The Phoenicians: A Journey through Their History and Culture

The Phoenicians were an ancient civilization that lived along the Mediterranean coast between 1550 and 300 BCE. They were known for their maritime trade, their writing system, and their sophisticated technology. In this article, we will explore the Phoenicians’ way of life, including their diet, religion, and inventions.

Diet of the Phoenicians

The Phoenicians ate foods that were rich and varied. They consumed products of the earth such as wheat, barley, legumes, vegetables, and fruit. These foods abounded on their tables, and they learned to preserve them in salt to transport and trade them.

With trade between the colonies, their diet became even more diverse, and some products like the fig tree became famous throughout the Mediterranean.

The Carthaginians were Skilled Fishermen

The Carthaginians were skilled fishermen. They ate a variety of seafood including mollusks, crustaceans, sea bream, mullet, and sole. They took advantage of their coastal location to enjoy a variety of seafood.

The Port of Carthage:

The Phoenicians founded the colony of Carthage on the northern coast of Africa around 800 BCE. The city had two ports, one for the soldiers and one for the exchange of products.

A soldier’s port, with a round shape and a small island in the center, contrasted the commercial port, which was rectangular and served as a marketplace for merchants to buy and sell their wares.

Writing of the Phoenicians

At first, the Phoenicians used hieroglyphs and cuneiform writing, but they soon invented a simpler and faster writing system, the phonetic alphabet. This alphabet consisted of 22 signs that corresponded to a sound, making it easier to write and remember.

People used each sign to represent a consonant and left out the vowels in writing, but still pronounced them when speaking. With just 22 signs, the Phoenicians could write an infinite number of words. Writing was no longer restricted to scribes and spread among the population, particularly merchants. They wrote on sheets of papyrus, which were light and easy to carry.

The religion of the Phoenicians

The Phoenicians were polytheistic and prayed in small open-air temples called tophets. Every city had its own deities, with Baal being the most important god of the city of Sidon and lord of the universe.

Female deities also played a significant role in Phoenician religion, with Astarte being the most important warrior goddess and mother of all living things.

Inventions of the Phoenicians

The Phoenicians were innovative people who made several important discoveries and inventions. One of their most significant inventions was a method of working glass, which they made by melting a type of sand at high temperatures and shaping it into desired forms.

They also learned to obtain purple from the murex, a marine mollusk, which they used to color fabrics red.

The name “Phoenicians” means “dirty red” in reference to their discovery of the colored fabrics, which were highly valuable and helped make them rich through trade.

Additionally, the Phoenicians were the first to navigate the seas at night by orienting themselves using the stars and the pole star that always points north. They were also the first to use precious metal pieces, such as silver, as currency, and later developed coins.


The Phoenicians were a remarkable civilization that left a lasting impact on the world.


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