Much of what is known about Phoenicia under Persia come from the Greek historians Herodotus and Diodorus Siculus. According to Herodotus, Phoenicia formed a part of Persia’s Fifth Satrapy, which included Cyprus, Palestine, and Syria. This event is listed on the Bible Timeline Poster with World History at 483 BC. It was the Eber-Nari district in the book Ezra (5:3), and this portion of the Near East was inherited by the Persians from the Neo-Babylonian empire.
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Phoenicia was Persia’s ally and vassal during the reign of the Cyrus the Great. It seemed that Cyrus saw a campaign in the Levant was unnecessary. It was too far from his capital of Susa and he was busy with wars against Persia’s neighbors during the first years of his reign. He did not send Persian troops nor governors into the area but the citizens of the Fifth Satrapy needed to pay tribute to him. According to the Bible, Cyrus’ most important act was to set the Jews free from Babylonian captivity and allow them to rebuild the city of Jerusalem.
Phoenicia and Persia both benefited from this alliance. This friendly relationship between the two continued to the reign of Cambyses. Persia did not have a navy at that time, so Phoenicia provided the ships the Empire needed. Cambyses conquered Egypt with the help of the Phoenician ships and planned to attack Carthage, but the Phoenicians refused to help Cambyses with this campaign as Carthage was a Phoenician colony. Cambyses was not willing to continue without the help of the Phoenician navy so he ended this conquest.
Wars between Persia and Greece were frequent during the reign of later Persian kings, but the Persians could always count on the Phoenician navy to help them. Xerxes I launched an attack against the Greek army. In the Battle of Salamis, the Phoenicians engineered a floating bridge across the Hellespont (Dardanelles) so the whole Persian army could march to mainland Greece.
The Battle of Salamis did not go well for the Persians, and the Phoenicians were blamed by Xerxes for the defeat. He beheaded some Phoenician captains, so the rest abandoned him and sailed back to their own land. For the next 15 years, they did not take part in any Persian campaigns. However, in 465 BC the Phoenicians once again supported the Persians against the Greeks. They continued to support Persia until the empire’s decline.
In 366 BC, the Persian Empire was on the verge of decline when Phoenicia rebelled along with the Anatolian provinces/satrapies by refusing to pay tribute. Egypt also seized the chance to rebel against Persian rule, but both rebellions failed. In 351 BC, the Phoenicians once again declared their independence from Persia, this was led by Tennes, the king of Sidon. Many Persians who lived in Sidon and Tyre were either killed or driven off from the Phoenician cities. This angered Artaxerxes III (Ochus), and he raised his army to attack Phoenicia.
The Phoenician king stopped the rebellion when he saw the powerful Persian army, and he was killed later by Artaxerxes for leading the revolt. The Phoenicians were disappointed with the result of the rebellion, but they continued with their trade and domination in the Mediterranean.
Rawlinson, George, and Tom Griffith. Herodotus: Histories. Ware, Hertfordshire, England: Wordsworth Editions, 1996
Rawlinson, George. History of Phoenicia. London: Longmans, Green, 1889
Diodorus, and C. H. Oldfather. The Library of History. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004
Jigoulov, Vadim S. The Social History of Achaemenid Phoenicia: Being a Phoenician, Negotiating Empires. London: Equinox Pub., 2010
Picture By Andre Castaigne – http://www.alexanderstomb.com/main/imageslibrary/alexander/index.htm, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=649243
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