History Files
 

Please help the History Files

Contributed: 175

Target: 400

2023
Totals slider
2023

The History Files still needs your help. As a non-profit site, it is only able to support such a vast and ever-growing collection of information with your help, and this year your help is needed more than ever. Please make a donation so that we can continue to provide highly detailed historical research on a fully secure site. Your help really is appreciated.

Near East Kingdoms

Ancient Levantine States

 

Beroth / Biruta / Beirut (Canaan)

In the mid-third millennium BC, city states began to appear in Syria as people benefited from interaction with Sumer and from improvements in irrigation. Within five hundred years, around 2000 BC, the same process was happening farther south and west, in the Levant, along the Mediterranean coast. Semitic-speaking Canaanite tribes occupied much of the area, creating a patchwork of city states of their own. The Phoenicians (more Canaanites) also occupied parts of this region, eventually founding their own mighty seaborne trading empire.

Founded as a settlement some time around 3000 BC by settlers from Byblos, the site shows habitation stretching right back into the Near East's Stone Age. It was first located on two islands which became progressively silted up until they joined together and then joined the mainland. This Canaanite city is still inhabited today as the capital of Lebanon. It is located in the centre of the Lebanese Mediterranean coastal strip, ninety kilometres to the north-west of Damascus.

The city's name of Beroth - which means 'the wells', the prime source of its water supply - is claimed to have been coined by Phoenicians, although when modern scholars use this term what they really mean is Canaanites. Firstly Phoenicians would have referred to themselves as Canaanites anyway, and secondly the name 'Beroth' was in use in the mid-second millennium BC (as 'Beruti'), well before the emergence of what would later be termed Phoenician culture.

That mid-second millennium BC usage of the city's name was also the city's first historical mention, thanks to the Egyptian Amarna letters of the fourteenth century BC. Like the rest of the region, Beroth witness a procession of various peoples and powers through the region, including Canaanites, Amorites (in the north only), Phoenicians, and the great empires of the first millennium BC. It was the Romans who mangled 'Beroth' into Biruta or Berytus. Unfortunately, although a section of the Canaanite city of about 1900 BC has been preserved in today's Beirut, very few of its ancient rulers are known by name.

Phoenicians shifting cedarwood from shore to land

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from Unger's Bible Dictionary, Merrill F Unger (1957), from Easton's Bible Dictionary, Matthew George Easton (1897), from Egypt, Canaan and Israel in Ancient Times, Donald Redford (Princeton University Press, 1992), from Early Israel and the Surrounding Nations, A H Sayce, from The Amarna Letters, William L Moran, 1992, from the Illustrated Dictionary & Concordance of the Bible, Geoffrey Wigoder (Gen Ed, 1986), and from External Links: Encyclopædia Britannica, and Ancient Beroth (The History of the Ancient Near East), and Net Bible.)

c.2000 - 1800 BC

Egypt's 'Middle Kingdom' can be noted at this time for its expansion of trade outside of the kingdom. This includes maintaining a trading presence along the Mediterranean coast while Amorites settle and found the city of Arvad.

Amorites, Semitic-speaking farmers
Amorites, Semitic-speaking farmers from the south who integrated into Mesopotamia, and then Syria and Canaan

1453 BC

The Egyptians conquer Canaan and Syria again and establish three provinces in their conquered territories which are named Amurru (in southern Syria), Upe (in northern Canaan), and Canaan (in southern Canaan). Each one is governed by an Egyptian official.

Native dynasts are allowed to continue their rule over the small states, but have to provide annual tribute. Beroth by this time is well on its way to becoming an important trading city, with the Amarna letters giving it its earliest recorded historical mention (as 'Biruti').

1348 BC

FeatureAkhenaten institutes monotheism in the fourth year of his reign of Egypt with the sole worship of the sun god Aton (see feature link for more). In the following year he founds a new capital at Amarna. During this period the Amarna letters are written - diplomatic correspondence with Assur-Uballit I of Assyria, the Kassite rulers of Babylonia, plus Mitanni, the Hittites, Alashiya, Arzawa, and the city states of Syria and Canaan.

The letters also include descriptions of the disruptive activities of the habiru, and how the Amorites and the city of Arvad are teaming up to disrupt Egyptian possessions in Syria.

Map of Anatolia and Environs 1550 BC
Small cities and minor states which had been founded by the Hittites littered the meeting point between Anatolia and Syria around 1500 BC (click or tap on map to view full sized)

fl c.1350 - 1335 BC

Yapa-Hadda / Yapah-Hadda

Vassal of Egypt. Mentioned in the Amarna letters.

c.1340s BC

Relations with neighbouring Gebal are soured by constant complaints from its king, Rib-Adda, to his overlords in Egypt. He complains vociferously about Yapa-Hadda, accusing him of always plotting or committing crimes.

fl c.1320s BC

Ammunira

Vassal of Egypt. Mentioned in the Amarna letters.

c.1320 BC

The same king of Gebal, Rib-Adda, is temporarily forced to flee his city and seek protection from Ammunira in the face of raids by the Hittites. It seems that regional bickering is less important during raids by a mighty power.

fl c.1250 BC

Abibaal / Abibalus

No additional information available.

c.1200 BC

The entire Near East is hit by drought and the loss of surviving crops. Food supplies dwindle and the number of raids by habiru and other groups of peoples who have banded together greatly increases until, by about 1200 BC, this flood has turned into a tidal wave.

Habu relief at Medinet
Attacks by the Sea Peoples gathered momentum during the last decade of the thirteenth century BC, quickly reaching a peak which lasted about forty years

Already decaying, the Hittite empire is now looted and destroyed by various surrounding peoples, including the Kaskans and the Sea Peoples (and perhaps even selectively by its own populace). Unlike Byblos, Sidon (with its prominent harbour), and Tyre, Arvad is sacked. Gebal, another city with a prominent harbour, also manages to survive unscathed.

Phoenician Beroth / Biruta / Beyryt

City states began to appear in Syria in the third millennium BC. By the start of the second millennium BC the same was happening in the Levant, along the Mediterranean coast. Canaanite tribes created a patchwork of city states of their own, while the later-appearing Phoenicians (more Canaanites) also founded their own mighty seaborne trading empire.

Although concentrated more in Syria and extending down into Mesopotamia, the Amorites also occupied areas of northern Canaan. To the south of them were the many cities of the Canaanites, with Beroth being founded around 3000 BC. Its location in the centre of the Lebanese Mediterranean coastal strip places it ninety kilometres to the north-west of Damascus. The city's name was coined by its own people and means 'the wells', the prime source of its water supply.

Disaster struck in the form of the social collapse at the end of the thirteenth century BC. Climate-induced drought and famine triggered large-scale population movements in the Near East, along with wholesale looting and raiding, principally by the Sea Peoples. Beroth's fate during this period is unknown, but most likely its people were forced to settle down into a pattern of reduced means during the subsequent two-to-three hundred year dark age. It emerged as a different kind of Canaanite city, a Phoenician one.

Possibly still possessing its own ruling figure, no names are known for this period due to a very depleted historical record in this regard. This is partially due to a general shift from clay tablets to writing on papyrus, but this does not fully explain the lack of records. The only reasonable alternative is that the city was under the dominance of one of the other city states and possessed no ruler of its own (provincial governors were rarely worth mentioning). Byblos would seem to be the most likely candidate.

Phoenicians shifting cedarwood from shore to land

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from Unger's Bible Dictionary, Merrill F Unger (1957), from Easton's Bible Dictionary, Matthew George Easton (1897), from Egypt, Canaan and Israel in Ancient Times, Donald Redford (Princeton University Press, 1992), from Early Israel and the Surrounding Nations, A H Sayce, from The Amarna Letters, William L Moran, 1992, from the Illustrated Dictionary & Concordance of the Bible, Geoffrey Wigoder (Gen Ed, 1986), and from External Links: Encyclopædia Britannica, and Catholic Encylopaedia.)

c.1170s BC

Adonizedec of Shalem leads the fragmented Jebusites tribes against Joshua, but they are defeated at Gibeon and apparently suffer again at Beth-horon. Shalem is taken by the victorious Israelites. A town known as Beroth is included as a supporter of Adonizedec's coalition. Thought to be the modern site of El-Bireh, located about fourteen kilometres to the north of Shalem, this should not be confused with Phoenician Beroth.

Ancient Jerusalem
The ambitious Ophel excavation in Shalem (Jerusalem) has produced many finds, but precious little before the tenth century BC, by which time the city was in Israelite hands

c.1050 BC

A weakened Egypt loses its remaining imperial possessions in Canaan. The country's political fragmentation had begun during the same drought and famine which had destroyed so much in the Near East, and the ' Third Intermediate' would continue that process with a number of dynasties of Libyan origin ruling.

704 - 701 BC

With the death of Sargon 'the Great' of Assyria, many of his subject states rebel, especially Chaldaeans and neighbouring groups. With the recapture of Babylon a priority, it takes the Assyrians until 701 BC to get around to quelling similar rebellions in Judah and the Phoenician states.

676 - 612 BC

Assyria conquers all of Phoenicia. However, despite being under the nominal control of the Assyrians, the Phoenicians continue their highly profitable trading enterprises in the western Mediterranean. The Arvadites frequently supply sailors to Tyre to help with its endeavours, and presumably the people of Beroth do likewise for their local overlord.

Ashurbanipal of Assyria
Ashurbanipal is illustrated during a lion hunt, almost a ritual in the Assyrian royal search for order amidst the seemingly everyday chaos of life

612 - 573 BC

The Phoenician cities appear to regain their freedom after the destruction of the Assyrian empire. Illusions of freedom are insubstantial, however. A resurgent Egypt battles against Babylonia towards the end of the seventh century BC, conquering and then losing control of Syria and then barely being able to hold onto Phoenicia.

573 - 539 BC

Having already secured Syria and destroyed the Assyrian empire, Babylonia now conquers Phoenicia, including Beroth. As a result, many Phoenicians emigrate to the colonies, especially Carthage, which quickly rises to become a major power. But then, in 539 BC, Beroth and all of Phoenicia are submerged within the Persian empire.

334 - 332 BC

In 334 BC Alexander of Macedon launches his campaign into the Persian empire by crossing the Dardanelles. Much of Anatolia falls by 333 BC and Alexander proceeds into Syria during 333-332 BC to receive the submission of Ebir-nāri, which also gains him Harran, Judah, and Phoenicia. This principally involves Byblos and Sidon, with Tyre holding out until it can be taken by force. Under Greek control the importance of Beroth as a trading centre only increases.

Alexander the Great crosses the River Graneikos
Alexander the Great crossed the River Graneikos (or Granicus) in 334 BC to spark a direct face-off with the Persians which had been brewing for generations, and his victory in battle near the river sent shockwaves through the Persian empire

140 - 138 BC

Beroth is destroyed by Diodotus Tryphon of the Seleucid empire in his civil war against Demetrius II Nicator. Both of them claim the empire for themselves around this period and both have uncomfortable ends which remove them permanently. Beroth is eventually rebuilt under Roman control to become a great city both for them and in the second millennium AD, when it becomes the bustling capital of the modern state of Lebanon.

 
Images and text copyright © all contributors mentioned on this page. An original king list page for the History Files.