Its rulers practiced tolerance for the cultural diversity of its many people. Even though Persian rulers followed Zoroastrian beliefs, they respected the gods of the Babylonians, Sumerians, Akkadians, and others. They developed efficient forms of government to rule their empires. Royal roads and the world's first mail system were models for later empires in the region.

Under Persian rule, scholars drew on 3,000 years of Mesopotamian learning and added their own advances to this rich heritage. In time, achievements of this Mesopotamian civilization filtered eastward into India and westward into Europe. Other conquerors would overwhelm the Persian empire. As you will read, the Greeks, under Alexander the Great, and later the Romans conquered much of the Persian empire. Both the Greeks and Romans picked up learning, technology, and many other ideas from Persian civilization.

Phoenician Contributions

While powerful rulers subdued large empires, many small states of the ancient Middle East made their own contributions to the civilizations of the ancient Middle East. The Phoenicians (fuh NISH unz), for example, gained fame as sailors and traders. They occupied a string of cities along the eastern Mediterranean coast, in the area that today is Lebanon and Syria.

Manufacturing and Trade Expands

The coastal land was too narrow to support a large farming population. Instead, the resourceful Phoenicians turned to manufacturing and trade. They made glass from coastal sand. From a tiny sea snail, they produced a widely admired purple dye, called “Tyrian purple” after the city of Tyre.

Phoenicians traded with people all around the Mediterranean Sea. To promote trade, they set up colonies from North Africa to Sicily and Spain.

A colony is a territory settled and ruled by people from another land. A few Phoenician traders braved the stormy Atlantic and sailed as far as Britain. There, they exchanged goods from the Mediterranean for tin. Some scholars have suggested that a Phoenician expedition may have sailed down the Red Sea and followed the East African coast to its southern tip.

Phoenicians also used papyrus, a plant that they brought from Egypt, to make scrolls, or rolls of paper for books. The words Bible and bibliography come from the Phoenician city of Byblos.

A map shows the Phoenician colonies and trade routes, circa 700 B C.
Image Long Description

Analyze Maps

What information on the map supports the claim that the Phoenicians were skilled sailors?

The Phoenician Alphabet

Historians have called the Phoenicians “carriers of civilization” because they spread Middle Eastern civilization around the Mediterranean. Yet the Phoenicians made their own contribution to our world, creating the basis for our alphabet.


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Table of Contents

World History Topic 1 Origins of Civilization (Prehistory–300 B.C.) Topic 2 The Ancient Middle East and Egypt (3200 B.C.–500 B.C.) Topic 3 Ancient India and China (2600 B.C.–A.D. 550) Topic 4 The Americas (Prehistory–A.D. 1570) Topic 5 Ancient Greece (1750 B.C.–133 B.C.) Topic 6 Ancient Rome and the Origins of Christianity (509 B.C.-A.D. 476) Topic 7 Medieval Christian Europe (330–1450) Topic 8 The Muslim World and Africa (730 B.C.-A.D. 1500) Topic 9 Civilizations of Asia (500–1650) Topic 10 The Renaissance and Reformation (1300–1650) Topic 11 New Global Connections (1415–1796) Topic 12 Absolutism and Revolution Topic 13 The Industrial Revolution Topic 14 Nationalism and the Spread of Democracy (1790–1914) Topic 15 The Age of Imperialism (1800–1914) Topic 16 World War I and the Russian Revolution (1914–1924) Topic 17 The World Between the Wars (1910–1939) Topic 18 World War II (1930–1945) Topic 19 The Cold War Era (1945–1991) Topic 20 New Nations Emerge (1945–Present) Topic 21 The World Today (1980-Present) United States Constitution Primary Sources 21st Century Skills Atlas Glossary Index Acknowledgments