contributing 3–11 percent of non-local ancestry to the admixed population.


Economy


Trade

The Phoenicians served as intermediaries between the disparate civilizations that spanned the Mediterranean and Near East, facilitating the exchange of goods and knowledge, culture, and religious traditions. Their expansive and enduring trade network is credited with laying the foundations of an economically and culturally cohesive Mediterranean, which would be continued by the Greeks and especially the Romans. Phoenician ties with the Greeks ran deep. The earliest verified relationship appears to have begun with the Minoan civilization on Crete (1950–1450 BC), which together with the
Mycenaean civilization Mycenaean Greece (or the Mycenaean civilization) was the last phase of the Bronze Age in Ancient Greece, spanning the period from approximately 1750 to 1050 BC.. It represents the first advanced and distinctively Greek civilization in mainland ...
(1600–1100 BC) is considered the progenitor of classical Greece. Archaeological research suggests that the Minoans gradually imported Near Eastern goods, artistic styles, and customs from other cultures via the Phoenicians. To Egypt the Phoenicians sold logs of cedar for significant sums, and wine beginning in the eighth century. The wine trade with Egypt is vividly documented by shipwrecks discovered in 1997 in the open sea west of Ascalon, Israel. Pottery kilns at Tyre and
Sarepta Sarepta (near modern Sarafand, Lebanon) was a Phoenician city on the Mediterranean coast between Sidon and Tyre, also known biblically as Zarephath. It became a bishopric, which faded, and remains a double (Latin and Maronite) Catholic tit ...
produced the large terracotta jars used for transporting wine. From Egypt, the Phoenicians bought Nubian gold. From elsewhere, they obtained other materials, perhaps the most crucial being silver, mostly from
Sardinia Sardinia ( ; it, Sardegna, label=Italian, Corsican and Tabarchino ; sc, Sardigna , sdc, Sardhigna; french: Sardaigne; sdn, Saldigna; ca, Sardenya, label=Algherese and Catalan) is the second-largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, after ...
and the Iberian Peninsula. Tin for making bronze "may have been acquired from Galicia by way of the Atlantic coast of southern Spain; alternatively, it may have come from northern Europe (
Cornwall Cornwall (; kw, Kernow ) is a historic county and ceremonial county in South West England. It is recognised as one of the Celtic nations, and is the homeland of the Cornish people. Cornwall is bordered to the north and west by the Atlantic ...
or
Brittany Brittany (; french: link=no, Bretagne ; br, Breizh, or ; Gallo: ''Bertaèyn'' ) is a peninsula, historical country and cultural area in the west of modern France, covering the western part of what was known as Armorica during the period ...
) via the Rhone valley and coastal Massalia." Strabo states that there was a highly lucrative Phoenician trade with Britain for tin via the
Cassiterides The Cassiterides ( el, Κασσιτερίδες, meaning "Tin Islands", from κασσίτερος, ''kassíteros'' "tin") are an ancient geographical name used to refer to a group of islands whose precise location is unknown, but which was believ ...
, whose location is unknown but may have been off the northwest coast of the Iberian Peninsula.


Industry

Phoenicia lacked considerable natural resources other than its
cedar Cedar may refer to: Trees and plants *''Cedrus'', common English name cedar, an Old-World genus of coniferous trees in the plant family Pinaceae *Cedar (plant), a list of trees and plants known as cedar Places United States * Cedar, Arizona * ...
wood. Timber was probably the earliest and most lucrative source of wealth; neither Egypt nor Mesopotamia had adequate wood sources. Unable to rely solely on this limited resource, the Phoenicians developed an industrial base manufacturing a variety of goods for both everyday and luxury use. The Phoenicians developed or mastered techniques such as glass-making, engraved and chased metalwork (including bronze, iron, and gold), ivory carving, and woodwork. The Phoenicians were early pioneers in mass production, and sold a variety of items in bulk. They became the leading source of glassware in antiquity, shipping thousands of flasks, beads, and other glass objects across the Mediterranean. Excavations of colonies in Spain suggest they also used the potter's wheel. Their exposure to a wide variety of cultures allowed them to manufacture goods for specific markets. The ''Iliad'' suggests Phoenician clothing and metal goods were highly prized by the Greeks. Specialized goods were designed specifically for wealthier clientele, including ivory reliefs and plaques, carved
clam Clam is a common name for several kinds of bivalve molluscs. The word is often applied only to those that are edible and live as infauna, spending most of their lives halfway buried in the sand of the seafloor or riverbeds. Clams have two shel ...
shells, sculpted amber, and finely detailed and painted ostrich eggs.


Tyrian purple

The most prized Phoenician goods were fabrics dyed with Tyrian purple, which formed a major part of Phoenician wealth. The violet-purple dye derived from the
hypobranchial gland The hypobranchial gland is a glandular structure which is part of the anatomy of many mollusks, including several different families of gastropods, and also many protobranch bivalves. This gland produces mucus as well as biologically active compo ...
of the ''
Murex ''Murex'' is a genus of medium to large sized predatory tropical sea snails. These are carnivorous marine gastropod molluscs in the family Muricidae, commonly called "murexes" or "rock snails".Houart, R.; Gofas, S. (2010). Murex Linnaeus, 175 ...
'' marine snail, once profusely available in coastal waters of the eastern Mediterranean Sea but exploited to local extinction. Phoenicians may have discovered the dye as early as 1750 BC. The Phoenicians established a second production center for the dye in Mogador, in present-day
Morocco Morocco (),, ) officially the Kingdom of Morocco, is the westernmost country in the Maghreb region of North Africa. It overlooks the Mediterranean Sea to the north and the Atlantic Ocean to the west, and has land borders with Algeria t ...
. The Phoenicians' exclusive command over the production and trade of the dye, combined with the labor-intensive extraction process, made it very expensive. Tyrian purple subsequently became associated with the upper classes. It soon became a status symbol in several civilizations, most notably among the Romans. Assyrian tribute records from the Phoenicians include "garments of brightly colored stuff" that most likely included Tyrian purple. While the designs, ornamentation, and embroidery used in Phoenician textiles were well-regarded, the techniques and specific descriptions are unknown.


Mining

Mining operations in the Phoenician homeland were limited; iron was the only metal of any worth. The first large-scale mining operations probably occurred in Cyprus, principally for copper. Sardinia may have been colonized almost exclusively for its mineral resources; Phoenician settlements were concentrated in the southern parts of the island, close to sources of copper and lead. Piles of
scoria Scoria is a pyroclastic, highly vesicular, dark-colored volcanic rock that was ejected from a volcano as a molten blob and cooled in the air to form discrete grains or clasts.Neuendorf, K.K.E., J.P. Mehl, Jr., and J.A. Jackson, eds. (2005) '' ...
and copper ingots, which appear to predate Roman occupation, suggest the Phoenicians mined and processed metals on the island. The Iberian Peninsula was the richest source of numerous metals in antiquity, including gold, silver, copper, iron, tin, and lead. The significant output of these metals during the Phoenician and Carthaginian occupation strongly implied large scale mining operations. The Carthaginians are documented to have relied on slave labor for mining, though it is unknown if the Phoenicians as a whole did so.


Viticulture

The most notable agricultural product was wine, which the Phoenicians helped propagate across the Mediterranean. The common grape vine may have been domesticated by the Phoenicians or Canaanites, although it most likely arrived from Transcaucasia via trade routes across
Mesopotamia Mesopotamia ''Mesopotamíā''; ar, بِلَاد ٱلرَّافِدَيْن or ; syc, ܐܪܡ ܢܗܪ̈ܝܢ, or , ) is a historical region of Western Asia situated within the Tigris–Euphrates river system, in the northern part of the ...
or the
Black Sea The Black Sea is a marginal mediterranean sea of the Atlantic Ocean lying between Europe and Asia, east of the Balkans, south of the East European Plain, west of the Caucasus, and north of Anatolia. It is bounded by Bulgaria, Georgia, Rom ...
. Vines grew readily in the coastal Levant, and wine was exported to Egypt as early as the Old Kingdom period (2686–2134 BC). Wine played an important part in Phoenician religion, serving as the principal beverage for offerings and sacrifice. An excavation of a small Phoenician town south of Sidon uncovered a wine factory used from at least the seventh century BC, which is believed to have been aimed for an overseas market. To prevent oxidation, vessels were sealed with a layer of olive oil, pinewood, and resin. The Phoenicians established vineyards and wineries in their colonies in North Africa, Sicily, France, and Spain, and may have taught winemaking to some of their trading partners. The ancient Iberians began producing wine from local grape varieties following their encounter with the Phoenicians. Iberian cultivars subsequently formed the basis of most western European wine.


Shipbuilding

As early as 1200 BC, the Phoenicians built large merchant ships. During the Bronze Age, they developed the keel. Pegged mortise-and-tenon joints proved effective enough to serve as a standard until late into the Roman Empire. The Phoenicians were possibly the first to introduce the
bireme A bireme (, ) is an ancient oared warship (galley) with two superimposed rows of oars on each side. Biremes were long vessels built for military purposes and could achieve relatively high speed. They were invented well before the 6th century BC a ...
, around 700 BC. An Assyrian account describes Phoenicians evading capture with these ships. The Phoenicians are also credited with inventing the trireme, which was regarded as the most advanced and powerful vessel in the ancient Mediterranean world, and was eventually adopted by the Greeks. The Phoenicians developed several other maritime inventions. The amphora, a type of container used for both dry and liquid goods, was an ancient Phoenician invention that became a standardized measurement of volume for close to two thousand years. The remnants of self-cleaning artificial harbors have been discovered in Sidon, Tyre, Atlit, and Acre. The first example of admiralty law also appears in the Levant. The Phoenicians continued to contribute to cartography into the Iron Age. In 2014, a long Phoenician trading ship was found near Gozo island in Malta. Dated 700 BC, it is one of the oldest wrecks found in the Mediterranean. Fifty amphorae, used to contain wine and oil, were scattered nearby.


Important cities and colonies

The Phoenicians were not a nation in the political sense. However, they were organized into independent city-states that shared a common language and culture. The leading city-states were Tyre, Sidon, and Byblos. Rivalries were expected, but armed conflict was rare. Numerous other cities existed in the Levant alone, many probably unknown, including Beiruta (modern Beirut) Ampi, Amia, Arqa, Baalbek, Botrys, Sarepta, and Tripolis. From the late tenth century BC, the Phoenicians established commercial outposts throughout the Mediterranean, with Tyre founding colonies in Cyprus, Sardinia, Iberia, the Balearic Islands, Sicily, Malta, and North Africa. Later colonies were established beyond the Straits of Gibraltar, particularly on the Atlantic coast of Iberia. The Phoenicians may have explored the Canary Islands and the British Isles. Phoenician settlement was primarily concentrated in Cyprus, Sicily, Sardinia, Malta, northwest Africa, the Balearic Islands, and southern Iberia.


Phoenician colonization

To facilitate their commercial ventures, the Phoenicians established numerous colonies and trading posts along the coasts of the Mediterranean. Phoenician city states generally lacked the numbers or even the desire to expand their territory overseas. Few colonies had more than 1,000 inhabitants; only Carthage and some nearby settlements in the western Mediterranean would grow larger. A major motivating factor was competition with the Greeks, who began expanding across the Mediterranean during the same period. Though largely peaceful rivals, their respective settlements in Crete and Sicily did clash intermittently. The earliest Phoenician settlements outside the Levant were on Cyprus and
Crete Crete ( el, Κρήτη, translit=, Modern: , Ancient: ) is the largest and most populous of the Greek islands, the 88th largest island in the world and the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, after Sicily, Sardinia, Cyprus, ...
, gradually moving westward towards Corsica, the Balearic Islands,
Sardinia Sardinia ( ; it, Sardegna, label=Italian, Corsican and Tabarchino ; sc, Sardigna , sdc, Sardhigna; french: Sardaigne; sdn, Saldigna; ca, Sardenya, label=Algherese and Catalan) is the second-largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, after ...
, and
Sicily (man) it, Siciliana (woman) , population_note = , population_blank1_title = , population_blank1 = , demographics_type1 = Ethnicity , demographics1_footnotes = , demographi ...
, as well as on the European mainland in
Genoa Genoa ( ; it, Genova ; lij, Zêna ). is the capital of the Italian region of Liguria and the sixth-largest city in Italy. In 2015, 594,733 people lived within the city's administrative limits. As of the 2011 Italian census, the Province of ...
and Marseilles. The first Phoenician colonies in the western Mediterranean were along the northwest African coast and on
Sicily (man) it, Siciliana (woman) , population_note = , population_blank1_title = , population_blank1 = , demographics_type1 = Ethnicity , demographics1_footnotes = , demographi ...
,
Sardinia Sardinia ( ; it, Sardegna, label=Italian, Corsican and Tabarchino ; sc, Sardigna , sdc, Sardhigna; french: Sardaigne; sdn, Saldigna; ca, Sardenya, label=Algherese and Catalan) is the second-largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, after ...
and the Balearic Islands. Tyre led the way in settling or controlling coastal areas. Phoenician colonies were fairly autonomous. At most, they were expected to send annual tribute to their mother city, usually in the context of a religious offering. However, in the seventh century BC the western colonies came under the control of Carthage, which was exercised directly through appointed magistrates. Carthage continued to send annual tribute to Tyre for some time after its independence.


Society and culture

Since very little of the Phoenicians' writings have survived, much of what is known about their culture and society comes from accounts by contemporary civilizations or inferences from archaeological discoveries. The Phoenicians had much in common with other Canaanites, including language, religion, social customs, and a monarchical political system centered around city-states. However, by the early Iron Age (roughly 1300 BC), they had emerged as distinct people. Their culture, economy, and daily life were heavily centered on commerce and maritime trade. Their propensity for seafaring brought them into contact with numerous other civilizations.


Politics and government

The Phoenician city-states were fiercely independent in both domestic and foreign affairs. Formal alliances between city-states were rare. The relative power and influence of city-states varied over time. Sidon was dominant between the 12th and 11th centuries BC and influenced its neighbors. However, by the tenth century BC, Tyre rose to become the most powerful city. At least in its earlier stages, Phoenician society was highly stratified and predominantly
monarchical A monarchy is a form of government in which a person, the monarch, is head of state for life or until abdication. The political legitimacy and authority of the monarch may vary from restricted and largely symbolic (constitutional monarchy) ...
. Hereditary kings usually governed with absolute power over civic, commercial, and religious affairs. They often relied upon senior officials from the noble and merchant classes; the priesthood was a distinct class, usually of royal lineage or leading merchant families. The King was considered a representative of the gods and carried many obligations and duties concerning religious processions and rituals. Priests were thus highly influential and often became intertwined with the royal family. Phoenician kings did not commemorate their reign through sculptures or monuments. Their wealth, power, and accomplishments were usually conveyed through ornate sarcophagi, like that of
Ahiram The Ahiram sarcophagus (also spelled Ahirom, in Phoenician) was the sarcophagus of a Phoenician Kings of Byblos, King of Byblos (c. 850 BC), discovered in 1923 by the French excavator Pierre Montet in tomb V of the royal necropolis of Byblos. Th ...
of
Byblos Byblos ( ; gr, Βύβλος), also known as Jbeil or Jubayl ( ar, جُبَيْل, Jubayl, locally ; phn, 𐤂𐤁𐤋, , probably ), is a city in the Keserwan-Jbeil Governorate of Lebanon. It is believed to have been first occupied between 8 ...
. The Phoenicians kept records of their rulers in tomb inscriptions, which are among the few primary sources still available. Historians have determined a clear line of succession over centuries for some city-states, notably Byblos and Tyre. Starting as early as 15th century BC, Phoenician leaders were "advised by councils or assemblies which gradually took greater power". In the sixth century BC, during the period of Babylonian rule, Tyre briefly adopted a system of government consisting of a pair of judges with authority roughly equivalent to the Roman consul, known as (
shophet In several ancient Semitic-speaking cultures and associated historical regions, the shopheṭ or shofeṭ (plural shophṭim or shofeṭim; he, שׁוֹפֵט ''šōfēṭ'', phn, 𐤔𐤐𐤈 ''šōfēṭ'', xpu, 𐤔𐤐𐤈 ''šūfeṭ'', ...
s), who were chosen from the most powerful noble families and served short terms. In the fourth century BC, when the armies of Alexander the Great approached Tyre, they were met not by its King but by representatives of the commonwealth of the city. Similarly, historians at the time describe the "inhabitants" or "the people" of Sidon making peace with Alexander. When the Macedonians sought to appoint a new king over Sidon, the citizens nominated their candidate.


Law and administration

After the King and council, the two most important political positions in virtually every Phoenician city-state were governor and commander of the army. Details regarding the duties of these offices are sparse. However, it is known that the governor was responsible for collecting taxes, implementing decrees, supervising judges, and ensuring the administration of law and justice. As warfare was rare among the most mercantile Phoenicians, the army's commander was generally responsible for ensuring the defense and security of the city-state and its hinterlands. The Phoenicians had a system of courts and judges that resolved disputes and punished crimes based on a semi-codified body of laws and traditions. Laws were implemented by the state and were the responsibility of the ruler and certain designated officials. Like other Levantine societies, laws were harsh and biased, reflecting the social stratification of society. The murder of a commoner was treated as less severe than that of a nobleman, and the upper classes had the most rights; the wealthy often escaped punishment by paying a fine. Free men of any class could represent themselves in court and had more rights than women and children, while slaves had no rights. Men could often deflect punishment to their wives, children, or slaves, even having them serve their sentence in their place. Lawyers eventually emerged as a profession for those who could not plead their case. As in neighboring societies at the time, penalties for crimes were often severe, usually reflecting the principle of reciprocity; for example, the killing of a slave would be punished by having the offender's slave killed. Imprisonment was rare, with fines, exile, punishment, and execution the main remedies.


Military

As with most aspects of Phoenician civilization, there are few records of their military or approach to warfare. Compared to most of their neighbors, the Phoenicians generally had little interest in conquest and were relatively peaceful. The wealth and prosperity of all their city-states rested on foreign trade, which required good relations and a certain degree of mutual trust. They also lacked the territory and agricultural base to support a population large enough to raise an army of conquest. Instead, each city had an army commander in charge of a defensive garrison. However, the specifics of the role, or city defense, are unknown.


Language

The Phoenician language was a member of the Canaanite branch of the Northwest Semitic languages. Its descendant language spoken in the Carthaginian Empire is termed
Punic The Punic people, or western Phoenicians, were a Semitic people in the Western Mediterranean who migrated from Tyre, Phoenicia to North Africa during the Early Iron Age. In modern scholarship, the term ''Punic'' – the Latin equivalent of t ...
. Punic was still spoken in the fifth century AD and known to St. Augustine of Hippo.


Alphabet

Around 1050 BC, the Phoenicians developed a script for writing their own language. The Canaanite-Phoenician alphabet consists of 22 letters, all
consonant In articulatory phonetics, a consonant is a speech sound that is articulated with complete or partial closure of the vocal tract. Examples are and pronounced with the lips; and pronounced with the front of the tongue; and pronounced wi ...
s (and is thus strictly an abjad). It is believed to be a continuation of the Proto-Sinaitic (or Proto-Canaanite) script attested in the Sinai and in Canaan in the
Late Bronze Age The Bronze Age is a historic period, lasting approximately from 3300 BC to 1200 BC, characterized by the use of bronze, the presence of writing in some areas, and other early features of urban civilization. The Bronze Age is the second prin ...
. Through their maritime trade, the Phoenicians spread the use of the alphabet to
Anatolia Anatolia, tr, Anadolu Yarımadası), and the Anatolian plateau, also known as Asia Minor, is a large peninsula in Western Asia and the westernmost protrusion of the Asian continent. It constitutes the major part of modern-day Turkey. The ...
, North Africa, and Europe. The name ''Phoenician'' is by convention given to inscriptions beginning around 1050 BC, because Phoenician,
Hebrew Hebrew (; ; ) is a Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it is one of the spoken languages of the Israelites and their longest-surviving descendants, the Jews and Samaritans. It was largely preserved ...
, and other Canaanite dialects were largely indistinguishable before that time. Phoenician inscriptions are found in Lebanon, Syria, Israel, Palestine, Cyprus and other locations, as late as the early centuries of the Christian era. The alphabet was adopted and modified by the Greeks probably in the eighth century BC. This most likely did not occur in a single instance but the process of commercial exchange. The legendary Phoenician hero Cadmus is credited with bringing the alphabet to Greece. However, it is more plausible that Phoenician immigrants brought it to
Crete Crete ( el, Κρήτη, translit=, Modern: , Ancient: ) is the largest and most populous of the Greek islands, the 88th largest island in the world and the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, after Sicily, Sardinia, Cyprus, ...
, whence it gradually diffused northwards.


Art

Phoenician art was largely centered on ornamental objects, particularly jewelry, pottery, glassware, and reliefs. Large sculptures were rare; figurines were more common. Phoenician goods have been found from Spain and Morocco to Russia and Iraq; much of what is known about Phoenician art is based on excavations outside Phoenicia proper. Phoenician art was highly influenced by many cultures, primarily Egypt, Greece, and Assyria. Greek inspiration was particularly pronounced in pottery, while Egyptian styles were most reflected in ivory work. Phoenician art also differed from its contemporaries in its continuance of
Bronze Age The Bronze Age is a historic period, lasting approximately from 3300 BC to 1200 BC, characterized by the use of bronze, the presence of writing in some areas, and other early features of urban civilization. The Bronze Age is the second prin ...
conventions well into the
Iron Age The Iron Age is the final epoch of the three-age division of the prehistory and protohistory of humanity. It was preceded by the Stone Age ( Paleolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic) and the Bronze Age ( Chalcolithic). The concept has been mostl ...
, such as terracotta masks. Phoenician artisans were known for their skill with wood, ivory, bronze, and textiles. In the Old Testament, a craftsman from Tyre is commissioned to build and decorate the legendary Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem, which "presupposes a well-developed and highly respected craft industry in Phoenicia by the mid-tenth century BC". The ''
Iliad The ''Iliad'' (; grc, Ἰλιάς, Iliás, ; "a poem about Ilium") is one of two major ancient Greek epic poems attributed to Homer. It is one of the oldest extant works of literature still widely read by modern audiences. As with the '' Odys ...
'' mentions the embroidered robes of Priam’s wife, Hecabe, as "the work of Sidonian women" and describes a mixing bowl of chased silver as "a masterpiece of Sidonian craftsmanship." The Assyrians appeared to have valued Phoenician ivory work in particular, collecting vast quantities in their palaces. Phoenician art appears to have been indelibly tied to Phoenician commercial interests. They have crafted goods to appeal to particular trading partners, distinguishing not only different cultures but even socioeconomic status classes. File: Phoenician, Iraq, Nimrud, 9th-8th Century BC - Decorative Plaque- Man; and Griffin in Combat - 1968.45 - Cleveland Museum of Art.tif, Decorative plaque which depicts a fighting of man and griffin; 900–800 BC;
Nimrud ivories The Nimrud ivories are a large group of small carved ivory plaques and figures dating from the 9th to the 7th centuries BC that were excavated from the Assyrian city of Nimrud (in modern Ninawa in Iraq) during the 19th and 20th centuries. The iv ...
;
Cleveland Museum of Art The Cleveland Museum of Art (CMA) is an art museum in Cleveland, Ohio, located in the Wade Park District, in the University Circle neighborhood on the city's east side. Internationally renowned for its substantial holdings of Asian and Egyptian ...
(
Ohio Ohio () is a state in the Midwestern region of the United States. Of the fifty U.S. states, it is the 34th-largest by area, and with a population of nearly 11.8 million, is the seventh-most populous and tenth-most densely populated. The sta ...
, US) File:Oinochoe MET DP279075.jpg, Oinochoe; 800–700 BC; terracotta; height: 24.1 cm;
Metropolitan Museum of Art The Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York City, colloquially "the Met", is the largest art museum in the Americas. Its permanent collection contains over two million works, divided among 17 curatorial departments. The main building at 1000 ...
(New York City) File: Glass face bead MET DP121044.jpg, Face bead; mid-4th–3rd century BC; glass; height: 2.7  cm; Metropolitan Museum of Art File: Pair of gold earrings with four relief faces MET sf19992896ab2.jpg, Earring from a pair, each with four relief faces; late fourth–3rd century BC; gold; overall: 3.5 x 0.6  cm; Metropolitan Museum of Art


Women

Women in Phoenicia took part in public events and religious processions, with depictions of banquets showing them casually sitting or reclining with men, dancing, and playing music. In most contexts, however, women were expected to dress and behave more modestly than men; female figures are almost always portrayed as draped from head to feet, with the arms sometimes covered as well. Although they rarely had political power, women took part in community affairs. They had some voice in the popular assemblies that began to emerge in some city-states. At least one woman, Unmiashtart, is recorded to have ruled Sidon in the fifth century BC. The two most famous Phoenician women are political figures:
Jezebel Jezebel (;"Jezebel"
(US) and
) was the daughte ...
, portrayed in the Bible as the assertive princess of Sidon, and Dido, the semi-legendary founder and first queen of Carthage. In Virgil's epic poem, the '' Aeneid'', Dido is described as having been the co-ruler of Tyre, using cleverness to escape the tyranny of her brother Pygmalion and to secure an ideal site for Carthage.


Religion

The religious practices and beliefs of Phoenicia were generally common to those of their neighbors in Canaan, which in turn shared characteristics common throughout the ancient Semitic world. Religious rites were primarily for city-state purposes; payment of taxes by citizens was considered in the category of religious sacrifices. The Phoenician sacred writings known to the ancients have been lost. Several Canaanite practices are attested in ancient sources and mentioned by scholars, such as
temple prostitution Sacred prostitution, temple prostitution, cult prostitution, and religious prostitution are rites consisting of paid intercourse performed in the context of religious worship, possibly as a form of fertility rite or divine marriage (). Scholar ...
and child sacrifice. Special sites known as "Tophets" were allegedly used by the Phoenicians "to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire," and are condemned by Yahweh in the Hebrew Bible, particularly in '' Jeremiah'' 7:30–32, and in '' 2nd Kings'' 23:10 and 17:17. Notwithstanding these and other important differences, cultural and religious similarities persisted between the ancient Hebrews and the Phoenicians. Canaanite religious mythology does not appear as elaborate as their Semitic cousins in Mesopotamia. In Canaan the supreme god was called El (𐤀𐤋, "god"). The son of El was Baal (𐤁𐤏𐤋, "master", "lord"), a powerful dying-and-rising
storm god A weather god or goddess, also frequently known as a storm god or goddess, is a deity in mythology associated with weather phenomena such as thunder, snow, lightning, rain, wind, storms, tornadoes, and hurricanes. Should they only be in charge of ...
. Other gods were called by royal titles, such as Melqart, meaning "king of the city", or
Adonis In Greek mythology, Adonis, ; derived from the Canaanite word ''ʼadōn'', meaning "lord". R. S. P. Beekes, ''Etymological Dictionary of Greek'', Brill, 2009, p. 23. was the mortal lover of the goddess Aphrodite. One day, Adonis was gored by ...
for "lord". Such epithets may often have been merely local titles for the same deities. The Semitic pantheon was well-populated; which god became primary evidently depended on the exigencies of a particular city-state. Melqart was prominent throughout Phoenicia and overseas, as was
Astarte Astarte (; , ) is the Hellenized form of the Ancient Near Eastern goddess Ashtart or Athtart ( Northwest Semitic), a deity closely related to Ishtar ( East Semitic), who was worshipped from the Bronze Age through classical antiquity. The name ...
, a fertility goddess with regal and matronly aspects. Religious institutions in Tyre called (𐤌𐤓𐤆𐤄, "place of reunion"), did much to foster social bonding and "kin" loyalty. held banquets for their membership on festival days, and many developed into elite
fraternities A fraternity (from Latin ''frater'': "brother"; whence, " brotherhood") or fraternal organization is an organization, society, club or fraternal order traditionally of men associated together for various religious or secular aims. Fraternity ...
. Each nurtured congeniality and community through a series of ritual meals shared among trusted kin in honor of deified ancestors. In Carthage, which had developed a complex republican system of government, the may have played a role in forging social and political ties among citizens; Carthaginians were divided into different institutions that were solidified through communal feasts and banquets. Such festival groups may also have composed the voting cohort for selecting members of the city-state's Assembly. The Phoenicians made votive offerings to their gods, namely in the form of figurines and pottery vessels. Hundreds of figurines and fragments have been recovered from the Mediterranean, often spanning centuries between them, suggesting they were cast into the sea to ensure safe travels. Since the Phoenicians were predominantly seafaring people, it is speculated that many of their rituals were performed at sea or aboard ships. However, the specific nature of these practices is unknown.


See also

* Canaan * Maronites * Names of the Levant * Phoenicianism * Punic language * Punics * Theory of Phoenician discovery of the Americas * Phoenician-Punic literature


References


Citations


Sources

* Se
Review by Roger Wright
University of Liverpool. * Bondi, S. F. 1988. "The Course of History." In ''The Phoenicians'', edited by Sabatino Moscati, 38–45. Milan: Gruppo Editoriale Fabbri. * * * * * * Elayi, J. 2013. '. Paris: Perrin * * * * * * * * * * W. Röllig (1995)
Phoenician and the Phoenicians in the context of the Ancient Near East
in S. Moscati (ed.), I Fenici ieri oggi domani : ricerche, scoperte, progetti, Roma, p. 203-214 * * *


Further reading

* Carayon, Nicolas,
Les ports phéniciens et puniques
', PhD Thesis, 2008, Strasbourg, France. * Cerqueiro, Daniel, ', Buenos Aires, Ed. Peq. Venecia, 2002, . * Cioffi, Robert L., "A Palm Tree, a Colour and a Mythical Bird" (review of Josephine Quinn, ''In Search of the Phoenicians'', Princeton, 2017, 360 pp., ), '' London Review of Books'', vol. 41, no. 1 (3 January 2019), pp. 15–16. * Thiollet, Jean-Pierre, ', foreword by Guy Gay-Para, H & D, Paris, 2005, . * , for a critical examination of the evidence of Phoenician trade with the South West of the U.K. * Silva, Diógenes. "La literatura sobre fenicios en el territorio brasileño: orígenes y razones", PhD Thesis, Madrid - 2016. Available in https://eprints.ucm.es/39468/


External links


BBC Radio4 – In Our Time: The Phoenicians (audio archive)

The quest for the Phoenicians in South Lebanon


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