The Roman Empire
Courtesy of The Lebanese-American Association http://www.laa.org/tours/romanempire.htm
The greek And Roman empire :
Alexander the Great captured the
city of Tyre in 332 B.C. after an eight-month siege. When the city fell, almost all its
inhabitants were sold as slaves and Tyre lost its importance on the world stage. After
Alexander's death, his empire -- the entire ancient civilized world -- was split among his
The Roman Empire started expanding its powers into the Middle East. In the area known as The Levant. The Levant was already a prosperous trading colony and it was recognised as the gateway between the East and West. Spices, silks, dyes and precious stones were traded there. The Romans quickly recognised the strategic significance of places like Beirut, Tyre, Sidon, and Byblos, both from commercial and military stand point. Soon the entire region became part of the Roman Empire.
Phoenicia came first under Ptolemaic control, then under Seleucid control. When the Seleucid
dynasty fell to the Armenians, the rising empire of Rome stepped in and restored Seluecid control.
When the Seleucids fell into anarchy, Rome assumed direct control. Rome incorporated Phoenicia as part of Syria. The obscure city of Berytus (Beirut) began rising to prominence after the Roman emperor Augustus granted it Roman colonial status and Herod the Great financed lavish building projects there.
During Roman rule, the Phoenician language died out and was replaced by Aramaic as the
vernacular tongue. Greek became the language of literature. Important Lebanese writers included
Philo of Byblos, Porphyry of Tyre and Iamblichus of Chalcis. Porphyry played a key role in
spreading Neo-platonic philosophy, which later influenced pagan and Christian thought.
Under Roman rule, Berytus (Beirut) became the most famous provincial school of Roman law. Two of Rome's most famous jurists, Papinian and Ulpian, were natives of Lebanon and taught as professors of law in the school. Their opinions took up more than a third of the compilation of Roman law commissioned by the emperor Justinian I in the 6th century A.D.
Berytus' importance in Rome lasted until a series of earthquakes, a tidal wave, and fire in the
mid-6th century destroyed it.
In 608-609, Persian King Khosrow II pillaged Syria and Lebanon. Between 622 and 629, the
Byzantine emperor Heraclius won back the territory. But then in the 630s, Arabs who were
members of the new religion of Islam conquered Palestine and Lebanon. The old Phoenician cities
offered only token resistance to this new conqueror.
After a succession of different rulers, the Phoenicians became part of the Roman Empire in 64 BC when Pomey the Great conquered the territory of modern Lebanon and governed it as part of the province of Syria.
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AChristianity was firmly ramaic replaced Phoenician as the main language and by the 4th century established. During the early years of the Christian era, when theological differences bred numerous break-away sects, Lebanon became a refuge for religious minorities fleeing persecution. In the 7th century, the Christian sect that was later to become the Maronite church settled in the northern districts of the Lebanese Mountains to avoid conversion to Islam. The geographical inaccessibility that made Lebanon attractive as a religious refuge also appealed to Muslims; the Shiites found a haven there during the 9th century and the Druzes in the 11th century. The mosaic of differing beliefs in Lebanon gave each religious group a certain amount of autonomy in specific areas, but hampered unity for the region as a whole.
"Plutarch (A.D. 46-120), a priest of the Pythian Apollo at Chaeronia, Boeotia, wrote a treatise called On Isis and Osiris. During the Roman period Byblos was associated with Egypt in myth and ritual. This was seen in the myth of Isis and Osiris. The Byblian episodes of this myth appear nowhere in native Egyptian literature of any period and were obviously added to the myth in the Hellenistic age as part of the general syncretism of this age. In Plutarch's account the search by Isis for Osiris' body brought her to the shores of Byblos." - Nina Jidejian, Byblos Through the Ages
Some of the inhabitants of Byblos maintain that the Egyptian Osiris is buried in their town, and that the public mourning and secret rites are performed in memory not of Adonis but of Osiris. I will tell you why this story seems worthy of credence. A human head comes every year from Egypt to Byblos, floating on its seven days' journey thence; it never varies from its course but goes straight to Byblos. The whole occurrence is miraculous. It occurs every year, and it came to pass while I was myself in Byblos, and I saw the head in that city." - Lucian, The Syrian Goddess
"Herodotus (4.42) says that the Pharaoh Necho II, who reigned c. 615-595 B.C., determined to see if Africa could be circumnavigated. Accordingly, he commissioned a number of ships manned by Phoenicians for the task. These sailed down the Red Sea and down the east coast of Africa. Every year they settled for a while on the coast, cleared a strip of land, planted a crop and, when they had harvested it, continued on their journey. In the third year they sailed through the Pillars of Hercules and back to Egypt again. They reported that as they sailed around Africa they had the sun on their right. Herodotus refuses to believe this possible 'but perhaps others may.' For us of course this is conclusive proof that such a voyage was made. It is another instance of how Herodotus' dedication to recording exactly what he had heard, irrespective of whether he believed it or not, has given proof of an event which he described.
"Herodotus (4.43) also mentions a
Carthaginian called Sataspes, who, because he had used violence against a maiden, was
given a choice by the Great King Xerxes of being impaled on a stake or of sailing around
Africa. He elected to attempt the circumnavigation but lost heart after many months at
sea. He returned to 'civilisation' and reported that 'at the farthest point he had
reached, the coast was occupied by a dwarfish race' and 'whenever he landed, they left
their towns and fled to the mountains; but his men did them no wrong, only entering into
their cities and taking some of their cattle. The reason why he had not sailed around
Libya was, he said, because the ship stopped and would not go any further. Xerxes however
did not believe this and Sataspes was impaled by the king's orders in accordance with the
"Sataspes may have reached Cape Palmas. He may have been caught in the doldrums off the Cape Verde coast of Senegal and hence unable to proceed further. Some of the Arab voyagers down the west coast of Africa in medieval times reported that at a certain stage they could go no further.
"Herodotus and possibly Hanno report dwarves in West Africa. Sataspes' dwarves have been identified as early Bushmen, still found in South Africa but which may have been found further north 2500 years ago. Pygmies were also found in the Cameroons." - Ciaran Branigan, "The Ciccumnavigation of Africa"