The Phoenicians

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Phoenician Expansion

Due to the dynamics of geography, politics and economics, the Phoenicians' expansion led, in time, to the transfer of their cultural and religious symbols to the host regions. These included: Baal-Hammon, Melkart, Ashtart, Eschmoun, amongst many others; all of which had accompanied the Phoenicians on their travels.

The Phoenicians enriched bilateral relations and the subsequent acculturation, as reflected in the architecture, iconography, institutions and religious beliefs of their host regions.

In crisscrossing the Mediterranean, mother of civilizations, these valiant sailors of Tyre contributed deeply to the remarkable cultural synthesis.

Such a legacy compels us to be active forces of the present, as well as architects of Tyre's future.

Whether we write in French, English, Spanish, Hebrew or Arabic, we all write in Phoenician alphabet. This is undoubtedly the most significant contribution by the Phoenician civilization.

The Phoenician alphabet, which is still ours today, was created around 1000 BC. It is no longer represented by sounds or words like the hieroglyphics of Egypt or Mesopotamia cuneiform, but by letters.

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The Phoenicians worshiped a number of gods, but they distinguished themselves from other peoples because they believed in three gods, the divine God Creator named “EL”, the mother of God and fertility named “Baalah” and the son of the God named “Baal”. According to some theories, they have come to the idea of ​​one God before the Jews published it. Both god and goddess have the same qualities, abilities and even private ritual but the names vary from one city to another. For example, God “Baal” is called “Baal” in Byblos, “Melkart” in Tyre and “Jupiter” in Baalbek. They often rely on rituals and animal sacrifices, agricultural and diving in "holy water" pools for the healing of diseases as was the case, for example, in the Temple of Ashmoun in Saida. Lebanese traditions are still affected by the legacy of the Phoenician, for example, they are still talking about the "cultivation of Baal," which means they arose it with the water of the rain water that comes from Baal God. Even the mechanized agriculture is still very close to the one that the Phoenicians adopt.

The word Phoenician, actually is Greek for dealers in purple, based on the color of the dye that several Phoenician kingdoms, notably the kingdom of Tyre (in modern Lebanon), extracted from a type of shell fish known as Murex brandaris. Indeed, commonly, this dye was known as Tyrian purple.

Myth attributed the discovery of the purple god Melkart who is known by the Greeks under the name of Hercules. While he was walking on the beach with his beloved Tyros, his dog discovered one of the shells of Murex, bites it and his jaws colored purple which surprised the girl. She asked her lover to offer her a dress with the beauty of this color. So the lover collected an amount of Murex shells and made a purple dress out of them. A lot of dyes were then discovered dating back to different periods. The text mentions the oldest colored discovered in Ras Chamra Ugarit back to about 1500 BC. History says that the Phoenicians kept the secret of the purple coloring and the private way to install the color on the fabric. Monopolizing the market, it has become a Phoenician industry by excellence and the purple color became a privilege color reserved only for the kings and great men.

Didon princess of Tyre and sister of the King Pygmalion. She left the city in the wake of a dispute with her brother, sailed with her many supporters and went to the beach towards the country known today as Tunisia. She asked from Hyraps king of the Berber tribes to sell her a foothold on the beach. When he refused, she insisted on buying an area so small that even an ox skin could cover it. He agreed, wondering what she can do with that small space.

However, Elissa ordered her supporters to cut the skin of the bull in fine ropes and then bordered with it a piece of land in a semi-circular shape and paid the price of the bull’s skin. The Berber king was impressed by the intelligence of the Phoenician princess and accepted the deal. A city was built in this place named "Qarta Hdatha" which means Modern City.Archaeological excavations have shown that the founding of the city of Carthage refers to the year 814 BC.

A city, Tyre, witness of men and their greatness for six thousand years, which successively hosted the Phoenicians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Crusaders, Ottomans...

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Great sailor, the Phoenician, crossed the Mediterranean Sea and sometimes the coast of the Atlantic Ocean and connected the cities to each other by conveying both the cultural elements as well as the goods, in particular the products of his crafts.

He distinguished himself, from the earliest urban settlements, in woodworking, stone and pottery. He excelled, afterward, in many minor arts among which gold and ivory work.

If it is true that the Phoenicians produced "in huge quantities what we would call today junk jewelry", it remains true that they were the greatest jewelers of their time and produced very diversified jewelry to suit all tastes and all budgets.

In the field of ivory work, the Phoenicians were masters on the subject since the beginning of the third millennium BC. The ivory was undergoing a surprising metamorphosis thanks to the skill and finesse of Tyrian sculptors, sidoniens, giblites, etc. The raw material was brought out of the workshops in the form of works of art whose quality and diversity continue to amaze: boxes, pyxides, decorated horns, "magic wands" decorated plates of furniture (beds, thrones, combs, rings ...)

The chiseling of the gold, as the engraving of the ivory and the modelling of the bronze, was part of these traditions of which all Phoenicia could be proud.