previous next

BYBLOS Lebanon.

On the coast at the foot of the Lebanon mountains, 60 km N of Beirut. Built on a site occupied since Neolithic times, Byblos was for 2000 years a flourishing Phoenician city that had close ties with Egypt. It was a vassal of the Persian Achaemenids, then submitted to Alexander the Great and lost its importance in the Hellenistic period. Threatened by the Itureans in the 1st c. B.C., the city rebuilt its ramparts with the aid of Herod the Great. In the Roman period it was famous for its cult of Adonis.

Byblos contains few visible remains of the Greek, Roman, or Byzantine eras. Some paved streets, a Corinthian colonnade, a theater, and a nymphaeum survive from the 2d and 3d c. A.D., along with some marble statues and polychrome mosaics.

A deep excavation in the middle of the site marks the location of the sacred spring. To the N is the acropolis, which faces the sea to the W and has a mediaeval castle on the E. There are traces of Hellenistic as well as Roman ramparts, of a large temple and a basilica, both from the Roman period, and of some Roman streets (restored Corinthian colonnade). The acropolis was approached by two stone ramps, one coming from the NW, from the port, the other from the NE, where the ramp, which dates from the Early Hellenistic period, duplicates another ramp built 1000 years earlier.

To the N, 12 m down from the acropolis, is a paved, colonnaded street coming from the NE; it dates from the end of the 2d c. A.D. On reaching the acropolis, the street turns W and climbs the hill to join the road from the port. At the bend in the road is an apsidal nymphaeum that abuts on the sustaining wall of the acropolis. Its niches were decorated with marble statues, notably a magnificent Hygeia, a group of Achilles and Penthesilea in the Classical style, and another of Orpheus charming the animals, which is Oriental in character (all now in the Beirut Museum). Water fell from the great basin of the nymphaeum into a fluted pool. The nymphaeum court was closed to the E by a four-columned portico. A staircase led up to the acropolis.

The commercial and residential sections lay mainly to the N and E. The Roman settlement developed along Hellenistic lines, until the 3d c. A.D. onward. Near the Church of St. Jean des Croisés some Roman mosaics have been found illustrating the legend of Atalanta, while a large villa to the SE contained mosaics from the 2d c. A.D. (both in the Beirut Museum). The theater, which was moved toward the sea and reconstructed, to allow deeper excavation on its original site, was SE of the mediaeval castle and oriented NW. The orchestra was decorated with a magnificent mosaic from the end of the 2d c. A.D. representing Bacchus (now in the Beirut Museum).

Some bronze coins of Byblos minted in Macrinus' reign (A.D. 217-218) show a sanctuary with a temple adjoining a huge porticoed courtyard. In the middle of the courtyard is a square-based monument built in the shape of a cone, often described as a baetyl, and with a balustrade running around it. No trace has been found of such a temple at Byblos; nearby, however, at Machnaqa in the valley of the Adonis river, there is a sanctuary often called the tomb of Adonis that has a similar plan, with a large cubical altar surrounded by columns in the middle of a porticoed courtyard.


E. Renan, Mission de Phénicie (1864-74); M. Dunand, Fouilles de Byblos I (1937); id., “Rapports préliminaires sur les fouilles de Byblos,” BMBeyrouth 4 (1949-50); id., Byblos (1968)PI; J. Lauffray, “Une fouille au pied de l'acropole de Byblos,” BMBeyrouth 4 (1940)PI; N. Jidejian, Byblos through the Ages (1968)PI.


hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: