A Semitic people who lived in the coastal area of Lebanon and Syria from about 1000 BC, the cultural heirs of the Canaanites. They flourished as traders from their ports of Tyre, Sidon, and Byblos. They are crediting with founding Carthage and inventing the alphabet; the Greek, Roman, Arabic and Hebrew alphabets are all derived from the Phoenician. Even after their incorporation into the Babylonian empire in 574 BC, they continued to influence world politics, in the Near East through their fleets, in the west through their powerful colony of Carthage. They also established colonies in Utica, north Africa; Gades in Spain, Motya in Sicily, Nora and Tharros in Sardinia, and other settlements in Malta and Ibiza. Culturally their role as merchants and middlemen was uninterrupted until they were absorbed into the Hellenistic and Roman world. They are reputed to have circumnavigated Africa. They developed the alphabet to assist their commercial activities. They are not well-known archaeologically in their homeland, though there has been some exploration of their major sites; they have left few lasting memorials in the form of great works of art or monumental architecture. The Phoenicians engaged in a series of three Punic Wars with the Romans, which led to their ultimate defeat and incorporation into the Roman world in the 2nd century BC.