Byblos (Βύβλος) is the Greek name of the Phoenician city Gebal (earlier Gubla). It is a Mediterranean city in the Mount Lebanon Governorate of present-day Lebanon under the current Arabic name of (جبيل Ǧubayl) and was also referred to as Gibelet during the Crusades. It is believed to have been founded around 5000 BCE, and according to fragments attributed to the semi-legendary pre-Trojan War Phoenician historian Sanchuniathon, it was built by Cronus as the first city in Phoenicia. Today it is believed by many to be the oldest continuously-inhabited city in the world.
HistoryThe Phoenician city of Gebal was named Byblos by the Greeks, because it was through Gebal that papyrus Bύβλος (bublos; Egyptian papyrus) was imported into Greece. Hence the English word Bible is derived from byblos as "the (papyrus) book." The present day city is now known by the Arabic name Jubayl or Jbeil (جبيل), a direct descendant of the Canaanite name.
Byblos (Greek) or Gebal Phoenician) is located on the Mediterranean] coast of present-day Lebanon, about 26 miles (42 kilometers) north of Beirut. It is attractive to archaeologists because of the successive layers of debris resulting from centuries of human habitation.
The site first appears to have been settled during the Neolithic period, approximately 5000 BCE. Neothlithic remains of some buildings can be observed at the site. According to the writer Philo of Byblos (quoting Sanchuniathon, and quoted in Eusebius), Byblos had the reputation of being the oldest city in the world, founded by Cronus. During the 3rd millennium BCE, the first signs of a town can be observed, with the remains of well-built houses of uniform size. This was the period when the Phoenician civilization began to develop.
The growing city was evidently a wealthy one, and seems to have been an ally "those who are on his waters" of Egypt for many centuries. First Dynasty tombs used timbers from Byblos. One of the oldest Egyptian words for an ocean going boat was "Byblos ship". Beginning with Kha'skehemwy most first dynasty rulers sent a signed gift to the shrine of the "Mistress of Byblos". Archaeologists have recovered Egyptian-made artifacts dated as early as the Fourth dynasty of Egypt. Objects have been found at Byblos naming the 13th dynasty Egyptian king Neferhotep I, and the rulers of Byblos maintained close relationships with the New Kingdom pharaohs of Ancient Egypt. Around 1350 BCE, the Amarna tablets include 60 letters from Rib-Hadda and his successor Ili-Rapih who were rulers of Byblos, writing to the Egyptian government. This is mainly due to Rib-Hadda's constant pleas for military assistance from Akhenaten. They also deal with the conquest of neighboring city-states by the Hapiru.
Although the archaeological evidence seems to indicate a brief resurgence during the 22nd and 23rd dynasties, it is clear after the Third Intermediate Period the Egyptians started favoring Tyre and Sidon instead of Byblos.
Archaeological evidence at Byblos, dating back to around 1200 BCE, shows existence of a Phoenician alphabetic script of twenty-two characters; an important example of this script is the sarcophagus of king Ahiram. The use of the alphabet was spread by Phoenician merchants through their maritime trade into parts of North Africa and Europe. One of the most important monuments of this period is the temple of Resheph, a Canaanite war god, but this had fallen into ruins by the time of Alexander.
In the Assyrian period, Sibittibaal of Byblos became tributary to Tiglath-pileser III in 738 BCE, and in 701 BCE, when Sennacherib conquered all Phoenicia, the king of Byblos was Urumilki. Byblos was also subject to Assyrian kings Esarhaddon (r.681-669 BCE) and Ashurbanipal (r.668-627 BCE), under its own kings Milkiasaph and Yehawmelek.
Hellenistic rule came with the arrival of Alexander the Great in the area in 332 BCE. Coinage was in use, and there is abundant evidence of continued trade with other Mediterranean countries.
During the Greco-Roman period, the temple of Resheph was elaborately rebuilt, and the city, though smaller than its neighbours such as Tyre and Sidon, was a center for the cult of Adonis. In the 3rd century, a small but impressive theater was constructed. With the rise of Christianity, a bishop's seat was established in Byblos, and the town grew rapidly. Although a Persian colony is known to have been established in the region following the Muslim conquest of 636, there is little archaeological evidence for it. Trade with Europe effectively dried up, and it was not until the coming of the First Crusade in 1098 that prosperity returned to Byblos, known then as Giblet.
Byblos, under the name of Gibelet or Giblet, was an important military base in the crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem in the 11th and 12th century, and the remains of its crusader castle are among the most impressive architectural structures now visible at its center. The town was taken by Saladin in 1187, re-taken by the Crusaders, and eventually conquered by Baibars in 1266. Its fortifications were subsequently restored. From 1516 until 1918, the town and the whole region were part of the Ottoman Empire. Byblos and all of Lebanon was placed under French Mandate from 1920 until 1943 when Lebanon achieved independence.
Threats to Byblos
The 2006 Lebanon War negatively affected this ancient site by covering the harbor and town walls with an oil slick.
Today, Byblos (Jbeil) is a modern city. It remains one of Lebanon's biggest tourist attractions, mainly because of its rich history and scenic mountains overlooking the Mediterranean. Most of the people of Byblos are Maronite Catholics. There are also some Shi'a Muslims, whose ancestors escaped expulsion by the Seljuk Turks in the Middle Ages. (The city of Bint Jbeil ("daughter of Jbeil") in southern Lebanon was founded by those displaced Shi'a. Byblos has three representatives in the Parliament of Lebanon: two Maronites and one Shi'a.
- Nina Jidéjian, Byblos through the ages, Dar al Machreq, Beyrouth, 1968
- Jean-Pierre Thiollet, Je m'appelle Byblos, H & D, Paris, 2005 (ISBN 2-914266-04-9)
Twin towns – Sister cities
Byblos is twinned with:
- ↑ The Theology Of The Phœnicians: From Sanchoniatho
- ↑ http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/86962/Byblos
- ↑ Redford, Donald B: "Egypt, Canaan, and Israel in Ancient Times", pages 33-42. Princeton University Press, 1992. ISBN 0-691-03606-3
- ↑ Shaw, Ian: "The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt", page 321. Oxford University Press, 2000. ISBN 978-0-19-280458-7
- ↑ Dr. Lina G. Tahan. "ICOMOS Heritage at Risk 2006/2007". ICOMOS. http://www.international.icomos.org/risk/world_report/2006-2007/pdf/H@R_2006-2007_28_National_Report_Lebanon.pdf.
- ↑ Lebanon Elections 2005
- Media related to Byblos on Wikimedia Commons
- Lebanon, the Cedars' Land: Byblos
- Byblos info
- Embassy of Lebanon in Canada
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