Byblos, also known as J’Bail ( located approximately 40 kilometers to the north of Beirut ) is said to be the oldest continually inhabited city in the world and testimony to a history of uninterrupted construction from the first settlement by a community of fishermen and seafarers dating back approximately 8000 years BC.
Importantly, Byblos bares outstanding witness to the beginnings and prosperous legacy of the Phoenician civilization who were renowned as being amongst, if not the greatest sailors and trading power throughout the Mediterranean region and beyond between the period 2000 to 1200 BC.
The ancient Phoenicians developed and mastered the technique of navigation by the stars making it possible for them to sail beyond the sight of land. There is clear evidence of ancient Phoenician trade throughout the then unknown world including Asia, Australia, New Zealand the Pacific Islands, South America, Africa and Europe.
Many Phoenician colonies became trading centers and included famous towns throughout the Mediterranean, Aegean and Adriatic Seas. Sea trade in the Adriatic in particular was pioneered and historically credited to Venice in more recent history but it is not common knowledge that Venice ( which bares the name of it’s founding people – Phoe-nice / Ve-nice ) was an important Phoenician trading destination with towns in modern day Greece, Albania, Montenegro, Croatia and Italy all being part of the Phoenician ( Venice ) trade route.
It is widely unknown that Byblos is also directly associated with the historical origin and diffusion of the phonetic script, the precursor of the modern alphabet, changing forever the way humans communicated. The most ancient Phoenician inscriptions were found carved on the sarcophagus of King Ahiram in Byblos around 1000 BC.
The Phoenicians are also credited with bringing Arabic numerals ( used for trade calculation ) to the West and further innovated and spread the usage of the angled number system (see sample below) which is used to the present day.
The word Phoenician derives from the Ancient Greek word phoinios meaning “purple” and associated with the Tyrian Purple dyed cloth. The violet-purple dye was to colour ( which came to become the royal colour and stood for power and wealth ) derived from the shell of the Murex sea-snail, once profusely available in coastal waters of the eastern Mediterranean Sea but now exploited to local extinction.