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Why Do We, Thank the Phoenicians?

Why Do We, Thank the Phoenicians?

Welcome back, time travelers. If you’re like me, then Spaceship Earth at Epcot holds a special place in your heart. Since the dawn of Epcot’s opening in 1982, time travelers and exploration seekers alike have been fortunate enough to catch a glimpse into mankind’s past to see how the evolution of communication and technological advances created the blueprint for the world we have today. “Remember how easy it was to learn your ABCs? Thank the Phoenicians – they invented them.”

History of Epcot’s Development

Before Walt Disney passed away in 1966, he had a vision for an Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow – shortened to what we now know as Epcot. Walt argued that Epcot would never be completed, but rather remain as a “living blueprint” that provided ongoing solutions to common problems such as traffic congestion and poor weather conditions. This experimental city would house 20,000 residents, all of which lived in a climate-controlled bubble that shielded them from Florida’s extreme humidity and rain. You can probably guess where the inspiration for Spaceship Earth’s shape came from. 

Hotels, shopping areas and a transportation hub were all included in Walt’s original vision. This wasn’t a theme park he was building – this was a community where advancements in technology would continue to enhance the inhabitant’s lives. Residents would even be encouraged to work on property to help maintain it. While today, we might look at this kind of project as something out of a horror movie, it was just another symbol of Walt’s wild imagination and brilliance, especially during the 1960’s. 

Walt’s vision for the future was reimagined after he passed away. Deemed impractical, Disney Imagineers reworked Walt’s concept of a utopian city, turning it into an “educational” theme park — the second park to open in Walt Disney World (and the most expensive private construction project to date). 

Read more: One Day Epcot Touring Plan: Explore and Discover Everything in One Visit

Inspiration for Spaceship Earth

Often comically referred to as a giant golf ball, Spaceship Earth was originally supposed to be a dome but was later reimagined to be a geodesic sphere – the world’s largest geodesic sphere, in fact. Spaceship Earth’s outer layer was designed with aluminum that served multiple purposes; during the day, the aluminum would reflect the sky, but at night, it would come alive with the reflections of the World Showcase, stars, and planets. 

In the original concept, Spaceship Earth was all about communications, showing mankind’s evolution with information dissemination. This concept is still alive today, as guests’ time capsules take them through early caveman drawings, to the development of the alphabet by the Phoenicians, to Neil Armstrong landing on the moon, telling those back home, “It’s one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind.”

Read more: Epcot for Toddlers is a Must Do

If You Can Read This…Thank the Phonecians

As one of the most famous lines from the Spaceship Earth attraction that isn’t technically a part of the attraction – “if you can read this, thank the Phonecians” – has gained, in short, a cult following. With t-shirts, tote bags, sweatshirts, wall plaques, and hats showcasing the famous phrase, we think it’s important to understand the history of it. As we mentioned earlier, the theme of Epcot’s Spaceship Earth had everything to do with communication and the evolution of it – and the Phonecians played a significant role in its development. 

Why Do We, Thank the Phoenicians? 4

In what we know as modern-day Lebanon and Israel, back in 15000 BCS, this territory was known to the ancient Greeks as Phoenicia. Located near the Mediterranean Sea, the Phoenician people lived in trade cities along the coast, but had colonies set up in Southern Europe and across the coast of North Africa. Back then, the Meditteranean was a cultural hub. It was home to the world’s first cities and as such, where spoken language was turned into written language. The Phonecians spoke the Phonecian language, which was part of the Northern Semitic language – a language that its descendants are still speaking in the Middle East today. 

Because the Phonecians were located in trade cities across multiple areas, they often interacted with a variety of different cultures, all of which at the time had their own unique language. Derived from the North Semitic alphabet, the Phonecians developed their own writing system that was spread across the Mediterranean by traders. 

The Phoenician alphabet consisted of 22 letters, each of which represented a sound in their language. Unlike the alphabet we know today that is made up of 26 letters, all of which represent their own unique sound, the Phonecian alphabet was known as being consonantal, meaning it didn’t contain any vowels when written. Those who would read the Phonecian alphabet would instead imply the presence of vowel sounds based on their own knowledge. 

Over time, the Phonecian alphabet was modified. In 750 BC, the Greeks added vowels to it before it made its way over to the Romans, who added the letters S and F. In the third century, Latin script removed certain letters such as G, J, U, V, W, Y, and Z; while many of the letters got reinstated when the Roman alphabet was introduced, certain letters such as J, U, V, and W were excluded. When the Roman Empire made its way to Britain, they brought the Latin alphabet with them. Eventually, those letters were all added back into the alphabet, as we use them today. Modern society uses the Latin alphabet, which is the most commonly used alphabet in the world. So, while we’re not using the same letters that the Phonecians used, they played a significant role in the development of our modern language. That’s why we thank the Phoenicians. 

Thank the Phonecians Shirts

As noted earlier, “thank the Phonecian” designs are wildly popular amongst Disney fans. Here are a couple of our favorite designs on Amazon and Etsy that are available for purchase:

Thank the Phoenicians Hats

Just as popular as the t-shirts are hats – especially when it comes to protecting you from the Florida sun. We even found one in beanie form that would be adorable for the winter season! Here are our top picks of the best “thank the Phonecians” hats you can find online:

Final Thoughts

The history of Epcot’s Spaceship Earth is fascinating, as is the story it tells on the 16-minute omnimover dark ride. Did you know the history of this ride already? Was there anything you were surprised to learn? Be sure to let us know down in the comments and remember this isn’t the end…it’s the beginning….of your future!