Tuesday, February 9, 2010

More Ancient History

Phoenician History & Culture

Between the period of 1200 B.C. and 900 B.C. there was no major military power in Mesopotamia. Therefore smaller states like Phoenicia and the Hebrew kingdom were able to prosper. These kingdoms especially the Phoenicians started to trade throughout the Mediterranean region.
Phoenicia is the Greek name for the country and people living on the coast of Syria in ancient times at the east end of the Mediterranean Sea. It is believed that economic opportunity and population pressures forced them out into the seas. The Phoenicians colonized many areas
along the Mediterranean Sea. Areas where their colonies have been found are Sardinia, Cyprus, Malta and Carthage, the most important and lasting colony. They were superior by far to all the peoples of that time in seamanship.

Legend has it that an Egyptian pharaoh hired a band of Phoenicians to map and circumnavigate the coast of Africa. They are best remembered for their contributions in the establishment to trade with the many peoples living along the Mediterranean Coast line. The Greeks received their alphabet from them between the 15th and the 10th century B.C. The shape and make of the Maltese Luzzu is said to have been coming down from the time of the Phoenicians and the same can be said of the wooden boat-building craftsmanship still practiced today. Other antiquities attributed to the Phoenicians include carved ivories to be used in furniture, metalwork, and especially glassware.

Tyre was the major region for the purple dye industry, which probably began as early as the 18th century B.C. The dye was carefully extracted, a few drops at a time from the murex, a shell-fish found in the waters of Tyre and Sidon. The process used to extract the fluid was so difficult and so expensive that only the rich could afford to buy the dyed fabric. It is because of this Phoenician fabric that we still use the expression "born in the purple" to mean one who is born rich.
The Mediterranean Sea allowed the Phoenicians to wander, to explore, and to discover. It was their link to a world that awaited their skill and their art. These fine merchants brought their dye, fabric, ceramics, glass, metals, wine, crops, and oil from port to port. They became the world's finest maritime nation. The Phoenicians were not only adventurous merchants but expert sailors and navigators as well. They colonized parts of Cyprus, Rhodes, and the Aegean Islands. Phoenician sailors journeyed east to the Black Sea and west to places such as Corinth, Thebes, Sardinia, Palermo, Marseille, Corsica, and Malta. They were known to have gone as far as Gibraltar and Cadiz in Spain. By about 1000 B.C., they had finally reached the Atlantic Ocean. The Greeks were influenced in their navigation by the Phoenicians, who taught them to sail by the North star. The Greeks have designs on their ships similar to those from Phoenician models.

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