Byblos is said to be the oldest inhabited city in the world, the source of the
first Phoenician letters that gave us our alphabet. Byblos was the major seaport
of the East Mediterranean during the 3rd millenium BC.
The name originated from 'biblion', that is book. The word 'bible' is derived
from the Greek 'ta b blia', which means 'the books'. Byblos is the oldest
continuously inhabited city in the world. According to Phoenician tradition,
Byblos was founded by the god El who surrounded his city with a wall. The
massive Early Bronze Age city walls (2800 B.C.) on the site reflect this early
religious belief. Thus Byblos was considered, even by the abcient Phoenicians,
to be a city of great antiquity.
Yet Byblos was inhabited even earlier. About 7000 years ago a
small fishing community settled there. Several monocellular huts with crushed
limestone floors can be seen today on the site.
Long before Greece and Rome, this ancient town was a powerful,
independent city-state with its own kings, culture and flourishing trade. The
kings of Byblos used hieroglyphics and adopted the Eguptian cartouche for their
names and titles. Thus an alphabetic phonetic script was developed at Byblos,
the precursor of our modern alphabet. The inscription on the sarcophagus of King
Ahiram of Byblos (in the period 1200-1000 B.C.), presently in Beirut National
Museum, is the earliest form of the Phoenician alphabet yet discovered.
One of the earliest attempts at
city planning was conceived in Byblos. The city was surrounded by a massive
wall, a narrow winding street led from the center, secondary lanes branched off
taking irregular paths among the houses. In 2800 B.C. a large temple was built
to Baalat Gebal, the 'Lady of Byblos', the city goddess. Another temple was
erected in 2700 B.C. to a male god, called the 'Temple en L', this large
construction faces that of Baalat Gebal.
During the Roman period large
temples and civic buildings were built, a street colonnade surrounded the city.
There are few remains of the Byzantine and Arab period. Byblos fell to the
Crusaders in A.D. 1108. They came upon the large stones and granite columns of
the Roman temples and public buildings and used them to build their castle and
Excavations over the past fifty
years have made Byblos one of the unique archeological sites in the world with a
history that spans seven thousand years.
The four main places of interest
to visit in Byblos are the Castle, built by the Crusaders in the 12th and 13th
centuries: the Egyptian temples, the earliest of which dates back to the 4th
millenium: the Phoenician royal necropolis, and the Roman amphitheater.
include the perimeter walls, the Temple of Baalat-Gebal (the goddess of the
city), the Temple of the Obelisks and the royal tombs. There are also ruins
dating from Roman times and the crusader castle and church.
BC, the Greeks named us "Phoenicia" in reference of coastal area. They gave
the city its "Byblos" name ("papyrus" in Greek) after its importance in the
ago, a small Neolithic fishing community settled along the store. Tools and
weapons of this stone age period have been found in the site.
BC, Canaanean Byblos had been considered as the most important center on the
Eastern Mediterranean and had had very close ties with Egypt.
Around 1.200 BC, the transcribers of Byblos developed an alphabetic phonetic
script, the precedent of our modern alphabet.
was considered a strategic emplacement in the Eastern Mediterranean by
Assyrian, Babylonian and Persian who occupied it throughout the first
Byblos became Hellenic after Alexander the Great?s conquest and Greek was used
as the language of the local intelligentsia. Residents of the city adopted
Greek customs and culture, carried through the Roman era.
Unlike the Romans who built large temples, baths and public buildings, the
Byzantine (396-637 AD) ant the Arabs (637 AD) remains are scarce but the city
was generally peaceful in this period.
Byblos fell to the Crusaders who came upon the Roman buildings. Under the
Mamluk and Ottoman rule, the city became a small fishing town and its antique
relics were gradually covered with dust.
the 3rd, 2nd and 1st millenium, the remains of a City Gate, the Primitive Wall
and the foundations of the L-Shaped Temple are among the oldest fortifications
on the site.
fire from the Amorite invasion are still visible on these monuments.
Many of Byblos treasures are now found in the National Museum of Beirut, among
them are the human figurines of bronze covered with gold leaf from the temple
of the Obelisks, originally built on the top of L-Shaped Temple, or a mosaic
from the reconstructed Roman Theater, built in 218.
The site of Byblos retains also 9 Royal Tombs. The most important is that of
King Ahiram, whose sarcophagus is one of the masterpieces found in the National
The ancient site was rediscovered in 1860 by the French writer and savant Ernest
Renan. The home of Renan can still be found in Amchit, north of Byblos, where he
lived in the 19th century.
Byblos, 37 km north of Beirut, is a prosperous town today and is well prepared
to welcome tourists with its hotels, beach resorts, restaurants and souvenir
Information From the Ministry of