Byblos (in Arabic ‘Jbail’) in Lebanon is one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities, as attested by the incredibly diverse ages of its ruins. Thought to have first inhabited sometime around the 5th millennium BC, Byblos began as a Neolithic village of fisherman. At present, this prehistoric and ancient settlement is a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Over time, Byblos would, amongst other things, become a Phoenician trading hub called Gublu, be taken by Alexander the Great in 333 BC, be ruled by the Greeks (this as when it acquired its current name) and then fall to Pompey, becoming a Roman city in the 1st century BC. In the 3rd century, the city gained an impressive theatre.
Byblos began to decline under the Byzantines, who took it in 399 AD. After which by the 12th century, Byblos had become part of the Crusader state of Tripoli, connected to Jerusalem. However, the town was taken by Saladin in 1187 and surrendered to the Mamluks, becoming part of the Ottoman Empire from 1516 until 1918.
Today, Byblos bears the marks of all of these civilisations. Stone Age, Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age dwelling sit side by side with a royal Phoenician necropolis and Roman sites such as a theatre, a road and nympheum. There is also a 12th century Crusader Castle, a reminder of when Byblos was conquered in 1104.
In addition to its fascinating ruins, Byblos is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site for its contribution to modern language, connected with the Phoenicians’ development of the predecessor of our alphabet. There’s plenty to see at Byblos, some in its main archaeological site, other elements dotted around its medieval town centre.
Getting to Byblos
Situated on Lebanon’s coast, Byblos is an hour’s drive from Beirut via route 51M although you can explore the ancient city on foot easily enough.
A small but densely populated Mediterranean country, Lebanon is the site of many historic sites that nod to the country's varied past. Here's our pick of 5 of the best.