User:Vuara/Who is Phoenician and who is Arab today

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Phoenicia, Phoenicians of the Present: Who is Phoenician and who is Arab today?

Living Phoenicians Who is Phoenician and who is Arab today? “The invaders of Phoenicia NEVER REPLACED the original population even when they added to their genetic diversity.”

“Are we arab? Are we Phoenician?”

“The majority come from the original Phoenicians who speak a language (or dialect) which is a mixture of Syriac, Aramaic, Turkish, and colloquial Arabic, as well as a some other languages.”

Multicultural, Multiethnic, Poly-religious, Poly-sectarian Middle East and the Need for Tolerance 

Political Statement: The tensions and turmoils that continue to haunt the world cannot be solved without genuine will for coexistance, tolerance and peaceful dialogue. The complex makeup of minorities from all religions, sects, ethnic or cultural groups of the Near East must be allowed free expression of their unique characteristics, traditons and cultures within the accepted freedoms of the civilized world. Such communities should be protected from persecution, extermination, intimidation or subordination by majorities that choose to employ religious laws that infringe on the human rights of others. The multicultural, multiethnic, poly-religious and poly-sectarian communities of this part of the world must exercise extreme caution in preserving the uniquness of their diverse society which is the corner stone in enriching their part of the world.

Religion and Culture

A MUST SEE: Photographic galleries of Phoenicia through the lens of Peter Brown, a Lithuanian/ Scottish American. Visit his site by clicking on the image of Tyre below.


After the Arab invasion of the Middle East in the 7th Century and the enforced conversion of most of the population to Islam, the cultures of the various peoples under this occupation became diluted into the new order. However, ancient cultures survived in the rites of various churches of the East. The mosaic of religions in the Middle East became the repository of culture while the unique identities of the peoples of that part of the Mediterranean was changed for ever. For example, the Assyrian Church and Chaldean Church (or see "Who are the Chaldeans") in Iraq, Georgia, Persia, and Turkey preserved the cultures of the ancient Assyrians and Babylonians; the Coptic Church in Egypt preserved the culture of Pharaonic Egypt; the Syriac Orthodox Church, (whose Patriach Ignatius Khalaf 1455-1483 may have been my ancestor; see also Suryoyo) -- relative to Syriac language, dialect of Aramaic -- in Syria, Lebanon, Persia and Iraq preserved the culture of the Syrian Jacobites/Phoenicians; the Greco-Phoenician of the Byzantine Church (or see The History of Melkites in this site and Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East and Greek Catholic Melkite Patriarchate of Antioch, Jerusalem, Alexandria and All the East in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Turkey, Egypt and Israel/Palestine preserved the Greek Byzantine culture; and the Maronite Church in Lebanon, Syria, Israel/Palestine, and Cyprus preserved the culture of the Phoenicians. Several of the aforesaid churches are or have sister easter Catholic rites churches which did separate from their original churches and came in communion with the Papacy (see Opus Libani) while the others remained in their Eastern Orthodox tradition. Further, all of these churches and their cultures have immigrant branches all over the world. For a detailed list of links about the various peoples and churches mentioned herewith, please refer to "Related resources and links about Phoenicia and the Forgotten Christians of the East" (Related Links About Phoenicia) on this website.

It must be noted, in this brief summary, that a predominent majority of the Phoenician Christian community which resided in cities of Phoenicia Maritima became Byzantinized or took on "western" Byzantine customes, dress, rites and liturgy. Meanwhile, Phoenician communities of the mountains, which were cut off from contact with the outside world, maintained a more authentic Phoenician Maronite and Syriac traditions, customes, rites, language and culture.

Byzantine Psaltica Chants During ceremonial Holy Liturgy, chants honoring Lebanese bishops and archbishops continue to be recited to this day proclaiming them "Metropolitan Archbishops of Phoenicia Maritima."

Following are translations of the text of two of these Byzantine chants, as well as link to their MP3 audio files.

Archbishop of Beirut, specifically composed and written to the late Metropolitan Archbishop Eliya Saleebi:

"Father of fathers and shepherd of shepherds, Eliya, most virtuously righteous and most honorable, who is appointed by God as bishop of Beirut and its suburbs. He who is most revered in graciousness and who is most preeminent in leadership, Metropolitan of Phoenicia Maritima. Our father and archbishop, may his years be many." (performed with difficulty by the author* of this site) (MP3 file Beirut)

  • I used to hear this chant when I went to Holy Liturgy at the Orthodox Monastery in my hometown when archbishop Eliya Saleebi was the celebrant. I am not absolutely sure of the right words but I believe I got the hymnology as close to the original as I can remember.

Archbishop of Tripoli, specifically composed and written to the Metropolitan Archbishop Elias:

"May God the Lord Almighty keep for many years, his beatitude and most revered graciousness, Metropolitan of Tripoli and all of Phoenicia Maritima, our father and our master, Kyrios Elias. God keep for many years." (performer unknown) (MP3 file, Tripoli)

Who is Arab? The origin of the word "Arab" Hitherto, the first actual use of the word Arab in history is to be found in an Assyrian inscription of 853 B.C., commemorating the defeat of a mutinous chieftain, called Gindibu the Aribi during the reign of king Shalmaneser III (858-824 B.C.). Arabs are then mentioned quite often, until the 6th century B.C. as Aribi or Arabuthat indicates a vassalage to the Assyrians. The first Greek who is accredited to have acquired some geographical knowledge was Homer, who flourished in 1000 or 800 B.C. He has referred to the Syrians under the name Arimi (the Biblical, Aram) and the Arabs under the name of Erembi. The place-name Arabia occurs for the first time in Greek writings. Herodotus (484-425 B.C,), followed by most other Greek and Latin writers, extended the term Arabia and Arab to the whole peninsula and everything in it, even including the eastern desert of Egypt between the Red Sea and the Nile. References to the Arabs, in addition, are also found in the anonymous "Periplus of the Erythraean Sea" (between 95 A.D. and 130 A.C.). The word Saracen, first used in Greek literature too, is a transcription of an Arabic word meaning "easterner." As for the Arabs' use of the word, it occurs for the first time in the ancient epigraphical material originating in southern Arabia, where it is clearly used for Bedouin. In the north, the word is used firstly in the 4th century A.D., in one of the oldest surviving records of the language that became classical Arabic.

Further account of the Arabs comes in the 10th chapter of Genesis of the Old Testament, which names the descendants of Noah, whose elder son, Shem is regarded as the ancestor of the Hebrews, Arabs and Armaens, - the speakers of Semitic language. But the term Arabs is not explicitly mentioned in Genesis. It is however suggested that the "mixed multitude" (Hebrew, erev) mentioned in Exodus (xii, 38) as having accompanied the Israelites into the wanderness from Egypt may be for Arabs. According to "Dictionary of the Bible" (ed. by James Hastings, New York, 1898, 1st vol., p. 135), "The employment of the name Arab for an inhabitant of any portion of the vast peninsula known to us as Arabia, begins somewhere in the 3rd century B.C., though the only trace of it in Old Testament is in the 2 ch., 21, where the Arabians that are near the Ethiopeans' would seem naturally to refer to the neighbours of the Habasha, whence there are grounds for placing in the extreme south of Yamen." The word arabia is expressly given to this country in the Old Testament (I Kings x. 15) when describing the visit of the Queen Sheba to Sololmon, which took place 1005 B.C. We also find the word arabah in Deut. i. 7 and ii. 8. Some writers hold that the village called Arabah, situated near Tehama, may be the name for the whole peninsula, an opinion scarcely deserving the least notice.

In the Bible, the name Arab is the first word used in the second book of Chronicles (xvii, 11) to refer to nomads from the east bank of the Jordan river in the time of king Jehosophat (900-800 B.C.), such as "...and the Arabians brought him flocks, seven thousand and seven hundred rams, and seven thousand and seven hundred he- goats."

The word arab or arabah is probably derived from a Semitic root related to nomadism. In the Arabic language, the word arab (derived from i'rab), means "those who speak clearly" as contrast with ajam (those who speak indistincly). In Holy Koran, the word arab has never used for the country of Arabia, but characterised the residence of Ismail, the son of Abraham as an "uncultivated land." In the time of Ismail his place of residence had no name, therefore, it was given the name of an "uncultivated land." In the Old Testament, the word midbar is used for Ismail's home, meaning a desert or a barren land, which closely corresponds to the Koranic description.

The peninsula was divided by the ancient geographers into Arabia Petraea, Arabia Felix and Arabia Deserta. The Arabia Petraea corresponded to the present Hijaz and eastern Najd. Arabia Felix to Yamen and Hazarmawt and Arabia Deserta comprised the rest of the country. Arab Peninsula (jazirat al-Arab) is situated in south-west Asia, embosomed with sea waters on its three sides, i.e., the Red Sea in the west, the Arabian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman in the east, and the Arabian Sea in the south; is considered to be a largest peninsula in the world with an area of about 1,230,000 sq. miles, i.e., about one third of Europe, or almost six times bigger than France, ten times that of Italy and eight times bigger than Switzerland. Geographically it is an extention of the Sahara desert. It is divided into various parts of which Hijaz, Najd, Yamen, Hazarmawt and Oman are most important. The whole land is almost barren. The climate is extremely hot in summer and the coastal tracts are among the most torrid regions.

Where are the Phoenicians today? “The invaders of Phoenicia NEVER REPLACED the original population even when they added to their genetic diversity.” “Are we arab? Are we Phoenician?” “The majority come from the original Phoenicians who speak a language (or dialect) which is a mixture of Syriac, Aramaic, Turkish, and colloquial Arabic, as well as a some other languages.” As indicated earlier, the inhabitants of the countries that fell under Arab domination were forced to convert to Islam. However, a considerable number refused the new faith and remained steadfast in their Christian faith. Therefore, many Phoenician Christians became Muslims and their identity, as a separate people, was lost. At the same time, other Phoenician Christians kept their Byzantine, Maronite, Syriac, Assyrian or Chaldean (Coptic in Egypt) faith and are now able to identify their culture. These Phoenicians whether Christian or Muslim (who do not have a possible identifier of their Phoenician origin such as those of the Christian sects) -- see " Am I Phoenician?" in this site -- are spread all over the world. Despite the illusion that the Phoenicians of today live in Lebanon, Syria, and Israel/Palestine, or come from these countries; they can be found almost any where around the globe; and come from Phoenicia proper or its far away colonies. Many people from Spain, Tunisia, Sicily, Sardinia and other Mediterranean shores are of Phoenician descent (or descendants of immigrants from these places). They still proudly claim their Phoenician origin.

There are very few places in the world where one does not find a Phoenician buying or selling something under the pseudonym of Lebanese descendent. Phoenician trade is very much alive and well whether in Seattle, Washington, USA; Sydney, Australia; Cape Town, South Africa; São Pãulo, Brazil; or Paris, France.

Who is Phoenician and who is Arab today?

A question which many people struggle with today.

In response to this question which I get asked very often, I am publishing below one of my standard explanation or responses to this question. I am publishing exerpts of the letter as is, in a letter form, until I produce a detailed essay on the subject:

You question is very valid especially at a time when the Lebanese of the old country are defeated with too many powers that pull and push on them in many ways: politically, emotionally, economically and spiritually.

It is not really possible for me to give you a complete, full and logical answer to your question in a short e-mail. I will, however, give you a summery of my studies and direct you to my website where a brief and incomplete attempt to answer the question is further developed.

Simply put, the Lebanese, Syrians and Palestinians come from mostly Phoenician blood which is a mix of the original Canaanites and the blood of invading armies that occupied that part of the world. Though the original stock of the population got mixed with invaders along the ages, they (the invaders) never **REPLACED** the population. This means that up till around the year 630+ A.D. Phoenicia as a political entity was still there and so were its people. Invading Arabs did NOT replace the population but subjugated many of them into Islam while the rest remained Christian. Simply put the population of the eastern Mediterranean is mostly made of the original Canaanite Phoenician people. The present population both Christian and Muslim continues to be Phoenician stock and those people were NOT put to death or exterminated and replaced by Arabs. To learn more about this particular subject, please visit my web page entitled "Living Phoenicians" http://phoenicia.org/today.html (actually this very page).

Having said this, I am not saying that all the Muslims in Lebanon, Syria and Palestine are pure Phoenicians but that in their majority they come from Phoenician blood. The problem with the Muslim community is the fact that they have no repository of heritage that survives to this day because Islam separated them from that heritage. The repository of heritage is to be found in Christian sects and their rites, chants, iconography, building and language: Syriac and Aramaic languages of the Syraic Orthodox and Syriac Catholic churches, Maronites. The Byzantine Orthodox and Catholic were westernized or Byzantinized Phoenicians who employed Greek -- much like the Lebanese speak French today. All this is explained in the page mentioned above.

Finally, I must include that few, very few Arabs and Christians were mixed into the Phoenician community. Specifically, the Ghassanides (Ghassasina in Arabic) were Yemeni Christians who immigrated to the area of north Jordan and south Syria. They were Sabaeans which many historians do not consider Arab based on archaeological evidence while the Koran mentions them as Arabs. Anyway, these Ghassanides were thought to be Arab because they came from Yemen after the Dam of Maarib broke and their economic life was messed up in Yemen. These people were of dark complexion, frizzy hair and thin lips. The Christian Gibarah family of Marj3yoon has roots from these people. It is important to note that the Gibarah family dialect or language is considerably other Aramaic and Syriac rich language of other Lebanese. Some other families may have had Ghassanide blood but knowing how far the persecution of Christians and their forced conversion to Islam over the centuries decimated the Christian communities of the east, it is very unlikely that many Ghassanides survived the ravages of history. Many of them were Jacobites who were persecuted into extermination.

Converts to Christianity were very very few in the whole Middle East with the exception of some of the Princes of Lebanon such the Chehab, Abillamah...etc. Most Christians converted to Islam than otherwise. This means to say that the higher percentage of Arab blood among the Phoenician Muslim population may have come to the Christian community but in very minute measures.

So, to answer your question "Are we arab? Are we Phoenician," I would confirm to you in the majority we are Phoenicians who speak a mixture of Syriac, Aramaic, and colloquial Arabic. This applies to most of the Lebanese and the Syrians, especially all the way up on the Mediterranean shore. Many Palestinians are of Phoenician origin too.

If you come from Christian or Muslim origin from that part of the world, you are Phoenician by heritage. If I were you, I would be proud of that and 900 pages in my website is out there for you to learn from.

How many Phoenician words do you know? A study is underway to analyze spoken Lebanese and other similar languages/dialects of the Near East with Aramaic and Syriac to determine how these latter ancient languages continue to be used in the very-day language of people. Further, the study will include similarities with Maltese, the language of Malta, and identify similarity with Lebanese.

What is the status of the Christian minorities of Phoenician Christians and and other Christians in the Middle East Read about the shattered Christian minorities in the Middle East by following this link.