Jabal ‘Amelat By Dr. Youssef el-Hourani
Wherever we go in South Lebanon, we find ourselves surrounded by traces and footprints of ancient civilizations. If we are interested in studying history through language, with whoever we talk of the inhabitants of that area, we find still alive something to remind us of those who once lived there. Man’s story in Jabal ‘Amelat in South Lebanon, began long before History. The natural shelters, like those picturesque caves in the “Zahrani” river valley, testify to man’s existence by means of his implements and primitive elaborations, notwithstanding the fact that archeologists have not yet reached all the historically important sites there.
The mountains, hills, valleys, meadows, slopes, springs, fountains, rivers, natural shelters, and everything in that neighborhood, were attractive to a man looking for a land fit to be his home, and afford him protection, not only against foes, but also against the hardiness of nature found in other lands. Here everything and every event is moderate, and invites man to start a social life by building hamlets, villages and sanctuaries which he could bequeath to his successors.
That the nature of the land supported a social life in a continuous manner since thousands of years, is witnessed by the continuous use of very ancient names for the ruins and localities, small valleys and petty springs…
Convinced as we are of the existence of a very early and sustained social life in Southern Lebanon, we were able to appreciate the importance of eponyms designating villages or localities as clues for the study of the civilizations and cultures of the area.
When we use names that we consider well-known eponyms, we do not bother, as some scholars do, to give linguistic explanations. That is because our aim is not to investigate every name found on the map, but to choose only the names that are unequivocal and supported by evidences from historical texts, traditions or other data; such as the presence elsewhere in the area of names belonging to the same culture. Therefore, we refer to many cultures by means of the names of localities they once occupied.
The first key name we came across is Kura, an obscure divinity who frequently turned up before Giovanni Pettinato in the pantheon of Ebla, the ancient Canaanite city in Syria. Pettinato said of him: “… an important but still unidentified god.” He then added, “There is frequent mention of offerings for the god Kura and for the god Mul (Jupiter)”. This god, ambiguous in Ebla, has an important ancient settlement to his name in the vicinity of Rmeish, a village in Southern Lebanon, in Jabal ‘Amelat. It seems that his ambiguity arises from the impossibility of determining whether he was a Canaanite or a Hurrite, since Ebla had a dual Canaanite and Hurrite society.
The existence of the god Kura in this location, near Rmeish, does not essentially assert his identity. However, it supports the theory that Hurrites have lived in this area and encourages us to consider him a celestial god or a star, like his companion Mul in Ebla. That’s because we find, within a radius of less than five kilometers around the Kura mound, the name of Hurrite celestial gods still in use: the village of Kosah, the ruins of Samoughi, ‘Aita el-Sho’b, ‘Alma el-Sho’b. The names of these three Hurrite gods appeared together in a treaty in Acadian language, between kings Suppililiuma and Kurtiwaza. The text invokes the hurrian gods, Teshub, the lord of heaven and earth, Kusuh and Simigi, meaning the storm god, the moon god and the sun god. To this group of famous hurrian gods, we should add, in this same restricted area, more precisely to the East of Yaroun, the god Adama.
Adama, as a hurrite god, is mentioned in the pantheon of Ebla, and his feast occurs in the ninth month. The site bearing his name is an important ancient mentioned in the Book of Joshua (19:35, 36). Its present name is ‘Ain Dama, and it dominates the main or el-Sultani road (King’s way), which was the road followed by the chariots of Egyptian monarchs to reach Syria.
It is worth mentioning in this respect that the Bible does not mention anywhere the presence of Hurrians in this region during the latter part of the second millennium B.C., despite the fact that they had more than one center in Southern Lebanon.
We recognize the name of the great hurrian god Teshub in the name of Kfar Shuba, a village at the slope of Mount Hermon; and that of the great hurrian goddess Hebbat in the name of Habboush, in the vicinity of Nabatiyeh. The existence of an antique settlement named Sharma to the north of Habboush confirms this hypothesis since Sharma is, according to the hurrian pantheon of North Syria, the son of the goddess Hebbat. However, there is no mention of this god in the pantheon of Ebla along with Hebbat and her spouse Teshub.
The Egyptian records of Amenhotep II (c. 1447-1421 B.C.) which bear a list of the plunders of the land of Retnu, testify to the dense presence of the Hurrians in this area; for we read: from the ‘Apiru: 3600; from the living Shasu: 15200; from the Kharu (Hurrites): 36300; from the Neges: 15070. Thereupon, we find that the records of Seti I (1318-1301 B.C.) refer to South Lebanon as the “range of the Kharu mountains”, specifying that the Shasu (Bedouins) were plotting a rebellion, and that their tribal chiefs had gathered in one place.
The Hurrians seem to have occupied an area in South Lebanon, where the names of the Canaanite gods dominate the ancient mounds, mountains and settlements.
From the beginning of history, this area seems to be in close relation with Egypt, as is attested by the correspondence of well-known proper names with villages and shrines worshipped here. Most famous of these names, is that of the god Sheth, who is a very ancient god, detested throughout a great part of Egypt’s history. We find in this area a group of villages and shrines named after him: Jeb-Sheth, Had-Sheth, Bar’a-Sheth, and Nabi-Sheth. This god is called nabi, which means prophet. According to the Bible (Gen 4:25), he is Adam’s third son, and the Moabites who lived in Transjordan, are reputed to be his descendants (Num 24:17).
In an execration text dating from the Middle Kingdom period (18th – 19th century B.C.), three of the rulers of these villages, referred to as Shutu, were rebellious and cursed magically by the King. They are Ayyabum, Kusher and Zabulanu (Ayoub, Kawthar, Dheblan). It seems that the village name Kawthariet is associated with the second of these names.
We also find, in the same text, mention of the rulers of two cities associated with the god Selm. They are Yakar-‘Ammu and Sej-‘Anu (Sej’aan). Let us stress that this text was written prior to the meeting of Abraham and Melchizedeq where the name Ur-Shalem first appeared. In the vicinity of the Sheth villages, we find two villages whose names are composed with Selm: Khirbet-Selm (ruin of Selm) and Majdel-Selm (fortress of Selm). Personally, we believe that these two sites were those which rebelled against the Pharaohs. Moreover, there is another village, not far away, having a sanctuary associated with this god: ‘Arab-Salim. Since the name of the sanctuary is Nabi-Salim, we may conclude that the original first part of name of the city was Rab and not ‘Arab. Our hypothesis is corroborated by the presence, nearby of a locality whose name is composed with Rabbat (the feminine of Rab): Rabbat Lateen (goddess of the Litani). Let us remind, in this connection that, at a given epoch, the gods were called rab (lord) instead of EL (god).
The same Egyptian execration text mentions two cities by the name Yarimuta, which correspond to the enigmatic, rich and well-organized city, which is mentioned in the letters of Tall ‘Amarna. Personally, we are inclined to identify them with two localities in the neighborhood of Saida: ‘Aramtha, on the hills East of Saida, and the second is the city further South, near the Zahrani river, which Strabo called Ornitho (16:2, 24). The ruins, vestiges and water reservoirs found on this site, encourage us to identify it with the famous and rich Yarimuta of the second millennium B.C., especially since, with the exception of Strabo’s note, in the first century A.D., the site is not mentioned anywhere. It is described today as Tell Brak (the hill of water reservoirs).
We noticed in the same area that an ensemble of Canaanite names of gods and goddesses are given to villages and localities. Sometimes, they are mentioned in groups in Egyptian texts of the second millennium B.C. The presences among them of obscure names prompt us to identify them as Canaanite, and clear up the origin of these names in the area. Here is an example:
A woman from Memphis wrote a supplication to several gods, saying: “… To the ennead who are in the house of Ptah, to B’alat, to Qadesh, to Meni(?), Baali-Zaphon, to Sopdu.” All these gods of the Ennead appear to be purely Canaanite, beginning with their chief, the god Ptah, one of the Phoenician “Cabirim”. Herodotus, the Greek historian, described the Ennead of Memphis in the 5th century B.C. during the occupation of the Persian Cambyses, saying: “… He entered the temple of Hephaestus and jeered at the god’s statue. This statue closely resembles the Pataeki, which the Phoenicians place on the prows of their warships… The Cabiri resemble the statue of Hephaestus and are supposed to be his sons.” The historian here gives Ptah the Greek name Hephaestus, but mentions also his Phoenician name, Patacki, which is the god’s original name under which he is worshiped by the Canaanites and the inhabitants of Memphis.
Baalat and Qadesh are two goddesses. The first, Baalat, denotes the spouse goddess and is recognizable in the name of the village Blat. The second, Qadesh, is the name of a village and a sanctuary East of ‘Atheroon Meni (the reading is uncertain), remains unidentified. Baali-Zaphon is easily recognized in the name of the mountain and Nabi-Safi.
The god Sopdu offers a problem because we have in the area a village called Safed El-Battikh, and there is a city in Galilee called Safed El-‘Ali for discrimination. The distance separating the two villages is about 35 kilometers. A question arises: does the name of the first village refer to the god Sopdu-Ptakhi, in which case Sopdu belongs to the Ptah Ennead? If so, we should not neglect Herodotus’s remark that Sopdu and Ptah are a father and son. Furthermore, this hypothesis will help us to identify the name of Ptah with the village of Beit Yahoon, considering that the original name may have been Ptah-oon. Close to these two villages, there is a village called ‘Aita El-Zet. The word ‘Aita means home or place or residence, and we are inclined to consider that the word Zet is a form of Zed, a tree, symbol of Ptah, which alludes to the resurrection of the god, and is commemorated in an annual festive ceremony. Consequently, we are inclined to believe that the locality may have been an ancient sanctuary where this ceremony was held.
Before leaving Ptah-oon, we would like to point out that the suffix “oon”, in this name as well as all the names ending with this suffix, e.g. Yaroon, ‘Atheroon, Maroon, Shal’aboon…, are Semitic and means shelter, building lodging. Let us add that this word occurred in the same vocal form in the Egyptian hieroglyphs in the form of a “column with a tenon on top”.
There is another comment we wish to make about Ba’ali-Zaphon. Budge reported a goddess called Baalat Zaphon in connection with the name Bairtha. Not far from the sanctuary of Nabi Safi, east of Sidon, there is a village called Bairtha.
On a stele, which is now in Vienna, we see the goddess Qadesh standing on the back of a lion and flanked by the gods Min and Reshef. The goddess is naked and the gods carry Egyptian emblems. Moreover, and on the same stele, but lower down, the goddess ‘Anat is represented in a long dress and wearing the Egyptian white crown adorned with the plumes of Maat (Justice). She holds in her right hand a lance and shield; and brandishes a club or axe in her upraised left hand.
The goddess Quadesh is an important character in Canaanite history. Her name was given to their famous capital, Quadesh on the Orontes, as well as on an important promontory, which they occupied on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean during the last century of the second millennium B.C. Quadesh is also a village with a sanctuary having peculiar traditions in the vicinity of ‘Atheroon. As the traditions forbid the man of entering the sanctuary facing the naked goddess, they enter treading backwards.
Min, so far, is unidentified, whereas Reshef is a famous god and has a village in his name. Besides this village, there is a formidable valley, at present called Wadi el-‘Eyoon. We are inclined to believe that the scribe of Ramses V (12th century B.C.) was referring to this valley when he wrote: “The valley of Reshef in the land of Khato.”
‘Anat is the principal goddess in the ugaritic texts. The Pharaoh Seti 1st (1318-1301 B.C.) called one of his cavalry brigades ‘Anat is satisfied. Furthermore, in one of the inscriptions of Ramses III (12th century B.C.), we read: Montu and Seth are with him in every fray, ‘Anat and Astarte are a shield to him.
In the place of ‘Anatha, there once was a village by the name of Beit ‘Anat that was mentioned by Ramses II (1301-1234 B.C.), as well by Joshua (19:38). Today, in Bent-Jbail, there is a square called the Square of the Prophetess, in which there was a shrine that received offerings from the inhabitants until it was destroyed fifty years ago.
We read in the text “Jabal Beit-‘Anat”, when Ramses II mentioned it as Karbo (Karhaboon), in the vicinity. Therefore, we suppose the name Bent-Jbail is a title of the famous goddess who owns the shrine in it.
For the lack of Canaanite texts, we are bound to use Egyptian texts extensively. While studying these texts, we realized that the Canaanite gods were not strangers in Egypt, particularly throughout the royal texts of the second millennium B.C.
Indeed, the sanctuaries of these gods were very popular and worshipped by the Pharaohs themselves. This means that the exiguous land of South Lebanon where these sanctuaries existed was valuable and deserved the care of the Pharaohs. It seems to us that this is the reason, which led Ramses II (1301-1234 B.C.) to build a town in the name of the god Amon. Its ruins, in the vicinity of Ya’ther, still bear the name given by the Pharaoh, Meryameen (Meri-Amon). The text itself situates the locality: “… His infantry went on the narrow passes as if on the highways of Egypt. Many days after this, His Majesty arrived to Ramses Meri-Amon, the town which is in the valley of the cedar. His Majesty then proceeded northward until he reached the mountains range of Quadesh…”(15).
Geographically, this means that the King crosses, with his infantry, the narrow pass of el-Naqoura, then he went up through the Wadi el-Oyoun valley, to Meryameen. He then marched through South Lebanon and reached the Beqaa valley where the Kadesh mountains range begins.
The valley was wrongly referred to as the Valley of the Cedars. However, this mistake occurred also in the Myth of the Two Brothers, Anubis and Bata, in which the self-exiled Bata settled down and married. Fortunately, the name of the mound and the detailed description of the course followed by the Army solve the difficulty of the name of the valley, and lead to conclude that it was the above-mentioned Valley of Reshef.
The historian Renan noticed with astonishment a very beautiful swimming pool with a stone-ladder among the ruins of the royal city of Meryameen. He made a detailed description of this when he visited the site in the middle of the 19th century.
Ramses III (1195-1164 B.C.) erected a temple to his god Amon “in the land of Djahi, like the horizon which is in the sky… The foreigners of Retenu came to it, bearing their tributes, in consideration of his divinity.”.
On the other hand, Ramses III built what the text describes as the “Marvelous House” to be a political center, which will receive the taxes of the foreigners. The text leads us to believe that it is on a hill with a good view and accessible to chariots. Such locations are abundant in South Lebanon, the land of ancient gods. We suppose the site is the locality of the village Arzoon, for an epithet of Amoon is arzoon when he deals with justice.
The Osirian group
So far, we have dealt with the eponyms of localities that unquestionably belong to Canaanite or Hurrite characteristics and traditions. Now, we shall turn to gods reputed to be Egyptian in cults and traditions. The most important of these gods is Osiris. His cult, as a popular god, was identical to that of the Canaanite Ba’al and the Babylonian Tammuz.
He appears in the Babylonian Epopee of Creation under the name Asaru, as an agrarian divinity, having the same attributes as in the Egyptian and Greek patrimonies. This Azaru (Osire) has many localities in his name in the land of Canaan. Most famous of these is Hazor, an ancient city close to the border of South Lebanon. Similarly, there is an ancient locality in the vicinity of the village of Deble called ‘Ain Hazor, and, a village East of Saida called ‘Azoor, with a sanctuary to Nabi ‘Azoor (the prophet ‘Azoor). All these are evidences to the dignity and the importance of the name.
The consort of ‘Azoor is his sister Isis. If we drop the Greek suffix from this name, we obtain Isi, the name of continental Tyre, and the name of Izzi, a village west of Nabatiyeh. The name Izzi is also found in the vicinity of Tyre in the form of Izziyet-Ma’araka and may mean only the sanctuary of the goddess Isis, who may be the same as the Arab pre-Islamic goddess El-Uzza.
The second female divinity in the Osiris group is Nepti (after eliminating the Greek “s”). This goddess is the consort of the famous god Sheth, whose rich and important vestiges, we have already met. She had the right to hold in her hand the awas, symbol of Sheth, despite the fact that she sided with his victim, Osiris. Her name is recognizable in Nabetiyeh, the center of the cluster of cities named after Sheth.
Renan, the eminent French historian, noticed a statue representing this goddess in Um Al-‘Awameed, as he studied the site in the 19th century.
So far, the town Nabatiyeh was related to the Nabateans who lived in the Transjordan. Nevertheless, we believe that the Nabateans themselves are related to Nepti and to Sheth, since Nepti is not only used as the goddess’s name, it’s also used as an epithet coupled with Sheth, as in the name of a Pharaoh ‘A-Pehti-Sheth-Nepti. We also should remember that the Moabites who lived in Transjordan were referred to, in the Bible, as the “children of Sheth” (Num 24:17).
The myth of Osiris is closely associated with the Lebanese shores, with Byblos in particular. However, the toponymy of Lebanon encourages us to look for South Lebanon as the cradle of the Canaanite myths and divinities.
Before ending this toponymic study, it is necessary to consider the text of Sanchoni Aton, the Canaanite historian of the (8th century B.C.?), translated by Philo of Byblos and quoted by Eusebius of Caesarea.
Sanchoni Aton identified Sheth with Dagon, a well-known Semitic god. We tend to adopt his point of view, because of the total absence of the name Dagon in South Lebanon, despite the preponderant position it holds in the texts of Ugarit and Ebla. He also referred to Osiris as the brother of Chna’, who changed his name to Phoenix.
Sanchoni Aton also called the first mortal man Aeon. This name is found in Marj-aeon (the plain of Aeon) and in Majdel-aeon (the citadel of Aeon). The first name appears in (1Kings 15:20) and (2Kings 15:29). This Aeon was highly revered by the Canaanite, so that Hosea (4:15) warns the Hebrews “not to go up to Bet-Aven, nor swear the Lord Liveth”. Furthermore, the original name of Heliopolis, in Egypt, is Ioun, as in the name of the Lebanese cities, although in the Bible it’s called Oon (Gen 41:45).
Sanchoni Aton also designated Sydek as the father of the seven Cabires, with Asklepius as their eighth brother. Sydek has a city and a sanctuary in his name near the city of Tebneen. His sanctuary is still visited and receives vows and donations.
He also mentions the goddess Hora who was sent by Ouranos to confront Cronos. We find her name in Wadi Hora, near Kfer Kella. Hora is eulogistically mentioned in the Iliad, and given a Semitic physical description: “The ox-eyed lady Hera” (1:551).
Also mentioned two daughters of Cronos: Proserpine (Persephone) and Athena. The first died virgin. There is disagreement among the classical authors concerning both the name and the character of this goddess. Her name may be found in Srobbeen, and her sister’s, under the form of Ba’alat, in Blat, two villages in the vicinity of Tyre.
The eighth son of Sydek, Asklepius, also known as Eshmoun (meaning Eighth). He is the god of medicine and has a considerable sanctuary in his name North of Sidon in the vicinity of the River Awali.
The Cadmean Group
Let us now turn to the semi-mythical Cadmean group which is well-known in Greek mythology, and to the names of sanctuaries and cities having an Arabic resonance, in particular those which bear the title Nabi, as Al-Khodher, Al-Jaleel, Edrees, Munther and others.
In this respect, we need first to understand what Strabo said about the Arabs in that area. He wrote concerning the ancient inhabitants of Euboea: “…And in ancient times, some Arabians who had crossed over with Cadmus lived there.”
We infer that the Arabs were known on the shores of the Mediterranean by this name during the second millennium B.C. This passage from Strabo could not be of his imagination nor a mistake, since he criticizes elsewhere in the book such mistakes and forgeries; and attributes to Zeno, the stoic philosopher the correction of Homer’s Erembians to Arabians (Od. 4:84), although he adds that the Syrian Poseidonius used the name Arambians.
In line with this view, we may consider that the Shasu tribes who were plotting against Seti I (1318-1301 B.C.) on the Kharu mountains (in South Lebanon), were Arabs, the tribes of Shath.
However, let us continue our search for cadmean names. The story says that Agenor came from Egypt to the land of Canaan where he married Telephassa and begot from her Cadmus and his brothers. We find her name in Telloossa, a village near Marj-aeon. She was also known by the name Argioba, which we recognize in the name of the ‘Argoob area at the foot of Mount Hermon. This name belongs to the second millennium B.C. and is sited in the Bible (Deut 3:4; 13:14).
Cadmus has a daughter called Semele, and we recognize her in the ancient site of Shmailah near Nabatiyeh. Cadmus also had two cousins from his uncle Belus: Cepheus and Phineus. We recognize Cepheus’s name in Deir Keifa, and the name of his wife, Cassioba in Kussaibi. As for the location of the place where Cepheus’s daughter Andromeda was offered to the sea monster, most scholars place it near Jaffa, Cepheus’s kingdom, but Frazer locates it on South Lebanon shore, and the rock to which the girl was tied, is a promontory near Tyre. We have great respect for the opinion of Sir James Frazer in such matters, and consider that the proximity of the site to Deir Kifa adds credence to his hypothesis.
Let us not forget Phoroneus, Agenor’s great grandfather, who was credited with being “the first man to gather people to form a community… Argos, the son of Phoroneus’s daughter reigned after him and gave his name to the region”. We find his name in Froon. There is also another cadmean personality, Theras, who gave his name to the island of Thera; this, according to Harodotus, happened eight generations after Cadmus (4:149). We also find his name Toura and Teeri, two villages in South Lebanon.
The Canaanites who settled in Argolis, called themselves Sons of Abas. There is a mountain named after this patriarch: Mount Abas in the island of Gadira, on the shore of the Atlantic Ocean. This region was inhabited by Canaanites as from early second millennium B.C. Pausanias reported that: “The people Abai came to Phokis from Argos and named their city after its founder Abas, son of Lynkeus and Hypermnestra, Danaos’s daughter”. Abas’s name is alive in the city of Abbassieh. Although, Abas sounds purely Arabic, it may be a key to explain the relation of the Arabs with Cadmus, as reported by Strabo (10:1, 8).
Moreover, we cannot disregard noticing the similarity of the names of the Lebanese city of Taybeh with Thebes, Cadmus’s Greek capital; nor of the Greek Euboea and the Lebanese valley ‘Ouba, where there is a famous rock, which serves as an example in the region of ‘Atheroon and Kaphereus. Kapher is a Semitic word means village, whereas Kaphereus, according to Strabo, is a caps in Euboea (8:6, 2).
At this stage, we need to point out to two ancient sanctuaries in South Lebanon, which denote Arab influence in South Lebanon: Idrees near El-Ghazieh and El-Khoder in Yaroon. Idrees, is the Arabic name of Thot, Hermes, Mercury and Enoch. El-Khodr is the Arabic name of Adonis, it means greenness, which is specially associated with Adonis-Tammuz.
At any rate, every sanctuary in South Lebanon, regardless of its name, has its specific traditions and religious standing. For example, men enter backwards to the continuing sanctuary of Kadesh, with regard to her nudity.
The First Millennium B.C.
South Lebanon was prosperous and densely populated with Semites at the beginning of the first millennium B.C., under the hegemony of Tyre and its king Hiram. His kingdom was a refuge for all those who fled from the wars in the region. The registers of Shalamanasser III (858-828 B.C.) reported, regarding his wars with the Arameans in South Lebanon: “I marched as far as the mountains of Ba’li-Rassi, which is a promontory and erected there a stele with my image as King. At the same time, I received the tribute of Tyre, Sidon and Sehu (?), son of Amri.”
We have two promontories (Ras) in South Lebanon: Ras el-Naqoura and Maroon El-Ras. The word Mar means Lord, or Ba’al, and the suffix oon means shelter or residence, as we have seen earlier. Hence, Maroon el-Ras may well be the Ba’li Rasi in the stele. Therefore, we are inclined to believe that it is this promontory that the King reached, especially since his Army was coming from the East with Chariots, and could not attain Ras el-Naqoura, which is protected by thick forests and narrow passes.
There is no trace of the Arameans in the toponymy of the area, because they came to a land already densely populated and not as enemies, but rather as members of the same family. Consequently, there are no sanctuaries in the South dedicated to the Aramean Ba’al Hadad, as we find in Beirut, Baalbek and El-Jebbi in North Lebanon, where these sanctuaries of Hadad have become villages carrying, at once, his name and the name of the locality, which it served. Hadad-Beirut, Hadad-Ba’albek and Hadad el-Jebbi.
Nevertheless, there are names in the area that cannot be explained except with reference to the Arameans. The first of these is Majdel-Zoon, and we propose to identify Zoon with the wrecking bird Zu, which fought against Ba’al, and was prominent in the yearly Assyrian and Aramean festivities in Northern Syria celebrating that fight. It could also be the missing link between the Zu of Mesopotamia and the Zeus of Greece. We note that both are associated with the sky and the clouds…
The second is Abu el-Rekab, in the vicinity of ‘Aramtha, East of Sidon. This sanctuary is still revered in the area. We believe that its original name was Bar Rakab, the name of a famous Sham’al King of North Syria, at the foot of the Amanus Mountains. Moreover, that King erected a stele in which he mentioned Rakab El as the specific god of his family.
It is worthwhile to note that the Sham’al language, as well as the names of the deities and men, closely resembles those of South Lebanon. For example, the gods are: El, Ba’al Shamem, Ba’al, Reshef, Ba’al Samad, Ba’al Hamman, and the names of the monarchs are: Hayya(n), Gabbar.
We believe that the village of Kfar Hamam, on the slopes of Mount Hermon, is named after Ba’al Haman, and that Beni Hayyan, near Naqoura, is named after Hayyan and, in the village Yahoodiya (Sultanieh), we recognize the original name of Sham’al, Y’D,Y.
The name of the ‘Amilat tribe was mentioned for the first time in Assyrian records in the eighth century B.C. It was mentioned alongside with well-known Arabian tribes, namely: Hamarani, Luhuatu, Rabihi, Nasiru, Ubudu, Rubu, Amlatu, and others that were subdued by Teglat Phalassar III (745-722 B.C.). They considered these tribes Aramean, but did not locate them. This leads us to appreciate fully the ancient traditions, which refer to South Lebanon as the ‘Amelat Mountain.
The Chaldaeans invaded the region in the middle of the first millennium B.C. Their king Nebukhod Nassar II besieged Tyre for 13 years (585-572 B.C.). His wars against the Egyptians in the region lasted for about fifty years (605-562 B.C.). He recorded an alliance and support with the Lebanese on a rock in Wadi Brissa, in the Beqaa, saying: “I organized my Army for an expedition to Lebanon. I made that county happy by eradicating its enemy everywhere. All its scattered inhabitants, I led back to their settlements…”.
To that epoch, we dated back the founding of sanctuaries to the Mesopotamian goddess Sarpanide, consort of the god Mardukh. One of these sanctuaries is at present the village of Sarafand on the seashore of South Lebanon, the other is near Mount Carmel. Nebukhod Nassar was greatly devoted to this goddess and erected to her sanctuaries everywhere he went.
To this same epoch, we dated the use of the word Nabi for Canaanite gods. The word occurred as an epithet to the god Mardukh in the Brissa inscription. It was widely used in the Mesopotamian texts. In South Lebanon, there are many sanctuaries and shrines with names proceeded by the epithet Nabi or Nabeyet, which today means prophet.
This habit of giving the local gods epithets or titles, is in line with the Phoenician’s inclination to monotheism as in the Azitwadda text of Adana, in which El is referred to as: “El, the Creator of the earth and the eternal sun, and of the assembly of the children of the gods”. The text is dated back to the eighth century B.C.
When Strabo visited the Region in the first century A.D., he noticed that: “All the mountainous parts are held by Iturians and Arabians”. We are inclined to find the trace of the Iturians in the village of Haitura. Strabo also said, concerning the Galilee: “It is inhabited in general, and each locality in particular, by Egyptian, Arabian and Phoenician tribes, and such are the inhabitants of Galilee, Jericho, Philadelphia and Samaria.”.
Flavius Josephus confirms the existence together of all these nationalities, specifying that they used tyrian currency.
It is worthwhile in this connection to discuss the origin of the name of the district East of Tyre. The ancient authors Galilea Gentium named it. Moreover, St. Jerome used this appellation in localizing the Gospel’s Cana of Galilee. The question is: From where came this name…?
St. Jerome used the word Gentium to mean other than Jews. Nevertheless, what is about the word Galilee?
There are two sanctuaries in South Lebanon dedicated to the Prophet Al-Jaleel: one is in El-Sharkieh village, and the other is in Cana, where Christ performed his first miracle, converting water into wine.
Moreover, St. Matthew called the woman who came from the coastland of Tyre and Sidon “Canaanite” (15:22).
During the first millennium B.C., Persians, Greeks, and Romans, succeeded each other in occupying South Lebanon. Although they left considerable monuments; e.g. the aqueduct, East of Sidon, dating from the Persian period, there is no trace of them in the toponymy, except, perhaps to a little hamlet called Eskandarona, which was supposedly one of Alexander’s military camps.
Furthermore, Renan suggested that the gigantic ruins of Um el-‘Awameed may have been the ancient city of Laodicea of the Seleucid period. However, the important vestiges of that site do not correspond to that period. Probably the Seleucids might have changed the city’s name when they occupied it.
Many remains are still there dated back to the roman period, i.e.: residences, villas, steles, etc…, but, none of them has a Latin name, and all the sites on which they are found are known by their Semitic names, e.g. the ruins in the vicinity of Ya’ther, Yaroon, ‘Ain Ebl, etc.., and most importantly, those in Tyre.
The lack of names of Greek, Latin or even Arabic origin does not mean that these periods left no vestiges, but rather that the region was well urbanized and continuously inhabited by its autochthons since the earliest times: Canaanites, Hurrites and perhaps others.
Our aim in writing this eponymic study of well-known sites of South Lebanon, is to draw the attention of archeologists and other scholars to the importance of the region as a birthplace and growth of the civilization of the Near East, and, in particular, to find answers to the following questions:
1. When and where did the civilization in South Lebanon begin?
2. Who are the Canaanites who named practically all the cities and villages of the region?
3. What were the relations and influences that existed between South Lebanon and Egypt?
4. What is the density and influence of the Hurrites communities in the Region, and how long did they last?
5. What role did the people of South Lebanon play in the Cadmean ventures?
6. How well can archeology prove the continuous occupation of the settlements of the Region?
Dr. Youssef Hourany (born 1931) is a Lebanese Writer, Archeologist and Historian. Hourany received his Diploma in Philosophy, from the Lebanese University, and his Ph. D. on Ancient Philosophy of History from The Université Saint-Esprit de Kaslik.
Hourany taught Ancient History in the Université Saint-Esprit de Kaslik from 1970 to 1977, and from 1977 to 1995 he taught Philosophy and Archeology in the Lebanese University, then he retired according to the law with professor grade.
Books Published in Arabic:
1. The Man is not a Crowd, Al Hayat Library, Beirut 1956
2. Man and Civilization (Introduction, 2nd ed., Al Assriyat Library, Saida 1973
3. Lebanon in the Value of its History (Phoenician Era), 2nd ed., An-Nahar Publishing House, Beirut 1992
4. Mentality Structure of The Ancient Civilizations in the Mediterranean East, end ed., An-Nahar Publishing House, Beirut 1992
5. Ethics of Wisdom in the Babylonian Cultural Heritage, An-Nahar Publishing House, Beirut 1994
6. Cana of Galilee in South Lebanon, (Arabic, English & French), ed. By Ministry of Tourism, Beirut 1994
7. The Unknown and the Neglected History of South Lebanon, ed. Al Hadassa, Beirut 1999
8. The unknown History of the Phoenicians through Philon of Byblos and Sanchoniathon of Beirut, ed. Assakafa Publishing House, Beirut 1999
9. The Epic of Beirut Maymoonat, of the Poet Nonnus, Assakafa Publishing House, Beirut 1999
10. Heritage from Lebanon, ed. Al Hadassa, Beirut 2003
11. Unknown Chapters of Arabs’ History and Language, ed. Al Hadassa, Beirut 2010