Etymology: The name Phoenician, through Latin punicus, comes from Greek phoînix, often suggested as "Tyrian purple, crimson; murex" (from phoinos "blood red"); people who were famous as crimson and purple dyers and whom the Greeks called Phoinikes. As mentioned above, Phoenicia in Latin is ‘Punicus’, therefore, Rome‘s wars with Carthage(a former province of Phoenicia) are called the Punic Wars.
The Phoenicians were an ancient Semitic people who settled on the eastern Mediterranean coast, on what is today Lebanon, and they erected a prosperous and influential civilization. The main cities were Tyre, Sidon, and Byblos, which were city-states, independent from one another. This civilization was an enterprising maritime trading culture that spread across the Mediterranean between the period of 1550 BC to 300 BC, settling and founding cities on the North African and Spanish coasts such as Carthage (in 814) and Malaca.
The Phoenicians often traded by means of a galley, a man-powered sailing vessel and are credited with the invention of the bireme. The Phoenicians were also the first state level society to make extensive use of the alphabet, and the Canaanite-Phoenician alphabet is generally believed to be the ancestor of all modern alphabets. They spoke the Phoenician language, which belongs to the group of Canaanite languages in the Semitic language family.
The Phoenicians were amongst the greatest traders of their time and owed a great deal of their prosperity to trade. The Phoenicians’ initial trading partners were the Greeks, with whom they used to trade wood, slaves, glass and a Tyrian Purple powder. This powder was used by the Greek elite to color clothes and other garments and was not available anywhere else. Without trade with the Greeks they would not be known as Phoenicians, as the word for Phoenician is derived from the Ancient Greek word phoinikèia meaning "purple".
In the centuries following 1200 BC, the Phoenicians formed the major naval and trading power of the region. Phoenician trade was founded on Tyrian Purple, a violet-purple dye derived from the Murex sea-snail’s shell, once profusely available in coastal waters of the eastern Mediterranean Sea but exploited to local extinction. From elsewhere they obtained other materials, perhaps the most important being silver from Iberian Peninsula and tin from Great Britain, the latter of which when smelted with copper (from Cyprus) created the durable metal alloy bronze.
The Phoenicians were polytheistic, believing in many gods such as Adonis, Baal Saphon, Isis, Osiris, and Shed.
Cyrus the Great conquered Phoenicia in 539 BC. Phoenicia was divided into four vassal kingdoms by the Persians: Sidon, Tyre, Arwad, and Byblos, which prospered first, furnishing fleets for the Persian kings. However, Phoenician influence declined after this. It is also reasonable to suppose that much of the Phoenician population migrated to Carthage and other colonies following the Persian conquest.