Phoenician culture remains little known. Yet, spanning nearly nine centuries from the beginning of the Iron Age in the 12th century to the siege of Tyre by Alexander the Great in 332 BC, the history of the peoples who occupied the eastern coast of the Mediterranean is fascinating. They were remarkable navigators and expert traders and extended their influence well beyond the Levant, to Carthage with the famous and tragic Dido, and to Sardinia, Spain and beyond Gibraltar.
Phoenician ports and trading cities on the Lebanese coast—Arwad, Sumur, Tripoli, Byblos, Beirut, Sidon, and Tyre—shared a language, alphabetic writing, culture and economic interests, without forming a political entity.
We cannot understand the Phoenicians without taking into account the political situation of their region, the intense interaction they had with the surrounding peoples (Egyptians, Greeks, Hebrews, Arameans, Assyrians and so on) or their extraordinary expansion in the Mediterranean. What we call Phoenician art today is nourished by that melting pot.
While the BNU is currently displaying some 60 pieces from the Louvre—statuettes, ceramics, jewelry, votive objects, masks, etc.—that complement the collections of the Strasbourg institution, Arsmondo Lebanon and the BNU have invited Hélène Le Meaux, Curator of Asian Antiquities at the Louvre and a specialist in the Phoenicians, to give a talk on this civilization that lives on in the minds of Lebanese people today.