When you see the word “Byblos,” you probably think it has something to do with the word that we know and love, which is Bible. If that was your first thought when you saw this word, then you are correct, partially, at least. The word comes from early Greek, and it means papyrus. Therefore, the Bible is practically the “papyrus book.”
However, why would Greek people have an ancient word for papyrus when papyrus is not exactly associated with Greece or the Greek people? As it turns out, the papyrus was exported to the Aegean through the ancient city of Byblos, located in Lebanon.
The ancient city is called Jbail in modern times, sometimes spelled Jubayl/Jebeil. You may see it in the Holy Book spelled Gebal. It was a seaport on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, very close to the capital city of Lebanon, Beirut. The city of Jbail is considered one of the oldest cities in the world.
The location is extremely special because it is said that it has always had inhabitants throughout history. It is also one of the few places in the world where people have never left since biblical times. There have been multiple archaeological excavations that showed Byblos was occupied in 8000 – 4000 BC.
What Happened in Byblos?
In biblical times, Byblos was a great and famed location, mostly because the people used its position, which was near the Mediterranean Sea, to export valuables to Egypt, especially wood. Soon after becoming the chief harbor for export, it also became a massive trading center. Ancient Egyptians would call this place “Kubna.”
It’s important to understand that this place became a necessity for Egypt. But, in the 11th century BC, after the Egyptian New Kingdom fell, Jbail became the oldest and most important city of Phoenicia. One thing is for certain, no matter who ruled over Byblos, they quickly understood the city offers a lot. This could be the reason the city was never left uninhabited.
Another great thing that happened in Jbail was the Phoenician alphabet. This creation was definitely a great milestone for humankind. The Phoenician alphabet is speculated to be the “ancestor” of the Greek alphabet, therefore, the “ancestor” of all other western alphabets.
The Phoenicians are known throughout history as great merchants, traders, and colonizers. The land was captured by crusaders eventually in the 12 century and renamed Gibelet. The Crusaders also built a castle there, but 80 years later, they were evacuated by sultan Saladin. Since then, Jbail was not able to regain its popularity, but it is nowadays considered a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1984.
In modern times, Jbail is loved by tourists everywhere. People travel from all over the world to this place to see a piece of history, as it was part of numerous civilizations, including Egyptian, Phoenician, Assyrian, Persian, Hellenistic, Roman, Fatimid, Genoese, Mamluk, and Ottoman.
Can You Travel to Byblos in the 21 Century?
The short answer is yes. However, many locations mentioned in the Holy Book have been destroyed or renamed to the point that they lost accuracy. Even if we need help finding their actual location, you can still visit this ancient city of Byblos. It is nowadays called Jbail. And don’t panic because there is a multitude of things that you can find here.
If you are passionate about the Bible and you have a natural thirst for knowledge, this city will not disappoint you. It is located in Lebanon, still close to the capital city of Beirut. Making it easily accessible if you travel from overseas. You can still access it by boat if you are looking for a “biblical experience.”
Most of the city is considered an archaeological site. Here you can see Ain el-Malik, or King’s Spring, a place that used to supply the city with water, and the L-shaped Temple dating 2700 BC. Also, the Temple of the Obelisks, originally built in 1600–1200 BC, used to be located on top of the L-shaped Temple but was moved in the meantime.
You can also see the royal necropolis from the second millennium BC, where the city’s kings were buried. There is also the roman theater dating 218 AD, the Wax Museum, Fossil Museum, the Medieval city wall, and the castle. And many more interesting sights.
And maybe one of the most important things that you can say to your friends and family upon your return from this gorgeous historical trip is that you pretty much visited the place where the Bible was first referred to as “the Bible.”
Why Is this City Important?
It would be wrong and borderline cruel to claim that a city of the world added no actual value to humankind. No matter how small, everything and everyone matters. God taught us never to judge. Remember that even David, one of the most beloved characters in the Bible, was once belittled by Goliath because he was young, small, and had no real army to back him.
However, David proved Goliath and the Philistines wrong when in just one swift motion, he killed the giant. Like many “insignificant” locations, the ancient city that we now call Jbail is important. The city is testimony to the start of the Phoenician civilization.
Furthermore, this “eternal” city was one of the first “urban organizations,” especially in places close to the Mediterranean. It is unusual to hear of a place that was never abandoned, never destroyed, or never forgotten by its people. However, Jbail is one of them.
Even though it had many rulers who came from different parts of the world, they all agreed on one thing. This place is special, and it should never disappear. Each civilization be it the Egyptians, Phoenicians, Assyrians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, or ottomans, they all wanted to benefit from the advantages that the city offered.
It is safe to say that in biblical times, any means of transportation were golden since they did not have cars, planes, or any other “fast” device. Most of the time, they relied on their feet and their livestock. But locations like Jbail offered something more, the sea. Suddenly they could easily transport everything using just the sea and some rafts. And that made this city famous.