8 Oldest Ancient Civilizations in World History

7. The Phoenicians

Oldest civilizations - The Phoenicians

Oldest Ancient Civilizations |The Phoenicians |A Phoenician-Punic ship

Period: c. 1500-300 B.C.E

Ancient location: the Levant (modern-day Lebanon)

Current location: parts of modern-day Syria, Israel, and Lebanon

Cultural hub: Tyre, Sidon, and Berot (modern-day Beirut)

Major gods: El (the father of the gods), Astarte (also known as Ashtart), Mot (the god of death)

Most famous rulers: King Ahab, General Jehu

Most known for: Introduced the ancient Greeks to alphabets

Bursting onto the scene as fierce seafaring traders, the Phoenicians (particularly the Phoenician city of Byblos) of the ancient world occupied parts of present-day Lebanon, Syria and Israel around 3200 BCE. Phoenician cities started thriving properly as major trading and manufacturing centers around the middle part of the second millennium BCE.

As a result of their mastery in ship building and navigation, the Phoenicians were able to trade extensively with communities as way beyond the Mesopotamian region. Some archeological findings show that they even made it to the inner parts of Western Europe and Britain. Much of the items they traded were cedar, wine, linen from places like Tyre and Berytos, and precious minerals and pottery.

Owing to their location in the Mesopotamian region, the Phoenicians initially used cuneiform; however, they also had their own writing system known as the Phoenician alphabet, which had 22 letters. According to the Greek historian Herodotus, Phoenician method of writing was later adopted by the ancient Greeks.

The Phoenicians time on the top was increasingly challenged by the Assyrian kings beginning around the 900 BCE. About 400 years later, the Persian Empire engulfed large parts of Phoenicia. Prior to Rome’s reign over the area (beginning around 64 BCE), the Phoenicians had capitulated to Alexander the Great’s rule in 322 BCE.

Did you know: The Phoenicians were sometimes known as ‘purple people’ because of all the dye that stained their skins as they manufactured exquisite robes for exports?

6. Minoan Civilization

Oldest Ancient Civilizations - the Minoan civilization

Oldest Ancient Civilizations – the Minoan civilization | Image: Palace of Knossos

Period: c. 2000 BCE – c.1100 BCE

Ancient location: Italy, North Africa and Sicily – i.e. places in the Mediterranean

Current location: Greece

Cultural hub: Knossos, Malia, Zakros and Phaistos

Major gods/mythical figures: King Minos, Daedalus, the Snake Goddess

Most known for: the most influential civilization; democracy and the Senate, Olympics, medicine, mathematics, etc

Long before city states like Athens and Sparta came to prominence, an ancient civilization in Europe known as the Minoan civilization dominated the landscape. Emerging around 2,000 BCE, the Minoans are generally regarded as Europe’s earliest civilized society. This Bronze Age civilization clustered around the island of Crete and the Aegean Islands. Up until when they made way for the ancient Greeks around 1100 BCE,

In addition to the ancient Greeks, it’s been revealed that the Minoans exercised tremendous influence across the Mediterranean (i.e. in places like the Old Kingdom of Egypt and ancient Anatolia) up until around 1100 BCE. They have been praised for their stunning skills in architecture, farming and other craftsmanship. Based on the excavations (in 1900) by British archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans, we now know that many of their magnificent palaces were located at Knossos.

It has been hypothesized that the Minoans mainly used Linear A (between 1800 and c. 1450 BCE) and Cretan hieroglyphs (during the early Bronze Age) in writing.

Their successor – the ancient Greeks – built on their ideas and introduced the world to many inventions and belief system. Our modern would have looked completely different had it not been for the important contributions made by the Minoan civilization to the development of Western civilization.

Did you know: The Minoan name was derived from name of the king of Minos? King Minos, the son of the god Zeus and Phoenician princess Europa, was the mythical king of the island of Crete.

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