Semitic people who settled in the current territory of Lebanon. What were the Phoenicians known for?
|1,200 a. C. – 539 BC
|Current territory of Lebanon
|Trade and artisan production.
The Phoenicians were a Semitic people who settled in the current territory of Lebanon, between 1200 BC. C. and 539 BC approximately . They are considered the founders of maritime trade .
These inhabited the eastern coast of the Mediterranean , especially the area currently occupied by Lebanon. This is a mountainous and wooded territory , with a narrow strip of land between the mountains and the sea that does not allow the development of extensive agricultural activities.
From that narrow strip of land, the Phoenicians extended their trade routes along the entire coast of the Mediterranean Sea and the North Atlantic of Africa. On these routes they founded colonies and factories , but they did not establish a territorial or political power.
Enhance your reading: What happened in the 17th century/characteristics/events
Characteristics of the Phoenicians
The main characteristics of the Phoenicians are the following:
- They established cities, colonies, and factories on the eastern Mediterranean coast, North Africa, and southern Spain. Some of them are Byblos, Tire, Sidon, Carthage, Tangier, Sardinia and Sicily . They also established neighborhoods, known as concessions , in foreign cities from where they handled trade.
- They were great navigators . The forests of the Lebanon and Antilíbano mountain ranges provided them with abundant quality wood , with which they developed a type of fast and light boat with a double row of oars and a central sail that facilitated their movements through the sea. What were the Phoenicians known for?
- In their travels they not only carried out commercial activities, but also left records of their observations on the geography of the coasts, the marine currents, the winds and the best routes to navigate. These were inherited by the Greeks , through whom such knowledge spread and lasted until modern times.
- While they have traditionally been regarded as the inventors of alphabetic writing, it is likely that they just simplified different forms of registration that already existed. The truth is that they developed a type of simple writing with few letters that forms the basis of modern Western writing systems.
Reputation of the Phoenicians What were the Phoenicians known for?
However, the Phoenicians are a fundamental part of our past, along with Iberians, Celtiberians or Romans. Thanks to archeology, we are gradually unraveling this important culture, marginalized and forgotten for so many centuries; Today, its cultural legacy is a valuable educational tool with which to work with civic or environmental values, which also has immense potential for leisure and cultural tourism.
1. They were the inventors of the alphabet.
The Greeks themselves would have taken this advance from the Phoenicians, according to Herodotus, ‘father of History’.
2. They came from present-day Lebanon.
Although their homeland was at the eastern end of the Mediterranean, they traded and founded colonies throughout the Mediterranean until they reached the Strait of Gibraltar and the Atlantic.
3. Europe, which gave our continent its name, was a Phoenician princess.
Although the myth that has come down to us is Greek, its protagonist was a princess from the Phoenician city of Tire. What were the Phoenicians known for?
4. They were the first great navigators in history.
Advances such as astronomical orientation or a developed naval architecture allowed them to practice high-altitude navigation and cross the entire Mediterranean.
5. They exported the Mediterranean diet.
With them, olive growing, wine growing, legumes such as lentils or chickpeas, as well as salted fish, the bases of what we know today as the Mediterranean diet, came to our lands.
6. They founded cities that still exist today.
For example Beirut in Lebanon, Cádiz, Malaga or Ibiza in Spain, Palermo in Sicily, Cagliari in Sardinia or Tunisia in the homonymous North African country.
7. They were so skilled technicians and craftsmen that they collaborated in the construction of the famous temple of Solomon in Jerusalem.
According to the Bible, the Jewish king had Phoenician architects, workers and cabinetmakers thanks to a pact signed with King Hiram of Tire.
8. The phoenix, a fabulous bird that is reborn from its ashes, shares a name with this town.
Both ‘phoinix’ and ‘Phoenician’ come from ‘phoinix’, a Greek word meaning ‘red’, perhaps because these people were the discoverers of purple.
Enhance your reading: What happened in the 18th century/characteristics/event
Political and social organization of the Phoenicians
They did not form a unified state, but were organized into independent city-states . The government was exercised in some cases by a king , accompanied by a council of merchants and, in other cases, by a council of elders who delegated their authority to magistrates. What were the Phoenicians known for?
Social organization What were the Phoenicians known for?
The Phoenician was a society of merchants and navigators . These activities were carried out by family dynasties that spent most of the year at sea and gathered in Phoenician cities during times of religious festivals.
The ruling elites were those who made up these families. Below them, in terms of political power, were artisans , small merchants , farmers and fishermen .
The Phoenician economy was based on trade and the artisan production of some highly valued goods, such as purple-dyed cloth and bronze objects.
Through their extensive commercial network they distributed the productions of the other states of the Mediterranean region. Goods such as metals, ebony and ivory from Africa were transported and exchanged throughout the Mediterranean basin ; slaves, horses, precious stones and textiles from Syria ; honey and oil from Judea ; sheep, spices and gold from Arabia .
During much of Phoenician history, commercial activity was carried out through the exchange of goods , since the currency only began to be minted in the 4th century BC. C.
Phoenician religion What were the Phoenicians known for?
The Phoenician cities did not have a homogeneous religion, probably due to the influence of the different cultures of the territories they visited. So, l os gods varied among the various Phoenician cities , although they shared some characteristics. For example, the goddess of fertility was called Astarte in Sidon and Ba’alat Gubal in Byblos.
In the cities there were temples, like the one of Melkart-Baal-Tsor in Tire, where every year great religious festivals were celebrated. Offerings to the god came to these temples from distant colonies. Human sacrifices were made and the faithful sometimes offered their own children to the gods.
There were priestly dynasties , both men and women, who transmitted the activity from generation to generation. What were the Phoenicians known for?