The early Canaanites established on the coast of Lebanon relied, of necessity, on their ability to trade and to find new markets for their merchandise. In the course of years they began to compete with one another with the result that jealousy and rivalries broke out. Although they spoke a common language and worshipped the same gods, they never could unite because of their interests and independent ways. They appear as "Canaanites" (Kina'ni) organized in city-kingdoms in the royal Egyptian archives of the fourteenth century B.C. and were called "Phoenicians" by the Greeks at the end of the second millennium B.C. when they became familiar figures in the trading potts of the Aegean Sea and mainland Greece. They, however, never spoke of themselves as "Phoenicians" but as Tyrians, Sidonians, Biblians, Berytians and Aradians. These bold and enterprising seafarers have been credited with the invention and diffusion through the Mediterranean basin of a simplified twenty-two letter alphabet, without which perhaps the story of Western civilization may have followed another course. Ironically, they have left behind little in the way of written records and what we know about them comes from the
accounts of foreigners or their enemies and commercial rivals of the past. Since the turn of the century excavations of the ancient port citiesofLebanon have at last enabled us to learn more about the daily life and customs of this people who at one time controlled the trade routes of the ancient world.
To the south Tyre and Sidon, the rival sister cities, competed for the control of the sea trade and caravan routes from the hinterland. To the north of Sidon caine flerytus, modern Beirut, renowned in the past for its extensive converse and, later on, for its famous school of law. Then came Byblos, modern Jebeil, the most important cedar wood shipping center of the ancient world. Another Phoenician city-state Aradus (modern Arwad), an island fortress, lies further to the north and is located in the Syrian Arab Republic.
Each city-state was a separate entity, ruled by a king who at times served as high-priest in the temple of the city’s patron god. His word was law and he held sway over the lives and affairs of his subjects in the city and its adjoining territory. Sometimes he was advised by a council of elders, more often he ruled alone.
Tripoli was relatively a late comer on the historical scene.Its renown was due to an unprecedented development in the political institutions of the Phoenician city-states. From the earliest times, as stated above, there was no incentive for political unity. Each city followed an independent course putting its commercial interests above any other consideration.