Thayer Watkins

The Economy of the Phoenicians

The Phoenicians; explorers, traders and inventors of the alphabet, were a Semitic people who arose to greatness from the coastal region of the eastern Mediterranean. They colonized the rim of the Mediterranean, particularly the North African section. They were finally subdued by the Romans but not without vigorous resistance that at one time threatened the city of Rome itself.

The Canaanites, of which the Phoenicaians are a branch, weere Semitic and probably came from Mesopotamia or Arabia. They must have come to the eastern Mediterranean very early and apparently without conquest. By the fourteenth century B.C. they were calling themselves in letters written in Addadian, kinanu; i.e., Canaanites. The name Phoenicians was given to them by the Greeks in reference to the purple red dye they traded. The Romans called the Carthaginians Poeni, a Latinized version of the Greek Phoenikes, hence the term Punic for the Carthaginians.

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