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Phoenicians

The Ancient World and Fashion > Peoples of Western Asia

The Phoenicians were a seafaring people descended from the Canaanites (see page 16). From around 1200 BCE they lived along the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea, setting up great trading ports. For two thousand years the Phoenicians were the most successful traders in the region. As well as their kingdom in the Middle East, they also had colonies along the coasts of Africa and Spain, and in Cyprus, Sicily, and Malta.

Wealthy men wore jewelry, including broad neck collars similar to those worn by the ancient Egyptians, and simple armlets consisting of a twist of metal wound several times around the upper arm. Merchants and rulers wore finger rings set with semiprecious stones that were engraved with a design, and these rings could be stamped into wax and used as a personal seal.

Phoenician men
Phoenician men
Phoenician women
Phoenician women

Phoenician men wore long tunics with multi-tiered, fringed skirts.

Phoenician women were famous for their splendid jewelry.

Glass Beads
Glass Beads
 

A Phoenician glass bead, greatly magnified. Beads like this were traded all around the Mediterranean area.

Purple People

The wordPhoenician is Greek for “purple men,” a name the Phoenicians acquired because of their famous purple dye. Made from the murex shellfish, the dye colored cloth arich, deep purple. Purple cloth from Phoenicia was sold all over the Mediterranean and the Middle East, but it was so expensive that it was usually only worn by royalty.

Stylish Dressers

Phoenician men were stylish dressers,
who liked to show off their wealth by wearing colorful clothes.While the ordinary workers wore simple loincloths, rulers and merchants often worelong tunics, with multi-tiered skirts. Each tier was bordered by a fringe. Many Phoenician men wore a conical cap, but those who went bareheaded paid a lot of attention to their hair and beard, which were both carefully curled.

Gorgeous Jewels

Phoenician women were usually
modestly dressed,draping their bodies in folds of cloth.Their hair was often covered by acap or hood, but sometimes it was simply encircled by a band, below which it rippled freely over their shoulders. Jewelry was very popular with Phoenician women, who wore a variety of pendants, armlets, bracelets, earrings, finger rings, and brooches. Another type of ornament was the flat, patterned plaque, usually made from glass, with holes in the edges, which was apparently sewn onto clothes.

Often, Phoenician ladies wore three or four necklaces at a time, one above the other-a string of small pearls at the top, then some larger beads, and finally a couple of rows of necklaces with hanging ornaments (similar to a present-day charm bracelet). Some surviving necklaces have up to sixty ornaments made from gold, glass, and precious stones.The ornaments came in an astonishing variety of shapes, including acorns, pomegranates, lotus flowers, miniature vases and cones, and the heads of humans and animals.

Glass Beads


The Phoenicians were probably the earliest people to
discover how to blow glass, and theymade a range of beautiful colored beads. Manysurviving Phoenician beads are long and oval in shape and blue-green in color. Others are a deep olive green.
As well as making beads from solid glass,the Phoenicians also created tiny sculptures in colored glass. Some of these beads, showing human heads,contain up to five different colorsof glass, and are impressively detailed, with tiny coils of glass for hair and beards.

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