Sunday, June 5, 2016

The Western World in 300 Events: Event 16 - The Phoenician influence

It can be argued that the Phoenicians, an ancient Semitic culture based on the Lebanese coastline, were one if not the most important maritime trading culture of the ancient world. As a civilization Phoenicia flourished between 1550 BC to 300 BC with first Byblos (the city which gave its name to the word Bible) and then Tyre serving as its capital. We have already spoken about the Phoenician phonetic language and its impact on global linguistics but it wasn’t just language that was transmitted by the Phoenicians. As early shipbuilders, they developed the Bireme and monopolized trade in the precious purple dye (used for royal clothing) that they obtained from the Murex snail. They also traded in cedar trees (prized for their shipbuilding wood) which existed in abundance in the Lebanese heartland.

The Phoenicians shared a Canaanite religion similar to that practiced by other groups in the Levant and set up colonies in Modern day Algeria, Cyprus, Greece, Italy (mainland plus Sicily), Libya, Malta, Mauritania, Morocco, Portugal, Spain, Tunisia and Turkey. The greatest of these colonies, Carthage (located in Tunisia) would grow to become a power in its own right (rivaling Ancient Rome in the 3rd  century BC). Most Phoenician cities were controlled by kings and followed a city-state model of government. 

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