A Phoenician Temple
The principal God of the city of Sidon
and his lover Astarte
Podium for the Phoenician Gods
Phoenicia, ancient designation of a narrow strip of territory on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea, now largely in modern Lebanon. The territory, about 320 km (about 200 mi) long and from 8 to 25 km (5 to 15 mi) wide, was bounded on the east by the Lebanon Mountains. The southern boundary was Mount Carmel; the northern boundary was generally accepted to be the Eleutherus River, now called the KabÓr, which forms the northern boundary of Lebanon.
Early Phoenician stonework (7th century B.C.)
Although its inhabitants had a homogeneous civilization and considered themselves a single nation, Phoenicia was not a unified state but a group of city-kingdoms, one of which usually dominated the others. The most important of these cities were Simyra, Zarephath (Sarafand), Byblos, Jubeil, Arwad (Rouad), Acco (ĎAkko), Sidon (Sayd‚), Tripolis (Tripoli), Tyre (Sur), and Berytus (Beirut). The two most dominant were Tyre and Sidon, which alternated as sites of the ruling power.
hunting scene in carved figures
The Phoenicians, called Sidonians in the Old Testament and Phoenicians by the Greek poet Homer, were Semites, related to the Canaanites of ancient Palestine. Historical research indicates that they founded their first settlements on the Mediterranean coast about 2500BC. Early in their history, they developed under the influence of the Sumerian and Akkadian cultures of nearby Babylon. About 1800BC Egypt, which was then beginning to acquire an empire in the Middle East, invaded and took control of Phoenicia, holding it until about 1400BC. The raids of the Hittites against Egyptian territory gave the Phoenician cities an opportunity to revolt, and by 1100BC they were independent of Egypt.
With self-rule, the Phoenicians became the most notable traders and sailors of the ancient world. The fleets of the coast cities traveled throughout the Mediterranean and even into the Atlantic Ocean, and other nations competed to employ Phoenician ships and crews in their navies. In connection with their maritime trade the city-kingdoms founded many colonies, notably Utica and Carthage in north Africa, on the islands of Rhodes and Cyprus in the Mediterranean Sea, and Tarshish in southern Spain. Tyre was the leader of the Phoenician cities before they were subjugated, once again, by Assyria during the 8th century BC. When Assyria fell during the late 7th century BC, Phoenicia, except for Tyre, which succeeded in maintaining its independence until about 538BC, was incorporated into the Chaldean Empire of Nebuchadnezzar II and, in 539BC, became part of the Persian Empire. Under Persian rule Sidon became the leading city of Phoenicia.
Throne of Astarte
When Alexander the Great of Macedonia invaded Asia and defeated Persia in 333BC, Sidon, Arwad, and Byblos capitulated to Macedonia. Tyre again refused to submit, and it took Alexander a 7-month siege in 332BC to capture the city. After this defeat the Phoenicians gradually lost their separate identity as they were absorbed into the Greco-Macedonian empire. The cities became Hellenized, and, in 64 BC, even the name of Phoenicia disappeared, when the territory was made part of the Roman province of Syria.
The most important Phoenician contribution to civilization was the alphabet. Purple dye, called Tyrian purple, and the invention of glass, are also ascribed to the Phoenicians. Their industries, particularly the manufacture of textiles and dyes, metalworking, and glassmaking, were notable in the ancient world, and Phoenician cities were famous for their pantheistic religion. Each city had its special deity, usually known as its Baal, or lord, and in all cities the temple was the center of civil and social life. The most important Phoenician deity was Astarte.
Text from Microsoft Encarta
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