The Phoenicians: Traders of the World.
, the Semitic-speaking Phoenicians lived and prospered on the Mediterranean coast, north of Palestine. Their two chief cities were Tyre and Sidon. They gained their fame as sailors, and traders. They occupied a string of cities along the Mediterranean coast, in what is today Lebanon and Syria. The coastal land that they inhabited, though narrow, was fertile and supported farming. Still, the resourceful Phoenicians became best know for their manufacturing and trading skills. They were accredited with making glass from coastal sand, and for extracting a widely admired purple dye called "Tyrian Purple" from a tiny sea snail. This color became their trademark, and eventually became the favorite color of royalty. Phoenicians also used papyrus from Egypt to make scrolls, or rolls of paper, for books. The words Bible and bibliography come from the Phoenician city of Byblos.
The Phoenicians traded with people all around the Mediterranean Sea. To promote trade, they set up colonies from North Africa, to Sicily, and to Spain. A colony is a territory set up and ruled by people from a distant land. Due to their sailing skills, the Phoenicians served as missionaries of civilization, bringing Eastern Mediterranean products and culture to less advanced peoples. A few Phoenician traders braved the stormy Atlantic, and sailed as far as England. There, they exchanged goods from their homelands for tin. About 600 B.C., one Phoenician expedition may have sailed down the .
Red Sea, and then followed the African coast around the southern tip. This historic voyage was forgotten for centuries. In the late 1400's, the Europeans claimed to be the first to make it around the southern tip of Africa.
Probably one of the Phoenicians greatest contributions to the world that would come after it, is their simplification of the alphabet. As merchants, they needed a simple alphabet to ease the burden of record keeping.