1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Phoenicia
PHOENICIA, in ancient geography, the name given to that part of the seaboard of Syria which extends from the Eleutherus (Nahr el-Kebīr) in the north to Mt Carmel in the south, a distance of rather more than two degrees of latitude. These limits, however, were exceeded at various times; thus, north of the Eleutherus lay Aradus and Marathus, and south of Carmel the border sometimes included Dor and even Joppa. Formed partly by alluvium carried down by perennial streams from the mountains of Lebanon and Galilee, and fringed by great sand-dunes which the sea throws up, Phoenicia is covered with a rich and fertile soil. It is only at the mouth of the Eleutherus and at Acre (‘Akkā) that the strip of coast-land widens out into plains of any size; there is a certain amount of open country behind Beirut; but for the most part the mountains, pierced by deep river-valleys, approach to within a few miles of the coast, or even right down to the sea, as at Rās en-Nāḳūra (Scala Tyriorum, Jos. Bell. jud. ii. 10, 2) and Ras el-Abiaḍ (Pliny's Promunturium Album), where a passage had to be cut in the rock for the caravan road which from time immemorial traversed this narrow belt of lowland. From the flanks of Lebanon, especially from the heights which lie to the north of the Qāsimīyeh or Ḳasimiya (Līṭāny) River, the traveller looks down upon some of the finest landscape in the world; in general features the scenery is not unlike that of the Italian Riviera, but surpasses it in grandeur and a peculiar depth of colouring.
With regard to natural products the country has few worth mentioning; minerals are found in the Lebanon, but not in any quantity; traces of amber-digging have been discovered on the coast; and the purple shell (murex trunculus and brandaris) is still plentiful. The harbours which played so important a part in antiquity are nearly all silted up, and, with the exception of Beirut, afford no safe anchorage for the large vessels of modern times. A few bays, facing towards the north, break the coast-line, and small rocky islands are dotted here and there just off the shore. Sidon, Tyre and Aradus, though now connected with the mainland, were built originally upon islands; the Phoenicians preferred such sites, because they were convenient for shipping and easily defended against attack.
The chief towns of ancient Phoenicia, as we know of them from the Amarna tablets (15th century B.C.) and from Egyptian, Assyrian and the Old Testament documents, were the following: Acco (now Acre or ‘Akkā, Judg. i. 31), Achzib (now ez-Zīb, ibid.), Ahlab (in Assyrian Mahalliba, ibid.)—three towns on the coast south of Tyre, Ḳānāh (Josh. xix. 28), Tyre (Phoen. Ṣōr, now Ṣūr, Zarephath or Sarepta (1 Kings xvii. 9 now Sarafand), Sidon (now Ṣaidā), Berytus (Biruta in Egyptian, Biruna in the Amarna tablets, now Beirūt), Byblus (in Phoen. and Hebr. Gebal, now Jebeil), Arka, 80 m. north of Sidon (Gen. x. 17, now ‘Arḳā), Sin (Assyr. Siannu, ibid.) Simyra (Gen. x. 18, now Ṣumrā), Marathus (now Amrīt) not important till the Macedonian period, Arvad or Aradus (in Phoen. Arwād, now Ruād, Gen. x. 18; Ezek. xxvii. 8, 11), the most northerly of the great Phoenician towns, and always famous as a maritime state.
Race and Language.-The Phoenicians were an early offshoot from the Semitic stock, and belonged to the Canaanite branch of it. Curiously enough in Gen. x. Sidon, the “first-born” of Canaan, is classed among the descendants of Ham; but the table of nations in Gen. x. is not arranged upon strict ethnographic principles; perhaps religious antagonism induced the Hebrews to assign to the Canaanites an ancestry different from their own; at any rate the close connexion which existed from an early date between the Phoenicians and the Egyptians may have suggested the idea that both peoples belonged to the same race. The Phoenicians themselves retained some memory of having migrated from older seats on an eastern sea; Herodotus (i. 1; vii. 89) calls it the “red sea,” meaning probably the Persian Gulf; the tradition, therefore, seems to show that the Phoenicians believed that their ancestors came originally from Babylonia. By settling along the Syrian coast they developed a strangely un-Semitic love for the sea, and advanced on different lines from the other Canaanites who occupied the interior. They called themselves Canaanites and their land Canaan; such is their name in the Amarna tablets, Kinaḫḫi and Kinaḫni; and with this agrees the statement assigned to Hecataeus (Fr. hist. gr. i. 17) that Phoenicia was formerly called Χνᾶ, a name which Philo of Byblus adopts into his mythology by making “Chna who was afterwards called Phoinix” the eponym of the Phoenicians (Fr. hist. gr. iii. 569). In the reign of Antiochus IV. and his successors the coins of Laodicea of Libanus bear the legend “Of Laodicea which is in Canaan”; the Old Testament also sometimes denotes Phoenicia and Phoenicians by “Canaan” and “Canaanites” (Isa. xxiii. 11; Obad. 20; Zeph. i. 11), though the latter names generally have a more extended sense. But “Sidonians” is the usual designation both in the Old Testament and in the Assyrian monuments (Sidunnu); and even at the time of Tyre's greatest ascendancy we read of Sidonians and not Tyrians in the Old Testament and in Homer; thus Ethbaal king of Tyre (Jos. Ant. viii. 13, 2) is called king of the Sidonians in 1 Kings xvi. 31. In the Homeric poems we meet with Σιδόνιοι, Σιδονίη; (Od. iv. 618; Il. vi. 290; Od. xiii. 285; Il. vi. 291) and Φοίνικες, Φοινίκη (Od. xiii. 272, xiv. 288 seq., &c.), and both terms together (Od. iv. 83 seq., Il. xxiii. 743 seq.) And the Phoenicians themselves used Sidonians as a general name; thus in the oldest Phoenician inscription known (CIS. i. 5 = NSI., No. 11), Hiram II. king of Tyre in the 8th century is styled “king of the Sidonians.” But among the Greeks “Phoenicians” was the name most in use, Φοίνικες (plur. of Φοῖνιξ) for the people and Φοινίκη for the land (cf. Phoenix). The former was probably the older word, and may be traced to Φοινός = “blood-red”; the Canaanite sailors were spoken of as the “red men” on account of their sunburnt skin; then the land from which they came was called after them; and then probably the original connexion between Φοῖνιξ and Φοινός was forgotten, and new forms and meanings were invented. Thus Φοῖνιξ came to mean a “date-palm”; but the date-palm is not in the least characteristic of Phoenicia, and can hardly grow there; Φοῖνιξ in this sense has no connexion with the original meaning of Phoenician. A derivation has been sought elsewhere, and the Egyptian Fenḫ proposed as the origin of the name; but the word Fenḫ was apparently used of Asiatic barbarians in general, without any special reference to the Phoenicians (W. M. Müller, Asien u. Europa, p. 208 seq.). The Lat. Poenus is of course merely an adaptation of the Greek form.
Language.—Inscriptions, coins, topographical names preserved by Greek and Latin writers, names of persons and the Punic passages in the Poenulus of Plautus, all show conclusively that the Phoenician language belonged to the North-Semitic group, and to that subdivision of it which is called the Canaanite and includes Hebrew and the dialect of Moab. A comparison between Phoenician and Hebrew reveals close resemblances both in grammatical forms and in vocabulary; in some respects older features have been preserved in Phoenician, others are later, others again are peculiar to the dialect; many words poetic or rare or late in Hebrew are common in Phoenician. Hence we may conclude that the two languages developed independently from a common ancestor, which can be no other than the ancient Canaanite, of which a few words have survived in the Canaanite glosses to the Amarna tablets (written in Babylonian). But in forming an estimate of the Phoenician language it must be remembered that our material is scanty and limited in range; the Phoenicians were in no sense a literary people; moreover, with one exception (CIS. i. 5), almost all the inscriptions are subsequent to the 6th century B.C.; the majority belong to the 4th century and later, by which time the language must have undergone a certain amount of decay. Indirectly, however, the Phoenicians rendered one great service to literature; they took a large share in the development and diffusion of the alphabet which forms the foundation of Greek (Herod. v. 58) and of all European writing. The Phoenician letters in their earlier types are practically identical with those used by the Hebrews (e.g. the Siloam inscr. NSI. No. 2), the Moabites (e.g. the Mesha stone, ibid. No. 1), and the Aramaeans of north Syria (e.g. the Zenjirli inscrr. ibid. Nos. 61-63). They passed through various modifications in the course of time; after leaving the mother country the script acquires a more cursive flowing style on the stones from Cyprus and Attica; the tendency becomes more strongly marked at the Punic stage; until in the neo-Punic, from the destruction of Carthage (146 B.C.) to the 1st century A.D. both the writing and the language reached their most degenerate form. As a rustic dialect the language lasted on in North Africa till the 5th century A.D. In his sermons St Augustine frequently quotes Punic words.
History.—The Phoenicians, in imitation of the Egyptians, claimed that their oldest cities had been founded by Early Period. themselves, and that their race could boast an antiquity of 30,000 years (Africanus in Syncellus, p. 31). Herodotus quotes (ii. 44) a more moderate tradition which placed the foundation of Tyre 2300 years before his time, i.e., c. 2756 B.C. According to Justin (xviii. 3) the Phoenicians, who had long been settled on the coast and occupied Sidon, founded Tyre in the year before the fall of Troy; possibly the date 1198 B.C., given by Menander of Ephesus (in Jos. Ant. viii. 3, 1 and c. Ap. i. 18) as that from which the era of Tyre begins, may refer to the epoch which Justin mentions. Little certainty, however, can be allowed to these traditional chronologies. It is probable that in remote ages Babylonia exercised a considerable influence upon Syria and its coast towns; but Mr L. W. King has shown that the tradition, which was supposed to connect Sargon I. (c. 3800 B.C.) with the western land and sea, has been misunderstood; it was the sea in the east, i.e. the Persian Gulf, which Sargon crossed (Chronicles concerning Early Bab. Kings, vol. i. ch. 2, 1907).
The extension of the Egyptian empire in the direction of Asia began about 1600 B.C. under Ahmosi (Aahmes, Amasis) I., Egyptian Rule c. 1600-1100 B.C. the founder of the XVIIIth Dynasty, who carried his arms into Syria, and conquered at least Palestine and Phoenicia, the latter being the country called Da-hi on the Egyptian monuments (Müller, As. u. Eur. p. 181). Whether the campaign of Thothmes (Tethmosis) I. to the Euphrates produced any lasting results is doubtful; it was Thothmes III. (1503-1449) who repeated and consolidated the earlier conquest, and established Egyptian suzerainty over all the petty states of Syria and Phoenicia (see Egypt: History, I.). For the geography and civilization of Canaan about 1400 B.C. we have valuable evidence in the Egyptian papyrus Anastasi I., which mentions Kepuna (Gubna, Gebal-Byblus) the holy city, and continues: “Come then to Berytus, to Sidon, to Sarepta. Where is the ford of Nat-’ana (? Nahr el-Kāsimīyeh, or a town)? Where is ’Eutu (? Usu, Palaetyrus)? Another city on the sea is called a haven, D’ar (Tyre) is its name, water is carried to it in boats; it is richer in fish than in sands.” But the fullest information about the state of Phoenicia in the 15th and 14th centuries B.C. comes from the Amarna tablets, among which are many letters from the subject princes and the Egyptian governors of Phoenicia to the Pharaoh. It was a time of much political disturbance. The Hittites (q.v.) were invading Syria; nomads from the desert supported the invasion; and many of the local chiefs were ready to seize the opportunity to throw off the yoke of Egypt. The towns of Phoenicia were divided; Aradus, Simyra, Sidon supported the rebellion; Ribhabad, the vassal of Byblus, and Abi-melech, king of Tyre, held out for Egypt; but while all the towns made professions of fidelity, they were scheming for their own interests, and in the end Egypt lost them all except Byblus. The tablets which reveal this state of affairs are written in the language and script of Babylonia, and thus show indirectly the extent to which Babylonian culture had penetrated Palestine and Phoenicia; at the same time they illustrate the closeness of the relations between the Canaanite towns and the dominant power of Egypt. After the reign of Amenophis IV. (1376-1366) that power collapsed altogether; but his successors attempted to recover it, and Ramses (Rameses) II. reconquered Phoenicia as far as Beirut, and carved three tablets on the rock beside the Nahr el-Kelb to commemorate his victories; under the XIXth and XXth Dynasties this seems to have remained the northern limit of the Egyptian Empire. But in the reign of Ramses III. (c. 1200) great changes began to occur owing to the invasion of Syria by peoples from Asia Minor and Europe, which ended in the establishment of the Philistines on the coast near Ashkelon. The successors of Ramses III. lost their hold over Canaan; the XXIst Dynasty no longer intervened in the affairs of Syria; but Sheshonk (Shishak), the founder of the XXIInd Dynasty, about 928 B.C. endeavoured to assert the ancient supremacy of Egypt (cf. 1 Kings xiv. 25 sqq.), but his successes were not lasting, and, as we learn from the Old Testament, the power of Egypt became henceforward practically ineffective. Not until 608 did a Pharaoh (Necho) lead an Egyptian army so far north, and he was defeated by Nebuchadrezzar. During the period which elapsed before the rise of the Assyrian power in Syria the Phoenicians were left to themselves. This was the period of their development, and Tyre became the leading city of Phoenicia.
Between the withdrawal of the Egyptian rule in Syria and the western advance of Assyria there comes an interval during Independence of Phoenicia. which the city-states of Phoenicia owned no suzerain. The history of this period is mainly a history of Tyre, which not only rose to a sort of hegemony among the Phoenician states, but founded colonies beyond the seas (below). From 970 to 772 B.C. the bare outline of events is supplied by extracts from two Hellenistic historians, Menander of Ephesus and Dius (largely dependent upon Menander), which have been preserved by Josephus, Ant. viii. 5, 3 and c. Ap. i. 17, 18. From the data given in these passages we learn that Hiram I., son of Abi-baal, reigned in Tyre from 970 to 936 B.C. He enlarged the island-town to the east, restored and enriched the temples, built new ones to Heracles (i.e. Melkarth or Melqarth) and Astarte, founded the feast of the awakening of Heracles in the month Peritius, and reduced the inhabitants of Utica to their allegiance. The Tyrian annals, moreover, alluded to the connexion between Hiram and Solomon. Before this time, indeed, the Phoenicians had no doubt lived on friendly terms with the Israelites (cf. Judges v. 17; Gen. xlix. 13); but the two nations seem to have drawn closer in the time of Solomon. 2 Sam. v. 11, which brings David and Hiram together, probably antedates what happened in the following reign. For Solomon's palace and temple Hiram contributed cedar and fir trees as well as workmen, receiving in exchange large annual payments of oil and wine, supplies which Phoenicia must have drawn regularly from Israelite districts (1 Kings v. 9, 11; cf. Ezek. xxvii. 17; Ezr. iii. 7; Acts xii. 20; Jos. Ant. xiv. 10, 6); finally, in return for the gold which he furnished for the temple, Hiram received the grant of a territory in Galilee (Cabul, 1 Kings ix. 10-14). This alliance between the two monarchs led to a joint expedition from Eziongeber on the Gulf of Akaba (strictly Aqăba) to Ophir (? on the east coast of Arabia, see Ophir) for purposes of trade. The list of Hiram's successors given by Josephus indicates frequent changes of dynasty until the time of Ithobal I. priest of Astarte, whose reign (887-855) marks a return to more settled rule. In contrast to Hiram I., king of Tyre, Ithobal or Ethbaal is styled in 1 Kings xvi. 31 “king of the Sidonians,” i.e. of the Phoenicians, showing that in the interval the kings of Tyre had extended their rule over the other Phoenician cities. Under Ethbaal further expansion is recorded; Botrys north of Byblus and Aoza in North Africa are said to have been founded by him; the more famous Carthage owed its origin to the civil discords which followed the death of Metten I. (820), his next successor but one. According to tradition, Metten's son Pygmalion (820-773) slew the husband of his sister Elissa or Dido; whereupon she fled and founded Carthage (q.v.) in Libya (813; Justin xviii. 4-6). At this point Josephus's extracts from Menander come to an end.
From the time of Ethbaal onwards the independence of Phoenicia was threatened by the advance of Assyria. So far Assyrian Rule, 876-605 B.C. back as 1100 B.C. Tiglath-pileser I. had invaded North Phoenicia, and in order to secure a harbour on the he occupied Arvad (Aradus); but no permanent occupation followed. In the 9th century, however, the systematic conquest of the west began. In 876 B.C. Assur-nazir-pal III. “washed his weapons in the great sea,” and exacted tribute from the kings of Tyre, Sidon, Byblus and other cities, including Arvad (Keilinschr. Bibliothek, i. 109). The inscriptions of his son Shalmaneser II. mention the taking of tribute from the Tyrians and Sidonians in 846 and again in 849; the Byblians are included at the latter date, and among the kings defeated at Karkar in 854 or 853 was Metten-baal, king of the Arvadites (ibid. pp. 141, 143, 173). Thus Shalmaneser completed the conquests of his predecessor on the Phoenician coast, and established a supremacy which lasted for over a hundred years and was acknowledged by occasional payments of tribute. In 741 Tiglath-pileser III. mentions on his tribute-lists “Ḥirûm of Tyre”; and here for the first time a piece of native evidence becomes available. The earliest Phoenician inscription at present known (CIS. i. 5 = NSI. No. 11) is engraved upon the fragments of a bronze bowl dedicated by a certain governor of Qarth-ḥadasht (or Karti-Hadasti, “New City,” i.e. Citium), “servant of Hiram king of the Sidonians to Baal of Lebanon.” It is to be noted that this Hiram II. was not only king of Tyre, as the Assyrian inscription calls him, but of Sidon too; and further, that by this time Tyre had established a colony in Cyprus (q.v.). In Tiglath-pileser's Philistine campaign of 734 Byblus and Aradus paid tribute, and an Assyrian chief officer (the Rab-shakeh) was sent to Tyre and extorted from the king, now Metten or Mattūn, the large sum of 150 talents of gold (KB. ii. 23). For the period which follows a certain amount of information is furnished by Menander (in Jos. Ant. ix. 14, 2). Elulaeus IX., in Assyrian Lulī, who ruled under the name of Pylas, was king of Tyre, Sidon, and other cities at this time (c. 725-690), and at the beginning of his reign suffered from an invasion by Shalmaneser IV. or Salampsas (Jos.); this was probably the expedition against Hoshea of Samaria in 725; “the king of Assyria . . . overran all Phoenicia, but soon made peace with them all and returned back.” In the reign of Sargon Phoenicia itself seems to have been left alone; but the inhabitants of Citium revolted, showing that the authority of Tyre in Cyprus had grown weak; and Sargon received the submission of seven Cyprian princes, and set up in Larnaca (probably in 709) the triumphal stele now in the Berlin Museum (Schrader, Cuneif. Inscr. and O. T., 2nd ed., vol. ii. p. 87). But Elulaeus, according to Menander, suppressed the revolt of Citium, and early in the reign of Sennacherib joined the league of Philistia and Judah, in alliance with Egypt and Ethiopia, which aimed at throwing off the oppressive tyranny of Assyria; as usual, however, the city-states of Phoenicia could not combine even against a common foe, and several broke away from Tyre, so Menander tells us, and sided with Assyria. In the great campaign of 701 Sennacherib came down upon the revolting provinces; he forced Lulī, king of Sidon, to fly for refuge to Cyprus, took his chief cities, and set up Tuba’lu (Ethbaal) as king, imposing a yearly tribute (K B. ii. 91). The blockade of Tyre by sea, significantly passed over in Sennacherib’s inscription, is described by Menander. The island-city proved to be impregnable, but it was the only possession left of what had been the extensive kingdom of Elulaeus. Sennacherib, however, so far accomplished his object as to break up the combination of Tyre and Sidon, which had grown into a powerful state. At Sidon the successor of Ethbaal was Abd-milkath; in alliance with a Cilician chief he rebelled against Esarhaddon about the year 678, with disastrous consequences. Sidon was annihilated; Abd-milkath fell into the hands of Esarhaddon, who founded a new Sidon on the mainland, peopled it with foreigners, and called it after his own name. The old name, however, survived in popular usage; but the character of the city was changed, and till the time of Cyrus the kingdom of Sidon ceased to exist (K B. ii. 125 seq., 145, K A T.3 88). Tyre also came in for its share of hardship. Elulaeus was followed by Baal, who in 672 consented to join Tirhaka, the Ethiopian king of Egypt, in a rebellion against Assyria. Esarhaddon, on his way to Egypt for the second time, determined to deal out punishment; he blockaded Tyre, and raised earthworks on the shore and cut off the water-supply; but he did not capture the city itself. His monument found at Zenjirli represents the great king holding Baal of Tyre and Tirhaka of Egypt by cords fastened in their lips, there is no evidence, however, that he actually took either of them prisoner. Early in the reign of Assur-bani-pal Tyre was besieged again (668), but Assur-bani-pal succeeded no better than his predecessors. Nevertheless Baal submitted in the end, along with the princes of Gebal and Arvad, Manasseh of Judah, and the other Canaanite chiefs; in the island of Cyprus the Assyrians carried all before them (K B. ii. 149 seq., 169, 173). On his return from the Arabian campaign Assur-bani-pal severely punished the rebellious inhabitants of Ushu (Palaetyrus) and Akko, and transported the survivors to Assyria (ibid. 229). In Phoenicia, as elsewhere, Assyrian rule created nothing and left nothing behind it but a record of barbarous conquest and extortion. An interesting sidelight is thrown upon this period by the list of the Thalassocracies in the Chronicon of Eusebius (p. 226, ed. Schoene), which places the 45 years of the sea-power of Phoenicia at a date which, with much probability, may be conjectured to lie between 709, when Cyprus submitted to Sargon, and 664, when Egypt threw off the rule of Assyria. If this dating is correct, and the Phoenician sea-power was at its height during these years, we can understand why Tyre gave so much trouble to the Assyrian kings.
In the last crisis of the dying power of Assyria the Egyptians for a short time laid hands on Phoenicia; but after their defeat at the battle of Carchemish (605), the Chaldaeans became the masters of western Asia. Jeremiah’s allusion (xxv. 22) in 604 to the approaching downfall The Neo-Babylonian Period, 605–538 B.C. of the kings of Tyre and Sidon and the coast-land beyond the sea, i.e. the Phoenician settlements on the Mediterranean, seems to imply that the Phoenician states recovered some measure of independence; if they did it cannot have lasted long. In 588 Apries (Pharaoh Hophra) made an attempt to displace the Chaldaean supremacy; he defeated Tyre and Sidon, and terrorized the other cities into submission (Herod. ii. 161; Diod. Sic. i. 68). Some of the Phoenician chiefs, among them Ithobal II., the new king of Tyre, while forced to yield to a change of masters, were bold enough to declare their hostility to the Babylonians. This state of affairs did not escape the vigilance of Nebuchadrezzar. After the fall of Jerusalem he marched upon Phoenicia; Apries withdrew his army, and the siege of Tyre began. For thirteen years the great merchant city held out (585–573; Jos. c. Ap. i. 21; cf. Ezek. xxvi. 1 seq.). Ezekiel says that Nebuchadrezzar and his host had no reward for their heavy service against Tyre, and the presumption is that the city capitulated on favourable terms; for Ithobal’s reign ends with the close of the siege, and the royal family is subsequently found in Babylon. The king appointed by Nebuchadrezzar was Baal II. (574–564), after whose death a republic was formed under a single suffete or “judge” (shōfēt). Josephus (loc. cit.) is again our authority for the changes of government which followed until the monarchy was revived. At length under Hiram III. Phoenicia passed from the Chaldaeans to the Persians (538), and at the same time Amasis (Aḥmosi) II. of Egypt occupied Cyprus (Herod. ii. 182). There seems to have been no struggle; the great siege and the subsequent civil disorders had exhausted Tyre, and Sidon took its place as the leading state. About this time, too, Carthage made an effort for independence under Hanno the Great (538–521), the real founder of its fortunes; the old dependence upon Tyre was changed for a mere relation of piety observed by the annual sending of delegates (θεωροί) to the festival of Melkarth (Arrian ii. 24; Polyb. xxxi. 20, 12). The disasters and humiliations which befell Tyre during this and the foregoing period might suggest that its prosperity had been seriously damaged. But Tyre always counted for more in commerce than in politics; and in the year 586, just before the great siege, Ezekiel draws a vivid picture (ch. xxvii.) of the extent and splendour of its commercial relations. Even when cut off from its possessions on the mainland the city itself was not captured; its seafaring trade went on; and though by degrees the colonies were lost, yet the ties of race and sentiment remained strong enough to bind the Phoenicians of the mother-country to their kindred beyond the seas.
Constitution.—At this point it is convenient to mention what little is known about the constitution of the Phoenician states. All Canaanite analogy speaks for kingship as the oldest form of Phoenician government. In the native inscriptions the chief of the city in Phoenicia itself and in Cyprus is always called king. The royal houses claimed divine descent, and the king could not be chosen outside their members. His power, however, was limited by the wealthy merchant families, who possessed great influence in public affairs; thus it was possible for war or peace to be decided at Tyre in the king’s absence, or at Sidon against his will (Arrian ii. 15 and 16; Curtius iv. 1, 15). The priest of Melkarth at Tyre was the second man in the kingdom. Associated with the prince was a council of elders; such was the case at Gebal (Byblus) from the earliest times to the latest (Ezek. xxvii. 9); at Sidon this council consisted of 100 members (Diod. xvi. 45), perhaps also at Tyre. Inscriptions of the 3rd and 2nd centuries B.C. mention a Rab (chief) in Sidon, Cyprus and Gaulus (Gozo); what his position was it is difficult to say; in the colonies he may have been a district governor. During Nebuchadrezzar’s time, as we have seen, a republic took the place of the monarchy at Tyre, and the government was administered by a succession of suffetes (judges); they held office for short terms, and in one instance two ruled together for six years. Much later, in the 3rd century B.C., an inscription from Tyre mentions a suffete (NSI. No. 8) without adding more to our knowledge. Carthage, of course was governed by two suffetes, and these officers are frequently named in connexion with the Carthaginian colonies (NSI. p. 115 seq.); but we must be careful not to draw the inference that Phoenicia itself had any such magistrates. Under the Persians a federal bond was formed comprising Sidon, Tyre and Aradus, whose duty it was to contribute 300 triremes to the Persian fleet (Herod. vii. 89), the lesser towns being under the command of the great cities. Aradus presided over three subordinate townships (Arrian ii. 133; Berytus, which had no king of its own, probably formed with Byblus a single kingdom; while Tripolis consisted of a federation of three cities separated by a stadium from each other, and provided a meeting-place for the federal council, which was chiefly occupied in dealings with the Persian government (Diod. xvi. 41). But federation on a larger scale was never possible in Phoenicia, for the reason that no sense of political unity existed to bind the different states together. Commercial interests dominated everything else, and while these stimulated a municipal life not without vigour, civil discipline and loyalty were but feebly felt. On occasion the towns could defend their independence with strenuous courage; the higher qualities which make for a progressive national life the Phoenicians did not possess.
Phoenicia now became part of the fifth satrapy of the Persian Empire, and entered upon a spell of comparative peace and The Persian Period, 538-333 B. C. growing prosperity. Favoured for the sake of their fleet, and having common interests against Greece, the Phoenicians were among the most loyal subjects of the empire. At this period Sidon occupied the position of leading state; in the fleet her king ranked next to Xerxes and before the king of Tyre (Herod. viii. 67); her situation afforded advantages for expansion which Tyre on its small and densely populated island could not rival. The city was distinguished by its cosmopolitan character; the satrap resided there when he came to Phoenicia, and the Persian monarch had his paradise outside the walls. In the first half of the 4th century Straton I. (in Phoen. ‘Abd-‘ashtart or Bod-‘ashtart) was king, c. 374-362. He cultivated friendly relations with Athens, indicated in a decree of proxenia (Michel, Rec. d'inscr. gr. No. 93 = CIG. No. 87); his court was famed for its luxury; and the extent to which phil-Hellenic tendencies prevailed at this time in Sidon is shown by the royal sarcophagi, noble specimens of Greek art, which have been excavated in the necropolis of the city. It was in the reign of Straton that Tyre fell into the hands of Evagoras, king of Salamis, who had already supplanted Phoenician with Greek civilization in Cyprus (Isocr. Evag. 62, Paneg. 161; Diod. xv. 2). Straton made friends with Nicocles, son of Evagoras, and with him came to an untimely end through their implication in the great revolt of the satraps, 362 B.C. (see the story of Straton's death in Jerome, adv. Jovin. i. 45). A new revolt of Sidon against the Persians took place under King Tennes owing to the insults offered to the Sidonians at the federal diet in Tripolis. With the aid of Nectanebus of Egypt, who had grievances of his own to avenge, the Sidonians carried the rest of Phoenicia with them and drove the satraps of Syria and Cilicia out of the country. Tennes, however, betrayed his people and opened the city to Artaxerxes III.; the inhabitants to the number of 40,000 are said to have set fire to their houses and perished; Tennes himself was executed after he had served the ends of the great king (346 B.C.; Diod. xvi. 41-45). The last king of Sidon was Straton II. (‘Abd-‘ashtart, 346-332) before the Persian Empire came to an end.
Towards the close of the 5th century the Phoenician coins begin to supplement our historical sources (see Numismatics). From the time of Darius the Persian monarchs issued a gold coinage, and reserved to themselves the right of doing so; but they allowed their satraps and vassal states to coin silver and copper money at discretion. Hence Aradus, Byblus, Sidon and Tyre issued a coinage of their own, of which many specimens exist: the coins are stamped as a rule with emblem or name of the city, sometimes with the name of the ruler. Thus from the coins of Byblus we learn the names of four kings, ‘El-pa‘al, ‘Az-ba‘al (between 360 and 340 B.C.), Adar-melek, ‘Ain-el; from the coins of the other cities it is difficult to obtain much information. The native inscriptions, however, now become available, though most of them belong to the period which follows, and only a few have been discovered in Phoenicia itself. One of the earliest of these is the inscription of Byblus (CIS. i. 1 = NSI. No. 3), dating from the Persian period; it records a dedication made by Yeḥaw-milk, king of Gebal, and mentions the name of the king's grandfather, Uri-milk, but the exact dates of their reign are not given.
When Alexander the Great entered Phoenicia after the battle of Issus (333 B.C.), the kings were absent with the Persian fleet The Macedonian Period, 333-69 B.C. in the Aegean; but the cities of Aradus, Byblus and Sidon welcomed him readily, the last-named showing special zeal against Persia. The Tyrians also offered submission, but refused to allow the conqueror to enter the city and sacrifice to the Tyrian Heracles. Alexander was determined to make an example of the first who should offer opposition, and at once began the siege. It lasted seven months. With enormous toil the king drove out a mole from the mainland to the island and thus brought up his engines; ships from the other Phoenician towns and from Cyprus lent him their aid, and the town at length was forced in July 332; 8000 Tyrians were slain, 30,000 sold as slaves, and only a few notables, the king Azemilkos, and the festal envoys from Carthage who had taken refuge in the sanctuary of Melkarth, were spared (Diod. xvii. 40-46). It is not unlikely that Zech. ix. 2-4 refers to this famous siege. For the time Tyre lost its political existence, while the foundation of Alexandria presently changed the lines of trade, and dealt a blow even more fatal to the Phoenician cities.
During the wars of Alexander's successors Phoenicia changed hands several times between the Egyptian and the Syrian kings. Thus in 312 Tyre was captured from Antigonus by Ptolemy I., the ally of Seleucus; in 287 it passed into the dominion of Seleucus; in 275 again it was captured by Ptolemy II. Philadelphus, and began to recover itself as an autonomous municipality. From the year 275 “the people of Tyre” reckoned their era (CIS. i. 7 = NSI. No. 9, cf. 10). The Tyrian coins of the period, stamped with native, Greek and Egyptian symbols, illustrate the traditional relations of the city and the range of her ambitions. A special interest attaches to these silver tetradrachms and didrachms (staters and half-staters), because they were used by the Jews for the payment of the temple tax as “shekels of the sanctuary” (NSI. pp. 351, 44).
Among the Phoenician states we know most about Sidon during this period. The kingship was continued for a long time. The story goes that Alexander raised to the throne a member of the royal family, Abdalonymus, who was living in obscure poverty and working as a gardener (Justin xi. 10; Curt. iv. 1; Diod. xvii. 47 wrongly connecting the story with Tyre). In 312 Ptolemy, then master of Phoenicia, appointed his general Philocles king of the Sidonians, and a decree in honour of this king has been found at Athens (Michel, No. 387, cf. 1261); but he cannot have reigned long. For at the end of the 4th and the beginning of the 3rd century we have evidence of a native dynasty in the important inscriptions of Tabnith, Eshmun-‘azar and Bod-‘ashtart, and in the series of inscriptions (repeating the same text) discovered at Bostan esh-Shēkh near Sidon (NSI. Nos. 4, 5, 6 and App. i.). The last-named texts imply that the first king of this dynasty was Eshmun-‘azar; his son Tabnith succeeded him; then came Eshmun-‘azar II., who died young, then Bod-‘ashtart, both of them grandsons of Eshmun-‘azar I. With Bod-‘ashtart, so far as we know, the dynasty came to an end, say about 250 B.C.; and it is not unlikely that the Sidonians reckoned an era of independence from this event (NSI. p. 95 n.).
Of the other Phoenician cities something is known of the history of Aradus. Its era began in 259 B.C., when it probably became a republic or free city. While the rest of Phoenicia passed under the rule of Ptolemy II. and his successors between 281 and 197, Aradus remained in the kingdom of the Seleucids, who greatly favoured the Clty and increased its privileges (Strabo xvi. 2, 14; Polyb. v. 68). But its subject-towns availed themselves of the political changes of the period to throw off their allegiance; Marathus from 278 begins to issue a coinage bearing the heads of the Ptolemies, and later on Karne asserted its independence in the same way; but in the end the Aradians recovered their supremacy. Diodorus records a barbarous attempt made by the Aradians, about 148 B.C. to destroy Marathus, which was frustrated by the pity and courage of an Aradian fisherman (xxxiii. 5). At last in the time of Tigranes, the Armenian holder of the kingdom of the Seleucids, or soon afterwards, the coins of Marathus cease; the city was levelled to the ground, and its land, with that of Simyra, was parcelled out among the Aradians (Strabo xvi. 2, 12). Akko issued coins of its own down to 267 B.C., if the reckoning was from the Seleucid era (312 B.C.), in 267 it was converted into a Greek city by Ptolemy, and called Ptolemais (Polyb. iv. 37; Strabo xvi. 2, 25; cf. Acts xxi. 7). Laodicea of Libanus was founded by Seleucus Nicator on the plain south-east of Hemesa (Ḥomṣ) in the region of the upper Orontes, and became an important city; its coins of the 2nd century B.C. bear the interesting legend in Phoenician, “Of Laodicea which is in Canaan” (NSI. p. 349 seq.). Another Laodicea “by the sea” (ad mare), also of Seleucid foundation, is probably to be identified with the ruined site called Umm el-‘Awāmid near the coast between Tyre and Akko; several Phoenician inscriptions have been found there (e.g. CIS., i. 7 = NSI. No. 9; Clermont Ganneau, Recueil, t. v.).
After the death of Antiochus IV. Epiphanes in 164 B.C., revolts and adventurers made their appearance in many parts of Syria, heralding the collapse of the kingdom of the Seleucids. Berytus was destroyed by the usurper Trypho in 140 B.C. Tyre in 120 and Sidon in 111 received complete independence, and inaugurated new eras from these dates. Byblus and Tripolis fell into the hands of “tyrants” (Strabo xvi. 2, 18; Jos. Ant. xiv. 3, 2), and Arab robbers plundered their territories from strongholds in the Lebanon. From 83-69 B.C. the entire kingdom was held by the Armenian Tigranes.
At last in 64 B.C. Pompey arrived upon the scene and established order out of chaos. Phoenicia was incorporated into the Roman Roman rule. province of Syria; Aradus, Sidon, Tyre and Tripolis were confirmed in their rights of self-government and in the possession of their territories. In 14 B.C. Augustus rebuilt Berytus as a Roman colony and stationed two legions there; later on Ptolemais, Tyre and Sidon received colonial status. Under the beneficent government of Rome the chief towns prospered and extended their trade; but the whole character of the country underwent a change. During the Macedonian period Greek influences had been steadily gaining ground in Phoenicia; relations with the Greek world grew closer, the native language fell into disuse, and from the beginning of the Roman occupation Greek appears regularly in inscriptions and on coins, though on the latter Phoenician legends do not entirely vanish till the 2nd century A.D.; while the extent to which Hellenic ideas penetrated the native traditions and mythologies is seen in the writings of Philo of Byblus. For the purposes of everyday life, however, the people spoke not Greek, but Aramaic. As elsewhere, the Roman rule tended to obliterate characteristic features of national life, and under it the native language and institutions of Phoenicia became extinct.
Navigation, Trade, Colonies.—The Phoenicians were essentially a seafaring nation. Fearless and patient navigators, they ventured into regions where no one else dared to go, and, always with an eye to their monopoly, they carefully guarded the secrets of their trade routes and discoveries, and their knowledge of winds and currents. At the beginning of the 7th century B.C. a Phoenician fleet is said to have circumnavigated Africa (Herod. iv. 42) To the great powers Phoenician ships and sailors were indispensable; Sennacherib, Psammetichus and Necho, Xerxes, Alexander, all in turn employed them for their transports and sea-fights. Even when Athens had developed a rival navy Greek observers noted with admiration the discipline kept on board the Phoenician ships and the skill with which they were handled (Xen. Oec. viii.); all the Phoenician vessels from the round merchant-boat (γαῦλος—after which the island of Gaulus, now Gozo, near Malta was called) to the great Tarshish-ships, the “East-Indiamen” of the ancient world, excelled those of the Greeks in speed and equipment. As E. Meyer points out, the war between the Greeks and the Persians was mainly a contest between the sea-powers of Greece and Phoenicia. At what period did Phoenicia first rise to be a power in the Mediterranean? We are gradually approaching a solution of this obscure problem. Recent discoveries in Crete (q.v.) have brought to light the existence of a Cretan or “Minoan” sea-power of remote antiquity, and it is clear that a great deal of what used to be described as Phoenician must receive quite a different designation. The Minoan sea-power was at last broken up by invaders from the north, and a Carian rule became dominant in the Aegean (Herod. i. 171; Thucyd. i. 4, 8) It was a time of disorder and conflict due to the immigration of new races into the ancient seats of civilization, and it synchronized with the weakening of the power of Egypt in the countries which bordered on the eastern Mediterranean. This was in the 12th century B.C. The Tyrian trader saw that his opportunity was come, and the Aegean lay open to his merchant vessels. Where much is still obscure, all that seems certain is that the antiquity of Phoenicia as a sea and trading power has been greatly exaggerated both in ancient and in modern times, the Minoan power of Cnossus preceded it by many centuries, the influence of Phoenicia in the Aegean cannot be carried back much earlier than the 12th century B.C., and, comparatively speaking, it was “foreign, late, sporadic.”
A vivid description of the Phoenicians' trade at the time of Tyre's prosperity is given by Ezekiel (xxvii. 12-25), and it shows how extensive were their commercial relations not only by sea, but by land as well. It was they who distributed to the rest of the world the wares of Egypt and Babylonia (Herod. i. 1). From the lands of the Euphrates and Tigris regular trade-routes led to the Mediterranean with trading-stations on the way, several of which are mentioned by Ezekiel (xxvii. 23). In Egypt the Phoenician merchants soon gained a foothold; they alone were able to maintain a profitable trade in the anarchic times of the XXIInd and XXIIIrd Dynasties (825-650 B.C.), when all other foreign merchants were frightened away. Though there were never any regular colonies of Phoenicians in Egypt, the Tyrians had a quarter of their own in Memphis (Herod ii. 112). The Arabian caravan-trade in perfume, spices and incense passed through Phoenician hands on its way to Greece and the West (Herod. iii. 107); these articles of commerce were mainly produced not in Arabia, but in East Africa and India, and the trade had its centre in the wealthy state of Sheba in Yemen. Between Israel and Phoenicia the relations naturally were close; the former provided certain necessaries of life, and received in exchange articles of luxury and splendour (Ezek. xxvii. 16-18). Israelite housewives sold their homespun to Phoenician pedlars (Prov. xxxi. 24 R.V.M.); in Jerusalem Phoenician merchants and money-lenders had their quarter (Zeph. i. 11), and after the Return we hear of Tyrians selling fish and all manner of ware in the city (Neh. xiii. 16), and introducing other less desirable imports, such as foreign cults (Isa. lxv. 11). The Phoenician words which made their way into Greek at an early period indicate the kind of goods in which the Phoenicians traded with the West, or made familiar through their commerce; the following are some of them—χρυσός, χιτών, βύσσος, ὀθόνη, μύῤῥα, νάβλα, κύπρος, φῦκος, μνᾶ, παλλακίς, βαιτύλος. Another valuable article of commerce which the Phoenicians brought into the market was amber. They can hardly have fetched it themselves from the Baltic or the North Sea; it came to them by two well-marked routes, one from the Baltic to the Adriatic, the other up the Rhine and down the Rhone. A deposit of amber has also been found in the Lebanon, and perhaps the Phoenicians worked this and concealed its origin.
The Phoenician colonies were all supposed to have been founded from Tyre: with regard to the colonies in Cyprus and north Africa this was undoubtedly true. Cyprus possessed resources of timber and copper which could not fail to tempt the keen-eyed traders across the water, who made Citium (from Kittim, the name of the original non-Semitic inhabitants) their chief settlement, and thence established themselves in Idalium, Tamassus, Lapethus, Larnaka, Qarth-ḥadasht (Karti-hadasti) and other towns. In the inscriptions of the 4th to 3rd centuries, the Phoenician potentates in the island call themselves “kings of Kition and Idalion” (NSI. pp. 55-89). But the Phoenician rule was not so ancient as used to be supposed. At an early period Greeks from the south coast of Asia Minor had settled in Cyprus before the Phoenicians founded any colonies there; and it is noticeable that in the Assyrian tribute-lists of the latter half of the 7th century (K B. ii. pp. 149, 241) not one of the ten Cyprian kings mentioned appears to be Phoenician by name. Menander states (Jos. Ant. ix. 14, 2) that the kings of Tyre ruled over Cyprus at the close of the 8th century; but a clear proof that the Phoenician rule was neither ancient nor uninterrupted is given by the fact that the Cyprian Greeks took the trouble to invent a Greek cuneiform character (Cypriote) modelled on the Assyrian.
Homer represents the Phoenicians as present in Greek waters for purposes of traffic, but not as settlers (Il. xxiii. 744). They occupied trading-stations on some of the Aegean islands and on the Isthmus of Corinth. One of their objects was the collection of murex, of which an enormous supply was needed for the dyeing industry; specially famous was the purple of the Laconian waters, the isles of Elishah of Ezek. xxvii. 7. But a great deal of what was formerly assigned to Phoenician influence in the Aegean at an early period-pottery, ornaments and local myths must be accounted for by the vigorous civilization of ancient Crete. In the Greek world the Phoenicians made themselves heartily detested, their characteristic passion for gain (τὸ φιλοχρήματον, Plato, Rep. iv. 435 E.) was not likely to ingratiate them with those who were compelled to make use of their services while they suffered from their greed.
Farther west in the Mediterranean Phoenician settlements were planted first in Sicily, on the south coast, at Heraclea or Ras Melqarth, the islands between Sicily and Africa, Melita (Malta) on account of its valuable harbour, Gaulus and Cossura were also occupied (Diod. v. 12); and a beginning was made with the colonization of Sardinia and Corsica; but farther west still, and on the Atlantic coasts to the right and left of the straits, more permanent colonies were established. It was the trade with Tarshish, i.e. the region of Tartessus in south-west Spain, which contributed most to the Phoenicians' wealth; for in this region they owned not only profitable fisheries, but rich mines of silver and other metals. The profits of the trade were enormous; it was said that even the anchors of ships returning from Spain were made of silver (Diod. v. 35). From Gadeira (Punic Gādēr, Lat. Gades, now Cadiz), the town which they built on an island near the mouth of the Guadalquiver, the Sidonian ships ventured farther on the ocean and drew tin from the mines of north-west Spain or from the richer deposits in the Cassiterides, i.e. the Tin Islands. These were discovered to be, not a part of Britain as was imagined at first, but a separate group by themselves, now known as the Scillies; hence it is improbable that the Phoenicians ever worked the tin-mines in Cornwall.
The rich trade with Spain led to the colonization of the West. Strabo dates the settlements beyond the Pillars of Hercules soon after the Trojan War (i. 3, 2), in the period of Tyre's first expansion. Lixus in Mauretania, Gades and Utica, are said to have been founded, one after the other, as far back as the 12th century B.C. Most of the African colonies were no doubt younger; we have traditional dates for Aoza (887-855) and Carthage (813). A large part of North-west Africa was colonized from Phoenicia, owing to these first settlers, and after them to the Carthaginians, the Phoenician language became the prevailing one, just as Latin and Arabic did in later times, and the country assumed quite a Phoenician character.
In the days of Tyre's greatness her power rested directly on the colonies, which, unlike those of Greece, remained subject to the mother-city, and paid tithes of their revenues to its chief god, Melqarth, and sent envoys annually to his feast. Then at the beginning of the 8th century B.C. the colonial power of Tyre began to decline; on the mainland and in Cyprus the Assyrians gained the upper hand; in the Greek islands the Phoenicians had already been displaced to a great extent by the advancing tide of Dorian colonization. But as Tyre decayed in power the colonies turned more and more to Carthage as their natural parent and protector. For effective control over a colonial empire Carthage had the advantage of situation over far-away Tyre; the traditional bonds grew lax and the ancient dues ceased to be paid, though as late as the middle of the 6th century Carthage rendered tithes to the Tyrian Melqarth. And the mother-country cherished its claims long after they had lost reality, in the 2nd century B.C., for example, Sidon stamped her coins with the legend, “Mother of Kambē (i.e. Carthage), Hippo, Kition, Tyre” (NSI. p. 352).
Manufactures, Inventions, Art.—From an early date the towns of the Phoenician coast were occupied, not only with distributing the merchandise of other countries but with working at industries of their own; especially purple-dyeing and textile fabrics (Il. vi. 289 sqq.), metal work in siiver, gold and electrum (Il. xxiii. 741 sqq.; Od. iv. 615 sqq., xv. 458 sqq.), and glass-work, which had its seat at Sidon. The iron and copper mines of Cyprus (not Sidon, as Homer implies, Od. xv. 424) furnished the ore which was manufactured into articles of commerce. Egyptian monuments frequently mention the vessels of gold and silver, iron and copper, made by the Dahi, i.e. the Phoenicians (W. M. Müller, As. u. Eur. 306); and in Cyprus and at Nimrud bronze and silver paterae have been found, engraved with Egyptian designs, the work of Phoenician artists (see table-cases C and D in the Nimrud gallery of the Brit. Mus.) The invention of these various arts and industries was popularly ascribed to the Phoenicians, no doubt merely because Phoenician traders brought the products into the market. But dyeing and embroidery probably came from Babylon in the first instance; glass-making seems to have been borrowed from Egypt; the invention of arithmetic and of weights and measures must be laid to the credit of the Babylonians. The ancients believed that the Phoenicians invented the use of the alphabet (e.g. Pliny, N.H. v. 13, cf. vii. 57; Lucan, Bell. Civ. iii. 220 seq.); but it is unlikely that any genuine tradition on the subject existed, and though the Phoenician theory has found favour in modern times it is open to much question. The Phoenicians cannot be said to have invented any of the arts or industries, as the ancient world imagined; but what they did was something hardly less meritorious: they developed them with singular skill, and disseminated the knowledge and use of them.
The art of Phoenicia is characterized generally by its dependence upon the art of the neighbouring races. It struck out no original line of its own, and borrowed freely from foreign, especially Egyptian, models. Remains of sculpture, engraved bronzes and gems, show clearly the source to which the Phoenician artists went for inspiration; for example, the uraeus-frieze and the winged disk, the ankh or symbol of life, are Egyptian designs frequently imitated. It was in the times of the Persian monarchy that Phoenician art reached its highest development, and to this period belong the oldest sculptures and coins that have come down to us. A characteristic specimen of the former is the stele of Yehaw-milk, king of Gebal (CIS. i. 1), in which the king is represented in Persian dress, and the goddess to whom he is offering a bowl looks exactly like an Egyptian Isis-Hathor; the inscription mentions the various objects of bronze and gold, engraved work and temple furniture, which the king dedicated. The whole artistic movement in Phoenicia may be divided into two great periods: in the first, from the earliest times to the 4th century B.C., Egyptian influence and then Babylonian or Asiatic influence is predominant, but the national element is strongly marked; while in the second, Greek influence has obtained the mastery, and the native element, though making itself felt, is much less obtrusive. Throughout these periods works of art, such as statues of the gods and sarcophagi, were imported direct at first from Egypt and afterwards mainly from Rhodes. The oldest example of native sarcophagi are copied from Egyptian mummy-cases, painted with colours and ornamented with carvings in low relief; towards and during the Greek period the contours of the body be in to be marked more clearly on the cover. The finest sarcophagi that have been found in the necropolis of Sidon (now in the Imperial Museum, Constantinople) are not Phoenician at all, but exquisite specimens of Greek art. The Phoenicians spent much care on their burial-places, which have furnished the most important monuments left to us. The tombs are subterranean chambers of varied and often irregular form, sometimes arranged in two storeys, sometimes in several rows one behind the other. While in early times a mere perpendicular shaft led to these excavations, at a later date stairs were constructed down to the chambers. The dead were buried either in the floor (often in a sarcophagus), or, according to later custom, in niches. The mouths of the tombs were walled up and covered with slabs, and occasionally cippi (Phoen. maṣṣēbōth) were set up to mark the spot. The great sepulchral monuments, popularly called maghāzil, i.e. “spindles,” above the tombs near Amrīt, have peculiarities of their own; some of them are adorned with lions at the base and with roofs of pyramidal shape. Besides busts and figurines, which belong as a rule to the Greek period, the smaller objects usually found are earthen pitchers and lamps, glass-wares, tesserae and gems. Of buildings which can be called architectural few specimens now exist on Phoenician soil, for the reason that for ages the inhabitants have used the ruins as convenient quarries. Not a vestige remains of the great sanctuary of Melqarth at Tyre; a few traces of the temple of Adonis near Byblus were discovered by Renan, and a peculiar mausoleum, Burj al-Bezzāq, is still to be seen near Amrīt; recent excavations at Bostan esh-Shēkh near Sidon have unearthed parts of the enclosure or foundations of the temple of Eshmun (NSI. p. 401); the conduits of Ras el-‘Ain, south of Tyre, are considered to be of ancient date. With regard to the plan and design of a Phoenician temple, it is probable that they were in many respects similar to those of the temple at Jerusalem, and the probability is confirmed by the remains of a sanctuary near Amrīt, in which there is a cella standing in the midst of a large court hewn out of the rock, together with other buildings in an Egyptian style. The two pillars before the porch of Solomon's temple (1 Kings vii. 21) remind us of the two pillars which Herodotus saw in the temple of Melqarth at Tyre (Herod. ii. 44), and of those which stood before the temples of Paphos and Hierapolis (see W. R. Smith, Rel. of Sem. p. 468 seq.).
Religion—Like the Canaanites of whom they formed a branch, the Phoenicians connected their religion with the great powers and The Phoenician Gods. processes of nature. The gods whom they worshipped belonged essentially to the earth; the fertile field, trees and mountains, headlands and rivers and springs, were believed to be inhabited by different divinities, who were therefore primarily local, many in number, with no one in particular supreme over the rest. It seems, however, that as time went on some of them acquired a more extended character; thus Ba‘al and Astarte assumed celestial attributes in addition to their earthly ones, and the Tyrian Melqarth combined a celestial with a marine aspect. The gods in general were called ‘elōnīm, ’elīm; Plautus uses alonium valonuth for “gods and goddesses” (Poen. v. 1, 1). These plurals go back to time singular form ’El, the common Semitic name for God; but neither the singular nor the plural is at all common in the inscriptions (NSI. pp. 24, 41, 51); ’El by itself has been found only once; the fem. ‘Elath is also rare (ibid pp. 135, 158). The god or goddess was generally called the Ba‘al or Ba‘alath of such and such a place, a title which was used not only by the Canaanites, but by the Aramaeans (Be‘el) and Babylonians (Bel) as well. There was no one particular god called Baal; the word is not a proper name but an appellative, a description of the deity as owner or mistress; and the same is the case with Milk or Melek, ’Adon, ‘Amma, which mean king, lord, mother. The god himself was unnamed or had no name. Occasionally we know what the name was; the Baal of Tyre was Melqarth (Melkarth), which again means merely “king of the city”; similarly among the Aramaeans the Ba‘al of Harran was the moon-god Sin. As each city or district had its own Ba‘al, the author of its fertility, the “husband” (a common meaning of ba‘al) of the land which he fertilized, so there were many Ba‘als, and the Old Testament writers could allude to the Ba‘ālim of the neighbouring Canaanites. Sometimes the god received a distinguishing attribute which indicates an association not with any particular place, but with some special characteristic, the most common forms are Ba‘al-ḥammān, the chief deity of Punic north Africa, perhaps “the glowing Ba‘al,” the god of fertilizing warmth, and Ba‘al-shamēm, “Ba‘al of the heavens.” The latter deity was widely venerated throughout the North-Semitic world; his name, which does not appear in the Phoenician inscriptions before the 3rd century B.C., implies perhaps a more universal conception of deity than existed in the earlier days. The worship of the female along with the male principle was a strongly marked feature of Phoenician religion. To judge from the earliest evidence on the subject, the Ba‘alath of Gebal or Byblus, referred to again and again in the Amarna letters (Bilit ša Gubla, Nos. 55-110), must have been the most popular of the Phoenician deities, as her sanctuary was the oldest and most renowned. The mistress of Gebal was no doubt ‘Ashtart (Astartē in Greek, ‘Ashtōreth in the Old Testament, pronounced with the vowels of bōsheth, “shame”), a name which is obviously connected with the Babylonian Ishtar, and, as used in Phoenician, is practically the equivalent of “goddess.” She represented the principle of fertility and generation; references to her cult at Gebal, Sidon, Ashkelon, in Cyprus at Kition and Paphos, in Sicily at Eryx, in Gaulus, at Carthage, are frequent in the inscriptions and elsewhere. The common epithets Κύπρις and Κυθέρεια (of Kuthera in Cyprus), Cypria and Paphia, show that she was identified with Aphrodite and Venus. Though not primarily a moon-goddess, she sometimes appears in this character (Lucian, Dea syr. § 4; Herodian v. 6, 10), and Herodotus describes her temple at Ashkelon as that of the heavenly Aphrodite (i. 105). We find her associated with Ba‘al and called “the name of Ba‘al,” 1.e. his manifestation, though this rendering is disputed, and some scholars prefer “‘Ashtart of the heaven of Ba‘al” (NSI. p. 37). Another goddess, specially honoured at Carthage, is Tanith (pronunciation uncertain); nothing is known of her characteristics; she is regularly connected with Ba‘al on the Carthaginian votive tablets, and called “the face of Ba‘al,” i.e. his representative or revelation, though again some question this rendering as too metaphysical, and take “face of Ba‘al” to be the name of a place, like Peni’el (“face of ’El”). Two or three other deities may be mentioned here: Eshmun, the god of vital force and healing, worshipped at Sidon especially, but also at Carthage and in the colonies, identified by the Greeks with Asclepius; Melqarth, the patron deity of Tyre, identified with Heracles; Reshef or Reshūf, the “flame” or “lightning” god, especially popular in Cyprus and derived originally from Syria, whom the Greeks called Apollo. A tendency to form a distinct deity by combining the attributes of two produced such curious fusions as Milk-‘asitart, Milk-ba‘al, Milk-’osir, Eshmun-melqarth, Melqarth-resef, &c. As in the case of art and industries, so in religion the Phoenicians readily assimilated foreign ideas. The influence of Egypt was specially strong (NSI. pp. 62, 69, 148, 154); thus the Astarte represented on the stele of Yehaw-milk, mentioned above, has all the appearance of Isis, who, according to the legend preserved by Plutarch (de Is. et Os. 15), journeyed to Byblus, where she was called Astarte. The Phoenician settlers at the Peiraeus worshipped the Assyrian Nergal, and their proper names are compounded with the names of Babylonian and Arabian deities (NSI. p. 101). Closer intimacy with the Greek world naturally brought about modifications in the character of the native gods, which became apparent when Ba‘al of Sidon or Ba‘al-shamēm was identified with Zeus, Tanith with Demeter or Artemis, ‘Anath with Athena, &c.; the notion of a supreme Ba‘al, which finds expression in the Greek βῆλος and βααλτίς or βήλθης (the goddess of Byblus), was no doubt encouraged by foreign influences. On the other hand, the Phoenicians produced a considerable effect upon Greek and Roman religion, especially from the religious centres in Cyprus and Sicily. A great number of divinities are known only as elements in proper names, e.g. Sakun-yathon (Sanchuniathon), ‘Abd-sasom, Ṣed-yathon, and fresh ones are continually being discovered. It was the custom among the Phoenicians, as among other Semitic nations, to use the names of the gods in forming proper names and thus to express devotion or invoke favour; thus Ḥanni-ba‘al, ‘Abd-melqarth, Hanni-‘ashtart, Eshmun-‘azar. The proper names further illustrate the way in which the relation of man to God was regarded; the commonest forms are servant (‘abd, e.g. ‘Abd-‘ashtart), member or limb bod, e.g. Bod-melqarth), client or guest (ger, e.g. Ger-eshmun); the religious idea of the guest of a deity had its origin in the social custom of extending hospitality to a stranger and in the old Semitic right of sanctuary. The interpretation of such names as ’Abi-ba‘al (father of Ba‘al), Ḥimilkath (brother of Milkath), Ḥiram (brother of the exalted one) is not altogether certain, and can hardly be discussed here.
Probably like other Canaanites the Phoenicians offered worship “on every high hill and under every green tree”; but to judge from Sacred Objects and Worship. the allusions to sanctuaries in the inscriptions and elsewhere, the Ba‘al or ‘Ashtart of a place was usually worshipped at a temple, which consisted of a court or enclosure and a roofed shrine with a portico or pillared hall at the entrance. In the court sometimes stood a conical stone, probably the symbol of Astarte, as on the Roman coins of Byblus (illustrated in Rawlinson, Phoenicia, 146, Perrot et Chipiez, Hist. de l'art, iii. 60; see also Ohnefalsch-Richter, Cyprus, pl. lvi, the temenos at Idalion). Stone or bronze images of the gods were set up in the sanctuaries (NSI. Nos. 13 seq., 23-27, 30, &c.); and besides these the baetylia (meteoric stones) which were regarded as symbols of the gods. Pillars, again, had a prominent place in the court or before the shrine (nasab, ibid. pp. 102 seq.); but it is not known whether the sacred pole (’ashērah), an invariable feature of a Canaanite sanctuary, was usual in a Phoenician temple (ibid. pp. 50 seq.). The inscriptions mention altars of stone and bronze, and from the sacrificial tariffs which have survived we learn that the chief types of sacrifice among the Phoenicians were analogous to those which we find in the Old Testament (ibid. p. 117). The ghastly practice of sacrificing human victims was resorted to in times of great distress (e.g. at Carthage, Diod. xx. 14), or to avert national disaster (Porphyry, de Abstin, ii. 56); Philo gives the legend that Cronus or El sacrificed his only son when his country was threatened with war (Fr. hist. gr. iii. 570); it was regarded as a patriotic act when Hamilcar threw himself upon the pyre after the disastrous battle of Himera (Herod. vii. 167). The god who demanded these victims, and especially the burning of children, seems to have been Milk, the Molech or Moloch of the Old Testament. In this connexion may be mentioned the custom of burning the chief god of the city in effigy, or in the person of a human representative, at Tyre and in the Tyrian colonies, such as Carthage and Gades; the custom lasted down to a late time (see Frazer, loc. cit. ch. v.). Another horrible sacrifice was regularly demanded by Phoenician religion: women sacrificed their virginity at the shrines of Astarte in the belief that they thus propitiated the goddess and won her favour (Frazer, ibid. ch. iii); licentious rites were the natural accompaniment of the worship of the reproductive powers of nature. These temple prostitutes are called qedeshim qedēshoth, i.e. sacred men, women, in the Old Testament (Deut. xxiii. 18; 1 Kings xiv. 24, &c.). Other persons attached to a temple were priests, augurs, sacrificers, barbers, officials in charge of the curtains, masons, &c. (NSI. No. 20); we hear also of religious gilds and corporations, perhaps administrative councils, associated with the sanctuaries (ibid. pp. 4, 121, 130, 144 seq.)
No doubt the Phoenicians had their legends and myths to account for the origin of man and the universe; to some extent these would Mythology and Religious Ideas. have resembled the ideas embodied in the book of Genesis. Two cosmogonies have come down to us which, though they differ in details, are fundamentally in agreement. The one, of Sidonian origin, is reserved by Damascius (de prim. principiis, 125) and received at his hands a Neoplatonic interpretation; this cosmogony was Hobably the writing which Strabo ascribes to a Sidonian philosopher, Mochus, who lived before the Trojan times (xvi. 2, 24). The other and more elaborate work was composed by Philo of Byblus (temp. Hadrian); he professed that he had used as his authority the writings of Sanchuniathon (q.v.), an ancient Phoenician sage, who again derived his information from the mysterious inscribed stones (ἀμμουνεῖς = דםוים, i.e. images or pillars of Ba‘al-ḥammān) in the Phoenician temples. Philo's cosmogony has been preserved, at least in fragments, by Eusebius in Praep. evang. vol. i. (Fr. hist. gr. iii. 563 sqq.). It cannot, however, be taken seriously as an account of genuine Phoenician beliefs. For Sanchuniathon is a mere literary fiction; and Philo's treatment is vitiated by an obvious attempt to explain the whole system of religion on the principles of Euhemerus, an agnostic who taught the traditional mythology as primitive history, and turned all the gods and goddesses into men an women; and further by a patriotic desire to prove that Phoenicia could outdo Greece in the venerable character of its traditions, that in fact Greek mythology was simply a feeble and distorted version of the Phoenician. At the same time Philo did not invent all the nonsense which he has handed down; he drew upon various sources, Greek and Egyptian, some of them ultimately of Babylonian origin, and incidentally he mentions matters of interest which, when tested by other evidence, are fairly well supported. He shows at any rate that some sort of a theology existed in his day; particularly interesting is his description of the symbolic figure of Cronus with eyes before and behind and six wings open and folded (Fr. hist. gr. iii. 569), a figure which is represented on the coins of Gebal-Byblus (2nd century B.C.) as the mythical founder of the city. It is evident that the gods were regarded as being intimately concerned with the lives and fortunes of their worshippers. The vast number of small votive tablets found at Carthage prove this: they were all inscribed by grateful devotees “to the lady Tanith, Face of Ba‘al, and the lord Ba‘al hammān, because he heard their voice.” The care which the Phoenicians bestowed upon the burial of the dead has been alluded to above; pillars (masṣēbōth) were set up to commemorate the dead among the living (e.g. NSI. Nos. 18, 19, 21, 32); if there were no children to fulfil the pious duty, a monument would be set up by a man during his lifetime (ibid. No. 16; cf. 2 Sam. xviii. 18). Any violation of the tomb was regarded with the greatest horror (ibid. Nos. 4, 5). The grave was called a resting-place (ibid. Nos. 4, 5, 16, 21), and the departed lay at rest in the underworld with the Refāsm, the weak ones (the same word and idea in the Old Testament, Isa. xiv. 9, xxvi. 14, 19; Job xxvi. 5; Ps. lxxxviii. 11, &c.). The curious notion prevailed, as it did also among the Greeks and Romans, that it was possible to communicate wit the gods of the underworld by dropping into a grave a small roll of lead (tabella devolionis, NSI. No. 50), inscribed with the message, generally a curse, which it was desired to convey to them.
Bibliography.—The principal works bearing on the subject have been mentioned in the text and notes of this article. The following may be added: Movers, Die Phonizier (1842-1856), to be used with caution; Renan, Mission de Phénicie (1864); Schroder, Die phonizische Sprache (1869); Stade in Morgenländische Forschungen (1875); W. Baudissin, Studien zur semitischen Religionsgeschichte 1876, 1878); Baethgen, Beiträge zur semitischen Religionsgeschichte 1888); Levy, Siegel und Gemmen (1869); J. L. Myres and Richter, Catalogue of the Cyprus Museum (1899); G. F. Hill, Catalogue of the Greek Coins of Cyprus (1904); V. Bérard, Les Phénisciens et l'Odyssée (1902-1903); Lidzbarski, Ephemeris für semitische Epigraphik (1902-1906); H. Winckler, Altorientalische Forschungen (1893-1906); Freiherr von Landau, “Die Bedeutung der Phonizier im Völkerleben” in Ex oriente lux (Leipzig, 1905), vol. i.; Bruston, Études Phén. (1903); the articles by Thatcher in Hastings's Dict. Bible (1900) and by E. Meyer in the Ency. Bib. (1902). The articles by A. von Gutschmid and Albrecht Socin in the Ency. Brit. (9th ed.) have been to some extent incorporated in the present article. (G. A. C.*)
- Cooke, North-Semitic Inscriptions (elsewhere abbreviated NSI.), No. 149 B. 8.
- In this passage “Phoenicians” is a general name for carriers of commerce, not the inhabitants of a particular country. Similarly “Sidonian” in Il. vi. 209, is taken to mean Semites in general. Elsewhere “Phoenicians” are merchants, kidnappers, &c., “Sidonians” are artists; to indicate nationality both names seem to be used indifferently, e.g. Od. xiii. 272, xiv. 288, xv. 414.
- See especially Pietschmann, Gesch. d. Phönizier, 13 sqq., and Winckler, Keilinschr. u. d. A. T., 3rd ed., 127.
- A vocabulary is given in KAT.3, 652 seq.; see further Böhl, Die Sprache d. Amarnabriefe (1909).
- For the Phoen. inscrr. see Corpus inscriptionum semiticarum, pt. i., brought up to date provisionally by Répertoire d'épigr. sém. A selection is published by Lidzbarski, Handbuch d. nordsem. Epigraphik (1898); Cooke, Textbook of North-Semitic Inscriptions (1903), with translations and notes; Landau, Beiträge z. Altertumsk. d. Orients (1899-1906); Lidzbarski, Altsem. Texte (1907), pt. i.
- See W. M. Muller, loc. cit. pp. 57, 172 sqq., 184 sqq.; Jeremias, Das A. T. im Lichte d. alt. Orients, p. 302 seq; Records of the Past, ii. 109 seq.
- Winckler, Tell-el-Am. Letters Nos. 37 sqq.; Petrie, Syria and Egypt in the Tell el Am. Letters.
- In Judges x. 12 (cf. v. 6, iii. 3) the Sidonians are mentioned among the oppressors of Israel; but there is no record of any invasion of Israel by the Phoenicians, and the statement is due to the post-exilic editor who introduced generalizations of ancient history into the book of Judges.
- Jos. Ant. viii. 3, 1, dates the building of Solomon's temple in the 11th year of Hiram, and 420 years after the foundation of Tyre. This gives a Tyrian era which began in 1198-1197 B.C., i.e. at the time when the Philistines settled on the coast of Canaan, an event which had considerable effect upon the cities of Phoenicia (above, Justin xviii. 3). In the Tyrian annals (Jos. c. Ap. i. 18) the reference was probably to the felling of timber in Lebanon for Hiram's temples; Josephus then misinterpreted this by 1 Kings v. 6.
- The above interpretation of Menander and the Assyian evidence is based upon Ed. Meyer, Ency. Bib. col. 3755. For a different explanation see Landau, Beitr. z. Altertumsk. d. Or. vol. i., followed by Winckler, Altor. Forsch. ii. 65 sqq.; these scholars take Menander to refer to the later war of Esarhaddon and Assur-bani-pal against Baal of Tyre.
- See the facsimile in Ausgrabungen in Sendschirli (Berlin, 1893), and p. 17 for the above interpretation of it.
- John L. Myres, Journ. Hell. Studies (1906), xxvi. 84 seq., criticizing Winckler, Der Alte Orient (1905), vol. vii. pt. 2.
- So the Babylonians, Canaanites (e.g. in the case of the Nephilim, Gen. vi. 2), Arabs, Greeks, traced the descent of heroic families to the gods. W. R. Smith, Kinship and Marriage, p. 206; S. I. Curtis’s Primitive Sem. Rel. To-day (London, 1902), p. 112 seq.
- An inscr. from Tyre ma be read, “‘Abd ba‘al chief of the Hundred,” NSI. p. 129; Clermont-Ganneau, Recueil d'arch. or. ii. 294 seq.
- The naval expeditions against Greece in 480-449 and Sparta in 396-387 were mainly fitted out by Phoenicia. See Persia: Ancient History, for the whole of this section.
- Justin xviii. 3 tells a story about Tyre during this period: the city, after being worn out though not defeated in long wars with the Persians, was so enfeebled that it was seized by the slaves, who rose and massacred their masters; one Straton alone escaped and was afterwards made king. The reference to the Persians is obviously incorrect; the story, if it can be taken seriously at all, must refer to one of the sieges by the Assyrians or Chaldaeans, and, as Meyer suggests (Ency. Bib. col. 3760), may be derived from the story of Abdalonymus of Sidon mentioned below.
- See especially E. Babelon, Les Perses Achéménides, and cf. NSI. No. 149.
- The date of this dynasty has been much disputed; but the reference to “the lord of kings” in the great inscr. of Eshmun-‘azar (line 18) points to the Ptolemaic period, for the Persian monarch is always styled “king of kings.” The interpretation of many details of the inscr. from Bostan esh-Shēkh is still uncertain.
- Burrows, Discoveries in Crete (1907), 140 sqq. It may be noted that the traditional or conjectural dates based upon the list of the Thalassocracies preserved by Eusebius carry us back to the 12th century B.C. See Professor John L. Myres's essay referred to above, § iii. (4).
- See Eupolemus (140-100 B.C.) quoted by Alexander Polyhistor, who, in a supposed letter from Solomon to the king of Tyre, mentions the food-supplies required by the Tyrians and promised from Palestine (Fr. Hist. Gr. iii. 226).
- Traces of ancient mining for iron have been found in the Lebanon; cf. LXX. 1 Kings ii. 46c (ed. Swete), which has been taken to refer to this quarrying in search of iron; Jer. xv. 12. See Benzinger on 1 Kings ix. 19.
- Cf. Hannibal's oath to Philip of Macedon, beside the named deities he invokes the gods of “sun and moon and earth, of rivers and meadows and waters” (Polyb. vii. 9).
- This is well brought out by G. F. Hill, Church Quarterly Rev. (April 1908), pp. 118-141, who specially emphasizes the evidence of the Phoenician coins.
- “To the lord ’El, which Ba‘al-shillem . . . vowed,” &c.; Clermont-Ganneau, Recueil, v. 376.
- Probably “the detested thing that causes horror” (שִׁקּ֣וּץ שֹׁמֵ֑ם) of Dan xii. 11, xi. 31, &c., is an intentional disfigurement of בעל שמם.
- The name has been found on an important Aramaic inscr. from North Syria, dating c. 800 B.C., in which Zakir, king of Hamath and La‘ash frequently speaks of his god Be‘el-shamin (Pognon, Inscr. sém. de la Syrie, 1908).
- See Frazer, Adonis, Attis, Osiris, 44 seq.
- An excellent and critical account of Philo's work is given by Lagrange, Études sur les rel. sém. (2nd ed., 1905), ch. xi.