The borders of contemporary Lebanon are a product of the Treaty of Sèvres of 1920. Its territory was in the core of the Bronze Age Canaanite (Phoenician) city-states. As part of the Levant, it was part of numerous succeeding empires throughout ancient history, including the Egyptian, Assyrian, Babylonian, Achaemenid Persian, Hellenistic, Roman and Sasanian Persian empires.
After the 7th-century Muslim conquest of the Levant, it was part of the Rashidun, Umayyad, Abbasid Seljuk and Fatimid empires. The crusader state of the County of Tripoli, founded by Raymond IV of Toulouse in 1102, encompassed most of present-day Lebanon, falling to the Mamluk Sultanate in 1289 and finally to the Ottoman Empire in 1516. With the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, Greater Lebanon fell under French mandate in 1920, and gained independence under president Bechara El Khoury in 1943. Lebanon's history since independence has been marked by alternating periods of relative political stability and prosperity based on Beirut's position as a regional center for finance and trade, 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 Lebanon, 2011 Syrian Civil War spillover, and 2019–20 Lebanese protests).
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Map of Phoenicia and trade routes
Evidence dating back to an early settlement in Lebanon was found in Byblos, considered among the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. The evidence dates back to earlier than 5000 BC. Archaeologists discovered remnants of prehistoric huts with crushed limestone floors, primitive weapons, and burial jars left by the Neolithic and Chalcolithic fishing communities who lived on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea over 7,000 years ago.
Lebanon was part of northern Canaan, and consequently became the homeland of Canaanite descendants, the Phoenicians, a seafaring people who spread across the Mediterranean in the first millennium BC. The most prominent Phoenician cities were Byblos, Sidon and Tyre, while their most famous colonies were Carthage in present-day Tunisia and Cádiz in present-day Spain. The Phoenicians are credited with the invention of the oldest verified alphabet, which subsequently inspired the Greek alphabet and the Latin one thereafter. The cities of Phoenicia were incorporated into the Persian Achaemenid Empire by Cyrus the Great in 539 BCE. The Phoenician city-states were later incorporated into the empire of Alexander the Great following the siege of Tyre in 332 BC.
In 64 BC, the Roman general Pompey the Great had the region of Syria annexed into the Roman Republic. The region was then split into two Imperial Provinces under the Roman Empire, Coele Syria and Phoenice, the latter which the land of present-day Lebanon was a part of.
The Fall of Tripoli to the Egyptian Mamluks and destruction of the Crusader state, the County of Tripoli, 1289
The region that is now Lebanon, as with the rest of Syria and much of Anatolia, became a major center of Christianity in the Roman Empire during the early spread of the faith. During the late 4th and early 5th century, a hermit named Maron established a monastic tradition focused on the importance of monotheism and asceticism, near the Mediterranean mountain range known as Mount Lebanon. The monks who followed Maron spread his teachings among Lebanese in the region. These Christians came to be known as Maronites and moved into the mountains to avoid religious persecution by Roman authorities. During the frequent Roman–Persian Wars that lasted for many centuries, the Sassanid Persians occupied what is now Lebanon from 619 till 629.
During the 7th century, the Muslim Arabs conquered Syria establishing a new regime to replace the Byzantines. Though Islam and the Arabic language were officially dominant under this new regime, the general populace nonetheless only gradually converted from Christianity and the Syriac language. The Maronite community, in particular, managed to maintain a large degree of autonomy despite the succession of rulers over Lebanon and Syria.
The relative (but not complete) isolation of the Lebanese mountains meant the mountains served as a refuge in the times of religious and political crises in the Levant. As such, the mountains displayed religious diversity and the existence of several well-established sects and religions, notably, Maronites, Druze, Shiite Muslims, Ismailis, Alawites and Jacobites.
Byblos is believed to have been first occupied between 8800 and 7000 BC and continuously inhabited since 5000 BC, making it among the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
During the 11th century, the Druze religion emerged from a branch of Shia Islam.