A Modern Capital with prestigious past
This cosmopolitan and modern city is the home of more than 1 million people, and constitutes the very heart of the country's economic and cultural life.
Beirut teems with a perceptible vitality and energy that are reflected through its position as the Lebanese capital from a geographic standpoint: a headland that drives through the deep blue sea while dominated in the background by the breathtaking mountains.
Daughter of Venus, Beroë mother of the laws, Lebanon's star ... all these epithets do not suffice on their own to summarize several centuries of rich history.
Legend has it that the city was founded by the god EI in homage to his beloved wife, the goddess Berout. In order to protect the city, he offered it to Poseidon, god of the sea, and to the Cabiri, the gods of navigation.
The Semite name of the city ( be'erot ("wells")) is derived from the word "bir", Phoenician for well. The city was given the name after several underground sweet water wells were found in it.
The city boasts a glamorous past.4000 years ago, it was a prosperous port on the Canaanite-Phoenician coast, and an important commercial center,as well as a crossroad for eastern and western civilizations. In the renowned tablets of Tell- Al-Amarna in Egypt that go back to the 14th century BC, the city was said to be well-defended under the ruling of King Ammunira.
In the Roman era, the city became a prosperous colony that was dubbed "Colonia Julia Augusta Felix Berytus" in homage to the daughter of the emperor Augustus. With Augustus at the helm of the city, the inhabitants enjoyed tax exemption according to the "ins italicum" law, since it was a Roman colony. Septimus Severus chose the city in the 3rd century to be the site of the law school that attracted students from all over the world. The school was the tribune of many prominent jurists such as Papinianus, Ulpianus, Gaius, Paulus and the praetorian prefect of Illyria Anatoly the Beiruti, and it shone over the east region. Justinian assigned many professors who taught at the Beirut law school to put forth the legislative code that was the source of western laws for centuries.
The city lived a golden era until the Byzantine epoch. Throughout a 1000 year-span, the city gradually lost its past splendor until the 18th century. Just like other coastal cities, Beirut was occupied several times, and each occupation brought along destruction and bombings separated by intermittent periods of prosperity. This is why, when walking in the city, you feel the ancient presence of Canaanites, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Ottomans, and French; unravel a warm mixture of cultures, and communicate with a populace that mixes current tendencies with reinvented nostalgias, languages, civilizations, and disturbed rebirths of historical problems.
During World War I, the Turkish governor Azmi Pasha ordered that most of the ancient quarters and neighborhoods be demolished in order to build a new city that combines oriental style and Mediterranean charm using an urban European conception. Built with yellow stones and decked with small balconies, the ancient city's buildings go back in majority to the ottoman era and the French mandate.