Jbeil (Byblos)

Altitude: 10 m
Distance from Beirut:
Distance from Aboud:

Byblos: 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 ancient Phoenicians, to be a city of great antiquity.

Yet Byblos was inhabited even earlier. About 7,000 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 Egyptian 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 centre, 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 moat.

Excavations over the past fifty years have made Byblos one of the unique archaeological 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 millennium: the Phoenician royal necropolis, and the Roman amphitheatre.

See also Mazraat El-Sayed (Aboud)