Byblos Deli
3414 Connecticut Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20008
Mon.-Sat. 10 AM-10 PM; Sun. 11 AM-6 PM.
  • Home Made Mediterranean Cuisine
  • Dine in or carry-out
  • Catering available for all occasions

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Byblos (biblical Gebal, modern Jebeil) is the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world. According to Phoenician tradition Byblos was founded by the god El who surrounded his city with a wall. the massive Early Bronze Age city walls (2800 B.C.) on the site reflect this early religious belief. Thus Byblos was considered even by the ancient Phoenicians, to be a city of great antiquity.

Yet Byblos was inhabited even earlier. About 7000 years ago a small fishing community settled here. Several monocellular huts with crushed limestone floors can be seen today on the site. Here a stone idol was brought to light, the first god of Byblos. Man was now aware of a force that controlled him and his environment.

About 3500 B.C. new burial customs were introduced. The deceased were laid in flexed position in large pottery jars and were buried with their early possessions.

The large Chalcolithic necropolis of Byblos has yielded one thousand four hundred and fifty-one jar burials. In one burial only, presently in Beirut National Museum, a dog was found buried with his master.

At the beginning of the third millennium B.C. Byblos developed into the most important timber shipping center on the eastern Mediterranean coast.

One of the earliest attempts at city planning in world history was now conceived at Byblos. The city was surrounded by a massive wall, a narrow winding street led from the center, secondary lanes branched off taking irregular paths among the houses. In 2800 B.C. a large temple was built to Baalat Gebal, the "Lady of Byblos", the city goddess who was to preside over the destiny of the city over two millennia. Another temple was erected in 2700 B.C. to a male god. Called the "Temple en L", this large construction faces that of Baalat Gebal.

Several Centuries later Amorite nomadic tribes erupted from the desert and overran the coastal region. A great fire destroyed Byblos, fifty centimeters of ash layer covered the site. Once the Amorites settled, Byblos was rebuilt.

The inscription on the sarcophagus of King Ahiram of Byblos (in the period 1200-100 B.C.), presently in Beirut National Museum, is the earliest form of the Phoenician alphabet yet discovered. At Byblos in Ahiram's tomb shaft, a short Phoenician curse was inscribed on the wall warning tomb thieves to proceed no farther because grief awaits them. Writing had ceased to be a scribble monopoly.

The Phoenician alphabet traveled to Greece ca. 800 B.C. The Greek word for papyrus (bublos) and the Greek name for the Phoenician city are the same, indicating that papyrus came to Greece not direct from Egypt but through Phoenician intermediaries at Byblos. As papyrus was used as a writing material in the ancient world several sheets put together were called biblion, that is, "book". The word "Bible" is derived from the Greek ta b blia, which means "the books", or more specifically, a particular collection of books.

Through the first millennium B.C. Byblos continued to benefit from trade of Assyrian and Babylonian encroachments. Then came the Persians. A recently excavated fortress dated to this period shows that Byblos was a strategic part of the Persian defense system in the eastern Mediterranean. After conquest by Alexander the Great the city became the center of the worship of Adonis. During the Roman period large temples and civic buildings were built, a street bordered by a colonnade surrounded the city. There are remains of the Byzantine and Arab period. Byblos fell to the Crusaders in A.D. 1108. They came upon the large stones and granite columns of the Roman temples and public buildings and used them to build their castle and moat. With the departure of the Crusaders Byblos sank into obscurity and was soon buried by accumulated debris. Excavations over the past fifty years by Maurice Dunand have made Byblos one the unique archaeological sites in the world with a history that spans seven thousand years.

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