I have been a couple of times to the Maronite Heritage Centre in the grounds of St Joseph's Cathedral in Redfern, the seat of the Maronite Bishop of Australia. However on both occasions the centre was being used for exequies: a mercy meal (held after a requiem) on the first occasion and a mahfil (condolence of the family before a funeral) on the second. I could not spend time poring over the displays. They hold a wealth of information on the history of the Maronites in Australia, but also a brief account of the history of Lebanon and its people. I transcribed the following from the display for that section. It may help to note the following two points: (1) Modern Lebanese – particularly Christians – often identify themselves as "Phoenician" in preference to "Arab". (2) Carthage – the toughest opponent of Republican Rome – was founded from the Phoenician city of Tyre, hence Punic (i.e. Phoenician) Wars.
THE PHOENICIANSFor thousands of years, the Phoenicians lived in the area which is today Lebanon, and in surrounding areas, such as northern Israel, and adjoining parts of Syria. In addition, the Phoenicians colonized Cyprus and the Mediterranean, founding cities in Spain, France, and Italy and throughout Northern Africa.
They were a Cananite people. However, invasions fragmented the Canaanites from about 1200 BC. The Canaanites in cities such as Byblos, Beirut, Sidon and Tyre, and in the mountains behind these cities, became known as the Phoenicians. These active, industrious city states maintained trade routes extending overland through Turkey and Syria, and threading the Mediterranean in their ships. As far back as 3000 BC, the people of Byblos had traded Lebanese cedar with the ancient Egyptians.It is no coincidence that 1200 BC is the approximate date of the Exodus. The invasions which fragmented the peace-loving (see below) Canaanites were by this lot. And I nearly forgot these two: here and here.
The Phoenicians were known as intelligent, diligent and religious: for example, the name "Charbel" is Phoenician "Baal (the weather god) is king". They produced excellent dyes (Tyrian purple), glassware, perfumes, foodstuffs, wines and cloths. They were also famous for astronomy, navigation, mathematics, literature (of which little survives) and sound government, allowing a voice to the middle class and exalting the rule of law through their judges (shofetim). The rise of professional archaeology in Lebanon is revealing much about them. For example they led the world in underwater architecture, building walls of fitted stones beneath the sea in order to calm their harbour waters.In other places, Baal gets a somewhat different press. Better known as Beelzebub, he was later identified as the lieutenant of Satan. I mean to cast no aspersions: the names of the days of the week in English, of course, come from equally pagan sources.
However, as the Greeks and Romans started to expand, they came into rivalry. In addition to the well-known Punic wars, the Greeks frequently invaded Phoenicia, beginning with Alexander the Great, who was in fact one of the greatest mass-murderers in history. This spelled the end of the peaceful Phoenician civilisation, which adopted the Aramaic language, and in adopting Christianity, lost the final line of continuity with the ancient Phoenician culture. However, the Phoenicians were the ancestors of the modern Lebanese, and they have left traces in other peoples, such as the Maltese."Alexander the Great, who was in fact one of the greatest mass-murderers in history." Take that Greeks! (Who are morbidly sensitive about history's most famous Macedonian, to the extent of complaining about the name of modern Macedonia).
As for "peaceful Phoenician civilization" tell that to the dead of Lake Trasimene or Cannae.