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Table of Contents
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 alternatively, you can download our 25-page Phoenicia worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
Etymology and Geographic Location
- The word Phoenicia is an ancient Greek term used to refer to cloth dyed Tyrian purple from the Murex mollusc, which was the major export of the region.
- The name Phoenicians comes from Greek “Phoínikes”. The word phoînix has various meanings, including “Phoenician person”, “Tyrian purple”, or “date palm”.
- The chief cities of Phoenicia (excluding colonies) were Sidon, Tyre, and Berot (modern Beirut). Other city states were Byblos and Tripolis.
- Phoenicians called themselves Kenaʿani (Akkadian: Kinahna), “Canaanites”, in their own language.
- In Hebrew, the word Kenaʿani has the secondary meaning of “merchant,” a term that well characterizes the Phoenicians.
The Purple People: A great shipbuilders and seafarers
- The Phoenicians were a great maritime people, known for their mighty ships adorned with horses’ heads in honor of their god of the sea, Yamm, the brother of Mot, the god of death.
- The Phoenicians were primarily known as sailors who had developed a high level of skill in ship-building and were able to navigate the often turbulent waters of the Mediterranean Sea.
- The Phoenicians also traded cedar for making ships and other things.
- The Bible refers to the Phoenicians as the “princes of the sea” in a passage from Ezekiel 26:16.
- Phoenicians traded mainly with the Greeks, trading wood, salves, glass, and powdered Tyrian purple. Tyrian Purple was a violet-purple dye used by the Greek elite to color garments.
- Phoenician exports included cedar and pine wood, fine linen from Tyre, Byblos, and Berytos, clothes dyed with the famous Tyrian purple (made from the snail Murex), embroideries from Sidon, wine, metalwork, glass, glazed faience, salt, and dried fish.
The Phoenician Alphabet
- According to Herodotus, a Greek scholar, Phoenicia was the birthplace of the alphabet.
- The Phoenician alphabet was developed around 1200 BCE from an earlier Semitic prototype that also gave rise to the Ugaritic alphabet. It was used mainly for commercial notes.
- The earliest known inscriptions in Phoenician come from Byblos and date back to ca. 1000 BCE. Phoenician inscriptions have been found in Lebanon, Syria, Israel, and Cyprus.
- Punic is a language that developed from Phoenician in Phoenician colonies.
- The use of Phoenician alphabet spread to Anatolia, North Africa, and Europe. It was adopted by the Greeks who developed it into an alphabetic script to have distinct letters for vowels as well as consonants.
- Ironically, the Phoenicians themselves are mostly silent on their own history, possibly because they wrote on perishable materials, papyrus, or skins.
The coinage system
- For centuries, the Phoenicians were minting shekels in Tyre, located in modern-day Lebanon.
- Shekels were considered as the coinage and unit of weight used in the Middle East, especially Israel, in ancient times.
- In 50 BCE, these shekels become a major currency of the Judaeo-Phoenicians.
- These shekels featured the face of Baal, a Phoenician deity, on one side, and on the flipside an Egyptian eagle with a claw lying upon the rudder of a ship.
- Today, the shekel is the title of Israel’s basic unit of money.
Carthage the New Phoenician City
- In the 7th century BCE, the two dominant Phoenician cities were ruined, namely Sidon which was demolished, and Tyre, where the daughters of the king of Tyre were taken away by invaders.
- The Phoenicians’ established city of Carthage would evolve into a city-kingdom more powerful than Sidon and Tyre ever were.
- Carthage was then called the “new city” by the Phoenicians.
- The location of Sardinia, Malta, the Balearic Islands, and a portion of Sicily were also in the possession of Carthage.
- The empire was devoted to and built upon commercial trade. The Carthaginians mined silver and lead, exported ivory and gold, imported wild beasts from the jungles of Africa, and produced basic jewelry, glassware, and pottery.
- The Punic Wars were a result of political and economic competition between Carthage and Rome.
- The Roman’s first large-scale navy emerged victorious over a Carthaginian fleet in 260 BCE at the Battle of Mylae.
The Fall: Alexander Conquers Phoenicia
- In 334 BCE, Alexander the Great conquered Baalbek (renaming it Heliopolis) and marched on to subdue the cities of Byblos and Sidon in 332 BCE.
- Alexander was exceptionally harsh to Tyre, executing 2,000 of the leading citizens, but he maintained the king in power. He gained control of the other cities more peacefully: the ruler of Aradus submitted and the king of Sidon was overthrown.
- The Persians divided Phoenicia into four vassal kingdom: Sidon, Tyre, Arwad, and Byblos, and they prospered, furnishing fleets for the Persian kings.
This is a fantastic bundle which 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 the 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
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Link will appear as Phoenicia Facts & Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, December 11, 2018
Use With Any Curriculum
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