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242 UNIVERSAL HISTORY-THE ANCIENT WORLD.

The western slope of Libanus, dropping down to the Mediterranean, extending along the

coast for about one hundred and eighty miles, constituted PHOENICIA, one of the smallest,

but at the same time most important, countries included in the Babylonian Empire. Next the

sea the land had no great fertility, being a mere, strip of sand; but here was the

possibility of commerce. Here, too, rose the long line of date-palms, which gave the name

of Phoenicia-land of the purple date.

In its widest part the country was scarcely twenty miles in breadth, and anon the mountain

spurs came within a mile of the sea. An insignificant belt of sand! But Nature had chosen

it as the spot from which should begin the dominion of man over the deeps. Commerce was a

necessity of the situation. The forests of Lebanon have been proverbial in all ages. The

heavy cedars almost overhung the sea. To cut these giants of the wood and float them down

the short swift streams to the coast gave a vent to the energies and profit to the

industry of men at a time when Egypt was still fresh in her youth. All this would have

passed perhaps but for the safe and frequent harbors which indented the shore, holding at

perpetual bay the storms of the boisterous sea. These quiet havens of Phoenicia were the

birthplace of the navies of the world. Here man first learned to contend successfully with

the perils of the open ocean and to make Neptune, as well as Mars and Jove, his

confederate and friend.

The fleets of Phoenicia put boldly to sea. When history was still in the dawn the strange

crafts of this hardy maritime people were seen creeping around the shores of the

Mediterranean. In the great days of Assyria and Babylon the overland trade from the valley

of the Euphrates and still further east was brought to the Phoenician coast to be carried

to the distant colonies and growing nations of the West. By and by these same fleets

became important in