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    HISTORY OF LEBANON   The country we now call Lebanon is located on the eastern side of the Mediterranean Sea, inthe Middle East, which happens to be in Asia.For the people of the Mediterranean, Lebanon is in the area where the sun rises. It wasdecided that this eastern section of the Sea will be called the Levant. So, everyone can callthe Lebanese Levantines just like the Greeks and the Egyptians.   Lebanon is a very small country, perched on 2 mountainous ranges called the Lebanon andthe anti-Lebanon, with a valley in the middle named the Beka'a. It is bordered by Syria inthe North and East, by Israel in the South, and the Mediterranean Sea in the West. Unlikethe rest of the Middle East, Lebanon is a very green country, with lot's of flowers andtrees and small rivers. There is no desert in Lebanon, just lot's of rocky mountains.   The Stone Age -- a long time ago -180,000 years   Lebanon has been inhabited for hundreds of thousands of years. River banks were thenatural high-ways of prehistoric people. They moved along the Litani, Nahr Ibrahim, Nahrel-Kalb and Nahr Beirut rivers in search of food, hunting, fishing and gathering roots, wild  plants and fruit. The only weapon they had were branches and stones, which they used todefend themselves and to kill wild animals. Lions, tigers, wolves, rhinoceros, gazelles,goats, bears and foxes roamed the mountains, forests and the inland and coastal plains.   They took shelter in the caves of the mountains overlooking the entire coast. The discoveryof fire allowed them to heat themselves, cook meat, have light at night and frighten awaywild animals for the first time. They learned to chip the stones they used as weapons andtools in order to make them sharper and more pointed. These people were known asNeanderthals.   About 80,000 years ago, the Neanderthals disappeared, and their place was taken by HomoSapiens, the modern human species. They also lived in caves, but produced a greatervariety of stone tools.   The Beginnings of Agriculture -- about 7,000 years ago   People understood that seeds falling in the ground grew into plants. They cultivated the landnear their caves and sowed crops. They domesticated dogs, sheep and goats. They kepttheir grain harvest in storage jars made out of clay. Now that they started organizing theirfood supplies, they spent less time hunting, and started decorating their tools. With thediscovery of Copper, people started coming up with new tools and weapons, and alsostarted creating personal decorative items to hold their clothes together. Jewelry becamevery much sought after.Gradually, people moved away from their caves and settled in the plains where they hadmore space for cultivation. Here, near their fields, they built their shelters, their firsthouses.   The first villages began to appear. The new houses were round or oval. Walls were made of mud mixed with straw. The floors were made of beaten earth, sometimes covered withcrushed limestone, and rested on foundations made of large pebbles gathered from thesurrounding area. Villages were scattered along the coast, in the mountains, and in theplain now called the Beka'a.   Birth of the City-State -- about 4,800 years ago   The people living along the Lebanese coast during this period called themselves Canaanites,and belonged to Semitic tribes which had spread throughout the Middle East. Others oftenreferred to them as Phoenicians. Trade with Egypt developed. To travel between Egypt andLebanon faster and easier, the Phoenicians invented the boat. These boats carried cedar,pine and fir wood as well as jars of olive oil. The boats came back laden with Nubian gold,linen, ropes and grains.The growth of barter trade, by sea as far away as the Nile (in Egypt), and by land as far asMesopotamia (Iraq), transformed the little village of Gubla (later referred to as Byblos) intoa city-state. Metal workers, potters, soldiers and fishermen lived and worked side by side.   City-states were always located by a harbor or on a trade route, and were often surroundedby fertile land where smaller villages grew up. A stone rampart safeguarded the town from jealous neighbors. Each city had its own king and priests.    The Phoenicians - Kings of Mediterranean Trade   The Phoenicians sailed west and set up trading settlements throughout the Mediterranean.They brought back copper from Cyprus, tin from Spain and ivory from Africa. The seafaringpeople of Sur (one of the Phoenician city-state) collaborated with their new neighbors, theHebrews. Together they brought back gold, silver and spices from Arabia and Ethiopia, byway of the Red Sea.   The Phoenicians were good craftsmen and their skilled work was highly prized. They craftedgold, silver, bronze, ivory and wood. They invented glass, and produced jewelry. They wereexcellent builders and helped the Hebrews build King Solomon's temple and palace. Thesemen were known as the Free Masons as they were not the property of any King. Theywere also called on to decorate many palaces in Mesopotamia.   In Sur and Sidon, a shellfish called the murex was processed to obtain a dye called theTyrian purple. That color -known as Urjuwan- was used to mark royalty.As they had to deal with many people around and about the Mediterranean, the Phoeniciansneeded a simple system to write down their business deals. So they invented a set of 22symbols, which composed the first alphabet of the World. The Phoenician alphabet waswritten from right to left. The ancient Greeks based their alphabet on the one that wastaught to them by the Phoenicians. Their most famous teacher was Prince Cadmus, brotherof Princess Europa of Tyre who gave her name to the Continent. The Greeks changed thewriting order from left to right. Many other alphabets derived from the Phoenician one, andkept the order from right to left, such as the Arabic alphabet.They engraved their documents in stone and wood, and often recorded their transactionsand letters on papyrus paper. Gubla, the city where the alphabet was discovered, traded alot with paper. The Greeks called this paper Byblos, and -at the time of Alexander TheGreat- started referring to Gubla as Byblos. Byblos later on gave its name to the first holybook, the Bible .   The Phoenician cities were prosperous Sea ports, coveted by many people of theMediterranean and the Middle East. Often, to escape an invasion, the Phoenicians tookrefuge in some of their trading settlements, that gradually became colonies.There were so many invaders! First the Egyptians, led by their Pharaoh Akhenaton, then theHittites who came from the north -around Turkey-, then the Egyptians' armies of thePharaoh Ramses, the Assyrians who ruled further east in Mesopotamia, then theBabylonians from Mesopotamia again, under the leadership of king Nebuchadnezzar, thePersians with King Cyrus, the Greeks with their Macedonian King -Alexander the Great- and,of course the Romans with General Pompey and Caesar.   All these invasions happened in the part of history referred to as B.C. or Before Christ.One of the colonies sprung out of the Motherland -as the Phoenicians around theMediterranean called Lebanon- is Cartage, in Tunis, North Africa. This famous city that grewto challenge Rome was founded by Elissa, princess of Sur. According to the legend, theAfrican King told her he will give her as big a land as the skin of a bull. Princess Elissa hadthe bull skin cut into very thin strips, and used them to line out the perimeter of her newcity, which in Phoenician is Quart-Hadesht. Cartage's fame is mostly credited to Hanibaal  who's army crossed the European Alps with his elephants. After Rome defeated Hanibaal, hetook refuge in Lebanon, showing that links between the colonies and the motherland werevery strong.   The Phoenicians were great adventurers, they explored all of the Mediterranean, went out of it into the Atlantic Ocean, travelled along the Atlantic European Coast, establishing coloniesalong the way. They also circled around Africa, all the way back to Egypt. Legend has it thatthey even came to the Americas, but could not repeat their adventure. Maybe that was thesrcin of the Legend of Atlantis!   Under the Roman Empire   The Romans conquered the Phoenician cities about 64 BC. They divided up their empire intoadministrative regions called provinces. The Phoenician coast, mountains and the Beka'awere included in a vast eastern region called Syria.The Romans were great builders. They built a lot of cities from scratch, or added manyimportant buildings in existing ones, such as temples, theaters, arenas, porticos, and publicbaths. They also established a network of roads, spotlighted by milestones, throughout theirprovinces.   Heliopolis in Roman -or Baalbeck, in Phoenician- was founded at a crossroads of the caravanroutes, in the Beka'a. Heliopolis is the City of the Sun , and was constructed using thebiggest man-made stones of the world. Some of the stones used were so big, that story-tellers started referring to Baalbeck as the city built by the giants. In reality, Baalbeck wassrcinally designed to be a retirement center for Roman Warriors. But the Romans had toimpress the local citizens of their empire, as the Phoenicians were also renown builders inantiquity.The city of Beryte -Beirut- became the capital of the entire coastal region. Beirut was afamed University center of the Roman empire. It is not by accident that the first Law Schoolever was founded in Beirut.   During this period, Jesus was born in Palestine. The Phoenicians of Sidon and Sur wereamongst the first Christians. The Byzantine Empire -- 395 AD   Most Phoenicians became Christians during the first centuries of our Era. However, theRoman Empire was still pagan, and Christianity was not recognized by the officials of theEmpire.Legend has it that Empress Helen, mother of Emperor Constantine was a devout Christian,and that he promised her to convert to Christianity if she were to find the Cross of Jesus inJerusalem and tell him the same day. Jerusalem is far from Constantinople (Istanbul, inTurkey), so Empress Helen traveled by land through today's Turkey, Syria, and Lebanon toreach Galilee and Judea. On her way, she posted guards on high points. On the day theCross was found, a bonfire was lit from Jerusalem as a signal. The guards she postedfollowed her example, and served as relays until the message reached the Emperor. Notonly did Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity, but he made it the official state
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