The Phoenicians’ history is an interesting one as they had a rich culture, heritage and history. On top of all that, the importance of the Phoenicians was that they were known for their various skills, especially their trading and products. These were what made them famous, but their civilization eventually came to an end.

Continue reading this article to find out what the Phoenicians were known for and why they were called the “Purple People.”

Who Were the Phoenicians and What Were the Phoenicians Known For?

Because of their proximity to the sea, the Phoenician people were a sea-faring folk who were known for their skills as sailors and for their excellent shipbuilding abilities. Phoenicia was an ancient civilization located along the coast of the Mediterranean.

It was a grouping of independent city-states which covered what is now present-day Syria, Israel, and Lebanon. In the Bible, this civilization was referred to as Canaan.

Many cities were dotted around this region, but the two most famous ones were called Tyre and Sidon. City-states started to form in this area around 3200 BC, and the civilization lasted until their conquest by Alexander the Great in 332 BC.

The people here were well-known for their manufacturing and sea-trading, especially between 1500 and 332 BC. The Phoenicians could build ships, make glass, create art, build both casual and luxury goods, and they were very well-known for their dyes.

They were also known for creating the alphabet that many western languages were built upon. Their other famous city Gebal, also known as Byblos, was the inspiration for the name “Bible.” Over the years, people avoided dragging the Phoenicians into war because their skills and products were so sought after, but in the end, they were conquered by Alexander the Great and later by the Romans.

The Phoenician Alphabet and Phoenician Religious Inspiration

The Phoenicians’ culture essentially started it all, in a lot of different ways. First off, they gave us the alphabet. The Greek historian Herodotus was the one who claimed that a Phoenician named Kadmus brought the alphabet to the Greeks before the eighth century BC.

At that time, the Greeks had no alphabet, so this formed the foundation for a lot of the western languages spoken today!

The Greeks called the Phoenician city Gebal “Byblos,” and it was the inspiration for the name of the Bible. The reason they used this city’s name was because at the time, Gebal was the exporter of papyrus, the paper used for writing. This paper was popularly used in both Ancient Greece and Egypt, and the Phoenicians became a religious inspiration for the Greeks and later the Christians.

There were a lot of similarities between the Phoenician gods Baal and Yamm and the Greek gods Zeus and Poseidon. Additionally, the fight between God and Satan in the Christian faith is similar to stories in the book of Baal and Yamm in the Phoenician religion. Phoenicia is referred to as Canaan in the Bible, and the famous Queen Jezebel, born in Sidon, was married to the King of Israel, Ahab.

Why Were the Phoenicians Also Called the Purple People?

The Phoenicians were famous for their dyes, especially their purple-colored one. This was manufactured at the city of Tyre, and it was used for dying the robes of Mesopotamian royalty.

It was requested by royalty from other nations as well, that was how popular it was. It was used all throughout Mesopotamia, of course, but also in Egypt and the Roman Empire.

Because the dye would stain the workers’ skin when they colored with it, they were sometimes called the “Purple People.” This famous color also gave Phoenicia its name, as the name comes from the Greek word for Tyrian purple, “Phoinikes.”

Phoenicians: The Ancient Middlemen and the World Between Worlds

These people went everywhere, and, as the saying goes, they really had “their fingers in all the pies.” They were skilled ship-builders and sailors, and it was in Phoenicia that the design for the curved hull was first created.

The Bible calls the Phoenicians the “princes of the sea.” They were able to navigate the Mediterranean Sea better than most, and so they were very active traders.

Phoenicians were selling their goods as far as they could go while also being a trading spot themselves. There is some evidence that they sold goods as far as Britain. Because of the constant movement between people and sharing of skills and products, ideas and customs were also traded, including Phoenician culture. Scholars called this people group ‘middlemen’ because of what they shared with other nations around them through trade.

There’s More? What Else Were the Phoenicians Known For?

While Tyre had its dyes and Byblos was a religious, intellectual center, it was the people of Sidon that was well-known for their glass-making. Their skill was so unmatched that some people even believe it was this city that actually invented glass. They helped to inspire Egyptian craftsmen and artists with their glass, bronze and silver designs. They were able to mass-produce these materials, and that really increased their popularity and trade ability.

Because Phoenicia was made up of independent city-states, there was constant competition between them. They battled about who made what better and who got the best sales and the best trade partners. This constant competition obviously created a lot of division, and it prevented them from becoming an even more powerful empire.

Phoenicia: The End of an Empire and Fall to Alexander the Great

In 332 BC, Phoenicia was conquered by Alexander the Great. He took the cities one by one, and, after a little trouble at Tyre, he eventually besieged it and took it as well. After that, all the cities surrendered to Alexander, ushering in the new Hellenistic Age.

After Alexander’s death, however, it was a constant battle between his generals as they fought for power and succession over Phoenicia.

In 64 BC, the various pieces of Phoenicia were finally taken up by Rome.

An Amazing Civilization: The Phoenicians’ Significance and Legacy

The Phoenicians left us with so much, but perhaps their greatest contribution was the alphabet. Their artwork and craftsmanship can still be seen today, and even the ruins in their cities stand proud in very good shape. Another great contribution that they gave to the world was their skill at disseminating cultural aspects and ideas.

They made their names known in trade, and they made their mark in the world in many other ways too.

Conclusion

Here are the important points we learned in this article about the Phoenicians and their various contributions to society:

  • Phoenicia was an ancient civilization bordering the Mediterranean Sea that covers parts of modern-day Israel, Syria, and Lebanon
  • In the Bible, Phoenicia was known as Canaan
  • It was a group of independent city-states that were often in competition with each other
  • These city-states began to form around 3200 BC, and their civilization grew and flourished until they were conquered by Alexander the Great in 332 BC
  • The Phoenicians were well-known for their sailing abilities, ship-building skills, glass-making, dye products, and manufacturing in general
  • They were so popular, and their products so desired, that they were often kept out of battles and disputes
  • The Phoenicians also gave us the alphabet, which many of today’s western languages used as a basic foundation for writing
  • They brought this alphabet to the Greeks, who supposedly didn’t have an alphabet before the eighth century BC
  • The Phoenicians might also have inspired Greek religion since there are a lot of similarities between their gods Baal and Yamm and the Greek gods Zeus and Poseidon
  • Additionally, a story in the Bible about God and Satan fighting also mirrors a story found in the book of Baal and Yamm
  • The Phoenicians were especially known for their purple dye, made in the city of Tyre
  • This color is where they got their name “Phoenicia,” from the Greek word for Tyrian purple
  • The dye would stain the workers’ skin, giving them the nickname “Purple People,” according to the Greek scholar Herodotus
  • The Phoenicians were also skilled craftsmen and could make anything from glass to pottery to metalwork
  • Their goods were sought for miles around, and it caused much competition between the city-states
  • The Phoenicians were considered middlemen because of their location, connection to trade, and the way that they disseminated goods, ideas, culture, and religion throughout the surrounding areas
  • They inspired the artwork and design for people in Ancient Egypt. Some believe that the glass-makers in Phoenicia actually invented glass
  • In 332 BC, Alexander the Great conquered Phoenicia, and they eventually became part of the Roman Empire

Phoenicia was like a manufacturing and artistic paradise, where it was not only a center for trade and production but also religion and learning, a true “jack of all trades” when it came to regions.

They had the skills and the good location to become a great power, but all the competition between the city-states meant they couldn’t unite. Despite that, they are still remembered today for their beautiful goods and for giving us the foundation for our alphabet.

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