History of Lebanon

Lebanon has a heritage as old as the earliest evidence of mankind. Its geographic position as a crossroads linking the Mediterranean Basin with the great Asian hinterland has conferred on it a cosmopolitan character and a multicultural legacy. At different periods of its history, Lebanon has come under the domination of foreign rulers, including Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Ottomans, and French. Although often conquered, Lebanon was never subdued, the Lebanese take pride in their rebellions against despotic and repressive rulers. Moreover, despite foreign domination, Lebanon's mountainous terrain has provided it with a certain protective isolation, enabling it to survive with an identity all its own. Its proximity to the sea has ensured that throughout its history Lebanon has held an important position as a trading center. This tradition of commerce began with the Phoenicians and continued through many centuries, remaining almost unaffected by foreign rule and the worst periods of internal strife.

The Phoenicians

The area now known as Lebanon first appeared in recorded history around 3000 B.C. as a group of coastal cities and a heavily forested hinterland. It was inhabited by the Canaanites, a Semitic people, whom the Greeks called "Phoenicians" because of the purple (phoinikies) dye they sold. These early inhabitants referred to themselves as "men of Sidon" or the like, according to their city of origin, and called the country "Lebanon". Because of the nature of the country and its location, the Phoenicians turned to the sea, where they engaged in trade and navigation.

Each of the coastal cities was an independent kingdom and had an elected council of elders to check the power of the king, these councils are the first example of democracy in history. In times of danger the city states would unit to form a Phoenician federation. Each city was noted for the special activities of its inhabitants. Tyre and Sidon were important maritime and trade centers; Gubla (Jbiel) known as Byblos, gave  its name to the Bible and Berytus (present-day Beirut) were trade and religious centers. Gubla was the first Phoenician city to trade actively with Egypt and the pharaohs of the Old Kingdom (2686-2181 B.C.), exporting cedar, olive oil, and wine, while importing gold and other products from the Nile Valley. The Phoenicians are credited with the invention of the alphabet and its distribution.

Before the end of the seventeenth century B.C., Lebanese Egyptian relations were interrupted when the Hyksos, a nomadic Semitic people, conquered Egypt. After about three decades of Hyksos rule (1600-1570 B.C.), Ahmose I (1570-45 B.C.), a Theban prince, launched the Egyptian liberation war. Opposition to the Hyksos increased, reaching a peak during the reign of the pharaoh Thutmose III (1490-36 B.C.), who invaded Syria, put an end to Hyksos domination, and incorporated Lebanon into the Egyptian Empire.

Toward the end of the fourteenth century B.C., the Egyptian Empire weakened, and Lebanon was able to regain its independence by the beginning of the twelfth century B.C. The subsequent three centuries were a period of prosperity and freedom from foreign control during which the earlier Phoenician invention of the alphabet facilitated communications and trade. The Phoenicians also excelled not only in producing textiles but also in carving ivory, in working with metal, and above all in making glass. Masters of the art of navigation, they founded colonies wherever they went in the Mediterranean Sea (specifically in Cyprus, Rhodes, Crete, and Carthage), they were the rival of Rome and established trade routes to Europe and western Asia. Furthermore, their ships circumnavigated Africa a thousand years before those of the Portuguese. These colonies and trade routes flourished until the invasion of the coastal areas by the Assyrians.

Assyrian Rule

Assyrian rule (875-608 B.C.) deprived the Phoenician cities of their independence and prosperity and brought repeated, unsuccessful rebellions. In the middle of the eighth century B.C., Tyre and Byblos rebelled, but the Assyrian ruler, Tiglath-Pileser, subdued the rebels and imposed heavy tributes. Oppression continued unabated, and Tyre rebelled again, this time against Sargon II (722-05 B.C.), who successfully besieged the city in 721 B.C. and punished its population. During the seventh century B.C., Sidon rebelled and was completely destroyed by Esarhaddon (681-68 B.C.), and its inhabitants were enslaved. Esarhaddon built a new city on Sidon's ruins. By the end of the seventh century B.C., the Assyrian Empire, weakened by the successive revolts, had been destroyed by Babylonia, a new Mesopotamian power.

Babylonian Rule and the Persian Empire

Revolts in the Phoenician cities became more frequent under Babylonian rule (685-36 B.C.). Tyre rebelled again and for thirteen years resisted a siege by the troops of Nebuchadnezzar (587-74 B.C.). After this long siege, the city capitulated; its king was dethroned, and its citizens were enslaved.

The Achaemenids ended Babylonian rule when Cyrus, founder of the Persian Empire, captured Babylon in 539-38 B.C. and Phoenicia and its neighbors passed into Persian hands. Cambyses (529-22 B.C.), Cyrus's son and successor, continued his father's policy of conquest and in 529 B.C. became suzerain of Syria, Lebanon, and Egypt. The Phoenician navy supported Persia during the GrecoPersian War (490-49 B.C.). But when the Phoenicians were overburdened with heavy tributes imposed by the successors of Darius I (521-485 B.C.), revolts and rebellions resumed in the Lebanese coastal cities.

Rule of Alexander the Great

The Persian Empire eventually fell to Alexander the Great, king of Macedonia. He attacked Asia Minor, defeated the Persian troops in 333 B.C., and advanced toward the Lebanese coast. Initially the Phoenician cities made no attempt to resist, and they recognized his suzerainty. However, when Alexander tried to offer a sacrifice to Melkurt, Tyre's god, the city resisted. Alexander besieged Tyre in retaliation in early 332 B.C. After six months of resistance, the city fell, and its people were sold into slavery. Despite his early death in 323 B.C., Alexander's conquest of the eastern Mediterranean Basin left a Greek imprint on the area. The Phoenicians, being a cosmopolitan people amenable to outside influences, adopted aspects of Greek civilization with ease.

The Seleucid Dynasty

After Alexander's death, his empire was divided among his Macedonian generals. The eastern part--Phoenicia, Asia Minor, northern Syria, and Mesopotamia--fell to Seleucus I, founder of the Seleucid dynasty. The southern part of Syria and Egypt fell to Ptolemy, and the European part, including Macedonia, to Antigonus I. This settlement, however, failed to bring peace because Seleucus I and Ptolemy clashed repeatedly in the course of their ambitious efforts to share in Phoenician prosperity. A final victory of the Seleucids ended a forty-year period of conflict.

The last century of Seleucid rule was marked by disorder and dynastic struggles. These ended in 64 B.C., when the Roman general Pompey added Syria and Lebanon to the Roman Empire. Economic and intellectual activities flourished in Lebanon during the Pax Romana. The inhabitants of the principal Phoenician cities of Byblos, Sidon, and Tyre were granted Roman citizenship. These cities were centers of the pottery, glass, and purple dye industries; their harbors also served as warehouses for products imported from Syria, Persia, and India. They exported cedar, perfume, jewelry, wine, and fruit to Rome. Economic prosperity led to a revival in construction and urban development; temples and palaces were built throughout the country, as well as paved roads that linked the cities.

Upon the death of Theodosius I in A.D. 395, the empire was divided in two: the eastern or Byzantine part with its capital at Constantinople, and the western part with its capital at Rome. Under the Byzantine Empire, intellectual and economic activities in Beirut, Tyre, and Sidon continued to flourish for more than a century.

The fifth century witnessed the birth of Maronite Christianity. The contribution that the Maronites made and continue to make to Lebanese history, independence and culture is of such magintude that a separate section is dedicated to the Maronites.

In the sixth century a series of earthquakes demolished the huge temples of Baalbek and destroyed the city of Beirut, leveling its famous law school and killing nearly 30,000 inhabitants. To these natural disasters were added the abuses and corruptions prevailing at that time in the empire. Heavy tributes and religious dissension produced disorder and confusion. Furthermore, the ecumenical councils of the fifth and sixth centuries A.D. were unsuccessful in settling religious disagreements. This turbulent period weakened the empire and made it easy prey to the newly converted Muslim Arabs of the Arabian Peninsula.

Enter the Arabs

The Arab Conquest, 634-36

The followers of the Prophet Muhammad, the founder of Islam, embarked on a movement to establish their religious and civil control throughout the eastern Mediterranean from their base in the Arabian Peninsula. Their determination to conquer other lands resulted both from economic necessity and from religious beliefs, which imbued them with contempt for death.

Calling for a jihad (holy war) against non-Muslims, the Prophet's successor, Caliph Abu Bakr (632-34), brought Islam to the area surrounding Lebanon. Dividing his forces into three groups, he ordered one to move in the direction of Palestine, one toward Damascus, and one toward the Jordan River. The Arab groups under General Khalid ibn al Walid defeated the forces from in 636 at the Battle of Yarmuk in northwestern Jordan.

The Umayyads, 660-750

After the Battle of Yarmuk, Caliph Umar appointed the Arab Muawiyah, founder of the Umayyad dynasty, as governor of Syria, an area that included present-day Lebanon. Muawiyah garrisoned troops on the Lebanese coast and had the Lebanese shipbuilders help him construct a navy to resist any potential Byzantine attack. He also stopped raids by the Marada, a powerful people who had settled in the Lebanese mountains and who were used by the Byzantine rulers to prevent any Arab invasion that would threaten the Byzantine Empire. Concerned with consolidating his authority in Arabia and Iraq, Muawiyah negotiated an agreement in 667 with Constantine IV, the Byzantine emperor, whereby he agreed to pay Constantine an annual tribute in return for the cessation of Marada incursions. During this period some of the Arab tribes settled in the Lebanese and Syrian coastal areas.

The Abbasids, 750-1258

The Abbasids, founded by the Arab Abul Abbas, replaced the Umayyads in early 750. They treated Lebanon and Syria as conquered countries, and their harshness led to several revolts, including an abortive rebellion of Lebanese mountaineers in 759. By the end of the tenth century, the amir of Tyre proclaimed his independence from the Abbasids and coined money in his own name. However, his rule was terminated by the Fatimids of Egypt, an independent Arab Muslim dynasty.

Impact of Arab Rule

Arab rule under the Umayyads and Abbasids had a profound impact on the eastern Mediterranean area and, to a great degree, was responsible for the composition of modern Lebanese society. It was during this period that Lebanon became a refuge for various ethnic and religious groups. The presence of these diverse, cohesive groups led to the eventual emergence of the Lebanese confessional state, whereby different religious communities were represented in the government according to their numerical strength.

One of the groups that came to seek refuge in Lebanon was a small Christian sect called Melchites, living in northern and central Lebanon. Influenced by the Greek Christian theology of Constantinople, they accepted the controversial decrees of the Council of Chalcedon, the fourth ecumenical council of the church held in 451, as a result of missionary activity by the Roman Catholic Church. They became known as Greek Catholics because Greek is the language of their liturgy. They lived mainly in the central part of the Biqa Valley with Zahle being their stronghold.

During the Arab era, still another religious faith found sanctuary in Lebanon. After Al Hakim (996-1021), the Fatimid caliph of Egypt, proclaimed himself an incarnation of God, two of his followers, Hamza and Darazi, formulated the dogmas for his cult. Darazi left Egypt and continued to preach these tenets after settling in southern Lebanon. His followers became known as Druzes, along with Christians and Muslims, they constitute major communities in modern Lebanon.

Under the Abbasids, philosophy, literature, and the sciences received great attention, especially during the caliphate of Harun ar Rashid and that of his son, Al Mamun. Lebanon made a notable contribution to this intellectual renaissance. The physician Rashid ad Din, the jurist Al Awazi, and the philosopher Qusta ibn Luqa were leaders in their respective disciplines. The country also enjoyed an economic boom in which the Lebanese harbors of Tyre and Tripoli were busy with shipping as the textile, ceramic, and glass industries prospered. Lebanese products were sought after not only in Arab countries but also throughout the Mediterranean Basin.

The Crusades, 1095-1291

The occupation of the Christian holy places in Palestine and the destruction of the Holy Sepulcher by Caliph Al Hakim led to a series of eight campaigns, known as the Crusades, undertaken by Christians of western Europe to recover the Holy Land from the Muslims. The first Crusade was proclaimed by Pope Urban II in 1095 at the Council of Clermont-Ferrand in France. After taking Jerusalem, the Crusaders turned their attention to the Lebanese coast. Tripoli capitulated in 1109; Beirut and Sidon, in 1110. Tyre stubbornly resisted but finally capitulated in 1124 after a long siege.

Although they failed to establish a permanent presence, the Crusaders left their imprint on Lebanon. Among the conspicuous results of the Crusades, which ended with the fall of Acre in 1291, are the remains of many towers along the coast, ruins of castles on hills and mountain slopes, and numerous churches.

Of all the contacts established by the Crusaders with the peoples of the Middle East, those with the Maronites of Lebanon, who fought along side the Crusaders were among the most enduring. They acquainted the Maronites with European influences and made them more receptive to friendly approaches from Westerners. During this period the Maronites were brought into a union with the Holy See (Vatican). France was a major participant in the Crusades, and French interest in the region and its Christian population dates to this period.

Bitter conflicts among the various regional and ethnic groups in Lebanon and Syria characterized the thirteenth century. The Crusaders, who came from Europe, the Mongols, who came from the steppes of Central Asia, and the Mamluks, who came from Egypt, all sought to be masters in the area. In this hard and confused struggle for supremacy, victory came to the Mamluks.

The Mamluks, 1282-1516

The Mamluks were a combination of Turkoman slaves from the area east of the Caspian Sea and Circassian slaves from the Caucasus Mountains between the Black Sea and Caspian Sea. They were brought in by the Muslim Ayyubid sultans of Egypt to serve as their bodyguards. One of these slaves, Muez-Aibak, assassinated the Ayyubid sultan, Al Ashraf Musa, in 1252 and founded the Mamluk sultanate, which ruled Egypt and Syria for more than two centuries.

From the eleventh to the thirteenth century, the Shia Muslims migrated from Syria, Iraq, and the Arabian Peninsula and to the northern part of the Biqa Valley and to the Kasrawan Region in the mountains northeast of Beirut. They and the Druzes rebelled in 1291 while the Mamluks were busy fighting European Crusaders and Mongols, but after repelling the invaders, the Mamluks crushed the rebellion in 1308. To escape from repression and massacres by the Mamluks, the Shias abandoned Kasrawan and moved to southern Lebanon.

The Mamluks indirectly fostered relations between Europe and the Middle East even after the fall of the Byzantine Empire. The Europeans, accustomed to luxury items from the Middle East, strongly desired both its raw materials and its manufactured products, and the people of the Middle East wished to exploit the lucrative European market. Beirut, favored by its geographical location, became the center of intense trading activity. Despite religious conflicts among the different communities in Lebanon, intellectual life flourished, and economic prosperity continued until Mamluk rule was ended by the Ottoman Turks.

OTTOMAN RULE, 1516-1916

The Ottoman Turks were a Central Asian people who had served as slaves and warriors under the Abbasids. Because of their courage and discipline they became the masters of the palace in Baghdad during the caliphate of Al Mutasim (833-42). The Ottoman sultan, Salim I (1516-20), after defeating the Persians, conquered the Mamluks. His troops, invading Syria, destroyed Mamluk resistance in 1516 at Marj Dabaq, north of Aleppo.

During the conflict between the Mamluks and the Ottomans, the amirs of Lebanon linked their fate to that of Ghazali, governor (pasha) of Damascus. He won the confidence of the Ottomans by fighting on their side at Marj Dabaq and, apparently pleased with the behavior of the Lebanese amirs, introduced them to Salim I when he entered Damascus. Salim I, moved by the eloquence of the Lebanese ruler Amir Fakhr ad Din I (1516-44), decided to grant the Lebanese amirs a semiautonomous status. The Ottomans, through two great Druze feudal families, the Maans and the Shihabs, ruled Lebanon until the middle of the nineteenth century. It was during Ottoman rule that the term Greater Syria was coined to designate the approximate area included in present-day Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Israel.

The Maans, 1120-1697

The Maan family, under orders from the governor of Damascus, came to Lebanon in 1120 to defend it against the invading Crusaders. They settled on the southwestern slopes of the Lebanon Mountains and soon adopted the Druze religion. Their authority began to rise with Fakhr ad Din I, who was permitted by Ottoman authorities to organize his own army, and reached its peak with Fakhr ad Din II (1570-1635).

Although Fakhr ad Din II's aspirations toward complete independence for Lebanon ended tragically, he greatly enhanced Lebanon's military and economic development. Noted for religious tolerance and having converted to a Maronite Christian, Fakhr ad Din attempted to merge the country's different religious groups into one Lebanese community. In an effort to attain complete independence for Lebanon, he concluded a secret agreement with Ferdinand I, duke of Tuscany in Italy, the two parties pledging to support each other against the Ottomans. Informed of this agreement, the Ottoman ruler in Constantinople reacted violently and ordered Ahmad al Hafiz, governor of Damascus, to attack Fakhr ad Din. Realizing his inability to cope with the regular army of Al Hafiz, the Lebanese ruler went to Tuscany in exile in 1613. He returned to Lebanon in 1618, after his good friend Muhammad Pasha became governor of Damascus.

Following his return from Tuscany, Fakhr ad Din, realizing the need for a strong and disciplined armed force, channeled his financial resources into building a regular army. This army proved itself in 1623, when Mustafa Pasha, the new governor of Damascus, underestimating the capabilities of the Lebanese army, engaged it in battle and was decisively defeated at Anjar in the Biqa Valley. Impressed by the victory of the Lebanese ruler, the sultan of Constantinople gave him the title of Sultan al Barr (Sultan of the Mountain).

In addition to building up the army, Fakhr ad Din, who became acquainted with Italian culture during his stay in Tuscany, initiated measures to modernize the country. After forming close ties with the dukes of Tuscany and Florence and establishing diplomatic relations with them, he brought in architects, irrigation engineers, and agricultural experts from Italy in an effort to promote prosperity in the country. He also strengthened Lebanon's strategic position by expanding its territory, building forts as far away as Palmyra in Syria, and gaining control of Palestine. Finally, the Ottoman sultan Murad IV of Constantinople, wanting to thwart Lebanon's progress toward complete independence, ordered Kutshuk, then governor of Damascus, to attack the Lebanese ruler. This time Fakhr ad Din was defeated, and he was executed in Constantinople in 1635. No significant Maan rulers succeeded Fakhr ad Din II.

The Shihabs, 1697-1842

The Shihabs succeeded the Maans in 1697. They originally lived in the Hawran region of southwestern Syria and settled in Wadi at Taim in southern Lebanon. The most prominent among them was Bashir II, who was much like his predecessor, Fakhr ad Din II. His ability as a statesman was first tested in 1799, when Napoleon besieged Acre, a well-fortified coastal city in Palestine, about forty kilometers south of Tyre. Both Napoleon and Al Jazzar, the governor of Acre, requested assistance from the Shihab leader; Bashir, however, remained neutral, declining to assist either combatant. Unable to conquer Acre, Napoleon returned to Egypt, and the death of Al Jazzar in 1804 removed Bashir's principal opponent in the area.

When Bashir II decided to break away from the Ottoman Empire, he allied himself with Muhammad Ali, the founder of modern Egypt, and assisted Muhammad Ali's son, Ibrahim Pasha, in another siege of Acre. This siege lasted seven months, the city falling on May 27, 1832. The Egyptian army, with assistance from Bashir's troops, also attacked and conquered Damascus on June 14, 1832.

Ibrahim Pasha and Bashir II at first ruled harshly and exacted high taxes. These practices led to several revolts and eventually ended their power. In May 1840, despite the efforts of Bashir, the Maronites and Druzes united their forces against the Egyptians. In addition, the principal European powers (Britain, Austria, Prussia, and Russia), opposing the pro-Egyptian policy of the French, signed the London Treaty with the Sublime Porte (the Ottoman ruler) on July 15, 1840. According to the terms of this treaty, Muhammad Ali was asked to leave Syria; when he rejected this request, Ottoman and British troops landed on the Lebanese coast on September 10, 1840. Faced with this combined force, Muhammad Ali retreated, and on October 14, 1840, Bashir II surrendered to the British and went into exile.

Religious Conflicts

In 1840, directly after the deposition of Bashir II, the Ottoman sultan appointed Bashir III as amir of Mount Lebanon. Bitter conflicts between Christians and Druzes, which had been simmering under Ibrahim Pasha's rule, resurfaced under the new amir. Hence, the sultan deposed Bashir III on January 13, 1842, and appointed Umar Pasha as governor of Mount Lebanon. This appointment, however, created more problems than it solved. Representatives of the European powers proposed to the sultan that Lebanon be partitioned into Christian and Druze sections. On December 7, 1842, the sultan adopted the proposal and asked Assad Pasha, the governor (wali) of Beirut, to divide the region, then known as Mount Lebanon, into two districts: a northern district under a Christian deputy governor and a southern district under a Druze deputy governor. this arrangement came to be known as the Double Qaimaqamate. Both officials were to be responsible to the governor of Sidon, who resided in Beirut. The Beirut-Damascus highway was the dividing line between the two districts.

This partition of Lebanon proved to be a mistake. Animosities between the religious sects increased, nurtured by outside powers. The French, for example, supported the Christians, while the British supported the Druzes, and the Ottomans fomented strife to increase their control. Not surprisingly, these tensions led to conflict between Christians and Druzes as early as May 1845. Consequently, the European powers requested that the Ottoman sultan establish order in Lebanon, and he attempted to do so by establishing a majlis (council) in each of the districts. Each majlis was composed of members who represented the different religious communities and was intended to assist the deputy governor.

This system failed to keep order when the peasants of Kasrawan, overburdened by heavy taxes, rebelled against the feudal practices that prevailed in Mount Lebanon. In 1858 Tanyus Shahin, a Maronite peasant leader, demanded that the feudal class abolish its privileges. When this demand was refused, the poor peasants revolted against the shaykhs of Mount Lebanon, pillaging the shaykhs' land and burning their homes.

Foreign interests in Lebanon transformed these basically sociopolitical struggles into bitter religious conflicts, culminating in the 1860 massacre of about 10,000 Maronites, as well as Greek Catholics and Greek Orthodox, by the Druzes. These events offered France the opportunity to intervene; in an attempt to forestall French intervention, the Ottoman government stepped in to restore order.

On October 5, 1860, an international commission composed of France, Britain, Austria, Prussia, and the Ottoman Empire met to investigate the causes of the events of 1860 and to recommend a new administrative and judicial system for Lebanon that would prevent the recurrence of such events. The commission members agreed that the partition of Mount Lebanon in 1842 between Druzes and Christians had been responsible for the massacre. Hence, in the Statue of 1861 Mount Lebanon was separated from Syrian administration and reunited under a non-Lebanese Christian mutasarrif (governor) appointed by the Ottoman sultan, with the approval of the European powers. The mutasarrif was to be assisted by an administrative council of twelve members from the various religious communities in Lebanon.

Direct Ottoman rule of Lebanon remained in effect until the end of World War I. This period was generally characterized by a laissez-faire policy and corruption. However, a number of governors, such as Daud Pasha and Naum Pasha, ruled the country efficiently and conscientiously.

Restricted mainly to the mountains by the mutasarrifiyah (district governed by a mutasarrif) arrangement and unable make a living, many Lebanese Christians emigrated to Egypt and other parts of Africa and to North America, South America, and East Asia. Remittances from these Lebanese emigrants send to their relatives in Lebanon has continued to supplement the Lebanese economy to this day.

In addition to being a center of commercial and religious activity, Lebanon became an intellectual center in the second half of the nineteenth century. Foreign missionaries established schools throughout the country, with Beirut as the center of this renaissance. The American University of Beirut was founded in 1866, followed by the French St. Joseph's University in 1875. An intellectual guild that was formed at the same time gave new life to Arabic literature, which had stagnated under the Ottoman Empire. This new intellectual era was also marked by the appearance of numerous publications and by a highly prolific press.

The period was also marked by increased political activity. The harsh rule of Abdul Hamid II (1876-1909) prompted the nationalists, both Christians and Muslims, in Beirut and Damascus to organize into clandestine political groups and parties. The Lebanese, however, had difficulties in deciding the best political course to advocate. Many Lebanese Christians were apprehensive of Turkish pan-Islamic policies, fearing a repetition of the 1860 massacres. Some, especially the Maronites, began to contemplate secession rather than the reform of the Ottoman Empire. Others, particularly the Greek Orthodox, advocated an independent Syria with Lebanon as a separate province within it, so as to avoid Maronite rule. A number of Lebanese Muslims, on the other hand, sought not to liberalize the Ottoman regime but to maintain it, as Sunni Muslims particularly liked to be identified with the caliphate. The Shias and Druzes, however, fearing minority status in a Turkish state, tended to favor an independent Lebanon or a continuation of the status quo.

Originally the Arab reformist groups hoped their nationalist aims would be supported by the Young Turks, who had staged a revolution in 1908-1909. Unfortunately, after seizing power, the Young Turks became increasingly repressive and nationalistic. They abandoned many of their liberal policies because of domestic opposition and Turkey's engagement in foreign wars between 1911 and 1913. Thus, the Arab nationalists could not count on the support of the Young Turks and instead were faced with opposition by the Turkish government.

World War I

The outbreak of World War I in August 1914 brought Lebanon further problems, as Turkey allied itself with Germany and AustriaHungary . The Turkish government abolished Lebanon's semiautonomous status and appointed Jamal Pasha, then minister of the navy, as the commander in chief of the Turkish forces in Syria, with discretionary powers. Known for his harshness, he militarily occupied Lebanon and replaced the Armenian mutasarrif, Ohannes Pasha, with a Turk, Munif Pasha.

Nationalist feelings were running high in Lebanon and in other parts of the Ottoman Empire such as in Armenia and the Turks were not willing to tolerate such fancies anywhere in their Empire. In February 1915, frustrated by his unsuccessful attack on the British forces protecting the Suez Canal, and an Allied initiated a blockade of the entire eastern Mediterranean coast to prevent supplies from reaching the Turks, Jamal Pasha vented his anger on Lebanon and its people. Hoping to put an end to the troublesum Lebanese, the Turks commited mass murder by commandeering  Lebanon's food supplies and so caused hundreds of thousands of deaths from widespread famine and plagues. Lebanon suffered as much as, or more than, any other Ottoman province, loosing over one third of its population. The war also deprived the country of its tourists and summer visitors, and remittances from relatives and friends abroad were lost or delayed for months. The Turkish Army cut down trees for wood to fuel trains or for military purposes, Lebanon lost over 60% of its forests. In 1916 Turkish authorities publicly executed twenty-one Syrians and Lebanese in Damascus and Beirut, respectively, for alleged anti-Turkish activities. The date, May 6, is commemorated annually in both countries as Martyrs' Day, and the site in Beirut has come to be known as Martyrs' Square. 

Relief came for Lebanon, however, in September 1918 when the British general Edmund Allenby and Faysal I, son of Sharif Husayn of Mecca, moved into Palestine with British and Arab forces, thus opening the way for the occupation of Syria and Lebanon. At the San Remo Conference held in Italy in April 1920, the Allies gave France a mandate over Greater Syria. France then appointed General Henri Gouraud to implement the mandate provisions.

The Mandate Period

On September 1, 1920, General Gouraud proclaimed the establishment of Greater Lebanon with its present boundaries and with Beirut as its capital. The first Lebanese constitution was promulgated on May 23, 1926, and subsequently amended several times. Modeled after that of the French Third Republic, it provided for a unicameral parliament called the Chamber of Deputies, a president, and a Council of Ministers, or cabinet. The president was to be elected by the Chamber of Deputies for one six-year term and could not be reelected until a six-year period had elapsed; deputies were to be popularly elected along confessional lines. The first and only complete census that had been held in Lebanon took place in 1932 and resulted in the custom of selecting major political officers according to the proportion of the principal sects in the population. Thus, the president was to be a Maronite Christian, the prime minister a Sunni Muslim, and the speaker of the Chamber of Deputies a Shia Muslim. Theoretically, the Chamber of Deputies performed the legislative function, but in fact bills were prepared by the executive and submitted to the Chamber of Deputies, which passed them virtually without exception. Under the Constitution, the French high commissioner still exercised supreme power, an arrangement that initially brought objections from the Lebanese nationalists. Nevertheless, Charles Dabbas, a Greek Orthodox, was elected the first president of Lebanon three days after the adoption of the Constitution.

At the end of Dabbas's first term in 1932, Bishara al Khouri (also cited as Khoury) and Emile Iddi (also cited as Edde) competed for the office of president, thus dividing the Chamber of Deputies. To break the deadlock, some deputies suggested Shaykh Muhammad al Jisr, who was chairman of the Council of Ministers and the Muslim leader of Tripoli, as a compromise candidate. However, French high commissioner Henri Ponsot suspended the constitution on May 9, 1932, and extended the term of Dabbas for one year; in this way he prevented the election of a Muslim as president. Dissatisfied with Ponsot's conduct, the French authorities replaced him with Comte Damien de Martel, who, on January 30, 1934, appointed Habib as Saad as president for a one-year term (later extended for an additional year).

Emile Iddi was elected president on January 30, 1936. A year later, he partially reestablished the Constitution of 1926 and proceeded to hold elections for the Chamber of Deputies. However, the Constitution was again suspended by the French high commissioner in September 1939, at the outbreak of World War II.

World War II and Independence, 1939-43

After the Vichy government assumed power in France in 1940, General Henri-Fernand Dentz was appointed high commissioner of Lebanon. This appointment led to the resignation of Emile Iddi on April 4, 1941. Five days later, Dentz appointed Alfred Naqqash (also given as Naccache or Naccash) as head of state. The Vichy government's control ended a few months later when its forces were unable to repel the advance of French and British troops into Lebanon and Syria. An armistice was signed in Acre on July 14, 1941.

After signing the Acre Armistice, General Charles de Gaulle visited Lebanon, officially ending Vichy control. Lebanese national leaders took the opportunity to ask de Gaulle to end the French Mandate and unconditionally recognize Lebanon's independence. As a result of national and international pressure, on November 26, 1941, General Georges Catroux, delegate general under de Gaulle, proclaimed the independence of Lebanon in the name of his government. The United States, Britain, the Soviet Union, the Arab states, and certain Asian countries recognized this independence, and some of them exchanged ambassadors with Beirut. However, even though the French technically recognized Lebanon's independence, they continued to exercise authority.

General elections were held, and on September 21, 1943, the new Chamber of Deputies elected Bishara al Khouri as president. He appointed Riyad as Sulh (also cited as Solh) as prime minister and asked him to form the first government of independent Lebanon. On November 8, 1943, the Chamber of Deputies amended the Constitution, abolishing the articles that referred to the Mandate and modifying those that specified the powers of the high commissioner, thus unilaterally ending the Mandate. The French authorities responded by arresting a number of prominent Lebanese politicians, including the president, the prime minister, and other cabinet members, and exiling them to the Castle of Rashayya (located about sixty-five kilometers east of Sidon). This action united the Christian and Muslim leaders in their determination to get rid of the French. France, finally yielding to mounting internal pressure and to the influence of Britain, the United States, and the Arab countries, released the prisoners at Rashayya on November 22, 1943; since then, this day has been celebrated as Independence Day.

The ending of the French Mandate left Lebanon a mixed legacy. When the Mandate began, Lebanon was still suffering from the religious conflicts of the 1860s and from World War I. The French authorities were concerned not only with maintaining control over the country but also with rebuilding the Lebanese economy and social systems. They repaired and enlarged the harbor of Beirut and developed a network of roads linking the major cities. They also began to develop a governmental structure that included new administrative and judicial systems and a new civil code. They improved the education system, agriculture, public health, and the standard of living. Concurrently, however, they linked the Lebanese currency to the depreciating French franc, tying the Lebanese economy to that of France. This action had a negative impact on Lebanon. Another negative effect of the Mandate was the place given to French as a language of instruction, a move that favored Christians at the expense of Muslims.

The foundations of the new Lebanese state were established in 1943 by an unwritten agreement between the two most prominent Christian and Muslim leaders, Khouri and Sulh. The contents of this agreement, later known as the National Pact or National Covenant (al Mithaq al Watani), were approved and supported by their followers.

The National Pact laid down four principles. First, Lebanon was to be a completely independent state. The Christian communities were to cease identifying with the West; in return, the Muslim communities were to protect the independence of Lebanon and prevent its merger with any Arab state. Second, although Lebanon is an Arab country with Arabic as its official language, it could not cut off its spiritual and intellectual ties with the West, which had helped it attain such a notable degree of progress. Third, Lebanon, as a member of the family of Arab states, should cooperate with the other Arab states, and in case of conflict among them, it should not side with one state against another. Fourth, public offices should be distributed proportionally among the recognized religious groups, but in technical positions preference should be given to competence without regard to confessional considerations. Moreover, the three top government positions should be distributed as follows: the president of the republic should be a Maronite; the prime minister, a Sunni Muslim; and the speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, a Shia Muslim. The ratio of deputies was to be six Christians to five Muslims.

From the beginning, the balance provided for in the National Pact was fragile. Many observers believed that any serious internal or external pressure might threaten the stability of the Lebanese political system, as was to happen in 1975.

Lebanon became a member of the League of Arab States (Arab League) on March 22, 1945. It also participated in the San Francisco Conference of the United Nations (UN) and became a member in 1945. On December 31, 1946, French troops were completely withdrawn from the country, with the signing of the Franco-Lebanese Treaty.


Lebanon's first president after independence was Bishara al Khouri, elected in 1943 for a six-year term; reelected in 1949 for a second term, he became increasingly imperial in his actions. According to his opponents, his regime was characterized by a narrow political structure supported by a strictly sectarian framework, and it did little to improve the economy.

In June 1952 an organization called the Social National Front (SNF) was formed by nine deputies led by Kamal Jumblatt, head of the Progressive Socialist Party; Camille Chamoun, the former ambassador to Britain; Emile Bustani, a self-made millionaire businessman; and other prominent personalities. This front dedicated itself to radical reform, demanding that the authorities end sectarianism and eradicate all abuses in the governmental system. The SNF founders were encouraged by people claiming to be dissatisfied with the favoritism and corruption thriving under the Khouri regime.

On May 17, 1952, the front held a meeting at Dayr al Qamar, Chamoun's native town. The meeting was attended by about 50,000 people and turned into a mass rally. The speakers criticized the regime and threatened rebellion if the president did not resign. On July 23 the Phalange Party, led by Pierre Jumayyil (also given as Gemayel), also voiced its discontent with the regime. On September 11 the SNF called for a general strike to force the president to resign; the appeal brought all activities in the major cities to a standstill. This general strike is sometimes referred to as the "Rosewater Revolution" because of its nonviolence. President Khouri appealed to General Fuad Shihab (also given as Chehab) the army chief of staff, to end the strike. However, Shihab refused to become involved in what he considered a political matter, and on September 18, Khouri finally resigned.

On September 23, 1952, the Chamber of Deputies elected Camille Chamoun to succeed Khouri. In the spring of 1953, relations between President Chamoun and Jumblatt deteriorated as Jumblatt criticized Chamoun for accommodating himself to the traditional pattern of Lebanese politics and for toning down the radical ideals that had led to the change of government in 1952. The balance between religious communities, provided for in the National Pact, was precariously maintained, and undercurrents of hostility were discernible. The Muslim community criticized the regime in which Christians, alleging their numerical superiority, occupied the highest offices in the state and filled a disproportionate number of civil service positions. Accordingly, the Muslims asked for a census, which they were confident would prove their numerical superiority. The Christians refused unless the census were to include Lebanese emigrants who were mainly Christians, and they argued that Christians contributed 80 percent of the tax revenue.

The 1956-58 period brought many pressures to bear on Lebanon. First, there was general unrest in the Arab world following the Suez Canal crisis and the abortive attacks on Egypt by Britain, France, and Israel. More specifically, however, political struggles occurred in two fields: rivalry among Lebanese political leaders who were linked to religious or clan groups and their followers; and the ideological struggle causing polarization between Lebanese nationalism and growing pan-Arabism.

President Gamal Abdul Nasser of Egypt became the symbol of panArabism after the 1956 Suez crisis and the 1958 merger of Egypt with Syria to form the United Arab Republic. He had great influence on Lebanese Muslims, who looked to him for inspiration. In this period of unrest, the Lebanese authorities, most of whom were Christians, insisted on two things: maintaining the country's autonomy and cooperating with the West. Christians considered their friendly relations with the West important for the future of Lebanon. President Chamoun's refusal to respond favorably to pan-Arab pressures was in direct opposition to the stand of several prominent Sunni leaders, who devoted themselves to Nasser and the pan-Arab cause.

In 1957 the question of the reelection of Chamoun was added to these problems of ideological cleavage. In order to be reelected, the president needed to have the Constitution amended to permit a president to succeed himself. A constitutional amendment required a two-thirds vote by the Chamber of Deputies, so Chamoun and his followers had to obtain a majority in the May-June 1957 elections.

Chamoun's followers did obtain a solid majority in the elections, which the opposition considered "rigged," with the result that some non-Christian leaders with pan-Arab sympathies were not elected. Deprived of a legal platform from which to voice their political opinions, they sought to express them by extralegal means. The conflict between Chamoun and the pan-Arab opposition gained in intensity when Syria merged with Egypt. Pro-Nasser demonstrations grew in number and in violence until a full-scale rebellion was underway. The unrest was intensified by the assassination of Nassib Matni, the Maronite anti-Chamoun editor of At Talagraph, a daily newspaper known for its outspoken pan-Arabism . The revolt almost became a religious conflict between Christians and Muslims.

This state of turmoil increased when, in the early hours of July 14, 1958, a revolution overthrew the monarchy in Iraq and the entire royal family was killed. In Lebanon jubilation prevailed in areas where anti-Chamoun sentiment predominated, with radio stations announcing that the Chamoun regime would be next. Chamoun, realizing the gravity of his situation, summoned the ambassadors of the United States, Britain, and France on the morning of July 14. He requested immediate assistance, insisting that the independence of Lebanon was in jeopardy.

Furthermore, he invoked the terms of the Eisenhower Doctrine, which Lebanon had signed the year before. According to its terms the United States would "use armed forces to assist any [Middle East] nation . . . requesting assistance against armed aggression from any country controlled by international communism." Arguing that Lebanese Muslims were being helped by Syria, which had received arms from the Soviet Union, Chamoun appealed for United States military intervention. The United States responded, in large measure because of concern over the situation in Iraq and the wish to reassure its allies, such as Iran and Turkey, that the United States could act. United States forces began arriving in Lebanon by mid-afternoon of July 15 and played a symbolic rather than an active role. In the course of the 1958 Civil War, in which United States forces were not involved, between 2,000 and 4,000 casualties occurred, primarily in the Muslim areas of Beirut and in Tripoli. At the end of the crisis, the Chamber of Deputies elected General Fuad Shihab, then commander in chief of the Lebanese Army, to serve as president.


President Shihab, having cultivated nonpartisanship during the 1958 Civil War, enjoyed considerable support from the various political factions. However, his initial appointment to the cabinet of a large number of Muslim leaders, such as Rashid Karami, Sunni leader from Tripoli, whom he asked to form a reconciliation government, led to sharp reactions by the Phalange Party. Shihab was obliged to reapportion the balance in the cabinet on the basis of "no victors, no vanquished." He instituted electoral reform and increased the membership of the Chamber of Deputies from sixty-six to ninety-nine, thus enabling leaders of the various factions in the civil war to become active members of the legislature. He was determined to observe the terms of the National Pact and to have the government serve Christian and Muslim groups equally. This policy, combined with Shihab's concept of an enlightened president as one who strengthened the role of the executive and the bureaucracy at the expense of the zuama, or traditional leaders, was later referred to as "Shihabism." Shihab also concentrated on improving Lebanon's infrastructure, developing an extensive road system, and providing running water and electricity to remote villages. Hospitals and dispensaries were built in many rural areas, although there was difficulty in staffing them.

In foreign affairs, one of Shihab's first acts was to ask the United States to withdraw its troops from Lebanon starting on September 27, 1958, with the withdrawal to be completed by the end of October. He pursued a neutral foreign policy with the object of maintaining good relations with Arab countries as well as the West. Many observers agree that his regime brought stability and economic development to Lebanon and that it demonstrated the need for compromise if the Lebanese confessional system of government were to work. At the same time, however, it showed that in times of crisis the only solution might be to call on an outside power to restore equilibrium.


Shihab was succeeded by Charles Helou, who was selected president by the Chamber of Deputies on August 18, 1964. President Helou, a journalist, jurist, and diplomat, was known for his high moral and intellectual qualities. Despite his efforts to promote Lebanon's development, during his tenure the Arab-Israeli June 1967 War, in which Lebanon did not participate, had serious repercussions on all aspects of Lebanese life. The most significant impact was the increased role of Palestinian guerrilla groups in the struggle against Israel and the groups' use of Lebanon as a base of operations. The Palestinian presence impinged on the effort to maintain the confessional balance, for it tended to pit Muslim Lebanese against Christian Lebanese. On the whole, the former group initially viewed the Palestinian guerrillas as upholding a sacred cause that deserved full-scale support. The latter, who strongly favored Lebanese independence, tended to be more concerned with the effects of unrestricted guerrilla activity on Lebanese security and development. They feared both Israeli reprisals and the general undermining of governmental authority within Lebanon if curbs were not imposed on the guerrillas. The Helou government did its best to satisfy the conflicting demands made on it by guerrillas, Arab governments, Israel, and the internal political and religious elements.

The Chamber of Deputies elections of 1968 and the subsequent disagreements over forming a cabinet had already receded into the background when Israel launched a raid on Beirut International Airport on December 28, 1968. This attack set the stage for the government crises that marked Lebanese life for the next five years, until the Arab-Israeli October 1973 War. Moreover, it highlighted the delicate balance of internal political forces in Lebanon and the connection between that balance and the extent to which Lebanese identified with the Arab position in the ArabIsraeli conflict.

Periodic clashes between the guerrillas and the Lebanese Army continued throughout the late spring, summer, and fall of 1969. In the late summer of 1969, several guerrilla groups moved to new bases, better located for attacks against Israel. Israel regularly raided these bases in reprisal for guerrilla raids on its territory. In October the Lebanese Army attacked some guerrilla camps in order to restrict their activity, an action that led to several demonstrations in support of the guerrillas.

On November 2, 1969, the Lebanese commander in chief and Yasir Arafat, the head of Al Fatah, the leading faction within the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), agreed in Cairo to a cease-fire. The secret Cairo Agreement on Palestinian guerrilla operations in Lebanon which helped to restore calm was to prove a disaster for Lebanon in the years to come.

The Lebanese government's efforts to curtail guerrilla activities continued through late 1969 and 1970. Migration from southern Lebanon, particularly of large numbers of Shias, increased, primarily because of inadequate security against Israeli shelling and raids along with lack of economic opportunity. In Beirut the migrants, estimated to exceed 30,000, often could not find adequate shelter and met with indifference on the part of predominantly Christian military leaders. These problems resulted in occasional clashes between the migrants and government forces.

To deal with the problems caused by the fighting in the south, a governmental committee was formed, and funds were allocated for Al Janub Province. On January 12, 1970, the government announced a plan to arm and train Lebanese civilians in southern villages and to fortify the villages against Israeli raids. This action was apparently the result of an intentional government policy to avoid committing the army to action in southern Lebanon, presumably for fear of polarizing the religious groups that composed the army-- mainly Christian Maronite officers and Muslim or Druze enlisted personnel. But the problem was exacerbated by increasing activity by Palestinian guerrillas operating from southern Lebanon into Israel and by Israeli reprisals.

On January 7, 1970, General Emil Bustani, the army commander, was replaced by General Jean Njaim, suggesting a government effort to take a harder line toward the guerrillas and to defend southern Lebanon more actively. Clashes between the army and the guerrillas recurred, but southern Lebanese villagers continued to protest governmental inaction. After several bloody clashes between the guerrillas and the Lebanese Army and a nationwide general strike in May 1970, the government approved additional appropriations for the defense of the south, and it pressed the guerrillas to abide by the Cairo Agreement and to limit their activity.

1970-1975, The Outbreak of War

By the summer of 1970, attention turned to the upcoming presidential election of August 17. Sulayman Frangieh (also cited as Franjieh), who had the backing of the National Bloc Party and the center bloc in the Chamber of Deputies, was elected president by one vote over Elias Sarkis, head of the Central Bank, who had the support of the Shihabists (those favoring a strong executive with ties to the military). Frangieh was more conservative than his predecessor, Helou. A Maronite leader from northern Lebanon, he had a regional power base resulting from clan allegiance and a private militia. Although Franjiyah had a parochial outlook reflecting a lack of national and international experience, he was the choice of such persons as Kamal Jumblatt, who wanted a weaker president than Sarkis would have been. Frangieh assumed office on September 23, 1970, and in the first few months of his term the general political atmosphere improved.

The expulsion of large numbers of Palestinian guerrillas from Jordan in late 1970 and 1971, as a result of severe clashes between the Jordanian army and the PLO, had serious repercussions for Lebanon, however. Many of the guerrillas entered Lebanon, seeing it as the most suitable base for launching raids against Israel. The guerrillas tended to ally themselves with existing leftist Lebanese organizations or to form various new leftist groups that received support from the Lebanese Muslim community and caused further splintering in the Lebanese body politic. Clashes between the Palestinians and Lebanese right-wing groups, as well as demonstrations on behalf of the guerrillas, occurred during the latter half of 1971.

The Chamber of Deputies elections in April 1972 also were accompanied by violence. The high rate of inflation and unemployment, as well as guerrilla actions and retaliations, occasioned demonstrations, and the government declared martial law in some areas. The government attempted to quiet the unrest by taking legal action against the protesters, by initiating new social and economic programs, and by negotiating with the guerrilla groups. However, the pattern of guerrilla infiltration followed by Israeli counterattacks continued throughout the Franjiyah era. Israel retaliated for any incursion by guerrillas into Israeli territory and for any action anywhere against Israeli nationals. An Israeli incursion into southern Lebanon, for example, was made in retaliation for the massacre of Israeli Olympic athletes in Munich in September 1972. Of particular significance was an Israeli commando raid on Beirut on April 10, 1973, in which three leaders of the Palestinian Resistance Movement were assassinated. The army's inaction brought the immediate resignation of Prime Minister Saib Salam, a Sunni Muslim leader from Beirut.

In May armed clashes between the army and the guerrillas in Beirut spread to other parts of the country, resulting in the arrival of guerrilla reinforcements from Syria, the declaration of martial law, and a new secret agreement limiting guerrilla activity.

The October 1973 War overshadowed disagreements about the role of the guerrillas in Lebanon. Despite Lebanon's policy of noninvolvement, the war deeply affected the country's subsequent history. As the PLO's military influence in the south grew, so too did the disaffection of the Shia community that lived there, which was exposed to varying degrees of unsympathetic Lebanese control, indifferent or antipathetic PLO attitudes, and hostile Israeli actions. The Frangieh government proved less and less able to deal with these rising tensions, and by the onset of the War in April 1975, political fragmentation was accelerating.


The dawn of recorded history found Lebanon inhabited by a people who it would seem called themselves the Kena'ani (Akkadian: Kinahna), "Canaanites". Canaan was therefore earliest native name applied to the land at the eastern end of the Mediterranean. In Hebrew the word kena'ani has the secondary, and apt, meaning of "merchant", a term which well characterizes the Phoenicians because the nature of the country and its location, forced these ancient Lebanese to turn to the sea, where they engaged in trade and navigation. The words Phoenicia and Phoenicians are thought to come from the Greek word meaning purple and refer to those Canaanites which traded in purple cloth and dye with the Greeks and lived in an area which had slightly larger borders than modern day Lebanon. It is also thought the word Phoenicia may have been derived from Phoenix, the son of Agenor, King of Tyre.

Phoenicia consisted of a mainly urban population living in a string of coastal towns and a heavily forested and mountainous hinterland. These coastal towns were to grow into cities and then into city-states. The Phoenician city-states were Ugarit, Aradus, Tripoli, Batrun, Byblos, Beirut, Sidon, and Tyre. Each of the coastal cities was an independent kingdom and had an elected council of elders to check the power of the king, these councils are the first example of democracy in history. Common interests made these cities form a Phoenician federation under the leadership of one of its cities. In the 16th century BC Ugarit headed the federation, Byblos in the 14th, Sidon in the 12th, Tyre in the 11th to the 9th and Tripoli in the 5th.

These ancient Lebanese left a monumental legacy. They invented the alphabet. The Phoenician invention of the alphabet is without doubt the greatest invention in the history of mankind. This achievement alone guaranties them a unique place in history making them the world's greatest benefactors, but the story didn't end there. The city of Byblos gave its name to the Bible and the Tyrian princess Europa gave her name to Europe. The Phoenicians excelled in producing textiles, in carving ivory, in working with metal, stone and wood, and above all in making glass which they also invented. They even built the temple of Solomon and mined tin in Cornwall. Masters of the art of navigation, their ships of cedar ruled the seas, they were the first people of sail past the 'Pillars of Hercules' and discover Atlantic, another milestone in the history of man. The Phoenicians discovered the North  Star which the Greeks were to name the Phoenician Star in honour of those that discovered it. and they founded colonies wherever they went in the Mediterranean such as Cyprus, Rhodes, Crete, Malta, Sicily, Sardinia, Marseilles, Cadiz, and Carthage. Furthermore, their ships circumnavigated Africa a thousand years before those of the Portuguese. Amongst other evidence, Phoenician inscriptions have been found in Brazil to suggest that the Phoenicians crossed the Atlantic thousands of years before Columbus. With the establishment of  trade routes to Europe and western Asia, Phoenicia was to acquire wealth and position that rivalled Rome.
History of Phoenicia

On the whole Phoenician history can be reconstructed from indirect sources as the Phoenicians wrote primarily on papyrus and only a small number fragments remain. Papyrus, like paper, biodegrades and although many papyrus scrolls in Egypt survived largely by chance, because of the extremely dry climate, the situation in Lebanon was very different. Of actual Phoenician writings all that survives are a relatively small number of commemorative engravings in stone. Much of what we know comes from the writings of those with whom they traded or who, like the Greeks, were their rivals, and none too flattering in their jealousy. The Phoenicians were characterized by their chief competitors as intelligent, shrewd, cunning, proud, arrogant, mysterious, and intensely religious. Phoenicia is mentioned in both Egyptian and Mesopotamian sources such as the tale of Wenamum and Assyrian annals which mainly refer to conquest. One important source which must have originally been direct are the annals of Tyre quoted by Josephus in certain passages from Menander of Ephesus. Another significant source is the Old Testament.

The history of the Phoenicians is entwined with the history of other peoples starting with the ancient Egyptians. Evidence of trade between Lebanon and Egypt goes back to pre-dynastic times and continued for many centuries. Lebanon provided the Nile valley with wood for palaces, temples and boats and in exchange the Canaanites received gold and other metals. This pattern of trade that had established itself over many hundreds of years was interrupted in the 18th century BC by the rise to power of a warlike people who established themselves as master of the Levant and swept down into Egypt. These were the Hyksos.

The Hyksos or the 'Shepherd Kings' and from the names of their gods, they were undoubtedly Canaanite. The Hyksos controlled the region for about 150 years from around 1720 to 1570 BC. The Hyksos were responsible for the introduction of the horse into the area and the use of the animal for war purposes gave them a distinct advantage in battle, they introduced the horse-drawn chariot and the composite bow, and their successful conquests were furthered by a type of rectangular fortification of beaten earth used as a fortress; archaeologists have uncovered examples of these mounds at Jericho, Shechem, and Lachish. Their most important contribution was perhaps the introduction into Egypt of Canaanite deities and Asian artifacts. Hyksos rule was broken by a Theban prince, Ahmose, who drove the invaders out of Egypt and started his country on its new career of empire building. Over the next few hundred years the Egyptian empire not only included Lebanon but reached as far as the Euphrates. At the turn of the 14th century BC however, the empire began to decline and in the north a new world power emerged, the Hittites.

The Hittites, a people of Indo-European connection, were supposed to have entered Cappadocia c.1800 B.C. To the southwest, in the Taurus and Cilicia, were the Luites, relatives of the Hittites; to the southeast, in the Upper Euphrates, the Hurrians (Khurrites). In the country the Hittites then occupied, the aboriginal inhabitants were apparently the Khatti, or Hatti. Hittite names appear c.1800 B.C. on the tablets written by Assyrian colonists at Kültepe (Kanesh) in Cappadocia. However, real evidence of Hittite existence does not occur until the Old Hittite Kingdom (1600–1400 B.C.). The Hittites tried to invade Babylonia but were halted by Egypt and Mitanni. The Hittite Empire that followed the Old Kingdom, with its capital at Bogazköy (also called Hattusas), was the chief power and cultural force in western Asia from 1400 to 1200 B.C. The famous Hittite rulers date from this period. Among these are Supiluliumash (fl. 1380 B.C.) who is mentioned in the Tel el Amarna letters, Mursilish II (fl. 1335 B.C.), and Hattusilish III (fl. 1300 B.C.). The Hittite Empire was a loose confederation that started to break up under the invasions of the Thracians, Phrygians, and Assyrians from c.1300 B.C. Several small states arose, with Carchemish becoming an outstanding city.

It was at the turn of the 13th century BC when both the Egyptian and Hittite powers were on the decline and the Assyrians had not yet risen that Phoenicia was able to assert its full independence. It was the next few hundred years of relative peace that saw Phoenicia enter its golden age of prosperity based on increased international trade and colonization.

Assyrian greatness was to wait until the 9th century, when Ashurnasirpal II came into power. He was not only a vigorous and barbarously cruel conqueror who pushed his conquests N to Urartu and W to Lebanon and the Mediterranean, but he was also a shrewd administrator. Instead of merely making conquered kings pay tribute, he installed Assyrian governors so that he could have more control over the empire.

Shalmaneser III attempted to continue this policy, but, although he exacted heavy tribute from Jehu of Israel and claimed many victories, he failed to establish hegemony over the Hebrews and their Aramaic-speaking allies. A basalt obelisk, called the Black Obelisk, now in the British Museum, describes the expeditions and conquests of Shalmaneser III. Raids from Urartu were resumed and grew more destructive after the death of Shalmaneser. Calah, the capital of Assyria during the reigns of Ashurnasirpal II and Shalmaneser III, has been excavated.

In the 8th century B.C. conquest was pursued by Tiglathpileser III. He subdued Babylonia, defeated the king of Urartu, attacked the Medes, and established control over Syria. As an ally of Ahaz of Judah, who became his vassal, he defeated his Aramaic-speaking enemies centering at Damascus. His successor, Shalmaneser V, besieged Samaria, the capital of Israel, in 722–721 B.C., but it was Sargon, his son, who completed the task of capturing Israel. Sargon's victory at Raphia (720 B.C.) and his invasions of Armenia, Arabia, and other lands made Assyria indisputably one of the greatest of ancient empires.

Sargon's son Sennacherib devoted himself to retaining the gains his father had made. He is particularly remembered for his warfare against his rebellious vassal, Hezekiah of Judah. Sennacherib's successor, Esar-Haddon, defeated the Chaldaeans, who threatened Assyria and carried his conquests (673–670) to Egypt, where he deposed Taharka and established Necho in power. Under Assurbanipal, Assyria reached its zenith and approached its fall. When Assurbanipal was fighting against the Chaldaeans and Elamites, an Egyptian revolt under Psamtik I was successful.

Assurbanipal's reign saw the Assyrian capital of Nineveh reach the height of its splendor. The library of cuneiform tablets he collected ultimately proved to be one of the most important historical sources of antiquity. The magnificent Assyrian bas-reliefs reached their peak. The royal court was luxurious. Assyrian culture owed much to earlier Babylonian civilization, and in religion Assyria seems to have taken much from its southern neighbor and subject.

Despite the magnificence of Assurbanipal's court, Assyria began a rapid decline during his reign. The military aspect of the empire was its most prominent feature, for Assyria was prepared for conflict from beginning to end. Because of the ever-present need for men to fight the constant battles, agriculture suffered, and ultimately the Assyrians had to import food.

The lavish expenditures of Assurbanipal on warfare and building drained the resources of the empire and contributed to its weakness. The king of the Medes, Cyaxares, and the Babylonian ruler Nabopolassar, joined forces and took Nineveh in 612 B.C. Under the son of Nabopolassar, Nebuchadnezzar, Babylonia was renewed in power, and the great-grandson of Cyaxares, Cyrus the Great, was to establish the Persian Empire, which owed much to the earlier Assyrian state.

The great Phoenician cities were so well defended that they were able to withstand most of the attacks of the Assyrian kings. In the 6th century B.C., however, they submitted to the tolerant empire of the Persians, keeping their own autonomy.

With the rise of Greek naval and maritime power the importance of the Phoenicians began to decline. They were, however, able in the 4th century B.C. to offer serious resistance to Alexander the Great, who took Tyre only after a long and hard siege (333–332 BC). Phoenicia passed quietly into the Roman Empire, in which the Phoenician cities played imporatnt roles.

Phoenician Cities


Byblos (Jbail), the oldest city in the world, goes back at least 9000 years. The rise and fall of nearly two dozen successive levels of human culture on this site makes it one of the richest archaeological areas in the world. Millennia ago Byblos was the commercial and religious capital of the Phoenician coast. Evidence of trade between Lebanon and Egypt goes back to pre-dynastic times. Before the Greeks knew it as the centre for papyrus trade from which books were made, the Egyptians knew it as a port from which cedar wood could be obtained. Mount Lebanon provided the treeless valley of the Nile with wood for palaces, temples, and boats. The area around Byblos has the narrowest coastal plain and un some places nearby the Mount Lebanon falls directly into the sea, facilitating the transport of cedar wood. Byblos also gave its name to the Bible and it was here that the first linear alphabet, ancestor of our alphabet, was invented. In 1922 the oldest alphabetic inscription was found on the 13th century B.C. coffin of King Ahiram. On the elaborate sarcophagus was engraved:

"Itobaal, son of Ahiram, King of Jbail, made this sarcophagus for Ahiram, his father, as his dwelling for eternity. And if king among kings or a governor among governors, raises war against Jbail and lays open this sarcophagus, the sceptre of his power will be broken, the seat of his royalty will be overthrown, and peace will reign again in Jbail. As for his posterity they shall be cut off by the sword"

Not without reason it can be claimed that this is the most important sentence ever recorded. They mark the beginning of a new era. These 22 Phoenician magic signs are considered to be the greatest invention of man. These ragged shapes allowed the Hebrews to record their immortal ethical and religious contributions and the Romans their legal heritage. Without the alphabet we may not have preserved Homer and Shakespeare's plays may have been acted but not recorded, even Gibbon may be said to owe everything to the people of Byblos.

Religious activity in Byblos centred around Adon Tammouz (Adonis in Greek) god of fertility and Ishtar (Aphrodite) the Lady of Byblos. According to legend, Tammouz was out hunting high up in Mount Lebanon at Afqa, the source of the Adonis river (Nahr Brahim) which meets the sea not far from Byblos, when he was killed by a wild boar. His blood drained into the river and turned it red. Ishtar, the lover of Tammouz, in her sadness and anger brought about winter made all plant life on earth languish. The other Gods allowed Tammouz out of the underworld for a few months each year to be with Ishtar. In return, Ishtar would allow the plants to blossom and the sun to shine. During the feast of Adonis, signalled by the Adonis river turning red, the women of Byblos, wild with joy on the return of Tammouz to Ishtar would sacrifice their virginity at the Ishtar's temples. To this day the river turns red but geologists have spoilt the story by pointing out that the red colour is not a result of blood but the red soil of Mount Lebanon in the Afqa region being washed into the river. The Phoenicians planted the Adonis cult throughout their colonies and in Lebanon it survived for centuries after Christ.

In the modern town, 36 kilometres north of Beirut, the Roman-medieval port remains and is still in use and nearby are the extensive excavated remains of the city's past which stretch from the Stone Age to the Crusader era.


Sidon is said to mean "fishing" or "hunting" and started life as a small fishing community around 3000 BC and became one of the three great Phoenician city-states, rivalling Byblos and Tyre as a naval power. Not only did Sidon make purple dye but it was also the centre of the glass making industry. Sidonian artisans were famed in antiquity and were extolled by Homer, his Iliad refers to 'embroidered robes, rich in the work of Sidonian women'. Sidon is perhaps the second oldest of the cities and its inhabitants founded Tyre. The author of Genesis 10 : 15 thought Sidon was the first born of Canaan and Joshua 19 : 28 styled it 'the great Zidon'.

The main god of Sidon was Eshmoun, the god of healing. A mosaic in the temple of Eshmoun depicting the god holding a staff around which a snake was wrapped gives us the modern international symbol for medicine.

Although Sidon like most other Phoenician cities tried not to get involved in military conflict preferring commerce to war, it was destroyed on more than one occasion. In 675 BC the city confronted the Mesopotamian Esarhaddon and was utterly devastated. The stones of its walls were even thrown into the see and its king was beheaded. Sidon was able to recover and under the Persians in Darius The Great's time, towards the end of the 6th century BC, it was the capital of the fifth Persian satrapy and a showplace of buildings and gardens. The Greco-Persian wars have been characterized as a contest between Phoenician and Greek naval powers. In the struggle between these two powers over two hundred Phoenician ships participated and even took part in world renowned battles such as Miletus (494 BC) and Salamis (480 BC). Sidon supplied a great many of these ships and their crews. For the Greco-Persian wars, a Greek historian awarded a prize of valour to the Athenians on the Greek side and 'to the Sidonians on the side of the barbarians'. Before the battle at Salamis, Xerxes held a council of war. His high esteem for the king of Sidon is seen by the place assigned to him at the meeting. Herodotus (8.67) tells us "First in place is the king of Sidon and next the king of Tyre." Among the kings and princes of Phoenicia who sail with Xerxes, Herodotus (7.98) records, were Tetramnestus, son of Anysus of Sidon, and Matten, son of Sirom (Hiram) of Tyre.

By 360 BC Greco-Phoenician relations had entered a new phase and the Phoenicians began to resent Persian rule. The Phoenician cities lead by Sidon declared independence which resulted in Artaxerxes III attacking Sidon. With 300,000 infantry, 30,000 horse, and 300 ships he moved against Sidon. Five hundred Sidonian notables tried to make peace but were executed by the Persian emperor, as was Tennes the king of Sidon. The people would not allow Sidon to fall into Persian hands and resolved to die as free men so they set fire to the city and the ships in the harbour. The Sidonians shut themselves in their homes and waited to be consumed by the flames. 40,000 are said to have thus perished and the few that survived were carried away into captivity.

Once the mistress of the sea, the city was now a heap of ashes. For the second time in 300 years it had been wiped off the map. Although it was rebuilt, Sidon  would never again regain its former glory and for the years that followed it lead a humble life. The town was conquered by the Crusaders after a famous siege lasting 47 days, then retaken by Saladin 70 years later. The Castle of the Sea, built by Crusaders in 1228, guards the entry to the harbour. The Great Mosque, the ruins of the castle of St Louis, the Phoenician temple to the god Eshmoun, and the burial grounds with their catacombs and underground chambers, are all relics of Sidon's impressive past.


Tyre was a major Phoenician seaport from about 2000 BC onwards through the Roman period.

Tyre, built on an island and the neighbouring mainland, was probably originally founded as a colony of Sidon to the north and was mentioned in Egyptian records of the 14th century BC as being subject to Egypt. It became independent when Egyptian influence in Phoenicia declined and soon surpassed Sidon as a trade centre, developing commercial relations with all parts of the Mediterranean world. In the 10th and 9th centuries Tyre probably enjoyed primacy over the other cities of Phoenicia and was ruled by kings whose power was limited by a merchant oligarchy. In the 9th century BC colonists from Tyre founded in northern Africa the city of Carthage, which later became Rome's principal rival in the West. The town is frequently mentioned in the Bible as having had close ties with Israel. Hiram, King of Tyre, constructed two ports and a temple on the mainland sector of the city. Hiram also furnished building materials for Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem which the Tyrian built (10th century). The notorious Jezebel, wife of King Ahab, was the daughter of Ethbaal "King of Tyre and Sidon".

Greek mythology holds that the daughter of King Agenor of Tyre, Europa, was loved and abducted by Zeus. The king sent out his four sons, Phoenix, Cadmus, Cilix, and Thasus in serach of her with orders not to return until she had been found. Europa and Zeus had three sons, Rhadamanthys, Minos, and Sarpedon. One of her children, Rhadamanthys, became one of the judges of the dead in the underworld, Minos was king of Crete for whom Daedalus built the labyrinth to contain the Minotaur, and Sarpedon was king of Lycia and was slain by Patroclus while fighting on behalf of the Trojans. Europa's brothers, unable to find her, were to settle in foreign lands, Cilix in Cilicia , Thasus in the island of Thasos, Cadmus in various places including the island of Thera, before settling in Boeotia where he founded Thebes and named the entire continent Europa after his sister. In this way many stettlements were founded and the Alphabet was distributed. From (5.58-61) Herodotus, The Histories, we find:

'The Phoenicians who came with Cadmus - amongst whom were the Gephyraei - introduced into Greece, after their settlement in the country, a number of accomplishments, of which the most important was writing, an art till then, I think, unknown to the Greeks. At first they used the same characters as all the other Phoenicians, but as time went on, and they changed their language, they also changed the shape of their letters. At that period most of the Greeks in the neighbourhood were Ionians; they were taught these letters by the Phoenicians and adopted them, with a few alterations, for their own use, continuing to refer to them as the Phoenician characters - as was only right, as the Phoenicians had introduced them.'

For much of the 8th and 7th centuries the town was subject to Assyria, and for almost 13 years (585-573) it successfully withstood a prolonged siege by the Babylonian King Nebuchadrezzar II. Between 538 and 332 it was ruled by the Achaemenian Kings of Persia. In this period it lost its hegemony in Phoenicia but continued to flourish. Probably the most famous episode in the history of Tyre was its resistance to the army of the Macedonian conqueror, Alexander the Great, who took it after a seven-month siege in 332, using floating batteries and building a causeway to gain access to the island. After its capture, 10,000 of the inhabitants were put to death, 2000 being crucified on the beach, and 30,000 were sold into slavery. Over the centuries, the causeway silted up, turning the island city of Tyre into a peninsula.

Tyre was subsequently under the influence of Ptolemaic Egypt and in 200 became part of the Hellenistic Seleucid kingdom; it finally came under Roman rule in 68 BC. It was often mentioned in the New Testament and it was in Qana (Cana) near Tyre that Jesus turned water into wine at the wedding feast. Tyre was famous in Roman times for its silk products and for a purple dye extracted from snails of the genus Murex. By the 2nd century AD it had a sizeable Christian community, and the Christian scholar Origen was buried there (c. 254). Under Muslim rule from 638 to 1124, Tyre grew prosperous as part of the kingdom of Jerusalem, a crusader state in the 12th and 13th centuries. The Holy Roman emperor Frederick I Barbarossa, who died on the Third Crusade, was buried in its cathedral (1190). Captured and destroyed by the Muslim Mamluks in 1291, the town never recovered its former importance.

The silted up harbour on the south side of the peninsula has been excavated by the French Institute for Archaeology in the Near East, but most of the remains of the Phoenician period still lie beneath the present town.

Berytus (Beirut)

Beirut was built on the largest rocky promontory of the coast at the near centre of the country. Later it would become capital of the modern nation, but in ancient times its deep harbour and central location were not so apparent and the city was overshadowed by more powerful neighbours. Its earliest name was "Birot", a Semitic word meaning "well", or "source". When the city-states of Sidon and Tyre began to decline in the first millennium BC, Berytus, as it was then called, acquired more influence, but it was not until Roman times that it became an important port and cultural centre with its famed Roman Law School. Berytus became the base of the fleet for the eastern Mediterranean. The city was designated Julia Augusta Felix (happy) Berytus in honour of the daughter of Augustus, and later Septimius Severus made it a full colony and so enjoyed self government and exemption from poll and land tax.

The school of Roman law, which probably was founded by Septimius Severus, lasted until the destruction of Berytus itself by a sequence of earthquakes, tidal wave, and fire in the mid-6th century. Two of Rome's most famous jurists, Papinian and Ulpian, both natives of Phoenicia, taught as professors at the law school under the Severans. Their judicial opinions constitute well over a third of the Pandects (Digest) contained in the great compilation of Roman law commissioned by the emperor Justinian I in the 6th century AD. The school made Berytus the leading intellectual seat of the empire .

After Roman power waned, Greek influence dominated the Byzantine period beginning in the 4th century. Later, the Crusaders held the city for some 200 years. It was only at the end of the 19th century, after 400 years of Ottoman rule, that Beirut began to develop and modernize.


Tripoli (Trablous), some of 85 km north of Beirut and the second largest city in Lebanon, shares the long history of the Levantine coast. It was founeded by inhabitants of the  Phoenician cities of Sidon and Tyre and Arados - hence the name "Tripolis", meaning "triple city". The first parliament ever to convene in the Middle East met in the Phoenician city of Tripoli.


The Acropolis of Baalbeck, in the Beqaa valley 85 Kilometres from Berytus, is the largest and best preserved corpus of Roman architecture in the world. Its temples, dedicated to Jupiter, Venus and Bacchus, were built in the second and third centuries AD. The ruins present a majestic ensemble: two temples, two courtyards preceded by propylaea (ceremonial entrances) and a boundary wall upon which Arab architecture has left its traces. Six immense columns still soar upwards from the holy place where the Temple of Jupiter once stood.

The Beqaa valley is the old "Coele Syria" of the Latins, the granary of ancient Rome. This great fertile plateau, 176 km long and 15 km wide, was in times past a route for caravans from the east and north. Traces have been found of the many peoples who have passed here. Some merely came through - Egyptians, Hittites, Persians, crusading Franks. Others lingered and settled -- the Greeks, Romans and Byzantines Caesarea


Caesarea Maritima (Qisarya), 55 km (34 mi) north of Tel Aviv, Israel, was an ancient city of Palestine. Originally a small Phoenician port, it was rebuilt between 22 and 10 BC by Herod the Great, who renamed the site for the emperor and made it a major port. Caesarea is best called quasi-Phoenician

Caesarea became the seat of the Roman governor of JUDEA in AD 6 and played an important part in early church history. Pontius Pilate resided here, and in the Book of Acts the work of Philip, Peter, and Paul at Caesarea is described. Both EUSEBIUS and ORIGEN worked at Caesarea. After the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, Caesarea became the most important city in Palestine; by the 6th century its population may have reached 100,000. The city's subsequent decline was hastened when the Persians and the Arabs sacked it early in the 7th century. Last occupied during the period of the Crusades, it was abandoned after its destruction by the Mamluks in 1265. An aqueduct and a theatre from Herod's time are still standing today.

Archaeological excavations between 1950 and 1961 revealed the main features of the city as described by the 1st-century historian Josephus, restored the extensive fortifications built by the Crusaders, and unearthed an inscription of Pontius Pilate. Investigations by underwater archaeologists in the 1980s confirmed Josephus's description of the harbour with its two massive breakwaters.

Phoenician Colonies

The Mediterranean and North African coast (with the exception of Cyrenaica) entered the mainstream of Mediterranean history with the arrival in the 1st millennium BC of Phoenician traders, mainly from Tyre and Sidon in the eastern Mediterranean. The Phoenicians were not looking for land to settle but for anchorages and staging points on the trade route from Phoenicia to Spain, a source of silver and tin. Points on an alternative route by way of Sicily, Sardinia, and the Balearic Islands also were occupied. The Phoenicians lacked the manpower and the need to found large colonies as the Greeks did, and few of their settlements grew to any size. The sites chosen were generally offshore islands or easily defensible promontories with sheltered beaches on which ships could be drawn up. Carthage (from the Phoenician Kart-Hadasht, New City), destined to be the largest Phoenician colony and in the end an imperial power, conformed to the pattern.

Tradition dated the foundation of Gades (modern Cádiz; the earliest known Phoenician trading post in Spain) to 1110 BC, Utica (Utique) to 1101 BC, and Carthage to 814 BC. The dates appear legendary, and no Phoenician object earlier than the 8th century BC has yet been found in the west. At Carthage some Greek objects have been found, datable to about 750 or slightly later, which comes within two generations of the traditional date. Little can be learned from the romantic legends about the arrival of the Phoenicians at Carthage transmitted by Greco-Roman sources. Though individual voyages doubtless took place earlier, the establishment of permanent posts is unlikely to have taken place before 800 BC, antedating the parallel movement of Greeks to Sicily and southern Italy.

Material evidence of Phoenician occupation in the 8th century BC comes from Utica, and of the 7th or 6th century BC from Hadrumetum (Susah, Sousse), Tipasa (east of Cherchell), Siga (Rachgoun), Lixus, and Mogador (Essaouira), the last being the most distant Phoenician settlement so far known. Finds of similar age have been made at Motya (Mozia) in Sicily, Nora (Nurri), Sulcis, and Tharros (San Giovanni di Sinis) in Sardinia, and Cádiz and Almuñécar in Spain. Unlike the Greek settlements, however, those of the Phoenicians long remained politically dependent on their homeland, and only a few were situated where the hinterland had the potential for development. The emergence of Carthage as an independent power, leading to the creation of an empire based on the secure possession of the North African coast, resulted less from the weakening of Tyre, the chief city of Phoenicia, by the Babylonians than from growing pressure from the Greeks in the western Mediterranean; in 580 BC some Greek cities in Sicily attempted to drive the Phoenicians from Motya and Panormus (Palermo) in the west of the island. The Carthaginians feared that if the Greeks won the whole of Sicily they would move on to Sardinia and beyond, isolating the Phoenicians in North Africa. The successful defence of Sicily was followed by attempts to strengthen limited footholds in Sardinia; a fortress at Monte Sirai is the oldest Phoenician military building in the west. The threat from the Greeks receded when Carthage, in alliance with Etruscan cities, backed the Phoenicians of Corsica in about 540 BC and succeeded in excluding the Greeks from contact with southern Spain.

Venerable historical traditions recount the Phoenician voyages to found new cities. Utica, on the Tunisian coast of North Africa, was reputedly founded in 1178 BC, and by 1100 BC the Phoenician city of Tyre supposedly had a Spanish colony at Gadir (Cadiz). Although intriguing, these historical traditions are unsupported by evidence. Excavations confirm that the Phoenicians settled in southern Spain after 800 BC. Their search for new commodities led them ever farther westward and was the reason for their interest in southern Spain's mineral wealth. The untapped lodes of silver and alluvial deposits of tin and gold provided essential raw materials with which to meet the increasing Assyrian demands for tribute. By 700 BC silver exported from the Río Tinto mines was so abundant that it depressed the value of silver bullion in the Assyrian world. This is the background for Phoenician interest in the far west.

Phoenician commerce was conducted by family firms of ship owners and manufacturers who had their base in Tyre or Byblos and placed their representatives abroad. This accounts for the rich tombs of Phoenician pattern found at Almuñécar, Trayamar, and Villaricos, equipped with metropolitan goods such as alabaster wine jars, imported Greek pottery, and delicate gold jewellery. Maritime bases from the Balearic Islands (Ibiza) to Cadiz on the Atlantic were set up to sustain commerce in salted fish, dyes, and textiles. Early Phoenician settlements are known from Morro de Mezquitilla, Toscanos, and Guadalhorce and shrines from Gorham's Cave in Gibraltar and the Temple of Melqart on the island of Sancti Petri near Cadiz. After the fall of Tyre to the Babylonians in 573 BC and the subjugation of Phoenicia, the early prosperity faded until the 4th century. Many colonies survived, however, and Abdera (Adra), Baria (Villaricos), Carmona (Carmo), Gadir (Cadiz), Malaca (Málaga), and Sexi (Almuñécar) thrived under the trading system established by Carthage for the central and western Mediterranean. Eivissa (Ibiza) became a major Carthaginian colony, and the island produced dye, salt, fish sauce, and wool. A shrine with offerings to the goddess Tanit was established in the cave at Es Cuyram, and the Balearic Islands entered Eivissa's commercial orbit after 400 BC. In 237 BC, just before the Second Punic War, Carthage launched its conquest of southern Spain under Hamilcar Barca, founded a new capital city at Cartago Nova (Cartagena) in 228 BC, and suffered crushing defeat by the Romans in 206 BC.

Among the most outstanding colonies or trading posts which the Phoenicians had established were the cities of Genoa, where they went in with the Celts and established a flourishing colony, and Marseilles which they started as nothing more than a trading post before it became fully Hellenized.

It is very probable that the tremendous colonial activity of the Phoenicians and Carthaginians was stimulated in the 8th to 6th centuries BC by the military blows that were wrecking the trade of the Phoenician homeland in the Levant. Also, competition with the synchronous Greek colonization of the western Mediterranean cannot be ignored as a contributing factor.

The earliest site outside the Phoenician homeland known to possess important aspects of Phoenician culture is Ugarit (Ras Shamra), about six miles north of Latakia. The site was already occupied before the 4th millennium BC, but the Phoenicians only became prominent there around 1991-1786 BC.

According to Herodotus, the coast of Libya along the sea which washes it to the north, throughout its entire length from Egypt to Cape Soloeis, which is its furthest point, is inhabited by Libyans of many distinct tribes who possess the whole tract except certain portions which belong to the Phoenicians and the Greeks.

Tyre's first colony, Utica in North Africa, was founded perhaps as early as the 10th century BC. It is likely that the expansion of the Phoenicians at the beginning of the 1st millennium BC is to be connected with the alliance of Hiram of Tyre with Solomon of Israel in the second half of the 10th century BC. In the following century, Phoenician presence in the north is shown by inscriptions at Samal (Zincirli Hüyük) in eastern Cilicia, and in the 8th century at Karatepe in the Taurus Mountains, but there is no evidence of direct colonization. Both these cities acted as fortresses commanding the routes through the mountains to the mineral and other wealth of Anatolia.

Cyprus had Phoenician settlements by the 9th century BC. Citium, known to the Greeks as Kition (biblical Kittim), in the southeast corner of the island, became the principal colony of the Phoenicians in Cyprus. Elsewhere in the Mediterranean, several smaller settlements were planted as stepping-stones along the route to Spain and its mineral wealth in silver and copper: at Malta, early remains go back to the 7th century BC, and at Sulcis and Nora in Sardinia and Motya in Sicily, perhaps a century earlier. According to Thucydides, the Phoenicians controlled a large part of the island but withdrew to the northwest corner under pressure from the Greeks. Modern scholars, however, disbelieve this and contend that the Phoenicians arrived only after the Greeks were established.

In North Africa the next site colonized after Utica was Carthage (near Tunis). Carthage in turn seems to have established (or, in some cases, re-established) a number of settlements in Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, the Balearic Islands, and southern Spain, eventually making this city the acknowledged leader of the western Phoenicians.


Phoenician KART-HADASHT, Latin CARTHAGO, great city of antiquity, traditionally founded on the north coast of Africa by the Phoenicians of Tyre in 814 BC. It is now a residential suburb of the city of Tunis. Its Phoenician name means New Town.

Various traditions concerning the foundation of Carthage were current among the Greeks, who called the city Karchedon; but the Roman tradition is better known because of the Aeneid, which tells of the city's foundation by the Tyrian princess Dido, who fled from her brother Pygmalion (the name of a historical king of Tyre). The inhabitants were known to the Romans as Poeni, a derivation from the word Phoenikes (Phoenicians), from which the adjective Punic is derived.

The date of the foundation of Carthage was probably exaggerated by the Carthaginians themselves, for it does not agree with the archaeological data. Nothing earlier than the last quarter of the 8th century BC has been discovered, a full century later than the traditional foundation date.

The site chosen for Carthage in the centre of the shore of the Gulf of Tunis was ideal: the city was built on a triangular peninsula covered with low hills and backed by the Lake of Tunis with its safe anchorage and abundant supplies of fish. The site of the city was well protected and easily defensible. On the south the peninsula is connected to the mainland by a narrow strip of land. The ancient citadel, the Byrsa, was on a low hill overlooking the sea. Some of the earliest tombs have been found there, though nothing remains of Carthage's domestic and public buildings.

The standard of cultural life enjoyed by the Carthaginians was probably far below that of the larger cities of the classical world. Punic interests were turned toward commerce. In Roman times Punic beds, cushions, and mattresses were regarded as luxuries, and Punic joinery and furniture were copied. Much of the revenue of Carthage came from its exploitation of the silver mines of North Africa and southern Spain, begun as early as 800 BC.

From the middle of the 3rd century to the middle of the 2nd century BC, Carthage was engaged in a series of wars called the Punic wars with Rome. These wars ended in the complete defeat of Carthage by Rome. When Carthage finally fell in 146 BC, the site was plundered and burned, and all human habitation there was forbidden.

The Maronites and Lebanon
Maronite history is coloured with the romance that attaches itself to a struggle of a determined people. Most nations in their history often have to make a choice between confrontation or cooperation and time has shown us that minorities usually pay for their continued existence through deformation of character or out right collaboration. The Maronites through perpetual resistance and the preservation of a precarious independence have escaped this fate. Not only have they survived, but they have survived uncowed. The remarkable nature of their history lies hand in hand with that of Lebanon, for centuries being their retreat and fortress. Lebanon and the Maronites are inseparably attached.
The Maronites have survived the storms of invasion, occupation, repression and suppression for over 1600 years, preserving their religion, traditions and state. Through the ages they refused  to bow to their occupiers, at the height of the Umayyad dynasty the Maronites even exacted tribute as a price for their good behaviour, in due course their Christian neighbours all succumbed to Islam but not Lebanon, holding a Maronite majority well into the 20th century, even their Syriac (Christian Aramaic) language was widely spoken well into the late 18th century and still survives today in their liturgy and in some of their villages. The mountain Maronites remain much as the earliest travellers found them, not having lost the virtues for which they have been admired. The ingenuity and perseverance with which they have tamed the hillsides is remarkable, striving for soil, capturing it from rocks laboriously, foot by foot. Their terraced vines, piled vertically one above the other, climb to the snows. Their minute orchards are often wedged in the faults and crannies of precipices. Such industry has its reward, the very rocks have grown fertile. Their long political struggle and the effort to squeeze a livelihood from the rocks and precipices have made them independent, courageous and provident.

The Birth of the Maronites.

Early Christianity in the region focused in and around the city of Antioch. The conversion of Antioch was carried out by the disciples of Jesus and the faith of its inhabitants was further strengthened by the work of the apostles Paul and Barnabas. The church of Antioch itself was founded by Saint Peter who was bishop there before moving on to Rome, and it was in this church where the disciples of Jesus were first called Christians. Along with Alexandria in Egypt and Constantinople, Antioch was one of the most important spiritual centres of the east. It outranked the others in biblical scholarship. Two factors, however, led to the gradual decay of the church of Antioch: its political position as a buffer state between the Byzantine Empire and its antagonistic powers; and its ecclesiastical division by schisms and heresies.

One of the most serious divisions of the early church was a result of a conflict over the nature of the divinity and humanity of Christ himself. It was maintained by the Monophysites that in the person of Christ there was but one nature which was primarily divine but had human attributes. A second school of thought held that in Christ there was both a divine nature and a human nature and that these were perfectly united.

A certain priest probably wishing not be distracted divisions of the early church retreated to the wilderness of the mountains not far from Antioch where he could completely dedicate himself to God. This hermit's name was Maroun in Syriac and Maron in Greek. Saint Maroun found however, that his true vocation lay in the preaching of the word of God and he began to attract people from far and near who were drawn by his godliness and wisdom and who desired to live under his spiritual guidance. As his disciples increased in number, they began to be called Maronites after their teacher. The earliest known source of 'Maron the monk' who 'planted the garden of ascetic life' in the region  was by the powerful patriarch of Constantinople, John Chrysostom who solicited St. Maroun's prayer and news was in an epistle in the year 404.  Our principal historical source on the life of Maroun is Theodoret, Bishop of Cyrr, who wrote, some thirty years later the Religious History of Syriac Asceticism. Theodoret tells us that the mountain Maron chose for his retreat had been sacred to pagans and that he converted a pagan temple that he found there into a church which he dedicated to 'the true God'. In his description of the beginning of Maroun's life, Theodoret states that Maroun had 'already increased the number of saints in heaven' and that St. Maroun 'cured not only infirmities of the body, but applied suitable treatment to soul as well, healing this man's greed and that man's anger, to this man supplying teaching in self-control and to that providing lessons in justice, correcting this man's intemperance and shaking up another man's sloth'. If it were not for these references, the only indication of the saint's existence would be the oral tradition of the Maronite community itself.

Lebanon, the New Home.

Maron is said to have died in the year 410 but some date his death later, in 423. It would seem that after his death, possibly to avoid persecution from the Monophysites, the disciples of St. Maroun relocated south, following the Orontes upstream towards Lebanon taking St. Maroun's body with them. A Maronite monastery called Beth-Maroun, was then built near Saint Maroun's tomb and Theodoret described the profound devotion which the monks of the monastery Beth-Maroun had to their departed spiritual father Maroun. The monastery became the nucleus of a community where men and women, under the guidance of the monks, could find material and spiritual happiness. The monastery was probably situated at Qal'at al-Madiq, in Northern Phoenicia, on the banks of the Orontes not far from Mount Lebanon, the monastery belonged juridically to the venerable patriarch church of Antioch. As the hardships of the early Christian church continued more and more the faithful set all their hopes on the Maronite community where, in spite of persecutions and devastating wars, the spiritual leaders guided and protected their faithful with moderation and wisdom. This is the reason why, even today, the liturgy and the organization of the Maronite community has strong monastic characteristics. It is also the reason why for centuries the spiritual leaders of the Maronites have kept watch over the political and social rights of their flocks.

Some years earlier, Saint Maroun's first disciple Abraham of Cyrrhus (350-422), who is called the Apostle of Lebanon, realized that, despite having some of the oldest Christian communities, paganism was thriving in Lebanon. In around 402 AD Abraham set out with some companions to convert the Lebanese pagans to Christianity by introducing them to the way of St Maroun. According to Theodoret, Abraham 'repaired to the Lebanon, where, he had heard, a large village was engulfed in the darkness of impiety'. He lived in that village and served as its priest for three years. Theodoret then tells us that 'after spending three years with them and guiding them well towards the things of God, he got another of his companions appointed in his place'. AbouZayd in his Study of the Life of Singleness in the Syrian Orient, From Ignatius of Antioch to Chalcedon 451 AD states that Abraham 'founded an eremitic community on Mount Lebanon. It was probably located in Aqura near the river Adonis', and that from Theodoret's account it would appear that  'Abraham founded an ascetic community with his companions in the Lebanese village'.  Legend has it that the Adonis River, named after the Phoenician god, was renamed the Abraham River after that village and the region was converted to Christianity by Abraham and his companions.

The relocation of the Maronites to Beth-Maroun, so close to Mount Lebanon, enabled Maronite monks to regularly follow the example of Abraham and do their work not only in Mount Lebanon, but in the Lebanese coastal cities and the Beqaa valley as well.

As conflict over the nature of the divinity and humanity of Christ raged, in 451 at the Council of Chalcedon, it was decreed that Christ was both God and man, having two natures, one divine and one human in unity. The Maronites were loyal supporters of the decrees of the Council in the region, and as a result, the opponents of Chalcedon showed themselves bitter enemies of the Maronites and began to brutally persecuted them. As a result of the dangers they faced, the following years began to witness a migration of Maronites into Lebanon and an increase in the rate of conversion of its population to Maronite Christianity.

Attacks on Maronites continued into the sixth century. In a letter addressed to Pope Hormisdas in 517, monks of St. Maroun inform him that they are being constantly attacked. They single out Antiochian Patriarchs Severus and Peter, who, they say, anathematize the Council of Chalcedon and Pope Leo, whose formula the Council had adopted. The Emperor Anastasius had sent an army against the Maronites closing monasteries and expelling the monks. Some had been beaten, others were thrown into prison and some killed. The Maronites also appealed to the Emperor in Constantinople, but to no avail. In one incident, while on the way to the monastery of St. Simon Stylite, Maronites were ambushed and 350 monks were put to the sword, even though some of them had taken refuge at the altar. The monastery was burned. This incident forced tose Maronites that were living outside of Lebanon to take refuge there in larger and successive waves.

Throughout the sixth century of the Christian era, the disciples of St. Maroun continued to convert the inhabitants of Lebanon and its surrounding areas turning the population into Maronite Christains. For over a hundred and fifty  years the Maronites and worked the land, terraced the mountains and built their villages.

The Arab Invasion.

Between 635 and 637, Damascus, Baalbak, Acre, Tyre, Sidon, Byblos, and many other cities fell to Arab invaders. Many Maronites living in the low lands joined their brothers in the Mount Lebanon. The mountain offered no attraction to the desert Arabs who considered agriculture below there dignity and who new little of industry and nothing of maritime trade. The Maronites high in the mountain resisted and as the caliphs did not realize the strategic importance of Lebanon and left it to itself. Constantinople recruited mountaineers from the Taurus to infiltrate Lebanon and join the Maronites in harassing the Arabs. The resistance movement became known as Marada or Mardiates, meaning rebels. The Maronites became a problem for the Umayyad Dynasty (661-750), who facing a civil war with the followers of Ali, decided to pay a tribute to the Maronites so as to ensure good behaviour. This arrangement lasted for over 40 years.

The Maronites, over the years, found themselves increasingly cut off, and any regular with Antioch and contact with the patriarchate of Constantinople became impossible, the Maronites therefore had to appoint in 687 their own Patriarch, Saint John-Maron who had been bishop of Batroun since 676. The Emperor of Byzantium, however, acted as if his royal authority extended over the Church. He appointed Patriarchs and interfered in ecclesiastical matters. The Christians for their part got into the habit of turning to him to solve their problems. When the Maronites chose a Patriarch for themselves, the authorities at Byzantium withheld their consent and the Emperor was very displeased. The Maronites were forced to hold off the Arabs with one hand and the Emperor of Constantinople with the other hand.

In 694, while invading the region, the imperial army of Justinian II also attacked the Maronites. The monastery on the Orontes was destroyed and 500 monks executed. The Maronites now had to face the Imperial Army. The patriarch led his people in combat, and after a number of engagements, the Maronites won a decisive victory at Amioun, in Mount Lebanon. The Imperialist generals, Moreek and Mooreikan, were slain.

There and then, the Maronite nation, conceived many years before, may be said to have been born.

'Maronite', says Edward Gibbon, the eighteenth century English historian, 'was transferred from a hermit to a monastery, and from a monastery to a nation. This humble nation survived the empire of Constantinople, which persecuted it'.
The Maronites had to move high into the mountains to ensure their survival and independence. The Patriarch established himself at Kfarhay, in the mountains above Batroun, where he made the episcopal palace his seat.  A number of other Patriarchs also resided at Kfarhay, among whom are Cyr, and Gabriel. Many of their followers flocked about them, trudging to Kfarhay, carrying their children and staggering under the burden of what simple belongings they had been able to bring as they were driven from their houses, their lands, and their property in surrounding areas. They now came to forge a living from a rocky, densely forested land, lacking in every amenity. The Anaphora of St John-Maron, in daily use, is a brilliant testimony to the faith of the Maronites in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Their belief could not be shaken, nor could the assaults of their enemies disperse them.
With the Arab invasion the Maronites put behind them the years of plenty and prepared for the years of hunger. They transformed rock into fertile soil in which they grew wheat and other grains, planted olive trees, grapevines and mulberry trees, and added to their traditional prayers a beautiful one:

'By the intercession of your Mother, O Lord, turn your wrath from the land and its inhabitants. Put an end to trouble and sedition, banish from it war, plunder, hunger and plague. Have pity on us in our misfortunes. Console those of us who are sick. Help us in our weakness. Deliver us from oppression and exile. Grant eternal rest to our dead. Allow us to live in peace in this world that we may glorify you.'

In their prayers the Maronites spoke of their hardships, hunger, disorders, and injustice, for these were things they were familiar with.

The Abbasids Dynasty (750-1258), which brought humiliation to the Umayyads did not spare Lebanon and treated it very much as an occupied territory. The Maronites staged revolt after revolt, and though successful in the beginning, in 759 in an attack on Baalbek, the Maronites met disaster. Severe repression followed and the Maronites found it very difficult to survive.

Finally, after 251 years spent by the Patriarchs in the region of Batroun, continued pressure forced them to find a new refuge, this time in the mountains above Jbeil,  facing new difficulties on new soil. Patriarch John II, was obliged the to 'take refuge in the heart of Mount Lebanon in 938' as Patriarch DOUAIHY wrote of him. Finally, he settled in the vicinity of Aakoura. (The Annals, 50)
The sojourn of the Maronite Patriarchs in the district of Jbeil lasted for 502 years, that is to say, from 938 to 1440 A.D and these were years of constant turmoil as the plains and  mountains Lebanon became a battle field for the Crusaders and the army of Islam.

Thirty-four Patriarchs resided in the region of Jbeil, through the troubled times, they were:
John-Maron II, Gregory, Stephen, Mark, Eusebius, John, Joshua, David, Gregory, Theofelix, Joshua, Dumith, Isaac, John, Simon, Joseph EL GERGESSI (1110-1120), Peter (1121-1130), Gregory of Halate (1130-1141), Jacob of Ramate (1141-1151), John (1151 -1154), Peter (1154-1173), Peter of Lehfed (1173-1199), Jeremiah of Amshit (1199-1230), Daniel of Shamat (1230-1239), John of Jaje (1239-1245), Simon (1245-1277), Daniel of Hadshit (1278-1282), Jeremiah of Dmalsa (1282-1297), Simon (1297-1339), John (1339-1357), Gabriel of Hjula (1357-1367), John (1367- 1404), John of Jaje (1404-1445).

The monks lived in inaccessible and trackless mountain fastness and considered themselves happy if they were able to live in peace among their faithful people, treasuring the Christian teaching that had been handed down to them. They did not even have any fixed Patriarchal seat. They went from Yanuh down to Mayfuq, then to Lehfed, to Habil, back to Yanuh, to Kfifan, to Kfarhay, to Kafre, to Yanuh again, and to Hardine, and to Mayfuq again. If they accepted to live an austere life and to be like Abraham ever on the move, it was because it was their will to follow in the footsteps of St Maron, their master.

Their dwellings were extremely humble, and deprived of all show of riches and pomp, but magnificent in their simplicity and detachment from the world. However, 'the devoted inhabitants of Yanuh, being pious and good Apostles, insisted on building a residence for the Patriarch, in green stone, very attractive and solidly constructed'. (DOUAIHY, The Annals 50)

The Patriarchal seat at Mayfuq, which still exists, is a true work of art. If the greater part of the construction is devoted to the church, as was the case of the other residences vestiges of which are scattered about, this was because the Patriarchs were above all men of prayer and so wanted their places of residence to be in the first place retreats for prayer.

In 1017  a non-Christian sect, the Druze, entered the Lebanese stage. The sect owes its name to Al-Darazi ('the tailor'), a Turk from Bukhara, who served as a tailor in the of Al-Hakim, the sixth Fatimid caliph-imam in Cairo. Al-Hakim was on of the most enigmatic figures of history committing irreconcilable acts of extreme violence and brutality as well as benevolence. He greatly oppressed both Jews and Christians, he even went so far as to forbid them from riding horses and forcing them to wear black robes and black turbans so that they would be easily recognized.

Al-Hakim demolished the the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, this  added  to the tension between Islam and Christendom and ultimately lead to the Crusades.

The Crusades.

In 1097 The Crusaders set off from Europe to deliver the Holy Land from the hands of Islam. By 1099 the Crusaders had reached Lebanon, after a three month siege of Arqah, the fortified birthplace of the Roman emperor Alexander Severus, by Raymond of  Saint Gilles the Count of Toulouse, the Crusaders headed south through Tripoli, Batroun, Byblos (Jbeil), Beirut, Sidon, and Tyre towards their goal, Jerusalem.

For three centuries the Maronites were cut off from the rest of the world, blockaded with in their mountains; and when the Crusaders swarmed into the East, their discovery of the Maronites came as a surprise. The Holy See itself was astonished to learn of their continued existence when their disappearance had been taken for granted. Subsequently there were strong ties formed between the Maronites and the Crusaders, particularly after the arrival in the East of St Louis, King of France.

William, archbishop of Tyre and chancellor of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, states in his Chronicle that when the Crusaders arrived at Tripoli, Maronites descended from the mountains 'to come and testify to the Crusaders tender sentiments of fraternity' and that the Crusaders 'addressed themselves to the fideles of Lebanon, as to wise and sober minded men, and having exact knowledge of the roads and localities, to ascertain what would be the safest and most practicable road to Jerusalem'. The Maronites thus joined the Crusaders and accompanied them to Jerusalem.

The Maronites were also described by Jaques de Vitry in his 'Historia Hierosolymitana' of the twelfth century 'men armed with bows and arrows, and skilful in battle, inhabit the mountains in considerable numbers, in the province of Phoenicia, not far from the town of Byblos. They are called Maronites, from the name of a certain man, there master, Maroun'.

It was during these confused times that some described the Maronites as Monothelite heretics, who believe that in the person of Christ there existed two natures but one will. They claim that the Maronites converted on mass upon the arrival of the Crusaders, the Maronites say that a proclamation of faith may have been mistaken for a conversion. There appears to be no evidence of any heresy  and the Maronites adamantly deny that they were ever heretics and state that they have forever been faithful to the decrees of the Vatican.

Pope Innocent III saw with his own eyes what men of prayer the Maronite Patriarchs were on the day when Patriarch Jeremiah of Amshit came to see him during the proceedings of the Latran Council of 1215, in which the latter participated. 'The Pope ordered that the Patriarch be depicted in a painting to be made for St Peter's. When over the centuries the painting had lost much of its radiance, Pope Innocent XIII ordered that it be retouched. This painting represents the Patriarch raising the host that had frozen in his hands while he was celebrating Mass, with the Pope attending'. (DOUAIHY, Chronologie des Patriarches Maronites, 24).

These Patriarchs did not leave behind them great works, such as fine Churches or castles or universities. Nevertheless, they succeeded like the Apostles in watching over their flocks as mothers and fathers do over their children, and to pass on to them the teachings of Our Lord. They formed a people full of the faith, blessing when insulted and enduring when persecuted. When at last they had completed their labours in one place, they carried the torch and went elsewhere.

During the thirteenth century, Lebanon knew some decades of relative peace. The Maronites were even able to undertake the construction of a number of Churches, an activity which Patriarch DOUAIHY recorded as follows: 'At that time, Christianity spread throughout the East and was openly proclaimed. Bronze bells were rung to summon the faithful to prayer and to the sacred services. Those who received the outpourings of God's grace founded convents and built Churches, for the people yearned to serve the Almighty and to perform good deeds. Father Basil of Besharri had three daughters: Mariam, Thecla, and Salomeh. Mariam constructed the shrine of St Saba in Besharri in Mount Lebanon; Salomeh, that of St Daniel in Hadath; and Thecla, that of St George in Bkerkasha as well as two churches in Koura...' (The Annals, 104)

By 1291 the Crusaders were all but defeated, but the relationship that they had made with the Maronites was to endure. These Christians of Lebanon were most responsive to western influence and in the Latin states they were accorded the rights and privileges pertaining to Latin bourgeoisie including the right to own land. Some Maronites followed the Crusaders to Cyprus where their descendants make up a healthy Maronite community.

It is estimated that during the Crusades 50,000 Maronites fell in battle under the standard of the Cross.

Under the Mamluk Sword.

Of all the lands of the East, Lebanon was to suffer the most in the last years of the Crusades and over many years to follow. Not only did it have to face four Mongol waves between 1260 and 1303 that left most of the low lying towns and cities in ruins but also Mamluk reprisals were brutal. General anti-Christian feeling was channelled against the Maronites. They suffered every humiliation, their Churches were set of fire, their villages plundered, and their vineyards destroyed. The Mamluk army went deep into the Maronite heart land and demolished Besharri, Ehden, Hadath, and Jubbah all high up in the mountain in the shadow of the cedars.

In 1302 and 1306 to 1308 the Mamluk campaigns were mainly directed against Kesrouan as reprisals were not only taken against Maronites but also against schismatic Muslims. Kesrouan, which according to tradition is named after an early Maronite prince, had at the time a mixed population of Maronites, Shiites, and some Druze. In the battle of Sawfar in 1307 a Mamluk army of 50,000 came close to annihilating a Kesrouan contingent of 10,000 and went on to devastate the Shuf district. Men, women and children were slaughtered, and tress were cut down. After the Mamluk campaign the Shiites left Kesrouan and moved to south Lebanon.

'On Monday, the second day of Muharram, Akush Pasha, governor of Damascus, marched at the head of a military force into the mountains of Kesrouan. The soldiers invested these mountains and, having dismounted scaled the slopes from all sides. The governor invaded the hills, and his soldiers trampled underfoot a land whose inhabitants had believed it impregnable. The enemy occupied the heights, destroyed the villages, and wreaked havoc in the vineyards. They massacred the people and made prisoners of them. The mountains were left deserted." (The Annals, 288)

The Mamluk scorched earth policy in Lebanon spared nobody and succeeded in nullifying the fighting power of the Maronites, dissident Muslims and the Druze. The Mamluks had realized the strategic importance of Lebanon and decided that it could never be allowed to be so troublesome again. Lebanon, they felt had to be fragmented, and so it was divided in three provinces. The provinces fell under muslim governors, each of whom acted almost independently and maintained a court.

The Patriarchs themselves over the years also had their share of the general misfortune, suffering as much as any. One was tortured, another harassed, another compelled to flee, another put on trial, and yet another burnt alive.

'In 1283 Patriarch Daniel of Hadshit in person led his men in their defence against the Mamlouk soldiery, after the latter had assaulted the Jubbeh of Besharri. He succeeded in checking their advance before Ehden for forty days, and the Mamlouks captured Ehden only after they had seized the Patriarch by a ruse. In 1367, patriarch Gabriel was conveyed from Hjoula, his home district where he had taken refuge during the persecutions, down to Tripoli, where he was burnt alive at the stake. His tomb still stands in Bab el Ramel, at the gates of Tripoli. In 1402, there was great hardship. Many of the dead remained without burial, many of which died of hunger. It was a tragedy without parallel." (DOUAIHY, The Annals, 338).

The Churches that have survived from this period are small, but they testify to the renewal in our mountains of the mission in Our Lord Jesus Christ, which began when he trod the soil of Lebanon. The priests administered the sacraments and preached the word of God. Despite the dangers they faced daily the Maronites did not loose give up their faith or weaken their determination to survive, no matter what was thrown at them, they would not be assimilated. Not only did they openly and defiantly practice their Christianity but managed to keep contact with Rome throughout the difficult years.

Pope Eugene IV (1431-47) invited the Maronite Patriarch to attend the Council of Florence in person, the Patriarch however, sent Fra Juan as his delegate, being motivated by concern about the risks of the voyage. Fra Juan had an audience with the Pope, at that time presiding the works of the Council, after which he returned to Lebanon bearing the Pallium.

'When the worthy friar reached Tripoli, there was a large crowd who came to greet him; unfortunately however, there were also soldiers sent by the governor to arrest him, the official in question being persuaded that the Christians had met in Florence to prepare the launching of another crusade against the Muslims of Syria. On learning of the envoy's misfortune, the Patriarch sent emissaries to reassure the governor about Fra Juan's intentions. After having pocketed a substantial bribe, the governor set his prisoner free after the latter had promised to return after completing his mission. Fra Juan made his way up to Our Lady of Mayfuk, which was then the seat of the Patriarch, and delivered him the Pallium together with a letter from Pope Eugene IV. But he then set off for Rome again, this time passing through Beirut and ignoring his earlier promise to the governor of Tripoli, who naturally enough flew into a rage and sent his soldiers to arrest both the Patriarch and other leading personalities. Finding nobody at the patriarchal residence, he plundered and set fire to the houses around and even killed a number of the local inhabitants. Those of his men who continued the search for the Patriarch destroyed the monastery, killing some of the monks and taking the others in chains to Tripoli. The Patriarch was obliged to leave the monastery of Mayfuk and from then on lived under the protection of Jacob, Mukaddam of Besharri.' (The Annals, 210).

As if the miseries brought on by man were not enough, the Maronites also had to fight nature, in the form of earthquakes, plagues, drought and famine. In the two hundred and fifty years of Mamluk rule, Lebanon and its neighbours are said to have lost two-thirds of their population.
When finally they found themselves in a situation, which knew no other solution, the Maronites had to move Patriarchal seat  further into the mountain, the chosen place was the valley of Kadisha, Syriac or the Sacred Valley.

The Sacred Valley.

As one advances into the deep-cut valley of Kadisha, one is surrounded by mountains towering over the gorge, leaving only a patch of the sky visible overhead, it is all crag and mountain rock, soaring heights and plunging depths. It is a land still bearing the imprint of its Creator, and is a source of revelation and inspiration to action. If one looks down from the shoulder of one of the great mountains into the three-thousand-foot depths of the gorge below, one is overwhelmed by a sense of power, and one wants to seize some twisted tree- trunk or jutting crag so as not go falling into the vast space between plunging cliffs. One European traveller recounted how the Patriarch, like a second Moses risen from the pages of the Old Testament, guided his people from his austere retreat among the rocks. Our Lady of Kannoubine was where the Patriarch took refuge during the period of great hardship, which lasted 383 years, it was the seat of 24 Maronite Patriarchs from 1440 to 1823, they were:

John of Jaj (1440-1445), Jacob of Hadeth (1445-1468), Joseph of Hadeth (1468-1492), Symeon of Hadeth (1492-1524), Moussa AKARI of Barida (1524-1567), Michael RIZZI of Bkoufa (1567- 1581), Sarkis RIZZI of Bkoufa (1581-1596), Joseph RIZZI of Bkoufa (1596-1608), John MAKHLOUF of Ehden (1608-1633), George OMAIRA of Ehden (1633-1644), Joseph HALIB of Akoura (1644-1648), John Bawab of Safra (1648-1656), George Rizkallah of Bseb'el (1656- 1670), Stephen DOUAIHY of Ehden (1670-1704), Gabriel of Blaouza (1704-1705), Jacob AWAD of Hasroun (1705-1733), Joseph DERGHAM Khazen of Ghosta (1733-1742), Symeon AWAD of Hasroun (1743-1756), Toubia EL KHAZEN of Bekaata Kanaan (1756-1766), Joseph STEPHAN of Ghosta (1766-1793), Michael FADEL of Beirut (1793-1795), Philip GEMAYEL of Bikfaya (1795-1796), Joseph TYAN of Beirut (1796-1808), John HELOU of Ghosta (1808-1823).

All of those named above were God-fearing men, servants of their people. The valley stands witness to their holiness and the sincerity of their quest for God through austerity and frugality. People said of them, 'Their crosses are made of wood, but their hearts are made of gold.'

Their suffering the people faced united them under their leaders, in turn under the authority of the Patriarch. The Mukaddam of Bsharri was the chief of this whole region and he established some semblance of peace and order. But even the times of peace were not without trouble as people constantly feared for their lives, a report made by a traveller who visited Kannoubine in 1475 states:

'The Maronite nation has lived under occupation enduring continuous oppression and tyranny. All over Lebanon one finds ruin, tears, and terror. Under the pretext of gathering a certain tax called the Gezia, the authorities strip the peasants of all their belongings and beat them with sticks, and torture them in order to extract from them all that they possess. Many would have perished had not their aged patriarch, Peter son of Hassan, come to their rescue. Terrified by the perils that threatened his people, the Patriarch gave away all the revenues of the Church to satisfy the rapacity of the tyrants. The door of the patriarchal monastery was sealed, and the Patriarch sometimes had to hide in caves as did Popes Urban and Sylvester.' (Marcellin de Civezza, Histoire universelle des missions franciscaines, Paris 1858, vol. 3, p. 209)

In Wadi Kannoubine, the Maronites heard the Gospel and lived by it. Theirs was a life of sacrifice inspired by the true faith and by hope, and so their lives were directed. They were an example of unity and love. In Wadi Kannoubine the Maronites had no need to be urged to pray. Wadi Kannoubine is in itself an invitation to the forgetfulness of self, to meditation, and to prayer, an invitation that the Maronites did not refuse. 'They spent their time as the first Christians did, learning from the Apostles' (Acts II:42). Some of them felt the need to live a life more fully devoted to prayer; many men and women sought God away from the haunts of men, and soon the caves in the valley became the retreats of hermits devoted to the inner life of union with the Creator.

The Maronites at that time were always under the threat of famine through failure of the crops. They were also under the threat of attack on their persons whenever they went out to their fields. But they lived without hate towards any, anxious only to fulfil their mission in this world. They were the Apostles of Jesus Christ. They laboured in patience and in hope. They looked on their enemies as people for whom Jesus had died, people to whom they must convey the message of the Gospel. They made such progress in virtue that in 1515 Pope Leo could write them a letter of encouragement in which he said: 'You have acted without allowing the persecutions and the hardship inflicted on you by the infidels, enemies of Our Saviour, and from the heretics and schismatic, to turn you away from the faith of Christ.'

Even though the Maronites endured famine and privation, and were pursued by enemies, they did not bow. They did not accept to be downtrodden. Wadi Kannoubine was indeed their last stronghold,  if it was lost, all would be lost. Now the Maronite people reacted with vigour and initiative. These men and women devoted to prayer, and particularly to the life of the hermitage, increased in number. Schools were opened and the pupils flowed in. Religious orders were founded.

The Ottoman Crescent.

For two and a half centuries the power of the Mamluks had been supreme, but by the the start of the sixteenth century the balance of power had shifted. Ottoman Turkey had emerged. Under Salim I, the Ottomans clashed with the Persian Safawids, destroyed their army and occupied Mesopotamia, then they turned their attention to the Mamluks. The Ottoman-Mamluk clash took place on 24 August 1516, on a plain north of Aleppo called Marj Dabiq. The Ottomans had a well trained and experienced body of infantry, heavy artillery and long range muskets. The Mamluks of the other hand clung to personal  valour and hand to hand combat. The Ottomans victory was decisive. The old Arab era had ended, a new one, Ottoman, began.

As soon as the Ottoman victory was complete, a Lebanese delegation of chiefs presented themselves to Salim to offer homage. Among the delegates, and indeed their spokesman, was a man by the name of Fakhr-al-din Al-Maani. The Maanis first appear in 1120 when they were instructed by the Saljuq governor of Damascus to settle the central slopes of Lebanon and harass the Crusaders on the maritime plain. The Manis were to adopt the Druze religion. Fakhr-al-din kissed the ground before the victories sultan and lavished praised upon him. The Sultan greatly impressed with Fakhr-al-din's seeming sincerity, personality, and grand eloquence, confirmed Fakhr-al-din and his companions in their fiefs and also confirmed the autonomous privileges they had enjoyed under the Mamluks.

The Ottomans did not want any trouble from  Lebanon and so the tribute imposed was very light, the Ottomans wanted to concentrate on more urgent matters in Persia and Egypt and felt it expedient to leave the mountaineers alone. Thus the latest waves of conquests that engulfed the area failed to reach the heights of Lebanon where its Maronite sons persisted in their ancestral way of life and watched what was transpiring in the plains below. Earlier conquerors such as the Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, and the Romans all left their mark chiselled at the foot of Mount Lebanon at Nahr el Kalb, now their monumental structures are empty and crumbling. There was no reason to believe that these fresh upstarts would leave much more of a permanent impression, even if they were to stay for four hundred years.

The Ottomans, however, realized that Lebanon could be a source of discomfort to them and so decided that it could not be allowed to stand united. Lebanese history from the 16th century to 1840 largely records the efforts of the Turk to divide the country and of the Lebanese emirs to unite it against Ottoman rule. On the whole the Lebanese emirs were surprisingly successful, two among them, Fakhr-al-din II and Bachir II, were outstanding.

Fakhr-al-din II

After the death of his father, the twelve year old Fakhr-al-din II was rushed to Kisrwen by his mother where he was raised by a Maronite family, the Al-Kazins. When Fakhr was entrusted with a fief in the Shouf, he could finally realize his childhood dream, for fifty years 1585-1635 he fought for Lebanese independence and in so doing created Greater Lebanon. By means of marriage, bribery, intrigue, treaties and war he carved out his kingdom. On the domestic level Fakhr had three objectives: security, prosperity, and unity. His army consisted of 40,000 disciplined and well trained professional. New garrison stations were built and artillery imported from Europe. A Maronite Khazim commanded his army and another served as his chief counsellor. In 1611 he sent a Maronite bishop on a confidential mission to the Pope and the grand duke of Tuscany. A secret treaty was signed between Lebanon and Florence.

In 1613 the Porte moved against Fakhr with 50,000 troops and a sixty galley fleet. Prudence dictated flight on the part of Fakhr and so he escaped on a French vessel to find a warm welcome at the court of the Medicis. Cosmo II of Tuscany received his Lebanese ally in style. Fakhr wrote to his people:

Having set before our eyes a goal toward which shall unswervingly move - the goal being full independence of our country and its complete sovereignty - we are resolved that no promise of reward or threat of punishment shall in the least dissuade us.'

In 1618 Fakhr returned to Lebanon to much rejoicing but found that in his absence his seat at Dier al Qamar had been assaulted by his rival Yusuf Sayfa.Fakhr swore vengeance and lost no time in implementing his oath. His men captured  Crac des Chevaliers, demolished the Sayfa palaces in Akkar and Tripoli and removed their stones so as to rebuild Dier al Qamar. Next came the turn of the pasha of Damascus, in the battle of Anjar, 4000 Lebanese captured the pasha and cut down 12,000 of his men. Lebanon, Syria and Palestine was now under the rule Fakhr-al-din II. Nothing was left for Fakhr, in the words of a biographer of his time, but to declare himself sultan. Fakhr-al-din II preferred the title of 'Emir of Mount Lebanon, Sidon, and Galilee'.

As lord of Greater Lebanon he now felt free to proceed with his economic programme which was to bring great benefits to his people. His Christian leanings and European dealing again angered the Porte who in 1633 launched a land and sea offensive against Fakhr. 80,0000 troops from Syria and Egypt and a 22 galley fleet converged on Lebanon. Facing them was a force of 25,000 Maronite and Druze. After initial victories Fakhr-al-din II was captured and sent to Constantinople were on 13th April 1635 he along with three of his sons were executed.

The Maronite College of Rome.

It was during the reign of  the Maanis that the Maronite College in Rome was established. On July 5th, 1584, Pope Gregory inaugurated the Maronite College in Rome, satisfying the aspirations of the community and opening to its students the way to success. In his bull the Pope declared:

'We hope that the students of this college during the days ahead, after being formed in piety and the true religion, which are of the tree of Sion and of the teaching of the Roman Church, head of all the Churches, will return home to the cedars of Lebanon to serve their community, renewing in their country faith in God. This is why, with full knowledge of the facts and by virtue of our apostolic authority, we establish the Maronite College, where the students of this community may learn good behaviour, devotion, the true doctrine, and all the virtues which every Christian must have.'

With the arrival of the first students in Rome, the dreams of the Pope became a reality, and the whole Maronite community began to emerge from the shadows. More than that, the Maronite community now had means of access to Europe and to the world beyond, and was able to play its role as an intermediary between East and West and cement Latin-Lebanese relations.

One of the earliest graduates to remain in Europe was Gabriel Sionite, who taught Syriac and Arabic in Rome, occupied the chair of Semitic languages in what is now the College de France on Paris, served as an interpreter to King Louis XIII, worked on the compilation of the Paris polyglot Bible which was the first to include Syriac and Arabic in its columns. The Career of of Gabriel was exactly paralleled by Ibrahim al-Haqili (Echellensis) who also worked with him on the Bible. Others include Mirhej Ben Namroun, who was also a professor and an interpreter.

Another outstanding Maronite figure was Joseph Assemani, who as director of the Vatican Library made it a world leading depository. His research covering Syriac, Arabic, Hebrew, Turkish, Persian, and Ethiopic, were embodied in his massive Bibliotheca Orientalis which remains a mine of information to this day. As the historiographer of the king of Naples and of Italy, he produced a four volume work which won him citizenship of that country. The Pope sent Assemani as his delegate in 1736 to the synod held at Dier al Louaizeh and the resolutions reached sealed the union between the Maronite Church and Rome.

Perhaps the most famous graduate was Patriarch Douaihy who was able to compile, among many other works, the earliest major history of jis church and community, making him the father of Maronite history. Furthermore he 'visited every diocese to choose holy and educated priests. He examined the liturgical books, corrected the errors introduced into them by the copyists, read and adapted the works of historians, both eastern and western, and wrote books some of which are still unpublished.' (Patriarch Jacob Awad)

The Patriarchs now found themselves  in a position to encourage the education of their people. As the famous Lebanese Synod said:
'In the name of Jesus Christ we urge you all, the ordinaries of the dioceses, of the towns, villages and hamlets, and of the convents, to work together to encourage this undertaking, which will bear much fruit. The chiefs of the people must find teachers wherever they can, and take the names of all the children able to learn, and order the parents to bring their children to school even against their will. If they are orphans or if they are poor, let the church or the monastery feed them, and if it cannot, let it contribute one half of the cost and the parents the other.' (The Lebanese Synod, 529)

Now western religious communities began to settle in Lebanon. The Capuchins were the first in 1626, followed in 1635 by the Carmelites and in 1656 by the Jesuits. The process went steadily ahead.

These religious orders came in order to serve the Lebanese. They opened schools in which the youth of the country were formed, schools whose academic level was on a par with those of Europe itself.

Schools were opened one after the other, until there was one adjoining every Maronite Church. Some, such as those of Ain Warka, Mar Abda, and Haouka, flourished and gained a reputation for themselves. Once the Lebanese, at that time mostly Maronites, had acquired a good education, they were at the forefront of Arab intellectual progress, and played a leading role in the cultural Renaissance of the Middle East.
First Maronite Order was established in 1694, when 'Gabriel Hawa, Abdallah Qara'li, and Youssef Bin Albeten, approached Patriarch Douaihy to request his permission to establish a religious community that follows a religious rule and constitutions under the authority of superiors who would be under a superior general. The members would take vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, under the patronage of St Anthony, the father of hermits. The Patriarch looked favorably on their demand, thanked them, and blessed their enterprise.' (Debs, 253)

Bashir II

The Shihabs succeeded the Maans in 1697. They originally lived in the Hawran region of south-western Syria and settled in Wadi at Taim in southern Lebanon. The most prominent among them was Bashir II, who in many ways was much like his predecessor, Fakhr al Din II, wanting a strong and independent Lebanon. Bashir was an ultra-liberal, his palace contained a mosque and a chapel, he himself was a Maronite Christian by baptism, Muslim by matrimony, and Druze by convenience rather than by conviction.

Bashir strong reign of over 50 years interrupted by self imposed or enforced exile was marked by a steady move towards expanding Lebanon, developing it and making it autonomous in defiance of the Porte. Bashir centralized his authority and consolidated his realm, he executed his rivals and destroyed his foes, criminals were dealt with without mercy. He also established firm contacts with the outside world and the West in particular. Bashir's Lebanon became the safest region in the Ottoman empire and its reputation spread attracting new settlers from neighbouring lands.

His ability as a statesman was first tested in 1799, when Napoleon besieged Acre, a well-fortified coastal city in Palestine, about forty kilometres south of Tyre. Both Napoleon and Al Jazzar, the governor of Acre, requested assistance from the Shihab leader; Bashir, however, remained neutral, declining to assist either combatant. Unable to conquer Acre, Napoleon returned to Egypt, and the death of Al Jazzar in 1804 removed Bashir's principal opponent in the area. When Bashir II decided to break away from the Ottoman Empire, he allied himself with Muhammad Ali, the founder of modern Egypt, and assisted Muhammad Ali's son, Ibrahim Pasha, in another siege of Acre. This siege lasted seven months, the city falling on May 27, 1832. The Egyptian army, with assistance from Bashir's troops, also attacked and conquered Damascus on June 14, 1832.

Ibrahim Pasha and Bashir II at first ruled harshly and exacted high taxes. These practices led to several revolts and eventually ended their power. In May 1840, despite the efforts of Bashir, the Maronites and Druzes united their forces against the Egyptians. In addition, the principal European powers (Britain, Austria, Prussia, and Russia), opposing the pro-Egyptian policy of the French, signed the London Treaty with the Sublime Porte (the Ottoman ruler) on July 15, 1840. According to the terms of this treaty, Muhammad Ali was asked to leave Syria; when he rejected this request, Ottoman and British naval units bombarded Beirut and troops landed on the Lebanese coast on September 10, 1840. Faced with this combined force, Muhammad Ali retreated, and on October 14, 1840, Bashir II surrendered to the British and went into exile in Malta and later Constantinople where he died in 1850.

Dimane and Bkerke.

Under Bashir II, as conditions slightly improved, the Patriarchs envisaged the transfer of their seat to Dimane in the summer, Bkerke in winter. The first Patriarch to consider such a move was Youssef HOBAISH, who occupied a house overlooking the valley and belonging to a partner in ownership of a farm west of the village. But the first to act on the idea was Patriarch Hanna EL HAJJ, who built the Patriarchal residence in Dimane now known as the Old Residence, in the centre of the village, while near it he erected the church of St John-Maron, now the parish Church. The present residence was the work of Patriarch Elias HOAYEK, who laid the foundation stone on September 28, 1899.

In 1703, cloister of Bkerke was built by Sheikh Khattar EL KHAZEN. It had a little Church with a presbytery alongside. In 1730, it was taken in charge by the Antonine order. In 1750, Bishop Germanos SAKR and Sister Hindyieh Oujaymeh took it as a house for the Congregation of the Sacred Heart. In 1779, an apostolic decree was issued dissolving the Congregation of the Sacred Heart and putting the house at the disposition of the Maronite community for any useful purpose. In 1786, the Maronite Synod of Bishops declared that Bkerki should be a dependency of the residence at Kannoubine. In 1890, Patriarch Hanna EL HAJJ restored it, adding part of the ground floor and the whole of the upper story. Brother Leonard, the Lazarist, was the architect. He also planned the residence at Dimane.

Nine Patriarchs have used Dimane as a summer residence and Bkerki as a winter one: Youssef HOBAISH of Sahel Alma (1823-1845), Youssef EL KHAZEN ofAjaltoun (1845-1854), Boulos MASSAD of Ashkout (1854-1890), Hanna EL HAJJ of Dlebta (1890-1898), Elias HOAYEK of Hilta (1898-1931), Antoun ARIDA of Bsharri (1932-1955), Boulos MEOUSHI of Jezzine (1955-1975), Anthony KHORAISH of Ain Ibl (1975-1986), Nasrallah SFEIR of Reyfoun (1986)

Autonomous Lebanon

The early part of the 19th century was donimated by acts of aggression by the Druze against the Christians which culminated in the deaths of many thousands of Christians at the hands of the Druze with Turkish assistance in the Massacres of 1840-1860 which were finally halted in July 1860 when the great powers finally decided to act, France taking the intiative by dispatching 7,000 troops. The Ottomans fearing this intervention, sent their foriegn minister, Fuad Pasha, to Lebanon ahead of the French and put an end to the violence. The French troops landed in Beirut in August 1860.

On October 5, 1860, an international commission composed of France, Britain, Austria, Prussia, and the Ottoman Empire met to investigate the causes of the events of 1860 and to recommend a new administrative and judicial system for Lebanon that would prevent the recurrence of such events. The commission members agreed that the partition of Mount Lebanon in 1842 between Druzes and Christians had been responsible for the massacre. Hence, in the Statute of  June 9, 1861
Lebanon was separated from Syrian administration and reunited under a non-Lebanese Christian mutasarrif (governor) appointed by the Ottoman sultan, with the approval of the European powers. The mutasarrif was to be assisted by an administrative council of twelve members from the various religious communities in Lebanon. Maronite nationalists strongly objected to a non-Lebanese governor and insisted on self rule.

This Statute which was revised on September 6, 1864 and also adhered to by Italy in 1867 recognized and guaranteed the autonomy of Lebanon, but not the Lebanon of Fakhr-al-Din and Bashir, but one stripped of its maritime and inter-mountain plains with their cities and reduced to its mountainous region. Only Mount Lebanon was to be out of the Ottoman grasp. The leading signatory, Turkey, cherished the conviction that Lebanon, without its ports, cities, and plains was unviable and could not survive. Turkey was wrong, despite the mutasarrifs being totally incompetent and completely subservient to Constantinople, Lebanon, thanks to the efforts of its inhabitants,  not only survived, but registered a record of prosperity, security, and progress that made it the envy of the provinces of the Ottoman empire. Lebanon's neighbours found expression in the saying 'Happy is he who owns but a goat's enclosure in Lebanon.'

Youssef Bey Karam

In 1866 Maronite nationalist uprising took place against the first governor, Dawood Pasha. The uprising was led by a gallant and dashing young man by the name of Youssef Karam.

Youssef Bey Karam was born in Ehden, in Mount Lebanon on the 5th May 1823. His father was Sheikh Boutros Karam, then Lord of Ehden and surrounding district, and his mother was Marian, daughter of Sheikh Antonios Abi Khattar Al Ayntouri. French-schooled Youssef began his education at an early age, and he was a keen student. At the age of 7 years, he was well versed in Aramaic, Arabic, French and Italian. Later on, he was tutored in the arts of unarmed combat, horsemanship, shooting and fencing. He was a devout Maronite.

In 1840, Karam aged 17, fought beside his father and elder brother against Egyptian armies then occupying Lebanon in the battles of Hayrouna and Bazoun.  Youssef showed remarkable skills as a fighter and leader, and his reputation and influence in the area steadily grew. So much so that in 1846, when his father died, Youssef succeeded him as ruler. Karam ruled with fairness, and his reputation and influence as a soldier and politician continued to grow and spread.

To win Lebanese support the governor, Dawood Pasha, offered Karam a senior Government post but Karam refused and insisted on nothing less than self rule for Lebanon and so Dawood issued an order exiling Karam to Turkey in 1861. In 1864 however, Karam returned to Lebanon where he was greeted as a national hero. War was inevitable.
The first confrontation took place near Jounieh on the 6th January 1866. Karam was attending Mass at St. Doumit Church when regular Turkish troops attacked his men stationed outside. A fierce fight followed, and Karam, aided by neighbouring villagers, defeated the Turkish troops. Karam immediately wrote to Istanbul and European Governments detailing the causes of conflict, and championed his people's right to defend themselves.

Dawood Pasha however, determined to rid himself of Karam and deal a fatal blow to the Lebanese nationalist movement tried to set a trap. Dawood instructed his military Commander, Amin Pasha, to arrange a meeting with Karam in the presence of the Maronite Archbishop at Karem Saddah. The meeting was arranged for Sunday the 28th January 1866. Whilst the meeting was in progress, Turkish troops were sighted advancing at nearby Bnasha toward Karem Saddah. The meeting was abandoned, and one of the fiercest battles was fought at Bnasha involving some 800 of Karam's men opposing a far greater number of Turkish troops. Here, Karam won a decisive victory which led to a string other victories: the battle of Sebhell 1st March 1866, Ehmej 14th March 1866, Wadi El Salib 22nd March 1866, Aytou 5th May 1866, Ey El Yawz 7th June 1866, Wadi Miziari 20th August 1866, Ehden 15th December 1866, Ejbeh 10th January 1867 and Wadi El Sabeeb 17th January 1867.
So successful was Karam, that he finally decided to march on 'Beit El Din', the Governor's residence, over-throw Turkish rule and install a Lebanese national government.  Thousands of people joined Karam in his march to 'Beit El Din', and Dawood Pasha was forced to flee to Beirut. Victory must have seemed imminent to Karam and his men. In Beirut however, Dawood Pasha rallied support from the European Ambassadors.  These emissaries warned Karam that as their government were parties to the Lebanese constitution which allowed Turkish rule over Lebanon, they were bound to support Turkey and would actively oppose Karam and refuse to recognise any government he may form. At a meeting at Bkerke, the French Ambassador ordered Karam in the name of Napoleon III, to leave Lebanon in return for French guarantees of safety for his men and people and the implementation of all of Karam's national demands. Karam was warned that to refuse would mean to place his men and the welfare of his people in jeopardy. On Thursday the 31st January 1867, Karam left Lebanon on board a French ship bound for Algeria. Karam's demands were not met and so he  traveled from Algeria to European capitals describing, for the rest of his life, the plight of the Lebanese people and their desire for a sovereign and independent state. A strangely a very similar situation was to occur 123 years later when the French gave similar guarantees to another Maronite leader. In 1990 General Michel Aoun also left Lebanon into exile on board a French vessel.

On the 7th April, 1889, Karam died of natural causes in Razinia, near Napoli, Italy.  His last words were "God ... Lebanon". He had a simple burial and his grave stone read "This is the resting place of Youssef Boutros Karam, Prince of Lebanon".  In September 1889, his body was taken to Ehden, Lebanon, to St. George Church. In September 1932, a statue of Karam on his horse was erected outside of the church, as a monument to the man who devoted his life to the liberty. His actions and philosophy, "I shall sacrifice myself, that Lebanon may live", became an inspiration to future generations in the pursuit of a free and independent Lebanon.

World War I

The outbreak of World War I in August 1914 brought Lebanon further problems, as Turkey allied itself with Germany and Austria-Hungary. The Turkish government abolished Lebanon's autonomous status and appointed Jamal Pasha, then minister of the navy, as the commander in chief of the Turkish forces, the fourth army,  in Syria and Lebanon, with discretionary powers. Jamal lost no time in dealing with Lebanon, considered the most disloyal of all the provinces. Known for his harshness, he militarily occupied Lebanon.

Nationalist feelings were running high in Lebanon and in other parts of the Ottoman Empire such as in Armenia and the Turks were not willing to tolerate anything that may lead to the break up of their Empire. In February 1915, frustrated by his unsuccessful attack on the British forces protecting the Suez Canal, and an Allied initiated a blockade of the entire eastern Mediterranean coast to prevent supplies from reaching the Turks, Jamal Pasha vented his anger on Lebanon and its people.
In August 1915 Jamal replaced the Armenian mutasarrif, Ohannes Pasha, with a Turk, Munif Pasha and abolished Lebanon's autonomy. Before the end of the month a military court was established in Aley and thousands of Maronites were imprisoned or exiled for little reason. In 1916 Turkish authorities publicly executed 16 Lebanese in Beirut, for alleged anti-Turkish activities. The date, May 6, is commemorated annually as Martyrs' Day, and the site in Beirut has come to be known as Martyrs' Square. Jamal earned his new title of al-Saffah, the blood shedder. Using the war as cover the Turks hoped to finally put an end to the troublesome Lebanese who had resisted Turkish rule for so long. Conscription was imposed and it was so decided that Lebanon was to starve. The Turks committed mass murder by commandeering Lebanon's food supplies and requisitioning its beasts of burden and so caused hundreds of thousands of deaths from widespread famine. The Druze fled to Houran. The land of Lebanon became a paradise for disease and plagues claimed thousands of souls. Furthermore, the Turkish Army cut down trees for wood to fuel trains or for military purposes, and it was the huge Cedar forests that suffered the most with over 60% being cut down in three years.

In a letter to The Times on 15th September 1916 quoted by George Antonius in his book 'The Arab Awakening' an American woman resident of Beirut writes how she passed 'women and children lying by the roadside with closed eyes and ghastly, pale faces. It was a common thing to find people searching the garbage heaps for orange peel, old bones or other refuse, eating them greedily when found. Everywhere women could be seen seeking eatable weeds among the grass along the roads.' Another American resident in 1917 states: 'the scenes were indescribable, whole families writhing in agony on the bare floor of their miserable huts. Every piece of their household effects had been sold to buy bread, and in many cases the tiles of the roof had shared the same fate. It is conservatively estimated that not less than 120,000  persons have died of actual starvation during the last two years in Lebanon'.
To compound all of these problems, the war also deprived the country of its tourists and summer visitors, and remittances from relatives and friends abroad were lost or delayed for months. The Maronite Church opened its doors to the poor as much as it could and Patriarch Anthony ARIDA set up a cement making factory and also the Kadisha Electricity Company to provide jobs for hundreds of young men. 

During this period, Lebanon suffered more than any other Ottoman province, loosing over one third of its population to slow and painful deaths. Suffering under Turkish rule however was not limited to Lebanon, the Armenians also felt the fury of the Turk in what is now known as the Armenian Genocide.

Relief for Lebanon came in September 1918 when the British general Edmund Allenby and Faysal I, son of Sharif Husayn of Mecca, moved into Palestine with British and Arab forces, thus opening the way for the liberation of Lebanon and Syria.

Flying the Cedar Flag.

Thirsty for freedom, the Lebanese people delegated  in 1919,  the Maronite Patriarch Elias HOAYEK to go to the Peace Conference at Versailles and to demand independence on their behalf. The Patriarch went to Versailles and explained the problems of Lebanon, negotiated effectively, and accomplished his mission. He thus put the future of Lebanon on a firm footing and obtained satisfaction for the national aspirations. Soon after this famous Treaty of Versailles, the San Remo Conference was held in Italy in April 1920, and Allies gave France a mandate over Lebanon and Syria. France then appointed General Henri Gouraud to implement the mandate provisions.

On September 1, 1920, General Henri Gouraud proclaimed:

'At the foot of these majestic mountains, which have been the strength of your country, and remain the impregnable stronghold of its faith a freedom; on the shore of this sea of many legends that has seen the triremes of Phoenicia, Greece and Rome and now by a happy fate, brings you confirmation of a great and ancient friendship and the blessings of French peace, I solemnly salute Grand Liban, in its glory and prosperity, in the name of the Government of the French Republic.'

The Massacres of 1840-1860

Tension between the Maronites and the Druze had been mounting throughout the 19th century. The Maronites had been very responsive to educational and cultural influences penetrating form the west and soon outdistanced the Druze in the economic and social race. The Maronites were starting to establish themselves in the Shuf district which had been dominated by the Druze and were becoming disproportionately influential in financial and state affairs. The Porte decided that Lebanon had gone too far in its separatist policy and it was time to put a stop to it. Divide and rule seemed to be the order of the day, if the Druze were to weaken the Maronites, the way would be open for the Ottomans to control Lebanon.

In 1840, directly after the deposition of Bashir II, the Ottoman sultan appointed Bashir III as amir of Mount Lebanon. He was an Ottoman-British collaborator and was ready to serve as the tool of imperial policy. The first conflagration occurred soon after his appointment, continued throughout this rule, and culminated in 1842 in the burning of Dier al Qamar, the leading Maronite town in the Shouf. Maronites fleeing to Beirut were butchered by the Turks.

The sultan deposed Bashir III on January 13, 1842, claiming he was incompetent and appointed Umar Pasha, who entered Lebanon with the Ottoman army as governor of Mount Lebanon. This appointment, however, ensured that it created more problems than it solved and so representatives of the European powers proposed to the sultan that Lebanon be partitioned into Christian and Druze sections. On December 7, 1842, the sultan adopted the proposal and asked Assad Pasha, the governor (wali) of Beirut, to divide the region, then known as Mount Lebanon, into two districts: a northern district under a Christian deputy governor and a southern district under a Druze deputy governor. this arrangement came to be known as the Double Qaimaqamate. Both officials were to be responsible to the governor of Sidon, who resided in Beirut. The Beirut-Damascus highway was the dividing line between the two districts.

This partition of Lebanon proved to be a mistake. Animosities between the religious sects increased, nurtured by outside powers. The French, for example, supported the Christians, while the British supported the Druzes, and the Ottomans fomented strife to increase their control. Not surprisingly, these tensions led to yet another conflict between Christians and Druzes. In April 1845, the long gathering storm burst with a Maronite attack on the Druze in the Shouf, burning fourteen villages and advancing as victors to Mukhtara. There they encountered a Turkish regiment drawn up infront of the Jumblatt palace that greeted them with a rolling fire of musketry, the trap halted their advance. At Abieh, after a fierce engagement the Maronites were routed. All over the region similar engagements occurred with similar results. The Turks acted as a Druze reserve, and then came the old story of villages in flames and Christian fugitives pursued by Druze and Turkish troops were plundered, mutilated, and slain repeating the performance of 1842. The Maronites were defeated. Consequently, the European powers requested that the Ottoman sultan establish order in Lebanon, and he attempted to do so by establishing a majlis (council) in each of the districts. Each majlis was composed of members who represented the different religious communities and was intended to assist the deputy governor.

This system failed to keep order when the Maronite peasants of Kesrouen, overburdened by heavy taxes, rebelled against the feudal practices that prevailed in Mount Lebanon. In 1858 Tanyus Shahin, a Maronite peasant leader, demanded that the feudal class abolish its privileges. When this demand was refused, the poor peasants revolted against the feudal lords of Mount Lebanon and distributed the land amongst the tenants. The situation in the Shouf was even harsher for the Maronites: 'For the last fifteen years the Druze had been oppressing the Christians living among them in every possible manner. A Christian could hardly call his life his own. The Jumblatts, the Amads, and the Abou Nakads were pre-eminent for their barbarous and unfeeling despotism.' (Col. Charles Churchill)

The Druze, fearing a similar revolt in the Shouf wanted to crush the Maronites spirit of independnce once and for all. They laid out careful plans, they acquired arms and support from Turks and nearby Muslims, and they could count on reinforcements from Houran.

Several Druze sheiks spent the winter of 1859-60 in Beirut and held numerous conferences with the Turkish authorities, the objects of which were soon to become clear. Early in the spring of 1860 the Druze sheiks returned to their homes and set their plans into motion. Isolated Maronites, were attacked and killed by the Druze, some Maronites fearing for their lives took refuge in Dier al Qamar and Zahle, leaving their houses to be burnt to the ground.

As soon as sporadic cases of violence in mixed districts began in April 1860, the flare up spread. Within weeks more than sixty Maronite villages lay in ashes. The turn of the towns came next. The butchery followed a general procedure, the Ottoman garrisons would offer the Maronites protection and disarm them, then they would leave them to the mercy of the Druze and even actively take part in the slaughter. Such was the fate of Deir al Qamar, Jezzine, Hasbaya, Rashaya and Zahle.

By the end of May the Maronites of Deir al Qamar found that their town was in a state of blockade as the Druze surrounded the town, cut of the supplies and even reaped and carried away the corn in the nearby fields. On the 1st of June 1860, the forces of the Jumblatts, Abou Nakads, Amads, and the Hamadis, amounting to some 4000 troops set upon the town in furious onslaught. The Maronites made a desperate defence, in the words of Colonel Churchill:

'The battle raged till sunset, the Christians gallantly keeping their enemies at bay, and inflicting on them a considerable loss; upwards of one hundred were killed besides large numbers of wounded. They themselves only lost twelve. Several Turkish soldiers belonging to the garrison fought in the Druze ranks.'

Despite the Maronite success of the first day, they realized that they had no chance and decided that in order to minimize lose of life their best course would be to surrender. The next day Dier al Qamar surrendered to the Druze. On the 3rd of June 400 Turk soldiers arrived with Tahir Pasha from Beirut to 'keep the peace', and after a brief conference with the Druze on the edge of town, the Druze burnt 130 houses and withdrew. The Pasha then accused the inhabitants of being rebels, intriguers, and disturbers of public peace. The Druze then cut off the town's water supply and prevented food from entering. It was far from over for Deir al Qamar.

On the same day as the attack on Deir al Qamar, Said Jumblatt sent a messenger with a letter of protection to Jezzine. As soon as the the messenger left the Jezzine, 2000 Druze , headed by Selim Jumblatt, attacked. The Maronites, before they had a chance to arm themselves were overwhelmed. The majority of  population of the town made a rapid panic stricken run towards the nearest ravine with the Druze chasing them with sword in hand, Jezzine in flames behind them. Over 1200 Maronites were massacred over a space of two miles. A large body of women and children took the road to Sidon and were pursued to the very gates by Kassim Amadi. The Sunni Muslims of Sidon would not let them in and some joined the Druze in the slaughter that followed. Upwards of 300 bodies littered the beach and the gardens, many had been raped. Young girls were carried off by a mixed horde of Sunnis and Shiites that had mysteriously appeared and pounced upon them.

On the 3rd of June Druze forces attacked Hasbeya and after a brief battle with 200 defenders the Druze took the town and within two hours it was wrapped in flames. The surviving Christians took cover in the town barraks were the Ottomans had offered them protection. Over the next two hours the town was wrapped in flames. Naisie Jumblatt, Said's sister, demanded that the Christians surrender, which they did on the following morning. After their weapons were removed the Christians were imprisoned in the barraks and given veru little food or water. Tenants on lands belonging to the Jumblatts were removed to her palace. Were they to be killed the Jumblatt lands would go uncultivated.
At nearby Rashaya, Turkish troops prevented the Christian population from escaping abd were told that if the need arose they would be protected. On the morning 4th of June Turkish soldiers fired a signal and shortly afterwards the town was attacked by 1500 Druze. The town maitained a resolute defence throughout the day and inflicted heavy losses on the Druze, but as night fell, and having expended their ammunition they abandoned their barricades and floked to the Turkish barracks as the Turks swore to defend them to the death.

The next few days saw the Christians of nearby villages being assembled at Karaoun, by Druze and Turkish soldiers who promised them protection and safe passage to Damascas via Hasbaya. On the 10th of June they were brought to Hasbaya along with a Druze reinforcement of some 300 infantry and 150 cavalry. The Christians were all held together at the Turkish barraks and were told they would be in Damascas the following day. While the Christians prepared for the departure the Turks and the Druze cheifs met with Naisie Jumblatt and received their oerders.

Trumpets sounded. Turks ran through the barracks gathering the Christians form its three floors and forcing them at bayonet point into the parade arena. After a few minutes to allow the Turks time to take to the terraces so as to be able to observe the forthcoming spectacle, the gates were thrown open and the Druze rushed in and the butchery began. After firing a volley, the Druze set on the Maronites with swords, hatchets and bill-hooks. Those who tried to escape by the gate were either cut down by the turks or turned over to the Druze. Not a sole was spared. The orders were explicit, no Christian was to be left alive. At sunset, Naisie Jumblatt inspected the dead and congratulated her men on a job well done. An English traveler, Mr. Graham, who was in Hasbaya after the massacre, in a letter to Lord Dufferin states: 'From the wounds I have seen, both on the living and the dead, it would appear that the assassins went to work with the most systematic cruelty; ten, tweleve, and fourteen deep cuts on the body of a person are not unfrequent; some of the wounds show that they were made with blunt instruments. In short everything was used which came to hand; and, according to the nature of the weapon, hands and limbs were cut off, or brains dashed out, or bodies mangled.'

Druze from the Houran under Ismail-al-Atrash, amounting to 3,000 men including 1,500 horse, headed for Wadi-el-Tame. On the way the arrived at Kanakin where numerous Maronites peasents had taken shelter, the Druze slew them all. On the 11th of June as they headed towards Zahle these Druze passed by Rashaya and were summond there by the Turks. For the past few days the Turks had been amusing themselves by stripping, robbing, and torturing those christians that had turned to them for sanctuary. They were now ready for slaughter. What was to follow was a copy of what had happened at Hasbaya the day before. Mr. J. Lewis Farley, there present reports: 'The Christian inhabitants were put to the sword under circumstances of unparalleled barbarity; the assailants being Druze from Houran, under Ismail-al-Atrash. The aged Emir Effendi, with his entire family, was brutally murdered. Male children were slaughtered in their mother's arms; and women in many instances, were killed, while vainly endeavouring to save their offspring.'

The Druze of Houran now joined those of Wadi-el-Tame making around 5,000 and headed in the Bekaa where they were joined by local shiites. The Christians were hunted down, their houses were burnt, their men slain, their women violated. It was the turn of Zahle next. At the time Zahle had a population of some 10,000 Greek Chatholics and amongst them some 500 Maronites, its was the shield of the Christians and terror for the Druze. Within a certian radious of Zahle, no Christian, no matter from where he came, could be insulted and degraded with impunity. In 1841 the Druze suffered a heavy defeat there, in the words of Col. Churchill 'the Druze forces broke upon it like waves upon a rock, to be scattered like spray.' Now it was payback time.

By the time the Druze forces reached Zahle on 13th of June 1860 they numbered close to 9,000 whilest the defenders could only field 4,000 men. On the 14th and 15th the Christians made sorties against the Druze which ended in disaster. On the first day of action the Druze took seventy Christian heads to the camp. After the second day the Christians decided to confine their efforts to defence. The 16th and 17th passed without major incident but involved Turkish attempts to disarm the Christians and offering them protection. It is not known if the people of Zahle knew of what had taken place at Hasbaya but they refused to disarm. On the morning of Monday the 18th of June the Druze launched an all out assault. For four hours the sent wave after wave against the defenders who fought with distinction and kept up a rapid fire on the Druze for as long as their ammunition lasted. When the Druze reached the town a desperate hand to hand struggle commenced with the Christians throwing away their musket and attacking their foe with sword and dagger. The Druze began to retreat after having lost some 1,500 dead. Christians losses numberded 700. At that point reports Mr. J. Lewis Farley, the Turks who were supposed to be defending Zahle, 'fired upon the victorious Zahliotes, even using it is said, a field piece they had brought with them from Beirut. The Christians retired in good order; but seeing that the Turks had joined their enemies, they gave up all hope, and, during the night, effected their retreat towards Kesrouen.' The next morning the Druze returned to the attack but only found a few old and infrim men and women whom they killed. Zahle was plundered and then burnt.

Zahle had fallen but Dier al Qamar still stood, and eventhough it had surrendered two weeks before, the Druze decided to destroy it. On the 19th the Druze started to slowing enter the town pretending to be protectors. The Turkish governor put his troops on the streets and told the Christians that they would not be harmed. As soon as the Druze in the town had numbered several hundred, trumpets recalled the Turks to the barracks. Pilage of the shops and houses soon followed and in the afternoon after the Turks signalled by means of a volley, Druze musketry was heard on all sides. The Christians were told by the Turkish governor to head to the the barracks with their valuables where they would be protected until order was restored. The booty the Christians had brought with them was divided amongst the Turks. Next a general slaughter started, whenever a Christian was seen he was cut down. On the morning of the 20th, the Druze headed by Ali Hamadi gathered infront of the Turkish barraks which by now contained over 1200 Christian men and their families. The Druze entered the grand court where the Christians had been rounded up and ordered the women to be seperated.

All the horrors of the previous butchery was now repeated again with swords, hatchets and axes being used to cut down the Christians. Col. Churchill states that 'for six long hours the infernal work went on. The blood at length rose above the ankles, flowed alon the gutters, gushed out of the water spouts, and gurgled throught the streets. Standing on their ghastly and mutilated pray, the Druze now turned to the women....The Turkish colonel all the while sat at the gate smoking his pipe, the bowl resting on a corpse.'

As the slaughter of Christians continued in the Shouf, the Christians of Beirut were being systematically disarmed by the Turkish police. Muslims, on the other hand being joined and encouraged by the Druze where allowed to carry their arms. On the 24th June a mob of 400 began shout that the time had come to murder the Christians. Fortunately a Turkish line-of-battle ship and six English, French, and Russian vessels of war gathered in the harbour. Their presence saved Beirut form the fate of Deir al Qamar. Whilest all eyes were on Beirut, the Christians of Baalbak were killed, their property pillaged, their houses and churhes burnt. By the end of June the Druze had destriyed 300 villages leaving 80,000 Christian refugees to depend on charity for their daily bread. From Lebanon, the spark flew towards Damascus leading to the deaths of thousands of Christians.

It is not known exactly how many Christians were slaughtered in Lebanon but must sources put the figure between 7,000 to 11,000 and some well over 20,000. A letter in the English daily news in July 1860 states that between 7,000 and 8,000 had been muredered, 5,000 widowed and 16,000 orphaned. Mr Farley, in a letter, speaks of 326 villages, 560 churches, 28 colleges, 42 convents, and 9 other religious establishments, had been totally destroyed. Churchill puts the figures as 11,000 murdered, 100,000 refugees, 20,000 widows and orphans, 3,000 habitations burnt to the ground, and 4,000 perished of destitution.

At last, in July 1860,  the great powers decided to act with France taking the intiative dispatching 7,000 troops. The Ottomans fearing this intervention, sent their foriegn minister, Fuad Pasha, to Lebanon ahead of the French and put an end to the violence. The French troops landed in Beirut in August 1860.

On October 5, 1860, an international commission composed of France, Britain, Austria, Prussia, and the Ottoman Empire met to investigate the causes of the events of 1860 and to recommend a new administrative and judicial system for Lebanon that would prevent the recurrence of such events. The commission members agreed that the partition of Mount Lebanon in 1842 between Druzes and Christians had been responsible for the massacre. Hence, in the Statute of  June 9, 1861 Lebanon was separated from Syrian administration and reunited under a non-Lebanese Christian mutasarrif (governor) appointed by the Ottoman sultan, with the approval of the European powers. The mutasarrif was to be assisted by an administrative council of twelve members from the various religious communities in Lebanon. Maronite nationalists strongly objected to a non-Lebanese governor and insisted on self rule.

This Statute which was revised on September 6, 1864 and also adhered to by Italy in 1867 recognized and guaranteed the autonomy of Lebanon, but not the Lebanon of Fakhr-al-Din and Bashir, but one stripped of its maritime and inter-mountain plains with their cities and reduced to its mountainous region. Only Mount Lebanon was to be out of the Ottoman grasp. The leading signatory, Turkey, cherished the conviction that Lebanon, without its ports, cities, and plains was unviable and could not survive. Turkey was wrong, despite the mutasarrifs being totally incompetent and completely subservient to Constantinople, Lebanon, thanks to the efforts of its inhabitants, not only survived, but registered a record of prosperity, security, and progress that made it the envy of the provinces of the Ottoman empire. Lebanon's neighbours found expression in the saying 'Happy is he who owns but a goat's enclosure in Lebanon.'

A look at the opposing factions and political parties of the Lebanese war. Despite the seemingly endless number of factions in Lebanon, the various groups fell mainly into two coalitions, the leftist antigovernment pan Arab camp calling themselves the Lebanese National Movement (l), and a conservative highly nationalistic rightist camp, the Lebanese Front (l).

Introduction to Polical parties
Amal l
Hizballah l
Independent Nasserite Movement l
Islamic Amal l
Islamic Grouping l
Guardians of the Cedars l
Lebanese Communist Party l
Lebanese Forces l
Marada Brigade ll
National Liberal Party l
The Order of Maronite Monks l
Organization of Communist Action l
Phalange Party l
Progressive Socialist Party l
Syrian Socialist Nationalist Party l
Al Tanzim l
Union of Muslim Ulama l
Armenian Parties ll
Kurdish Parties l
Multisectarian Left Wing Parties l
The Palestinians l
The Lebanese Army l
The Syrian Army l
The South Lebanese Army
The Israeli Army

Introduction to Politcal Parties

Historically, political parties in Lebanon have lacked traits common to parties in most Western democracies. Lebanese parties often have had no ideology, have devised no programs, and have made little effort at transcending sectarian support. In fact, despite their claims, most parties have been thinly disguised political machines for a particular confession or, more often, a specific zaim. Although nondescript, broad titles have been applied, such as National Bloc Party or Progressive Socialist Party. With the exception of a handful of left-wing movements, most parties have been the organizational personification of a few powerful politicians. Even Kamal Jumblatt (also seen as Junblatt), the most ideologically oriented of the zuama, derived his constituents' support principally because he was a Druze leader, not because of his political beliefs. For this reason, any one party could count on only a few votes in the Chamber of Deputies. This situation brought about a continuous stream of coalitions, each often created to represent a point of view on a particular issue. In this system, leaders could not even rely on the support of their coreligionists; in fact, some of the most severe acrimony has been intrasectarian. Nonetheless, in the face of challenges to fundamental issues--such as the six-to-five formula or the pan-Arab question--the various confessionally based parties generally closed ranks.

Before and during the War, other political groupings were formed. Although ideology played some role in their formation, for the most part these alliances--the Lebanese National Movement and the Lebanese Front--tended to be temporary associations of politically motivated militias under the leadership of powerful zuama, and divisions generally followed sectarian lines. So ephemeral were these associations, however, that after the heaviest fighting of the mid- and late 1970s ceased, several of the groups in these coalitions turned their guns on each other.

Nonetheless, ideology, rather than the power and charisma of a zaim, has been the basis for the formation of a small number of political parties. These multisectarian groups have espoused causes ranging from Marxism to pan-Arabism. To a limited extent, several of these essentially leftist parties also participated in the fighting of the 1970s.

By 1987 and until the end of the war political parties, in the sense of constitutionally legitimate groups seeking office, had almost become an anachronism. By virtue of armed strength, the various militias, surrogate armies, and foreign defense forces that controlled the nation had divided Lebanon into several semi autonomous "cantons," each having its own political, social, and economic structure.

Back to top


The Amal movement was established in 1975 by Imam Musa as Sadr, an Iranian-born Shia cleric of Lebanon Ancestry who had founded the Higher Shia Islamic Council in 1969. Amal, which means hope in Arabic, is the acronym for Afwaj al Muqawamah al Lubnaniyyah (Lebanese Resistance Detachments), and was initially the name given to the military arm of the Movement of the Disinherited. This latter organization was created in 1974 by Sadr as a vehicle to promote the Shia cause in Lebanon.

Sadr, at first established his own militia with the help of the PLO, later resisted a military solution to Lebanon's problems, refusing to engage Amal in the fighting during the 1975 War. This reluctance discredited the movement in the eyes of many Shias, who chose instead to support the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) or other leftist parties. Amal was also unpopular for endorsing Syria's intervention in 1976.

Nonetheless, several factors caused the movement to undergo a dramatic resurgence in the late 1970s. First, Shias became disillusioned with the conduct and policies of the PLO and its Lebanese allies. Second, the mysterious disappearance of Sadr while on a visit to Libya in 1978 rendered the missing imam a religious symbol, not unlike the occultational absence of the twelfth Shia Imam. Third, the Iranian Revolution revived hope among Lebanese Shias and instilled in them a greater communal spirit. In addition, when the growing strength of Amal appeared to threaten the position of the PLO in southern Lebanon, the PLO tried to crack down on Amal by sheer military force. This strategy backfired and rallied even greater numbers of Shias around Amal.

By the early 1980s, Amal was the most powerful organization within the Shia community and perhaps was the largest organization in the country. Its organizational strength lay in its extension to all regions of the country inhabited by Shias.

Amal's ideology had evolved somewhat since Sadr's disappearance, when Husayn Husayni (also spelled Husseini) assumed leadership from April 1979 to April 1980 and was then followed by Nabih Birri (also cited as Berri). Although its charter considers the Palestinian cause a central issue for all Arabs. In the mid1980s, the Amal militia laid siege to Palestinian refugee camps in Beirut, in retribution for years of abuses at the hands of Palestinian liberation groups that operated in southern Lebanon. Amal stressed resistance to Israel, and Amal's leadership was perceived by many as being pro-Syrian. The Amal platform called for national unity and equality among all citizens and rejected confederation schemes. Amal was linked less closely to Iran than some other Shia organizations, and it did not propose the creation of an Islamic state in Lebanon.

Its broad geographical base notwithstanding, neither Amal's rank and file nor its leadership was especially cohesive. Amal's various geographic branches did not embrace a single position but were subject to particularist tendencies. Moreover, its two leading bodies--the Politburo, headed by Birri, and the Executive Committee, led by Daud Daud--appeared to effect a balance between two competing socioeconomic groups. The members of the first group, personified by Birri, were educated, upper middle class, and secularly oriented (in relative terms). The second, exemplified by Daud, was composed of members who had been in the movement since its inception, who generally were of peasant origins, and who were religiously oriented.

Back to top


Established in 1982 at the initiative of a group of Shia clerics who were adherents of Shaykh Muhammad Husayn Fadlallah, by 1987 Hizballah (Party of God) was the second most important Shia organization. Fadlallah, who was born in southern Lebanon but educated in An Najaf, Iraq, moved to East Beirut, where he wrote books on Islamic jurisprudence. Having been evicted by Christian forces during the fighting in 1976, he relocated in Beirut's southern suburbs. Fadlallah continued his work and developed a following, which later evolved into Hizballah.

Hizballah follows strictly the theological line of Iran's Ayatollah Sayyid Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini and called for the establishment in Lebanon of Islamic rule modeled on that of Iran. In pursuit of this goal, the party had developed close ties with Iranian representatives in Lebanon and Syria. In terms of secular policies, Hizballah rejected any compromise with Lebanese Christians, Israel, and the United States. This hardline approach appealed to many Shias, who abandoned the mainstream Amal movement to join Hizballah. These members tended to be young, radical, and poor.

The party's internal structure revolved around the Consultative Council (Majlis ash Shura), a twelve-member body, most of whom were clerics. The council divided among its members responsibilities that covered, among other matters, financial, military, judicial, social, and political affairs. The party's operations were geographically organized, with branches in Al Biqa and Al Janub provinces and in West Beirut and its southern outskirts. Among prominent Hizballah leaders in late 1980s were Shaykh Ibrahim al Amin, Shaykh Subhi at Tufayli, Shaykh Hasan Nasrallah, Shaykh Abbas al Musawi, and Husayn al Musawi; Fadlallah insisted that he had no formal organizational role but was merely Hizballah's inspirational leader.

Hizballah gained international attention in 1983 when press reports linked it to attacks against United States and French facilities in Lebanon, to the abduction of foreigners, and to the hijacking of aircraft. Nonetheless, Fadlallah (who was himself a target of a terrorist assassination attempt) and Hizballah spokesmen continued to deny any involvement in anti-American attacks.

Back to top

Nasserite Movements

The Independent Nasserite Movement (INM) was the oldest of several Nasserite organizations in Lebanon that embraced the ideas of the late Egyptian president, Gamal Abdul Nasser. Despite its claims of nonsectarianism, the membership of the INM has been overwhelmingly Muslim; 1987 reports estimated it to be about 45-percent Sunni, 45- percent Shia, and 10- percent Druze. Its ideology was reflected by its motto: "Liberty, Socialism, and Unity."

The INM came to prominence in the 1958 Civil War and remained a strong force throughout the 1970s. At the height of the 1958 conflict, its militia, the Murabitun (Sentinels), clashed with the forces of pro-Western president Shamun. Consistent with its panArab ideals, the INM was a firm supporter of the Palestinian movement in Lebanon in the late 1960s. During this time, it reenforced the Murabitun. When the 1975 War began, it was well positioned to play an active part. Its 3,000-man militia, the Murabitun, was one of the mainstays of the anti-establishment side.The Murabitun engaged Phalangist fighters in the most severe combat during the early stages of the war, and absorbed many casualties.

In the 1980s, the INM weathered difficult times. It fought with the Palestinians against the Israelis during the invasion of 1982 and with the Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) against the Lebanese Army in the Shuf Mountains in 1983. Its alliance with the PSP was short lived, however. In 1985 a joint PSP-Amal campaign virtually eliminated the Murabitun as an important actor in Lebanon and forced INM leader, Ibrahim Kulaylat, into exile.

There were several other Nasserite organizations, which fought in Lebanon's war. The Union of Toiling Peoples' Forces, led by Kamal Shatila, was tied closely to Syria. Its 1,000-man militia, called the Firqat an Nasr (Victory Divisions), played an active part in the Civil War. Another group, the Nasserite Correctionist Movement, was led by Issam al Arab and had a militia called the Quwwat an Nasir (Nasser's Forces). The Popular Nasserite Forces, led by Mustafa Saad, and the 24 October Movement were also active in the war.
Back to top

Islamic Amal

Based in Baalbek in the Biqa Valley, Islamic Amal was led by Husayn al Musawi, who was also a leading figure in Hizballah. The movement got its start in June 1982 when Nabih Birri, the head of Amal, agreed to participate in the Salvation Committee, a body set up by President Ilyas Sarkis following the Israeli invasion. The committee included Bashir Gemayel, Maronite commander of the LF. Musawi considered Birri's actions "treasonous" and Amal's orientation too secular. In response, Musawi broke from Amal and set up his own faction, which observers believed was organized primarily along family lines.

Islamic Amal was backed by officials in the Iranian government, and it coordinated with units of Iran's (Pasdaran) Revolutionary Guards stationed around Baalbek. Even so, in 1986 when Iranian officials pressured Musawi to dissolve his organization, he refused. He agreed, however, to remain part of Hizballah, and he reportedly served as a member of its Consultative Council. Press reports linked Islamic Amal, like Hizballah, to anti-Western violence in Lebanon. Musawi's rhetoric was vehemently anti-Western.

Back to top

Islamic Grouping

Founded during the 1975 War by Lebanon's Sunni mufti, Shaykh Hasan Khalid, the Islamic Grouping (At Tajammu al Islami) was a loose confederation of Sunni political and religious notables. At one time it included most former or current Sunni prime ministers, ministers, deputies, and lesser politicians. It met weekly under the chairmanship of the mufti, it issued statements on current issues, and it was responsible for nominating Sunni representatives to fill official government posts.

Back to top

The Guardians of the Cedars

A Maronite political movement and militia formed in 1969 which played a significant role in the Lebanese Front. It was founded and led by a former police officer, Etienne Sakr. It was created to counter the Palestinian threat to the country and to defend the Lebanese against foreign aggression. Named after Lebanon's national symbol, it consisted of about 500 men and fought as part of the Lebanese Front.

Despite its relatively small size its militia fought very aggressively and was involved in some of the heaviest engagements of the war including the battles of  Tal el-Zaatar, Jisr el-Basha, Nabaa and Qarantina Palestinian camps. The Guardians with a motto of  'Until no Palestinian remains on Lebanese soil' were greatly feared by the Palestinians. In 1978 as part of the Lebanese Front they battled the Syrian army in Beirut and again in 1981 in the Battle od Zahle. In 1985 The Guardians of the Cedars mounted a fierce defense of Kfar-Fallus and Jezzine.
1989 saw them once more fighting the Syrians this time along side the Lebanese Army as the Guardians strongly supported the Lebanese government of General Michel Aoun.

The Guardians are currently based in Jezzine.

Back to top

Lebanese Communist Party

One of the oldest multisectarian parties in Lebanon, the Lebanese Communist Party (LCP) was formed in 1924 by a group of intellectuals. Over the years, the LCP has had very little impact on Lebanese politics and has been unwavering in its support for Moscow. The party was declared illegal by the French Mandate authorities in 1939, but the ban was relaxed in 1943. For about twenty years, this single organization controlled communist political activity in both Lebanon and Syria, but in 1944 separate parties were established in each country.

During the first two decades of independence, the LCP enjoyed little success. In 1943 the party participated in the legislative elections but failed to win any seats in the Chamber of Deputies. The LCP again ran for election in 1947, but all of its candidates were defeated; in 1948 it was outlawed. During the 1950s, the party's inconsistent policies on pan-Arabism and the Nasserite movement cost it support and eventually isolated it. Surviving underground, the LCP in 1965 decided to end its isolation and became a member of the Front for Progressive Parties and National Forces, which later became the Lebanese National Movement under Kamal Jumblatt.

The 1970s witnessed something of a resurgence of the LCP. In 1970 Minister of Interior Kamal Jumblatt legalized the party. This allowed many LCP leaders, including Secretary General Niqula Shawi, to run for election in 1972. Although they polled several thousand votes, none of them suceeded in claiming a seat. But the LCP's importance grew with the arrival of the civil disturbances of the mid-1970s. The Lebanese Communist Party, led by George Hawi, had a membership of about 3,000, mainly Orthodox and Armenian Christians. Its well trained militia, the Popular Guard, played a significant role in the war, fighting on the Muslim-leftist side despite its Christian membership. The Communist Action Organization (CAO), a dissident, radical splinter group of the LCP, was led by Muhsin Ibrahim, and had a membership of about 2,000.

Throughout the 1980s, the LCP has generally declined in power. In 1983 the Sunni fundamentalist movement in Tripoli, Tawhid (Islamic Unification Movement), reportedly executed fifty Communists. In 1987, in union with the PSP, the LCP fought a weeklong battle with Amal militants in West Beirut, a conflict that was finally stopped by Syrian troops. Also in 1987, the LCP held its Fifth Party Congress and was about to oust George Hawi, its Greek Orthodox leader, and elect Karim Murrawwah, a Shia, as secretary general when Syrian pressure kept Hawi in his position. Hawi, who had been a close ally of Syria, was reportedly unpopular for his lavish life-style and for spending more time in Syria than in Lebanon. Murrawwah was probably the most powerful member of the LCP and was on good terms with Shia groups in West Beirut. Nevertheless, between 1984 and 1987 many party leaders and members were assassinated, reportedly by Islamic fundamentalists.

Back to top

Lebanese Forces

The Lebanese Forces (LF) emerged as a political power in 1976 under the leadership of Bashir Gemayel. At that time various Christian militias joined forces to bring about the destruction of the Palestinian refugee camp at Tall Zatar. In August of that year, a joint command council was established to integrate formally the several militias, but also to achieve a higher degree of independence from the traditional political leaders, whom many of the LF rank and file regarded as too moderate. Gemayel first took control of the military wing of his father's Phalange Party and then proceeded to incorporate other Christian militias. Those who resisted were forcibly integrated. In 1978 Gemayel subjugated the Marada Brigade, the militia of former president Sulayman Frangieh, killing Frangieh's son, Tony, in the process. In 1980 the same fate befell Camille Shamun's Tigers militia.

Thus, by the early 1980s the LF controlled East Beirut and Mount Lebanon, and Gemayel was its de facto president. But Gemayel did not confine the LF to the military realm only; he created committees within the LF structure that had responsibility for health, information, foreign affairs, education, and other matters of public concern. Gemayel established links with Israeli authorities, and he consistently battled with Syrian forces. Important feature of the LF's operations were its legal (official) and illegal (unofficial) ports and the revenues generated by the transit trade. In this way, the LF took over the traditional role of the state as a provider of public services.

Following the 1982 assassination of Bashir Gemayel, the LF suffered serious organizational cleavages. After numerous succession struggles, Elie Hubayka (also seen as Hobeika)-- notorious for his role in the Sabra and Shatila massacres of 1982-- assumed the leadership of the LF. But when Hubayka signed the Syrian-sponsored Tripartite Accord in December 1985 against the wishes of President Amin Gemayel, LF chief of staff Samir Jaja (also seen as Geagea) launched an attack on Hubayka and his loyalists and defeated them. Interestingly, Hubayka, who was once noted for his close ties to Israel, in late 1987 was headquartered in Zahlah, where he headed a separate pro-Syrian "Lebanese Forces".

The LF was one of the most important political and military actors on the Lebanese scene. As leader of the LF, Jaja wielded power rivaling that of President. Jaja embraced a hardline, anti-Syrian position and revived ties with Israel. The LF operated television and radio stations and published a weekly magazine.

Back to top

The Marada Brigade

This 3,500-strong unit named after Byzantine border guards in ancient Lebanon, represented the interests of Sulayman Frangieh, president of Lebanon at the outbreak of the war. It was also called the Zhagartan Liberation Army after Zgharta, Frangieh's home town. It operated mainly out of Tripoli and other areas of northern Lebanon, but it also fought in Beirut. By mid 1978 it became clear that Frangieh was allying himself with Syria, Marada would not join the Lebanese Forces against Syria so the alliance between the Phalangists and the Marada ended on June 13, 1978, with a surprise LF attack on Ehden, the Marada headquarters, during which the Marada commander, Tony Frangieh (Sulayman's son), was killed. This event caused the power of Marada to greatly decline and they remained on the sidelines for the rest of the war.

Back to top

National Liberal Party

Established in 1958 by Camille Shamun after he left the presidency, the National Liberal Party (NLP) was a predominantly Maronite organization, although it had some non-Maronites and nonChristians in its leadership. More or less a political vehicle for Shamun, perhaps the most charismatic of all Christian leaders, the NLP lacked a coherent ideology or program. Although the NLP never matched the organizational efficiency of the Phalange Party, they shared many views, including favoring a free-market economy, anticommunism, close association with the West, and, most important, the continuation of Christian political advantage. In the early 1970s, the NLP claimed 60,000 to 70,000 members and controlled as many as 11 seats in the Chamber of Deputies, and Shamun had occupied several ministerial posts after his term as president.

During the War, the NLP and its militia, the Tigers (Namur in Arabic), number around 3500 participated in the Lebanese Front, and Shamun, who was driven from his home district in the Shuf Mountains, was an active leader in the alliance. On 7 July 1980, "Day of the Long Knives", Bashir Gemayel launched a surprise attack against Tigers and absorbed them into the Lebanese Forces. After this the political and military significance of the NLP declined. The party again suffered a severe setback in August 1987 when Shamun died. His son Dani assumed the chairmanship of the party. After Dani was assasinated in 1990, his brother Dori took the chair.

Back to top

The Order of Maronite Monks

An order of militant Maronite monks with a militia of 200 priests led by Father Sharbal Qassis, they fought alongside the other forces of the Lebanese Front

Back to top

Organization of Communist Action

In 1970 two minor extreme left-wing groups, the Organization of Socialist Lebanon and the Movement of Lebanese Socialists, merged to form the Organization of Communist Action (OCA). The organization, led since its inception by Muhsin Ibrahim, incorporated former cells of the Arab Nationalist Movement, which ceased to exist in the late 1960s. The OCA represented itself as an independent, revolutionary communist party and, in the early 1970s, strongly criticized the LCP, accusing its leaders of "reformist" tendencies. Differences between the LCP and OCA, however, shrank somewhat by the mid-1970s, but, although there was talk of unity between the LCP and the OCA, such a union never materialized. Ibrahim played an important role in the 1975 War by virtue of his position as the executive secretary of the Lebanese National Movement and because his organization participated in the fighting. In 1987, however, the OCA was operating underground because Ibrahim refused to go along with the Syrian policy of opposition to PLO head Yasir Arafat. The OCA was also known to have a special relationship with the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

Back to top

Phalange Party

Formed in 1936 as a Maronite paramilitary youth and sports organization by Pierre Gemayel (who modeled it on right wing organizations he had observed while in Berlin as an Olympic athlete), the Phalange, or Phalanxes (Kataib in Arabic), was authoritarian and very centralized, and its leader was all powerful. It quickly grew into a major political force in Mount Lebanon. After at first allying itself with the French Mandate authorities, the Phalange sided with those calling for independence; as a result, the party was dissolved in 1942 by the French high commissioner (it was restored after The French left Lebanon). Despite this early dispute, over the years the Phalange has been closely associated with France in particular and the West in general. In fact, for many years the party newspaper, Al Amal, was printed in Arabic and French.

Consistent with its authoritarian beginnings, Phalangist ideology has been on the right of the political spectrum. Although it has embraced the need to "modernize," it has always favored the preservation of the sectarian status quo. The Phalange Party motto is "God, the Fatherland, and the Family," and its doctrine emphasizes a free economy and private initiative. Phalangist ideology focuses on the primacy of preserving the Lebanese nation, but with a "Phoenician" identity, distinct from its Arab, Muslim neighbors. Party policies have been uniformly anticommunist and anti-Palestinian and have allowed no place for pan-Arab ideals.

Unlike many zuama who achieved their status by virtue of inheriting wealth, Gemayel ascended because of his ability to instill discipline in his organization and, by the mid-1950s, through the accumulation of military might. By the outbreak of the 1958 Civil War, the Phalange Party was able to further its growing power by means of its militia. In that year, when President Shamun was unable to convince the army commander, Fuad Shihab, to use the armed forces against Muslim demonstrators, the Phalange militia came to his aid. Encouraged by its efforts during this conflict, later that year, principally through violence and the success of general strikes in Beirut, the Phalange achieved what journalists dubbed the "counterrevolution." By their actions the Phalangists brought down the government of Prime Minister Karami and secured for their leader, Gemayel, a position in the four-man cabinet that was subsequently formed.

The 1958 Civil War was a turning point for the Phalange Party. Whereas in 1936, the year of its formation, it had a following of around 300, by 1958 its membership had swelled to almost 40,000. Meanwhile, the French newspaper L'Orient estimated that the Phalange Party's nearest rival, the Syrian Socialist Nationalist Party, had a membership of only 25,000. In addition, although until 1958 it had been able to elect only 31 percent of its candidates to the Chamber of Deputies, from 1959 through 1968 the Phalange placed 61 percent of its candidates in office. Moreover, by the start of the disturbances in 1975, the party's rolls may have included as many as 65,000 members, including a militia approaching 10,000 men of which a core of 3000 were full time soldiers.

Throughout the War, the Phalange Party was the most formidable force within the Christian camp, and its militia shouldered the brunt of the fighting. As part of the Lebanese Front, the mostly Christian, rightist coalition, the power of the Gemayel family increased considerably. Ironically, as Pierre Gemayel's son, Bashir, ascended as a national figure, the role of the Phalange Party diminished. This was true primarily because the relevance of political entities declined as the importance of armed power grew. Through a series of violent intrasectarian battles, Bashir seized control of the Lebanese Forces a conglomeration of the Phalange Party's military wing and some other Christian militias.

During the 1980s, the Phalange lost much of its credibility and political stature. In 1982, under pressure from Israel, which occupied a good deal of Lebanon, Bashir was elected president. Later that year, before talking office, Bashir was assassinated. Subsequently, his brother Amin was elected president, again not so much for his Phalange Party connection as because of his support from Israel. With the death of Pierre Gemayel in 1984, the role of the party declined further. When the deputy leader of the party, Elie Karamah, a Greek Catholic, was named as its new head, many Maronite members became disaffected. Maronite George Saady succeeded Karamah in 1987 and strove to resuscitate the flagging Phalange by holding party meetings and by improving ties to the Lebanese Forces. The party, however, was factionalized, and many prominent members had left.

Back to top

Progressive Socialist Party

Founded in 1949 by members of various sects who were proponents of social reform and progressive change, the Progressive Socialist Parlty (PSP) has been represented in the Chamber of Deputies since 1951. The party flourished under the leadership of Kamal Jumblatt, a charismatic--albeit somewhat enigmatic--character. Jumblatt appealed to Druzes because of his position as zaim, to other Muslims who were disenchanted with the traditional political system, and to members of some other sects who were attracted by his secular and progressive rhetoric. By 1953 the PSP claimed some 18,000 adherents, and in the 1964 Chamber of Deputies it could count on as many as 10 deputies.

Despite its nonsectarian beginnings and secular title, by the early 1950s the party began taking on a confessional cast. By the 1970s, this tendency was unmistakably Druze; this point was demonstrated in 1977 when, after Kamal Jumblatt was assassinated by Syrian agents, his son, Walid, assumed the party leadership, continuing Druze control of the party.

Over the years the PSP has alternately cooperated with and opposed many of the same parties. For example, in 1952 it helped Camille Shamun unseat Bishara al Khuri as president; then, six years later, it was in the forefront of groups calling for Shamun's ouster. Moreover, from 1960 to 1964, when Jumblatt and Pierre Gemayel served in the same cabinet, they spent much of their time vilifying each other in their respective party newspapers; then in 1968 Jumblatt allied with Gemayel and Raymond Iddi (also seen as Edde) in the so-called Triple Alliance.

A reformer willing to work within the system, Kamal Jumblatt played an active role in politics, serving in the Chamber of Deputies and in several cabinets. Although philosophically opposed to violence, Jumblatt was not reluctant to pursue a military course when such action seemed necessary. The PSP militia was involved against the government during the 1958 Civil War, and provided the leadership of Lebanese National Movement throughout the 1975 War, and fought against Phalangist troops and the Lebanese Army in the 1983 battles in the Shuf Mountains.

The Jumblatt family shared leadership of the Druze community with the Yazbak clan, led by Majid Arslan. Although divisions between these two branches have sometimes been wide, the coordinated Druze campaign of the Shuf Mountains in 1983 and 1984 helped close the rift. In addition, the Yazbaks suffered several setbacks that drew them closer to the Jumblatt confederation. First, Arslan's son, Faysal, became discredited when he allied with Bashir Gemayel and the LF before and during the 1982 Israeli invasion. Then, they lost their traditional leader, Arslan, who died in 1983. Consequently, by 1987 most Druze were united behind Walid Jumblatt as leader of the PSP and its formidable militia number around 3000.

Back to top

Syrian Socialist Nationalist Party

The Syrian Socialist Nationalist Party (SSNP) has been one of the most influential multisectarian parties in Lebanon. Its main objective has been the reestablishment of historic Greater Syria, an area that approximately encompasses Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Israel. Over the years the SSNP has often resorted to violence to achieve its goals.

The SSNP was founded in 1932 by Antun Saadah, a Greek Orthodox, as a secret organization. His party, very much influenced by fascist ideology and organization, grew considerably in the years after independence. In fact, in a survey taken in 1958 by the French newspaper L'Orient, the SSNP was said to have 25,000 members--at the time, second only to the Phalange Party. Concerned by its strength, the government cracked down on the SSNP in 1948, arresting many of its leaders and members. In response, SSNP military officers attempted a coup d'état in 1949, following which the party was outlawed and Saadah was executed. In retaliation, the SSNP assassinated Prime Minister Riyad as Sulh in 1951.

In the 1950s, although still banned, the SSNP renewed its activities fairly openly. During the 1958 disturbances, the SSNP militia supported President Shamun, who rewarded it by authorizing it to operate legally. But in December 1961, when another attempted coup by SSNP members failed, it was again outlawed and almost 3,000 of its members imprisoned. In prison, the party underwent serious ideological reform when certain Marxist and pan-Arab concepts were introduced into the party's formerly right-wing doctrine.

Since the 1960s, the party has become more leftist. Most of its members joined the Lebanese National Movement and fought alongside the PLO and Syrians throughout the war. The SSNP fielded a militia of about 3,000 men. After the 1976 Syrian intervention, it split into anti-Syrian and pro- Syrian factions. The latter group,with Syrian agents, assassinated Druze patriarch Kamal Jumblatt in 1977 and President-elect Bashir Jumayyil in 1982. Since March 1985, the SSNP has dispatched about a half-dozen suicide vehicle-bombers against Israeli positions in southern Lebanon.But during this period the party suffered internal divisions and defections, and since then party unity has been elusive. By 1987 there were at least four separate factions claiming to be the authentic inheritors of Saadah's ideology. The two most important were led by Issam Mahayri, a Sunni, and Jubran Jurayj, a Christian. Each faction was trying to settle disputes by means of violence.

Back to top

Al Tanzim

Lebanese  for "The Organization," At Tanzim was originally a small secret society of Christian officers within the Lebanese Army who supported the Phalangists. At Tanzim helped split the army early in the Civil War, and attempted to incorporate defectors from the army into its ranks. At Tanzim also accepted members from outside the army, mostly from the upper and professional classes. It fielded its own militia of about 200.

Back to top

Union of Muslim Ulama

The Union of Muslim Ulama emerged in 1982, when West Beirut was under siege by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). It included Sunni and Shia clerics who shared the view that the application of sharia would solve Lebanon's problems and would end the IDF's occupation of Arab land. The union's fundamentalist line reflected its identification with the policies and objectives of Iran.

The Union of Muslim Ulana, which was unique because of its combined Sunni-Shia membership, strove to eliminate tensions between the two communities. For that reason, it organized mass rallies to propagate its views to the broadest audience possible. In 1987 the union was led by Shaykh Mahir Hammud (a Sunni) and Shaykh Zuhayr Kanj (a Shia).

Back to top

Armenian Parties

In general, Armenian groups have supported whatever government was in power. They have tended to focus on issues of interest to the larger Armenian world community and not strictly domestic politics. The three most important Armenian parties have been the Tashnak Party, the Hunchak Party, and the Ramgavar Party. Of these the Tashnak Party has had the greatest political impact.

Founded in 1890 in Russian Armenia, the Tashnak Party sought to coordinate all Armenian revolutionary groups seeking to improve their conditions under Ottoman rule. Although the international Tashnak Party movement advocates socialism, the Lebanese branch of the party prefers capitalism. Since 1943 most of the Armenian deputies in the Chamber of Deputies (four in the election of 1972) have been members or supporters of the Tashnak Party. Prior to the 1975 War, the mostly Christian Tashnak Party was an ally of the Phalange Party.

On the international level, the party has tended to be proWestern, and during the 1950s and 1960s it took an anti-Nasser stance. As has been typical of Lebanon's Armenian community, the Tashnak Party has avoided sensitive and controversial domestic issues and has attempted to play a moderating role in politics. Like other Armenian groups, the Tashnak Party refrained from military activity during the 1975 War. Because the party refused to come to the Christians' side, many Armenian quarters in Lebanese towns were subsequently attacked by Bashir Gemayel's LF.

The Hunchak Party was organized in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1887. The Hunchak Party has promoted the dual objective of liberating Turkish Armenia and establishing a socialist regime in a unified Armenian homeland. The Hunchak Party in Lebanon has advocated a planned economy and a just distribution of national income. In 1972, for the first time in its history, the Hunchak Party ran jointly for election to the Chamber of Deputies with the Tashnak Party.

Founded in 1921, the Ramgavar Party's ultimate goal was the liberation of Armenia. It has oriented its activities toward preserving Armenian culture among Armenian communities throughout the world. After a period of dormancy, the party was revived in the 1950s in the wake of increasing conflicts between the Tashnak Party and Hunchak Party. The Ramgavar Party presented itself as an alternative that avoided issues divisive to the Armenian community. The Ramgavar Party, sometimes considered the party of Armenian intellectuals, also opposed what it considered the right-wing policies of The Tashnak Party.

The Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia (ASALA) was not a political party but rather a highly secret organization that used violence to harm its political enemies, principally the government of Turkey. Established in 1975, ASALA used the War as an opportunity to put into practice without government interference its belief in armed struggle. Adhering to MarxismLeninism, ASALA aligned with radical Lebanese and Palestinian groups against rightist forces during the fighting in the late 1970s.

Back to top

Kurdish Parties

Kurdish parties have exerted little influence on Lebanese politics. In general, Kurds have been more concerned with international Kurdish matters than with internal Lebanese issues. In addition, Kurdish groups in Lebanon have been characterized by a high degree of factionalism.

Jamil Mihhu established the Kurdish Democratic Party in 1960, but it was not licensed until 1970. Mihhu, however, supported the Iraqi government against Kurdish rebels fighting in that country, and he was captured and imprisoned by the Kurdish resistance in Iraq. Consequently, the leadership of the party passed to Jamil's son, Riyad. Another son, Muhammad, disagreed with his family's position on several issues and therefore in 1977 started his own movement, the Kurdish Democratic Party--Temporary Leadership.

Riz Kari was another Kurdish group dissatisfied with the leadership of the Kurdish Democratic Party. Established in 1975 by Faysal Fakhu, Riz Kari supported the Kurdish forces fighting against the Iraqi regime. For a brief period during the 1975 War, however, Riz Kari joined forces with the Kurdish Democratic Party to form the Progressive Kurdish Front in an effort to eliminate differences in the ranks of Lebanese Kurds. Riz Kari was weakened in the mid-1970s by the defection of part of its organization, which called itself the Leftist Riz Kari, or Riz Kari II. This organization, led by Abdi Ibrahim, a staunch ally of Syria, rejected the formation of the Progressive Kurdish Front because it included the "right-wing" leadership of Mihhu.

Back to top

Multisectarian Parties

Multisectarian political groups have been primarily left-wing movements. Some groups have argued against the inertia of the zuama clientele system, while others espoused Marxist causes. Small parties sometimes have been externally controlled. In the 1970s, for example, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, under the leadership of George Habash, controlled the Arab Socialist Action Organization, which also fought on the side of the Lebanese National Movement during the 1975 War. In 1987 the Baath (Arab Socialist Resurrection) parties in power in Syria and Iraq each had a faction operating in Lebanon. The late Egyptian president Nasser left a strong legacy in Lebanon. Many essentially pan-Arab parties have borne his name in their titles.

Although these groups have been characterized as multisectarian, this label may not be entirely accurate. In fact, over the years most have taken on narrower confessional patterns. For instance, Shias were dominant in the Lebanese Communist Party and Organization of Communist Action, whereas the Syrian Socialist Nationalist Party has been heavily represented by Greek Orthodox and Druze (of the Yazbek clan) members.

Back to top

The Palestinians

Dozens of Palestinian military entities operated in Lebanon during and after the war and were the single most reason for the outbreak of war through their destablisation and lack of respect for the Lebanese state. Most of these groups were controlled by the mainstream, Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) under Yassir Arafat and along with other groups in the radical Rejectionist Front, they fought on the mainly Muslim-leftist side. Still others, such as Saiqa, the Arab Liberation Front, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC) were essentially mercenary armies for foreign governments (Syria, Iraq, and Libya, respectively). Many Palestinian like the PFLP and the DFLP established connections with terrorist guerrilla organisations across the world including The Baader-Meinhof Gang, Action Directe, The Red Brigade, The Red Army Faction, and the Turkish Liberation Army. The Palestinians established numerous terrorist training facilities across Lebanon and where involved in the training of Irish, Japanese, Italian, German, and Kurdish terrorists well into the late 1980s. About 35,000 Palestinians were under arms in Lebanon during the War.

Back to top

The Lebanese Army

The Lebanese Army has traditionaly been small and weak, it numbered about 18,000 men at the outset of the War. This force quickly split with about 3,000 officers and men joining the Lebanese Front and an approximately equal number joining the Lebanese National Movement. These defections, as well as widespread desertions, left the Lebanese Army with a primarily Christian rump force of about 10,000 men. Commanded by General Hanna Said, the Lebanese Army was officially neutral and followed the orders of the government, but provided tacit and active support to the Lebanese Front.

On January 21, 1976, by Lieutenant Ahmad al Khatib, a Sunni Muslim officer in the Lebanese Armed Forces. Khatib urged his fellow Muslims to mutiny and desert the army and form the Lebanese Arab Army and sided with the PLO and Lebanese National Movement. Within several days, he rallied 2,000 soldiers, including 40 tank crews, to his side. The LAA played a very significant fighting role in 1976, and at the zenith of its power, it controlled over half of all army barracks and posts in Lebanon.

Over the next few years the army remaind divided and weak. After the Isreali invasion in 1982 the Lebanese army saw a period of rebuilding however this was short lived as in 1983 the Lebanese Army confronted the Druze militias throuth the Shuf Mounitains. On September 16, 1983, Druze forces massed on the threshold of Suq al Gharb. For the next three days the army's Eighth Brigade fought desperately to retain control of the town. The tiny Lebanese Air Force was thrown into the fray, losing several aircraft to Druze missile fire. United States Navy warships shelled Druze positions and helped the Lebanese Army hold the town until a cease-fire was declared on September 25. Although the Lebanese Army had beaten the Druze forces on the battlefield, approximately 900 Druze enlisted men and 60 officers defected from the army to join their coreligionists. The Lebanese Armed Forces chief of staff, General Nadim al Hakim, fled into Druze territory, but he would not admit he had actually defected. Thus, the army again had split.

In 1987 the Lebanese Army consisted of 9 brigades containing a total of approximately 35,000 to 38,000 men, of whom only 15,000 to 18,000 were under the operational control of the central command structure. Many units existed only on paper, however, and soldiers who received paychecks were often in the service of the militias the army was intended to supplant. Under an informal agreement between the army and its renegade commanders, the ghost payroll was maintained to pump funds into Lebanon's war-torn economy. Additionally, the central government harbored hopes that the breakaway brigades eventually could be reunited with the official Lebanese Army. This unification was long in coming.

On 22 September 1988 when General Aoun became Prime Minister, as before, only around half of the army was under goverment control. In the ensuing engagements between the Lebanese Army and the miltias and between the Lebanese Army and the Syrians, General Aoun could only muster approx. 15,000 troops whilest the remainder stayed outside the government command structure.

It was not until late in 1990 that the entire brigade structure of the army fell under one command and in 1991 the army began to get rebuilt and equipped into what we have today as the current status of the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Back to top

The Syrian Army

The Syrian Army is estimated to have 395,000 regular troops, with an additional 300,000 reserves. The army has nine divisional formations. A major development in force organization was establishment of an additional divisional framework based on the special forces and organization of ground formations into two corps. The army's active manpower served in two all-arms army corps, five armored divisions (with one independent armored brigade), three mechanized divisions, one infantry-special forces division, and ten airborne-special forces independent brigades.

The army has over 4,100 Soviet-built tanks (including 1,000 T-72s) and a formidable air defense system of SAM batteries and large amounts antiaircraft guns and artillery. In 1987, Syria reprotedly received 500 new Soviet SS-23 ballistic missiles with a range of 500 kilometers. Syria was also reported to have begun producing its own chemical weapons, including nerve gases, with the capability to use the chemical agents in missile warheads. The Air Defense Command, within the Army Command, but also composed of Air Force personnel, numbered approximately 60,000. It served in twenty air defense brigades (with approximately ninety-five SAM batteries) and two air defense regiments. The Air Defense Command had command access to interceptor aircraft and radar facilities. Air defenses included SA-5 long-range SAM batteries around Damascus and Aleppo, with additional SA-6 and SA-8 mobile SAM units deployed along Syria's side of the Lebanese border and in eastern Lebanon, and short-range SS-21 surface-to-surface missiles with conventional warheads.

The Air Force, which is independent of Army Command, consists of about 100,000 regular and 37,500 reserve officers and men. It has 9 fighter-ground attack squadrons and an estimated 15 interceptor squadrons totaled approximately 650 combat aircraft. Almost all combat planes are Soviet manufactured and include 50 MiG-25 and MiG-25R (Foxbat) interceptors and nearly 200 MiG-23S/U (Flogger) and Su-17 FitterK ground-attack and multirole aircraft. In 1986 there were reports that the Soviet Union had agreed to provide Syria at least two squadrons of the advanced supersonic MiG-29 Fulcrum fighter aircraft equipped with top-of-the-line avionics. The air force was equipped with approximately ninety attack helicopters of the Mi-24/Mi-25 Hind and SA-342 Gazelle types. As part of an effort to upgrade its command-and-control network, the air force was reported to have the Tu-126 (Moss) AWACS. Military airfields were located in Aleppo, Blay, Damascus (international), Damascus (Al Mazzah), Dayr az Zawr, Dumayr, As Suwayda, Hamah, Khalkhalah, Latakia, Nasiriyah, Tadmur, Sayqal, T-4 (located on the oil pipeline), and seven additional sites.

The Syrians currently maintain a force of around 40,000 troops in Lebanon.

Back to top

The South Lebanese Army

At the early part of the war as the Lebanese army was starting to break up, Major Sa'ad Haddad, commanding a battalion of the Lebanese Army in the south broke away and formed the Free Lebanon Army and proceeded to engage Palestinian units in south Lebanon. By 1978 Israelis armed, trained and paid these troops which later became known as the South Lebanese Army or Arme du Liban-Sud. Israeli operations in south lebanon were often guided by SLA troops. However, SLA troops did not only fight the PLO, but also Amal and Hezbollah.

In 1979, Haddad proclaimed his zone the Independent Free Lebanon. Haddad died in 1984 from cancer. He was succeeded by Antoine Lahd. The SLA officers are mostly from Christian, but the good pay and extreme an anti-PLO stance also attracts Shia Muslims which form the bulk of the combat troops. The SLA is fully equipped by the Israeli army and its troop strength is around 2000 men. SLA members are wanted by the government for collaboration with the State of Israel.

Back to top

The Israeli Army (IDF)

The Israeli government did not disclose information on the overall size of the IDF, or the identity, location, and strength of units. In 1988 the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London estimated the strength of the ground forces at 104,000 troops, including 16,000 career soldiers and 88,000 conscripts. An additional 494,000 men and women were regularly trained reserves who could be mobilized within seventy-two hours. The staffs of each of the ground forces' three area commanders were divided into branches responsible for manpower, operations, training, and supply. The authority of the area commanders extended to the combat units and ground force bases and installations located within their districts, as well as area defense, including the protection of villages, especially those near the frontier. During combat, area commanders also coordinated activities of naval and air force units operating on fronts within their areas.

The army was organized into three armored divisions, each composed of two armored and one artillery brigade, plus one armored and one mechanized infantry brigade upon mobilization. An additional five independent mechanized infantry brigades were available. The reserves consisted of nine armored divisions, one airmobile mechanized division, and ten regional infantry brigades for border defense. In practice, unit composition was extremely fluid and it was common for subunits to be transferred, especially when a particular battalion or brigade was needed in a combat zone far from its regular divisional station.

The Israeli ground forces were highly mechanized. Their equipment inventory included nearly 4,000 tanks and nearly 11,000 other armored vehicles.

The air force consists of about 28,000 men, of whom approximately 9,000 were career professionals, and 19,000 were conscripts assigned primarily to air defense units. An additional 50,000 reserve members were available for mobilization.

The mainstays of the combat element of 600 aircraft were of four types: the F-16 multirole tactical fighter, the first of which became operational in Israel in 1980; the larger and heavier F-15 fighter designed to maintain air superiority, first delivered in 1976; the F-4 Phantom, a two-seater fighter and attack aircraft, delivered to Israel between 1969 and 1977; and the Kfir, an Israeli-manufactured fighter plane first delivered to the air force in 1975, and based on the French-designed Mirage III. The air force also kept in service as a reserve older A-4 Skyhawks first acquired in 1966. All of these models were expected to be retained in the inventory into the next century, although the Skyhawks would be used primarily for training and as auxiliary aircraft.

The air force inventory also included a large number of electronic countermeasure and airborne early warning aircraft, cargo transports and utility aircraft, trainers, and helicopters. Boeing 707s had been converted for in-flight refueling of F-15s and F-16s.

Michel Aoun 
Yasser Arafat 
Bashar al-Assad 
Hafez al-Assad 
Rifaat al-Assad 
Nabih Berri 
Camille Chamoun 
Dany Chamoun 
Fouad Chehab 
Raymond Edde 
Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah 
Samir Geagea 
Amine Gemayel 
Bashir Gemayel 
Pierre Gemayel 
Saad Haddad 
Rafic Hariri 
Elie Hobeika 
Salim el-Hoss 
Elias Hrawi 
Kamal Jumblatt 
Walid Jumblatt 
Rashid Karami 
Ghazi Kanaan 
Abd al-Halim Khaddam
Beshara el-Khouri 
Emile Lahoud 
Moussa el-Sader 
Saeb Salam 
Elias Sarkis 
Riad el-Solh 
Patriarch Sfeir 




Aoun, Michel (1935- ), born in Harat Hurayk, was the prime minister of Lebanon (1988-1990) and the general who had commanded the Lebanese Army from the mid 1980s. Aoun was a highly respected officer and the men under his command were extremely loyal to him.
Aoun showed promise as a young officer and progressed quickly throughout the ranks. He trained as an artillery officer at Fort Sill in the United States and at the French military college of Chalons-sur-Marne, by the early 1980s Aoun began to get noticed and was forging a outstanding reputation.
During the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, as the Israeli Army approached the Presidential Palace, Aoun tried to halt their advance, he and his troops squared off against the Israelis. Only direct intervention from the president prevented the two forces from engaging each other.
In 1983 Aoun was commader of the Army's 8th Brigade and was responsible for the bitter defence of Souk el Gharb which was assualted by Syria and her allies.
By 1984 he had risen to the rank of Brigadier General.
In 1988 Aoun became prime minister of an interim government, he proceeded to crack down on the various militia groups in the country and waged a 'War of Liberation' against the Syrian Army in Lebanon. He also demand that the Israelis withdraw. The scale of  his public support and popularity across the board had never been experienced before in Lebanon. For a number of months tens of thousands of people would take to the streets in public shows of support, this became widely known as the 'Aoun Phenomenon'.
Between January and the end of May 1990 took on the Lebanese Forces. In the five months of intense and  savage fighting that followed both sides became so weak that they could no longer put up an effective fight against the Syrians.
In October 1990 after having rejected the Taif Accord, Aoun was removed from power by Syrian and pro-Syrian forces and exiled to France.
Aoun still has a very large following among the people of Lebanon and amongst large numbers of the Lebanese Army.

Back to top

Arafat, Yasser, Born Mohammed Abd al-Rahman Abd al-Raouf Arafat on August 24, 1929. He is also known under his nom de guerre 'Abu Ammar'.
He took part in Palestinian struggles in 1948 later taking refuge in Gaza and then returned to Cairo where he studied civil engineering. He was president of the Palestinian Student Union from 1952 to 1956, and served in the Egyptian army in 1956 as a second-lieutenant. Following several arrests for political activism in Egypt he moved to Kuwait where with others - notably Salah Khalaf (Abu Iyad), Khalil al-Wazir (Abu Jihad), Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) and Faruq Qaddumi (Abu Lutof) - he founded Fatah in 1959. He trained as a fedayeen (commando) and led raids into Israeli territory. Because of the number of affluent Palestinians living in the Emirate and the freedom of press they enjoyed, Fatah rapidly became the first Palestinian political organization. After the Arab defeat in 1967 and the integration into the PLO of scattered Fedayn movements, Arafat became president of the Executive Committee appointed by the Palestine National Council (PNC) in February 1969 and, thus, chairman of the Organization. He then changed the direction of the PLO from being pan-Arabist to focussing on the Palestinian national cause. In 1973, he was appointed Commander-in-chief of the all-Palestinian/Arab guerilla forces.
Arafat commanded Palestinian forces in Lebanon throughout the war. The Lebanese attempt to expel the Palestinian forces from Lebanon led to the outbreak of war.
He addressed the UN General Assembly in New York in November 1974 calling for a peaceful solution for Palestine, admitting thereby implicitly the existence of Israel.
In 1983, in the turmoil of the Lebanese war, he was forced to flee from Beirut to Tunis where the headquarters of the PLO were then established. In the late 1980s Arafat tried to shed his terrorist image and severed his links to terrorist groups.
In November 1988, he proclaimed the independent Palestinian State and was elected by the PNC as the first President of the State of Palestine in April 1989. He lost considerable credibility on the international scene when he appeared to side with Saddam Hussein during the Gulf crisis in 1990. Arafat is now trying to negotiate peace with the Israelis.

Back to top

Assad, Bashar al-, Son of President Hafez Al-Assad of Syria, Bashar Al-Assad is pre-destined to succeed his father. He studied ophthalmology in England. After the accidental death of his brother Bassel (formerly designated as heir apparent to the regime) in 1994, he was called to take over his job as commander of the Syrian army's armoured division.

At the present time, the government is endeavouring, through a vast press campaign, to increase Bashar Al-Assad's popularity among the Syrian people so as to ensure, in the  future, his election. The Syrian Parliament for its part could, if necessary, amend the constitution which sets at 40 years-old the minimum age required to become president. This programmed succession to the Syrian presidency represents, according to sources close to the government, "the best guarantee for the pursuit of the President's policy and the maintenance of stability in Syria".

Back to top

Assad, Hafez al- (1928- ), president of Syria (1971- ), born in Qardahah, Syria. Assad is an Alowite, a minority religious group in Syria.  Joined the Baa'th party in 1952,  graduated Hims Military Academy 1955 as air force pilot; dismissed from armed forces as a political dissident 1961; became commander-in-chief of air force 1965 after Ba'ath party came to power; minister of defense 1966-71; president 1971; repressive regime considered responsible for Middle East terrorism.

In July 1945, Michel Aflaq and Salah al-Din Bitar applied for a license to form a political party, which was formed in 1947 as the Baa'th party, a socialist pan-Arab party. Assad, along with his younger borther Rifaat joined the party in 1952.

During Syria and Egypt's brief union 1958-61, Assad and other Baa'thist officers formed the secret Military Committee which aimed at eventually seizing power and in March 7-8, 1963, Assad and his fellow Baa'thist officers seized power. Following the coup, the Baa'th party underwent major changes in both leadership and ideology. The most important change being that socialism became the party's main orientation rather than Arab unity.

Between 1963 and 1966, an inter-Baa'th struggle ensued. The radical wing of the party emerged victorious in 1966, when Assad and others staged a bloody coup and purged the old guard. In 1970, Assad and his followers staged a military coup and Assad became prime minister and then president of Syria in 1971. He intervened in the war in Lebanon and then occupied the country where some 40,000 of his troops remain. He also supported Iran against Iraq during their 1980-1988 war. The target of several coup attempts in the early 1980s, Assad dealt brutally with his political opponents. Assad sent troops to Saudi Arabia to fight against Iraq in the Persian Gulf War (1991).

Back to top

Assad, Rifaat al- The younger brother of Hafez. Born in 1937 in Qardahah, Syria. Rifaat belongs to the Alowite minority religious group in Syria. Educated in Political Science and Economics at Damascus University, Rifaat entered the Soviet Academy of Sciences and earned a PhD in Politics. Career: Commander of Siraya al-Difaa (Defence regiment); he was elected to Baathist Regional Command in 1975; Head of Dept of Higher Educational and Scientific Studies, Damascus; Commander of Special Defence Council; 2nd Vice President of Syrian Arab Republic. Decorations: Medal for service in the field in 1973 war.

Rifaat Assad joined the Baath Party in1952 at the age of 15. He did military service in the period when Syria was part of the United Arab Republic from 1958 to 61. After the Baathist coup in March 1963 Assad was put through a crash course at the Homes Military Academy.

In 1965 during an internal party struggle between the military and civilian wings Rifaat became Commander of the Special Security Force loyal to the military committee. His unit participated in the February 1966 coup which resulted in the victory of the radicals. The unit was also active in the struggle against Salah Jadid, first in February 1969 and then in November 1970. By then Rifaat had established himself as a powerful man and an ally of his brother, Hafez al-Assad. His forces were responsible for maintaining internal security. In 1975 Rifaat became a member of the National High Command of the Baath party and took charge of youth affairs.

A massacre of Muslim Sunni opponents of the government detained in the Palmyra prison camp in 1980 was committed by his troops. Another massacre attributed to his forces was at Hama in 1982 when 5,000 to 10,000 people were killed after which the Muslim Brotherhood approached the Alowites and requested that they disassociate themselves from the Assads.

Rifaat headed a large network of business rackets ranging from legitimate trading and contract firms, casinos and night-clubs to the smuggling of hashish and luxury consumer goods in Lebanon. When he was assigned to lead a new anti-corruption drive by the Baath regional congress the first to be acked by Rifaat was Muhammad Halabi who was actually an anti-corruption campaigner. Rifaat also owned a considerable number of properties abroad.

When his brother Hafez's health deteriorated in 1983 and early 1994, Rifaat's pictures and posters appeared all over Damascus and troops loyal to Rifaat, by 1983 numbering some 55,000,  took key positions and deployed tanks. A confrontation between rival army units ensued and several clashes were reported. Hafez's recovery and intervantion by other family members prevented a takeover.

In May 1984 Rifaat was sent on a working visit to Moscow along with other officers including his two chief rivals. However Rifaat did not return home afterwards and spent time in Switzerland and France. In November 1984 he was told to return to Syria and assume his duties as second Vice President in charge of security, but he was no longer in charge of his Defence regiment. In April of 1988 Rifaat resigned all his official positions and left Syria to spend most of his time abroad.

In November 1999 another coup was attempted by Rifaat but was put down by Hafez's forces.

Back to top

Berri, Nabih (1938- ), head of Amal, speaker of parliament. Born in Sierra Leone, he got his primary education in South Lebanon. He continued his secondary education in Makassed and Ecole de la Sagesse, in Beirut. Mr. Berri graduated from the Lebanese University with a degree in Law, and got his masters degree from the "Faculte de Droit" in Paris. He started his career as a lawyer in 1963, was also president of Lebanese Students Movement as well as Lebanese Universities Union. Mr. Berri favored Imam Moussa Al Sadr in his political activities. He is the head of Amal Movement since 1980. He was appointed Minister of State for the rebuilding of South Lebanon, in 1984. Then he was Minister of Justice, Electrical and Hydraulic resources. Mr. Berri was elected Speaker of the Lebanese parliament on Tuesday, November 20, 1992.

Back to top

Chamoun, Camille. President of Lebanon 1952-1958. Born in Deir el Kamar on the 3rd of April 1900. Camille championed Lebanese independence and so on November 11, 1943, he was arrested along with Bechara El-Khoury, Riad el-Solh, and others and held in Rashaïa castle. They were released on November 22 of the same year, after massive public unrest, and thus the date was marked down as the National Lebanese Independence Day. A French schooled lawer, Camille Chamoun held several positions of authority and represented his country at the United Nations and at the Court of St. James as the ambassador to the United Kingdom before becoming President in 1952. He was elected deputy in 1934, 1937, 1943, 1947, 1951, 1960, and 1968, and only lost one campaign, that of 1964. He Founded the Lebanese National Liberal Party, 1958 and was head of the Lebanese Front 1974-1978.
Highly nationalistic, Chamoun was viewed as a symbol of Lebanon's soveriengty and prevented a pan-Arab communist take over of Lebanon in 1958. At the outbreak of war in 1975, Chamoun led the effort to expel from Lebanon all non Lebanese armed forces that by then had become a serious threat.

Back to top

Chamoun, Dany. Son of the former president Camille Chamoun. Dany was the founder of the Ahrar Tiger militia and head of the Lebanese National Liberal Party after his father. He was born on 26th August 1934 in Dier el-Qamar. In 1975 he was appointed Secretary of Defence of the National Liberal Party. From 1983 to 1985 he was the General Secretary of the party and in 1988 President of the Lebanese Front. Dany Chamoun opposed Syria's presence in Lebanon and supported General Michel Aoun's War of Liberation. Dany was assassinated with his wife and two boys, aged 5 and 7, on Sunday 21st October, 1990.
Back to top

Chehab, Fouad, Born in Ghazir in 1902, He was the 3rd President of the republic of Lebanon from 1958-64. As a young man he joined  the French Army and later became head of the of the Lebanese army in 1953 (First head of the Lebanese Army after Independence). He was elected president in 1958 During his presidency period, he reformed the administrative departments in governmental institutions. He announced his resignation in 1960, and then withdrew from this decision due to a public and parliamentary unanimity. He founded the Secret Intelligence Service. (Al Maktab Al Thani).
He established firm relationships with many Arab countries namely the Republic of Egypt.

Back to top

Edde, Raymond, One the greatest men of Lebanese politics, he was born in March 1913 and is massively nationalistic constantly calling for the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Lebanon. He has a degree in law and has practised since 1934. Elected head of the National Assembly in 1949. Elected deputy for the first time in 1953 for the town of Jbeil, and repeatedly afterwards in 1958, 1960, 1968. He has occupied several posts in the ministry between 1958 and 1968, namely as Minister of Internal Affairs and Minister of Public Works. He is credited for having made great effort in getting the UN into the South of Lebanon.
He has received numerous awards, and has been decorated with the Order of the Republic from Egypt.
Raymond left for France early in  the Lebanese War after he was the target of several murder attempts. He still resides in France, yet is still considered a great political figure in the Lebanese Society.

Back to top

Fadlallah, Mohammed Hussein, Born in Najef in Iraq in 1935. He started his religious studies under his father's supervision in Najef, and was later taught by Muslim mentors such as Muhssein Al Hakim and Abu Al Kassem Al Khouï.
He came to Lebanon in 1966. Today he is regarded him as Hizbullah's Spiritual guide. He was subject to two assassination attempts, the first in 1981 and later in 1985.

Back to top


Geagea, Samir. Current head of the Lebanese Forces. Born on November 25, 1952 in Ain al-Rummaneh, Beirut. His ancestral home is in Bshari. He is one of three children of Farid Geagea, an adjutant in the Lebanese Army. Samir Geagea completed his primary and secondary level education in Ain al-Rummaneh. In youth he belonged to student branches of the Kataeb party. After high school, he was able to study medicine at the American University of Beirut (AUB) due partly to a Khalil Gibran Association scholarship.
With the out break of fighting in Beirut in 1975 and the division of the city, Samir Geagea had to leave AUB after five years of study. He then transferred to St. Joseph University, in East Beirut.
When the Palestinian-Muslim-leftist alliance attacked 1976 the Kura region in northern Lebanon, Samir Geagea interrupted his academic work to help defend the area. During the next few months, he reorganized the party militia in the north (Bshari, Kura, Zgharta). However, after the Syrian army entered the Kura at the end of the summer, he returned to his medical studies in Beirut.
In 1978, Samir Geagea again broke away from his studies. At the request of Bashir Gemayel, he agreed to return briefly to help the newly formed Lebanese Forces but he was wounded, moved to a hospital, and later transferred to France to recuperate.
When he returned to Lebanon, Geagea, now responsible for the Lebanese Forces and the Kataeb along northern front, moved to a convent in the upper mountains of Jubayl from where he opened training centers, and began the development of fortifications opposite Syrian positions. He established a headquarters at Qattara, an extremely isolated village high in the mountains, he remained in charge of this sector until early 1983.
In January 1983, the Lebanese Forces command council appointed Samir Geagea, who retained his responsibilities on the northern front, commander of its forces in the Shuf-Aley sector of Mt. Lebanon, an area from which the Lebanese Forces were forced to retreat in September 1983.
Geagea returned to his headquarters in Qattara, where he developed, organized, managed, and carried out a training program for regional leaders in the Lebanese Forces.
Over the next few months public support for the Lebanese Forces started to decline so Samir Geagea, Karim Pakradouni, and Elie Hobeika (then the security chief of the Lebanese Forces) forced the resignation of the then commander of the Lebanese Forces, Fouad Abu Nadir. Elie Hobeika was named head of its executive committee, Geagea chief of staff.
On January 15, 1986, Samir Geagea led a movement that removed Elie Hobeika and due to the improprieties of the latter and, above all, to his having signed the so-called "Tripartite Accord" with Syria. Every sector of Christian opinion was opposed to the accord.
Within months, he had reorganized the Lebanese Forces and established standardized bases of recruitment, selection, training, and promotion and founded the first formal Lebanese Forces military academy at Ghosta. At the same time, the Lebanese Forces became for the first time a political movement with clear-cut socio-economic objectives and programs and with friendly and cooperative ties to many foreign countries. The Lebanese Forces also began the most ambitious and systematic social welfare program ever undertaken in Lebanon and intended to help the disadvantaged and displaced.
In 1989, the Lebanese Forces agreed to adopt Taef Accord.
In 1991 the Lebanese Forces were disarmed and Geagea began to transform it into a purely political party. However, as a result of serious violations of the spirit and intent of Taef Accord, Samir Geagea became one of the accord's strongest critics and refused to accept government post and ministerial appointments.
In 1994 Geagea was imprisoned for "maintaining a militia in the guise of a political party, and for dealing with military weapons and explosives".
Samir Geagea has been in solitary confinement ever since.

Back to top

Gemayel, Amine (1942- ), president of Lebanon (1982-1988). He was born in Bikfaya, the oldest son of Pierre Gemayel.
In 1982, during Lebanon's war the National Assembly elected Bashir Gemayel, Amin's younger brother, president. Bashir was assassinated three weeks later, and Amin, a less controversial figure with broader support in the country, was elected president. During Gemayel's presidency, Lebanon continued to be torn by violence, and Syria and Israel occupied parts of Lebanon. Gemayel presided over many negotiations to end the war. When his term expired in September 1988 and the Lebanese parliament was unable to agree on a new leader, Gemayel named the commander of the Lebanese Army, General Michel Aoun as head of an interim government.

As president he set himself three main objectives:
- To work towards independence and sovereignty for Lebanon;
- To recreate the forum for a dialogue between Lebanon's different communities;
- To restore and modernise state institutions

Concerning Syria, in 1982, Amin Gemayel dissolved the Arab Dissuasion Force which legitimised Syrian military presence in Lebanon; then, despite heavy pressure, in December 1985 he refused to ratify the so-called Damascus treaty which was intent on breaking up all Lebanese institutions.
As for the PLO, in 1987 he annulled the treaty of Cairo, signed with the PLO in 1969, which authorised them to use Lebanon as a base for military operations against Israel.

His position on the Israeli question is that he is opposed to any measures which would work against restoring Lebanon's sovereignty.

On the domestic front, Amin Gemayel's activities are aimed at establishing strong foundations for inter-communal dialogue. He worked towards restoring the state's role by making its institutions credible, efficient and unified. Throughout his term of office he fought to preserve the unity of the administration, the armed forces and the legal system.

He is a critic of the Taef agreements which control the running of these institutions. He also condemns the Lebanese people's "consent" and their "collaboration mentality" towards Syrian and Israeli occupation.

Back to top

Gemayel, Bashir (1947-1982), possibly the most controversial figure in Lebanese history. Bashir Gemayel consistently worked for a free, democratic, united, independent Lebanon. He believed that Lebanon needed to maintain good relations with the Western as well as the Arab World. He advocated the withdrawal of Syrian forces occupying Lebanon since 1976, the withdrawal of Israeli forces occupying Lebanon since June 1978 and the disarming of the Palestinians on Lebanese soil.

'I want Lebanon to be 10,452 km2 and not one kilometre less.' - Bashir Gemayel.

Bashir Gemayel was born on November 10, 1947 in Bikfaya, Lebanon, his family's ancestral home for 400 years. He was the youngest child, the second son, of Pierre Gemayel, founder of the Kataeb Social Democratic Party of Lebanon, The Phalange. Bashir graduated from St. Joseph University (Beirut) in 1971 with a Bachelors degree in Law and Political Science.
Bashir involved himself in both the academic world and in politics. He first visited the United States in 1972 to attend a seminar on International law at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. Upon completion of the seminar, he returned to Lebanon to pursue his required three years legal internship before being admitted to the bar. In the meantime, having been a member of the Kataeb Party since his youth, he was appointed the Political Director of the Ashrafieh district of Beirut in 1972. He was extremely patriotic and believed in the soveriegnty and unity of Lebanon at all costs.
After the Lebanese-PLO war broke out  in April 1975, Bashir joined his fellow militia members of the Kataeb party in fighting against the PLO, he had a direct role in the fighting and was involved in all of the major battles of the first two years.
At the outbreak of the war Bashir was young and very impulsive who was so busy fighting for his country that he did not fully consider the consequences of his actions or of some of the decisions he made. He was completely ruthless. He was so open that he allowed the press to follow the engagements from his battle lines without any form of control over them. He once was photographed after the battle of  Tal al-Zaatar drinking champagne with bodies of Palestinian guerrillas in the lying background. Such events did much harm to his early reputation.
When William Hawi, Commander-in-Chief of the Kataeb Military Council was killed at the siege of the PLO stronghold in Tal al-Zaatar in July 1976, Bashir was named to succeed him. By August 30, he was appointed head of the unified command of the Lebanese Forces, a coalition of the Christian militias of the Kataeb Party, National Liberal Party, the Tanzim and the Guardians of the Cedars.
Bashir married Solange Toutounji in 1977. His first child Maya, at the age of eighteen months, was killed in Beirut on February 23, 1980 in a car bomb explosion intended for Bashir. Their two other children are Youmna, born in 1981 and Nadim, born in 1982.
On July 7, 1980, the Christian militias were officially unified into one as the Lebanese Forces with Bashir Gemayel as their Commander-in-Chief. By January 1981, he also held positions as Chief of the Kataeb Security Council and member of the Kataeb Political Bureau.
As Commander-in-Chief, Bashir strengthened the military potential of the Lebanese Forces, instituting military training in schools and built up reserves. He also gave the Lebanese Forces a broader political dimension and popular basis. He organized public services in the unoccupied areas to substitute for the lack of government provided services. These included a public transportation system; a popular committee to provide the daily needs of the population such as water, electricity, road maintenance, garbage collection, sewage, social relief services, two radio stations, a television station and a small airport.
Bashir, contrary to the Arab world, wanted a lasting peace to exist between Lebanon and Israel and viewed Israel as a potential ally. Willing to take help from the Israelis he always suspicious about their intentions, Bashir once told AP journalist Robert Fisk:

'We'll take help from the Israelis, but you have to realise that the Israelis will only help you if are of use to them. They dont do anything for nothing.'

Bashir throughout the war stressed the importance of a unified Lebanon and set about trying to achieve this goal. He urged Lebanese Muslims to join him and the Lebanese Christians in rejecting foreign occupation.

"I extend my appeal to all our Lebanese Muslim brothers in the occupied areas to assure them and to remove from their hearts any doubts, fear, ambiguity or effects of Syrian and Palestinian brainwashing, and to emphasize to them that we are their natural and true allies as well as their original partners in our common Lebanese life."

"The Syrians and the Palestinians are imposing partition on us.... We cannot accept the disintegration of our country.... Partition is a myth propagated by Syria and the PLO."

"Let us march together: You have your own circumstances which we understand and respect. But let us be one people with a strong legitimate government."

"Do not bow to blackmail; do not believe the lies you are told. You must your confidence in your Lebanese brothers than in the occupying forces.... Let all the sons of Lebanon rally around the homeland.... there is no room for recriminations and trivial sensitivities. Let us take a unified decision to free our land."

"We assure the Lebanese Muslims that we will fight on their side.... We are one people and one country.... We will not exist without them."   (March 21, 1982).

Under President Elias Sarkis, a Council of National Salvation was formed in June 1982 which grouped the major militia and political leaders in an effort to draw up measures to end the seven years of war which had shaken Lebanon. Gemayel participated on the short-lived Council as the representative of the Lebanese Forces.
As a result the bitter fighting of the previous years and terrible attrocities commited on both sides, Bashir was worried about the consequences of his troops entering West Beirut and Muslim villages. He did not want it to be an excercise in revenge and retribution. He told his men:

"Those against whom you fought; those who demolished your houses, desecrated the tombs of our grandfathers... we must respect their dead without any feeling of vengeance. They destroyed our homes, but we shall protect their homes... We must secure freedom and protection for every Lebanese without discrimination."
(June 17, 1982).

Bashir was frank and direct in his dealings with people. His zeal for the Lebanese cause, an independent Lebanon free of all foreign occupation, inspired many. This goal took him around the world, meeting with Arab and Western leaders, in search for solutions and support. He was a bold man, charismatic, decisive. He maintained a clear political course, attracting young, dynamic and specialized individuals to the cause. He was forthright and realistic, was open to dialogue and not afraid of criticism.
Bashir officially announced his candidacy for President of the Republic of Lebanon on July 24, 1982. On August 23, 1982, Gemayel was elected President of the Republic in a second ballot by a vote of 57 for with 5 abstentions.
During the next few weeks, he held countless planning sessions and intensive meetings with Christian and Muslim leaders, drawing up plans for the new Lebanon he wanted reborn. Slowly his message was heard. He began rallying all of Lebanon, Muslims and Christians alike, around him as no other leader in Lebanon had been able to do since independence.
At 4:10 pm on September 14, 1982, nine days before he was to be inaugurated President, Bashir attended his usual discussion session at the Kataeb office in Ashrafieh. A powerful explosion on the second floor ripped through the building, collapsing it on itself and killing Bashir along with 26 others.
The perpetrator, Habib Shartouny, 26, a member of the Syrian Socialist Nationalist Party (SSNP), and a Syrian agent was apprehended. Mossad, the CIA, and Israeli military intelligence, pooling there resources with the Lebanese intelligence community established that Chartouny had installed a long range electronic detonator to a bomb made of Semtex-H which had been smuggled into the building where Chartouny's sister lived. Her apartment was directly above the Phalange offices. Chartouny's case officer was a captain in the Syrian intelligence service called Nassif, who reported directly to Lieutenant Colonel Mohammed G'anen who was in charge of Syrian intelligence operations in Lebanon. Both the Syrian Army and Air Force intelligence had knowledge of the bombing as did Hafez al-Assad's brother Rifaat al-Assad, head of Syria's security forces. President Assad would have probably given the order himself but there was no proof.

'You cannot say things will get worse now, or tomorrow, or next week. But one day there must be a resolution. Sooner or later we will have to fight a war of liberation.'   August 10, 1980.

Back to top

Gemayel, Pierre (1905-1984), founder and leader of the Lebanese Kataeb Party, the Phalanage, and the father of Amin and Bashir Gemayel..
He was born on November 6, 1905 in Bikfaya.  His family was forced to settle in Monsourah, Egypt from 1914 until the end of WWI as a result of a death sentence against his uncle and his father for being nationalists. He studied in Jesuit schools and graduated from the French Facility of Medicine in Beirut with a degree in Pharmacology. Pierre had a keen interest in sports and was an olympic athelete. He founded the Kataeb Party in 1936. He believed that Lebanon had a unique identity and culture and encouraged the coexistence of Muslims and Christians in one state. Throughtout his life he played a major role in Lebanese politics, patriotic to the point of obsession, he spent his life struggling for the independence and sovereignty of his country.

'If my death would bring peace to this land, then wrap me in the Lebanese flag and burn me beneath the cedars.'

Pierre Gemayel died on August 29, 1984 of a heart attack in his home in Bikfaya.

Back to top

Haddad, Saad (1936-1984),Lebanese Army officer trained in the United States. In 1975 he was comanding a battalion of the army in South Lebanon and at the outbreak of war he and his men broke away form the army and independently engaged the Palestinians in the south. In 1978 he showed himself to be a pro-Israeli commader and began to receive their support. He died of cancer on 15th January 1984.
Back to top


Hariri, Rafic al-, Lebanese politician born in Saïda in 1944. He started studies at Beirut university in 1965 but emigrated to Saudi Arabia one year later. He was employed by a Saudi company but set up his own constuction firm in 1970. In 1978 his company "Saudi Oger" became "Oger International". A few years later he became a Saudi citizen.
In 1989, Rafic Hariri played an important role in the organization of the conference which resulted in the Taïf agreement. In 1991 he financed a reconstruction plan for central Beirut. Although Lebanon was badly hit by an economic crisis, many Lebanese polticians were critical of Hariri's projects. He repeatedly voiced his disappointment about their obstruction. After the success of his sister Bahiya Hariri in the Saida constituency in the 1992 elections, president Hrawi appoints Hariri as Prime Minister on 22 October 1992. Although a businessman unrelated to the traditional political establishment, he had more power than his predecessors due to the implementation of the Taif Agreement.
After the election of Emile Lahoud as president of Lebanon, Hariri resigned as Prime Minister in December 1998.
As the owner of a vast media empire - comprising two television channels (a local and a satellite channel, Future-TV/Al-Mostaqbal), two radio stations (Izaat As-Sharq and Radio Orient, braodcasting from Paris), an influential weekly (Al-Mostaqbal) and a 38% participation in one of the major Lebanese newspaper (An-Nahar) - Hariri will certainly continue to play an important role in Lebanese politics.

Back to top

Hobeika, Elias Joseph  (Elie Hobeika) Born in Kleiat in the Kessruan in 1956. He had stopped school at the age of 16. When the war broke out Hobeika joined a crack unit of the Phalange and by 1977 he was commander of the southern sector of Lebanon. In the early stages of the war he was known as Edward and then as H.K, after a machine gun called a 'Heckler and Koch' which he used in the battle of Beirut and the Karantina in 1978. During a lull in the fighting, he was placed briefly at the Banco Di Brazil in Beirut in 1978 as an office boy. As fighting erupted again he went back to the lines and was promoted to head of the third division of the Phalange incharge of special operations and in 1979 promoted to security chief of the Lebanese Forces as head of Intelligence.
Hobeika married Gina Raymond Nachaty in 1981. He had a baby girl Sabine in 81, and she died in tragic circumstances in 1982. He had a boy Joseph in 1983.
In 1982 he commanded the massacre of Sabra and Chatila.
As  support for the Lebanese Forces started to decline in 1983 Samir Geagea, Karim Pakradouni, and Elie Hobeika forced the resignation of the then commander of the Lebanese Forces, Fouad Abu Nadir. Elie Hobeika was named head of its executive committee.
On January 15, 1986, Samir Geagea led a movement that removed Elie Hobeika and due to the improprieties and, above all, to his having signed the 'Tripartite Accord' with Syria. It was strongly held that he had been actively courting Syria and betraying Lebanon. Hobieka fled to Syria where he learned English and French and took a Computer course. His few followers were stationed in Zahle. In september 1986, with Syrian and Druze support he ordered his men to attack Ashrafieh from West Beirut, and after an occupation of some streets that lasted a few hours he was totally defeated, those of his men that survived went back to Zahle and he remained in Syria.
In 1990 his men fought alongside the Syrians against General Aoun and so Hobeika was rewarded with a number of ministerial posts.
Hobeika has been implicated in a great number of murders and assisnations, including that of Dany Chamoun. Today he is a member of Parliament.
Back to top

Hoss, Salim el-, Born in Beirut, December 20, 1929. He has occupied many Diplomatic Posts of which:
Prime minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Emigrant Affairs (Dec. 4, 1998 - Present)
Education minister (1985-1987), Beirut MP (1992-Present)
Prime minister 1from 976-1980 and again in 1987-1990 when he formed a government West Beirut to rival that of General Michel Aoun.

Back to top

Hrawi, Elias (1926- ), president of Lebanon (1989-1998). Hrawi was born in Zahle, Lebanon.
In 1972 he was elected to the Lebanese parliament. From 1980 to 1982, he is Minister of Works.
In 1989 the parliament chose Hrawi, to succeed René Moawad as president. Moawad, was assassinated shortly after Lebanon adopted the Ta'if agreement.
Hrawi used the Syrian Army to remove General Aoun from power in 1990. Hrawi's presidential mandate expired on November 23th 1998. Emile Lahoud succeeded him.

Back to top

Jumblatt, Kamal (1917-1977), Druze leader of the Progressive Socialist Party and leader of the leftist alliance, The Lebanese National Movement. Educated at the Sorbonne and later at the Jesuit University in Beirut, he was elected in 1946 to the Chamber of Deputies. A few years later he founded the Progressive Socialist Party. In 1958 Jumblatt led a Arab nationalist uprising and siezed control of the Chouf region but the revolt was quickly put down. In subsequent governments he was Minister of Education, then Minister of Public Works, and then Minister of Justice in which capacity he legalised the Communist Party. By 1975 he had become the leader of the National Movement whose members fought alongside Palestinian troops against Lebanon. Jumblatt was the greatest advocate for the Palestinians in Lebanon and proved to be the most intransigent of the war participants. He was assasinated by Syrian agents on March 16, 1977.

Back to top

Jumblatt, Walid. Druze leader of the Progressive Socialist Party and leader of the leftist alliance, The Lebanese National Movement after the death of his father. Following in his father's foot steps, he championed the Palestinian presence in Lebanon and repeatedly called for the destruction of the state and the annihilation of the Maronites. He frequently called for a blood revenge against the Maronites and wanted a repeat of the 1860 massacres. On 11th September 1983 whilst the Druze where massacring Christian civilians in the Chouf, Walid Jumblatt announced his policy while making a speech in Damascus: "With the help of our Syrian allies we have removed the Christians and only the Druze villages will remain from now on. Such is our objective". Under the Hrawi government he was made minister of the displaced.

Back to top

Kanaan, Ghazi. Commander of Syrian intelligence in Lebanon. All high-ranking Lebanese officials report directly to Kanaan and he has the final word on all major political and security decisions made by the Lebanese government.

Kanaan, aged 57, was born to a prominent Alawite family in the village of Bhamra near Kerdaha (Syrian President Hafez Assad's hometown) in the mountains overlooking the seaport city of Latakia. Contrary to many reports, Kanaan is not related to Assad, but their two families have had a long historical alliance. Like Assad and other senior Syrian officials, he joined the military early in his career, reportedly commanding an army unit facing Israeli forces in the Golan Heights during the 1970s. Kanaan rapidly advanced through the army officer corps. He attained the rank of Colonel and served as head of Syrian intelligence in Homs until 1982, when he was appointed to replace Gen. Mohammad Ghanem as the commander of the 'Mukhabarat' (Syrian Intelligence), in Lebanon.

During the Lebanese war, intelligence forces under Kanaan's command established their headquarters in Anjar, an Armenian village in the Bekaa Valley where, in the 18th century, Lebanese prince Fakhr al-Din defeated the Ottoman ruler of Damascus and imprisoned him in a cage. Additional bases and detention facilities have been established in West Beirut on Sadat Street and in the Ramlet al-Baida neighborhood near the Beau Rivage Hotel, in Tripoli, Chtoura and Hazmiyeh.

Kanaan is credited with gradually tightening Syria's grip over the Lebanese government during the 1980s by cultivating alliances with members of Lebanon's militia elite. In 1983, Kanaan ordered his militia allies to torpedo the May 17th Agreement between Lebanon and Israel that was brokered by former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz. In 1984, Kanaan masterminded the February 6 mutiny in West Beirut that led to the breakdown of the Lebanese central government and the withdrawal of multinational peacekeeping forces, including U.S. Marines, from Lebanon.

By the late 1980's, Syrian influence pervaded throughout the country as militia leaders of all sectarian persuasions came under Kanaan's influence. Those who resisted Syrian influence were either assassinated like Hasan Khalid, the Mufti of Lebanon's Sunni Muslim community, in 1989 or abducted and imprisoned by Kanaan's forces like the leaders of the Sunni Tawhid al-Islami movement and the pro-Iraqi wing of the Ba'ath Party in the mid-1980's.

Kanaan's most significant achievement during the 1980's was his successful effort to lure collaborators within the predominantly Christian (and ostensibly anti Syrian) Lebanese Forces (LF) militia. This process began in 1985 with the defection to Syria of LF Commander Elie Hobeika and culminated with the decision of LF Commander Samir Geagea to collaborate with Damascus in October 1990, when Syrian forces invaded East Beirut and ousted the constitutional government of Lebanon headed by interim Prime Minister Michel Aoun.

After Aoun's removal from power, Syrian control of Lebanese politics became complete. Since 1990, Kanaan has literally become the "king maker" in Lebanese politics as the election of the president is strictly subject to his official approval. In October 1995, just weeks before the expiration of Lebanese President Elias Hrawi's term in office, Kanaan attended a party hosted by former prime minister Umar Karami and announced to the numerous MPs present that they were to amend article 49 of the constitution and extend Hrawi's tenure for three more years. According accounts of the evening, published by Mideast Mirror and al-Hayat newspaper on 2nd October 1995:

'Kanaan then raised his hand, saying that the vote would take place by a raising of hands and would not be secret . . . Everyone looked as if they had just been through a cold shower . . . The party broke up early. Presidential hopefuls departed with their wives, one complaining of tiredness, another saying he had a headache.'

Less than a month later, the parliamentarians obediently convened and extended Hrawi's term in office. More recently, Kanaan personally oversaw the formulation of a new law late in 1999, which strongly preordained the election of pro Syrian candidates in Lebanon's parliamentary elections in August 2000.

Kanaan's power extends far beyond his political capacity. Due to the extensive network of Syrian intelligence officers and local operatives under his command, little of importance happens in Lebanon without his knowledge. The commander of Lebanon's Sureté Générale, Maj. Gen. Jamil Sayyed, reports directly to Kanaan, often bypassing the civilian leadership of the Lebanese regime. Since Kanaan has the power to order the arrest and indefinite detention of anyone in the country, he is the most feared man in the Lebanon.

Kanaan, known to his associates as Abu Yo'roub, has used his influence for personal gain as well. His involvement in narcotics production and trafficking in the Bekaa Valley, counterfeiting and other illegal activities have made him a very wealthy man. With the shadow of Syrian power lurking behind him, few in Lebanon are willing to stand their ground in disputes with Kanaan. One who did is Yahya Shamas, a former member of parliament and long-time associate of Kanaan's who made the mistake of buying a piece of real estate from the Syrian general and then refusing to sell it back when its value started rapidly appreciating. Shamas was quickly jailed on drug trafficking charges in 1994 and imprisoned. Kanaan is even rumoured to have had affairs with the wives of numerous Syrian backed Lebanese politicians who could not object.

Kanaan's success in subduing Lebanon has earned him tremendous accolades in Damascus and he reportedly has a good chance of replacing Ali Douba as the overall head of intelligence in Syria. Assif Shawkat, the son-in-law of President Assad (married to his daughter Bushra) is said to be competing against Kanaan for the job. Kanaan's early support of Bashar Assad, the son and apparent successor of President Assad, considerably strengthened his chances. He also has good relations with several American officials, particularly in the intelligence community, and has visited Washington DC on at least one occasion (February 1992). As a result, his political future in Damascus is considered to be very bright.

Back to top

Karami, Rashid, born in Miriata, Tripoli, in 1921. He received his training as a lawyer at the Fuad I University in Cairo, Egypt.
He was several times Prime Minister of Lebanon in, 1955-56, 1958-60, 1961-64, and five times subsequently between 1965 and 1976. His final term of office began in 1984. Karami was a member of the predominantly Muslim, left wing, National Front, but tried to ensure stability for Lebanon by sharing power with representatives of the Maronite Christian community. To his end, he headed a coalition government formed by the president Amine Gemayel in 1984, which was hoped to end the country's bitter war, yet he was assassinated three years later, in 1987, while he was traveling by helicopter with a number of other dignitaries.
Back to top

Khaddam, Abd al-Halim, Syrian politician, born in 1932 in Banias to a Sunni-Muslim family. After studying law, he worked as a lawyer in Damascus from 1954-64. He joined the Baath Party and from 1963, after the party assumed power, he engaged in politics full-time. In 1967 he was appointed Governor of Damascus. He joined the government in 1969 as Minister of Economy and Foreign Trade.
Khaddam sided with Hafez Al-Assad in the intra-factional struggle within the Baath Party and when the latter assumed power in November 1970, Khaddam became Minister for Foreign Affairs and Deputy Prime Minister. Since 1984, he has been one of the three Vice-Presidents, particularly responsible for Syria's policy towards Lebanon. He was the main force behind the conclusion of the Taif Agreement..
Constitutionally, Khaddam is a possible successor to President Assad. He lacks the military background that has become traditional with Syrian top leaders but, as a Sunni Muslim married to an Alawi woman, he might be an acceptable compromise candidate.

Back to top

Khouri, Beshara el-, He was born in 1890. He was a professional Lawyer and a member of the Cabinent, was the founder and the President of "Ad-Dustour" political party. He was elected President for the Republic of Lebanon on the 21rst of September 1943.
He was arrested on the 11th of November 1943, along with Riad El-Solh, Camille Chamoun and other activists, and they were kept in the Rashaya Tower for having opposed the French Mandate. They were released on the 22nd November 1943.
He was President for 9 years, and resigned on the 18th of September.
He died on January 1rst 1964.

Back to top

Lahoud, Emile. President of Lebanon, former head of the Lebanese armed forces.
He entered the Military Academy in 1956 and completed his formative years by training in Britain and the United States. He became naval officer in 1959 and was elevated Navy Commander in 1970. He also was high-ranking official at different grades in the Ministry of Defence until he became General and was appointed Commander of the Lebanese Army in November 1989 by Hrawi. Lahoud is credited with rebuilding the Lebanese Army and forging it more united out of the fragmented force left by years of war. Proposed by Syria and by President Hrawi, whose mandate expired on November 23th 1998, Lahoud was elected on October 15th 1998 President of the Lebanese Republic by the Parliament.

The following is his official resume:

Date & Place of Birth : 1936, Baabdate - Lebanon
Marital Status : Married to Andree Amadouni
3 Children : Kareen (1969) married to Elias Michel Murr
Emile Jr. (1975)
Ralph (1977)
Father : - General Jamil Lahoud
(one of the founding officers of the Lebanese Army)
- Member of Parliament (North Metn) in 1960 and 1964
- Minister of Labor & Social Affairs in 1960
Mother : Adrenee Bajakian
Brother : Nasri Lahoud
Studies : Primary : College de la Sagesse
Secondary: Brumana High School
Military service (ranks & dates):
Promoted to General, Commander of the Armed Forces on November 28, 1989
Joined the Military Academy as Cadet Officier 1956
Promoted to : Ensign 1959, Lieutenant Junior Grade 1962, Lieutenant 1968, Lieutenant Commander 1974, Commander 1976, Captain 1980, Rear Admiral 1985, General, Commander of the Armed Forces 1989.
Academic Background:
Naval Engineering in the United Kingdom from 1958 to 1960
N.B.C. course in the U.S.A. from 1967 to 1968
Naval Staff course in the U.S.A. (Rhode Island) from 1972 to 1973
Naval Command College in the U.S.A. (Rhode Island) from 1979 to 1980
Professional Assignments:
1959-1966 : Beirut Naval Base
1966-1968 : Commander of the 2nd Fleet
1968-1970 : Commander of the 1rst Fleet
1970-1972 : Staff of the Army 4th Bureau
Assigned as Chief of Personal Staff of the General, Commander of the
Armed Forces from 1973 to 1979.
Assigned as Director of Personnel in the Army Headquarters from 1980 to 1983.
Assigned as President of the Military Office in the Ministry od Defense from 1983 to 1989.
Assigned as General, Commander of the Armed Forces from November 28, 1989.
Decorations and Medals:
Campaign Ribbon (memorial), 1961.
Lebanese Medal of Merit (3rd degree), 1971.
Medal of Merit and Honor (high ranking officer) from Haiti, 1974.
Naval Medal (excellent degree), 1974.
Romanian Medal: Tudor Vladimirescu (4th degree), 1974.
Lebanese Medal of Merit (2nd degree), 1983.
Knight of the Order of the Cedar, 1983.
Lebanese Medal of Merit (General Officer rank), 1989.
War Medal, 1991.
War Medal, 1992.
Grand Cordon of the Order of the Cedar, 1993.
Dawn of the South Medal, 1993.
National Unity Medal, 1993.
Medal of Estime, 1994.
Commnadeur de la Legion d'Honneur (France), 1996.
Order of Merit of the Republic of Italy at Senior Officer Level, 1997.
Grand Cross of Argentina, 1998.
Back to top

Sader, Moussa el-, He was born in Kom, in Iran, in March 1928. He studied Law at the Tehran University. He is regarded as one of the most important founders of the "Islamic Shiite Council", and was elected as its head in 1969 and in 1975. On the 21st of June 1975, he founded the Amal Movement.
He visited Libya on the 26 of August 1978, upon an invitation from the Libyan Government. On the 31rst of the same month, he was last seen in a hotel, and then completely disappeared along with Sheikh Mohammed Yacoub and journalist Abass Bader El-Dine. Their fate remains unknown.

Back to top

Salam, Saeb. Salam was born in 1905 to Salim Salam, a leading politician in Ottoman-governed and later French-ruled Beirut. In 1941, Salam married Tamima Reda Mardam-Beik. The couple had three sons ­ Tammam, a current Beirut MP; Faisal, who died in a car accident in 1996; and Amr, a businessman. They also had two daughters, Thurayya and Anbara. Also in 1941, Salam and then-Tripoli MP Abdel-Hamid Karami created an alliance that campaigned against French and British mandates in the Levant. A short time before independence was declared on Nov. 22, 1943, Salam was elected a Beirut MP for the first time. He played a key role in the election of Beshara Khoury, Lebanon's first president after independence. During France's 1943 imprisonment of Khoury, Solh, Karami, and three ministers over a constitutional dispute, Salam lobbied fellow MPs to continue the liberation process. The MPs could not meet in Parliament because it was besieged by French troops. They convened instead at Salam's home in Moseitebeh and approved a national flag.

In 1945, Salam established Middle East Airlines and a year later was given his first Cabinet position as interior minister.
Appointed prime minister in 1952, his Cabinet lasted for just four days as Khoury felt the heat from the opposition, which accused the regime of corruption.
An advocate of Camille Chamoun's election as president after Khoury's resignation, Salam served as prime minister again before stepping down after a few months.

In 1956, he became a minister of state for oil affairs and negotiated separate deals with Aramco and Tapline, the two oil companies that established the Zahrani and Baddawi refineries and linked them to oil fields in Saudi Arabia and Iraq. Later that year, he and Premier Abdullah Yafi resigned in protest against Chamoun's pro-Western affiliations after the 1956 attack by Britain, France and Israel on Egypt. He was wounded during clashes between protesters and the army over Chamoun's policies and was placed under arrest in his hospital room. He staged a hunger strike for five days until he was released.

After losing their parliamentary seats in the elections of 1957, Salam, Yafi, Karami's son Rashid, and Progressive Socialist Party leader Kamal Jumblatt formed an opposition bloc. When it was reported that Chamoun would join the pro-Western Baghdad Pact and run for another term as head of state, the four leaders led an armed rebellion that lasted for five months in 1958 until the election of army commander General Fouad Chehab as president. Salam announced the end of the rebellion with his famous slogan: "No winner, no loser."

He formed two Cabinets under Chehab but later fell out with the president and his successor, Charles Helou, accusing them of setting up a police state. In 1968, Salam launched a scathing attack against "the ghosts," a reference to the military intelligence and its interference in politics. Later that year, he formed an alliance with Zghorta MP Suleiman Franjieh and Marjayoun MP Kamel Asaad that managed to bring Franjieh to the presidency with a one-vote margin over Elias Sarkis, who was supported by the government. He formed the "Youth Cabinet" under Franjieh in 1970. After three Palestinian leaders in Beirut were killed by Israeli commandos in 1973 and Franjieh refused to dismiss army commander General Iskandar Ghanem for neglect, Salam quit, announcing that he "divorced" the prime ministry.

A moderate during the war and an advocate of national accord, Salam also focused on philanthropic activities. After heading the Makassed educational and healthcare association for 25 years, Salam handed over his position to his son Tammam in 1982. That same year, he brokered an agreement between US envoy Philip Habib and PLO leader Yasser Arafat that ended the Palestinian military presence in Lebanon three months after the Israeli invasion. Though he and many Muslim MPs boycotted Parliament's election of Bashir Gemayel as president, Salam held talks with the president-elect over prospective governmental reforms. After Gemayel's assassination, Salam drummed up Muslim support for the election of Gemayel's brother Amin. After taking part in the Geneva and Lausanne talks between Lebanese leaders seeking an end to the war in 1983 and 1984, Salam moved to Geneva in 1985 after angering the Syrians and surviving two assassination attempts, he returned home in 1994. Salam played a key role in brokering the Taif Accord in 1990.

He died of a heart attack on 21st January 2000.

Back to top

Sarkis, Elias. Former President of the Lebanese Republic from 1976 till 1982. Born in Shabbaniah on the 20th of July 1924. He obtained a degree in Law from Saint Joseph University in 1948. He joined the judicial corps in 1953 and was assigned judge in the Accounting Department, a period during which he established a strong relationship with President Fouad Chehab. During Shehab's regime, he was assigned as Judicial Manager at the Presidential Palace and later as a General Manager for Presidential Matters in 1962. He became Governor of the National Bank in 1968 following the "IntraBank" Crisis.
He became President on the 8th of May 1976.
He is credited for having made numerous efforts to put an end to the Lebanese War.
Back to top

Solh, Riad el-, He was one of the nationalists who opposed the Turkish rule and thereafter the French Mandate. He became Prime Minister in 1943, and during his regime, the constitution was amended and all mandatory texts were taken out. On November 11, 1943, he was arrested along with Bechara El-Khoury, Camille Chamoun, and others and held in Rashaïa castle. They were released on November 22 of the same year, and thus the date was marked down as the National Lebanese Independence Day. He played a major role in the withdrawal of Foreign Forces from Lebanon.
He was murdered in 1951 by armed nationalists, upon his arrival from a visit to King Abdallah of  Jordan.

Back to top

Patriarch Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir. Cardinal Sfeir is the Patriarch and leader of the Maronite Order. Born 15 May 1920 in Raifoun-Kessrouane. Educated in Ghazir and Beirut, completing tertiary training in philosophy and theology in 1950. Ordained to the priesthood, 1950. Appointed Patriarch of Antioch and all the East, 27 April 1986. Speaks Arabic, French, Syriac, Italian and English. He has come to represent a de facto political leader of the Maronites. Holding a position of authority amongst his followers, respected by foreign leaders and able to dialogue with them, he is a natural focus for Lebanese dissatisfied with the present situation.

Cardinal Sfeir has publically called for the restitution of Lebanese sovereignty, the withdrawal of occupying forces (the Syrians, the Israelis in the south, and the Palestinian militias). Sfeir is opposed to the present puppet administration, controlled by Damascus, and believes the future of Lebanon is to be found through cooperation among the Lebanese, regardless of sect or politics, working in pursuit of national objectives, exclusive of supra-national concerns. He has been critical of the prosecution and imprisonment of Samir Geagea in the absence of reciprocal prosecution of military figures of other denominations.

The Identity of Lebanon

A great deal of debate has gone on regarding the identity of the Lebanese, many state that the Lebanese are Arabs and that Lebanon is an Arab state, whilst many argue that this is not the case, that the Lebanese are not Arab. In the Lebanese constitution the word Arab does not appear, the constitution only makes reference to Arabic as being the official language in article 11, yet this seemingly trivial matter was deemed of such importance that an entire sentence stating that Lebanon is Arab was inserted at the beginning of the Taif agreement in 1990. The contribution of the Arabs to the development of mankind cannot be ignored, as it was truly immense in its proportion. In almost every field the Europeans learnt much from their eastern neighbours. In medicine, astronomy, chemistry, physics, geography, mathematics, and architecture the Europeans drew heavily from Arabic books. In industry the Europeans learned of the processes used by the Arabs in paper making, leather working, and textile manufacture. It seems that it would be an honour for any country to be identified as Arab, however one cannot simply state that one is an Arab just for the sake of it, similarly one cannot state that an entire country is Arab just because he wishes to please his neighbours. In order to answer the question of Lebanese identity one has to look into the history of Lebanon so as to determine the origin of its inhabitants.

The earliest recorded texts refer to the inhabitants of Lebanon as Canaanites. Philo of Byblos claims that the Canaanites were autochthonous, i.e. inhabiting the region from the earliest times and that not only men but also gods and the whole human culture hail from their area. However many theories involving migration have been put forward as to Canaanite origins, which range form Eritrea, the Sinai, the Persian Gulf or as far away as Antarctica. Herodotus locates them on the Eritrean sea and Justin tells how they were driven from their original land by an earthquake and settled first on the coast of the Dead Sea and then on the Mediterranean. For migration theories to make sense they must presuppose that some kind of  'nation' must have existed for the Canaanites to migrate from before their appearance in the area of Lebanon but there is no historical or archaeological evidence for such a 'nation'.

Evidence of human settlement in Lebanon dates back to the Palaeolithic period when man was differentiated from other animals by little more than the simple tools he was able to make. It was at the end of the last glaciation around 10,000 B.C. a period known as the Mesolithic, that mankind took an enormous step forward by cultivating plants and domesticating animals. Archaeologists have proven that this process began in what is known as the Fertile Crescent an area comprising the Nile Valley, Israel, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq. It was around this time that small towns started to appear, the oldest in the world being Jericho in Israel and Byblos in Lebanon going back to at least 9000 B.C. as shown by carbon-14 dating. By 8000 B.C. these Canaanite towns had populations of between 2000 and 4000.

Canaanites are described as a Semitic people. The term Semitic ot Semite is frequently used and it is important to understand what it means as it applies to a number of peoples. The following definitions are found:

Pronunciation: (su-mit'ik),
a subfamily of Afroasiatic languages that includes Akkadian, Arabic, Aramaic, Ethiopic, Hebrew, and Phoenician.
of or pertaining to the Semites or their languages, esp. of or pertaining to the Jews

Pronunciation: (sem'It or, esp. Brit., sE'mIt),
1. a member of any of various ancient and modern peoples originating in Asia, including the Akkadians, Canaanites, Hebrews, and Arabs. These peoples are grouped under the term Semite, chiefly because their languages were found to be related, deriving presumably from a common tongue, Semitic.
2. a member of any of the peoples descended from Shem, the eldest son of Noah.
3. a Jew.

The Canaanite language was indeed Semitic as per the first definition, however the Canaanites were not the descendants of Shem. According to Genesis, Noah had three children, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. The eldest son of Noah, Shem, is the traditional ancestor of Semites (Genesis 10); descendants include Hebrews, Aramaeans, and Arabs. Ham is biblical ancestor of Hamites, who included the Cushites, the Canaanites, and the Egyptians (Genesis. 8;9). According to tradition the descendants of Japheth inhabited Europe and Asia Minor along the Mediterranean coast. Ham had a son called Canaan who in turn had one called Sidon (Genesis 10;15). These decedents of Canaan, the Canaanites lived on the coast of the eastern Mediterranean (Genesis 10;19).

The Canaanites who lived in what is now present day Lebanon were later called the Phoenicians by the Greeks c. 10th century B.C. The Phoenicians are well known as having been great benefactors to mankind.
From the dawn of recorded history Lebanon has swung between independence and occupation. Long periods of independence were interrupted by Assyrian rule, then Babylonian and Persian rule, then by Alexander and by 64 BC Lebanon had become part of the Roman Empire. Throughout these years, the original native inhabitants of Lebanon were not displaced nor were they diluted, their Levantine, Canaanite origin remained intact.

It was in Roman times that a carpenter's son who was born in a stable was to forever change world. News of the teachings of  this Jesus of Nazareth was to reach Lebanon early in his ministry and it prompted people from Lebanon to go and visit him (Mk. 3:8, Lk. 6:17), and he was also to journey to Lebanon where he healed the daughter of a Phoenician woman (Matt.15:21-8, Mk. 7:24-31) and attended a wedding. After the death of Christ, upon the martyrdom of Stephen, some of the disciples that were scattered abroad to preach went north to Phoenicia (Acts 11:19), through their works and the work of Paul, Lebanon converted. The pagan Canaanites, the early Lebanese, became Christian. Christianity flourished in Lebanon and by the close of the second century Tyre had become the seat of a Christian Bishop as has Sidon, whose Bishop attended the council of Nicea in 325 in which the Nicene Creed was formulated, furthermore in the year 335 a church council was held in Tyre. At about the same time, Frumentius, a Tyrian missionary introduced Christianity to Ethiopia. From the last quarter of the 5th Century and throughout the 6th, through the works of the disciples of St. Maron the people of Lebanon, the Phoenicians, joined the Maronite Church.

For many years the Maronite Lebanese worked the land, terraced the mountains built their villages and expanded their cities. Soon a human tidal wave was not only to change the demographics of Lebanon but was also to change the history of the civilized world.

In a little know area of a Byzantine province in 570 AD was born to a camel trading father a child know to history by his honorific name Mohammed, or 'highly praised'. The religion founded by Mohammed in Arabia was that of Islam, and is regarded by followers as a prophet. The book he, an unschooled man produced, was written by one of his followers and  is considered by the Islam (Muslims) to be the literal word of God told to Mohammed by the Angel Gabriel. By the time he died in 632, Mohammed had converted the Arabian peninsula, mainly by the sword, to Islam.

In 633, a year after Mohammed's death, in a valley just south of the Dead Sea, a group of Arabian Muslims fought their first battle outside of Arabia against the Byzantines. By 637 almost the entire Middle East had fallen into Arab hands. The victory of Islam was in three parts: Islam the state: Islam the religion; and Islam the language, Arabic.

Lebanon, however, remained a Christian island in a sea of Islam. It is in Lebanon that Islam the state did not govern, Islam the religion did not convert, and Islam the language did not take over from Aramaic Syriac for over a thousand years, and even then never as a spoken language but as the written one. In Lebanon today there is a huge difference between the spoken Lebanese and the written Arabic, Lebanese being a mixture rich in Syriac. A great part of the coastal population of Lebanon joined their fellow Christian countrymen high in the mountains out of Arab reach. The mountains offered no attraction to the desert Arabs, agriculture was considered below their dignity and and they knew little of industry and even less about maritime trade. The Arabs did not realize the strategic importance of Lebanon and they left it to itself and so opened the way for Byzantine naval raids such incursions were a prime reason why an inland seat of government, Damascus, was chosen by the Arabs. As a result of the coastal inhabitants of Lebanon refusing to convert and moving to the mountains the Lebanese coast was left undefended and so it became necessary for Muawiyah the Caliph, in 663, to transplant Persians and Arabians to the Lebanese coast so as to provide a measure of protection against naval incursions by the Byzantines.

By the end of the 7th century the Arabs and the Persians, newcomers to an ancient land, began to settle on the Lebanese coast and in the Bekaa valley and the native Lebanese moved deeper into the mountain.

Over the many years that were to follow, the religion of the Muslim and the mainly Maronite Christians, coupled with the Maronite siege mentality, kept the two peoples firmly apart as they had very little in common. The sea crossing and mountain dwelling Maronites share nothing in the way of culture with the desert Arab, even their language was different, the Maronites speaking Aramaic Syriac well into the 18th century. Marriage between the Shiite Muslim Persians and the Sunni Muslin Arabs was common but for the Christians of Lebanon marriage outside of one's own village was rare and marriage between Maronite and Muslim was non-existent, even today it is extremely uncommon. The Muslim and Christian blood lines thus remained pure, even the most modern of the Lebanese are still in touch with their ancestral village and have a good knowledge of their forefathers. The resistance of Lebanon to absorption ensured it maintained an individual identity and remained a separate entity.

The history of Lebanon as a separate entity from its neighbours began many thousands of years ago, long before the modern state was born. In fact it is doubtful whether any country in the Middle East apart form Egypt can claim such a long and continuos history as a separate political entity. Certain unique features had appeared as far back as the Byzantine Empire, but the modern Lebanese entity emerged in the late 16th century during the rain of Fakhr al-Din II when within its territory an evolving form of political authority continued without interruption to our own time, giving Lebanon and the Lebanese a separate and distinct identity and a strong sense of nationality.

The Lebanese have always been great travellers, and due to the many hardships the Lebanese have had to face over the ages, they have been forced to look outside their borders for the right to leave in peace and so emigration plays an important role in their history. Today the majority of the Lebanese live outside of Lebanon, some 3.5 million living inside its borders and 14 million of Lebanese origin living outside the country. Of those living in Lebanon around 2 million are Muslim and of those living abroad some 12 million are Maronite.

It would seem that any country with a dual Canaanite and Arab identity should consider itself truly blessed. Since Arabs are a Semitic people originally inhabiting the Arabian peninsular who spread throughout the Middle East, N. Africa and Spain in the 7th and 8th centuries A.D., its is clear that a large part of the Muslim population of Lebanon are of Arab origin. There is no doubt however that when the Arab arrived in Lebanon it was already inhabited by the Maronites who are of Canaanite origin and not Arab. The Canaanites had lived in Lebanon for many thousands of years before the arrival of the Arab, and Lebanon was touched by Christianity some 600 years before being touched by the Arab and Islam.

Monumental Lebanon

Lebanon's periods of greatness under the Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, and Crusaders, have left their marks in a series of astonishing buildings and monuments. These architectural remains coupled with the country's dramatic natural features make Lebanon an ideal destination for the romantic traveller with a sense of adventure and curiosity. 

North Lebanon                                    Mount Lebanon  Beirut  Bekaa Valley  South Lebanon 

Qadisha Valley

One of the deepest and most beautiful valleys in Lebanon, is indeed a world apart. At the bottom of this wild-sided gorge runs the Qadisha River whose source is in the Qadisha River at the foot of the Cedars. And above the famous Cedar grove stands Qornet es Sawda, Lebanon's highest peak.

The word "Qadisha" comes from a Semitic root meaning "Holy" and Wadi Qadisha is the "Holy Valley". Filled with caves and rock shelters inhabited from the 3rd Millennium BC to the Roman Period, the valley is scattered with cave chapels, hermitages and monasteries cut from rock. Since the Early Middle Ages generations of Monks, hermits, ascetics and anchorites found asylum here. These religious men, who belonged to the various confessions that grew out of medieval controversies over the nature of Christ, included the Nestorians, Monophysites, Chalcedonians and Monothelites. Even Moslem Soufis were found in this valley. They prayed in many languages: Greek, Arabic, Syriac and Ethiopian.

At the town of Tourza the valley divides into two branches, each named after a Monastery: Wadi Qozhaya leading to Ehden and Wadi Qannoubin leading to the Cedars. A path goes along the bottom of the valley through an area called, "Bain an-Nahrain" (between the Two Rivers) where Wadi Qannoubin meets Wadi Qadisha. From here trails lead to the various sites. You can also start from the top of the valley and take one of the numerous paths to the bottom.

Bcharré (Bsharreh)

The trip to Bcharré and The Cedars, about 30km (19mi) inland from Tripoli, passes through some of the most beautiful scenery in Lebanon. The road winds along mountainous slopes, gaining altitude and winding precipitously above spectacular gorges. Villages of red-tile roofed houses perch atop hills or cling precariously to the mountainsides and there are vistas of olive groves, vineyards, lush valleys and mountain peaks at every turn. This village at the head of the Qadisha valley is noted as the birthplace of Gibran Khalil Gibran, author of The Prophet and other famous works. One of Gibran's last wishes was to spend his final days there and to be buried in the small Monastery of Mar Sarkis at the entrance of the town. The first part of his wish was not to be, but Gibran's tomb lies in the Monastery, which today serves as the Gibran Museum. Here his paintings and manuscripts are on display.

In Winter the Museum is open daily from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, except Mondays. In Summer, it is open every day including Mondays.

Above Bcharré the road climbs to Lebanon's last remaining forest of Biblical cedars, known as Arz Ar-rab, The Cedars of God. Some of the trees are over 1500 years old, and the site is classified as a world monument. Below Bcharré, the spectacular Qadisha Valley holds the tombs of the early Maronite patriarchs, as well as rock-cut monasteries. The gorge is a hiker's paradise, with paths along the top and bottom.

An interesting tour can made of the villages around the horseshoe-shaped rim of the Qadisha Valley. If you are driving to The Cedars via the village of Qnat, the first village you come to on the south side of the gorge is Hadeth Al-Jubbeh, a town which goes back to at least the early 6th century AD. Then comes Diman, the summer residence of the Maronite Patriarch since the 19th century. The site ovelooks the Monastery of Qannoubin, an early seat of the Patricarchy. From Diman a steep path takes you down to the gorge. Not far from here is Hasroun, a red-roofed town that hugs the edge of the Qadisha Valley. This village is known for its picturesque dwellings, old churches and gardens. Bqaa Kafra reached via a turn-off from Bqorqacha, is the highest village in the country at 1,600 metres. This picturesque town is also the birthplace of Lebanon's famous Saint Charbel, born in 1828.
Deir Mar Antonios Qozhaya  (Monastery of St. Anthony Qozhaya)

This popular hermitage is one of the largest in the valley. Continuously in use since the Early Middle Ages, according to accounts, monastic life there had already been established by the mid-12th Century. The structure was most recently renovated in 1926 and the Church, partly carved from living rock, was repaired in 1864. A new Museum, completed in 1995, houses a collection of sacred and ethnographic objects, as well as an old printing press. The printing press, purchased in 1871, replaced the original older one imported from Rome by the Maronite Monks in the last quarter of the 18th Century and installed in the Monastery in 1815. Even earlier, the Monastery had portable presses imported from Europe, which were used to print the Book of Psalms in 1585 and 1610. Near the entrance of the Monastery is the Grotto of St. Anthony, known locally as the "Cave of the Mad". Here one can see the chains which were used to constrain the insane or the possessed who were left at the Monastery in the care of the Saint.

Deir Mar Elishaa (Monastery of Saint Eliseus)

Built into a shallow cave where the hermits' cell were fashioned, this hermitage was known to travellers in the 17th and 18th Centuries. The Church is set in a cliff, and includes four small chapels fitted into the rock. Beneath the Church is the tomb of a local Capuchin, Father Francois de Chasteuil, who died in 1644. While the Monastery cannot be dated precisely, it is known that a Maronite bishop lived here in the 14th Century and that it was here that the Lebanese Maronite Order was founded in 1695.

Deir Qannoubin

This is the Monastery that gave its name to this part of the valley. Qannoubin. A model of simplicity and austerity, according to local tradition this is a very ancient site. As the Maronite patriarchal seat from the 15th to 19th Centuries, it has long been part of the valley. The Monastery's Church, half built into the rock, is decorated with frescos dated from the beginning of the 18th Century. Near the entrance lies a vault with a naturally mummified body, allegedly that of Patriarch Yousef Tyan. Not far from there is the chapel cave of St. Marina, celebrated Saint of the valley, where the remains of 17 Maronite patriarchs are buried.


In the 19th Century Diman succeeded Deir Qannoubin as the residence of the Maronite Patriarch. Today it is the Patriarchal Summer residence. The Church is famous for its frescoes by the Lebanese painter Saliba Doueihy.


This village, which goes back to the Middle Ages, is known for its old souk and picturesque main square, or "Midan", where the entire village gathers on long Summers evenings. The village Church preserves the mummified body of Yousef Karam, national hero of the 19th Century. A little further on, Deir Mar Sarkis has several small chapels, the oldest dating to the 13th and 14th Centuries. There is also the chapel of Mar Mema, (Saint Mamas) built in 794. The village is dominated by Sayadet el Hosn (Our Lady of the Citadel), which was probably built upon the remains of an ancient building. From its terrace is a magnificent view of the Cedar Grove and the valley extending all the way to Tripoli and the sea.

Horsh Ehden, one of the most beautiful nature reserves in Lebanon, protects rare of trees, plants, flowers and animals.

Qadisha Grotto

Not far from the top of the road between Bsharreh and the Cedars, a long path on the side of the cliff leads to this cave and waterfall. Here one can admire the small grotto with rushing waters, stalactites and stalagmites.


Hasroun is a red-roofed town that hugs the edge of the Qadisha Valley. This village is known for its picturesque dwellings, old churches and gardens. From here a path leads to the valley of Qadisha, past the old Church of Mar Mikhail (Saint Michael) and the Monastery of MarYaaqoub (Saint Jacob).

Bqaa Kafra

The highest village of Lebanon, Bqaa Kafra is 1750 meters high. With its rustic old houses and narrow streets, this village is famous as the birthplace of Lebanon's Saint Charbel, whose father's house was transformed into a Church. St. Charbel's feast is celebrated on the 3rd Sunday of July.

Qornet Es Sawda

At 3088 meters, this is the highest peak in Lebanon. The view from the summit stretches West to the sea and East to the Beqaa valley and Anti-Lebanon Mountains.


86km (53mi) north of Beirut, Tripoli is Lebanon's second-largest city and the main port and trading centre for northern part of the country, it is also famous as the sweet capital of Lebanon. Although more modern than the rest of Lebanon, Tripoli has an important medieval history.
There are two main parts to Tripoli: Al-Mina (the port area), which juts out into the sea; and the city proper. The city centre is Sahet et-Tall, a large central square. The Old City sprawls to the east and is a maze of narrow alleys, colourful souks, hammams, khans, mosques and theological schools. It's a lively place where craftspeople continue their work as they've done since the 14th century. It's also home to some fabulous Mameluk architecture, including the 14th century Taynal Mosque, the Al-Qartawiya Madrassa and the intricate mihrab of the Al-Burtasiya Mosque & Madrassa.  In Al-Mina can be found the Lion Tower, the only surviving example of a group of structures built by the Mameluks to defend the city.

Most impressive od all is the St-Gilles Citadel which towers above Tripoli.Originally built in 1103 by Crusaders, it was badly burnt in the 13th century, partly rebuilt in the 14th, and has been altered many times since then, but it's still an imposing monument.

Just offshore is a string of small islands. The largest, known as the Island of Palm Trees or Rabbit's Island, is now a nature reserve for green turtles and rare birds. Declared a protected area by UNESCO in 1992. This Island also holds Roman and Crusader remains. Qalamoun, south of Tripoli is known for its brass industry. The roadside is lined with small workshops and showrooms where brass bowls, candlesticks and other objects are hammered out in the old tradition

Mount Lebanon                            North Lebanon  Beirut  Bekaa Valley  South Lebanon


This untamed spot 55km from Beirut is is where the Adonis River emerges from a huge cave which opens half way up a high cliff. The waters drop into a pool, then flow under a Roman bridge and then fall into another near perfectly circular lake.  Facing the cliff are the ruins of the temple of Aphrodite (Venus) and is the spot were Adonis was killed while out hunting.


A coastal town north of Byblos dating back to Phoenician times and today is famous not only for its charm but also for its fresh lemonade. Outside of the town can be found a truly amazing gothic Crusader castle built on an outcrop of rock that rises vertically out of a plateau.

The Beiteddine palace complex, Lebanon's best example of early 19th Century Lebanese architecture, was built over a 30 year period by Emir Bechir el-Chebab II, who ruled Mount Lebanon for more than half a Century.


37km north of Beirut. The oldest continuously inhabited city in the world. The ancient site contains ruins from the Neolithic, Canaanite, Phoenician, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, and Crusader periods including a most delightfully romantic harbour, a castle, and the cathedral of St. John the Baptist. There are remains of huts from the 5th millennium BC, the temple of Baalat Gebal from 2800 BC, an L-shaped temple from 2700 BC, two royal tombs and a temple from the early 2nd millenium BC, and an amphitheatre from the Roman period.

Other things to see in Byblos include the Wax Museum, which portrays the history and culture of Lebanon in a series of rather bizarre and sometimes creepy tableaux. The local old souk is lively, and Byblos has a great beach with some underwater ruins.

Out of old Byblos and into the town's higher elevations in the foothills are a number of very old churches such as the catacomb-like Mar Bohra cut from rock and the Mar Samaan Chapel. Just North of Byblos, Amchit sits on the coast and climbs briefly up the lower elevations of Mount Lebanon. The town is well known for its lovely traditional houses. Among others, there is the home of the French writer Ernest Renan who lived in Amchit in the 19th century.

Deir El Qamar

Deir El Qamar, some 40 km southeast of Beirut is unique . Its stone houses with red roofs are perched on abrupt slopes. This was the residence of the governors of Lebanon in the 16th-18th centuries. The main square is famed for its beauty. Fakhreddine I  founded Deir el Qamar and made it Lebanon's capital city.

Restoration work has been carried out on the square, the Baz Palace, Al-Kharje Palace (17th century) and the Seraglio of Emir Melhem Shehab, governer of Lebanon.


At an elevation of 1,550m, Faqra hosts the world's highest Roman temples, the Great Temple of Faqra, as well as the Temple of Atargatis and the remains of a Byzantine Basilica.

15 km north of Beirut the Capital of Lebanon, lies the port town of Jounieh beautifully located on the majestic Bay of Jounieh on the sea coast of the Mediterranean. This is the city of ancient civilizations and a modern business center which retains the charm of yesterday in the old stone souka rea. The area-known as "Old Jounieh"- has recently undergone an overhaul and there are outdoor cafes and restaurants mixed among boutiques, artisan shops, banks, supermarkets, hotels of all categories. But as soon as the sun sets, the daytime charm turns into night-time glitz. Scores of restaurants, pubs and night clubs line the old bay side road from Jounieh northward to Maameltein. Whatever your fancy from Lebanese cuisine with Arabic singers and belly dancers to fine French fair and shows. Jounieh can satisfy your palette and sense of adventure. The area is crowded with fun seekers every night of the week and packed on weekends.

The jewel of the area is perched atop a cliff overlooking the bay, the Casino Du Liban. The famed Casino, once on the itinerary of the international jet-set in the 60's and 70's reopened after a complete post-war rehabilitation.

Greeting sea fares to the Port of Jounieh is Our Lady of Harissa, a white-washed statue towering above the area from its 600 meter high mountain perch. The Basilica and statue are accessible from Jounieh via the Telepherique (suspended cable car), which is open all year round a. During the summer season, a night time ascent and descent gives you a remarkable sparkling view of the Jounieh and bay area. During the spring and early summer months, you can leave a clear sunny day along the cost and arrive at a fog enshrouded terminal building on the mounitian top. The mountain terminal features a gift shop and restaurant.

Before entering Jounieh on the road from Beirut, you cross the Dog River or Lycos of the ancients. Here on the rock face are a series of carved reliefs recording the passage of numerous ancient armies and rulers, among them Ramses II of Egypt, Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon,  the Roman emperor Caracalla, and Napoleon III.

In the vicinity of Jounieh is the Jeitta Grotto. Raindrops of more than hundreds thousands years have worked a magic wonder in the limestone of the Mount Lebanon range near the Dog River. Discovered in 1863 by an American hunter, the caves originally opened in 1958 and became internationally known for the spectacular and sometimes macabre contortions of stalactites and stalagmites, stone curtains and columns. Two caves are present on top of each other, one is entered by foot and the other by boat. With their fantastic rock formations, the caves have attracted some 10.000 visitors a week since the site was reopened to the public in July 1995.

Beirut                                             North Lebanon  Mount Lebanon  Bekaa Valley  South Lebanon

This city conveys a sense of life and energy that is immediately apparent. This dynamism is echoed by the Capital's geographical position: a great promontory jutting into the blue sea with dramatic mountains rising behind it. With a venerable past the city stands on the site of a very ancient settlement going back at least 5,000 years. Its name appeared in cuneiform inscription as early as the 14th century BC. In the first century, Berytus, as it was then called, became a Roman Colony and under Roman rule was the seat of a famous Law School which continued into the Byzantine era.

But the power and glory of Berytus were destroyed by a triple catastrophe of earthquake, tidal wave and fire in 551 AD. In the following century Arab forces took the city and in 1110 it fell to the Crusaders. Beirut remained in Crusader hands until 1291 when it was conquered by the Mamlukes. Ottoman rule began in 1516, continuing for 400 years until the defeat of the Turks in World War I. The French Mandate followed and in 1943 Lebanon gained its independence.

Until recently most of the few archaeological discoveries in Beirut were accidental. The war's ending in 1991 provided opportunity for more comprehensive and scientific investigation. Beneath the ruined downtown area, which is under reconstruction, lie numerous remains of Ottoman, Mamluke, Crusader, Abbassid, Ommayad, Byzantine, Roman, Persian, Phoenician and Canaanite Beirut. The city is thus dotted with numerous medieval structures, mosques and churches.

Once known as the Paris of the Middle East, Beirut really took a beating during the war in Lebanon. Beirut is a city of contrasts, beautiful architecture exists alongside destroyed buildings; traditional houses set in jasmine-scented gardens are dwarfed by modern buildings; winding old alleys turn off from wide avenues; and swanky new cars vie for right of way with vendor carts. Beirut is still a city of vibrancy and charm.

The Hamra area, in the north-west of the city, is home to many hotels, restaurants, cafes and the post office. It's a great place to window shop and soak up the atmosphere. North of Hamra, the American University of Beirut has a beautiful campus and a small museum of archaeology, its collection of Phoenician figurines is particularly interesting. The National Museum is a wonder. The Sursock Museum in East Beirut is housed in a splendid Italianate 19th century villa whose interior is very lavish. Exhibits include Turkish silverware, icons, contemporary Lebanese art and a small but interesting library. East Beirut is packed with charming cafes, top restaurants and trendy clubs.

A visit to Downtown will give you a good idea of what the city went through during the war. Parts of the area are being restored, others have been bulldozed and others are an apocalyptic landscape of burnt-out shells. The centre of Downtown includong the Place des Martyrs, is being restored and here can be found many significant buildings and streets such as the Grand Serai, Nijmeh Square and Parliament, Bank Street, many magnificant churches and the The Grand Mosque which was built in the Byzantine era as a Crusader church, but it was converted to a mosque in 1291.

Those who appreciate the best in horse racing will enjoy Beirut's racetrack, where every Sunday pure bred Arabians run. Beirut's Golf Club is also open to foreign visitors who can use the 9-hole course, swimming pool, squash and tennis courts for a moderate fee. Along Beirut's shores are many resort complexes, beaches and swimming clubs with aquatic amusements and sports on offer. You may wish to indulge in a traditional Turkish bath at the Al-Nouzha Bath, Beirut's last operating public bath. Located in Basta Tahta, it provides a real glimpse of old Beirut. Although not traditional in style, the scrub-down you get is authentic. Sauna, steam room and massage facilities can be found as well, catering for both sexes.

Restaurants specialising in Lebanese food offer a chance to sample this well known cuisine at its most authentic. A large selection of foreign restaurants serve cooking from around the world in surroundings as elegant or as cozy as you desire. Night life in Beirut is non-stop. You can sample some of the trendiest places going or opt for super-sophisticated night-clubs. Name what you want and it is almost sure to be available in the shops and street markets of Beirut. Traditional crafts, high fashion, jewelry or everyday needs, are all easy to find. Most standard shopping can be done in the Mar Elias area, Hamra Street, Rashid Karame street, Achrafieh and Furn Al-Shebback. Bargain hunters are urged to try Bourj Hammoud and Basta-Tabta.

Raouche, on Beirut's western-most tip, is a popular area with something for everyone. Its most famous landmark is Pigeon Rocks, huge formations which stand lie sentinels off the coast. These offshore rock arches are a lovely complement to Beirut's dramatic sea cliffs, and locals tend to congregate here to watch the sunset. It's a delight to wander along the Corniche, Beirut's coastal road, and just take in the sea air. Numerous restaurants in Raouche serve local and foreign cuisine, while cliff-side cafes offer a good range of snacks. But walking and jogging are the favourite pass-times on the seaside promenade.

Some of the sights of Beirut are listed below:
Pigeon Rock
At the area of Raouche, known for its many good Lebanese restaurants, are the Pigeon Rocks not far off the Seaside corniche. Raouche is also famous for its wide sidewalks where fortune tellers read the future and where and where strollers crowd the pavements in the evenings and weekends.

Maarad Street
Under the "Renovation" policy of the Turkish Governor Azmil Bey, large sections of the old town were demolished in 1915 and re-organised along European lines. New regular, wide streets like Allenby, Maarad and Foch, were built, replacing the old winding lanes. Prior to its use as the site of the Beirut fair, Maarad Street was also known as Allenby Street. ("Maarad" means fair or exhibition in Arabic). This street is remarkable for its arcaded pedestrian sidewalk and is preserved.

Martyr's Square or "Burj"
The name Burj refers to the Burj Al-Kachaf (Al-Kachaf Tower) which occupied the north-east corner of the square in central Beirut until 1874. In the 17th Century Emir Fakhreddine rebuilt the tower and constructed a palace (the Fakhreddine Serail) on the site. The headquarters of Prince Fakhreddine were demolished in 1882 to build the small government Serail on or near the site of the old tower. This Serail was laid to ruin in the 1950's, and in 1994 excavations uncovered its arched foundations. In 1884 a new public garden was built on the site of the Fakhreddine Serail gardens and dedicated to Sultan Abel Hammed II. With the declaration of the constitution in 1908, the garden was re-named Liberty or Union Square. Then in 1916 it was given the name Martyr's Square in memory Lebanese nationalists who were executed by the Ottomans. In 1921 the public garden was razed for the construction of the pavilions of the Beirut Fair and in 1925, a new square was planned here in the French style. The square acquired its modern landmark in the 1950's when a monument to the martyrs was erected. Reconstruction plan calls for Martyr's Square to open towards the water front, but the martyr's statue, its war damage repaired will remain in place.

Place de L'Etoile
Based on European urban models, the Place de L'Etoile was designed during the French Mandate period by a French urban planner to replace parts of the old city. By the early 1930's the square, with its pattern of radiating streets, was already waiting for work on the new town centre to begin. The branches of the Etoile were never completed, however, work was stopped so as to preserve the nearby Greek-Catholic Cathedrals. But while laying foundations for new buildings, the remains of a Roman colonnaded street were uncovered.

Riadh al-Solh Square
This downtown area used to be known as Sur Square. Strategically located, it was crossed by everyone who wanted to enter the old town through Bab Yacoub, one of the old city's gates. The square kept this name until 1950, when it was completely re-developed and called Riadh al-Solh after Lebanon's first Prime Minister. This square will be preserved under the master plan for the Beirut Central District.

Parliament House
Lebanon's Parliament House was built in the early 1930's by architect M.H. Altounian under the supervision of the Ministry of Public Works. In the 1970's a new Parliament building was constructed near the National Museum, but it was never used due to the war. Today the old building at the Place de L'Etoile still serves as the Parliament.

The Grand Serail
In 1853, during the Ottoman reign of Sultan Abdul Mejid, the Turks built huge barracks on the highest hill in the town centre. After World War 1, the French occupied the hill, and the barracks became the Grand Serail of the French Mandate High Commissioner. During the independence period, the building served as headquarters for the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

The Clock Tower
Designed and built by the architect Youssef Aftimous at the request of the Wali Rachid Bey in 1897, the tower was restored by Michel Medwar in 1912 after it suffered lightening and war damage. In 1992 the Tower was restored again.

Old Ottoman Hospital
This was built in 1861 by the Turks as a Military hospital, and in 1920 it was converted by the French Mandate authorities for use as law courts. In 1965 it became the School of Fine Arts of the Lebanese University. The building was restored in 1992 and now serves as the head quarters of the Council for Development and Reconstruction (C.D.R.).

The Grand Theatre
Built in the early 1930's by the architect Youssef Aftimous, this building is distinguished by its neo-Islamic style and its capitals, each of which has a different kind of fruit carved upon it. The building acts as a terminus to Maraad Street from the South.

The Municipality Building
Constructed in the 1920's by the architect Youssef Aftimous, who won a competition for its design, the Municipality Building is in the neo-Islamic style. The building is slated for renovation under the reconstruction program.

Institut Francais d'Archeologie du Proche Orient (I.F.A.P.O)
This building was erected in 1850 by Hajj Abdallah Beyhum. In 1911 the French government bought it and converted it into a home for the elderly. The French Institute of Archaeology was established there in 1946.

Bekaa Valley                                 North Lebanon  Mount Lebanon  Beirut  South Lebanon


This site is from the Umayyad period (660-750 AD) and is a historic example of an inland commercial center. The valley and the mountains are an amazing backdrop to this charming ruin wich lies in the midst of rich agricultural land and is a source of the Litani River.

Located in the Bekaa Valley 86km from Beirut, Baalbak was originally named after the Phoenician god Baal. The town was renamed Heliopolis by the Greeks and still later it was made a centre of Jupiter worship by the Romans. During its Roman era, Baalbak was the premier city in eastern Roman Empire. This is the site were one can find the largest and best preserved Roman ruins in the world. The complex consist of the Temples of Jupiter, Bacchus, Venus, and Mercury. Greek and Phoenician ruins surround the Roman complex.

Baalbek's acropolis is the largest in the world. The main complex is about 300m (984ft) long and has 2 temples with porticoes, 2 courtyards and an enclosure. The Temple of Jupiter, completed around 60 AD, is on a high platform at the top of a monumental staircase; only 6 of its colossal columns (22m/72ft) remain, giving an idea of the vast scale of the original building. The adjacent Temple of Bacchus, built around 150 AD, is very well preserved. Outside the main area is a tiny, exquisite Temple of Venus, a gorgeous circular building with fluted columns.


10 km before the town of Hermel, a 27 meter high monument on top of a hill can be seen for miles in every direction. Three faces this Hermel Pyramid are carved with hunting scenes that suggest the pyramid-topped structure is a tomb, probably of a Prince of the 1st or 2nd Century BC.

Ain Zerqa is the "Blue Source" of the Aasi River ( the classical Orontes), is about 200 meters South-West of Deir Mar Maroun (Monastery of St. Maroun) in the Hermel region. The source, which gushes out from beneath the rock, is an ideal picnic place. The caves nearby are also worth exploring. Look for the niche facing the springs and some walls of classical masonry on the hillside above. The Mar Maroun Monastery is a rock-cut structure in three levels. It is said to be the temporary refuge of the successors of Saint Maroun, founder of the Maronite Christian sect in the 4th Century AD. Below these remains is the Aasi River, the classical Orontes, with its blue-tinted water.

Qaraoun Lake and Litani Dam

An artificial lake of 11 square km, Qaraoun was created by the Litani River Dam in 1959. The Litani is Lebanon's longest river, rising near Baalbeck and flowing for 160km through the Beqaa Valley to the coast North of Tyre.

The dam holding back this major river is 60 meters high and 1,350 meters in length. A gallery of 6,503 meters carries the water to the underground station where transformers produce a maximum of 185 megawatts. The dam will eventually provide irrigation for 31,000 hectares of farmland in South Lebanon and 8,000 hectares in the Beqaa Valley. Visitors are welcome to the Litani Dam. The office is at the Southern (dam) end of the lake on the left side. The lake area has a hotel and a number of restaurant specializing in fresh trout.


Zahle is known as "Arouss El- Beqaa", the bride of the Beqaa, and is much appreciated for its healthy climate and good food. It is also the seat of government for the Beqaa. All amenities are available here, with hotels, good shopping and souvenir shops. Zahle's many beautiful old houses can be appreciated on a leisurely walk around the town.

The main attraction, however, is the Bardaouni River, which flows out of Mt. Sannine through a wooded gorge shut in between tall perpendicular rocks. Along this branch of the Litani River there is one open - air restaurant after another. All are protected from the sun by awnings and leafy trees, while streams, fountains and pools cool the air. To get to this area you drive right through the town.

Zahle is the home of the Mezza and of Arak, so in this pleasant spot one can enjoy a typical Lebanese pastime: the long leisurely lunch. The Bardaouni is just as popular in the evenings where dinners can become quite festive.

In Winter, most of the riverside restaurants are only open on weekends. A walk in the hills overlooking Zahle, leads you to Iron and Bronze Age towns. In Wadi El Arayesh are Byzantine and Roman sarcophagi.


 South Lebanon                              North Lebanon  Mount Lebanon  Beirut  Bekaa Valley

Just south of Sidon and 28km north of Tyre, is the site of ancient Serepta ofthe Bible. Excavations here revealed the remains of Canaanite-Phoenician structures and Roman port installations. Modern Sarafand still has a workshop where the ancient Phoenician art of glass blowing is practised.


This city, 48km south of Beirut, has one of the most famous names in history but its past has been plundered by time and by invader. Sidon was inhabited as early as 4000 B.C. and today is home to a Crusader fortress that rises out of the sea, a Murex hill formed by the refuse of the purple factories of antiquity, and ancient Necropoli.

The entrance to Sidon from the north is on a wide divided highway lined with palm trees. As you approach, the landmark Crusader Sea Castle and modern port installations are immediately visible. The busy main street is full of small shops and of every kind, including patisseries, whose oriental delicacies are stacked in little pyramids. Sidon is also famous for a variety of local sweets which you can watch being made in the old souk (market) or in shops on the main street. The particular speciality of Sidon is known as "senioura", a delicious crumbly cookie.

There are numerous sites of interest within the old section of modern Sidon. Here visitors will enjoy wandering along the sea front to the Crusader Sea Castle and looking around the old souks, khans (caravansaries) and other medieval remnants. The Sea Castle is a fortress built by the Crusaders in the early 13th century on a small island connected to the mainland by a causeway.

A government Resthouse on the waterfront next to the castle offers good food and refreshment. Situated in a restored medieval building, the Resthouse is set in a landscape seaside terrace. The interior has vaulted ceilings and medieval décor. Not far from here is the picturesque vaulted souk of Sidon, where workmen still ply their trades. On the edge of the souk is a traditional coffee house where clientele meet to smoke the arguileh (water pipe) and sip Turkish coffee. South of the souk on the way to the Castle of St.Louis, is the Great Mosque, formerly the Church of St. John of the Hospitalers. The four walls of this building date back to the 13th century.

The Castle of St Louis, or Qalaat Al-Muizz, was erected on the emplacement of a Fatimid fortress during the Crusade led by the French King Louis IX, popularly known as St Louis. Built in the mid-13th century, the present state of the castle makes it easy to observe various stages of the restoration carried out in the Mamluke era, particularly work done in the 17th century by Emir Fakhreddine II. At the foot of the hill are a dozen or so Roman columns scattered on the ground.

The Temple of Echmoun is 1km from Sidon in a lush valley of citrus groves on the Awwali River. Building of this Phoenician temple complex is dedicated to the god of healing Echmoun, started in the 7th century BC.


One of the most important cities of the ancient world. 83km south of Beirut, Tyre was founded after Sidon in the 3rd millennium BC. It originally consisted of a mainland settlement and an island city, but these were joined in the 4th century BC by Alexander the Great with  causeway which converted the island into a peninsula. The city contains three areas of great interest. The first is the Phoenician Island with remains of civic buildings, colonnades, public baths, and mosaic streets.  The second is an area consisting of the necropolis and the largest Roman hippodrome ever found here the ruins include a well-preserved road which passes through a monumental archway. It's lined on one side by an aqueduct, and on both sides there are hundreds of ornate, intricately-carved stone and marble sarcophagi. The hippodrome was built in the 2nd century AD, with seating for over 20,000 people. The third site of interest is Tyre's Crusader cathedral.

Located 6km south of Tyre is Ras Al-Ain, the city's main source of water since Phoenician days. Its artisan wells gush up into stone reservoirs that have been maintained through the ages. One of the reservoirs fed the arched aqueducts of the Roman period that once stretched all the way to Tyre. Remains of these aqueducts can be seen along the Roman road running under the monumental arch on the necropolis.

On the road to Cana (Qana Al-Jaleel) 6km Southeast of Tyre  is a burial monument.  This is the Tomb of Hiram, the celebrated Phoenician King of Tyre and the architect of the Temple of Jerusalem and the Palace of Solomon.

 North Lebanon  Mount Lebanon  Beirut  Bekaa Valley  South Lebanon

Lebanon is a beautiful and exiting place to visit but it is rather unique and the traveller needs to know certain things so as to get by. If you are going to Lebanon for the first time it is a very good idea to read this brief guide. 


Lebanon is an occupied country.

Throughout  the country Syrian intelligence agents scour the land, listening to what you have to say. These secret agents are divided into three main types:
1)    This top secret agent that can be identified by his sandals, dirty white shirt, and rather obvious carbine version of the AK47 hanging from his shoulder. These agents are usually found on Syrian checkpoints.
2)    This top secret agent that can be identified by his rather ugly Hawaiian shirt of a sort of green, grey, black, and brown pattern. Look out for the standard issue tight jeans with a bulge in the back covered by the shirt. These agents usually go around in pairs and can often be seen holding hands.
3)    This top secret agent is the clever type for he drives a taxi. This a good place for people to relax and chat to each other and accidentally say something against Syria or its leadership. If you are in a taxi the best thing to do is not to talk to the driver, if he tries to engage you in a conversation 'No speaky Beiruty' is a good thing to say.
The extreme south and south-east of Lebanon is under United Nations and Israeli control and is the scene of artillery fire, bombings, fire-fights and flyovers. The UN Security Zone, as it's called, is a 1.5km (0.9mi) wide area along the Lebanon-Israel border and is closed to all visitors. Israeli troops occupy this area, from where they often launch attacks on nearby Lebanese villages where Lebanese resistance fighters are perceived to be operating; the Lebanese resistance reply with attacks of their own - and so it goes on. Israeli forces have closed crossings in other Lebanese sectors to prevent entry to the occupied south. Some of the towns affected include Haris, Kafra, Yater and the outskirts of al-Manourieh. The hills of western Bekaa and the vicinity of the historic port city of Tyre have also witnessed attacks. Travellers to this region and its outskirts are advised to be aware of current political and military developments, and be prepared to change travel plans at a moment's notice. Stay well clear of Palestinian camps.

Check points are discussed in the 'Getting Around' section below.


Despite its modest size, Lebanon has a number of completely different geographical regions. There's a very narrow, broken, coastal strip which contains all the major cities. Inland, the Mount Lebanon range rises steeply to a dramatic set of peaks and ridges - the highest, Qornet as-Sawda, is over 3000m (9840ft). Further inland, the range drops steeply to the 150km (92mi) long Bekaa Valley, which runs parallel to the coast at an elevation of 1000m (3280ft). The Bekaa is a major wine producing region and, until recently, a major producer of cannabis. The Anti-Lebanon range rises in a sheer arid massif to the east of the Bekaa Valley, forming a natural border with Syria.

The most famous flora in Lebanon, the cedar tree, is now found on only a few mountaintop sites, notably at Bcharré and near Barouk in the Chouf Mountains. These lonely groves are all that remain of Lebanon's great cedar forests which, in biblical times, covered much of the country. That said, Lebanon is still the most densely wooded of all the Middle Eastern countries: many varieties of pine flourish on the mountains and much of the coastal land is cultivated with fruit trees.

Lebanon's mountain areas are home to birds of prey, and the nature reserve near Ehden has golden and imperial eagles, buzzards, red kites, Bonelli's eagles, Sardinian warblers and Scop's owls. Marine birds, both resident and migratory, can be spotted in the Palm Islands Park off the coast of Tripoli. Green turtles and Mediterranean monk seals inhabit the waters surrounding the park. As for wild land animals look out for wild dogs and the odd snake.

With such a diverse topography, it isn't surprising that the weather varies considerably from region to region. Broadly speaking, Lebanon has three different climate zones - the coastal strip, the mountains and the Bekaa Valley. The coastal strip has cool, rainy winters and hot, sometimes stifling, Mediterranean summers. The mountains have a typical alpine climate. Many people head to the hills to escape the oppressive summers of Beirut and come back again in winter for the snow. The Bekaa Valley has hot, dry summers and cold winters with snow, frost and fierce winds.


Lebanon has fabulous trekking opportunities in its mountains and gorges. It's usually a relatively short distance between villages, so planning overnight stops is not a problem if that's the kind of hiking which appeals to you.

Hunting is popular but do not go on your own, make sure there is someone Lebanese with you.

There are 6 main ski resorts in Lebanon, offering varying degrees of difficulty. Equipment hire is available at all resorts, and the cost is reasonable.

If you like sun worship Lebanon is great. Of the sandy beaches, the best can be found in the far south of the country. There are good beaches in Beirut, around Byblos, Chekka, and Tripoli. Sticking to swimming pools however is the best idea. The rocky bathing sites make good snorkelling spots; water-skiing, jet-skiing, windsurfing and sailing are all readily available.

Getting There

Travel to Lebanon could not be easier these days. A growing number of airlines service Beirut, which has frequent connections to Europe, Africa, Asia and the rest of the Middle East. The national carrier, Middle East Airlines, also flies to Australia and Canada. The US recently lifted its ban on travel to Lebanon.

Visas: All nationalities, except Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nationals, need a visa to enter Lebanon. Australian, Canadian, most EU, New Zealand and US passport holders can obtain a visa on arrival but get one before departing to Lebanon if you can, this will save you some time and hassle in the airport.

Health risks: Israeli bombing runs, and Syrian agents. Vaccinations are recommended for polio, tetanus and typhoid
Time: GMT/UTC plus 2 hours
Electricity: 220V, 50Hz
Weights & measures: Metric

Getting Around

Always carry some kind of identification on you.

Car rentals are fairly expensive in Lebanon and the country is notorious for the hair-raising style of its drivers. You need an international driving licence. Road rules are non-existent and there are no speed limits. Driving resembles scenes out of Mad Max so do not attempt to drive in Lebanon unless you are used to insane behavior. Visitors from the following countries, UK, Ireland, France, Germany, Scandanavia, Canada, and the US should think twice before driving.  In theory everybody has agreed to drive on the right, but people frequently drive on the wrong side of the road and one way streets are often regarded as a suggestion rather than a rule, always assume that you never have right of way. Do not take your eyes off the road for an instant. Do not insult other drivers, you will regret it, if you live. On the plus side, fuel is cheap and easy to get.

You will generally encounter three types of check point:
1)    Lebanese Army. These check points tend to be decorated with red and white paint and are manned by Lebanese Army soldiers. Lebanese soldiers are always very tidy, clean, and well dressed and wear camouflage uniforms (standard US type). They are very polite and helpful.
2)    Lebanese 'ISF' or 'Darak'. These are basically Lebanese police and are also generally polite and helpful. They wear a blue/grey camouflage uniform.
3)    Syrian check points. These may be manned by either Syrian troops, or Syrian intelligence agents, or both. These are easy to spot because the check points tend to have a portrait of Assad hanging very near by and those manning it are mostly untidy, dirty, and badly dressed. They are neither polite nor helpful. If uniforms are worn they will mostly be of a green nature although 'Tiger Stripe' of a strange colour combination can also be found. The Syrian beret cap badge is a rather sad looking eagle.

Slow down on all check points, turn down the music and smile. At night also turn on the car's interior light when you reach a check point.
At Syrian check points do not smile.

It is possible to hire private drivers with their car during your stay. This is generally a good idea and cheaper than car rental but not as much fun.

Many people use 'service taxis' to get around, a huge number of which run like buses on set routes. They carry around 5 passengers, each of whom chip in for a fifth of the fare but you can have the car to yourself  by paying the full amount if it is empty and you tell the driver when you get in. There are also many 'pirate taxis' cruising for fares. These are more expensive than 'service taxis', but look exactly the same, so it's best to ask before you get in.
Buses travel between Beirut and other major towns, not recomended.

Do not cross the border into Syria, its a real drag and there really isn't much to see.

Money & Costs

Lebanon is quite expensive by Mediterranean and Middle East standards, and the main expense is accommodation. A minimum travelling budget, taking into account the high cost of hotels, is around US$80 to US$100 a day. Room rates are cheaper outside Beirut, but the cost of meals is pretty standardised throughout Lebanon with Lebanese food being by far the best and the cheapest.

Budget meal: US$4-8
Mid-range restaurant: US$10-20
Top-end restaurant: US$30-50

Most banks will only change US dollars and UK pounds in cash or travellers' cheques, while moneychangers, found throughout Lebanon, will deal in almost any convertible currency. They also offer better rates than the banks. Check the rates in a newspaper and shop around for the best deal. International credit cards are accepted in most places but make sure first.

Tipping is usually expected as a reward for services. Most restaurants and nightspots include a 16% service charge in the bill, but it is customary to leave an extra tip of 5% to 10% of the total. With the exception of a few set prices, everything can be bargained down in Lebanon, from taxi fares to hotel charges. Most hotels will give you a discount if you stay for more than 3 days.

When to Go

For sun worshippers, the time to come to Lebanon is the summer season from June to end of September. The weather is hot and dry, though very humid on the coast. Lebanon is becoming increasingly popular as a winter sports destination. It has a number of ski resorts and the ski season runs from December to May. During May, the weather on the coast is warm enough for swimming and the country is carpeted with flowers. If your luck is running, you can catch the end of the ski season, sunbathe on the beach and get fresh flowers in your room. Autumn is also scenic: by October the most oppressive heat is over and it's a pleasant time to visit.