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Phoenicians

Tripoli-Lebanon And The :
WB00827_.GIF (132 bytes) Phoenicians
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History

In Phoenicia there was an important city called Tripolis, whose name is appropriate to its nature, for there are in it three cities, at a distance of a stade from one another, and the names by which these are called are the city of the Aradians, of the Sidonians and of the Tyrians. This city enjoyed the highest repute amongst the cities of Phoenicia for there, as it happens, the Phoenicians held their common council and deliberated on matters of supreme importance. Top Page

Tripolis was a federation of three Phoenician seaports, Aradus, Sidon and Tyre. During this period, the early part of the fourth century B.C., the Mediterranean seaboard was under Persian control and the Phoenician cities, together with Cyprus, Syria and Palestine, were incorporated in the Fifth satrapy.e They were taxed lightly by the Persians and consequently their commercial activities prospered. Then conditions changed and an attempt was made by the Phoenicians to achieve political unity and independence from Persia. Tripolis was probably built on the emplacement of a still earlier Phoenician city whose name has yet to be determined by further archaeological evidence on the site.  Top Page

The federal city not only became a neutral meeting ground for the Phoenicians but also developed into an important and flourishing commercial center. Its geographical position and port facilities attracted the sea trade of the east Mediterranean world and the West and also drew to it the caravan trade of north Syria and the hinterland. The variety of coins issued by Tripoli’s mints is evidence of its prosperity and importance as the financial center and main port of northern Phoenicia.

One of these coins issued in the year 189 to 188 B.C. is believed to conceal the Phoenician name of the city . On the obverse is a veiled female head and on the reverse, in addition to the helmets of the Dioscuri, the patron gods of Tripoli, are three Phoenician letters. Coins minted in Tripoli usually bear Greek and Latin inscriptions, therefore this coin is unique. The letters might be transcribed as ‘tr, Atar. The question which remains to be answered is whether the Phoenician letters on the Tripoli coin represent the original Phoenician name, which could be Athar, or is an  attempt by the engraver to reproduce in Phoenician the Greek name of the city ‘‘Tripolis’’.Top Page

What distinguishes coins of Tripoli from others minted in the cities of Phoenicia is the frequent appearance of the Dioscuri or the "Heavenly Twins", believed by the Ancients to be the Sons of Zeus. In Greek legend they were said to be born of Leda who was famed for her great beauty. Having consorted with Zeus, who approached her disguised as a swan, she laid an egg from which the twins, known in the Graeco -Roman world as Castor and Pollux, were hatched. However In ancient tradition some confusion reigned as to who their father was. Some held that they were not the Sons of Zeus but of Leda’s husband Tyndareus, king of Sparta, with whom she had lain the same night. Still others held that Castor was the son of Tyndareus and thus a mortal whereas Pollux was the son of Zeus and thus a god." Top Page

The Dioscuri were inseparable and were renowned for their athletic ability, Castor for horsemanship and Pollux for boxing. Among their heroic exploits was sailing on the ship Argo and rescuing their sister Helen who had been carried off by Theseus. Tradition held that they quarreled at one time with their cousins Idas and Lynceus by abducting their brides-to-be. Others believed that the dispute arose between the cousins over stolen cattle which led to bloodshed and Castor, being mortal, was slain. Pollux was so afflicted by the death of his twin that he did not wish to outlive him and refused immortality. Zeus was touched by this devotion and allowed the twins to remain together alternately in the heavens and in the underworld. Later he transformed them into the constellation "Gemini" or the "Heavenly Twins". They were revered as patron gods of Tripoli and their cult had great appeal. They were known to succour shipwrecked sailors and sacrifices were made to them for favorable winds. On coins of Tripoli the Dioscurt are represented as two youths holding spears , often times they appear as horsemen. They wear egg-shaped helmets, symbolic of their origin, crowned with stars commemorating their exalted position in the sky The helmets of the Dioscuri also appear on a ship’s prow on some coins emphasizing their maritime role as patron gods of Tripoli’s seamen. Top Page

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