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Cengiz Rusan

5/12/17

Period 4

Mr. Asmussen

Humanities

Phoenician Alphabet

The Phoenicians were a group of traders who lived around the Mediterranean. They were very

specialized in the skill of trading and the skill of navigation. The Phoenicians were very big traders, it is

what their economy was based on. The Phoenicians contributed many things to civilizations in the

Western area of the time, such as Greece. One thing that they contributed was the Phoenician alphabet.

The country of Greece, for example, took the alphabet of the Phoenicians and had changed it to fit their

needs. How did the Phoenician alphabet contribute to other civilizations and societies? The Phoenician

alphabet contributed to other civilizations and societies by giving them a different method of record

keeping, gave other societies a new alphabet that they could freely transform in their own way, and

made other languages easier to create based off the Phoenician alphabet.

First, Phoenicia is the name given to the city-states that thrived on the eastern shore of the

Mediterranean Sea and were identified as trade centers in ancient times. The Phoenicians created a

writing system that was developed by the North Semitic alphabet, and the Phoenician traders spread

this alphabet across the Mediterranean region. Many people know that the Phoenician alphabet is the

probable ancestor of the Greek alphabet, which couldve led it to be the ancestor of many other Western

languages. The Phoenicians had lived from 1500 to 300 B.C. in the Mediterranean region, more

specifically, the coast of Levant. The Phoenicians occupied the coast of Levant, which is the eastern

region of the Mediterranean. The main cities of Phoenicia were Tyre, Sidon, Byblos, and Arwad. Each
city had a rivalry with another, which also means that the cities did not form into a country, they just

represented a unity of traders of Phoenicians. In the 8th century B.C, The Greeks and Phoenicians

founded trading posts across the Mediterranean, which helped anyone who studied the Phoenicians

understand their culture more. What led the Phoenicians to be very successful was that they were

experts in navigation and trading. During the Late Bronze Age, the Phoenician cities of Byblos, Tyre,

and Ugarit were made to be trading hubs that connected to Egypt, the city of Mycenae in Greece, and

Mesopotamia. Over the years, as far as the 6th century B.C, the alphabet created by the Phoenicians

had virtually spread to the whole Western part of the world during this time. In the 9th to 6th centuries,

B.C, Phoenician mariners established their first trading system to encompass the entire Mediterranean

region from modern day Lebanon to many other Western colonies such as the country of Cyprus,

Carthage in modern day Tunisia, Malta in present day Mdina and Rabat, Sicily, Sardinia in present day

Italy, Tangier, through the Straits of Gibraltar, a strait that connects the Atlantic Ocean to the

Mediterranean Sea, whilst also separating Gibraltar and Peninsular Spain from Lixus in modern day

Morocco, Ceuta in Africa, Cadiz in modern day Spain.

Next, the alphabet that the Phoenicians created gave other civilizations and societies a different

method of record keeping. This method of record keeping was used during trading. During trading, the

Phoenician people would start to record things down, and because their clients did not understand their

language, they were highly motivated to learn the way of the Phoenician alphabet. The clients of the

Phoenician traders noticed that the Phoenician method was much easier than any other method, therefore

it was adopted by many other cultures and languages in the Western world. The Phoenician alphabet

was developed around 1400 to 1250 B.C, no one knows for sure exactly when the Phoenician alphabet

was created and fully developed. The alphabet was developed to communicate with the cultures and

languages of their trading partners, also known as clients.


Furthermore, the Phoenicians contributed their alphabet to other civilizations by allowing them

to change the alphabet to their own way. The civilizations that did use their alphabet may have changed

it a lot, with many differences, or may not have changed much, leaving very minor differences. The

Phoenician alphabet is known to be the ancestor of virtually every language in the Western world. No

other alphabet could have replaced the Phoenician alphabet because this alphabet has 22 letters, all

based on sound, which does not include cuneiform symbols and Egyptian hieroglyphics Many other

languages in the Western world did include cuneiform or the use of Egyptian hieroglyphics. Some

languages that the Phoenician alphabet is the ancestor of are the Paleo-Hebrew, Aramaic, Sogdian,

Arabic, and Coptic alphabets. All of these languages are based in the Middle East. The Brahmic script,

in India, is confirmed to have derived from the Aramaic script, which then derived from the Phoenician

alphabet. The Phoenician alphabet was such a big hit in the world, that in the 9th century, B.C, the

alphabet had gone as far as a city in Asia Minor by the name of Cicilia. The Phoenician alphabet was

widely received and was easily and readily adapted in Greece, and possibly many other countries that

had adapted with the Phoenician alphabet.

Lastly, the Phoenician alphabet contributed to other civilizations by making other languages

easier to create based off the Phoenician alphabet. Many countries had already switched to the

Phoenician method of trading, and many countries had already used the Phoenician alphabet to change

their languages. In ancient times, the Phoenician alphabet seemed like it was the easiest to master and

learn because there is only 22 letters. It uses sounds to create words, not cuneiform or Egyptian

hieroglyphics. Many cultures that used the Phoenician alphabet to create their own languages decided to

stop with the cuneiform writings and their Egyptian hieroglyphics and switch to actual letters that are

pronounced with sounds, not drawings. It is a much easier and quicker way to write things down. Many

cultures added their own twist when creating their alphabet using the Phoenician alphabet. The

Phoenician alphabet had consisted of letters that are shaped in angular and straight forms. Many

languages, such as the Arabic language and Brahmin script, decided to use other forms, not angular or
straight forms, but instead, forms that consisted of curves. One language, the Greek language, in fact,

made their own language using the Phoenician alphabet, but also sometimes used the writing form of

Boustrophedon, which is the way of writing one line normally, and every other line is written backwards

and reversed, or even mirrored. This style of writing seems to be very unique to the ancient Greeks.

Boustrophedon was used to cover a wall in ancient Greece. The Latin works also used boustrophedon,

but it is coined reverse boustrophedon because this style of writing consists of the text in every other

line to be rotated 180 degrees, and not mirrored, which is contrary to the regular boustrophedon.

In conclusion, the Phoenician alphabet led to many languages being developed all across the

Western world for many cultures that existed. To the people of this time, the Phoenician alphabet was

easier to memorize and learn. This led to the spark of creating languages based off of the alphabet that

the Phoenicians created primarily. The Phoenician were a very smart and innovative people. They had

created a language that quite virtually blew up all across the Mediterranean Sea region. Had the

Phoenician people not been traders, the ancient and modern worlds way of writing may be completely

different, for example, ancient documents would possibly be nearly impossible for scholars of the

modern world to translate. The Phoenician alphabet contributed to other civilizations and societies by

giving them a different method of record keeping, gave other societies a new alphabet that they could

freely transform in their own way, and made other languages easier to create based off the Phoenician

alphabet. Some languages went as far as using methods in their artwork to make it more unique to to

other cultures.

Sources:

1. "Phoenician Alphabet." Phoenician Alphabet Origin. 2004-2017. Web. 14 May 2017.

<http://phoenician.org/alphabet.htm>.
2. "The Phoenician Alphabet." PHOENICIA AND THE ALPHABET. Web. 14 May 2017.

<http://maryourmother.net/Alphabet.html>.
3. Gore, Rick. Who Were the Phoenicians? National Geographic, n.d. Web. 16 May 2017.

<http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/features/world/asia/lebanon/phoenicians-text.html>.
4. Author: Department of Ancient Near Eastern Art. "The Phoenicians (1500300 B.C.) |

Essay | Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History | The Metropolitan Museum of Art." The Met's

Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. Metropolitan Museum of Art, n.d. Web. 14 May 2017.

<http://metmuseum.org/toah/hd/phoe/hd_phoe.htm>.
5. The Editors of Encyclopdia Britannica. "Phoenician Alphabet." PEncyclopdia

Britannica. Encyclopdia Britannica, Inc., 19 Apr. 2017. Web. 14 May 2017.

<https://www.britannica.com/topic/Phoenician-alphabet>.
6. "Phoenician Alphabet." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 14 May 2017.

<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phoenician_alphabet>.
7. "Boustrophedon." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. Web. 14 May 2017.

<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boustrophedon>.