vrijdag 14 maart 2014

Beiroet

 
BI’RU
 
The seventh name of a town in the list of the Assyrian king Esarhaddon (676 BC) about the kingdom of Sidon is Bi-‘-ru-u. Most of the researchers think it is modern Beirut. Just a few scholars think, that it is a place in the vicinity of Sidon, like Krahmalkov does in his Phoenician and Punic Dictionary (OLA 90, St.Phoen.XV, Leuven 2000, p.96).
However, despite the spelling Bi-‘-ru-u, which does not mark the final –t, this city must be identified with Beirut, the city of the “wells”, because Esarhaddon marches from the south to the north and Beirut is after Qartimme the following town: Bi‘ru.
Beirut existed already long before Esarhaddon. In the 3rd millennium BC the town was in the texts of Ebla mentioned as Ba’urtu and in the 14th century BC the town was also known as Biruta.
It is doubtful whether Beirut appears as B-i-r-t under Nos. 19 and 109 of the great topographical list of Tuthmosis III. Instead, the city is certainly attested in the epoch of the Amarna letters and of the Ugarit archives, both syllabic and alphabetic. We even have the name of a king or prince at that time: Ammunira. It is also mentioned at that time in Papyrus Anastasi I.20.8, which dates from the late Nineteenth Dynasty, i.e. from the end of the 13th century BC.
Roger Saidah explored from that time the so-called Kharji tombs in caves in the vicinity of what was the Byblos building in Beirut (Berytus XLI, AUB 1993/4: Beirut in the bronze Age).
 
Beirut was a Phoenician city in the first millennium BC, though it is not mentioned either in Phoenician inscriptions (except in a coin legend) or in the Old Testament. The context forbids its identification with Be’eroth (Josh.9.17), with Berothai (II Sam.8.8) and with Berothah (Ez.47.16).  The coin legend says lb’r[t] (Hill LIV) and lbyrt (Hill LIII).
 
We know the exact location and size of the walled city in the Bronze and Iron Ages. The city had the shape of an arc facing the sea and its total intramural area surmounted only two hectares, but it was protected by an impressive and well preserved defence system with walls 7 metres high.  
In the time of Esarhaddon Beirut was a small unimportant town, where there was water and food, but it had massive defensive walls. The city had obviously lost its former importance after several destructions between the 10th and the mid 8th century BC. Archaeologists even date a level of apparent abandonment to 750-700 BC, but an almost complete storehouse and a casemate wall could be dated to c. the mid-7th century BC.
We are not blessed with many findings out of this period, but there are two main exceptions. First: it was a major storehouse with many Phoenician storage jars and local red-slip as well as imported Cyprot and Attic amphorae. Second: there is an inscription on an ostracon (TDB 91001) at the excavation site BEY 003, nr 95.120 (Badr). It says: lšmn = for oil. The writing is in a cursive way, which we see also appear in Ires Dagi, Motya and Dona Blanca. Exactly in this 7th century BC this way of writing is becoming popular. See: Palaeographic observations on a Phoenician inscribed ostracon from Beirut, Ph.C.Schmitz (RSF XXX, 2. 2002).
 
In the Persian period (with growing Greek influence) the city was called: Laodike of Phoenicia. There was even a cemetery for dogs.
In the 4th century BC, Ps.Scylax mentions its harbour ‘open to the north’, thus indicating the site of the ancient city, which was not located on the Ras Bayrut, at the western extremity of the triangular promontory, but to the south of the modern harbour. The site was excavated in 1993-1996 and it was possible to establish the exact location and size of the walled city (240 by 120 metres) in the Bronze and the Iron Ages. In the area immediately adjacent to the north-west, a large quantity of murex shells and a basin complex were uncovered, offering possible evidence of local purple-dye production.
In the Hellenistic period a habitation area with well-preserved dwellings of pier-and-rubble construction laid out in an orthogonal plan was developed west of the old Tell. In this time the city got the name: Laodike, mother of Canaan / metropolis in Canaan on coins and seals.
The glass-industry is getting ever more exploited in Beirut and traders from Beirut go overseas to the Greek Delos.
In Roman times the cult of the sun becomes more important. There is an altar for Kronos-Helios.
 
Literature:
- Syria 1971. Antiquités Syriennes. H.Seyrig.
- Regards sur Beyrouth. R.Mouterde.
- La Mediterranée des Phéniciens. Institut du monde Arabe. 2007-2008.
- Archeology in the Beirut Central District. C.G.Cumberpatch, Berytus XLII 1995-96. AUB.
- Städtewesen 2009. Beirut and Tell al-Burak. H. Sadr.
- Berytos XLVIII-XLIX 2004-2005. Archaeology of the Beirout Souks.
 

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