The Phoenicians Did Not Invent the Alphabet

Culture, History

By Farah K. Yachoui

April 24, 2016

Taking pride in our roots, mainly in what our ancestors have achieved, is one of the factors that brings us together and is a basic elements in creating a philosophy we can build a nation on! Everything is becoming more complex and without clear and strong heritage, survival is becoming almost inconceivable. Many of us Lebanese take deep pride in  our Phoenician roots and our forefathers’ accomplishments. However, we seem to think that they invented the alphabet! Our false sense of pride only highlights our ignorance!

The Canaanites, popularized as Phoenicians by the Greeks, did not invent the alphabet. They simplified the complex forms of writing they had adopted from other civilizations. They used Cuneiform first developed by the Sumerians in Mesopotamia. Then, they started using Proto-Sinaitic script originating from Sinai. This script is influenced by the Hieroglyphs of ancient Egypt, and it is among the first consonantal alphabets. This script evolved locally into the Phoenician script. Then, it spread through trade, thus becoming the precusror of modern alphabet.

 So, my friends, our ancestors did not invent the alphabet. They did something greater than that! They simplified the existing complex scripts at the time and rendered writing and reading accessible to everyone! Literacy was no longer a tool for power used by religious, royal or elite figures to place themselves high in the societal hierarchy and devise laws based on their own individual interests to stay wealthy and in power. Let’s dare to go further and be proud of paving the way to civil liberties and increased political participation and thus contributing to the quality of public policies issued and possibly to democracy!