The Phoenicians were a people tant lived in the northern part of Canaan. Most of what is known about them comes from the Bible, other ancient civilizations, and ruins of their cities and ships.
Two different groups fromed the Phoenician civilization. The first was the Canaanites, who came from the desert south and east of Canaan. The Caananites were nomadic herders who wandered from pasture to pasture. The other group was the Philistines, who came from the eastern Mediterranean Sea area, near Greece. The Philstines were traders and shipbuilders.
By the end of 1200 B.C., the Phoenicians had built cities and and towns in Canaan, a narrow strip of land between the mountains and the sea.There was not enough land to grow food, so the Phoenicians made their living from the sea.
The mountains near Phoenicia had dense cedar forests. The Phoenicians used this wood to build ships. They started as coastal traders. In time, they controlled Mediterranean trade. They traded cedar logs, cloth,glass trinkets, and perfume for gold and other metals. Many Phoenician ships were also workshops, because sailors who were also artisans brought their materials on board the ships.
Phoenician sailors and explorers plotted their courses their courses using the stars as guides. They travelled where no one else dared to go. They brought Middle Eastern culture to unexplored areas of the western Mediterranean. Some think the Phoenicians sailed around the Cape of Good Hope to India, and reached America 2000 years before Columbus and 1500 years before the Viking Leif Erickson.
From their business dealings, Phoenicians learned the value of making peace. They used this to keep peace with their larger, more powerful neighbors, Greece and Egypt. They signed treaties, in which they promised to supply free shipment of goods in exchange for guaranteed Phoenician independence.
Phoenicia never became a united country. Mountains seperated one group of Phoenicians from another. Phoenicia was a collection of independent city-states, the largest of which were Tyre, Byblos, Beirut, Carthage, and Sidon.
Though all citizens of all city-states spoke the same language of all city-states spoke the same language, they did not always get along well. The search for more profit led to jealousy and fighting among city-states. Only people from other civilizations called them Phoenicians.
Most Phoenician city-states had walls around them. Inside, it was very crowded. The streets were narrow and the buildings were close together. Outside the walls of the city was the port. This was the center of activity. Goods from other civilizations were kept in warehouses until they were sold at the market of were shipped overseas.
Phoenician cities were cloth-dyeing centers. The Phoenicians made an expensive purple dye that was in high demand. In fact, the name "Phoenician" means "of purple merchants."
The Phoenicians believed in many gods who were closely tied into nature. Since they thought gods met people only on hills and under trees, they worshipped only in these places at first. the temples that they built later had an entrance hall, a main hall, and a holy of holies, the most sacred room in the temple. Priests at stone altars made the sacrifices. The Phoenicians believed in life after death. They placed the bodies in clay urns, but later mummified them.
Some Phoenician traders and sailors set up trading posts along the coast of North Africa. The most famous of these cities was Carthage, founded in 814 B. C. in present day Tunisia. Carthage quickly became a power, but was later conquered by Rome and was absorbed into the Roman Republic.
The Phoenician alphabet consisted of 22 characters. This alphabet influenced the Hebrew and Ancient Greek alphabets. The Roman alphabet was modeled after the Greek alphabet, and the Roman alphabet is the basis for our modern alphabet.