by Karl Juergen Hepke

English, lightly shortened Version of the Spanish Original "Fenicia" by Sonia Barja in Historia Antigua Iberica

Phoenicia is the name of an ancient region of the Middle East, the cradle of the Phoenician-Punic civilization, which stretched along the Levant, on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. Its territory stretched from the mouth of the Orontes River in the north to the south of Haifa bay, comprising areas of current Israel, Syria and Lebanon, a region formerly known as Canaan, whose name is included often in the sources. Populated since the beginning of the third millennium. C. by Semitic Canaanites, the historic Phoenicia lay on a narrow coastal strip of 40 km, from Mount Carmel to Ugarit (about 300 km).

Its mountainous land , unsuitable for agriculture (although strove to profit), directed its inhabitants to maritime activities. Even more as the sea was imposed on the people, divided into small city states separated by rocky spurs, so cabotage was better than roads for contact between the cities, which were staggered from Acre and Tyre, Sidon and Byblos, and Ugarit to Plowshares. Phoenicia, being a narrow passage between the sea and the Syrian Desert, with south contact, through Canaan and the Sinai to Egypt, and to the north, across the Euphrates, to Mesopotamia and Asia Minor, was destined to be a wealthy commercial crossroads, highly coveted by the neighboring big empires.

The ethnic name that gave the Phoenicians themselves were (kena 'ani ,'Canaanites') or (bin kena'an, "sons of Canaan") and coincides with the Canaanite people mentioned in the Bible. The Greeks called them "Phoinikes", ("red, purple "), probably by the prized purple dye, with which they traded. From phoíniks derived the word 'Phoenician', which applies more to the descendants of the Canaanites who lived in the coastal strip from Dor (now Israel) to Plowshares or Arwad (modern Syria) between 1200 B C. and the Muslim conquest.

However, the term phoíniks can easily be derived from a folk etymology "ponim" ethnonym," put " gentile. This term strictly called Canaan coastal region, and many Phoenician people used it as synonymous. From "ponim" Latin forms derive also poenus and punicus.

The Phoenician culture is an ancient civilization that left no firm physical traces of its existence. Its geographic location in history is the current Lebanese Republic, and the disproportionate growth of cities and the frequent armed conflicts of the past, have hampered the discovery of remains that could reveal their material culture.

Map of routes of trade

Yet unlike others, it left an important cultural legacy to later civilizations, including a crucial link between the civilizations of the Mediterranean Sea, the business principles and the alphabet. Though the geography of the region was uneven, the Phoenicians made the most of the potential of the soil for agriculture and cultivated the land up to the slopes of the mountains. Their cedar forests of Lebanon allowed them the gain of wood.

The Phoenicians were one of the first ancient peoples to have a significant effect on the history of wine. Through contact and commerce spread their knowledge of viticulture and wine production and they spread several ancient vine varieties. They introduced or encouraged the expansion of viticulture and wine production in several countries up to the development of varieties suitable for the international market, as in Lebanon, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Greece, Italy, Spain or Portugal.

Also they could exert an indirect effect in the expansion of vineyards in France, often confused with the Greeks foceos, who founded the winemaker colony of Massilia (Marseille) in 600. BC. and brought wine production into inland.

Phoenician amphore

Phoenician pottery was widely used and marketed, as well as colored glass objects and wool fabrics dyed with Tyrian purple, a dye extracted from a mollusc (the murex, Murex genus , whose name in Greek -Phoinikes-, derivative of phoinos "blood red" - identified both the dye and the people who traded it).

The Phoenicians developed a luxury goods industry in high demand at the time and of high commercial value, such as jewelry, perfumes and cosmetics. Trade was a major activity. It consisted initially in the form of barter exchange of products made in Phoenicia on goods available elsewhere (as other manufactures, especially of the most developed civilizations-or commodities ,such as metal ores-copper and tin-or precious metals, especially of the more primitive peoples of the West).

Phoenician coin

Subsequently, the invention of coins allowed more sophisticated business relationships. The need for long-range transport stimulated shipbuilding and improved navigation techniques.

They were the great merchants of antiquity. The geography of their coasts, which favored the installation of ports, and timber from their forests gave them the basics to build ships and organize shipping companies . One was hired by the Persian king Darius I in the V century. C. To some extent they succeeded in establishing a talasocracia or "ocean governance" that allowed them to control the Mediterranean commercially. Phoenician voyages established lasting links between the eastern and western Mediterranean, not only for trade, but also cultural.

During their long journeys they had to stock up at different points of their journey. Even are supposed inherent limitations of primitive navigation (avoidance of night navigation) which prevent voyages well above 60 km, although it has been proven that they could also ran much longer distances without touching port. By the time, these scales were transformed into places allowing permanent storage and stable trade with indigenous peoples, that historiography called factories or colonies, similar to the Greek colonies. The Phoenician colonization was a commercial phenomenon with settler ports, located in easily defended peninsulas or offshore islands, with no territorial gains inside.

Harbour scene at Phoenician times

Phoenician colonies were also established in the vicinity of some cities with greater degree of civilization, where they obtained concessions, as in the Egyptian city of Memphis. The marine merchants of Sidon created walled store settlements. Those from Tyrus founded around the year 800 BC. in North Africa Qart Hadasht (Carthage), whose strategic position between the western and the eastern Mediterranean made it the most important of all the colonies. It ended up being the Punic civilization center when the metropolitan cities of the East were conquered by the Persian Empire (539 BC.).

Phoenician ship for war

The secular rivalry, that kept Greek and Phoenician trade routes and the establishment of colonies, led in the sixth century. BC., to a major military confrontation, the battle of Alalia (537 BC), in which the Greek colony of Alalia focense faced the Carthaginian fleet, allied with the Etruscans. It redefined the balance of power in the region. The Phoenician factories spread practically throughout all southern Mediterranean shores and islands: from Gadir, beyond the Strait of Gibraltar, in the vicinity of the mythical kingdom of Tartessos and the door routes of the Atlantic Ocean to the north-Europe-and South-Africa-, to the coasts of Asia and the Black Sea.

Stone relief with ships and house scene

Along the African coast are locations of Phoenician foundation,Tangis, Lixus and Mogador (modern Morocco), Sidi-Behar Abdselam at the mouth of the wadi Martil and KudiaTebmain -wadi Emsa-(now Algeria), Utica-of which is thought to be the first colony founded, or maybe the second after Gadir-, Hadramemtum, Leptis Minor, Leptis Parva and Thapsus (modern Tunisia), Leptis Magna, Tripoli and Sabratha (now Libya). In the islands of the western Mediterranean, Eubussus or Iboshim (Ibiza), Nora-Nurri-,Sulcis, Tharros-San Giovanni di Sinis, Bithia and Olbia (Sardinia), Motia (Sicily) and Malta. In the eastern Mediterranean in Kition (Cyprus). The Phoenicians were the first of the historical colonizers of Iberia.

The oldest archaeological remains discovered to date in Iberia are from Malaka (Málaga) and Gadir (Cádiz). But they also established colonies in the Mediterranean peninsular in Toscanos (Velez-Malaga), Sexi (Almuñécar), Abdera (Adra), Cerro del Prado , Chorreras, Villaricos, Mazarrón, Guardamar de Segura, and in the Atlantic area of the peninsular in Onuba (Huelva), Abul (Alcacer do Sal) and probably Olissipo (Lisbon) and at other stops on the trade route that remains of prehistoric origin to Galicia and even came to the British Islands.

The foundation of the new Qart Hadasht (New Carthage, now Cartagena) was a later initiative, responding to the new criteria of Punic-Carthaginian civilization of the third century BC., at the time of the Punic Wars against Rome. To this period also belong the remains in Punic Melilla.

Most of the Phoenician colonies were Tyrian (founded by Tyre). It has been proposed as a difference with Sidonian colonies (founded by Sidon )the tutelary divinity: Melkart for Tyre, Sidon Astarte. Another difference is that several Sidonian colonies were established in the northern Mediterranean, as Temesa (near Naples), the islands of Kythira, Cyprus, Crete and Rhodes, and in Asia.

Group of Phoenician merchants

It has been identified as characteristic feature of Sidonian colonies in the Iberian Peninsula their names with the ending-ipo (Baicipo, Dipo, Acinipo, Lacipo, Iripo, Oripo, Ostipo, Sisipo, Ventipo, Olisipo). It is said, that among the colonies of Sidon provided Paros marble, Thasos gold, Melos sulfur and alum, while the purple dye came from Kythira and Crete.

The Phoenician town helped create an important link between the Mediterranean civilizations and indeed between art forms of the ancient world, by imitation, fusion and dissemination of them, although it is not regarded as original creator of a great culture.

Phoenician text in stone

The Phoenicians used a phonetic alphabet which the Greeks adapted to their own language and, over time, became the model for subsequent Western alphabets. This alphabet consisted of twenty signs for consonants, and had no vowels, but it was very important because it was simple and practical, unlike other contemporaries alphabets , which only dominated the scribes and officials, after an arduous apprenticeship.

Phoenician culture was very important at the time but, unfortunately, have been little trace of its history. We know of its existence, especially through the texts of other people who came into contact with them, including the Assyrians, Babylonians and later the Greeks. It looks primarily at the ruins of the cities that were colonies of Sidon or Tyre, like Sardinia and Andalusia and, especially, in the setting up on the island of Cyprus.

Its productions are more artistic craft, and in its sculptures, pottery, jewelry and metal objects, dominates Egyptian influence from the tenth century BC. (Which is the earliest date that is typically assigned to Phoenician art), and Assyrian elements, until the seventh century BC. However, thereafter the Greek influence preponderates, sometimes even confused with the Greek productions as confuse the before made of the tenth century BC. with Assyrian and Egyptian.

Phoenician necropolis near the sea

The architectural forms are inferred more as drawings of seals and other reliefs than as ruins of the buildings although there are some remnants of architectural pieces found in Cyprus and Phoenicia. Among these occurs the capital with volutes, inspired by oriental art and it may well have been the ancestor of the Ionic capital. The Phoenician temples ( as that of Byblos) were distinguished by having the sanctuary without cover.

It was worshiped a stone or betilo usually consisting of a meteorite (stone fallen from heaven) in conical, form located in the middle of the room to which preceded an atrium surrounded inwardly with columns. It was the characteristic form that features also the sumptuous stone sarcophagi of the Phoenicians sidonitas, that adapted more or less the contour of the human figure, as also the Egyptians timber sarcophagi (anthropoid sarcophagi). Subsequently, this art was spreading along the Mediterranean coast where the Phoenicians had influence and brought it to those places, influencing local cultures, being a clear example Tartessos, which had an important acculturation.

Phoenician stone relief

All about the Phoenician and Punic literature is surrounded by a halo of mystery given by the few remains that have been preserved: all that remains is a series of inscriptions, few of which are distinctly literary (only some historical narrative, poetry, etc. .), coins, fragments of the history and the holy treatment of Magon, the Greek translation of Hanno the Navigators voyage and the text of Poenulus by Plautus. Nevertheless, it is a proven fact, that both in Phoenicia and Carthage were libraries and that the Phoenicians had a rich literary production as passed heir Canaanite, of which works, written by Philo of Byblos or Menander of Ephesus are only a tiny part.

The Phoenicians were the inventors of the alphabet. The Phoenician alphabet began as a series of ideograms, a set of symbols representing animals and objects. To these ideograms were assigned a value according to the name phonetically, in Phoenician language, of the animal or object represented. This alphabet contained only consonants, twenty in all. It was a simple system, which allowed the dissemination of knowledge and culture.

Subsequently, the Phoenician alphabet was adopted and modified by the Greeks to represent their language. The Greeks took some letters of the Phoenician alphabet and gave them a vowel value, due to linguistic differences between the two languages (Greek = Indo-European, Phoenician =Semitic). They also changed the pronunciation of some letters, and added some symbols to represent missing sounds in Phoenician . The Latin alphabet comes from the Etruscan alphabet, which was in turn an adaptation of the Greek alphabet.

The Hebrews also adopted the Phoenician alphabet, but given the similarity of their languages and their mutual influence by geographic proximity there was less modification as by the Greeks . The Phoenician alphabet has been in one way or another the base for Latin, Greek, Cyrillic, Arabic, and some scholars argue that it also led to the Asian subcontinent abugidas.

The gods , worshiped by the Phoenicians vary from city to city . So the pantheon of Sidon differs from that of Tyre or Cyprus. Still, some divinities are present in one form or another in most cities significant. These deities are primarily Astarte, Baal, Dagon, and Melqart Resheph. Astarte was the main goddess of Sidon, and had also activities in the other Phoenician cities. Astarte is the goddess of fertility, although, her characteristics , depending on the cities, are different. He is also worshiped as goddess warrior, hunting or even as patron of sailors.

Usually represented standing on a lion and holding a lotus flower and a snake. In other representations emphasize his character as a goddess of fertility and appears touching the breasts or breast-feeding two children. Assimilated into other cultures with different names such as the Aphrodite of the Greeks, the Roman Venus or the Egyptian Isis. She had plenty of sanctuaries in Sidon and Tyre. It is documented a shrine to Astarte in El Carambolo (Sevilla), dated in the eighth century BC. Astarte is the Queen of Heaven to whom the Canaanites burned incense in the Bible (Jeremiah 44).

Eshmoun was worshiped in Sidon and Cyprus. He is assimilated to Apollo and healing god Asclepius. He had several temples scattered throughout the Mediterranean coast, from Lebanon to Spain. Among the temples stands out a large shrine in the outskirts of Sidon in a place where a fountain flowed, and the Temple of Eshmoun in the city of Carthage. In Eshmoun worship rituals were performed ablutions and dances. It is also known that there were a few games in his honor and the winner won a purple cloth.

Baal was a god (possibly solar) of several villages in Asia Minor and his influence reached Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Chaldeans, Babylonians, Sidonians and Philistines. His meaning is close to that of master or lord. He was the god of rain and war. In the Bible, Baal (Ba'al ) is one of the false gods, whom the Hebrews worshiped sometimes when away from their worship of Yahweh. He was worshiped by the Phoenicians as the most important god of their pantheon and also had a wife named Baalit , represented as a beautiful woman. The spouse of Baal, was both a goddess of fertility and a young and impetuous goddess of war , who has been linked to the Egyptian goddess Hathor and the Greek Athena.

Ios, of warrior character, own calamities. It reached in Ancient Egypt, from New Kingdom, a great veneration ,when Amenhotep II adopted it as protecting genius, assimilated with Montu, the Egyptian god of war, and associated it with Astarte.

Considered the first of the navigators of humanity, the Phoenicians believed that this God had built the Palace of Baal, and is also considered the discoverer of fishing and shipbuilding, as well as being the god of blacksmiths and gunsmiths. God of air, storm, lightning, rain and wind. According to the beliefs of the Phoenician sailors, its voice is heard in storms.

Originally, Melqart was a divinity Phoenician of the city of Tyre, to whom was originally dedicated the temple of Heracles in the ancient city of Cadiz. His cult, centered on the sacred fire of cities, spread throughout the colonies of Tyre.

God Melqart from

It was the Phoenician form of god Baal. Originally it was a god of agricultural field, vegetation, fertility and spring, so their ritual included a series of rites of death and resurrection annual cyclical, coinciding with the seasons, however, was also a marine deity , he was a divinity syncretic nature. He went on to be considered the "king of the city", which is the etymological meaning of his name (melk king), and as patron of the city of Tyre, also became god of colonization and protection of shipping.

The Tyrians saw him as the leader of their sea voyages and explorations, so they consecrated the temple founded at the same time as the city of Cadiz on the other end of the main island, where today is the island of Sancti Petri and in which, according to legend, Hannibal took the oath of eternal hatred to the Romans before marching toward Sagunto and initiate the Second Punic War. Although is also said that he did this as a child in Carthage. It was known in antiquity as the sanctuary of Heracles or Heraklion.

The place where the temple was located early in Cadiz, near the Strait of Gibraltar, fostered the legend of the separation of the Pillars of Hercules, in the beginning called Melkart Columns by the Phoenicians, later Pillars of Heracles by the Greeks until the current Roman name.

He was attributed with the civilization of the savage tribes of the coastlands, the foundation of the Phoenician colonies and the introduction of law and order among men. In several archaeological rests, among which stand out the coins, he is often represented riding a hippocampus. In the late period of the Phoenician civilization, he was also considered the god of the sun which was in union with Baal and Moloch, malignant and benign forces of heaven. Away the hostility between them and therefore reduced the effect of solar glare and the cold winter. That is why in his altar should be a perennial fire.

Godess Astarte from Kanaan

Every day he followed the elusive Astarte until he was in a remote corner of West and married her. Marriage brought the downfall of the goddess and she became the sweet Ashera. The Greeks called him Melicertes and compared him with Heracles because of the attributes that characterized warriors. God protector , often depicted in reliefs of steles and in funerary monuments. He is mentioned in the Bible, when speaking of the god Dagon ,who was worshiped in the temple of Asdot (I Samuel 5, 1-7), or in occupying his temple as public bains.

It is possible, that in reality the name was used to denote three different gods: First: Ben Dagon appears in Ugaritic texts in fighting god Baal. Second : Dagan, Sumerian god of fertility, worshiped throughout the ancient Near East, and finally, in Phoenicia, Dagon, sea - god, a being half man and fish. The possible confusion can be caused by a dubious etymology. The word translated as Chaldean dagan means 'grain', 'wheat' or 'seed' and if dag is taken from ancient Hebrew , it means 'fish'. According to the interpretation that is believed more likely, Dagon was depicted with his face and hands, and a part of his body was like a fish, "the trunk of Dagon" (verse 5). In the received text of the Septuagint he seems also to have feet, but the issue Swete gives at this point a different reading. The Greek translation of this phrase shows the characteristics of brightness look polished.

The description of the Bible agrees with that, seen in the currencies of several cities, Philistine or Phoenician, in most of them is represented as Dagon a composite figure, the upper body is human, and the bottom is fish. It appears that it was a fish god Dagon, a fact that is not surprising at all, since it seems to have been the chief deity of maritime cities such as Ashdod, Gaza (the original places are supposed to be buried under the dunes sand running along the shore), Ashkelon, and Arvad. In the monuments, and probably also in the popular cult, Dagon is sometimes associated with a female deity also half fish, Derceto or Atargatis, often identified as Astarte.

Some experts, however, do not give value to this data, and consider that Dagon was the god of agriculture. His opinion is based on the following statement of the Bible: "Dagon, is spike '[the Hebrew word for shank is dagan]." Dagon, after discovering the wheat and the plow, was called Zeus Plow "(2, 16). The same writer tells us (in Eusebius, Prep. Evang. 1, 6) that, according to ancient Phoenician legend, Dagon was one of four children born of the marriage of Anu, lord of heaven, with his sister, the land.

Contrary to the Baals, who were at the Canaanites especial local gods, seems Dagon to be respected as a national god for the Philistines (I Chronic 10,10). At him they atributed the result of the war, they thanked him with big sacrifice, among which are known those for the capture of Samson . To his temple they brought the trophies of their victories the bow, the armour and the head of Saul.

Paam, the meaning of it is none other than "phallus", in honor of which was performed ritual prostitution, very common among the Phoenicians and other ancient cultures and was carried out with prophylactic end.

Moloch was the supreme god and protector of the city of Carthage. Boaters Phoenicians exported, through trade, cults and deities represented by various gods-bull: the god El, the god Baal and above all, the bloodthirsty god Moloch. The statue of Moloch was represented by a man with body and bull's head with horns. Every year young people locked inside were offered as sacrifices and burned. Moloch is mentioned several times in the Bible, relating to child sacrifice.

source: ancient civilizations.
Tags: CIVILIZATIONS-cultures , Phoenician culture
Published bySonia BARJA aThursday,
July 5, 2012


For more information read to this, written in a comprehensive and concise manner

DIE GESCHICHTE VON ATLANTIS, der vergessene Ursprung unserer Kultur
von Karl Juergen Hepke
TRIGA-DER VERLAG, 2.Aufl. 2008, Hardcover, 268 Seiten, Eur 22,00 , ISBN 978-3-89774-539-1