National Geographic : 2004 Oct
a significant cultural and political force. From the ninth to sixth centuries B.C. they dominated the Mediterranean Sea, establishing emporiums and colonies from Cyprus in the east to the Aegean Sea, Italy, North Africa, and Spain in the west. They grew rich trading pre cious metals from abroad and products such as wine, olive oil, and most notably the timber from the famous cedars of Lebanon, which for ested the mountains that rise steeply from the coast of their homeland. The armies and peoples that eventually con quered the Phoenicians either destroyed or built over their cities. Their writings, mostly on frag ile papyrus, disintegrated-so that we now know the Phoenicians mainly by the biased reports of their enemies. Although the Phoenicians MAJESTIC SURVIVOR The symbol of modern Lebanon, a rare mature cedar soars in a mountain reserve where some trees are hundreds of years old. Cedars once covered this land but were cut for their timber, a lucra tive export. An alabaster relief (opposite) from the palace of Assyrian King Sargon II recorded the collection of logs about 700 B.C. themselves reportedly had a rich literature, it was totally lost in antiquity. That's ironic, be cause the Phoenicians actually developed the modern alphabet and spread it through trade to their ports of call. Acting as cultural middlemen, the Phoeni cians disseminated ideas, myths, and knowledge from the powerful Assyrian and Babylonian worlds in what is now Syria and Iraq to their THEY GREW RICH TRADING PRECIOUS METALS FROM THE WEST AND THE TIMBER FROM THEIR FAMOUS CEDARS.