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History of the Phoenician Civilization - Part I

Posted in Phoenicians  by antiques

history-of-the-phoenician-civilization-part-i3000 B.C. to 634 A.D., Invasions, Sieges and Plunders

The Phoenicians of the Iron Age (first millennium B.C.) descended from the original Canaanites who dwelt in the region during the earlier Bronze Age (3000-1200 H.C.), despite classical tradition to the contrary.

There is archaeological evidence for a continuous cultural tradition from the Bronze to the Iron Age (1200 -333 s.c.) at the cities of Tyre and Z araphath. In the Amarna age (fourteenth century B.C.) many letters to Egypt emanated from King Rib-Addi of Byblos, King Abi-Milki of Tyre, and King Zimrida of Sidon, and in other New Kingdom Egyptian texts there are references to the cities of Beirut Sidon, Zaraphath, Ushu, Tyre, and Byblos.

Additionally there is a thirteenth-century B.C. letter from the king of Tyre to Ugarit, and a Ugaritic inscription has turned up at Zaraphath. Despite these facts showing that the coastal cities were occupied without interruption or change in population, the term “Phoenician” is now normally applied to them in the Iron Age (beginning about the twelfth century B.C.) onward when the traits that characterize Phoenician culture evolved: long-distance seafaring, trade and colonization, and distinctive elements of their material culture, language, and script.

The Phoenicians, whose lands corresponds to present-day Lebanon and coastal parts of Israel and Syria, probably arrived in the region in about 3000 B.C. They established commercial and religious connections were established with Egypt after about 2613 BC and continued until the end of the Egyptian Old Kingdom and the invasion of Phoenicia by the Amorites (c. 2200 BC).

Other groups invading and periodically controlling Phoenicia included the Hyksos (18th century BC), the Egyptians of the New Kingdom (16th century BC), and the Hittites (14th century BC). Seti I (1290-79 BC) of the New Kingdom reconquered most of Phoenicia, but Ramses III (1187-56 BC) lost it to invaders from Asia Minor and Europe. The roster of Phoenician cities changed during the near millennium-long period beginning in 1200 B.C., reflecting the waxing and waning of their individual fortunes and the impinging historical events of the Near East. At the beginning of the Iron Age, as part of the invasion of the Sea Peoples (groups from the Greek islands, especially Crete), the Philistines occupied the coastal area south of Mt. Carmel, including Dor, Ashdod, Ashkelon, and Gaza. By the eighth century B.C., however, the material culture of the Phoenicians extended southward, and Sidon controlled Dor and Joppa during the Persian period (539-333 B.C). The Achaemenians, an Iranian dynasty under the leadership of Cyrus II, conquered the area in 538 B.C. Sidon became a principal coastal city of this empire. The history of Tyre and Sidon is intertwined (indeed they were only twenty-two miles [35 km.] apart). Classical tradition suggests that Sidon was the more powerful at first but by the tenth century B.C. Tyre dominated. Tyre’s kings ruled a stretch of the coast that included Sidon and often they were referred to as kings of the Sidonians (1 Kings 16:31).

There were no major Phoenician cities north of Arvad, but Phoenician influence extended into Cilicia in the ninth and eighth centuries B.C. Obscurity surrounds the emergence of Phoenician culture during the twelfth and eleventh centuries B.C. In a foray, the Assyrian king Tiglathpileser I (1114-1076 B.C.) sojourned at Arvad and received tribute from Byblos and Sidon, and there are archaeological data from Tyre and Zaraphath for this period. The Egyptian Tale of Wenamun, dating to the mid-eleventh century B.C., graphically portrays the decline of Egyptian prestige and power in the Levant. This was due in part to the invasions of the Sea Peoples and the general disruptions of Late Bronze Age cultures throughout the eastern Mediterranean, with the collapse of Mycenaean and Hittite cultures and the destruction of city-states in the Levant. Trade was severely affected. In the aftermath of the disruptions and the power vacuum a new order emerged in which flourishing Phoenician settlements replaced such destroyed centers as Ugarit on the coast of northern Syria. Instead of the Levant being the recipient of Aegean wares, Phoenician cities began exporting goods and services.

In the 10th century B.C. the city state of Tyre rose to hegemony among Phoenician states and founded colonies throughout the Mediterranean region. During the same time, Tyre strengthened its influence over the northern kingdom of Israel. Phoenician influence is also to be seen in the region of Cilicia at Zinjirli where King Kilamuwa, probably Aramaean in origin, chose the Phoenician language and script for a long inscription at the front of his palace. Other Phoenician inscriptions come from the same region in the following centuries Azitiwada marked the rebuilding of his city with bilingual inscriptions in Phoenician and hieroglyphic Hittite at Karatepe. The strong Phoenician influence in Cilicia may be due to trading activities in a network including Urartu, the northern rival of Assyria in the ninth and eighth centuries B.C.

The pace of Assyrian activity in Phoenicia quickened in the ninth century B.C. when Ashurnasirpal II, Shalmaneser III, and Adadnirari III exacted tribute and taxes from Sidon, Tyre, and other Phoenician cities. Assyria was gradually extending its control over the Levant. As a result of the far-reaching reorganization of the Assyrian Empire by Tiglathpileser III (744-727 B.C.), the nature of the impact on Phoenicia changed from one of occasional demands by raiding armies to incorporation as vassals into the empire. Many cities lost their autonomy altogether and became part of Assyrian provinces administered by governors; for example, an Assyrian province of Simyra was established by Tiglathpileser III.

During Sennacherib’s reign (705-681 B.C.) he crushed a serious revolt by coastal cities in 701 B.C. and forced Luli (Elulaeus), king of Tyre, to flee to Cyprus (see graphic depicting escape to Cyprus), where he died. Later Sidon revolted against the Assyrian ruler Esarhaddon (681-669 B C.) who in 676 B.C. sacked and destroyed it and in its place built a governor’s residence, called Kar-Esarhaddon, for a new Assyrian province. He also made a treaty with Baal, king of Tyre. Ashurbanipal (668-627 B.C.) laid siege to Tyre and Nebuchadnezzar besieged it for thirteen years (586-573 B.C.; Ezek. 26-28: 19).

Sidon reemerged as the dominant city of Phoenicia in the Persian period (539-333 B.C.) and led a Phoenician contingent in the Persian wars of the early fifth century B.C., helping bridge the Hellespont and fighting at Salamis. —

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