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Home > History of Lebanon > Greek & Roman Periods

Introduction | Phoenicia | Greek & Roman Periods | Arab Period | Ottoman Rule
French Mendate | Independence | Civil War | Today | Chronology of Key Events

Babylonian Rule and Persian Empire

Revolts in the Phoenician cities became more frequent under Babylonian rule (685-36 B.C.). Tyre rebelled again and for thirteen years resisted a siege by the troops of Nebuchadnezzar (587-74 B.C.). After this long siege, the city capitulated; its king was dethroned, and its citizens were enslaved.

 

Greek & Roman Periods

1. Babylonian Rule...
2. Rule of Alexander the Great...
3. The Seleucid Dynasty...

The Achaemenids ended Babylonian rule when Cyrus, founder of the Persian Empire, captured Babylon in 539-38 B.C. and Phoenicia and its neighbours passed into Persian hands. Cambyses (529-22 B.C.), Cyrus's son and successor, continued his father's policy of conquest and in 529 B.C. became suzerain of Syria, Lebanon, and Egypt. The Phoenician navy supported Persia during the Greco-Persian War (490-49 B.C.). But when the Phoenicians were overburdened with heavy tributes imposed by the successors of Darius I (521-485 B.C.), revolts and rebellions resumed in the Lebanese coastal cities.

Rule of Alexander the Great

The Persian Empire eventually fell to Alexander the Great, king of Macedonia. He attacked Asia Minor, defeated the Persian troops in 333 B.C., and advanced towards the Lebanese coast. Initially the Phoenician cities made no attempt to resist, and they recognized his suzerainty. However, when Alexander tried to offer a sacrifice to Melkurt, Tyre's god, the city resisted. Alexander besieged Tyre in retaliation in early 332 B.C. After six months of resistance, the city fell, and its people were sold into slavery. Despite his early death in 323 B.C., Alexander's conquest of the eastern Mediterranean Basin left a Greek imprint on the area. The Phoenicians, being a cosmopolitan people amenable to outside influences, adopted aspects of Greek civilization with ease.

The Seleucid Dynasty

After Alexander's death, his empire was divided among his Macedonian generals. The eastern part -- Phoenicia, Asia Minor, northern Syria, and Mesopotamia -- fell to Seleucus I, founder of the Seleucid dynasty. The southern part of Syria and Egypt fell to Ptolemy, and the European part, including Macedonia, to Antigonus I. This settlement, however, failed to bring peace because Seleucus I and Ptolemy clashed repeatedly in the course of their ambitious efforts to share in Phoenician prosperity. A final victory of the Seleucids ended a forty-year period of conflict. The last century of Seleucid rule was marked by disorder and dynastic struggles. These ended in 64 B.C., when the Roman general Pompey added Syria and Lebanon to the Roman Empire. Economic and intellectual activities flourished in Lebanon during the Pax Romana. The inhabitants of the principal Phoenician cities of Byblos, Sidon, and Tyre were granted Roman citizenship. These cities were centres of the pottery, glass, and purple dye industries; their harbours also served as warehouses for products imported from Syria, Persia, and India. They exported cedar, perfume, jewellery, wine, and fruit to Rome. Economic prosperity led to a revival in construction and urban development; temples and palaces were built throughout the country, as well as paved roads that linked the cities. Upon the death of Theodosius I in A.D. 395, the empire was divided in two: the eastern or Byzantine part with its capital at Constantinople, and the western part with its capital at Rome. Under the Byzantine Empire, intellectual and economic activities in Beirut, Tyre, and Sidon continued to flourish for more than a century. However, in the sixth century a series of earthquakes demolished the temples of Baalbek and destroyed the city of Beirut, leveling its famous law school and killing nearly 30,000 inhabitants. To these natural disasters were added the abuses and corruptions prevailing at that time in the empire. Heavy tributes and religious dissension produced disorder and confusion. Furthermore, the ecumenical councils of the fifth and sixth centuries A.D. were unsuccessful in settling religious disagreements. This turbulent period weakened the empire and made it easy prey to the newly converted Muslim Arabs of the Arabian Peninsula.

Source: Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress and Wikipedia.

Introduction | Phoenicia | Greek & Roman Periods | Arab Period | Ottoman Rule
French Mendate | Independence | Civil War | Today | Chronology of Key Events


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