Byblos, Sidon and Tyre

Phoenician Gebal, Jbeil, Saida, Sour






At the dawn of history, Byblos was just a sleepy fishing village on the sandy shore where the Lebanon Mountains came down to the Mediterranean Sea.  This was the first home of the Phoenician people.  World-famous cedars of Lebanon grew on the sides of these mountains and provided not only excellent wood for boats but also something valuable to trade with others, particularly the Egyptians.

When sea trade began booming, the Phoenicians hung up their fishing gear and never looked back.  As they grew, they expanded to Sidon, about 47 miles (77 km) south of Byblos on the coast, and then to the island of Tyre which was 23 miles (38 km) farther south.  All three of these cities would become famous in their own right, and we find them mentioned often by ancient historians.


Byblos and the sea     [click to enlarge]

The Phoenicians would also give rise to other cities and colonies over the years, but those are given attention in other sections.

The Phoenicians quickly became very wealthy, but remained small in numbers.  The neighboring lands contained larger populations and had huge armies.  Marching and conquering seemed to be a way of life in those days.  Privacy and secrecy were the Phoenicians' protection.

They had many things to protect, including their trade routes and shipbuilding techniques.  But very high on the list was protecting their wealth and their lives.  For this reason they avoided showy public display and tried to blend in with the people around them.  This shielded them to some degree from people who wanted to take their gold and other valuables by force.

This privacy carried over to their cities as well.  Though the cities are seen throughout history as working together on almost every enterprise (i.e., Solomon contracted with Tyre, knowing this would bring him Sidon's woodcutters) they broadcast a public image of being separate cities.

For this reason, ancient writers would refer to one of these three cities, even though they often were including the others.  For example, the Egyptians first came in contact with Byblos, so even when Tyre became the dominant city they still referred to their Phoenician trade as being with Byblos, and they called the ships from Tyre the "Byblos ships."  The Hebrew scribes did exactly the opposite, referring to Phoenicians as "Sidonians".

If that sounds confusing, it is probably not entirely by accident.  The Phoenicians had ample opportunity to clarify the situation with their customers, but chose not to do so.  Even though they clearly coordinated their actions behind the scenes, they tried hard not to let that show.

As an example of this, you probably know people from Tyre started a colony known as Carthage.  When the Phoenicians at Tyre were in a partnership with Persia, and the Persians wanted their help to attack Carthage, the people of Tyre declined, saying only that "they had a treaty" with this city they had created.  That was like a father saying he would not attack his son because "they had a treaty."  A bit circumspect, but that was the Phoenician way.

The Phoenicians no doubt had a name for themselves, even if it was just "our people" or "our society."  But, as with all other things Phoenician, they never let anyone know.  It remained to the Greeks to give them the name "Phoenicians."  Chapters 2 and 3 of Phoenician Secrets: Exploring the Ancient Mediterranean explores the origin of the Phoenicians in greater detail.


Osiris Egyptian God at Byblos

Contents of This Site



Ancient Ships and Sea Trade

Carthage, Hannibal

Punic Wars, Peace

Ancient Mediterranean

Egypt, Pyramids & Cedar

Sea Peoples

The Minoans

Solomon's Temple

Templars in Lebanon



Phoenicians Images

Cedars of Lebanon




Adonis Legend

Aphrodite Legend

Isis and Osiris Legend

Europa Legend

Elissa Legend

Phoenicians Home Page

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