Voile Bleue Rmeileh July 2005
Byblos, ancient city of Phoenicia, on the Mediterranean Sea, is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world.
Some 7,000 years ago, a small fishing community settled there and the city was known as "Gubla" and later "Gebal". Gebal was the biblical name for the city; the Book of Ezekiel mentions the maritime pursuits of its inhabitants.
Some time after 1200 B.C. the Greeks named the coast Phoenicia and the city "Byblos". Its name originated from 'biblion', that is book. The word 'bible' is derived from the Greek 'ta b blia', which means 'the books'. It is also the source of the word Bible.
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 ancient Phoenicians, to be a city of great antiquity.
The city was the principal city of Phoenicia and an important seaport during the second millennium BC, when it exported cedar and other woods to Egypt. Long before Greece and Rome, this ancient town was a powerful, independent city-state with its own kings, culture and flourishing trade.
This is where alphabet was conceived. The kings of Byblos used hieroglyphics, and an alphabetic phonetic script was developed at Byblos, which is the precursor of modern alphabet. By 800 B.C. it had traveled to Greece, changing forever the way man communicated. The inscription on the sarcophagus of King Ahiram of Byblos (in the period 1200-1000 B.C.), currently 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,
with secondary lanes branching off. Large temples and civic buildings were
built, and a street colonnade surrounding the city. 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'.
In the first century B.C. the Romans took over Byblos and other Phoenician
cities, ruling them from 64 B.C. to 395 A.D. In Byblos they built large temples,
baths and other public buildings as well as a street bordered by a colonnade
that 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
Byblos is one of the unique archeological sites in the world and a must on every
visitor's agenda for its blend of modernity and historical heritage. The four
main places of interest to visit in Byblos are the 6,000 year old Citadel, 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. Next to the Citadel, there is an old
souq (market), and an area of excavations, where one can relax in one of the
cities restaurants or hotels overlooking the city's stunning old harbor. The wax
museum illustrating scenes from the country's history is also worth a visit.