The Alphabet — A Phoenician Invention! The best of all times, and its mystery lies within the Priests of ancient Phoenicia.
It is at the heart of human families where we grew up and began our first journey into the world. And a couple of years later, at the schools we entered, we became indulged in additional learning. The first classes we took were on the letters of the Alphabet.
– “A, B, C…” we uttered aloud without knowing their mysterious origin !
These letters are known as the Phonetic Alphabet. The Phonetic letters are a representation of vocal sounds, and are a way of spelling that corresponds to pronunciation. Each country around the world has its own variation of spelling letters.
Without the Alphabet, history would not have been written, and thus all the genesis of mankind would be as mute as death. With it, we could be as wise as the sages of all times. The Phonetic Alphabet made it easier for humanity to evolve and to communicate. Earlier types of alphabets were pictorial, relating to symbols, ideograms, or other representations, like the Egyptian hieroglyphs. In such alphabets, each letter was represented by a picture and not expressed by a vocal sound. Only few pictorial alphabets still remain in use, such as the Chinese Alphabet of almost 40.000 characters.
Strolling on the sandy beach of Gebel (popularly known as Byblos) in Lebanon, I was thinking about all this. The waves of the Mediterranean Sea in front of me, saluted me as I walked.
On the waters that float to the shore with eternal sailors and travelers, expeditionary and trading ships used to dock. Every bright new day they would head to a different corner of the world. I looked around but there weren’t any ships of this kind. Only small fishing boats and others belonging to private owners could be seen. But they, surely, have the blood of their Ancestors running in their veins.
Between the rocks, I spotted a few old pieces of Cedars wood half buried in the sand. These were the only remains of a once vast Empire of the Sea. I sat on a flat stone, and looked at the sea. I looked at it while meditating, and indeed, it was pretty. Its water radiated and reflected the rays of the Sun in a very peaceful and mesmerizing energy.
The vast sea resting ahead of me, and the sweet harmonious sound accompanying the subtle flow of water, lowered my temper. The water in that sea seemed as if it would never lose hope. It would keep on flowing no matter what the obstacles would be. The setting, in which Nature had put the water of that sea, was within a wide and almost infinite space. It appeared too, as a true phenomenon, that the nature of water itself was transparent and flexible, and that it could run smoothly across the surface of Earth.
I smiled in silence to that discovery I made through my meditation. Immediately, I heard a serene sound, whispering in my ears, echoes from a long distance. It spoke, coming from the depth of the sea, after it had crossed through time and space.
– “Do you have any idea about the Ancient Alphabet… dear friend?”
Tranquillity inhabited my mind, as I whispered back an exhalation of deep conformity uttering, “I do know that the Phonetic Alphabet was invented here.” With enthusiasm, I began a conversation with the City and its Sea.
Some historians believe that Gebel is a Semitic noun that means Geb-El or the Well of God, or the Mountain of God! It is also believed, by very few, and I am one of them that Gebel really means the Sacred Land of El. It is a more appropriate meaning, according to one of the old Hamitic languages. No matter what, we who have come here to Gebel, have heard its echoes, and have endeavored to seek its “Mystery of the Alphabet” that has joined us together throughout thousands of years.
It was still heard… time runs… and everything changes.
It is said that the Canaanite-Phoenicians who lived in ancient Lebanon may have evolved the Mesopotamian Cuneiform and the Egyptian Hieroglyphs into a more advanced system of writing, which came to be known as the Phonetic Alphabet.
Mr. Said Akl, a well-known figure in the Lebanese contemporary history, has another opinion.* He firmly believes that the new Phoenician Alphabet based on audible perception was not derived from older forms of writings related to pictures, that is, the Egyptian and the Mesopotamian styles. Rather, it was a pure invention of the Phoenicians, because the Pictorial forms were used only by priests for keeping records of events, whereas the Phonetic form is used to record speech.
Mr. Said Akl went on to explain how “The Greeks, later on, used the Phoenician system, for they sensed that it is more practical to them and to others. It helped history to be written in a more suitable way, and that’s what made Wil Durant, the American historian and thinker, declare that the Alphabet was the biggest gift ever offered by man to man.”
Whatever the case may be, there, in the old days, thousands of years ago, people were lost in a strange dilemma. Egyptians, Sumerians, Chinese, and many more, drew many pictures or ideograms, symbols too, and so many given misinterpretations to their Alphabets were happening. Communication between humanity was at stake. Only the Priests were able to decipher the meanings, for they actually created them. The rest of the people were just illiterate, and their eyes, shut from seeing what was behind the secret walls, made out of them, a good ground for manipulations.
The Canaanite-Phoenicians thought of finding a way out of that problem. Later, a man from Gebel came with a solution: an invention of a new Alphabet, an audible one. He created it around the years 1500 to 1400 B.C, and divided it into two forms, an esoteric one for the inner circle, the priests, and an exoteric one, for the outer circle, the rest of the people. That was Thor, the great inventor … and the 22 letters of that Alphabet can be found inscribed on the sarcophagus of Ahiram, King of Gebel.
After being well established in Canaan, and most specifically in Gebel, the Tradition of the Alphabet departed to Egypt, sailing on the water of that sea in front of me, and later on moved around the world. In fact, Thor became Tautus for the Egyptian, and was known as the Patriarch Enoch (Anak) in the Old Testament. He was a Canaanite-Phoenician High Priest, and became a generic name for Metatron who stood before God.
Moreover, he was known as Mithra for the Hindus and the Persians; Enki/Ea/Oannes in Mesopotamia; Nabū/Nebo in the Babylonian mythology; Quetzalcohuatl for the Mexican Aztecs; Thor in the Scandinavian tradition; Hermes-Kadmos for the Greeks and Mercury for the Romans. He was Adam-Kadmon for the Kabalists; and later became Edris for the Arabs and the Muslims, and finally Enoch for the Druzes.
Kadmus, initiated by the Hierophants of Thor, became the head of the religious scribes within the Canaanite-Phoenician temples. Later on, he traveled to Greece, and introduced the Alphabet. Mediterranean legend says that he went in search for his sister Europa who was kidnapped by Zeus, the most High God of that Culture. While being there, searching for his sister all over Greece, he introduced the Alphabet, and founded the city of Thebes. A legend remains a legend, but what we learn from it is that the Alphabet was actually introduced, and Europe, the continent, took the name of Europa, the daughter of Agenor, king of Tyre.
Sometimes, Thor was looked upon as the father of the word, and of the spiritual laws, and was not only considered as the messenger who accepted the words of God, but was also regarded as the god of wisdom and science.
It was sometime around the years 560 to 460B.C, and much later on, that the Hebrews began to adopt an extensive form of the original Canaanite-Phoenician language. In fact, they adopted the exoteric form of it, known to the common people in Canaan-Phoenicia. Mixing it with their Chaldean esoteric form of writings, the Hebrews came up with an additional deviation, a drastic change that fit perfectly with their beginning culture, having the Hebrew Alphabet and Language at its core.
Later on, at the time of Jesus Christ (and spoken by him), the Aramaic language was a very popular and powerful form of speech widely spread all around the Mediterranean. Without any doubt, Aramaic can be rooted back to the Canaanite-Phoenician. Then, two vernaculars emerged as direct descendants of Aramaic; there appeared the Syriac, spoken by Maronite Christians living in the Mountains of Lebanon and Syria, and the Arabic, spoken by the founder of Islam, became the official language of the Koran and the Muslim Arabs.
By time, Arabic became a popular language that not only Muslim Arabs speak, but also Christians living in the Middle-East. The Syriac language, however, hidden from profanation, remained inside the walls of the Christian Monasteries engraved within the mountains of the Mediterranean.
Conclusively, the Canaanite-Phoenician Alphabet appears to be as the Mother Language of the Mediterranean coast. Across lands, religions and peoples, the Alphabet spread.
So let us wish, now that a New Year is approaching, for all people living and sharing Earth, to communicate in peaceful tongues. Indeed, that is the ultimate goal and the real Meaning of the Alphabet.
* Other than being a poet and a thinker who followed the footsteps of his ancestors, Mr. Akl Said invented a new Alphabet, a Lebanese one, based on the Phoenician system of letters. It differs from the Arabic system used in the region. It is, in fact, a combination of both, an Arabic dialect using Latin letters. This new alphabet is not considered official by the Lebanese Ministry of Culture, but it is taught by Mr. Akl and other inspired teachers to students in certain universities and schools around Lebanon.