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The Phoenician Civilization



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Podcast Transcript

Someday round 3,200 years in the past, a brand new civilization grew to become ascendent on the jap coast of the Mediterranean Sea. 

This group wasn’t just like the Empires that surrounded them. They weren’t centered a lot on land acquisition and conquest a lot as they have been centered on commerce and commerce. 

For hundreds of years they dominated over commerce and commerce within the Mediterranean till they lastly succumbed to their extra highly effective neighbors.

Study extra concerning the Phoenician Civilization and what set them other than different historic civilizations, on this episode of All the things In every single place Each day.


The origin of the Phoenicians is shrouded in thriller. 

The Phoenicians lived within the space which is named Canaan, which is as we speak the world alongside the Mediterranean coast consisting of northern Israel, Lebanon, and the coast of Syria. 

If you’re accustomed to the time period Canaan it in all probability comes from the Bible and the folks generally known as Canaanites. There’s quite a lot of debate as to if the Phoenicians have been separate from, or have been the identical because the Canaanites. 

The time period Phoenicia is definitely a Greek time period they used to explain the folks from the world. It could possibly be that Phoenicians are equal to Canaanites, or it could possibly be that Phoenicians are a subset of a bigger group of people that had the label Canaanites. 

The traditional Greek historian Herodotus claimed that they got here from the Arabian Peninsula, however different fashionable students say that they didn’t migrate from anyplace. 

What we do know is that they have been positively a Semitic folks from that area, and lived near the ocean. 

The primary we hear concerning the Phoenicians comes from the Egyptians within the fifteenth century BC.  The Phoenicians traded with the Egyptians and Phoenician items have been extremely prized. 

The Phoenicians appeared to have been the route many items took from Mesopotamia to Egypt. Likewise, Phoenician cities have been an vital supply of bronze. Should you bear in mind again to my episode on the three-age system, this time interval was smack dab in the course of the Bronze Age. 

The notable factor concerning the Phoenicians and this was even evident presently, was that they weren’t a top-down empire like lots of the civilizations throughout this era. 

The Phoenicians organized themselves just like the Greeks into smaller city-states that competed with one another. The most important Phoencian city-states within the jap Mediterranen have been Byblos, Tyre, Sidon, Baalbek, and Beruit. 

Whereas the Phoenicians have been on the map at this level, what actually introduced the Phoenicians to prominence was an occasion generally known as the Bronze Age Collapse. 

The Bronze Age Collapse is likely one of the most vital occasions within the historic world, and it is extremely excessive on my checklist of subjects to do a future episode on. 

Someday between the years 1200 to 1150 BC, with the date often given as 1177 BC, all the nice civilizations across the Mediterranean collapsed. They have been invaded by a bunch recognized solely to historical past as “the ocean folks”. 

The Egyptians, Babylonians, Minoans, Mycenaeans, Hittites, and Assyrians both completely disappeared from historical past or have been considerably weakened. 

Commerce, literacy, and requirements of residing across the area collapsed. 

What’s related for the needs of this story, is that within the aftermath of the Bronze Age Collapse, the Phoenicians appeared as a totally mature civilization. 

The Phoenicians stuffed the hole which was left after the Bronze Age Collapse when it comes to commerce and commerce. Some historians have dubbed this the “Phoenician Renaissance.”

The Phoenicians in a really quick time period developed a mastery of the ocean and of crusing. This allowed the Phoenicians to develop into the overwhelming naval and commerce energy of the area. 

Should you have a look at a map of the areas that the Phoenicians managed, it really isn’t very huge. Should you observed, at no level did I ever name the Phoenicians an empire, as a result of they weren’t. There was no Phoencian king or emperor. 

The Phoenicians have been merchants. 

If the traditional Mediterranean was the world of Star Trek, the Phoenicians would have been the Ferengi, not the Klingons. 

As a substitute of conquering territory, they established colonies. Buying and selling colonies. 

The Phoenicians have been, on this sense, similar to the Greeks. In actual fact, they appear to have come to an understanding with the Greeks and divided up the Mediterranean. The Greeks settled and arrange colonies alongside the northern coast, and the Phoenicians arrange colonies alongside the southern coast. 

The Phoenician city-states grew to become facilities not only for commerce, but in addition for manufacturing. 

As I discussed earlier than, they made bronze, which required the importation of tin, most of which got here from what’s as we speak Afghanistan. 

They have been additionally beautiful glass makers, producing a lot of the glass within the area. All the things from glass beads to cups to statues. In addition they had notable steel staff and ivory carvers. They could have been the primary folks to develop large-scale manufacturing of products and have been the primary to undertake a widespread division of labor for manufacturing. 

Their location in Lebanon gave them entry to one of the vital vital commodities within the area, the Lebanese Cedar. The cedar timber made it attainable for the Phoenicians to create essentially the most superior ships of the period. 

The Phoenicians invented the keel in addition to the bireme, which is a ship with two rows of oars on both sides.

The Phoenicians additionally developed the amphora. As I discussed in a earlier episode, they have been clay containers used for transport liquids resembling wine and olive oil. 

The Phoenicians may need been one of many first folks to domesticate grapes, but when they weren’t they virtually actually have been the primary to develop large-scale manufacturing of wine. 

Likewise, they have been a few of the best makers of textiles. 

Nevertheless, the one factor that they have been greatest recognized for, they usually had a literal monopoly on, was purple dye. 

There’s little or no purple in nature. It was a colour that couldn’t be created by regular means utilizing frequent dyes. The Phoenicians developed a purple dye from a sea snail discovered alongside the coast of Lebanon. 

Tyre was the middle of purple dye manufacturing and the dye grew to become generally known as Tyrian Purple. Some suppose that the phrase Phoenician would possibly really imply “purple”.

The dye was troublesome and costly to create and it was price its equal weight in silver. 

The Phoenician city-states ultimately unfold out to hunt different markets and entry to different items. They created a community of small colonies all all through the southern Mediterranean. 

The primary outposts they established have been on the island of Cyprus. Nevertheless, they expanded westward establishing colonies all the best way to what’s as we speak Morocco. 

There have been colonies on the islands of Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica, and Mallorca. In addition they established mainland colonies alongside the north coast of Africa in what’s as we speak Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco, in addition to southern Spain and France. 

The Greeks arrange their system of colonies across the Agean, Black Sea, the Adradica, and Southen Italy. There was some competitors between settlements in Sicily, however for essentially the most half, the competitors between the Phoenicians and Greeks wasn’t violent. 

A lot of the Phoenician colonies have been really somewhat small, with few having populations over 1000 folks. 

Over time, the dominant Phoenician city-state grew to become Tyre, which was really an island proper off the coast of Lebanon. 

Most of the colonies established across the Mediterranean have been established by Tyre. For essentially the most half, the colonies had autonomy, however they have been required to ship a tribute again to Tyre yearly. 

Whereas a lot of the colonies have been small, there may be one which ultimately grew into an influence in its personal proper: Carthage. Carthage was situated in modern-day Tunisia and ultimately took management over a lot of the Phoenician colonies within the Western Mediterranean. 

Carthage is price its personal episode, however I’ll word that the three wars Carthage had with Rome have been generally known as the Punic Wars. The phrase Punic refers back to the Carthaginians, but it surely comes from the Latin phrase “punicus” which suggests “Phoenician”. 

Even after Carthage surpassed Tyre, they nonetheless despatched a token tribute to the town yearly. 

Along with commerce, there have been different notable achievements of the Phoenicians as nicely. 

A giant was one was their alphabet. About 3,000 years in the past they developed their very own system of writing for his or her language. It consisted of twenty-two letters, with none vowels. 

The Phoenician system was later adopted by the Greeks to type the Greek alphabet, which in flip was utilized by the Romans to create their alphabet.

The Latin alphabet, which a lot of the world makes use of as we speak, can immediately hint its origins to the Phoenicians. 

Some of the peculiar non secular practices of the Phoenicians was documented by a number of of their neighboring cultures and is definitely talked about within the bible: youngster sacrifice. 

Not solely did different folks make word of it as a result of they discovered it barbaric, however there may be archeological proof that does help it. It would solely have been practiced by elites, and it isn’t clear if it concerned killing residing infants, or if it was providing youngsters who died in infancy. 

The opposite factor which requires a point out is their seafaring talents. The Phoenicians have been unquestionably one of the best maritime historic civilization within the west. We all know they’d colonies previous the Strait of Gibraltar.

There’s quite a lot of hypothesis as to how far they could have gotten. It’s fairly affordable that some Phoenicians may need gotten so far as the Canary Islands and Nice Britain. These islands will be seen from the shores of Africa and Europe respectively, and crusing there was nicely throughout the capabilities of the Phoenicians. 

So far as we all know they didn’t set up any colonies, however they simply might have gone there. 

There’s hypothesis as to if they could have made it so far as the Azores. This could have taken them a 3rd of the best way throughout the Atlantic, into deep ocean waters, which was typically prevented by Mediterranean ships. This concept is usually not accepted, though there are a couple of archeologists who advocate it. 

There are additionally some on the fringes who suppose that the Phoenicians may need made it so far as the Americas. That is actually speculative as a result of there may be zero proof to help this concept. Though, if anybody from that a part of the world at the moment might have achieved it, it could have been the Phoenicians. 

The Phoenicians had a run of about 400 years the place they have been the dominant buying and selling tradition within the Mediterranean. Nevertheless, their city-state system didn’t present a lot protection to bigger empires. 

In 858 BC the Phoenician city-states fell beneath the management of Assyria, then over the subsequent a number of centuries, the Babylonians, after which the Perisian. 

Tyre was conquered by Alexander the Nice in 332 BC after a seven-month siege the place he stuffed within the channel between the island of Tyre and the coast. To this present day, over 2000 years later, Tyre remains to be not an island. 

After the conquest of Tyre, a lot of its residents fled to Carthage, which itself was destroyed by the Romans in 146 BC. 

The Romans lastly conquered the Levant and Phoenicia in 62 BC, and that was just about the top of the Phoenicians as a separate civilization. 

Virtually all the things we all know concerning the Phoenicians comes from archeological discoveries and from what was written about them by different cultures. There’s little in the best way of first-hand accounts from Phoenicians themselves. 

Whereas the Phoenician tradition disappeared, the Phoenician folks didn’t. Genetic testing reveals that the folks in Lebanon as we speak, and elements of Cyprus, are essentially the most direct descendants of the Phoenicians. Many Phoenician genetic markers have additionally proven up in folks in Spain and Portugal as nicely. 

Most of the Phoenician settlements are nonetheless occupied as we speak. Tyre, Sidon, Beirut, and Byblos are nonetheless inhabited by people after virtually 3000 years.

In some ways, the Phoenicians have been forward of their time. Their mark on the traditional world didn’t come by means of conquest or navy growth. It got here by means of commerce, manufacturing, and commerce.  



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