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SYRIA-PEOPLE AND PLACES
BESIDES Palestine, two sections of Syria deserve special study. One is Phænicia, where the people probably first used letters resembling those of our alphabet. They taught these letters to the Greeks and Romans, who in turn gave them to the other peoples of the world. The other region is Lebanon, the home of the world-renowned cedars.
THE OWNERS OF A GREAT MERCHANT MARINE The ancient Phænicians lived in the very fertile plain bordering the Mediterranean Sea. This rich plain made it possible for its people to amass great wealth, but the unbroken mountain chain which skirted its entire length forced them to the water for commerce.
Makers of purple. One of the chief products of Phænicia was Tyrian purple, which is obtained from the murex, a shell fish. This purple became the badge of the rich of that country and later was used as the symbol of wealth and power in many parts of the world. We read of “A certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple” (Acts 16. 14-16). She was a woman of influence in the community and offered Paul a home in her house while he remained in the city of Philippi.
As the demand for this purple increased, the fields of the fish became exhausted. The shell hunters were driven away from home in search of the murex, so the Phænicians traveled far.
The first people who went to sea in ships.—The cedars of the country furnished excellent material for boats, and B. C. 1600 the Mediterranean Sea was dotted with Phænician navigators. These men bartered with the natives and went out into the open Atlantic to obtain tin in Britain and amber in the Baltic regions. They often carried the tin across Gaul (or France) to the mouth of the Rhone River, and the amber through Germany to the mouth of the Po, where they loaded the products on the Phoenician ships.
Spices and precious stones from India reached the warehouses in Tyre and Sidon, the two great cities of Phænicia, by the Red Sea route or by caravan from the Persian Gulf. Other routes of trade were through Armenia, Assyria, Babylonia, and Persia to Central Asia. This commerce was at its height about B. C. 500, and among the articles of exchange mentioned in the Bible (Ezek. 27 and 28) are emeralds, rubies, wheat, honey, oil, balm, wine, wool, spices, lambs, and goats.
Ezekiel (chapters 24 and 27) describes the grandeur of Tyre in noble poetry that teaches us much regarding Phænician trade and life. "O, thou that dwellest at the entry of the sea, which art the merchant of the peoples unto many isles,
.. thou, O Tyre, hast said, I am perfect in beauty. Thy borders are in the heart of the seas; thy builders have perfected thy beauty. They have made all thy planks of fir trees. . . . They have taken cedars from Lebanon to be masts for thee; they have made thy benches of ivory inlaid in boxwood from the isles of Kittim (Kition in Cyprus). Of fine linen broidered with work from Egypt was thy sail--blue and purple from the isles of Elishah (North Africa) was thy awning. All the ships of the sea were in thee to exchange thy merchandise. Tarshish (Tartessus, southwestern Spain) was thy merchant by reason of the multitudes of all kinds of riches with silver, iron, tin, and lead they traded for thy wares. Javan (Greek Ionia), Tubal and Mesheck (the lands of the Black and Caspian Sea) they were thy traffickers. . . . They of the house of Togarmah (Armenia) traded for thy wares with horses and mules. The men of Dedan were thy traffickers. Many isles were the mart
of thy hands. They brought thee bones of ivory and of ebony.
A colonizing people.--The trade with interior towns like Haran (Ezek. 27. 23) was often established by means of inland colonies or trading stations. One of these was at Dan (or Laish) at the source of the River Jordan (Judg. 18. 27, 28). Another was at Nisibis, which was probably a Phænician commercial center, where the religion and products of the mother country were introduced to the natives. Colonies were also established on the shores of Cyprus, Rhodes, Sardinia, Sicily, Carthage, Utica, and even at Gades (Cadiz) in Spain.
The Phænicians were not creators, but were carriers of civilization, especially to the Greeks, who taught the rest of the Europeans. The Phænicians gave the world the alphabet, and
, a system of weights and measures which are as necessary to trade as the alphabet is to the intellectual life.
The government of the country was a loose confederacy of cities grouped about the two most powerful ones, Tyre and Sidon. The people, who were ambitious to amass riches, fell, as Jeremiah predicted they would (Jer. 47. 4), into the hands of stronger military powers-Assyria, Egypt, and, later, Greece. All that now remains of the great city of Tyre are the rocks on which fishermen dry their nets.
GOD'S FIRST TEMPLES, THE GROVES The mountains of Lebanon are a range somewhat higher than our Appalachians. They extend northward from the vicinity of ancient Sidon, which is about twenty-five miles distant from the Mediterranean Sea, to near Antioch. The whole range is of whitish limestone, hence the name "Lebanon," or "White Mountain." Near the highest peak, which is over three thousand feet higher than Mount Mitchell, the highest point in the
1 West, The Ancient World, Allyn and Bacon.
United States east of the Rockies, is the celebrated forest of cedars.
The high mountains wring the moisture from the clouds that float over the nearby sea, so this region has more rain than its neighbors. Several rivers rise in the mountains and springs gush forth from the rocks. Here, near the great groves of cedars, were the seats of the famous idol worship of Baal and Astaroth (or Astarte), which many of the Hebrews, notwithstanding the opposition of their prophets, accepted (Deut. 12. 2 and Judg. 6. 25).
A valuable wood.In ancient times the fine cedar from these forests was in great demand. Many of the pillars for the Babylonian temples and beams for its palaces were rolled into the Euphrates and floated down the river. The Hittites, Egyptians, and the Jews purchased great quantities of these logs. "King Solomon raised a levy out of all Israel; and the levy was thirty thousand men. And he sent them to Lebanon. . .: And Solomon had threescore and ten thousand that bare burdens, and fourscore thousand hewers in the mountains" (1 Kings 5. 13-15). He says this was for "an house unto the name of the Lord my God” (1 Kings 5. 5). Besides this he built a house and palace “of the forest of Lebanon.” These logs were taken from King Hiram's capital, Tyre, to Jaffa in rafts, and thence up to Jerusalem. The ancients used the white resin from the trees for embalming their dead. Only six or seven small groves of these cedars now remain.
A quiet, peaceful region.-Above the village of Bsherreh is a grove of about four hundred trees inclosed by a stone wall to protect the small trees from goats. A Maronite chapel stands in the center of this grove. The native Christians consider the trees sacred, so pilgrims flock to the annual feast held there.
Some people, as the professors in the American College at Beirut, camp in this beautiful region during the summer. The natives are a thrifty, brave, and hospitable people who live in little villages of white houses. Their homes usually consist of three rooms—two on one side and one on the other connected by a roofed court. Their beds are mattresses laid on the floor. They have no sheets, but use heavy native quilts as covers. The furniture and food are extremely simple, but everything is clean.
Most of the residents live on the lower slopes of the mountains, where wonderful verdure is seen. Vineyards, olive
groves, and orchards of
THE SEAPORTS OF TO-DAY
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The only important seaCEDARS OF LEBANON, SYRIA
ports of this region now are Alexandretta, Tripoli, which was the receiving port for the building materials for the Bagdad Railway, Haifa, and its sister city Acre, and Beirut.
Beirut is perhaps the most healthful and prosperous town on the Syrian coast. It certainly is the most beautiful city in the country, with the Mediterranean Sea at its feet and the Lebanon Mountains behind it. On the terraced mountain sides