As I discovered in my grade school visit to our local library (see previous post), Phoenicia was a flourishing maritime civilization that peaked around 1,000 years before the birth of Christ. When my wife and I visited Israel (see other previous posts) and headed north along the Mediterranean from Tel Aviv toward Haifa, we were probably standing on the soil of ancient Phoenicia, which was centered in modern Lebanon but included Northern Israel and extended at least to southern Syria, if not further.
The Phoenicians were traders in everything from wood and wine to glass and Tyrian purple (dye) to slaves. Their alphabet influenced ours via Greece. They established settlements on islands surrounding Sicily and in Sicily itself, especially Palermo (see the first photo below, which is of a typical street in Palermo taken a few years ago). The second photo is of the wine we drank a good deal of while in Sicily.
I had no idea in grade school that there even was an ancient world, and I suppose that discovering Phoenicia was the very beginning of my awareness of history.