The Motherland, Phoenicia
By the 2nd millennium BC the Phoenicians had already extended
their influence along the coast of the Levant by a series of
settlements, some well known, some virtually nothing but names.
Well known throughout history are Joppa (Tel Aviv-Yafo) and Dor
(later Tantura, modern Nasholim) in the south.
The geographic boundaries of the territory were Phoenicians
lived are vague, and the name Phoenicia may be applied to all
those places on the shores of the eastern Mediterranean where
the Phoenicians established colonies in Cyprus, North Africa,
Sicily, Sardinia, and Iberia. More often it refers to the heart
of the territory where the great Phoenician cities, notably Tyre,
Sidon, and Byblos stood (corresponding
roughly to the coast of present-day Lebanon with adjoining parts
of modern Syria, Turkey and Israel -- probably somewhere around
the lower right edge of Turkey on the Mediterranean in the North
and the upper cost of Sinia in the South through the
coastal area from Arvad in the north to Acco in the south is
a more realistic identification of what constituted Phoenicia).
Further, important Phoenician centers existed c.2800 B.C. at
Jerusalem, Jericho, Ai, and Megiddo. These territories expanded
and contracted depending the political climate and military influences
that came into play. Hence, Phoenicia meant different territorities
in different times but always include the Phoenician heartland
around the aforesaid great Phoenician cities.
During the Roman Empire
territories and provinces changed hands and form depending on the political
in Rome and
arbitrary partitions which were applied to various parts of the
empire. The province of Syria was partitioned into two parts:
Syria Coele ("Hollow Syria"), comprising a large region
loosely defined as north and east Syria; and Syria Phoenice in
the southwestern region, which included not only coastal Phoenicia
but also the territory beyond the mountains and into the Syrian
desert. Under the provincial reorganization of the Eastern Roman
emperor Theodosius II in the early 5th century AD, Syria Phoenice
was expanded into two provinces: Phoenice Prima (Maritima), basically
ancient Phoenicia; and Phoenice Secunda (Libanesia), an area
extending to Mt. Lebanon on the west and deep into the Syrian
desert on the east. Phoenice Secunda included the cities of Emesa
(its capital), Heliopolis, Damascus, and Palmyra. In many respects,
the two most important cities of Lebanon during the time of the
Roman Empire were Heliopolis and Berytus. At Heliopolis the Roman
emperors, particularly the Severans, constructed a monumental
temple complex, the most spectacular elements of which were the
Temple of Jupiter Heliopolitanus and the Temple of Bacchus. Berytus,
on the other hand, became the seat of the most famous provincial
school of Roman law. The school, which probably was founded by
Septimius Severus, lasted until the destruction of Berytus itself
by a sequence of earthquakes, tidal wave, and fire in the mid-6th
century. Two of Rome's most famous jurists, Papinian and Ulpian,
both natives of Lebanon, taught as professors at the law school
under the Severans. Their judicial opinions constitute well over
a third of the Pandects (Digest) contained in the great compilation
of Roman law commissioned by the emperor Justinian I in the 6th
century AD. In 608-609 the Persian king Khosrow II pillaged Syria
and Lebanon and reorganized the area into a new satrapy, excluding
only Phoenicia Maritima. Between 622 and 629 the Byzantine emperor
Heraclius mounted an offensive and restored Syria-Lebanon to
his empire. This success was short-lived; in the 630s Muslim
Arabs conquered Palestine and Lebanon, and the old Phoenician
cities offered only token resistance to the invader.
Coastal town and a major Phoenician seaport from about 2000
BC onwards through the Roman period. It is frequently mentioned
in the works of the Hirodotus when he made visits to the city
and its temples.
It was built on an island
and the neighbouring mainland, and was probably originally founded as a
of Sidon to the north and was mentioned in
Egyptian records of the 14th century BC as being subject to Egypt. It became
independent when Egyptian influence in Phoenicia declined and soon surpassed
Sidon as a trade centre, developing commercial relations with all parts
the Mediterranean world. In the 9th century BC colonists from Tyre founded
in northern Africa the city of Carthage, which later became Rome's principal
rival in the West. The town is frequently mentioned in the Bible as having
had close ties with Israel. Hiram, king of Tyre, furnished building materials
for Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem (10th century), and the notorious Jezebel,
wife of King Ahab, was the daughter of Ethbaal "king of Tyre and Sidon." In
the 10th and 9th centuries Tyre probably enjoyed some primacy over the
other cities of Phoenicia and was ruled by kings whose power was limited
a merchant oligarchy.
For much of the 8th and 7th centuries the town was subject
to Assyria, and in 585-573 it successfully withstood a prolonged
siege by the Babylonian king Nebuchadrezzar II. Between 538 and
332 it was ruled by the Achaemenian kings of Persia. In this
period it lost its hegemony in Phoenicia but continued to flourish.
Probably the most famous episode in the history of Tyre was its
resistance to the army of the Macedonian conqueror Alexander
the Great, who took it after a seven-month siege in 332, using
floating batteries and building a causeway to gain access to
the island. After its capture, 10,000 of the inhabitants were
put to death, and 30,000 were sold into slavery. Alexander's
causeway, which was never removed, converted the island into
Tyre was subsequently under the influence of Ptolemaic Egypt
and in 200 became part of the Hellenistic Seleucid kingdom; it
finally came under Roman rule in 68 BC. It was often mentioned
in the New Testament and was famous in Roman times for its silk
products and for a purple dye extracted from snails of the genus
Murex. By the 2nd century AD it had a sizable Christian community,
and the Christian scholar Origen was buried there (c. 254). Under
Muslim rule from 638 to 1124, Tyre grew prosperous as part of
the kingdom of Jerusalem, a crusader state in the 12th and 13th
centuries. The Holy Roman emperor Frederick I Barbarossa, who
died on the Third Crusade, was buried in its cathedral (1190).
Captured and destroyed by the Muslim Mamluks in 1291, the town
never recovered its former importance.
The silted up harbour on the south side of the peninsula has
been excavated by the French Institute for Archaeology in the
Near East, but most of the remains of the Phoenician period still
lie beneath the present town. Pop. (1982 est.) 23,000.
One of the ancient Phoenician cities on the Mediterranean
coast, was founded in the 3rd millennium BC and became prosperous
in the 2nd. It is frequently mentioned in the works of the Greek
poet Homer and in the Old Testament; and it was ruled in turn
by Assyria, Babylonia, Persia, Alexander the Great, the Seleucids
of Syria, the Ptolemaic dynasty of Egypt, and the Romans. At
that time Sidon was famous for its purple dyes and glassware.
Herod I the Great embellished the city, and Jesus visited it.
During the Crusades, Sidon changed hands several times and was
destroyed and rebuilt.
A large necropolis has yielded numerous sarcophagi (stone
coffins), including those of two Sidonian kings of the Phoenician
period, Eshmunazar and Tennes, and the famous Alexander sarcophagus,
depicting battle and hunting scenes, now at Istanbul. Other ruins
include two crusader castles and the Phoenician Temple of Eshmun
Berytus (Beritus/Beritos) -- Modern
The antiquity of Berytus is indicated by its name, derived
from the Canaanite name of Be`erot (Wells), referring to the
underground water table that is still tapped by the local inhabitants
for general use. Although the city is mentioned in Egyptian records
of the 2nd millennium BC, it did not gain prominence until it
was granted the status of a Roman colony, the Colonia Julia
Augusta Felix Berytus, in 14 BC. The original town was
located in the valley between the hills of Al-Ashrafiyah and
Al-Musaytibah. Its suburbs were also fashionable residential
areas under the Romans. Between the 3rd and 6th centuries AD,
Berytus was famous for its School of Law. The Roman city
was destroyed by a succession of earthquakes, culminating in
the quake and tidal wave of AD 551. When the Muslim conquerors
occupied Berytus in 635, it was still mostly in ruins.
Berytus was conquered by the military forces of the First
Crusade and was organized, along with its coastal suburbs, as
a fief of the Latin kingdom of Jerusalem.
As a crusader outpost, Berytus conducted a flourishing trade
with Genoa and other Italian cities and became the chief port
of call in area for the spice merchants from Venice.
Biblical GEBAL, ancient seaport, the site of which is located
on the Mediterranean coast about 20 miles (32 km) north of the
Berytus; it is one of the oldest continuously inhabited towns
in the world. The name Byblos is Greek;
papyrus received its early Greek name (byblos, byblinos) from
its being exported to the Aegean through Byblos. Hence the English
word Bible is derived from byblos as "the (papyrus)
Systematic excavations were begun at Byblos by Pierre Montet
in 1921; in 1926 Maurice Dunand resumed the work and continued
it for many years. The excavations revealed that Byblos was occupied
at least by the Neolithic period (c. 8000-c. 4000 BC) and that
during the 4th millennium BC an extensive settlement developed.
Because Byblos was the chief harbour for the export of cedar
and other valuable wood to Egypt, it soon became a great trading
centre; it was called Kubna in ancient Egyptian and Gubla in
Akkadian, the language of Assyria. Egyptian monuments and inscriptions
found on the site attest to close relations with the Nile valley
throughout the second half of the 2nd millennium. During Egypt's
12th dynasty (1938-1756 BC), Byblos again became an Egyptian
dependency, and the chief goddess of the city, Baalat ("The Mistress"),
with her well-known temple at Byblos, was worshiped in Egypt. After the collapse
of the Egyptian New
Kingdom in the 11th century BC, Byblos became the foremost city
Byblos has yielded almost all of the known early Phoenician
inscriptions, most of them dating from the 10th century BC. By
that time, however, the Sidonian kingdom, with its capital at
Tyre, had become dominant in Phoenicia, and Byblos, though it
flourished into Roman times, never recovered its former supremacy.
The crusaders captured the town in 1103 and called it Gibelet,
but they later lost it to the Ayyubid sultan Saladin in 1189.
The ruins today consist of the crusader ramparts and gate;
a Roman colonnade and small theatre; Phoenician ramparts, three
major temples, and a necropolis.
The site was first occupied in the neolithic period, that
is, the 4th millenium BC. Like so many other sites, it went through
periods of habitation and destruction. It was destroyed by fire
sometime between the 24th and 22nd centuries BC. It was allied
with Egypt during the 19th and 18th centuries, which proved to
be its most prosperous time. In the 18th century it was conquered
by the Hurrians and ruled by them until the 16th century. It
suffered a terrible earthquake in the 1300's but was rebuilt
only to be destroyed about 1200 BC by the Sea Peoples.
A more detailed history will follow.
In many respects, the two most important cities of Phoenicia
during the time of the Roman Empire were Heliopolis and Berytus.
At Heliopolis the Roman emperors, particularly the Severans,
constructed a monumental temple complex, the most spectacular
elements of which were the Temple of Jupiter Heliopolitanus and
the Temple of Bacchus.
Phoenician Settlements Outside the
Motherland (Phoenician Colonies)
in this site do not necessarily represent Phoenicia.org nor do they necessarily reflect those of the various authors, editors, and owner of this site. Consequently, parties mentioned or implied cannot be held liable or responsible for such opinions.