“In Lebanon, not only do we not honor our great men but even worse, we ignore them. Pity!”
Ildefonse Sarkis ~ Le Liban, Son Role Civilisateur
When I came to know the truth of the identity of these remarkable historical influencers, whom we have studied in our Lebanese schools as being Greeks and Romans, I was stunned that they were actually Phoenicians who had taken their disciplines and knowledge and taught them in Europe.
I was also saddened that our own schools have denied us from their truths for reasons I can’t explain, and neither would you, for there is no explanation to that.
It is not a matter of Lebanese pride, although we do have all the right to be proud of our ancestors. It is about the right of our growing youth to be granted that source of strong inspiration and role model; remarkable people to relate to.
We glorify great foreign men and women, we miss glorifying oursand their legacy.
There are truths veiled by time and negligence, and which shouldn’t be eradicated from our collective minds, because they matter. Sharing such knowledge among ourselves helps in that.
While the materials I have explored about our ancestry are quite extensive with remarkable knowledge and historical research, I am choosing to share with you just a very small selection (for now), compiled in a listicle, just because they are, in my opinion, too remarkable not to share the soonest. All others can wait.
We can only hope that Lebanon will come one day soon to, at least, rectify what it has been teaching in our schools about the identities of these remarkable ancestors, and claim back what’s ours.
Until then, here are 10 outstanding Phoenicians who and were wrongly credited to ancient Europe, and which influences are still alive today across the world.
Beyond famous to require any introduction, Pythagoras was born to a Phoenician father from the south of Lebanon and a mother from Samos.
The father, a very wealthy merchant, had saved the island of Samos upon a natural disaster, providing a massive amount of food with his ships. Samos hence granted him honorary citizenship for saving the island from famine.
Pythagoras, whose teachings are still alive in today’s education around the world, has to his credit numerous mathematical and scientific discoveries, including his famous theorem, as well as discoveries in the fields of medicine, astronomy, and music.
#2 Euclid: Father of Geometry
Born in Tyre, South Lebanon, around 360 BC, Euclid is referred to as the founder of geometry.
He is famous to date for his Elements, one of the most influential works in the history of mathematics up to the early 20th century. It is the main textbook for teaching mathematics, especially geometry. (Ref: Macardle, et al. (2008). Scientists: Extraordinary People Who Altered the Course of History. New York: Metro Books.)
While the Greeks called him Euclid the Tyrian, in reference to his hometown Tyre, some came to name him as well Euckleides of Alexandria because of his long years of teaching in that city.
His Phoenician identity was affirmed as well in Stromata (c. 150 – c. 215): 16, 61, by Clement of Alexandria himself.
#3 Thales, One of the Seven Sages of Greece
Born in Tyre, south of Lebanon, around 624 BC, “Thales, a member of the Thelides family, descends in a direct line from Agenor, King of Tyre and Cadmus,” Herodotus, 5 BC.
As recorded by DiogenesLaërtius, a biographer of the Greek philosophers (3rd c. AD), “Thales was registered as a citizen of Miletus when he came to this city with Elee, exiled from Phoenicia.”
A mathematician, astronomer, and pre-Socratic philosopher, Thales settled in Miletus where he founded, in 6 BC, a school of scientists that would become legendary in forming a long line of remarkable scientists, including Socrates and Pythagoras.
He was recognized as one of the Seven Sages of Greece and, historically, as the first individual in Western civilization to have engaged in scientific philosophy, and the first known individual to whom a mathematical discovery has been attributed. (Ref: Boyer 1991, “Ionia and the Pythagoreans” p. 43)
#4 Zeno, Founder of the Stoicism Philosophy
Born 336 BC in the Phoenician colony of Citium (Larnaca today) to Phoenician parents from Tyre, South Lebanon, Zeno is honored with memorial statues in various parts of the world, including in Cincinnati (USA), Athens (Greece), and Larnaca (Cyprus).
Zeno’s moral influence even earned him a crater on the Moon in his name!
Zeno taught in Athens, Greece, his stoic philosophy that greatly emphasizes on goodness and peace of mind, which one could gain from living a life of Virtue in accordance with Nature.
Highly appreciated in his time for his philosophical and pedagogical teachings, he was honored with the Golden Crown, while his school became one of the major ones in philosophy from the Hellenistic period throughout to the Roman era. His wisdom remains alive…
#5 Cadmus, “Master of the World.”
Son of King Agenor and Queen Telephassa of Tyre, and sibling to Phoenix, Cilix, and Europa, prince Cadmus went to look for his abducted sister Europa.
He carried along with him the Phoenician phonetic Alphabet, which he taught to the Greeks, who in turn adapted it to form theirs.
He also carried with him from Phoenicia many other know-hows that he imparted, which got him to be honored by the ancient Greeks with the title “Master of the World.”
Cadmus founded the Greek Mythology and the Greek city of Thebes, the acropolis originally named Cadmeia in his honor.
The ancient Greek Historians credited him as one of the first Greek historians. Herodotus estimated that Cadmus lived 1600 years before his time, which would be around 2000 BC.
Born in Tyre, around 233 AD, to a wealthy family who spent generously on his education, Porphyry was actually named Malchus (Malek) at birth, meaning ‘king” in the Semitic languages.
He grew up and studied in Tyre, before moving to Athens at 21, by 254 AD. It is in Athens that one of his teachers, Cassius Longinus, named him Porphyrius, meaning “clad in purple,” in reference to his Phoenician royal purple clothing.
Porphyry moved to Rome when he was 30, and went into influencing the study of theology, philosophy, astrology, grammar, jurisprudence, and musical theory. His most influential contribution was the Introduction to Categories into Neoplatonism.
His doctrine of the categories of being, which was translated into Arabic from a Syriac version by Abd-Allāh Ibn al-Muqaffa, could be considered the initiator of Sufism.
Like Pythagoras, Porphyry was an advocate of vegetarianism on spiritual and ethical grounds.
#7 Papinian, “The Asylum of Right and Treasurer of the Laws.”
Born in Beirut in 142 AD, he taught at the Beirut School of Law before becoming the personal advisor of Emperor Septime Severe, a Phoenician of Africa.
The equality of all, and the liberty of each!
In an era abounding with slavery, Papinian was relentless in proclaiming fiercely, “The equality of all, and the liberty of each,” which caused his death at the hand of his pupil Caracalla, son of the Emperor, at the young age of 37.
Despite his early death, Papinian contributed massively a judicial heritage of high importance, 595 of his articles were retained in the Justinian Digest.
He was known as a Roman jurist, magister libellorum, attorney general, and praetorian prefect, as well as one of the most revered jurists in ancient Rome.
Papinian was one of the only five jurists whose recorded opinions were considered decisive by the Law of Citations of 426 AD.
It took the world 1500 years to hear from the philosophers of the 18th century that human essential values that the Phoenician Papinian had proclaimed: Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, and abolishment of slavery!
Born in Tyre in 170 AD, Ulpian succeeded Papinian in the School of Law of Beirut, and later as advisor to the Phoenician Emperor Alexander Severe of Arqa, north of Lebanon.
During his stay in Rome, Ulpian launched a fierce fight against abuses and vices, attempted to put a limit to the dictatorship of the pretorians, and reformed the Roman law.
In that, he surpassed his predecessor Papinian with a contribution of over 2500 laws that went into the Justinian Digest. It is with a valid reason that Justinian went on calling Beirut, “Mother and Nurse of Laws.”
#9 Mochus of Sidon, Father of the Atom Theory
Prophet, Scientist, and Physicist, as qualified by the ancient Greeks, and founder of a school in Sidon that persisted till the 6th century, Mochus was the true creator of the theory of the atom.
Strabo, a Greek biographer (63BC-24AD), recorded in Geography: 16, 2, 24, “The theory of Democritus on the atom is of Phoenician origin. It is due to Mochus of Sidon.”
According to The Oxford Companion of Philosophy, ‘Isaac Newton, Isaac Causabon, John Selden, Johannes Arcerius, Henry More, and Ralph Cudworth credit Mochus of Sidon as the author of the atomic theory and some of them tried to identify Mochus with the prophet Moses.’
#10 Marinus of Tyre, Father of Geography
A Phoenician geographer, cartographer, and mathematician who founded mathematical geography, Marinus was born in Tyre at the end of the 1st century AD.
He was called the father of geography, although he wasn’t the first to work in that field; however, his contributions were as innovative and significant.
Among them, the drafting of geographical maps, the realization that the earth is round, the underpinnings of Claudius Ptolemy’s influential Geography, development of a system of nautical charts, improvements to the construction of maps, and the coining of the term Antarctic.
Marinus’ maps were the first in the Roman Empire to show China.
The main legacy of Marinus’ maps is that he was the first to assign to each place a proper latitude and longitude, as well as his invention of the equirectangular projection, which is still used in map creation today.
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