Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Peoples of the empire: The Scythians

Geographical definition and nomenclature
The term Scythian (O.P. Sakâ, also Gk. Sakai, Lat. Sacae) broadly glosses a number of ancient peoples who shared the culture of the Great Steppe such as it was in Classical antiquity and may have spoken closely-related languages.  They were spread over a very wide area:

• The Amyrgian Scythians or Sakâ haumavargâ ("haoma-drinking Scythians") lived in or about modern Uzbekistan. • The Orthocorybantians or Sakâ tigrakhaudâ ("pointed-hat Scythians") were north of Parthia in present Turkmenistan
• The Pausikoi or Apâ Sakâ ("water Scythians") appear to have been somewhat northeast of the Sakâ tigrakhaudâ.
• The Sakâ paradrayâ ("Scythians across the sea") lived north of the Black Sea in the modern Ukraine and part of Romania.  They were not part of the Persian empire.  These are the folk whom the Greeks referred to simply as Scythians (Skythoi), without qualification.

The Dahae (Dahâ) and Massagetae (*Mâh Sakâ?), who lived in what is now south-central Kazakhstan, are sometimes glossed as Scythian peoples, but for brevity's sake, I won't cover them here.  This history will attempt to treat the first four peoples.

Linguist Oswald Szemerényi regarded Skythoi and Sakâ as coming from different roots.  The former, he said, derived from an Indo-European root meaning "shoot" and reconstructed in the original Scythian as *Skuda, "archer" (to which he also related the name of Sogdia).  In the language of the Sakâ paradrayâ, this became *Skula, accounting for Herodotus' statement that the Royal Scythians (the chief tribe of the Sakâ paradrayâ) called themselves Skolotoi.  Szemerényi believed Sakâ came from an Iranian root meaning "roam," and was therefore an exonym given to them by the Persians.

There are two popular theories regarding Scythian origins:  One states that they branched off from the second-millennium BC Andronovo culture in the area of Central Asia northeast of modern Iran; the other has them develop from the Srubna culture, which occupied the land to the north of and between the Black and Caspian seas during the same period.

A competing - not so much theory as way of assessing the situation - states that the literate Greeks and Persians applied "Skythoi" and "Sakâ" so broadly to distinct Steppe peoples as to make trying to pin down a singular origin for them futile by nature.  It is true that Europeans would continue to apply the term "Scythian" to people who came out of the same regions as the Classical Scythians many centuries later, and such indiscriminate use may have already occurred in our period.

Archaeologically speaking, the Scythians we discuss belong to what is called the Scytho-Siberian culture, a very widespread set of material cultural practices (almost certainly shared by completely unrelated peoples) that include such things as a highly equestrian way of life, kurgan tombs, the B-shaped composite bow, the akinakes sword, styles of artwork and so on.

The Scythians along the Black Sea had as their immediate northerly neighbors farming people whom Herodotus lumps with the Scythians; these may be the Chernoles culture, a possibly proto-Slavic archaeological group who appear to have come under Scythian domination.  Herodotus devotes much of book IV to the customs of the Black Sea Scythians.  He says that they blinded those whom they took as slaves and forced them to churn butter.

The Royal Scythians seem to have enjoyed a period of power in West Asia.  Herodotus reports that their king Madyes son of Protothyes defeated Cyaxares in battle (probably in the mid-seventh century) and subjected the Medes for 28 years, plundering many other lands besides, until Cyaxares hosted some of their nobles, got them drunk and, well, things didn't turn out so well for them.  They also took part in the coalition that destroyed the Assyrian empire at the end of the century.

According to Herodotus, Darius the Great attempted to conquer the Black Sea Scythians, an event dated to around 512.  He crossed the Bosphorus with a pontoon bridge, turned east and found nothing.  The Scythians waged a scorched earth campaign, fleeing before his army, destroying pastures and attacking his supply lines.  Darius wrote to their king Idanthyrsus a challenge to either fight or submit; Idanthyrsus replied that, as his people were nomads, he had no reason to do either, and only if Darius could find and try to destroy their fathers' kurgans could he expect a pitched battle.  With his men exhausted from the endless pursuit, Darius stopped at the Volga River, built some frontier fortresses and then left unsatisfied.

He had long since pacified the Sakâ tigrakhaudâ, who were apparently already subjects at the time of his ascension.  In his Behistun inscription, he states that they revolted along with the other provinces, probably around 520-519.  They had two chiefs, one of whom was killed and the other, named Skunkha, captured; Darius then appointed a new chief.  The pointed-hat Scythians are illustrated at Persepolis bearing clothing and a horse.  They are among the few people other than the Persians, Elamites and Medes who are armed, and some writers believe this fact indicates a degree of privilege in the imperial system.  Herodotus states that they made up the 10th tax district, together with the Medes and Paricanians, paying 450 talents yearly.

The Pausikoi or Apâ Sakâ enter into Classical history very rarely, but are mentioned as part of the 11th tax district, together with the Caspians, Pantimathi and Daritae, paying 200 talents.  They are probably the same people who appear in Hellenistic history as the Apasiakai (Lat. Apasiacae).

Ctesias attributed the conquest of the Amyrgian Scythians to Cyrus.  He believed that the Amyrgians were named for their king Amorges.  Personally I think the Persian etymology of "haoma-drinking" is more likely, but I'm only an amateur.  Ctesias said that Cyrus captured Amorges, whose wife Sparethra waged war and captured several high-ranking Persians.  The prisoners were exchanged and the Amyrgians allied with the Persians, fighting alongside them in Lydia.  Iranologist Alireza Shahbazi regarded Ctesias' overall narrative as containing so many errors "that it borders on fiction."  The name Amorges is not an invention, but it was a Persian name, that of a son of Pissuthnes the satrap of Lydia.

Scythians fought in both the 490 and 480 Persian invasions of Greece.  At Marathon, they were posted in the center of the battle line next to the Persians, and were able to withstand the hoplite charge (which was weakest at the center on this occasion).  In Xerxes' invasion, the Amyrgians served under the king's half-brother Hystaspes.  They fought both on land and as marines, thus were presumably present at Artemision and Salamis, and some were retained by Mardonius to fight at Plataia.  Herodotus calls the Scythians the best cavalry in the Persian army at the last battle.

The Black Sea Scythians grew wealthier during the fifth century in large part due to the slave trade from Central Asia to Europe.  Around the turn of the fourth century, King Ateas ascended to the throne of the Royal Scythians.  During the first half of the century, he centralized royal authority all along the north coast of the Black Sea.  In the 340s, he had a snippy diplomatic relationship with Philip of Macedon, which resulted in a battle and Ateas' death at modern Dobruja in 339.

Eastern Scythians fought at the Battle of Gaugamela in 331 as part of Bessus' cavalry.  In the same year, Alexander's governor of Thrace or Pontus (sources differ on this), Zopyrion, invaded the kingdom of Scythia for want of something better to do, laid a failed siege to Olbia and was killed while retreating.  In 329, an army from Scythia invaded Alexander's empire from the north, but was defeated at the Battle of Jaxartes near modern Tashkent.

The post-Classical history of the Scythian peoples is too complex to cover here.  In east and west, Scythian peoples continued on their various ways, but mostly disappeared over the centuries.  In the third century BC Scythia collapsed under pressure from Thracians, Celts and Sarmatians.  Eastern Scythians settled in Drangiana, creating Sakastan (modern Sīstān) during the early Arsacid period, while others settled in India to create the Indo-Scythian kingdom - all for naught; both have long since disappeared into the native populations.

One last note:  The Scythians are often said to have been the inspiration for the Amazons in Greek mythology.  This is an oversimplification of things.  There is evidence that Amazons were established in Greek myth well before contact with the Scythians.  It is true both that many Scythian women have been found buried with weapons and the Greeks have spoken of Scythian female warriors, and that late Archaic and Classical art often shows Amazons in Asiatic clothing.  On the other hand, other Greek art shows the Amazons in Greek men's tunics.  Herodotus regarded the Amazons and Scythians as separate peoples and believed the Sauromatians were a tribe of mixed Scythian and Amazon ancestry.  Most likely, the Greeks during the Archaic concluded that the Amazons were a Steppe people, or used the Scythians as models for later portrayals of their Amazons, because few other peoples in the world had such numbers of female warriors.

The Scythian language or languages are scarcely-attested from a handful of proper names of people and tribes and possibly a seventh-century inscription from Saqqez, Iran, recording what may be a reference to King Protothyes (as "Partitava"), a Scythian who married an Assyrian princess.  Most Western scholars regard Scythian as being Eastern Iranian, and part of a Scytho-Sarmatian group which gave rise to the language of the Alans and, in turn, modern Ossetian.  The better-attested Eastern Iranian languages of the later kingdoms of Khotan and Tumshuq in what is now western China are thought to be derived from Scythian as well, and are termed "Sakan."

Scythians were polytheists whom Herodotus says worshipped a seven-member pantheon:  Tabiti (whom he regards as the same as the Greek Hestia), Papaios (Zeus), Apia (Gaia), Goitosyros (Apollo), Argimpasa (Uranian Aphrodite), someone whom he calls Heracles, Agin (Ares) and, among the Royal Scythians, Thagimasadas (Poseidon).  The vagaries of interpretatio graeca must be kept in mind:  It's unlikely that these gods derive from the same sources as those whom Herodotus considers their Greek equivalents.

Tabiti, he says, was most important, but only Agin had temples (of a sort) dedicated to him:  In each district, bundles of sticks would be formed into a vast platform three eighths of a mile long and wide, with an akinakes in the middle representing the god himself; new wood was stacked on top as the older wood settled or broke down.

Animal sacrifices, mainly horses, were offered to various gods.  Animals were ritually strangled, the meat carved and boiled and part of it then cast on the ground (which reminds me somewhat of the Magian rite).  At the temples of Agin, a yearly sacrifice of sheep, goats, horses and enemy prisoners was performed.

The historian also states that a priestly caste of transvestites existed called the Enarei, blessed by Argimpasa to divine the future with strips of linden bark.  The name of the Sakâ haumavargâ suggests that they borrowed or retained the ancient Indo-Iranian practice of drinking haoma/soma at religious ceremonies.

Most Scythians wore a variant of the cavalry costume, featuring loose-fitting trousers rather than Medo-Persian tights, and a coat held closed by a belt.  Most art (with the exception of the Naqš-e Rostam reliefs) shows the coat as overlapping somewhat in the front.  At Pazyryk in Siberia, a Scytho-Siberian jacket was found made out of felt rather than woven cloth, and other sites have yielded felt stockings.  An abundance of sheep and goat wool, and the relative simplicity of making and working with felt, may have increased its appeal to the Steppe nomads.  These nomads, Asiatic Scythians included, also obtained and traded silk on the Silk Road of which they were a part.

The Sakâ tigrakhaudâ wore tiaras with very tall tapering peaks, probably treated felt or leather, or having an internal reinforcement.  At Persepolis and Behistun, they otherwise wear Medo-Persian costume, but at Naqš-e Rostam the one present is shown in normal Scythian garb, albeit with a tall hat.  Other Scythians wore less spectacular styles of tiara, though they were still usually more pointed than those worn by other peoples.

In most art, Scythians wear low shoes (which I would guess to be similar to Medo-Persian ones), but some pieces from the Black Sea area show pull-on boots that come up to above the ankle.

Use of the classic Central Asian recurved composite bow and the attendant gorytos is well-documented.  Arrowheads in the same trilobate style as the Persians and Greeks were used, as were leaf-shaped ones with extended sockets; these latter sometimes had a single recurved barb sticking off the socket.  Greek and Roman writers said that when going to war, Scythians dipped their arrows in a noxious substance composed of rotting viper corpses, blood and animal dung, the result of which was that even minor wounds would result in simultaneous poisoning and infection.

The Black Sea Scythians' iron swords could be larger than Achaemenid ones, some examples reaching up to two feet overall (almost as big as a Roman gladius) and often featuring loosely-curled antennae or horns on the pommel, though I confess I don't know the time period during which this sub-style evolved.  Otherwise, the small akinakes with the T-shaped pommel was common.  Swords and knives were still sometimes made of bronze.

Another distinctive Scythian weapon was the sagaris, a small-headed, tomahawk-like battleaxe.  The sagaris could be bronze or iron, and had a flared cutting edge, usually a long back spike and a thin straight handle.  Scythians also used spears and javelins which were much like those found elsewhere in the ancient world, with socketed, leaf-shaped iron points.

Scythian shields seem to have been commonly made of thin hide (I unfortunately have yet to find analyses of whether rawhide or tanned leather was used) densely woven through with sticks while wet; essentially like smaller versions of Achaemenid shields.  Various shapes were known from Pazyryk, and the famous Solokha comb shows one crescent and one which is a sideways rectangle.  The crescent seems to have been a very common shape from the Balkans through the Iranian plateau.

Body armor was usually made of scale.  Corslets were either of a simple tunic shape or modeled after the Greek tube-and-yoke thorax, and the Scytho-Siberians seem to have pioneered the use of scale neck guards.  Shields were also sometimes covered in scale.  In the fifth century, pointed leather caps covered with scale began to replace the earlier Kuban-type helmet, which was of solid bronze and fitted close to the head with a low browline (but no nasal guard).  Imported Greek helmets (in the Corinthian and derivative styles) also became popular at this time.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Peoples of the empire: The Sagartians

Geographical definition
The Sagartians (O.P. Aš-ša-kar-ti-ia) were nomadic herders whose range is uncertain but who are generally thought to have occupied northern Iran.  Stephanus of Byzantium (fl. sixth century AD) identifies a peninsula in the Caspian Sea as Sagartia.

Herodotus gives the Sagartians as a Persian tribe in I.125 but elsewhere treats them as a separate people.  If they lived to the north of Persia proper, then possibly they had either left Persia a long time earlier or had remained in the north when the Persians migrated to the southern Zagros.  Some scholars have connected the Sagartians with the Zi-kir-ta-a-a mentioned as residing in the northern Zagros in a late-eighth century BC inscription by Assyrian king Sargon II, but that doesn't necessarily clear things up since we don't know when the Persians arrived in the south.

In Herodotus I.125 they join Cyrus' rebellion against the Medes; thus they were a part of the Persian empire practically before it began.  A few decades later, they appear in the Behistun inscription as one of the rebellious provinces under a Tritantaechmes (Ciçantakhma), who claimed to be a descendant of Cyaxares.  In the summer of 521, Darius' Median general Takhmaspâda crushed the revolt.  Tritantaechmes was taken to the then Assyrian city of Erbil, ritually mutilated and crucified.

Although Darius calls Tritantaechmes' claim to the kingship of Sagartia a lie, he does not mention cutting out his tongue, which leads Lendering to speculate "that the Sagartian leader had indeed been a member of the Median royal house."  Due to the apparent placement of the Sagartians in northern Iran, some historians have speculated that they had political ties to the Medes as well as the Persians.

According to Lendering's analysis, the Sagartians were initially distinguished as their own satrapy.  At the time of Herodotus, they were in the 14th tax district, with the Drangians, Mycians, Thamanaeans, Utians and people banished to the islands of the Persian Gulf, who together paid six hundred silver talents yearly.  At the Persepolis apadana, the Sagartian delegation brings clothes and a bridled horse as tribute.

The Sagartians participated in Xerxes' invasion of Greece as cavalry with the Persians.  As Herodotus specifies that all cavalry were grouped with the infantry of their respective nations (with the exception of the Arabian camel-riders, who rode in the rear so as not to disturb the horses - Herodotus believed that horses were frightened of camels) it may be presumed that the Sagartians were also commanded by Otanes, Xerxes' father-in-law.  They therefore probably took part in the Battle of Plataea.

After Herodotus, no one writes of the Sagartians, though there is Stephanus' above-mentioned reference to a land called Sagartia a thousand years later.  Probably, other Greek writers did not distinguish the Sagartians from other Persian-speakers, and as our Old Persian corpus peters out in the later Achaemenid period, the evolution of distinctions made by Iranians among themselves ceases to be documented.  Most likely the Sagartians were reabsorbed by the Persians and other neighboring nations after the empire's fall.

Herodotus states that the Sagartians spoke Persian.  I know of no evidence contradicting this.

While I can't find anything specifically about Sagartian religion, their close association with both the Medes and the Persians makes it seem likely that their religious practices were similar to those practiced by these other Western Iranians.

At the Persepolis apadana (left, third from the top), the Sagartians appear dressed like Medes, except wearing tiaras with low peaks and with the earflaps either tied under the chin or above the head.  For what it's worth, Herodotus calls their clothing "somewhat between the Persian and the Pactyan" (the Pactyans probably being Pakhtuns/Pashtuns).

Herodotus asserts that the Sagartians fought only with braided leather lassoes and daggers.  Judging by ethnography and location, their daggers were almost certainly of an akinakes type.  They fought from horseback by snaring enemy men or horses and dragging them close, presumably dispatching them with the dagger.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Peoples of the empire: The Phrygians

Geographical definition
The Phrygians were widespread through Anatolia, living in regions from the Hellespont to Cappadocia.  Phrygia proper lay in central Anatolia and centered around the Sakarya River, just west of Cappadocia, directly east of Lydia and considerably to the north of Lycia.  Their name for themselves is not known, nor is the name by which the Persians called them.

Herodotus believed (and some modern scholars agree) that the Phrygians were relatively recent immigrants to Anatolia descended from an offshoot of the Bryges, who lived in the Balkans.  He also further states that they were in turn ancestral to the Armenians, which is uncertain.  Greek mythology has the Phrygians fighting on the side of the Trojans during the Trojan War, and Gordium was the home of the legendary kings named Midas (of whom there were three).

The Phrygian kingdom in central Anatolia reached its peak in the eighth century BC.  Around 675 Gordium was sacked, an act the Greeks attributed to Cimmerian invaders.  The Cimmerians were driven out around 620 by the Lydians, who made Phrygia one of their provinces.  Gordium was built up with Lydian financing.  The accidental slayer of Croesus' son in Herodotus I.34-45 was Adrastus, a prince of Gordium.

As a Lydian province, Phrygia passed to Persia when the latter conquered Lydia some time after 547.  By the time of Herodotus, it was placed with the Hellespont, Paphlagonia, Syria, the Mariandynians and the Thracians of Asia in the third imperial tax district, whose yearly tribute totaled 360 talents.

The satrapy of Hellespontine Phrygia was split off around the turn of the fifth century.  Its capital was Dascylium.  Lendering notes that "[t]he architectural remains from this age are not very monumental" though a terrace wall in Dascylium shows similarity to walls at Pasargadae and Persepolis.

In the 480 invasion of Greece, Phrygians served together with the Armenians under Artochmes, one of Darius' sons-in-law.  We are not told what role they played in the fighting, but Herodotus says that some Phrygians were picked by Mardonius to remain in Greece after Xerxes left and it seems reasonable that they participated at Plataea if nowhere else.

Our history of Greater (interior) Phrygia is poor, due to its isolation from the Greek world and dearth of surviving domestic or Persian documents.  However it was still in the empire's hands by the time Alexander arrived in Gordium in 334.  In 333, he appointed the satrapy to his general Antigonus, founder of the Antigonid dynasty.

As a reward for his leadership of the surviving Persian army out of Greece, Artabazus (*Artavazdâ), Xerxes' first cousin and formerly commander of the Chorasmian and Parthian cavalry contingents, was given the satrapy of Hellespontine Phrygia in 477.  His descendants held this office until the invasion of Alexander the Great.

Artabazus' son Pharnabazus may or may not have been satrap.  His grandson Pharnaces was satrap by 430, when he tried to open talks with Sparta to involve himself in the political side of the Peloponnesian War, but this initiative went nowhere.  Pharnaces remained in office at least until 422 and possibly later.  His son Pharnabazus II succeeded him before the winter of 413-12, when he and his rival, Tissaphernes of Lydia, tried separately to ally themselves with Sparta against Athens.  Again, little was accomplished due to Athens' naval supremacy until Cyrus the Younger became involved, but this subject falls outside the scope of this article.

Pharnabazus was ruler when the survivors of the Ten Thousand passed through there in 400 on their way back to Greece, when Tissaphernes of Lydia redirected a campaign by Spartan king Thibron in 399 and by Agesilaus II in 396-95; Pharnabazus then campaigned in the Aegean with the Athenian admiral Conon during the Corinthian War.  As a result of his and the empire's gains in this conflict, he was assigned to reconquer Egypt, but failed to do so though he tried repeatedly.

In the meantime, his son Ariobarzanes (*Ariyabrdna) succeeded him as satrap.  He joined the Revolt of the Satraps in 366, receiving aid from Sparta when Caria and Lydia attacked him, and in recognition of his opposition to the great king, Athens made him an honorary citizen, but his son Mithradates betrayed him to the king in 363 or 362, leading to his crucifixion.

His brother Artabazus II succeeded him and likewise decided to rebel after the death of Artaxerxes II in 358, hiring Athenian mercenaries who defeated an imperial army sent against Artabazus in 355.  But Artaxerxes III was able to intimidate Athens into recalling its forces by threatening to send the Persian navy to support Athens' own rebellious territories in the Social War.  Artabazus was forced to flee to Macedon in 353.

Hellespontine Phrygia was given to Arsites, who led the satraps at the Battle of the Granicus in 334 and committed suicide after their defeat.  Alexander appointed his general Calas as the first Macedonian satrap.  Upon the partition of Babylon it was given to Alexander's bodyguard Leonnatus, while Greater Phrygia remained with Antigonus.

Although now part of the Hellenistic world, at least some Phrygians spoke their own language until the fifth century AD.  In the third century BC, Hellespontine Phrygia was invaded by a Celtic people whom the Greeks called Galatai, and with the spread of their language the region became known as Galatia.  Greater Phrygia also suffered from these invasions, which destroyed Gordium.  In 188 it came under rule of the Greek Attalid dynasty of western Anatolia, which Attalus III left in his will to the Roman republic.  As such, the name of Phrygia was retained for administrative purposes from 133 BC until the final end of Byzantium in AD 1453.

The Phrygian language is scarcely attested from two bodies of inscriptions, one dating from the turn of the ninth century BC and after, the other from the turn of the first century AD.  It was an Indo-European language bearing some similarities to Greek and the two may form a subfamily.

The earlier group of inscriptions were written in a particular script derived from Phoenician which may or may not have come through Greek.  The latter were written in the Greek alphabet.

The Phrygians worshiped a wide variety of their own gods and Anatolian ones.  Their (apparent) supreme gods were Sabazios, the sky god and horseman whom the Greeks equated variously with Zeus or Dionysus, and the native Anatolian mother goddess Cybele (Phrygian Matar Kubileya), identified strongly with the Anatolian wilderness.  Like the Lycians, the Phrygians tended to carve shrines and idols directly into living rock.

Phrygian clothing was similar to Medo-Persian, with snug-fitting (probably footed) trousers and long-sleeved tunics covered in bold patterns.  The Phrygian cap was similar to a tiara but lacked earflaps and had a tall, stiff peak curling forward (Phrygians also sometimes wore tiaras with earflaps).

Herodotus' Phrygians are armed "like the Paphlagonians," with woven helmets, small shields, short spears, javelins and daggers (VII.72).  I suppose it is not impossible that the woven helmets were in fact tiaras or Phrygian caps, though it would be an unusual choice of words on Herodotus' part.  The small shields were, I suspect, most likely crescents, given that these were used both in West Asia and to the north in Thracia.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Peoples of the empire: The Phoenicians

I'm a bit on the fence about the Phoenicians.  On the one hand, they were extremely important historically; on the other, for reenactment purposes it may be difficult to portray them because I can find no sources on Phoenician costume in the Achaemenid period.

Geographical definition and names
Phoenicia (Gk. Phoinikia) was the Greek name for the Levantine coast from about Gaza through the southern part of coastal Syria.  The Phoenicians were a subset of Canaanites and it is uncertain whether they regarded themselves as a unified civilization, which together with the lack of centralized government, means that the history of Phoenicia is the history of many different cities.  Essentially they comprised those Canaanites who had taken to seafaring and trading; as such, they were among the most important subjects of the Persian empire.

Phoinikia is Greek for "red land," in reference to the famous purple dye the Phoenicians exported.  However, this name is probably adapted from an Egyptian word, Fnw, referring to Asians.

The Phoenicians probably didn't distinguish their land from the rest of Canaan, which was called Kn'n (probably to be read as "Kana'an"), either a native term meaning "lowlands" or from Hurrian Kinahhu, "purple land."  Hecataeus of Miletus in the sixth century wrote that Phoenicia was formerly called Khna.

Phoenicia seems to have developed gradually from the early Bronze Age, and although destruction was widespread during the Bronze Age collapse, the main centers of Phoenician culture - Byblos, Sidon, Tyre and Gaza among them - show no sign of a major cultural break.  In the early Iron Age these cities gained power through maritime trade and charted routes all around the Mediterranean, establishing colonies as far away as Gadir (modern Cadiz) in southwest Spain and Tingis (modern Tangier) on the Moroccan side of Gibraltar, as well as, most famously, Carthage in Tunisia.

Phoenicia's trade was built on third-party shipping, and on the export of goods like lumber (the prized cedars of Lebanon were used in the construction of Darius the Great's Susa palace and the Second Temple of Jerusalem) and the so-called Tyrian purple fabric.

This latter was dyed with excretions of murex sea snails collected on the coast, and because it was slow and labor-intensive to produce and the resulting color was both rich and resistant to fading, it was an incredibly valuable product (and remains so today).  When the Achaemenids conquered the area, they assumed control of the flow of Tyrian purple cloth and hoarded it.  Wearing Tyrian purple was a sign of royal favor.

It was in the early Iron Age, from about 1200 to 800 BC, that the Phoenician alphabet was adapted by various Mediterranean cultures, including the Greeks, Latins and Arameans, and thus became ancestral to most modern alphabetic scripts.

The power of Asiatic Phoenicia's city-states began to decline after 800 under repeated attacks from Assyria.  After Assyria fell at the turn of the sixth century, the Levant was subjected to Babylonian rule.  As such, it continued on as part of the Persian empire when Cyrus took Babylon in 539.

Achaemenid Phoenicia was divided into four administrative regions with capitals at Arwad, Byblos, Sidon and Tyre, Sidon being the most important.  As under the Assyrians and Babylonians, native kings remained in Phoenicia as vassals to the Persian king.  Unfortunately, the historical record becomes spotty because during Achaemenid times the Phoenicians began to rely on perishable papyrus documents rather than cuneiform.

By Herodotus' time, Phoenicia was grouped with Cyprus and Palaestina in the fifth tax district, paying a total of 350 silver talents yearly.  This region appears to be the same as those known in old Akkadian records as Eber-Nāri, "Across the River"; the name continued to be used in Akkadian documents from the Achaemenid period.

The Persians relied heavily on Phoenician ships in war and trade.  Herodotus says that the Phoenicians took part in Cambyses' expedition against Egypt and were "the most eager to fight" in the fleet sent to stop the Ionian Revolt (VI.6), throughout which their naval power proved important both at Lade in 494 and in the subsequent reconquest of Greek coastal cities.

According to Herodotus, the Phoenicians sent three hundred ships (a quarter of the armada) under the command of Tetramnestus of Sidon and Matten of Tyre.  The Phoenicians would have played major roles at the battles of Artemisium and Salamis as well as the king's return to Asia.

Phoenicians acting at the empire's behest briefly relieved Samos of an Athenian blockade in 440 and supplied ships to Sparta in the Peloponnesian War.  However, the Persian reliance on Phoenicia was also a liability:  Attacks from the outside on Phoenician ports would cripple the empire's ability to project power.  Thus Evagoras of Cyprus targeted and briefly captured Tyre during his personal war with Persia, and Nectanebo II sought to protect Egypt from imperial attack by instigating a rebellion in Sidon.

The great king at the time, Artaxerxes III, had been gathering an army at Sidon when the pharaoh sent a message to King Tennes of Sidon that he would assist the Sidonians if they revolted; he made good on this by dispatching 4,000 Greek mercenaries under Mentor of Rhodes (brother of the famous Memnon of Rhodes) in 350.  The Phoenicians and Greeks defeated the Persian satraps sent to suppress them, and the rebellion spread to other towns.  Artaxerxes led a massive counterattack by 346, and Tennes and Mentor surrendered.  The great king retained Mentor as a mercenary but executed Tennes, and the Sidonians torched their own city.

Sidon was repopulated, and King Straton (Ph. Abdastart) initially supported Darius III during Alexander's invasion, sending ships to fight under Memnon in the Aegean.  However, after the Battle of Issus, the empire's power was withdrawn from Phoenicia.  Sidon and the other cities surrendered without a fight, but Hephaestus nonetheless deposed Straton and replaced him with Abdalonymus, who may have been a son of Tennes.

The lone holdout was Tyre.  While the Tyrians would have surrendered like everyone else, Alexander had further demanded to be allowed to perform sacrifices in the temple of Melqart, a right belonging only to Tyre's native king.  When he repeated his demands, the Tyrians executed his representatives.  Alexander laid siege to the city in January of 332.  The Tyrian women and children were evacuated to Carthage.  Built on an island just off the coast and defended by its ships, Tyre proved difficult to take until Alexander secured control of the other Phoenician ships belonging to the former Persian navy.  He then breached the city's walls and quickly overcame the defenders.  Most of the surviving population were sold into slavery.

Macedonian control over Phoenicia was now complete.  It was placed under the satrapy of Syria at the Partition of Babylon in 323, ruled by Laomedon of Mytilene.  But three years later Ptolemy invaded from Egypt at the start of the Wars of the Diadochi.  The land changed hands many times until again falling to the Ptolemaic empire in 286, where it remained for 89 years.  During this time, the high priests of Ashtart in Sidon acted as the Ptolemies' client rulers.

In 197, Phoenicia, still as part of Syria, was taken by the Seleucids.  However, rule began to crumble in the late second century, with Tyre and Sidon becoming independent.  From 82-69 BC, Tigranes the Great of Armenia invaded and held the country, but was driven out by the Romans under Pompey the Great, who officially named Syria a Roman province five years later.

It is difficult to know when Phoenicia ceased to be recognized.  The Canaanite languages in general were replaced by Aramaic from the Achaemenid period onward, though the process was gradual.  To some extent, the modern Lebanese regard themselves as having Phoenician roots.  In the western Mediterranean, variants of the Phoenician language (called Punic to distinguish them from mainland Phoenician) were spoken until perhaps around AD 600.

Phoenician belonged to the Canaanite subgroup of Northwest Semitic and is similar to Biblical Hebrew.

The Phoenician alphabet was an abjad, similar to a syllabary but representing vowel sounds only implicitly.  It may have been derived from proto-Sinaitic, a script attested from a handful of findings on the Sinai Peninsula dating to the early second millennium BC.  It has been further theorized that proto-Sinaitic derives from Egyptian hieroglyphs.  In any case, although Phoenician is the ancestor of most phonetic writing systems used today, it bears little physical resemblance to them.

Phoenicians followed the polytheistic traditions of other Canaanites.  Their most important gods included El, the traditional supreme god of Semitic religions; his wife Ashtart, who was the Northwestern Semitic cognate of Akkadian Ishtar; and El's son Melqart, known as Ba'al ūr or "Lord of Tyre."  The Greeks called Melqart "Tyrian Heracles"; he may also be the Ba'al worshipped by Ahab in the Bible.  Many other gods were worshipped in Phoenicia and the wider Canaanite region, including several imported from Egypt, like Isis.

As mentioned, there seems to be little information about Phoenician clothing.  However, it seems likely that they dressed in a manner similar to the "Syrians" at Persepolis, a topic covered in the Assyrian article.

Herodotus describes Phoenician weapons as "helmets very close to the Greek in style," linen corslets, "shields without rims" and javelins.  I can provide no further information or useful speculation.