Copyright

The Phoenicians: History, Religion & Civilization

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: The Egyptian Goddess Isis: Facts & Symbols

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
 Replay
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:00 Who Were The Phoenicians?
  • 1:35 History Of The Phoenicians
  • 2:30 Religion Of The Phoenicians
  • 3:05 The Phoenicians &…
  • 4:25 The Phoenicians And…
  • 6:05 Lesson Summary
Add to Add to Add to

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Login or Sign up

Timeline
Autoplay
Autoplay
Create an account to start this course today
Try it free for 5 days!
Create An Account

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

Explore the history, religion and culture of the seafaring adventurers and traders known as the Phoenicians in this lesson. You'll also learn about their contributions to the ancient and modern world.

Who Were the Phoenicians?

Go ahead and thank a Phoenician. Actually, since the Phoenicians are an ancient and extinct civilization, they're all dead. But thank them anyway. Why do the Phoenicians deserve our thanks? Well, they gave us and posterity something very important: their alphabet. You may even recognize it. Here are some examples of Phoenician letters:

b, j, and d

The Phoenicians were an ancient, seafaring civilization that traded all across the Mediterranean world and are responsible for creating the first written alphabet, the ancestral form of our own alphabet.

They originated in the Middle East on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, near present day Israel and Lebanon, sometime before 1200 BCE. They were descendants of the Canaanite people, and spoke a dialect of Canaanite called Phoenician.

When we use the term 'Phoenicians', we are using a label invented by the ancient Greeks to describe the cities with ports on the sea that were controlled by the Phoenician-speaking people. The Phoenicians probably would not have called themselves by this name because there was no great Phoenician kingdom or empire to unite them all.

The Phoenicians lived in city-states, independent governments centered around major cities. Like most cultures who lived in city-states, their identity was as members of a city, not as members of an empire or kingdom. The Phoenician city-states shared a language and culture and often worked together, but probably identified as independent groups.

History of the Phoenicians

After the decline of the Egyptian civilization, Phoenician city-states rose to power and became the dominant seafaring traders of the Mediterranean Sea. They established ports along the coasts of Europe, the Middle East, and northern Africa. Their dominance lasted from roughly 1200-800 BCE.

The Phoenicians controlled their trade routes and ports until the Persian empire, under Cyrus the Great, conquered the Phoenician city-states in 539 BCE. He reorganized the city-states into four kingdoms under his control: Sidon, Tyre, Arwad, and Byblos. Alexander the Great later took control of Tyre in 332 BCE after a bloody battle, and soon conquered the rest of the Phoenician kingdoms peacefully. From this point on, Phoenicians were assimilated into the Greek civilization, and most of their culture slowly died away.

Religion of the Phoenicians

The Phoenicians were polytheistic, meaning they worshipped multiple gods. They shared in religious practices common to other Canaanite-derived people and correlated many of their gods to stars, planets, and constellations. Much of this religion seems to have been influenced by Egyptian, Mesopotamian, and Greek cultures. For example, the Phoenicians recognized the Egyptian god Osiris and worshipped the Greek hero Hercules, and their division of gods may have influenced the understandings of Greek gods such as Zeus, Hades, and Poseidon.

The Phoenicians and Seafaring Trade

Phoenicians were very talented sailors and became famous across the Mediterranean as traders of a rare pigment used to create purple dye for clothing. This dye was so rare and expensive that it became the color of royalty in most places, and only the most powerful could afford to wear it. The word Phoenician actually comes from the Greek word phoínios, meaning purple.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register for a free trial

Are you a student or a teacher?
I am a teacher

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 95 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 2,000 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it free for 5 days!
Create An Account
Support