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Ancient Middle East


The Phoenician city-state of CarthageThe Phoenician city-state of Carthage The Phoenicians were Mediterranean traders, active between 1500 and 300 BC. They founded the cities of Sidon and Tyre on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea, in modern-day Lebanon. They were descended from the ancient Canaanites, and became known as Phoenicians, from the Greek word phoinos, which means red, after the reddish-purple dye they traded. The Phoenicians founded city-states, each of which was independent but might enter into alliances with others. 

Purple cloth for sale in the Phoenician city of TyrePurple cloth for sale in the Phoenician city of Tyre
Murex shellMurex shell

Glass and cloth

The Phoenicians made beautiful glass items, such as beads and vases, from sand. They also wove fine wool and linen, which they dyed with a reddish-purple dye made from the crushed shells a local type of sea snail, called murex. This famous Tyrian cloth, named after their city of Tyre, was one of the most popular Phoenician exports.

A map of Phoenician trade routesA map of Phoenician trade routes
A cedar tree, Lebanon   A cedar tree, Lebanon


The Phoenicians were among the very first to develop an alphabet, by around 1050 BC. It later formed the basis of the modern alphabets used by all European languages, as well as Hindi, Hebrew and Arabic.

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