Edited By: R. A. Guisepi
History of the Phoenicians including their cities, kings,
culture, achievements and contributions to civilization
2,500 years ago Phoenician mariners sailed to Mediterranean and
southwestern European ports. The Phoenicians were the great
merchants of ancient times. They sold rich treasures from many
These Phoenicians (the
Canaanites, or Sidonians, of the Bible) were Semitic people.
Their country was a narrow strip of the Syrian coast, about 160
miles (260 kilometers) long and 20 miles (32 kilometers) wide.
The area now comprises Lebanon and parts of Syria and Israel.
Their territory was so small that the Phoenicians were forced to
turn to the sea for a living. They became the most skillful
shipbuilders and navigators of their time. They worked the
silver mines of Spain, passed through the Strait of Gibraltar,
and founded the city of Cadiz on the southern coast of Spain.
They sailed to the British Isles for tin and may have ventured
around southern Africa. They founded many colonies, the greatest
The Phoenicians began
to develop as a seafaring, manufacturing, and trading nation
when the Cretans--the first masters of the Mediterranean--were
overthrown by the Greeks (see Aegean Civilization). Not
only did they take the fine wares of the Eastern nations to the
Western barbarians, but they also became skilled in making such
wares themselves--especially metalwork, glass, and cloth. From a
snail, the murex, they obtained a crimson dye called Tyrian
purple. This was so costly that only kings and wealthy nobles
could afford garments dyed with it.
Perhaps the most
significant contribution of the Phoenicians was a syllabic
writing, developed in about 1000
Byblos. From this city's name come the Greek word biblia
(books) and the English word Bible. This form of writing was
spread by the Phoenicians in their travels and influenced the
Aramaic and Greek alphabets
There were two
great cities of Phoenicia--Sidon, the center of the glass
industry, and Tyre, the center of the purple-dye industry. In
the middle of the 10th century BC, Tyre assumed the leadership
of all Phoenicia. Friendly relations were established with the
Hebrews, and King Solomon sent to King Hiram of Tyre not only
for materials but also for skilled workmen to build the temple.
Phoenicians supplied the great Persian fleets with which Darius
and Xerxes attacked Greece. Usually they submitted readily to
foreign conquerors and paid tribute. In return they were allowed
to pursue their commercial enterprises as they liked. Alexander
the Great took Tyre in 332 BC, after one of the greatest sieges
of history. In 64 BC Phoenicia came under the control of the
The chief divinities of
the Phoenician religion were the god Baal and the goddess
Astarte, or Ashtoreth. In times of great distress human
sacrifices were offered to the god Moloch.
Today the small island
on which Tyre once stood is connected with the mainland by a
broad tongue of land. It grew out of the causeway built during
Alexander's siege. The town is called Sur in Arabic.
Phoenicians of the Iron Age (first millennium B.C.) descended
from the original Canaanites who dwelt in the region during the
earlier Bronze Age (3000-1200 H.C.), despite classical tradition
to the contrary. There is archaeological evidence for a
continuous cultural tradition from the Bronze to the Iron Age
(1200 -333 s.c.) at the cities of Tyre and Z araphath. In the
Amarna age (fourteenth century B.C.) many letters to Egypt
emanated from King Rib-Addi of Byblos, King Abi-Milki of Tyre,
and King Zimrida of Sidon, and in other New Kingdom Egyptian
texts there are references to the cities of Beirut Sidon,
Zaraphath, Ushu, Tyre, and Byblos. Additionally there is a
thirteenth-century B.C. letter from the king of Tyre to Ugarit,
and a Ugaritic inscription has turned up at Zaraphath. Despite
these facts showing that the coastal cities were occupied
without interruption or change in population, the term
"Phoenician" is now normally applied to them in the Iron Age
(beginning about the twelfth century B.C.) onward when the
traits that characterize Phoenician culture evolved:
long-distance seafaring, trade and colonization, and distinctive
elements of their material culture, language, and script.
Phoenicians, whose lands corresponds to present-day Lebanon and
coastal parts of Israel and Syria, probably arrived in the
region in about 3000 B.C. They established commercial and
religious connections were established with Egypt after about
2613 BC and continued until the end of the Egyptian Old Kingdom
and the invasion of Phoenicia by the Amorites (c. 2200 BC).
invading and periodically controlling Phoenicia included the
Hyksos (18th century BC), the Egyptians of the New Kingdom (16th
century BC), and the Hittites (14th century BC). Seti I (1290-79
BC) of the New Kingdom reconquered most of Phoenicia, but Ramses
III (1187-56 BC) lost it to invaders from Asia Minor and Europe.
The roster of Phoenician cities changed during the near
millennium-long period beginning in 1200 B.C., reflecting the
waxing and waning of their individual fortunes and the impinging
historical events of the Near East. At the beginning of the Iron
Age, as part of the invasion of the Sea Peoples (groups from the
Greek islands, especially Crete), the Philistines occupied the
coastal area south of Mt. Carmel, including Dor, Ashdod,
Ashkelon, and Gaza. By the eighth century B.C., however, the
material culture of the Phoenicians extended southward, and
Sidon controlled Dor and Joppa during the Persian period
(539-333 B.C). The Achaemenians, an Iranian dynasty under the
leadership of Cyrus II, conquered the area in 538 B.C. Sidon
became a principal coastal city of this empire. The history of
Tyre and Sidon is intertwined (indeed they were only twenty-two
miles [35 km.] apart). Classical tradition suggests that Sidon
was the more powerful at first but by the tenth century B.C.
Tyre dominated. Tyre's kings ruled a stretch of the coast that
included Sidon and often they were referred to as kings of the
Sidonians (1 Kings 16:31).
There were no
major Phoenician cities north of Arvad, but Phoenician influence
extended into Cilicia in the ninth and eighth centuries B.C.
Obscurity surrounds the emergence of Phoenician culture during
the twelfth and eleventh centuries B.C. In a foray, the Assyrian
king Tiglathpileser I (1114-1076 B.C.) sojourned at Arvad and
received tribute from Byblos and Sidon, and there are
archaeological data from Tyre and Zaraphath for this period. The
Egyptian Tale of Wenamun, dating to the mid-eleventh century
B.C., graphically portrays the decline of Egyptian prestige and
power in the Levant. This was due in part to the invasions of
the Sea Peoples and the general disruptions of Late Bronze Age
cultures throughout the eastern Mediterranean, with the collapse
of Mycenaean and Hittite cultures and the destruction of
city-states in the Levant. Trade was severely affected. In the
aftermath of the disruptions and the power vacuum a new order
emerged in which flourishing Phoenician settlements replaced
such destroyed centers as Ugarit on the coast of northern Syria.
Instead of the Levant being the recipient of Aegean wares,
Phoenician cities began exporting goods and services.
In the 10th
century B.C. the city state of Tyre rose to hegemony among
Phoenician states and founded colonies throughout the
Mediterranean region. During the same time, Tyre strengthened
its influence over the northern kingdom of Israel. Phoenician
influence is also to be seen in the region of Cilicia at
Zinjirli where King Kilamuwa, probably Aramaean in origin, chose
the Phoenician language and script for a long inscription at the
front of his palace. Other Phoenician inscriptions come from the
same region in the following centuries Azitiwada marked the
rebuilding of his city with bilingual inscriptions in Phoenician
and hieroglyphic Hittite at Karatepe. The strong Phoenician
influence in Cilicia may be due to trading activities in a
network including Urartu, the northern rival of Assyria in the
ninth and eighth centuries B.C.
The pace of
Assyrian activity in Phoenicia quickened in the ninth century
B.C. when Ashurnasirpal II, Shalmaneser III, and Adadnirari III
exacted tribute and taxes from Sidon, Tyre, and other Phoenician
cities. Assyria was gradually extending its control over the
Levant. As a result of the far-reaching reorganization of the
Assyrian Empire by Tiglathpileser III (744-727 B.C.), the nature
of the impact on Phoenicia changed from one of occasional
demands by raiding armies to incorporation as vassals into the
empire. Many cities lost their autonomy altogether and became
part of Assyrian provinces administered by governors; for
example, an Assyrian province of Simyra was established by
Sennacherib's reign (705-681 B.C.) he crushed a serious revolt
by coastal cities in 701 B.C. and forced Luli (Elulaeus), king
of Tyre, to flee to Cyprus where he died. Later Sidon revolted
against the Assyrian ruler Esarhaddon (681-669 B C.) who in 676
B.C. sacked and destroyed it and in its place built a governor's
residence, called Kar-Esarhaddon, for a new Assyrian province.
He also made a treaty with Baal, king of Tyre. Ashurbanipal
(668-627 B.C.) laid siege to Tyre and Nebuchadnezzar besieged it
for thirteen years (586-573 B.C.; Ezek. 26-28: 19).
reemerged as the dominant city of Phoenicia in the Persian
period (539-333 B.C.) and led a Phoenician contingent in the
Persian wars of the early fifth century B.C., helping bridge the
Hellespont and fighting at Salamis.
and Phoenician history
by Nina Jidejian
some time or another, has read about the Greek and Persian wars
fought during the sixth to fourth centuries B.C. What he perhaps
does not know is that the Phoenicians played an important role
in this great historical drama.
The reason is
Persia is not
a sea power and is land locked in Asia Minor and on the East
Mediterranean coast with a formidable array of soldiers from
Phoenicians, on the other hand, have the fleets, the navigators,
the seamen and the "know-how". Guided by the stars they sail at
night over dark, dangerous, uncharted waters, guided only by the
stars. An arrangement is therefore reached with the kings of the
Phoenician cities to furnish a fleet to the Persians provided
they are not bothered by them at home.
Greece is invaded by Xerxes, the Persian "King of Kings". Bloody
battles on land and sea follow. Sporadic fighting spreads to the
Greek islands and Cyprus.
Then in 333
B.C. Alexander the Great at the head of his Macedonian phalanxes
crosses the Hellespont in pursuit of Darius Codamannus, the
Persian king, thus bringing the war into Asia. City after city
go over to him.
conquest of the East ushurs in the Hellenistic Age. With the
spread of Greek culture and ideas, a new political and social
order arises and travels to the farther reaches of his empire
contributing to fashion the course of the modern world in which
The Greek and
550 to 330 B.C.
Herodotus is a
Greek born during the fifth century B.C. in Halicarnassus,
southwest Asia Minor. Centuries before his time the Greeks
abandon their homes on the mainland, put their families and
belongings in ships and sail eastwards across the Aegean. Some
settle for good on the islands, others found a number of Greek
cities all along the coast of Asia Minor.
As a young man
Herodotus, intelligent and inquisitive, displays a great gift
for story-telling. He wanders freely throughout a large part of
the great Persian empire recording all he sees and hears. He is
the world's authority on the Greek and Persian wars that shook
the ancient world so long ago.
This is his
Soon after his
conquest of the empire of the Medes, Cyrus, king of Persia, is
attacked by a coalition of the other great powers of the day:
Babylon, Egypt and Lyclia who come to fear him, joined by
Sparta, the greatest military power of Greece. In the spring of
546 B.C. the richest and most powerful man in the world,
Croesus, king of Lydia, advances into Cappadocia, Asia Minor
while the other kings are still feverishly gathering their
troops for battle. But Cyrus cleverly attacks first, marches one
thousand miles overland, even through the outlying provinces of
Babylon. He defeats Croesus and follows him to his capital city.
In the autumn of 546 Cyrus storms Sardis and orders that Croesus
be taken alive. The Lydian kingdom henceforth becomes a province
The gateway to
Greece and the Near East now lies open before the Persian king.
The Ionian Creek cities of Asia Minor, the Carians, the Lycians
and the king of Cilicia humbly acknowledge Persian supremacy.
Babylon is inevitable. In a single swift campaign, Cyrus
destroys the mighty kingdom. The army of King Nabonidus is
defeated and Babylon surrenders without resistance in October
In Sidon at
this time Mapen and his sister Myrra live in a little stone
house near the port. Their father, Elibar, is a carpenter and is
greatly respected for his ability and his skill. Not only does
he saw heavy logs of wood with precision for sea-faring galleys
but he can also carve smaller bits of wood into various objects:
luxury boxes to hold jewelry, plain boxes to hold precious
spices, wooden toys with which children can play: a cow, a
horse, a dog and even a small doll for Myrra. Children follow
him closely when he walks through the streets of Sidon, hoping
for a toy.
Myrra not only love their father but are very proud of him. They
love their mother too, because she keeps the little stone house
spic and span. She also welcomes her children's friends with
warmth at any time.
peaceful in Sidon. At nightfall around the fire their parents
talk about what is happening in Babylon. But all this is so far
Then one day
the mighty king of Babylon is no more. The king of Persia from
afar assumes sovereignty over Babylon's possessions on the east
Mediterranean seaboard. Thus Sidon, Tyre, Byblos, Beirut, Arvad
(Ruad) and the other port cities are left to themselves to enjoy
a period of freedom and peace.
excitement spreads in Sidon and Tyre when news arrives that all
displaced persons by order of Cyrus can now return to their
homelands. The Jews taken to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar are
allowed to proceed to Jerusalem. Cyrus grants a royal concession
of Phoenician timber to the Jews to rebuild Jerusalem and their
temple. Phoenician artisans make their way to Jerusalem to take
part in the reconstruction of the city. In the Old Testament,
Ezra (3.7) infers that Jews and Phoenicians renew commercial
"So they gave
money to the masons and the carpenters and food, drink and oil
to the Sidonians and Tyrians to bring cedar trees from Lebanon
to the sea to Joppa, according to the grant that they had from
Cyrus, king of Persia."
are cut on the mountains of Lebanon and rolled down the slopes.
Logs are tied one to the other and dragged by teams of oxen to
the port of Byblos. There they are lashed together with heavy
ropes into rafts and floated down the coast.
Mapen and Myrra see the logs arriving. There is a frightening
sound as they collide against each other. In the port there is a
large galley ready to carry the carpenter and stone masons.
Elibar hugs his wife and children tight to his bosom and embarks
for Tyre to pick up more artisans and then sails further south.
A year goes by
. . . The children miss their father. Then one day from afar, a
galley is seen slowly approaching the port. Mapen and Myrra rush
to the shore. They are overjoyed to see their father once again.
He has worked hard, has been well-paid and has a leather pouch
full of gold pieces. But he is glad to return to the little
stone house in the port. There the family receives relatives and
friends who eagerly listen to the stories Elibar tells them
about Jerusalem, the temple and other unfamiliar sights.
in the region. Trade prospers. Herodotus (1.143) tells us that
the Ionian Greeks too and those living on the Greek islands in
the Aegean have nothing to fear from the Persians. For the
Phoenicians alone control the sea routes and are free to come
and go. The Persians are not seamen nor do they have a fleet.
however soon changes. Egypt alone remains unconquered by the
king of Persia. In 529 B.C. Cyrus dies and is succeeded by his
son, Cambyses. The conquest of Egypt is necessary if Persia is
to dominate the east Mediterranean world. The Mediterranean
seaboard must be taken but first an understanding reached with
the kings of the Phoenician cities to supply Persia with the
necessary ships and crews.
is therefore made whereby the kings of the city-states place
their fleets at the disposal of the Persian monarch. In return
the cities are not occupied and are allowed to retain their
native kings. All during the Persian period of domination (550
to 330 B.C.) the kings of the Phoenician cities command their
naval contingents and are treated as friends and allies.
In 525 B.C.
Cambyses captures Pelusium in the Delta. The fall of Memphis
completes the Persian conquest of Egypt.
plans a campaign against Carthage, the Phoenicians refuse to
sail because they consider the city is a colony of Tyre.
Cambyses abandons the expedition. Herodotus (3.19-20) explains:
not think fit to bring pressure to bear because the Phoenicians
had taken service under him of their free will and his whole
naval power was dependent on them."
The year 521 B.C. marks the accession of Darius Hystaspis.
Darius believes that the greatest danger to the Persian empire
is a rebellion in a distant province. To prevent power being
held by one man, he appoints three officials in each province: a
satrap, a general and a secretary of state. independent of each
other they spy on each other and report to the king direct.
(3.91) lists the twenty satrapies of the Persian empire and the
taxes paid by each. Phoenicia is united with Syria, Cyprus and
Palestine in the Fifth Satrapy and is taxed lightly compared to
Darius is the
first Persian king to coin money. The Maric", a gold coin
weighing 130 grains, soon becomes the gold currency of the old
World. Herodotus (4.168) tells us that silver coinage, also
called Maric% is subsequently minted by a Persian satrap in
realizes the importance of good communications to hold his
empire together. He orders that a royal highway with one hundred
and eleven post houses link Sardis in Lydia to Susa in southern
Persia. Herodotus (4.52-56) travels on this royal road. At the
post houses tired horses are exchanged for fresh steeds for the
onward journey. Royal courriers find shelter and the much needed
But trouble is
now brewing in the provinces. The Ionian cities in Asia Minor
revolt against Persia. The revolt spreads to Caria and the
island of Cyprus. Darius orders the Phoenician cities to
assemble a fleet. Ships are sent to Cilicia to transport Persian
troops to Cyprus. The fleet anchors in the bay opposite Salamis,
Cyprus, facing the Ionian fleet already there. This is the very
first encounter at sea between Phoenicians and Greeks. The
Phoenicians lose the battle but Persian land forces gain a
victory over the Cypriotes. Hatred flares up between the
Phoenicians and the Greeks for the Greeks in the Aegean are a
serious threat to Phoenician domination of the commercial sea
A series of
rebellions follow. Sardis is taken and burned to the ground by
Athenian and Ionian forces.
Next the Creek
cities in Asia Minor rebel against Persia. Herodotus (5.106)
tells us that in his anger Darius commands one of his attendants
to repeat to him three times whenever he sits down to dine:
Waster, remember the Athenians".
A great clash
is in the offing. The decisive battle between the Ionian Greeks
and Persia occurs at sea In the naval battle of 494 near the
island of Lade opposite Miletus, the Persians with the
Phoenician fleet defeat the Ionian Greeks of Asia Minor.
pleased with the outcome of the battle and realizes that the
conquest of mainland Greece will not present much difficulty. He
decides to lead his army through Thrace and Macedonia with the
ultimate goal of punishing Athens. Herodotus (3.136) tells us
that he has already sent a spying mission of Persian nobles in
Phoenician ships to the coast of Greece.
cities furnish a large part of the fleet led by the Persian
general Mardonius in the year 492 But heavy losses occur when
the ships are dashed against the rocks of Mount Athos and most
of the fleet sinks.
Then comes the
Persian setback at Marathon in 490 B.C. The Persian archers are
cut down by the Greek phalanx of hoplites.
In 485 Darius
dies and with the accession to the throne in 481 of his son
Xerxes we are about to witness the greatest expedition of all
drawn from every quarter of the Persian empire. Two bridges are
thrown across the Hellespont, the narrow strait that divides
Europe from Asia (called the Dardanelles today).
At Abydos on
the Propontis a lofty seat of white stone is carved out on the
hilltop to enable Xerxes to look down on the seashore where his
army and fleet are assembled. A race of ships is organized in
his honor and the ships of Sidon win, to the king's great
pleasure. Xerxes shows a marked preference for Phoenician
vessels, the Sidonian ones in particular.
Riding in his
chariot, the king drives past the men of each nation, foot
soldiers and cavalry, questioning them while his scribes write
down the answers. Then the king alights from his chariot and,
according to Herodotus (7.100) boards a ship of Sidon, sitting
under a golden canopy. He sails past the prows of all the ships
assembled before him, questioning the seamen and ordering that
their answers be written down.
The loss of
the fleet in the previous expedition off the rocky coast of
Mount Athos prompts Xerxes to order that a canal be dug through
the isthmus to allow his ships to pass in safety. No sooner this
is done, however, the sides cave in. Phoenician engineers,
Herodotus (7.23) writes, rescue the project.
in the section
of the canal allotted to them, the Phoenicians dig a trench
double the width at the top than at the canal level thus
preventing wall collapse. The other engineers follow the
Xerxes, at the
head of his army, marches into Thessaly and quarters his troops
at Therma, Macedonia. There he embarks on a ship of Sidon to
reconnoiter by sea. After the Persian victory at Thermopylae,
Xerxes gives orders to proceed to Artemisium, where the Greeks
await him. A fierce battle ensues. The Athenians and Sidonians
decisive battle is yet to come. Before throwing his troops into
battle at Salamis, Greece, Xerxes holds a council of war. His
high esteem for the king of Sidon is seen by the place assigned
to him at the meeting. Herodotus (8.67) tells us "First in place
is the king of Sidon and next the king of Tyre." Among the kings
and princes of Phoenicia who sail with Xerxes, Herodotus (7.98)
records, are Tetramnestus, son of Anysus of Sidon, and Matten,
son of Sirom (Hiram) of Tyre.
Xerxes has one
woman admiral. She is Artemesia, a widow, in command of the
naval contingents of Halicarnassus, Cos, Nisyra and Calydna in
Asia Minor. She is the only one to object to plans for a battle
at sea, claiming that the Greeks are far superior to the
Persians in naval matters.
Aegaleos Xerxes surveys the naval engagement from his silver
footed throne. The narrowness of the straits at Salamis and the
fact the Greeks are fighting in home waters leads to the defeat
and flight of the Phoenician ships. When some of the captains
appear before him to furnish explanations, Xerxes has them
executed on the spot. Other Phoenician commanders become so
alarmed that they desert the fleet and sail away.
perhaps the reason why for the next fifteen years there is no
record of Phoenician contingents in the service of Persia's
kings. In 465, however, the victorious Athenians threaten
Cyprus. The Phoenician fleet appears in support of the Persians
once again as many of the cities of Cyprus are Phoenician
colonies. From 465 to 390 B.C. they protect Cyprus from the
Athenians and more than once fight them off.
Persian period Phoenicians find the time to do a bit of business
on the side and exploit mines on the island of Thasos. Herodotus
(6.47) claims to have seen them: "A whole mountain has been
turned upside down in the search of gold."
In the early
fourth century B.C. a very important political development takes
place. Tripolis in north Lebanon is founded by Aradus, Sidon and
Tyre. These cities are united by federal bonds. A historian
living in the first century B.C., Diodorus Siculus (16.41.1-2)
records that they convene a common council or "parliament" in
Tripolis, the first to be held in the East Mediterranean world.
meantime, the pharaohs of the Twenty-ninth and Thirtieth
dynasties stir rebellions in Cyprus against the Persians.
Repeated attempts by the Persian king to regain Egypt, conquered
earlier by Cambyses, fail. The Phoenicians and the kings of
Cyprus now show open contempt of the Persians. In 366 the
Phoenician cities join dissident satraps who wish to break away
from the empire. In 358 Artaxerxes Ill (Ochus) ascends the
throne of Persia. He feels he cannot deal with any rebellion
until he conquers Egypt. His failure to do so brings forth the
great Phoenician revolt led by Tennes, king of Sidon.
king's satraps and generals dwell in Sidon. Nearby is a
beautiful royal park, where the kings of Persia hunt called the
paradeisos in Creek (from the old Persian term pardes, meaning
"garden"). This Greek word has been passed on from one
generation to another to mean "paradise" in our days, a place of
beauty and delight.
hostile act of the Sidonians is to cut down and destroy the
royal park, then they burn the fodder for the horses. Next they
arrest Persian officials.
are sent to Egypt to seek aid from the pharaoh. In return, King
Tennes receives four thousand Creek mercenaries. Adding these
men to his own forces, Tennes defeats the satraps and drives
them out of Phoenicia.
The year is
351 B.C. Artaxerxes 111 is in Babylon and hastily assembles a
large army. News of its great size reaches Tennes. Fearing that
his forces cannot hold them off, the king of Sidon treacherously
decides to come to secret terms with the Persians in order to
save his own life.
knowledge of his people, Tennes sends Thettalion, a faithful
attendant, to the Persians with a promise he will betray Sidon.
Tennes will also assist the Persian king defeat Egypt, for
according to Diodorus (16.43.2), he is familiar with the
topography of Egypt as well as the landing-places along the
Nile. Thettalion returns to Sidon and reports on the success of
of Egypt at this point is of great importance. Persian envoys
are sent to the cities of Greece for reinforcements. Thebes
despatches one thousand men, Argos sends three thousand and the
Ionian Greeks of Asia Minor send six thousand. Artaxerxes does
not wait for them to arrive and, at the head of his troops,
marches on Sidon.
dig triple ditches and raise high fortifications. They store up
food, armor and missiles. In wealth and resources Sidon by far
excels her sister-cities. There is an important number of Greek
mercenaries available ready to fight. More important still is
the fact that Sidon possesses over one hundred triremes and
feverish activity raises the suspicion of young Straton, the son
of a respected palace official. For some time now his father has
remained at court all the time and has not come home at night.
From an upstairs window Straton can easily see who enters and
leaves through the palace gates. He begins to fear for his
In those days
it was usual for a king to hire foreign mercenaries to swell the
ranks of his army. These men are paid generously for their
services. Since they love money, adventure and the dangers of
warfare, they are proud of their condition and insolently
swagger through the streets of Sidon. Straton does not trust
them, nor does he like them. After all, a man who is paid for
his services can easily switch to another master if the pay is
secret confides to Mentor, the commander of the Greek
mercenaries in Sidon, that he plans to hand over the city to the
Persians. Leaving him in control behind, the king at the head of
five hundred citizens, leaves the city pretending he is going to
meet with the kings of other Phoenician cities to plan a united
strategy. On this pretext he also takes with him one hundred of
the city's most distinguished citizens to serve as advisors.
Among them is the father of Straton.
approaching the Persian camp, Tennes and the one hundred
Sidonians are suddenly seized and handed over to the king.
Artaxerxes welcomes Tennes as a friend but has the dignitaries
executed as the instigators of the plot. Then come the five
hundred Sidonian notables carrying olive branches as suppliants.
They too one by one are shot down and fall to the ground.
the Persian king that he will now deliver Sidon to him. He leads
the way and approaches the part of the fortifications held by
Mentor and the Greek mercenaries. They allow the Persians inside
the city walls. Thus Sidon, by Tennes' betrayal, is secretly
delivered to the Persians. Now that Tennes is of no further use
to him, Artaxerxes at once has him put to death.
their king's betrayal, the Sidonians in the meantime take many
precautions to defend their city. They burn all their ships so
that the townspeople will remain to fight off the Persians and
cannot secretly sail away.
(16.45.3-6) tells us that when the Sidonians see the myriads of
soldiers entering the city and swarming over the city walls,
they shut themselves, their wives, children and servants in
their houses. Straton and his mother do the same. Once the doors
and windows are bolted securely, they set their homes on fire.
Plumes of dust and smoke rise over the city. About forty
thousand perish in the flames. A vast amount of silver and gold
is melted down by the fire. This treasure is gathered up and
later sold by the Persian king for many talents.
News of the
disaster that has destroyed Sidon spreads far and wide. The
remaining Phoenician cities, panicstricken, go over to the
Persians. After the destruction of Sidon and the arrival of his
Greek mercenaries, Artaxerxes marches towards Egypt. The pharaoh
picks up all his possessions and flees to Ethiopia. Artaxerxes
installs a Persian satrap in Egypt and. starts the long march
back to Babylon. The year is 350 B.C.
Alexander the Great
Far away in
Macedon Philip 11 (382-336 B.C.) becomes king. He gathers
together a large force of infantry and the phalanx to support
his cavalry and looks eastward, fired by ambition, to free Asia
Minor of the Persian king.
Olympias, the wild, witch-like daughter of the king of Epirus.
According to Plutarch in his Life of Alexander (2.3-4) when
newly wed, Philip comes upon his wife asleep with a serpent by
her side. He is filled with revulsion and fears her as an
born of their union, is a fair-skinned handsome youth, quick to
anger. He studies under Aristotle, the most celebrated
philosopher of his time and has Leonidas as a tutor, a man of
stern temperament. Alexander thus becomes a great lover of all
kinds of knowledge and always puts Homer's Iliad with his dagger
under his pillow when he sleeps.
faithful companion in both battle and the hunt is his horse
Bucephalus. Plutarch (6.1-4) records that Alexander, barely
fifteen years of age, tames this tempestuous and unruly steed.
Bucephalus is brought before Philip by a Thessalian who demands
an exorbitant sum of thirteen talents in exchange. No sooner
does an attendant attempt to mount him, the horse rears up and
tosses him to the ground. As the horse is being led away,
Alexander exclaims that he is able to mount him. Philip mocks
his son and asks him what sum will he pay in case he is
unhorsed. Alexander replies that he will pay his father the full
price of the horse. The king and his attendants burst out into
loud laughter. Unabashed, Alexander runs to the horse and turns
him directly towards the sun, for the youth had observed that
Bucephalus is afraid of the motion of his own shadow. He then
leads the horse forward, stroking him gently, and with one
nimble leap, mounts him, lets him go at full speed and gallops
away. Philip and his attendants look on in wonder. When
Alexander dismounts, according to Plutarch (6.5), Philip
embraces him and says: "0, my son, look thee out a kingdom equal
to and worthy of thyself for Macedonia is too small for thee."
following years Philip's estrangement from Alexander's mother,
Olympias, leads to other marriages. At his wedding to the
youthful Cleopatra, Attalus, the bride's uncle in a drunken fit
implores the gods to give the couple a lawful heir to the
kingdom. Alexander is outraged by this affront and throws his
drinking cup at Attalus' head. When Philip rises in anger with
his sword drawn to attack his son, his foot slips and he falls
to the ground. Plutarch (9.4-5) records that Alexander says
insultingly: "See there, the man who makes preparations to pass
out of Europe into Asia, overturned in passing from one seat to
incident Alexander and his mother withdraw from Philip's court.
The sullen and jealous queen travels to Epirus, Alexander to
Illyria. Friends of the family bring about a reconciliation,
although short lived.
subjugating his neighbors, Philip crosses into central Greece.
In 337 he is in the Peloponnesus where he holds a congress of
the Greek states at the Isthmus. A Hellenic league is organized
that acknowledges Philip in the military command and furnishes
contingents for an expedition against Persia.
In 336 Philip
is murdered during the marriage festivities of his daughter in
Aegae, Macedon. He leaves behind him a kingdom beset by
troubles, but at the same time, the Macedonian army that enables
his son within ten years to change the face of the old World.
barely twenty years old when Philip is murdered. The countries
surrounding Macedonia want to free themselves of its rule. The
Greek cities are on the verge of rebellion. Alexander puts down
the revolts and at the general assembly at the Isthmus, the
Greek cities agree to join him in the war against Persia and
proclaim him their general.
officials and philosophers come from all parts of the land to
congratulate Alexander -- all but Diogenes of Sinope who is
living at the time in Corinth. According to Plutarch (14.1-2) he
does not even bother to leave Cranium, the suburb where
Alexander finds him lying in the sun. When the philosopher sees
so much company about him, he raises himself a little and
glances at Alexander who asks him kindly whether he wants
anything. "Yes", Diogenes replies, "I would have you stand from
between me and the sun." Alexander is struck by this answer and
is so impressed by the man that, as he goes away, he tells his
followers were he not Alexander, he would choose to be Diogenes.
aim is to strike at the heart of the Persian empire and
ultimately conquer the entire East. He crosses the Hellespont
into Asia and at Troy sacrifices to Athena, goddess of wisdom,
and honors the memories of the heroes buried there.
advance guard is encamped on the further bank of the Granicus
river. Except for a few hand-picked soldiers and a body of Greek
mercenaries, the Persian king depends upon oriental recruits,
large in number but weak in fighting power. Alexander crosses
the river on horseback and is met by a shower of arrows. He
charges, horse against horse with his raised lance. While the
horsemen are thus engaged, the Macedonian phalanx crosses the
river. The Persians take fright and flee leaving the high roads
of Asia Minor open to the young Macedonian conqueror.
News of this
military disaster reaches Darius. At the head of a large force
he marches toward Cilicia to engage Alexander in battle. Their
armies meet at Issus (near modern Alexandretta) in October 333.
Alexander fights in the foremost ranks while his army closes in
on the Persians, putting them to flight. Darius narrowly
escapes, leaving behind his queen, his daughters and court
Now the gates
of the Near East lay open before Alexander. However he does not
pursue Darius. It is of strategic importance for Alexander to
control the naval bases from which the Persian fleet operates.
So he marches instead on to Phoenicia.
accounts of the daring exploits of Alexander unfortunately do
not exist. What we know about him comes from secondary sources.
Arrian (first century B.C.) refers to the works of Ptolemy, a
general of Alexander, and Aristobolus, whose writings are lost.
Diodorus Siculus (first century B.C.) and Quintus Curtius (first
century A.D.) no doubt had access to earlier histories that have
enough, very few likenesses of the young Macedonian conqueror
have come down to us. Plutarch (4.1) records that the finest
statues of Alexander were made by Lysippus for he was the only
sculptor tolerated by the young man. Even the inclination of
Alexander's head a little on one side towards his left shoulder
was reproduced in marble and was imitated afterwards by the
generals who succeed him in an effort to emulate him. Coins
minted during Alexander's reign have on the obverse the head of
the god Heracles wearing the lion skin. Portraits of Alexander
only appear later on the third century B.C. coins of Lysimachus,
king of Thrace. Here Alexander appears as a god wearing the
sacred horns of Ammon.
moves down the coast, the Phoenician cities are panic-stricken.
The Persian fleet is manned by Phoenician crews and the kings of
the Phoenician cities are at the time at sea with the fleet.
each other, each city adopts a position that suits it best.
Aradus (Ruad) is the most northern of the Phoenician city
states. The king's son Straton, according to Arrian (2.13.7-8),
hastens to welcome him and lays on his head a golden crown. He
yields to Alexander the island of Aradus and Marathus, a great
and prosperous city which lies opposite on the mainland (modern
surrenders without resistance. The king ruling at the time is
called Ayinel. He is away sailing with the Persian fleet.
Alexander leaves Byblos behind him and marches on to Sidon.
dealt a severe blow in 351 when Artaxerxes took the city. Many
Sidonians perished in the flames and the memory of this disaster
lives on. The city is ruled at the time by a puppet of the
Persians and Alexander is determined to get rid of him.
the trustworthy companion-in-arms of Alexander, is given the
mission to choose a new king. He finds two Sidonians, each one
is worthy to rule. However it is the custom in Sidon that the
king should come from royal stock, so the choice falls upon a
man, distantly related to the royal family. This man, modest and
poor, lives in the suburbs of Sidon where he cultivates a small
delegates the two Sidonians to bring him before Alexander. They
find him, Abdalonymous by name, in his garden plucking weeds. As
he stands up to greet them, the two men dismount from their
horses and hail him as king. They give him royal garments to
wear and accompany him to Alexander in his camp.
Gazing at him
steadily, Alexander tells Abdalonymous that after all the years
he has lived in poverty and privation, he will now become
powerful and rich. Quintus Curtius (4.1.24-28) records that the
new king of Sidon puts out his grimy, work-worn hands and
replies: "These hands having nothing, I lack nothing." Alexander
is impressed by these words and leaving him to rule Sidon, he
marches south to Tyre.
The king of
Tyre is at sea with the Persian fleet. So a delegation headed by
the king's son and noblemen comes out to meet the invader. It is
of strategic importance for Alexander to take Tyre as the city
is an important base for the Persians.
the pretext that he wishes to enter Tyre in order to sacrifice
to Heracles, for the kings of Macedon hold they are descended
from the god. Once Tyre is his, Alexander believes, all the
Phoenician ships will desert the Persian king and come over to
the fortifications of their island city, the Tyrians object.
They realize the danger is great should Alexander enter their
city. So they send envoys to Alexander telling him that there is
a temple of Heracles on the mainland at Palaetyrus (old Tyre),
suggesting that he offer sacrifices to the god there.
face reddens with anger at this affront. He threatens to join
the island fortress to the mainland by an artificial isthmus,
turn Tyre into a peninsula and bring his powerful siege engines
up to the city's walls.
Alexander falls asleep and has a dream. He sees Heracles
stretching out his right hand to him to lead him into the city.
The seers are summoned by him at once. Tyre would be taken with
great toil and difficulty, they predict, for toil is the mark of
Alexander seven months before he can enter Tyre. A strait of
four stadia separates the island city from the mainland and is
especially exposed to southwest winds. Alexander orders that
large stones and tree trunks from the mountains of Lebanon be
brought down to the coast and cast into the sea. As long as the
building of the mole is near the mainland, work goes on smoothly
enough but as his men get into deeper water and nearer the city,
a volley of arrows fall around them shot by archers positioned
on the walls. Tyrians sail up on either side, mocking and
orders that two towers be built on the mole equiped with siege
engines. Hides and skins cover the towers so they can not be
pelted with fire darts. The Tyrians fill a large horse-transport
ship with dry boughs and other combustible materials. They fix
two masts on the prow, each with a projecting arm from which is
suspended a cauldron filled with bitumen, sulphur and other
highly inflammable materials. The stern of the vessel is loaded
with stone and sand and is thus depressed. In this way the prow
is elevated so it can easily glide over the mole and reach the
towers. The Tyrians wait for a wind blowing towards the mole and
tow the ship astern with triremes. Running the "fire-ship" at
full speed upon the mole, they set torches to the combustible
materials. They dash the ship violently against the mole and the
cauldrons scatter the fiery mass in all directions. The crew of
the burning ship easily swim away to safety.
The kings of
Aradus and Byblos hear that their cities are in Alexander's
hands. They promptly desert the Persian fleet and arrive with
their contingents and Sidonian triremes to side with Alexander.
The kings of Cyprus learn that Darius has been defeated at Issus
and sail to Sidon with one hundred and twenty ships. Triremes
arrive from Rhodes, Soli, Mallos, Lycia and a fifty-oar from
(2.20.3) records: "To all these Alexander let bygones be bygones
supposing that it was rather from necessity than choice that
they had joined naval forces with the Persians."
While all the
ships are being prepared for battle and his siege engines fitted
for the final assault, Alexander with some of his archers and
cavalry march to the Anti-Lebanon. He conquers part of the
country, others readily surrender.
have no choice but to go on the offensive before Alexander
attacks. The enemy fleet must be sunk, including the ships of
their sister-cities. This is not an easy task because ships from
Cyprus are blocking the mouth of the "Sidonian" port, so-called
because it faces north towards Sidon. Plans must be made in
secret. So sails are spread before the entrance of the harbor to
hide their preparations. At midday when the Cypriote sailors are
not on their guard, the Tyrians set sail with their bravest
seafighting men and attack the surprised enemy, sinking several
infuriated by this setback. He orders his ships at once to sea
to blockade the harbor. Those on the walls of Tyre see this and
try with shouts and gestures to beckon their men to turn back.
It is too late. Wheeling their ships about, the Tyrians attempt
to sail back to the harbor. A few manage to get to safety but
Alexander's naval forces put most of them out of action. Some of
the crew jump overboard and swim to land. This victory allows
the Macedonians easier access to Tyre's city walls. The battery
rams are brought up against the walls. The fortifications on the
mole are so high the Macedonians are unable to scale them.
forced to turn south to the "Egyptian" port -- that facing Egypt
-- testing the walls on his way. There, a part of the city's
fortifications have broken down. Bridges are thrown over the
walls but the Tyrians repulse the attack.
A great fear
now arises in Tyre. Quintus Curtius (4.3.22) tells us that a
rumor spreads like wildfire that the god Apollo is about to
leave the city. The Tyrians bind the statue of Apollo with a
chain of gold to its base and attach the chain to the altar of
Heracles, their patron god, hoping that he will hold Apollo
another dream. In it he sees a satyr mocking him at a distance
and eluding his grasp when he tries to catch him. Finally after
much coaxing, the satyr surrenders. Plutarch (24.5) records that
the seers are called in and dividing the word satyros into two
parts, say to Alexander plausibly enough: "Tyre (Tyros in Greek)
is to be thine."
assault is frightening. Triremes are ordered to sail both to the
"Sidonian" and "Egyptian" ports in an effort to force an
entrance. Alexander's ships close in on the city from all sides
and bridges are thrown over the walls from the vessels. Crossing
over and advancing through breaches in the walls, the
Macedonians now easily fight off the Tyrians. Both harbors are
forced and the Tyrian ships are captured.
A large number
of Tyrians desert the walls and barricade themselves in the
Shrine of Agenor. This monument is particularly revered by the
people of Tyre for, in legendary tradition, Agenor is their
king, the father of Cadmus and Europa. According to Arrian
(2.24.2) it is there that Alexander attacks them with his
bodyguards. There is a bloody massacre. The Macedonians are
infuriated, Seeing themselves at last masters of the city, they
fall mercilessly on the Tyrians. They are also determined to
avenge the death of their companions, who when sailing from
Sidon earlier, are captured by the Tyrians. These men are
dragged up on the walls, executed in full view of Alexander's
forces and flung into the sea.
Curtius (4.2.10-12) tells us that at this time a Carthaginian
delegation is in Tyre to celebrate the annual festival of
Melkart-Heracles. The king of Tyre, Azemilcus, the chief
magistrates and the Carthaginian embassy take refuge in the
temple of Heracles. To them Alexander grants full pardon but he
severely punishes the people of Tyre. Some thirty thousand are
sold into slavery. Two thousand Tyrians, according to Quintus
Curtius (4.4.17) are nailed to crosses along a great stretch of
offers a sacrifice to Heracles and holds a procession of his
armed forces in the city. A naval review is also held in the
god's honor. The siege has lasted seven months. Diodorus Siculus
(17.46.5-6) ends his account of the dramatic siege of Tyre by
telling us that Alexander solemnly removes the golden chains and
fetters from Apollo and orders that henceforth the god be called
Apollo "Philalexander". He rewards his men who have
distinguished themselves and gives a lavish funeral for his
leaves Tyre. With the fall of Gaza to the south, the way lies
open to Egypt. Upon his arrival there, Alexander consults the
oracle of Zeus Ammon and is hailed by the high priest as the son
of the god.
He founds the
city of Alexandria at the mouth of the Nile destined to be the
new commercial and intellectual center of the East Mediterranean
In the spring
of 331 B.C. Alexander leaves the Mediterranean to strike into
the heart of the Persian empire. It is near Nineveh that Darius
awaits him with a large army, hastily assembled. At the battle
of Arbela Darius is defeated and flees into Media.
follows the Tigris River into Babylonia, the central seat of the
Persian empire and its richest region. From there he proceeds to
Susa, then to the royal city of Persepolis with its enormous
treasure. There he destroys the palace by fire according to the
geographer Strabo (15.6), ostensibly as revenge for the burning
of Greek temples by Xerxes during the Graeco-Persian wars.
Plutarch (38.1-4) gives another version saying that the fire is
started during a drunken revelry but is then extinguished by
order of Alexander who regrets the deed.
What we see
next is a king being chased by another king. From Ecbatana
Alexander pursues Darius to the Caspian. The Persian empire is
crumbling, Darius is deserted by his generals one by one and by
his troops. His cousin, Bessus, seizes this opportunity to rid
himself once and for all of the Persian king. At night he and a
few followers burst into Darius' tent, tie him up with ropes and
carry him to his chariot and on to Bactria. He hopes eventually
to offer the Persian king as a hostage in exchange for
Alexander's recognition of him as ruler of the eastern
satrapies. Alexander follows Darius in hot pursuit. Seeing he
cannot escape, Bessus suddenly gallops up to the royal chariot,
stabs Darius to death and gets away. When Alexander finally
catches up with his rival, he comes into possession only of his
corpse. Alexander looks down on his fallen foe with compassion,
and covers his body with his purple cloak.
Bessus is captured and put in chains. Due to the nature of the
crime, Alexander has him sentenced by Persian judges, not by
himself. Bessus is found guilty of rebellion against his king.
The sentence is cruel. Bessus' nose and ears are cut off and he
is led to Ecbatana where he is crucified on a tree.
marches through Bactria and Sogdiana putting down rebellions and
founding Greek cities. Then he crosses the Hindu Kush and
proceeds to India. One of the principalities, situated between
the Hydaspes and Ascenines, is ruled by Porus. Alexander crosses
the Hydaspes, Porus holds the opposite bank with a powerful
force and two hundred elephants. During the battle Porus is
wounded and falls into Alexander's hands. However Alexander
gains the fallen king as a friend.
It is at this
time, Plutarch (61.1) tells us that Bucephalus dies, wounded in
battle. Others relate that the horse dies of fatigue and old
age. Alexander is overcome with grief. On the banks of the
Hydaspes River he builds a city on the tomb of his horse which
he names Bucephalia in his memory. When he reaches the Hyphasis
River (Beas) the Macedonian army refuses to go farther although
Alexander believes he has not much more to go to reach the ocean
and the eastern limit of the inhabited world. He is obliged to
give way and the return begins.
In the spring
of 323 he returns to Babylon. There he makes plans for the
construction of a great fleet and the opening of a route by sea
from Babylon to Egypt around Arabia. In Babylon he falls ill,
consumed by a raging fever that does not leave him. He dies
towards evening on June 13, 323 at the age of thirty-three.
His. son by
Roxana, the beautiful daughter of Oxyartes, king of Bactria, is
born a short time later. The child, named Alexander "Aegus", is
accepted by the Macedonian generals as joint king with
Alexander's half-brother, Philip Arrhidaeus, mentally unfit to
rule. Alexander's successors use these two pathetic figures as a
symbol of legitimacy to cover up their own ambitions. The day is
now nearing when they can carve out a kingdom for themselves on
the ruins of Alexander's empire.
The two kings,
a child and one feeble of mind, are put under the guardianship
and protection of Perdiccas, Peithon and Antipater, in
succession. Upon the death of Antipater, Roxana flees with her
child to Epirus seeking the protection of Olympias, Alexander's
mother. She is taken there by Polyperchon, an officer close to
Alexander to whom Antipater had delegated his power. From there
Polyperchon accompanies Olympias, Roxana and the boy to
Macedonia. All three fall into the hands of Antipater's son,
Cassander, whose ambition knows no bounds. Olympias is put to
death, young Alexander and his mother are kept under close
arrest. They are murdered in 310-309 by order of Cassander. Thus
the dynasty of Alexander the Great comes to an end with the
death of Alexander IV Aegus, his son, barely twelve years of
Age 330 to 64 B.C.
who succeed Alexander are Antigonus Cyclops or Monophthalmus,
so-called because he lost an eye in battle, and his son
Demetrius Poliocertes, Antipater and his son Cassander,
Seleucus, Ptolemy, Eumenes and Lysimachus. They argue bitterly
among themselves for each is determined to build a Hellenistic
or Greek monarchy on the ruins of Alexander's empire.
of a Macedonian nobleman and the most trusted of Alexander's
generals, was among the seven bodyguards attached to his person.
In the division of the empire, Ptolemy takes Egypt as the safest
and farthest place to establish a dynasty. He even manages to
carry off the body of Alexander from Babylon to Egypt in order
to bury him in Alexandria and thus enhance his own position.
mints a gold coin at Alexandria on which we see a car drawn by
four elephants. Perhaps this is an attempt made by him to
represent Alexander's funeral cortege that included elephants.
establishes himself in Macedon. He dies soon after and is
succeeded by Cassander, his son.
Nicator, a youth of twenty-three of age when he accompanies
Alexander to Asia, wins distinction in the Indian campaign.
Seleucus is given the government of the Babylonian satrapy.
defeats Eumenes, installed as satrap of Cappadocia, and has him
put to death. He thus gets rid of his most dangerous rival.
Ostensibly Antigonus and his son Demetrius Poliocertes hope to
reunify Alexander's collapsing empire but for their own
purposes. Antigonus also controls parts of Greece, Asia Minor
sets himself up in Thrace.
clashes eventually occur as each tries to encroach on the
other's territory. Ptolemy annexes Phoenicia to his possessions
and places garrisons in the Phoenician port cities. Antigonus
too decides to enlarge his territory and set himself up as king
of Asia Minor.
successful wars in Babylonia, Antigonus easily takes over the
cities of Phoenicia but meets with firm resistance from Tyre.
Seventeen years have passed since Alexander took Tyre and the
city has recovered rapidly. Antigonus has few ships as Ptolemy
is holding all Phoenician vessels and their crews in Egypt, so
he decides to build a fleet of his own. He camps before Tyre,
summons all the kings of the Phoenician cities and the viceroys
of Syria and demands them to assist him in building ships.
blockades Tyre by land. He establishes three shipyards, one at
Tripolis, one at Byblos, one at Sidon. Diodorus Siculus records
that Antigonus collects wood-cutters, sawyers and shipwrights
from all regions and has wood carried from the mountains of
Lebanon to the sea. Eight thousand men are employed to cut and
saw the timber; one thousand pairs of draught animals are used
to transport it. "This mountain range", Diodorus (19.58.3-5)
writes, "extends along the territory of Tripolis, Byblos and
Sidon and is covered with cedar and cypress trees of wonderful
beauty and size." We thus have a description of the extent of
the luxuriant forests covering the mountains of Lebanon about
two thousand three hundred years ago.
After a siege
of fifteen months, Tyre is taken by Antigonus. He allows
Ptolemy's garrison to leave and establishes his own in the city.
In order to
enhance their personal prestige, Alexander's successors strike
their own coins. On the obverse of his early silver coinage,
Ptolemy has engraved the head of the newly deified Alexander
with the sacred ram's horns of Ammon and an elephant headdress.
Alexander's name, not his, appears on the reverse of his coins.
On the coins
of Seleucus, Alexander is portrayed as the god Dionysus wearing
a helmet covered with panther skin adorned with a bull's ear and
his turn presents on his coins the diademed head of Alexander,
deified, wearing the sacred horns of Ammon. When Alexander
conquered Egypt, he was hailed by the high-priest of Ammon as
the son of the god and Alexander's generals are determined to
let no one forget it.
In 305 B.C.
Antigonus and his son Demetrius assume the title of king.
Ptolemy, Cassander, Lysimachus and Seleucus react to the
challenge by doing the same. Henceforth the effigies of these
men, wearing the Macedonian diadem, appear on their gold and
silver coins. Their patron gods appear on the reverse. This
ushurs in the age of royal portraiture.
The battle of
lpsus in Phrygia in 301, called the "battle of the kings",
signals the great military clash between Alexander's generals.
The war elephant plays an important role in the outcome of this
battle and is the symbol of military strength. The armies of
Seleucus and Lysimachus with one hundred and fifty elephants cut
off the infantry of Antigonus, left mortally wounded on the
Notwithstanding, his son Demetrius rules Phoenicia until 287
when it once again passes back to Ptolemy. It remains a
dependency of the Ptolemies for nearly seventy years. In the
year 285 Alexander's empire is neatly divided between three of
his former generals, Ptolemy in Egypt, Seleucus in Syria,
Lebanon and Palestine, and Lysimachus in Thrace.
At his death
at the age of eight-four Ptolemy leaves behind him a well
organized kingdom and the great library at Alexandria. He is
succeeded by his son, Ptolemy 11 Philadelphus (285-246).
lug of war between Ptolemies and Seleucids over Phoenicia, Syria
and Palestine also results in great cultural changes in the
region. Phoenician is discarded as a literary language and is
replaced by Greek. Greek religious practices and beliefs take
root but at the same time a Phoenician god travels south to
Egypt and is honored with great pomp in Alexandria.
Byblos is the
center for the worship of Adonis, a youth of great beauty, loved
by Aphrodite. In legendary tradition, Adonis is hunting the wild
boar one day in the company of Aphrodite at Afka, the source of
a river high up in the mountains of Lebanon. The boar turns on
him and gores his thigh. Adonis dies of the wound as his blood
flows into the river turning the waters red and the anemones in
the river valley scarlet. Aphrodite appeals to Zeus, king of the
gods, to bring her lover back to life. Zeus pities the youth and
allows him to pass part of the year on earth, the other part
underground in Hades. His death is mourned annually at Byblos.
He returns in the spring time to the upper world and there is
great rejoicing. Adonis in Phoenician means "lord" and is the
title given to the young god of vegetation.
Greek poet born in Syracuse c. 315 B.C., lived in Alexandria in
the time of Ptolemy if Philadelphus. In his Idyll 15 he
describes how the Festival of Adonis is celebrated in the city.
On the first day a great procession forms as women and children
pour out into the crowded streets to watch. Adonis has come back
to life for a brief reunion with Aphrodite and there is great
rejoicing. The second day is one of mourning as the women bewail
the god's departure once again for the underworld.
Adonis is represented by a graceful statue reclining on a silver
couch in a temporary bower ornamented with birds and cupids. He
is portrayed as a beautiful youth and the women cluster around
him as he is carried through the streets in the procession. The
crowd enters the royal palace as part of the ceremony is
performed there. Praises are sung to Queen Berenice, the mother
of Philadelphus and ArsinoŽ, his sister-wife, one way of
eulogizing the family of Ptolemy who patronize the festival.
On the second
day the women lament the departure of the youthful god. At the
end of the festival the statue of Adonis is carried outside the
city and flung into the sea amidst the wailing and weeping of
The years roll
descendants of Ptolemy rule at Alexandria, one after the other.
In Syria a line of Seleucid kings, usurpers and imposters alike,
sit on the throne of Antioch.
king Antiochus III the Great (223-187) makes Phoenicia a
battlefield in his wars against the Ptolemies. Antiochus III
drives the forces of Ptolemy IV Philopator out of Syria, takes
Tyre and Acre (Ptolemais) and even threatens Egypt. In the
following years the cities of Phoenicia pass back and forth
between the two powers. In 196 B.C. Phoenicia and Coele Syria
(the Bekaa valley) pass into the possession of the Seleucid
kings. The Phoenician cities welcome the change, for the
establishment and commercial expansion of Alexandria is a threat
to their commerce.
in 1897 of several painted funerary stelae in a garden south of
Sidon point to the presence of Greek mercenaries in the armies
of the Seleucids during the second century B.C. These soldiers
of fortune from the Greek mainland and cities of Asia Minor died
here while on active duty and were laid to rest forever in
foreign land. The stelae today are exposed in the Archaeological
monarchy is now in a state of chronic civil war. In the struggle
to seize the throne between the usurper Tryphon and Antiochus
VII Sidetes during the latter part of the second century B.C.,
the situation becomes so unbearable that merchants of Beirut
desert the city and open commercial establishments on the Greek
island of Delos where they conduct a flourishing business.
But in the
West the rise of Rome presents a danger. The Italian wars of
91-83 B.C. keep the Romans at home. The chaotic conditions in
Syria permit Tigranes 11 the Great, king of Armenia, to overrun
Cappadocia and expel one of the last feeble representatives of
the Seleucid monarchy. By 83 B.C. Tigranes sits on the throne at
Antioch and his frontier extends to Mount Lebanon.
In 69 B.C. the
Roman general Lucullus arrives in the East, crosses the
Euphrates in pursuit of Tigranes and invades Armenia. However
his army does not support him so he withdraws to Asia Minor.
replaces Lucullus in 66 B.C. Syria is taken out of the hands of
the Seleucids once and for all on the ground that they have
virtually ceased to rule. Pompey turns the districts of the
Seleucid territory, including Phoenicia, Syria and Palestine
into a new province named "Syria". Although this political move
consolidates Roman authority in the East and increases the
annual revenue of the Roman treasury, in return a measure of
security is given to the peoples of the region that they had not
enjoyed since the conquests of Alexander. Anarchy and piracy is
brought under control and the cities of Phoenicia turn to the
sea and trade.
Review by Nigel Pollard
Grainger's second book, Hellenistic Phoenicia, follows
remarkably closely on the heels of his first, The Cities of
Seleukid Syria (Oxford University Press, 1990), and deals with
the same region and the same period. Both deal with the impact
of Graeco-Macedonian expansion into the Near-East. While in his
earlier volume, G. dealt with the imposition of an entirely new
Graeco-Macedonian urban network on Syria, in this second book he
considers the manner in which the cities of Phoenicia, which
existed and partook of a distinctive culture before the arrival
of Alexander, survived through Macedonian conquest and Ptolemaic
and Seleucid rule.
Introduction, G. refers to three important themes. The first is
the Phoenician cities' "methods of survival, the compromises
they made to do so, and their varying responses to Greek and
Macedonian power." The second theme is the fascinating issue of
the cultural relationship between Phoenician and
Graeco-Macedonian. To what degree did Phoenicia preserve a
distinctive cultural identity? Does the concept of "Hellenistic
Phoenicia" have any meaning at all beyond the purely geographic
and chronological definition? The final theme is the economy of
Phoenicia in the Hellenistic period, a question raised by the
reputation of Phoenicians as traders.
organisation of the book is generally chronological rather than
thematic, and given the extremely limited nature of the evidence
G. is dealing with, this tends to weaken his ability to tackle
these key problems. However, this arrangement works well enough
for a study of the political and military impact between the
Graeco-Macedonians and Phoenicians. 360-287 B.C.was a period of
tremendous upheaval in Phoenicia, with the revolt of Sidon
against Achaemenid rule in 345 B.C. and its subsequent
destruction (though G. suggests, sensibly enough, that the
latter was not as severe as implied by Diodorus' account) and
the arrival of Alexander in 333-2 B.C.G. illustrates the varied
responses of the Phoenician cities to Alexander. The ruler of
Aradus submitted, the king of Sidon was overthrown (perhaps by
Alexander or perhaps by his own people) and replaced by a
pro-Macedonian (and perhaps more popular) appointee. Tyre, of
course, resisted and was captured after a prolonged siege.
Alexander is supposed to have executed 2000 leading citizens but
maintained the king in power, and G. suggests (p.36-7) that he
showed a preference for monarchs and popular control, as opposed
to some form of oligarchy, which the 2000 executed men may have
represented. After the siege of Tyre, no Phoenician city seems
to have resisted occupation, despite the shifting control of the
area by Ptolemaic and Antigonid/Seleucid armies in the following
decades. G. suggests (p.50-51) that the sacks of Sidon and Tyre
had taught the value of cooperation and compromise with
287-225 B.C.saw the Ptolemies gain and maintain control of the
cities (except for Aradus), and the disappearance of the
Phoenician monarchies. G. suggests (p.58) that in some cases the
depositions were carried out by Graeco-Macedonian rulers because
the kings had failed to change sides swiftly enough in the
period of rapidly changing hegemony early in the century. They
were replaced by nominally republican constitutions of "the
Tyrians" and "the Sidonians," with epigraphic formulae (in
Greek) suggesting similarities to the boule and demos
combination of contemporary Greek cities in the area. Little is
known about civic magistrates or the franchise, and the only
possible expression of something untypical of Hellenistic cities
in general is the use of the Greek term dikastes for a Sidonian
magistrate in an inscription, a usage which may reflect the
Phoenician title shofet (p.65-6; 81). However, just as in
Seleucid northern Syria, (p.66) "real power, military power lay
in the hands of the king, Ptolemaic or Seleukid." Thus there is
little evidence of any major political distinction between the
"Phoenician" cities and the "Greek" foundations of the
gained control of Phoenicia early in the second century, but
from late in that same century there is evidence of increased
assertion of local independence in the Phoenician cities as
royal control broke down. This phenomenon occurred in other
geographically marginal areas of the Seleucid kingdom too,
notably those controlled by the Palmyrene, Ituraean and Emesene
neighbours of Phoenicia. As before the Macedonian conquest, in
Phoenicia this independence focused on the autonomy of
individual cities, not some wider political and cultural entity
of that name.
provides a good survey and discussion of the limited evidence
regarding the political histories of the cities of Hellenistic
Phoenicia in the Hellenistic period. But what of his second
theme, that of cultural identity? Regarding the violence and
shifting control of the period 360-287 B.C.G. raises the
pessimistic possibility (p.51) that the "cultural heritage (of
the Phoenician cities) was also surely mutilated beyond repair,
leaving an impoverishment which Greek culture could hope to
fill." As noted above, there is little to distinguish the
Phoenician cities from "Greek" Hellenistic cities in terms of
political situation and institutions. Likewise the ruling
classes are known to have engaged in Greek philosophy, Greek
athletics and to have set up inscriptions in Greek. In contrast,
Grainger refers us to sites away from the major urban centres,
such as the cult centre of Astarte at Wasta and the rural
community and cult centre of Umm elAmed. The former (p.78)
"remains resolutely local, Phoenician and traditional" in terms
of the names of worshippers, the languages they employed and the
cult symbolism employed. The latter (p.81-82) includes
inscriptions in Phoenician (and only in Phoenician), and,
according to Grainger, the material culture such as pottery
shows little evidence of external influence, except for imported
Rhodian amphorae. "Yet of Hellenization there is no sign" (p.81)
he claims of Umm el-Amed. Examination of the excavation report
suggests that this assertion is an unfortunate
over-generalization. Certainly the inscriptions are Phoenician,
and the courtyard plans of the temples on the site owe much more
to Near Eastern antecedents than to contemporary Greek planning.
However, the details of those temples, such as the architectural
mouldings and the forms of column capitals and bases show very
strong Greek influences. As G. indicates, there are fragments of
imported Rhodian amphorae. But the report indicates that there
were significant quantities of characteristically Hellenistic
black slipped wares and some red-slipped "Hellenistic Pergamene"
(Eastern Sigillata). On a more fundamental level, the bulk of
the pottery from the site, which the excavators suggest was of
local production and which G. dismisses as "the usual local
type," displays strong evidence of the influence of the wider
Hellenistic world. The forms of most of those vessels, incurved
rim bowls, everted rim bowls, fish-plates, fusiform unguentaria
and even a lagynos and an amphoriskos, would be at home at just
about any site in the Hellenistic world. Certainly these are not
"Phoenician" in origin. The inhabitants of the site may not have
been importing much pottery from Greece, but local potters were
copying shapes from Greece and elsewhere in the Hellenistic
world. The significance, nature and chronology of this
"Hellenization" of the material culture of the site are all open
to dispute, but it deserves more careful consideration than G.
gives them. This tends to weaken the dichotomy between the
"Hellenized elite culture" of the urban centres and the
supposedly "more traditional" culture of the rural population.
one must take issue with some of G.'s comments regarding what
one might describe as "pan-Semitic" cultural sympathies (such as
his description, on p.145 of Tyre and the Jews under John
Hyrcanus as "both-self-consciously Semitic"), which manifested
themselves as occasional political cooperation between
Phoenicians, Jews and Ituraeans in the late Hellenistic period.
The evidence of such cooperation is slim enough, and there is
plenty of evidence for conflict between "Semites" too, as G.
himself documents (cf. p.153f., between Phoenicians and
Ituraeans). What cooperation existed surely was based on
immediate and practical considerations. Even if those
responsible for policy-making in Phoenician cities at that time
(the "hellenized" urban elite discussed above) had any
conception of themselves as "Semitic," surely it was as
Phoenician or Tyrian rather than "Semitic" in any general sense
which included Jews and Ituraeans too.
topic considered in the book is the economy of Hellenistic
Phoenicia. Of course, Phoenicians are, and were, known as
traders, but at a more basic level it might be interesting to
consider the contribution of local agricultural resources to the
development of Hellenistic Phoenicia. Unfortunately there is
little evidence. We do not have a clear idea of the rural
hinterland controlled by the individual cities at specific
times, and we lack archaeological survey data. However, G. does
marshal some of the scattered evidence for the rural economy,
including olive oil production at Umm el-Amed and Sarepta
(p.67-69) and the possible Phoenician involvement in the
development of villages in the hinterland (p.114). For the most
part G. focuses on trade and traders, since that was how
Phoenicians appeared to the Greeks and Romans to whom we owe
most of our evidence. Much of what G. says is reasonable.
However, when he tries to make a case for the Phoenicians as the
developers of trade routes eastwards in the Achaemenid and
Hellenistic periods, to the Red Sea, Arabia and India, by way of
Syria and the Euphrates, he does seem to be stretching some very
tenuous evidence too far. If Phoenicians were important in trade
east along the Euphrates, one might expect to find evidence of
their presence at Dura Europos, for example, along with the
Palmyrenes who are attested there, albeit in the later
Hellenistic and Roman period.
In 64 BC
Phoenicia was incorporated into the Roman province of Syria
though Aradus, Sidon, and Tyre retained self-government. Berytus
(Beirut), relatively obscure to this point, rose to prominence
by virtue of Augustus' grant of Roman colonial status and by the
lavish building program financed by Herod the Great (and in turn
by his grandson and great-grandson). Under the Severan dynasty
(A.D. 193-235) Sidon, Tyre, and probably Heliopolis (Baalbek)
also received colonial status.
embracing Christianity protected the area during the later Roman
and Byzantine periods (c. AD 300-634). A 6th-century Christian
group fleeing persecution in Syria settled in what is now
northern Lebanon, absorbed the native population, and founded
the Maronite Church.
In 608-609 the
Persian king Khosrow II pillaged Syria and Lebanon and
reorganized the area into a new satrapy, excluding only
Phoenicia Maritima. Between 622 and 629 the Byzantine emperor
Heraclius mounted an offensive and restored Syria-Lebanon to his
empire. This success was short-lived; in the 630s Muslim Arabs
conquered the old Phoenician that cities offered only token
resistance to the invader.
geographical location of Phoenicia at the cross-roads of the
Eastern Mediterranean made it a fertile ground for invading
armies as indicated earlier. Hence, the Phoenicians were
influenced in many ways by the invaders. Also, the Phoenicians
as a people did not remain pure Semites. With this in mind,
references to individuals as Phoenicians need to be seen in this
Back to Main menu
project by History World International
World History Center