Although on many occasions we sin of being too arrogant and looking only at the navel, it is enough to look back to understand that our current society, our civilization, is where it is thanks to the advances that many other cultures have carried out during these last centuries. or even millennia. The human being is a relatively young species within the history of the planet. In a world that is millions of years old, we appeared only a few thousand ago. In fact, the writing and agriculture, two of the great advantages that have allowed us to get here, just have a little over 4,000 years. That means we have evolved a lot in a very short time, but not so much as to forget everything that was before. It is worth stopping for a moment to decipher the past, with all that that entails, in order to better understand our present and prepare for the future.
Knowing the ancient civilizations that preceded us allows us to understand how we have evolved in these years. Some of them, such as the Roman Empire or Classical Greece, have left us a lot of references thanks to being closer in time and also having many more vestiges. Other ancient cultures have not been so lucky. We may not know as much about them, but the records we have to allow us to understand their importance, especially in certain sectors, which are indispensable today. Who were the first traders who threw themselves into the sea? Who began to found coastal cities to take advantage of this maritime trade? Of all the civilizations that used the ocean and seas as commercial routes, there is one that stands out above the rest in the Mediterranean. They are the Phoenicians, a people who lived for centuries in a small strip of the Middle East and who managed to expand thanks to trade, although without “conquering” other territories. They were not an empire, but they left great contributions that today are still very important for our culture.
Who were the Phoenicians?
The Phoenicians were Semitic people who lived in a small strip of the Near East from the 13th century BC to about the middle of the 6th century BC. Its territory included areas that today correspond to Israel, Palestine, and Syria, although its greatest development took place in the lands of Lebanon. They settled off the Mediterranean coast, in a territory not very suitable for agriculture, and that made them jump into the sea to trade. The Phoenicians considered themselves to be Canaanites, thus being “successors” of one of the most important tribes of that territory, which even appears in the Bible. The name “Phoenician” was later given to them by the Greeks, and it means purple or red, probably because of the dyes with which they traded.
Origins of the Phoenicians
There is knowledge of population vestiges in the Phoenician strip since the beginning of the second millennium BC, in the same area where the Phoenician culture would later develop. We would speak at the beginning of antecedents since the Phoenicians as such arose a little later. They were a tribe of Canaanite Semites that populated an area about 300 kilometers long by about 40 wide, off the Mediterranean coast, starting their territory right at the foot of the imposing Mount Carmel. The terrain was not exactly the most suitable for agriculture, being rocky and mountainous. This forced those early Phoenicians to build boats with the wood they obtained from the nearby forests, and jump into the sea. In fact, the territory was full of small city-states that were normally reached by sea, as it was easier to navigate to them than to cross the rugged mountain ranges that separated them naturally.
The beginning of the Phoenician culture is usually marked in approximately 1,200 BC when there is evidence of further expansion by these people. Unlike many others, the Phoenicians did not seem to try to conquer territories when they reached them. They founded cities or small colonies in points always around the Mediterranean, but they used them as trading posts. In fact, they used to reach agreements with other civilizations and cultures to have small neighborhoods within their cities, where they could trade freely. The continuous trips of the Phoenicians throughout the Mediterranean served them to expand their knowledge and to leave a mark on part of their culture, such as their knowledge linguistics or the importance of wine.
Characteristics of this town
The Phoenicians were a really curious people, who lived for nearly seven centuries in the Levant Mediterranean region of the Middle East. Its territory was based on different city-states, separated by rivers and mountain ranges. They developed a culture quite advanced for their time, although few records remain of their original cities, since the different wars and armed conflicts ended with almost all their vestiges. Fortunately, their travels throughout the Mediterranean served to establish a connection with other cultures, whose records have saved them from oblivion. Thanks to this we know that the Phoenicians were the creators of alphabets as we understand them today., counting on many inscriptions and tablets already written in that way.