The Phoenicians traded more than material goods when they came in contact with neighbors and far away peoples. They shared language, skills, technology, news, and cultural traits. This is the real reason to respect the ancient mariners. These people allowed the Mediterranean basin to experience a technological revolution that would lead to great empires forming in the future. The spread of the phoenician script, one that is the basis of our modern alphabet, was their greatest achievement. The phoenician alphabet can be viewed here.