The Treaty of Sèvres of 1920 established the current boundaries of Lebanon. The Bronze Age Phoenician (Canaanite) city-states were centered on its land. It was a part of numerous succeeding empires throughout ancient history, including the Egyptian, Assyrian, Babylonian, Achaemenid Persian, Hellenistic, Roman, and Sasanid Persian empires, as well as the Egyptian, Assyrian, Babylonian, Babylonian, Achaemenid Persian, Hellenistic, Roman, and Sasanid Persian empires.
It was part of the Rashidun, Umyayad, Abbasid Seljuk, and Fatimid empires after the Muslim conquest of the Levant in the 7th century. The crusader kingdom of the County of Tripoli, established by Raymond IV of Toulouse in 1102, included the majority of modern-day Lebanon until succumbing to the Mamluk Sultanate in 1289 and the Ottoman Empire in 1517. Greater Lebanon became a French mandate in 1920, after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, and achieved independence in 1943 under president Bechara El Khoury. Since independence, Lebanon’s history has been marked by alternating periods of political stability and prosperity based on Beirut’s role as a regional financial and trade center, interspersed with political turmoil and armed conflict (1948 Arab–Israeli War, Lebanese Civil War 1975–1990, 2005 Cedar Revolution, 2006 Lebanon War, 2007 Lebanon conflict, 2006–08 Lebanese protests, 2008 conflict in Leba).
Byblos, one of the world’s oldest continually inhabited towns, has been discovered with evidence of an early population in Lebanon. The earliest evidence goes back to before 5000 BC. The Neolithic and Chalcolithic fishing tribes that lived on the Mediterranean Sea’s coast over 7,000 years ago left behind remains of ancient houses with crushed limestone floors, rudimentary weaponry, and burial jars, according to archaeologists.
Lebanon was part of northern Canaan, and as a result, the Phoenicians, a maritime race who expanded throughout the Mediterranean before the emergence of Cyrus the Great, made their home there. Carthage in modern-day Tunisia and Cádiz in modern-day Spain were their most renowned colonies. Among other things, the Canaanite-Phoenicians are credited with inventing the alphabet. In 539 BCE, Cyrus conquered the region that is now Lebanon, as well as the rest of the Eastern Mediterranean. Some of its people were compelled to move to Carthage, which remained a strong country until the Second Punic War. Macedonian king Alexander the Great invaded and destroyed Tyre, the most important Phoenician city, after two centuries of Persian domination. In 332 BCE, he conquered what is today Lebanon and other Eastern Mediterranean areas.
Maronites, Druze, and the Crusades
During the early spread of Christianity, the area that is now Lebanon, along with the rest of Syria and most of Anatolia, became a significant hub of Christianity in the Roman Empire. A hermit called Maron founded a monastic institution near the Mediterranean mountain range known as Mount Lebanon in the late 4th and early 5th centuries, focusing on the significance of monotheism and austerity. Maron’s teachings were disseminated across the area by the monks who followed him. To escape religious persecution by Roman authority, these Christians were known as Maronites and relocated to the highlands. From 619 to 629, the Sassanid Persians controlled what is now Lebanon during the recurrent Roman-Persian Wars, which lasted several years.
The Muslim Arabs invaded Syria in the seventh century, creating a new government to replace the Byzantines. Despite the fact that Islam and the Arabic language were officially dominant under this new government, it took time for the ordinary population to transition from Christianity and Syriac. Despite the succession of rulers in Lebanon and Syria, the Maronites in particular were able to retain a high level of autonomy.
The Druze religion arose from a branch of Shia Islam in the 11th century. In the southern part of Mount Lebanon, the new faith attracted adherents. Druze feudal families controlled the northern part of Mount Lebanon until the early 14th century, when the Mamluk assault ended their reign. The Druze stayed in Southern Mount Lebanon until the contemporary period, while the Maronites steadily expanded their numbers in Northern Mount Lebanon. Under the Mamluks and the Ottoman Empire, Shia feudal families reigned in the south of Lebanon (Jabal Amel), Baalbek, and the Beqaa Valley. The Muslim Caliphs directly controlled major coastal towns like as Acre, Beirut, and others, and the inhabitants were more completely integrated into Arab culture.
In the 11th century, when the Muslim Turks conquered Roman Anatolia, the Byzantines appealed to the Pope in Rome for help. As a consequence, the Franks in Western Europe began a series of crusades to recover the former Byzantine Christian lands in the Eastern Mediterranean, particularly Syria and Palestine (the Levant). The Kingdom of Jerusalem and the County of Tripoli were briefly established as Roman Catholic Christian kingdoms along the coast as a result of the First Crusade. These crusader kingdoms left an indelible mark on the area, but their authority was limited, and the territory fell under complete Muslim domination two centuries after the Mamluks conquered it.
The interaction between the Franks (i.e. the French) and the Maronites was one of the most enduring consequences of the Crusades in this area. Unlike most other Christian groups in the Eastern Mediterranean, the Maronites pledged their allegiance to the Pope in Rome rather than Constantinople or other local patriarchs. As a result, the Franks regarded them as Roman Catholic brothers and sisters. Following these early connections, the Maronites received centuries of assistance from France and Italy, even after the Crusader kingdoms in the area fell.
Ottoman Lebanon and French Mandate
Lebanon was split into many provinces during this time, including Northern and Southern Mount Lebanon, Tripoli, Baalbek and Beqaa Valley, and Jabal Amel. Fakhr-al-Din II succeeded Korkmaz as the ruler of southern Mount Lebanon in 1590. He quickly established himself as the Druze’s preeminent ruler in the Shouf region of Mount Lebanon. Fakhr-al-Din II was eventually named Sanjakbey (Governor) of a number of Ottoman sub-provinces, with responsibilities for tax collection. He took control of a large portion of Mount Lebanon and its coastal region, even constructing a fort as far inland as Palmyra. The Ottoman Sultan Murad IV had had enough of his overreach and sent a punitive expedition to arrest him in 1633. He was transported to Istanbul, imprisoned for two years, and finally murdered in April 1635 with one of his sons. Until the end of the 17th century, surviving members of Fakhr al-dynasty Din’s controlled a smaller territory under tighter Ottoman authority.
Until 1830, different members of the Shihab tribe governed Mount Lebanon after the death of the last Maan emir. During intercommunal rioting in 1860, the Druzes murdered about 10,000 Christians. The Mount Lebanon Emirate, which lasted approximately 400 years, was eventually superseded by the Mount Lebanon Mutasarrifate as a consequence of the Règlement Organique, a European-Ottoman pact. The Baalbek and Beqaa Valleys, as well as Jabal Amel, were controlled by several Shia feudal families, the most powerful of which was the Al Ali Alsagheer in Jabal Amel, who reigned until 1865, when the Ottomans seized full control of the area. During this time, a Lebanese nationalist named Youssef Bey Karam played a key part in Lebanon’s independence.
Following WWI, the Mutasarrifate region, as well as certain neighboring Shia and Sunni territories, became part of the state of Greater Lebanon in 1920, under the French Mandate of Syria and Lebanon. During World War I, about 100,000 people in Beirut and Mount Lebanon perished of hunger. The Arab Kingdom of Syria claimed Lebanese land in the first half of 1920, but the Franco-Syrian War soon followed, resulting in Arab defeat and Hashemites surrender.
After the Moutasarrifiya government withdrew many territories belonging to the Principality of Lebanon and handed them to Syria, France recreated Greater Lebanon on September 1, 1920. Lebanon was mostly a Christian nation (mostly Maronite territory with minor Greek Orthodox pockets), but it also had Muslim and Druze populations. France established the Lebanese Republic on September 1, 1926. On May 25, 1926, a constitution was approved, creating a democratic republic with a parliamentary administration.
Independence from France
While France was conquered by Germany, Lebanon acquired some freedom. The Vichy High Commissioner for Syria and Lebanon, General Henri Dentz, was instrumental in the country’s independence. In 1941, the Vichy government authorized Germany to transport planes and supplies to Iraq, where they were deployed against British troops. Fearing that Nazi Germany might seize complete control of Lebanon and Syria by putting pressure on the weak Vichy administration, the United Kingdom deployed its troops into Syria and Lebanon.
General Charles de Gaulle paid a visit to Lebanon after the war finished. De Gaulle acknowledged Lebanon’s independence under political pressure from both within and outside Lebanon. General Georges Catroux declared Lebanon independent on November 26, 1941, with the authorization of the Free French administration. In 1943, elections were conducted, and the mandate was unilaterally dissolved by the new Lebanese government on November 8, 1943. The new administration was imprisoned as a result of the French reaction. On November 22, 1943, the French freed the government officials in the face of international pressure. Until the conclusion of World War II, the area was occupied by the Allies.
Without any official action on the side of the League of Nations or its successor, the United Nations, the French mandate may be regarded to have been ended after the conclusion of World War II in Europe. The mandate came to an end when the obligatory power, as well as the new nations, declared their independence, which was followed by a process of gradual unconditional recognition by other countries, culminating in official admission to the UN. “The trusteeship system shall not apply to territories which have become Members of the United Nations, relationships among which must be founded on respect for the principle of sovereign equality,” according to Article 78 of the UN Charter. As both Syria and Lebanon were founding member nations of the UN, the French mandate for both was legally ended on that day, after adoption of the United Nations Charter by the five permanent members. In December 1946, the remaining French soldiers left.
The unwritten National Pact of 1943 stipulated that Lebanon’s president be a Maronite Christian, the speaker of parliament be a Shiite Muslim, the prime minister be a Sunni Muslim, and the Deputy Speaker of Parliament and Deputy Prime Minister be Greek Orthodox.
Since independence, Lebanon’s history has been characterized by alternating periods of political stability and upheaval, interspersed with periods of prosperity based on Beirut’s role as a regional financial and commercial hub.
Lebanon sided with neighboring Arab nations in a war against Israel in May 1948. While some irregular forces crossed the border and engaged Israel in small skirmishes, they did so without the backing of the Lebanese government, and Lebanese soldiers did not invade formally. Lebanon promised to provide cover artillery fire, armored vehicles, volunteers, and logistical assistance to the troops. The Lebanese army, commanded by then-Minister of National Defense Emir Majid Arslan, conquered Al-Malkiyya on the 5th and 6th of June 1948. Lebanon’s sole victory in the conflict was this.
Because of the conflict, 100,000 Palestinians have migrated to Lebanon. After the cease-fire, Israel refused to let them return. More over 400,000 refugees remain in Lebanon today, with approximately half of them living in camps.
In 1958, during President Camille Chamoun’s last months in office, an insurgency erupted, led by Lebanese Muslims who wanted Lebanon to join the United Arab Republic. On 15 July, Chamoun sought help, and 5,000 US Marines were temporarily deployed to Beirut. Following the crisis, a new administration was established, headed by Fuad Chehab, a popular former commander.
Following the PLO’s loss in Jordan, many Palestinian militants moved to Lebanon, where they intensified their violent assault against Israel. Increased sectarian tensions between Palestinians and Maronites and other Lebanese groups resulted from the transfer of Palestinian bases.
Civil war and Syrian occupation
In 1975, a full-scale civil war broke out in Lebanon as a result of rising sectarian tensions. The Lebanese Civil War pitted Christian militias against the PLO, left-wing Druze, and Muslim militias. In June 1976, Lebanese President Elias Sarkis requested that the Syrian Army intervene on behalf of Christians and assist in the restoration of calm. The Arab League decided in October 1976 to create a mainly Syrian Arab Deterrent Force tasked with restoring peace.
In 1982, PLO assaults on Israel from Lebanon prompted an Israeli invasion. Following the Israeli siege of Beirut, a multinational force of American, French, and Italian troops (joined in 1983 by a British contingent) was sent to oversee the PLO’s departure. After the murder of Bashir Gemayel and ensuing combat, it returned in September 1982, carrying out a series of atrocities in Damour, Sabra, and Shatila, as well as in numerous refugee camps. Following a catastrophic bombing assault the previous year, the multinational army was evacuated in the spring of 1984.
Due to disagreements amongst Christians, Muslims, and Syrians, the Parliament failed to nominate a successor to President Gemayel in September 1988. The Arab League Summit in May 1989 resulted in the establishment of a Saudi-Moroccan-Algerian crisis committee. The group produced a peace proposal on September 16, 1989, which was unanimously approved. A cease-fire was declared, and ports and airports were reopened, allowing evacuees to return home.
The Taif Agreement, which contained an outline timeline for Syrian departure from Lebanon and a formula for the de-confessionalization of the Lebanese political system, was approved by the Lebanese Parliament in the same month. After sixteen years, the conflict came to a conclusion at the end of 1990, with a huge loss of human life and property, as well as a severe economic impact on the nation. A total of 150,000 people are believed to have died, with another 200,000 injured. The conflict displaced almost a million people, and some never returned. Lebanon was left in ruins in several areas. The Taif Accord has yet to be fully implemented, and Lebanon’s political system remains split along sectarian lines.
Syrian withdrawal and aftermath
In the early 2000s, Lebanon’s internal political situation shifted dramatically. The Syrian military presence encountered criticism and opposition from the Lebanese people after Israel’s departure from southern Lebanon and the death of Hafez Al-Assad in 2000.
Former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was murdered in a vehicle bombing on February 14, 2005. The March 14 Alliance leaders blamed Syria for the assault, but the March 8 Alliance and Syrian authorities said the murder was carried out by the Mossad. The murder of Rafik Hariri was the first in a sequence of assassinations that claimed the lives of a number of important Lebanese leaders.
The murder sparked the Cedar Revolution, a series of protests calling for the departure of Syrian forces from Lebanon and the formation of an international commission to investigate the killing. Syria started retreating under Western pressure, and on April 26, 2005, all Syrian troops had returned to Syria.
The UN Security Council Resolution 1595 demanded that the assassination be investigated. The early conclusions of the UN International Independent Investigation Commission were released in the Mehlis report on October 20, 2005, citing evidence that the murder was orchestrated by Syrian and Lebanese security agencies.
Hezbollah conducted a series of missile strikes and incursions into Israeli territory on July 12, 2006, killing three Israeli troops and capturing two more. The 2006 Lebanon War erupted as a consequence of Israel’s airstrikes and artillery bombardment on targets in Lebanon, as well as a ground invasion of southern Lebanon. The war was formally concluded on August 14, 2006, when the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 1701, which called for a ceasefire. The war claimed the lives of 1,191 Lebanese and 160 Israelis. Israeli airstrikes wreaked havoc on Beirut’s southern suburbs.
In 2007, the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp became the focal point of a confrontation between the Lebanese Army and Fatah al-Islam in Lebanon. The fight claimed the lives of 169 troops, 287 militants, and 47 civilians. Funds for the area’s restoration have taken a long time to arrive.
Between 2006 and 2008, a series of demonstrations organized by opponents of pro-Western Prime Minister Fouad Siniora sought the formation of a national unity government with veto power for the largely Shia opposition parties. When Émile Lahoud’s tenure as president expired in October 2007, the opposition refused to vote for a replacement until a power-sharing agreement was achieved, leaving Lebanon without a president.
Hezbollah and Amal troops captured western Beirut on May 9, 2008, in response to a government announcement that Hezbollah’s communications network was illegal, sparking the 2008 Lebanon war. The violence was described by the Lebanese government as a coup attempt. In the ensuing battles between pro-government and opposition militias, at least 62 people were killed. The signing of the Doha Agreement on May 21, 2008, put a stop to the war. Michel Suleiman was elected president and a national unity government was formed, with the opposition granted a veto, as part of the agreement, which ended 18 months of political stagnation. The deal was a win for the opposition, since the administration agreed to all of their major requests.
The national unity government fell in early January 2011 as a result of rising tensions over the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, which was anticipated to prosecute Hezbollah members for the murder of Rafic Hariri. Najib Mikati, the candidate for the Hezbollah-led March 8 Alliance, was chosen Prime Minister of Lebanon by parliament, and is now in charge of establishing a new administration. Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Hezbollah, claims that Israel was behind Hariri’s murder. According to a report published in November 2010 by the Al-Akhbar daily, Hezbollah has prepared preparations for a takeover of the nation if its members are indicted by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.
The Syrian civil war threatened to spill over into Lebanon in 2012, resulting in increased sectarian bloodshed and armed confrontations in Tripoli between Sunnis and Alawites. More than 677,702 Syrian refugees are in Lebanon as of August 6, 2013. The Lebanese Forces Party, the Kataeb Party, and the Free Patriotic Movement worry that the country’s sectarian-based political system would be weakened as the number of Syrian refugees rises.