Ministry of Culture

History of Beirut

A true link between East and West Lebanon, «this small country that is so important» in the words of Metternich, has known seventeen civilizations. Today, as it brings together seventeen religious denominations it constitutes a true “message”. According to writer Amin Maalouf, “Lebanon is a wager on diversity as a carrier of wealth, peace and freedom”. The capital, Beirut, is, with Byblos, the oldest city on the Lebanese coast. It has maintained important commercial relations ever since the 18th century B.C.E. At the time its name vas Beruta, probably from a Semitic root meaning “well” or “source”. Its name hardly varied through the ages. The Romans called it Colonia Julia Augusta Berytus, the Byzantines, Beroe, and the Arabs Beirut. In the 3rd century, the fame of its schools of law, the Roman school of Berytus, extends overseas. Three centuries later, the city is at the center of the important silk trade. However, it was only during the 19th century that the city began its true rise: universities and colleges are founded, newspapers are created; it become one of the best examples of Mediterranean cosmopolitanism. Being an administrative and cultural center it was naturally chosen as the capital of the State of Greater Lebanon in 1920. In the wake of the country’s independence (1943), Beirut bolstered its role as a commercial and financial hub. In spite of the war that devastated it from 1975 to 1990 Beirut was reborn from its ashes. image