Phoenician civilization was an enterprising maritime trading culture that spread across the Mediterranean during the first millennium BC, between the period of 1200 BC to 900 BC. Though ancient boundaries of such city-centered cultures fluctuated, the city of Tyre seems to have been the southernmost. Sarepta (modern day Sarafand) between Sidon and Tyre, is the most thoroughly excavated city of the Phoenician homeland. The Phoenicians often traded by means of a galley, a man-powered sailing vessel. They were the first civilization to create the bireme. There is still debate on the subject of whether the Canaanites and Phoenicians were different peoples or not.
There is also some uncertainty about to what extent the Phoenician peoples viewed themselves as one ethnic people. Their civilization was organized in city-states, similar to ancient Greece. Each city-state was an independent unit politically, although they could come into conflict, be dominated by another city-state, or collaborate in leagues or alliances. Tyre and Sidon were the most powerful of the Phoenician states in the Levant.
The Phoenicians spoke the Phoenician language, counted among the Canaanite languages in the Semitic language family. The Phoenician alphabet is the ancestor of virtually all modern alphabets. Through their maritime trade, the Phoenicians spread the use of the alphabet to North Africa and Europe where the alphabet was adopted by the Greeks. In addition to their many inscriptions, the Phoenicians, contrary to some reports, wrote many books, which have not survived. Evangelical Preparation by Eusebius of Caesarea quotes extensively from Philo of Byblos and Sanchuniathon. Furthermore, the Phoenician Punic colonies of North Africa continued to be a source of knowledge about the Phoenicians. Saint Augustine knew at least a smattering of Punic and occasionally uses it to explain cognate words found in Hebrew. The name of his mother, Saint Monica, is said to be of Punic origin as well.
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