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Near East Kingdoms

Ancient Levantine States


Phoenicians (Canaan)

The Levant between about 10,000-3000 BC was the centre of the Neolithic Farmer revolution in the Near East. The process of domesticating wild crops was a gradual one, taking place during the Pre-Pottery Neolithic A and Pre-Pottery Neolithic B. The subsequent Pottery Neolithic established the settlement structures which would later turn into city states, along with the crop farming and pastoralism which would support them.

In the mid-third millennium BC, city states began to appear in Syria as people benefited from interaction with Sumer and from improvements in irrigation. Within five hundred years, around 2000 BC, the same process was happening farther south and west, in the Levant, along the Mediterranean coast.

Semitic-speaking Canaanite tribes occupied much of the area, creating a patchwork of city states of their own. The Phoenicians of the first millennium BC were those Canaanites who still occupied the Mediterranean coastal strip following the climate-induced social collapse of around 1200 BC.

The 'Phoenicians' themselves would not have recognised this term in relation to them. They were still Canaanites, the descendants of groups which had previously populated much of the Levant, but who were now hemmed in on their long Mediterranean coastal strip by various more recent arrivals, such as the Israelites (largely Canaanites themselves), the Philistines, various groups of Sea Peoples, and the Aramaeans.

Relatively unscathed by the chaos of the Near East's social collapse at the end of the thirteenth century BC and the beginning of the twelfth, The Phoenicians quickly prospered in their fertile coastal home. Replacing the region's previous dominant trading power, Ugarit, they created an even greater trading empire of their own which stretched across the Mediterranean.

Some scholars argue that because their sailing ability, which was not well attested before the collapse, suddenly became very pronounced afterwards, the Phoenicians may have intermingled with some of the Sea Peoples to produce this more dynamic branch of Canaanites. Their civilisation was organised into city states on the same pattern as the ancient Greeks and Syrians.

Each city state was politically independent, and would suffer domination by another city, come into conflict with it, or prosper through intermarriage and trade. Sidon and Tyre were the most powerful Phoenician cities, but in time the colonies in North Africa proved to be more powerful than either of them. Close allies with the Israelites, the Phoenicians intermarried with them from the eleventh century BC onwards, and greatly influenced Israel's architecture.

Phoenicians shifting cedarwood from shore to land

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from Unger's Bible Dictionary, Merrill F Unger (1957), from A Royal Dedicatory Inscription from Ekron, S Gitin, T Dothan, & J Naveh (Israel Exploration Journal 47, 1997), from The History of Esarhaddon (Son of Sennacherib) King of Assyria, BC 681-688, Ernest A Budge, from Easton's Bible Dictionary, Matthew George Easton (1897), from Egypt, Canaan and Israel in Ancient Times, Donald Redford (Princeton University Press, 1992), from Early Israel and the Surrounding Nations, A H Sayce, from The Amarna Letters, William L Moran, 1992, from the Illustrated Dictionary & Concordance of the Bible, Geoffrey Wigoder (Gen Ed, 1986), from The Cambridge Ancient History, John Boardman, N G L Hammond, D M Lewis, & M Ostwald (Eds), from The History and Archaeology of Phoenicia, Hélène Sader (SBL Press, 2019), and from External Links: Encyclopaedia Britannica, and Bible Atlas.)

c.1200 BC

The entire Near East is hit by drought and the loss of surviving crops. Food supplies dwindle and the number of raids by habiru and other groups of peoples who have banded together greatly increases until, by about 1200 BC, this flood has turned into a tidal wave.

Habu relief at Medinet
Attacks by the Sea Peoples gathered momentum during the last decade of the thirteenth century BC, quickly reaching a peak which lasted about forty years

Already decaying, the Hittite empire is now looted and destroyed by various surrounding peoples, including the Kaskans and the Sea Peoples (and perhaps even selectively by its own populace). Unlike Gebal, Sidon, and Tyre, Arvad is sacked, but recovers. However, both cities do a good deal of their profitable trade for a time as a short dark age grips the region.

Emerging out of the collapse and dark age, the principle Phoenician cities along the coast are Arvad, Beroth, Gebal, Hazor, Sarepta, Sidon, and Tyre. Curiously at least one of these cities is already engaged in long-distant trade. A trading post is set up in Iberia which, in time, is known to trade with the Cynetes, Dragani and Oestrimni tribes, amongst others.

Other Canaanite cities or states include Ammon, Amrit, Arad, Arqa, Dor, Edom, Geshur, Moab, Shalem, Shechem, and Sumur, while the Philistines establish or re-establish city states of their own farther south which include Ashkelon, Ashdod, Ekron, Gath, Gerar, and Gezer. Arabs from the peninsula, who are camel nomads, are in close contact with the Syro-Palestinian region and provide luxury goods such as incense from Saba.

Map of Anatolia and Environs 1550 BC
Small cities and minor states which had been founded by the Hittites littered the meeting point between Anatolia and Syria around 1500 BC (click or tap on map to view full sized)

1104 BC

This is the traditional date upon which the colony of Gadir is founded in southern Iberia. No archaeological evidence for occupation at this date can be found but, as with the colony of Utica, this is probably because these posts are temporary at first, and are not permanently occupied until the ninth century BC.

Further colonies are founded (and are permanently settled between the eighth and seventh centuries BC) at Hadrumetum (Susah, Sousse), Lixus, Mogador (Essaouira, the most distant Phoenician colony), Siga (Rachgoun), and Tipasa (east of Cherchell).

Later archaeological finds of a similar age also highlight the presence of colonies at Almuñecar (Iberia), Bithia, Bosa, Caralis, Motya (Mozia on Sicily), Nora (Nurri), Olbia, Sulcis (on Sardinia), and Tharros (San Giovanni di Sinis on Sardinia).

Ruins of Gadir (Cadiz)
The surviving ruins of the Phoenician city of Gadir are few in number although some signs of them can be found, but did these pillars provide a name for the nearby 'Pillars of Heracles' (the modern Straits of Gibraltar) thanks to Hercules himself supposedly completing one of his labours here?

c.1050 BC

A weakened Egypt loses its remaining imperial possessions in Canaan. The Phoenician city states expand their territory at this time, but are checked in the south by the Philistines.

Archaeological evidence for a mass settling of people in this southern region and at this time has yet to be found, suggesting that the Philistines are formed of small, mobile groups who take a while to establish themselves and take control of the region.

Shiloh is a Canaanite town which has become the central sanctuary site of the Israelite confederacy during the period of the judges. Following the Israelite conquest of much of inland Canaan, the Tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant had been installed in Shiloh, but the Ark is now captured by the Philistines during a battle at Ebenezer (site unknown), and Shiloh is soon afterwards destroyed.

Excavations at Khirbat Sayūn in modern Jordan during 1920-1932 suggest that Shiloh remains a ruin for several centuries. The Philistines, however, decide to return the Ark after about seven months.

Book of the Dead for the Chantress of Amun Nauny
The papyrus 'Book of the Dead' formed part of the burial for Nauny, a chantress of Amun, around 1050 BC, who died in her seventies as Egypt was suffering a low point due to the recent onslaught of droughts and attacks

c.1035 BC

The kingdom of Israel is founded while the Phoenicians are creating trading posts along the North African coast, such as Carthage and Utica, or in southern Italy and on Corsica, in the eastern Mediterranean, such as Kition on Cyprus, and in southern Iberia, such as Gadir and Tarshish.

Merchants are also known to trade with the occupants of the Land's End region of Britain, the ancestors of the Dumnonii tribe, and general opinion is that these traders are Phoenicians, although there is no surviving proof.

c.970? BC

The Old Testament recounts that 'when David destroyed Zobah's army, Rezon gathered a band of men around him and became their leader; they went to Aram Damascus where they settled and took control'.

This Rezon is a young officer of Zobah, the son of Eliada, who escapes the city's fall and establishes himself in Damas. There he 'founds' Aram Damascus - in other words he takes control of it with his band of men - and severely threatens Israel and its northern successor, Samaria. The changes mean that Damas also replaces the eclipsed Zobah as the main centre of Aramaean power in Canaan.

Damascus wall
This colour photochrome print shows a wall in Damascus' defences which is rumoured to be the one over which St Paul escaped in the first century AD

928 BC

The break-up of Israel allows Damas to rapidly grow in power and at times even threaten the existence of its southern neighbour. It also gains the important caravan routes westwards to the Phoenician ports, bringing immense wealth into the city.

c.920s BC

The Eliba'l inscription (otherwise known as the Osorkon bust) contains Egyptian hieroglyphs on one face and Phoenician letters on another. The Egyptian side carries the throne name of Pharaoh Osorkon I (922-887 BC), while the Phoenician side carries a dedication to Elibaal of Gebal.

Egyptian influence in Canaan is still extant, it seems, especially following the full-scale invasion of Judah and Samaria by Osorkon's father, Sheshonk, around 925 BC.

Samaria excavations
This general view of the 1933 excavations of the city of Samaria shows them while looking towards the north

c.900? BC

Tyre gains control over Gebal and Sidon. That city has already been growing at a swift rate to become the chief Phoenician city during the reign of Hiram I in the early part of the tenth century BC while Egypt's troubled internal politics continues to diminish its influence in the Levant.

It would seem to be during or following the reign of Sibiti Baal in Gebal that Tyre secures control of the city. There are no further (known) kings, which certainly seems to back up any claim of a loss of kingship.

9th century BC

In the ninth century, the Assyrians invade and subjugate Syrian states, including Bit Adini, Bit Agusi, Carchemish, and Pattin, by which time many small and semi-obscure cities have arisen, such as Gamgum and Gan Dunias, along with the kingdom of Kedar in eastern Syria.

However, the Assyrians don't have it all their own way. In 853 BC they are defeated by a coalition of Syrian and Canaanite states which seems to be led by Damas, and around 840 BC it is Damas which is the dominant city state in the region, not the Assyrians.

Map of Canaan and Syria c.850 BC
When the Neo-Assyrian empire threatened the various city states of southern Syria and Canaan around 853 BC, they united to protect their joint territory - successfully it seems, at least for a time (click or tap on map to view full sized)

738 - 676 BC

All of the Phoenician states become vassals of Assyria, but local arrangements for governance are left in place. In 734 BC the cities of Sumur, Arqa, and Gebal are all seized, while Tyre is forced to pay tribute and suffer partial deportation. Akko is assaulted before being reduced to ashes, while the territory of Naphtali is annexed.

With Phoenicia conquered, the end comes for the region known as Philistia, as well as the remaining cultural Philistines. Assyria sacks the remaining towns and cities and sells the inhabitants into slavery. The city of Ashkelon may be the last to fall, in 701 BC. Subsequent kings appear in Ekron (at least), but they write their inscriptions in a Canaanite dialect which is very close to Phoenician.

However, the conquest is not total. In 679 BC Esarhaddon of Assyria conducts a campaign against the Cimmerians. He defeats them and their leader, Teuspa, in the region of Hubusna (probably Hupisna-Cybistra), but the area is not pacified.

Cimmerian warriors
This image shows Cimmerians battling early Greeks - prior to the advent of accepted 'Classical' Greece - with the mounted Cimmerians warriors apparently being accompanied by their dogs

In the same year Esarhaddon's troops also fight a war in Hilakku (Khilakku), and a few years later they punish the Anatolian prince of Kundu (Cyinda) and Sissu (Sisium, modern Sis), who has allied himself with Phoenician rebels against Assyrian rule. The regions to the north of the Cilician plain repeatedly cause trouble for Assyria.

676 - 612 BC

Assyria conquers all of Phoenicia. However, despite being under the nominal control of the Assyrians, the Phoenicians continue their highly profitable trading enterprises in the western Mediterranean. They begin to move farther inland on Sardinia in their hunt for important natural resources such as lead and silver mines.

They establish a fort on Monte Sirai, the oldest-known Phoenician military building in the west, presumably to protect their acquisitions from an increasingly hostile native Sardi people. They also set up the first trading colonies on the Balearic Islands.

612 - 573 BC

The Phoenician cities appear to regain their freedom following the destruction of the Assyrian empire. Illusions of freedom are insubstantial, however. A resurgent Egypt battles against Babylonia towards the end of the seventh century BC, conquering and then losing control of Syria and then barely being able to hold onto Phoenicia.

Nebuchadnezzar II of Neo-Babylonia
Nabûkudurrius.ur, better known as Nebuchadnezzar II of Neo-Babylonia, gradually built up an empire which was based on seizing former Assyrian subject territories

573 - 539 BC

Having already secured Syria and having played a pivotal role in the destruction of the Assyrian empire, Babylonia now conquers Phoenicia. As a result, many Phoenicians emigrate to the colonies, especially Carthage, which quickly rises to become a major power.

The Castro culture of Iberia certainly benefits from this after half a millennium of comparative isolation following the end of the Atlantic Bronze Age, but the Tartessians decline. Later Phoenicia is a subsumed region of the various great empires of the second half of the first millennium BC.

Later Phoenicia (Canaan)
Persian Satraps of Phoenicia

Taken by Cyrus the Great as part of his capture of Babirush (Babylon) in 539 BC, the city states of Semitic-speaking Phoenicia were added to the Persian empire. Under its control, Phoenicia formed part of a large satrapy which was commanded from Babirush.

This was the senior great satrapy in the region. The main satrapy of Athura (former Assyria) fell within Babylonia's administrative umbrella and was subservient to it just as was Phoenicia. It was Strabo who reported (accurately) that Athura consisted of (old) Assyria along with Khilakku, Syria, and Phoenicia.

Later Syria seems to have been established as a satrapy in its own right away from oversight by Babylon, under the name of Ebimari or Ebir-nāri (Babylonian) or Abar-Nahra (Aramaic-Persian). Once Syria was stripped away from Athura, thereby lessening Babylonia's own importance, the post of Babylonian satrap was poorly attested. The province extended from the Amanus to Sinai and included Salamis on Cyprus.

The administrative divisions of the Syrian province were likely the same as during Neo-Babylonian rule (Damas, Hamath, and Hauran, within later Batanea) and the capital was probably Damascus or the Phoenician city of Sidon. Persian freedom laws allowed the cities of the Levant to continue to practice their own religions, carry out their own commercial activities, and establish colonies along the Mediterranean coast.

By the time of their domination by the late Assyrian empire and then the neo-Babylonians, the Phoenicians had lost a good deal of their political and economic strength. Their trade, however, was still very strong, and they continued to be prolific ship-builders and sailors, losing nothing of their proclivity for independent thought or strength of will.

Although they provided a fleet which was vital to Cambyses in the conquest of Mudrāya (Egypt), the Phoenicians refused to help him in his proposed attack on Carthage, their ancient colony, and the idea was abandoned. However, they sided with the Persians against the Greeks in the wars (490-449 BC), which were, from a Syrian point of view, a precious occasion for getting rid of the Greek presence in the Mediterranean!

Persians & Medes

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from Alexander the Great, Krzysztof Nawotka (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009), from The Persian Empire, J M Cook (1983), from The Phoenicians: A Captivating Guide to the History of Phoenicia and the Impact Made by One of the Greatest Trading Civilizations of the Ancient World (Captivating History, December 2019), from The Histories, Herodotus (Penguin, 1996), from A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, William Smith (Ed), and from External Links: Encyclopaedia Britannica, and Encyclopaedia Iranica, and The Government of Syria under Alexander the Great, A B Bosworth (The Classical Quarterly Vol 24, No 1, May, 1974, pp 46-64, Cambridge University Press on behalf of The Classical Association (available at JSTOR)), and Geography, Strabo (Loeb Classical Library Edition, 1928).)

539 BC

Despite the fall of Babirush itself to the Persians, it is entirely possible that pockets of resistance remain - or at least areas in which Persian overlordship is tacitly acknowledged while local rule is maintained on a semi-independent basis, at least for a time.

The Chaldeans who had provided Babylon's last dynasty of kings may be one such case. Although specific details are not recorded, the Book of Daniel seems to retain a memory of this in Belshar-uzur.

All of Phoenicia is submerged within the Persian empire at the same time. Many Phoenicians emigrate to the colonies, especially Carthage, which quickly rises to become a major power. The many other colonies in the western Mediterranean also become more important. On Sardinia, for instance, Phoenicians mount a defence against a native Sardi uprising which secures them control of much of the island.

Achaemenid palace decoration at Babylon
This Achaemenid (Persian empire) palace decoration stood in the city of Babylon and was transported to Berlin upon being rediscovered by archaeologists in the twentieth century

539 - 537? BC


Babylonian satrap of Mesopotamia, Ebir-nāri, & Phoenicia.

539 BC

One Belshar-uzur in Babirush may legitimately claim to be the true successor to the Babylonian throne even though he holds no power and doesn't have the resources to enforce his claim. He is apparently killed by Cyrus the Great even though his father is allowed to live.

This means he cannot be the otherwise unknown Babylonian satrap for the first couple of years of Persian rule before being replaced by Gaubaruva. Instead, as Cyrus allows existing offices to be retained at first, this post is probably still filled by its Neo-Babylonian incumbent.

537? - 522 BC

Gaubaruva / Gobryas / Gobares

Persian satrap of Babirush (Mesopotamia), Ebir-nāri, & Phoenicia.

537 BC

Gaubaruva is appointed as the first Persian satrap of Babirush. He is known by a whole host of interpretations of his name, from the Old Persian Gaubaruva or the Akkadian Gubaru, to the Greek Gobryas, and the Latin Gobar(es).

He can also be equated with the Cyaxares of the Cyropaedia, but should not be confused with the General Ugbaru (Old Persian) or Gobryas (Greek) who aids Cyrus the Great in the conquest of Mesopotamia (a mistake made in the Grayson version of the Nabonidus Chronicle). Ugbaru may in fact govern the district or province of Gutium for a short time before dying, having already reached an advanced age.

Cyrus the Great
Cyrus the Great freed the Indo-Iranian Parsua people from Median domination to establish a nation which is recognisable to this day, and an empire which provided the basis for the vast territories which were later ruled by Alexander the Great

524? - 516 BC

Uštani / Ushtanni

Satrap of Babirush (Mesopotamia), Ebir-nāri, & Phoenicia.

c.484 - 482 BC

Although any records to prove it have not survived, it would seem to be in this period, between about 490-482 BC, in which Ebir-nāri is created a satrapy in its own right, removing it (and therefore Phoenicia) from the administration of Babirush (Babylonia).

The cause may well be the revolt in Babylonia which arises shortly after a greater revolt in Mudrāya. In fact tablets from Babylonia seem to show evidence of two risings by claimants to the Babylonian throne. The first is a minor affair, but the second, in 482 BC, seems more serious.

480 BC

FeatureInvading Greece in 480 BC, the Persians subdue the Macedonians and the Thracian tribes (except for the Satrai, precursors to the Bessoi). Then the vast army of Xerxes makes its way southwards and is swiftly engaged by Athens and Sparta in the Vale of Tempe (see feature link).

Battle of Thermopylae
The Spartan stand at Thermopylae in 480 BC, along with some Greek allies, stopped the Persian advance in its tracks and provided a rallying call for the rest of the free Greek cities to oppose the Persians

The Persian army is held up long enough for the Athenians to prepare their navy for a seaborne engagement with the Persian fleet. Athens, as the leader of the coalition of city states known as the Delian League, fights the Persian navy at the battles of Artemisium and Salamis, the latter being a resounding Greek victory.

Tetramnestus, son of Anysos of Sidon, is present - along with Anysos himself, and other leading Phoenicians such as Mattan of Tyre - but the battle leaves much of the Persian navy destroyed and Xerxes is forced to retreat to Asia, leaving his army in Greece under Mardonius.

fl 407 & 402 BC

Bēlsunu / Bel-shunu / Belesys

Satrap of Athura, Ebir-nāri, & Phoenicia.

fl 401 & 387 BC


Satrap of Ebir-nāri & Phoenicia.

401 BC

Cyrus, satrap of Asia Minor, attempts to revolt, mobilising an army and ten thousand Greek mercenaries to attack his brother. Defeat leads to his death in October 401 BC at the Battle of Cunaxa. Abrocomas, having been assembling forces for a re-invasion of a now-independent Egypt, marches to the assistance of Artaxerxes II. He arrives following the battle's conclusion but the extra manpower is no doubt ideal in handling mopping-up operations.

Battle of Cunaxa
The Battle of Cunaxa saw the end of just one in a number of internal Persian revolts which often involved thousands of troops on either side, although in this case the presence of a large body of Greek mercenaries should have been an indicator of the future threat the Greeks would become

389 - 387 BC

Abrocomas joins two Persian army commanders - Pharnabazus (not to be confused with Pharnabazus II of Phrygia) and Tithraustes (former satrap of Sparda) - in the attempted reconquest of Egypt. Their efforts meet with little success as the Egyptians have relearned how to defend their country.

fl 351/350 BC

Bēlsunu / Bel-shunu / Belesys

Satrap of Ebir-nāri & Phoenicia.

346 BC

In tandem with Satrap Mazaeus of Khilakku, Bēlsunu of Ebir-nāri and Phoenicia leads fresh contingents of Greek mercenaries to put down the revolt in the Levant (principally led by Sidon). The main attack falls on Sidon but both satraps are repulsed. The Persian king himself is forced to follow up with a more direct intervention.

mid-300s BC


Satrap of Phoenicia & Arabāya.

? - 333 BC


Satrap of Athura, Ebir-nāri, Khilakku & Phoenicia. Killed.

333 - 332 BC

In 334 BC Alexander of Macedon launches his campaign into the Persian empire by crossing the Dardanelles. Much of Anatolia falls by 333 BC and Arsames falls (whilst also officially satrap of Arabāya).

Alexander proceeds into Syria during 333-332 BC to receive the submission of Ebir-nāri, which also gains him Harran, Judah, and Phoenicia (principally Byblos and Sidon, with Tyre holding out until it can be taken by force).

Alexander the Great crosses the River Graneikos
Alexander the Great crossed the River Graneikos (or Granicus) in 334 BC to spark a direct face-off with the Persians which had been brewing for generations, and his victory in battle near the river sent shockwaves through the Persian empire

Athura, Gaza, and Egypt also capitulate (not without a struggle in Gaza's case). Mazaeus of Athura initially plays his part by opposing Alexander, but he eventually surrenders, and Alexander makes him satrap of Mesopotamia.

Argead Dynasty in Phoenicia

The Argead were the ruling family and founders of Macedonia who reached their greatest extent under Alexander the Great and his two successors before the kingdom broke up into several Hellenic sections. Following Alexander's conquest of central and eastern Persia in 331-328 BC, the Greek empire ruled the region until Alexander's death in 323 BC and the subsequent regency period which ended in 310 BC.

Alexander's successors held no real power, being mere figureheads for the generals who really held control of Alexander's empire. Following that latter period and during the course of several wars, Semitic-speaking Phoenicia was left in the hands of the Seleucid empire from 301 BC.

Later Persian Ebir-nāri (Syria) seems to have been established as a satrapy in its own right away from oversight by Babirush (Babylonia). Once Syria was stripped away from Athura, thereby lessening Babylonia's own importance, the post of Babylonian satrap was poorly attested.

The Persian province of Ebir-nāri extended from the Amanus to Sinai and included Salamis on Cyprus. The administrative divisions of the Syrian province were likely the same as during Neo-Babylonian rule (Damas, Hamath, and Hauran, within later Batanea) and the capital was probably Damascus or Sidon.

Persian freedom laws allowed the cities of the Levant to continue to practice their own religions, carry out their own commercial activities, and establish colonies along the Mediterranean coast. Much the same was true during Greek domination of the region for the next three hundred years. All the Phoenician cities surrendered to Alexander the Great in 332 BC - except for Tyre, which had to be besieged but which was eventually captured.

Alexander the Great

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from Alexander the Great, Krzysztof Nawotka, from The Persian Empire, J M Cook (1983), from The Histories, Herodotus (Penguin, 1996), from The Cambridge Ancient History, John Boardman, N G L Hammond, D M Lewis, & M Ostwald (Eds), from Anabasis Alexandri, Arrian of Nicomedia, and from External Links: Encyclopaedia Britannica, and Encyclopaedia Iranica, and The Government of Syria under Alexander the Great, A B Bosworth (The Classical Quarterly Vol 24, No 1, May, 1974, pp 46-64, Cambridge University Press on behalf of The Classical Association (available at JSTOR)).)

332 - 323 BC

Alexander III the Great

King of Macedonia. Conquered Persia.

323 - 317 BC

Philip III Arrhidaeus

Feeble-minded half-brother of Alexander the Great.

317 - 310 BC

Alexander IV of Macedonia

Infant son of Alexander the Great and Roxana.

331 BC

With a Samaritan insurgency dealt with, Syria seems to be securely under Macedonian Greek control. From around this point onwards it seems to revert to a single satrapal territory with only one incumbent. The post is given to Menes at the end of 331 BC who also commands a rather vast swathe of neighbouring territory.

Map of Central Asia & Eastern Mediterranean 334-323 BC
The route of Alexander's ongoing campaigns are shown in this map, with them leading him from Europe to Egypt, into Persia, and across the vastness of eastern Iran as far as the Pamir mountain range (click or tap on map to view full sized)

331 - 323? BC


Greek satrap of Athura, Cilicia, Phoenicia, & Syria.

329 BC

The appointment of Menes (probably the son of Dionysius who had been raised to the circle of Alexander's 'Bodyguards' in 333 BC - a major distinction which would mark him out as a commanding figure) in such a satrapal role over so much territory has been called into question by scholars. He has even been labelled as nothing more than a communications officer despite scholars linking him to the 'Bodyguards' role.

329 - 328? BC


Unnamed deputy or stand-in?

Either way, Menes is not in direct command of Syria in 329 BC, but around 332 BC the satrap of Cilicia, Balacrus, is killed in battle and Menes may be required there as well as in Syria as a matter of urgent expediency, while Alexander's crossing of the Euphrates is imminent.

The fact that Menes is also in Zariaspa in Bactria in 329 BC with his own levy of troops makes it clear that his appointment is largely to retain peaceful control without launching any unnecessary offensives against remaining pockets of Persian resistance while raising as many recruits as possible for Alexander's drive eastwards.

Susa Weddings
This late nineteenth century engraving depicts a vision of the 'Susa Weddings', with his new Persian wife seated next to Alexander himself, and several other newlywed officers filling the rest of the scene (gravure reproduction of a painting by Andreas Muller, Munich)

However, records regarding Syria (and therefore Phoenicia) now fall silent until the death of Alexander, so Menes may well retain his position until then once he has returned from Bactria.

323 - 319 BC

Laomedon of Mitylene

Greek satrap of Syria and Phoenicia.

323 - 320 BC

Immediately following Alexander's untimely death, Syria and Phoenicia are assigned to Laomedon. He is confirmed in his position during the second partition of Alexander's empire in 321 BC in the middle of the First War of the Diadochi, while Cilicia has been separated as a satrapy in its own right.

But Ptolemy of Egypt soon begins taking an interest, offering him a large bribe to hand over his satrapy. When Laomedon declines his offer, Ptolemy sends an army under the command of Nicanor to take it by force by 318 BC.

Laomedon has little with which to resist so he is taken prisoner, escapes, and seemingly joins the general opposition to the Antigonids. His final fate is unknown while Antigonus governs Syria (and Phoenicia) during the period of the remaining Wars of the Diadochi.

Ptolemy I coin
Shown here is an Hellenic-era Egyptian coin which displays the head of Ptolemy I, Greek founder of Egypt's Ptolemaic dynasty following the death of Alexander the Great

318 - 313 BC


Greek ruler of Egypt. Evacuated.

319 - 301 BC

The domination of Syria and Phoenicia by Ptolemy of Egypt briefly comes to an end in 313 BC when he joins the widespread opposition to the Antigonids. In 312 BC Seleucus Nicator defeats Demetrius, son of Antigonus, at the Battle of Gaza which briefly allows Ptolemy to reoccupy Coele Syria. Following a reversal in battle fortunes he pulls out again as Antigonus invades Syria in strength to occupy it.

312 BC


Greek ruler of Egypt. Briefly retook the region.

312 - 301 BC

Antigonus Monophthalmus (One Eye)

Antigonid ruler. Commanded through conquest.

301 - 63 BC

Much of Syria and Phoenicia are gained by the Hellenic Seleucid empire following the decisive Battle of Ipsus in 301 BC, although Seleucus allows Ptolemy to retain Coele Syria. Seleucus had already declared himself king of Syria and Babylonia in 305 BC, immediately founding the city of Seleucia in Mesopotamia by massively rebuilding and expanding an existing settlement.

Now he also founds the city of Antioch on the Orontes (Syrian Antioch). Over the years, the Seleucids go to war against Ptolemaic Egypt over the rest of Syria, with full possession finally being gained at the end of the Fifth Syrian War in 195 BC.

Battle of Ipsus
The Battle of Ipsus in 301 BC ended the drawn-out and destructive Wars of the Diadochi which decided how Alexander's empire would be divided

In time, though, crushed out of existence by the Romans on one side and the Parthians on the other, the Seleucid empire is terminated by 63 BC. Antiochus XIII, the last Seleucid ruler of any kind, is dethroned by Pompey when he turns Syria into a Roman province.

Antioch on the Orontes (Syrian Antioch) continues to be an important city throughout the subsequent Roman period, and serves as a major centre of early Christianity.

63 BC - AD 1918

With the final fall of the Seleucids in 63 BC, Phoenicia is taken by Rome. It remains within the republic, its subsequent empire, and later the Eastern Roman empire even while Europe is falling to barbarian kingdoms. In AD 551, much of Phoenicia is destroyed by a great earthquake. The cities decline in importance, and archaeological evidence from this period is fragmentary.

In 637 the Islamic empire sweeps through the region, conquering everything in its path. A degree of decline and fragmentation sets in following the invasion of the Near East in the tenth and eleventh centuries by Seljuq Turks, making Phoenicia ripe for conquest by the Crusaders.

The coming of the Crusaders occurred at a time at which the Islamic world was deeply involved in factional in-fighting, and at first they were dismissed as being a mere Eastern Roman raid

In 1291 the region falls under the Mameluke sultans who, in turn, are conquered by the Ottoman empire in 1517. From 1697, while still nominally part of the Ottoman empire, the Shihabi amirs of Lebanon are semi-independent, although direct rule is re-established in 1842. In 1918 the French mandate of Lebanon is established, leading directly towards the formation of modern Lebanon.

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