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Phoenicia (/ /,), or Phœnicia, was an ancient Semitic thalassocratic civilization originating in the Levant region of the eastern Mediterranean, primarily located in modern Lebanon. The territory of the Phoenicians extended and shrank throughout history, with the core of their culture stretching from Arwad in modern Syria to Mount Carmel in modern Israel. Beyond their homeland, the Phoenicians extended throughout the Mediterranean, from Cyprus to the Iberian Peninsula.
|2500 BC–64 BC|
|Capital||None; dominant cities were Sidon, Byblos and Tyre|
|Common languages||Phoenician, Punic|
|Government||City-states ruled by kings, with varying degrees of oligarchic or plutocratic elements; oligarchic republic in Carthage after c. 480 BC|
|Major kings of Phoenician cities|
• c. 1800 BC (oldest attested king of Lebanon proper)
• 969 – 936 BC
• 820 – 774 BC
|Pygmalion of Tyre|
|Historical era||Classical antiquity|
The Phoenicians were a Semitic-speaking people who emerged in the Levant around 3000 BC. The name Phoenicia is an ancient Greek exonym that did not correspond precisely to a cohesive culture or society as it would have been understood natively. It is debated whether Phoenicians were actually distinct from the broader group of Semitic-speaking peoples known as Canaanites. Historian Robert Drews believes the term "Canaanites" corresponds to the ethnic group referred to as "Phoenicians" by the ancient Greeks; archaeologist Jonathan N. Tubb argues that "Ammonites, Moabites, Israelites, and Phoenicians undoubtedly achieved their own cultural identities, and yet ethnically they were all Canaanites", "the same people who settled in farming villages in the region in the 8th millennium BC.": 13–14
The Phoenicians came to prominence in the mid-12th century BC, following the decline of most major cultures in the Late Bronze Age collapse. They were renowned among contemporaries as skilled traders and mariners, becoming the dominant commercial power for much of classical antiquity. The Phoenicians developed an expansive maritime trade network that lasted over a millennium, helping facilitate the exchange of cultures, ideas, and knowledge between major cradles of civilization such as Greece, Egypt, and Mesopotamia. After its zenith in the ninth century BC, the Phoenician civilization in the eastern Mediterranean slowly declined in the face of foreign influence and conquest; its presence endured in the central and western Mediterranean until the destruction of Carthage in the mid-second century BC.
The Phoenicians were organized in city-states, similar to those of ancient Greece, of which the most notable were Tyre, Sidon, and Byblos. Each city-state was politically independent, and there is no evidence the Phoenicians viewed themselves as a single nationality. The Phoenicians established colonies and trading posts across the Mediterranean; Carthage, a settlement in northwest Africa, became a major civilization in its own right in the seventh century BC. Phoenician society and cultural life centered on commerce and seafaring; while most city-states were governed by some form of kingship, merchant families likely exercised influence through oligarchies.
The Phoenicians were long considered a lost civilization due to the lack of indigenous written records, and only since the mid-20th century have historians and archaeologists been able to reveal a complex and influential civilization. Their best known legacy is the world's oldest verified alphabet, whose origin was connected to that of the Hebrew script via the Proto-Sinaitic script,[page needed] and which was transmitted across the Mediterranean and used to develop the Arabic script and Greek alphabet and in turn the Latin and Cyrillic alphabets. The Phoenicians are also credited with innovations in shipbuilding, navigation, industry, agriculture, and government. Their international trade network is believed to have fostered the economic, political, and cultural foundations of Classical Western civilization.
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