“I’m not Arab, I am Phoenician”
I laughed the first time I heard this and found it quite amusing in a way, but I didn’t really get it until I discovered more about Lebanon’s history.
Of course, if ever you hear someone saying this, keep in mind it’s kind of ironic, yet it shows that still to this day the Lebanese are proud of their heritage and connect with it strongly.
Nevertheless, they are not the only ones having this heritage, other countries along the eastern Mediterranean coastline such as Palestine and Syria also share those genetics.
Ancient Phoenician wall in Batroun – Lebanon
It was proved that at least 30% of Lebanese have Phoenician genes that are clearly present. The widespread and non-stop continuity it represents, is actually quite amazing when you think of how long ago they were there (1200 BC). Of course, some mixture in the last 5000 years have further constituted today’s Lebanon.
So where does it all come from?
Phoenicians, who were those seafaring people?
They are descendants from the Canaanites, that gained the name of “Phoenicians” (Phoinos = red) by the Greeks because of the purple dye they extracted from murex sea-snail shells in the city of Tyre, used mainly for the robes of Mesopotamian royalty, for which they held the monopoly. They were also named “the purple people”, because of the stains the dye would leave on their hands.
They were skilled in many other things, such as melting glass in the city of Sidon and inland culture (cereals, olive-tree, vine, fig tree, vegetable, palm tree) as the land was favourable there, yet it wasn’t what they focused on.
What they truly mastered, was the art of navigation and trade, they were the greatest traders of their time which made them very prosperous, and enabled them to dominate the Mediterranean Sea for over 500 years.
They had incredibly robust boats thanks to the strong cedar wood they used and could navigate with precision by watching the stars.
Their skills came in handy to others along the line, they’re famous for building a palace for David and two palaces and a temple for Solomon, under the orders of King Hiram of Tyre.
The civilization has offered Lebanon one of the greatest legacies in the world. It was a spread-out trade diaspora that established colonies from Spain to Cyprus across the Mediterranean Sea.
It’s unique location in the Middle East placed it on the only viable north-south land routes in antiquity, on which Traders and armies alike passed through along the coast line and Bekaa Valley. The cities of Byblos, Tyre, Sidon, Berytus (Beirut), Tripoli, Arvad Island-City, Baalbek and Caesarea were part of their settlements in Lebanon.
Phoenicians invented the alphabet
Around 1600 B.C. the Phoenicians invented the base of our actual alphabet and passed it onto the world. The Greeks adopted the 22-letter alphabet from the Phoenicians which has led to the Latin letters of present day, they then changed some letters into vowels.
It was one of the first consistent forms of alphabet, the oldest known representation of the Phoenician alphabet is inscribed on the sarcophagus of the King of Byblos, dating from the 11th century BC.
Did Phoenicians disappear?
The Phoenicians later adjusted to successive conquerors (Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks and finally Romans) and managed to keep their trade business ongoing, as well as political independence throughout time. But of course, all of these invasions did influence the decline of the civilization, although of course their genes have remained and gently spread out.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments!