"These people, who had formerly dwelt on the shores of the Erythraean Sea, having migrated to the Mediterranean and settled in the parts which they now inhabit, began at once, they say, to adventure on long voyages, freighting their vessels with the wares of Egypt and Assyria...." - Herodotus
Of all the peoples of the ancient Near East, the Phoenicians are among the most recognizable but also perhaps the least understood. The Phoenicians never built an empire like the Egyptians and Assyrians; in fact, the Phoenicians never created a unified Phoenician state. Instead, they existed as independent city-state kingdoms scattered throughout the Mediterranean region. However, despite the fact there was never a "Phoenician Empire", the Phoenicians proved to be more prolific in their exploration and colonization than any other peoples in world history until the Spanish during the Age of Discovery.
The Phoenicians were well-known across different civilizations throughout the ancient world, and their influence can be felt across much of the West today. This is because they are credited with inventing the forerunner to the Greek alphabet, from which the Latin alphabet was directly derived. Nonetheless, the Phoenicians left behind few written texts, so modern historians have been forced to reconstruct their past through a variety of ancient Egyptian, Assyrian, Babylonian, Greek, and Roman sources. It's not even clear what the Phoenicians called themselves, because the name "Phoenician" is derived from the Greek word "phoinix", which possibly relates to the dyes they produced and traded.