Lebanon History: Early times

Lebanon History: Early times Last updated on Wednesday 21st April 2010

Lebanon's long and often turbulent history reaches back to the dawn of civilization. Its earliest settlers were the Phoenicians who came from the Arabian Peninsula around 3,500 BC. They established cities at Beirut, Byblos, Tyre, Sidon, and Baalbek and spread their 22-letter Phoenician alphabet throughout the region.

After a succession of different rulers, they became part of the Roman Empire in 64 BC when Pomey the Great conquered the territory that comprises modern Lebanon and governed it as part of the province of Syria.

Aramaic replaced Phoenician as the main language and by the 4th century Christianity was firmly 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 Arabs, inspired by the teachings of the Holy Prophet Mohammed, had converted most of the region 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.

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