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Byblos Persian Fortress

· Byblos

The archeological site of Byblos houses the remnants of a well-preserved Persian era fortress in Lebanon. 

While little is known about the fortress and its history, it is an exceptional monument that testifies to the importance of Byblos for the Persian defensive system in the eastern Mediterranean. 

Timeline 

The fortress was built and remodeled several times between the VII and the IV century BC.

Purpose 

The fortress was part of the four Phoenician vassal kingdoms (Byblos, Arward, Tyr and Saida) established by the Persians following their conquest of the coastal cities of Syria and Lebanon.    

In addition to control and exploit local resources, the fortress provided the Persians with military vessels to protect the shores, and to launch attacks against their rivals, mainly the Greeks. The builders of the ships – the Phoenicians of Byblos – were forced to make and master the ships in times of war.   

It is important to note that the Persian naval force was the first imperial force in antiquity, with a total number of approximately 1200 ships.  

Structure 

The fortress is located at the edge of the archeological site, outside the main center of attractions, which makes it invisible to most visitors who usually wander around without noticing the stronghold. 

Its current location was of an important role in antiquity as it controlled the land entrance of the city, as well as the sea entrance from the southern Phoenician port.  

Built by local sandstone, the fortress has a semi-rectangular plan, flanked by nine cubic shape foundations that may have been the watchtowers. The western side of the fortress holds a massive podium on top of which several cells can be noticed; the cells may have been the residency of the city’s governor, soldiers' rooms, storage spaces, etc. 

The defensive walls are built by massive boulders, and rise about 7meters height.  

The main attraction of the fortress is the lion's head, a bas-relief symbolizing strength. It is carved in the middle of the defensive wall, and oriented towards the sea entrance of the stronghold. The lion was used by the Persians as their main emblem since antiquity up until the year 1979 before the Islamic revolution, noting that the symbol is not specific to the Persians, but to many ancient civilizations.   

*Scroll down to enjoy the pictures and to locate the site on the map. 

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Karim Sokhn 

Tour Operator & Tour Guide 

References: 

Byblos brochure, Ministry of Tourism   

History of the Persian Empire, A.T. Olmstead  

Byblos hellénistique, Jean-Francois Salles,2003 

The sea entrance of the fortress (notice the lion bas-releif in the middle of the wall)

The defensive walls seen from the eastern side

Foundations of a watchtower 

Cells from the massive podium

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