What Was the Form of Government of the Phoenicians?

The oldest political system of the ancient Phoenicians was based on a monarchy under the direct rule of a king. This type of government was later replaced by a republic in one of Phoenicia's important cities. Several centuries later, a federal form of government was established, which united three major states.

Phoenicia was an ancient civilization renowned for its people's maritime trading culture, which flourished and diffused throughout the Mediterranean region. Phoenicians were famed for their navigational skills that allowed them to establish various colonies along the Mediterranean coast. Phoenician society was structured into city-states, where each territory is politically independent from other city-states. The most prominent of these administrative units included Tyre, Sidon, Byblos, Aradus, Utica, Carthage and Tripoli.

Phoenician city-states were initially governed by kings, where royalty was deemed a matter of divine lineage. The monarchs were considered rightful rulers and were exclusively chosen within the inner circles of Phoenician royal houses. However, the power wielded by a city-state's king was largely restricted by wealthy and dominant merchants, who controlled matters of general interest. In some city-states, such as Tyre, Byblos and Sidon, the king was advised by a group of elders.

During the time of Nebuchadnezzar II, the monarchic system in Tyre was superseded by a republican form of government, which was headed by "suffetes," or judges. These new leaders only served short terms of office, where two suffetes can administer political affairs simultaneously. When the Persians conquered the Phoenicians, the city-states of Tyre, Sidon and Aradus were formed into a federation.