Phoenicia (UK pron.: /fɨˈnɪʃə/, US /fəˈniːʃə/; from the Greek: Φοινίκη, Phoiníkē; Arabic: فينيقية, Finiqyah) was an ancient Semitic civilization situated on the western, coastal part of the Fertile Crescent and centered on the coastline of modern Lebanon. All major Phoenician cities were on the coastline of the Mediterranean, some colonies reaching the Western Mediterranean. It was an enterprising maritime trading culture that spread across the Mediterranean from 1550 BC to 300 BC. The Phoenicians used the galley, a man-powered sailing vessel, and are credited with the invention of the bireme. They were famed in Classical Greece and Rome as 'traders in purple', referring to their monopoly on the precious purple dye of the Murex snail, used, among other things, for royal clothing, and for their spread of the alphabet (or abjad), from which all major modern phonetic alphabets are derived.