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Phoenicia was an ancient civilization composed of independent city-states located along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, stretching through what is now Syria, Lebanon, and Northern Israel. They were famed as the ‘traders in purple,’ referring to their monopoly on the precious purple dye of the Murex snail, used for royal clothing. Phoenicians had a notable contribution to the world, which was the formulation of the phonetic alphabet.
See the fact file below for more information on the Phoenicia, or you can download our 25-page Phoenicia worksheet pack to utilize within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
- Between 1000 BCE and 600 BCE, the Phoenicians dominated the ancient world’s trading industry. Their abilities in shipbuilding and sailing were the most well-known, and they also improved their use of the North Star for navigation when sailing at night.
- To counter pirates who occasionally harassed their fleets, the Phoenicians built special warships that accompanied the trading ships.
- Merchants acted as middlemen for their neighbors. They transported goods from Egypt, Cyprus, Mesopotamia, Arabia, and Africa to various locations throughout the Mediterranean.
- The Phoenicians were also famous for producing purple dye from small shellfish. The dye was originally used on woolen garments and later became known as royal purple, which Roman emperors wore.
- Production of glass and textiles, as well as pottery, woodwork, and metalwork, emerged. The ancient people desired such products, and King Solomon of Israel even consulted Phoenician artisans in the construction of the great Hebrew Temple to Yahweh.
- Around 572 BCE, the Assyrians conquered the Phoenicians.
- Persians, aided by Alexander the Great, destroyed Sidon and Tyre in the fourth century BCE. After losing the two most important Phoenician cities, the citizens began to leave the Mediterranean coast and eventually became part of other cultures.
- The word Phoenicia is an ancient Greek term used to refer to cloth dyed Tyrian purple from the Murex mollusk, which was the region’s primary export.
- The name Phoenicians comes from the Greek “Phoínikes.” The word phoînix has various meanings, including “Phoenician person,” “Tyrian purple,” or “date palm.”
- The Ghassulian Chalcolithic culture arose from a nomadic nation and gave rise to the Canaanite culture.
- Canaanite culture existed during the Late Bronze Age, and they were the known origin of the Phoenicians.
- There were other stories about their origins as well. According to Herodotus, they came from the Erythraean Sea and appeared there around 2750 BCE. Strabo, the geographer, claimed that the Phoenicians first existed in Tylos and Arad, now known as Bahrain and Muharraq.
- Most scholars disagreed with the claim of the Phoenicians’ migration, claiming that they were once Canaanites who settled in modern-day Lebanon.
- The Late Bronze Age, which occurred between 1200 and 1150 BCE, harmed most civilizations. Some were weakened while others collapsed, such as the Egyptians and Hittites.
- According to historical records, the Phoenicians were one of the discrete and structured civilizations that managed the crisis in 1230 BCE, and it became known as the Phoenician Renaissance. They became the region’s exclusive mercantile and maritime power, a spot they held for centuries.
- The Phoenicians were responsible for the Mediterranean region’s economic recovery. Despite the long distance, they were able to begin trade between Egypt and Mesopotamia in the 10th century.
- During the early Iron Age, ports, warehouses, and markets were built throughout the Mediterranean. Settlements were also established, and development reached as far south as the Black Sea.
- Colonies of the civilization began to sprout in various locations such as Cyprus, Sardinia, Sicily, and Malta. They also established colonies on the Balearic Islands, North African coasts, and the Iberian Peninsula.
- Tyre, which was ruled by Hiram I at the time, was named the wealthiest and most influential city-state in Phoenicia in the 10th century.
- Tyre’s next ruler, Priest Ithobaal, expanded the kingdom’s borders to include parts of Beirut and Cyprus. He eventually had the largest territory among the Phoenicians. He declared himself Sidonian King.
- Mercantile activity persisted in Phoenicia, but it was accompanied by shipping and other cultural activities during the Late Iron Age, which lasted from 750 to 650 BCE.
- They were able to influence Greek culture and arts. Homer mentioned the clothing and metal goods made by Phoenicians in his poem “Iliad”.
- Because it was made up of independent city-states, Phoenicia was not considered a nation. However, their organization, as well as their shared language and culture, distinguishes them. Rivalries were expected, particularly among the leading city-states of Tyre, Sidon, and Byblos, but not to the extent of armed men attacking one another.
- In addition to Tyre’s colonies, other Phoenician cities included Amia, Ampi, Arqa, Baalbek, Beirut, Botrys, Sarepta, and Tripolis.
- However, they primarily settled in the Balearic Islands, Cyprus, Malta, Northwest Africa, Sardinia, Sicily, and Southern Iberia.
- They primarily used their colonies for commercial purposes. The majority of colonies had few inhabitants.
- At the same time, the Greeks began to expand their territories across the Mediterranean, challenging the Phoenicians. Only the settlements in Crete and Sicily clashed as the two civilizations competed peacefully.
- Phoenician colonies sent annual tributes to their mother city as a religious offering.
- Carthage gained independence in the seventh century but continued to pay annual tribute to Tyre after it ruled over western colonies.
Language and Alphabet
- The Phoenicians spoke the Punic language and got it from their Canaanite ancestors.
- They developed their writing system, which included 22 all-consonant letters, around 1050 BCE. The oldest writings in the Phoenician alphabet were said to be found on the Sarcophagus of Ahiram.
- The use of the Phoenician alphabet spread to Anatolia, North Africa, and Europe as a result of their trade.
- Greeks adopted the alphabet and modified some characters in the eighth century BCE. Some scholars attribute it to Phoenician immigrants from Crete, which eventually spread northward.
- The religion of the Phoenicians was said to have originated in the ancient Semitic world, which influenced the Canaanites. The rites centered on paying taxes as religious sacrifices for the city-states.
- They also practiced temple prostitution and child sacrifice at special sites known as “Tophets,” where children were said to be burned.
- They thought it was Yahweh’s condemnation in the Hebrew Bible. Other parallels with the ancient Hebrews were discovered.
- Melqart was a royal title that meant “king of the city” in Phoenicia.
- Tyre had a place called marzeh, where they held reunions. The gatherings were intended to foster social bonding and family loyalty.
- Dedicatory offerings to the Phoenician gods were also made in the form of figurines and pottery vessels. Evidence was discovered in the Mediterranean.
- Speculations about rituals performed aboard ships arose as a result of the Phoenicians’ primacy as seafarers, but the purpose of these rituals remained unknown.
This is a fantastic bundle that includes everything you need to know about Phoenicia across 25 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Phoenicia worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about Phoenicia, which was an ancient civilization composed of independent city-states located along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea stretching through what is now Syria, Lebanon, and northern Israel. They were famed as the ‘traders in purple’, referring to their monopoly on the precious purple dye of the Murex snail, used for royal clothing. Phoenicians had a notable contribution to the world, which was the formulation of the phonetic alphabet.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Phoenician Facts
- Phoenicia’s City State
- Who were the Phoenicians?
- The Trading Goods
- Now Let’s Start Sailing and Trading
- Legacy to Remember
- Down and Across
- Shekels for Temple Tax Issue
- Spot the Words
- The Phoenician Alphabet
- Barter with the Merchants
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Phoenicia called now?
Most scholars disagreed with the claim of the Phoenicians’ migration, claiming that they were once Canaanites who settled in modern-day Lebanon.
What is Phoenicia known for?
They became the region’s exclusive mercantile and maritime power, a spot they held for centuries.
What ethnicity were the Phoenicians?
Canaanite culture existed during the Late Bronze Age, and they were the known origin of the Phoenicians.
What language did the Phoenicians speak?
The Phoenicians spoke the Punic language and got it from their Canaanite ancestors.
Why did the Phoenicians fall?
Around 572 BCE, the Assyrians conquered the Phoenicians. Persians, aided by Alexander the Great, destroyed Sidon and Tyre in the fourth century BCE. After losing the two most important Phoenician cities, the citizens began to leave the Mediterranean coast and eventually became part of other cultures.
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Use With Any Curriculum
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