Berytus (/bəˈraɪtəs/; Latin: Colonia Iulia Augusta Felix Berytus) was a Roman colonia that was the center of Roman presence in the eastern Mediterranean shores south of Anatolia. Roman Berytus (modern Beirut) was the capital of Phoenicia during Roman times. The veterans of two Roman legions under Augustus were established in the city (the fifth Macedonian and the third Gallic), that afterward quickly became Romanized and was the only fully Latin-speaking city in the Syria-Phoenicia region until the fourth century. The "Lex Schola" of Berytus was famous in Antiquity: the Codex Justinianeus (one part of the Corpus Juris Civilis, the codification of Roman law ordered early in the 6th century AD by Justinian I and fully written in Latin) was mostly created in this Law school.

St. George's Cathedral, Beirut
Roman ruins of Berytus, in front of St. George's Cathedral in modern-day Beirut


In 140 BC the Phoenician village called "Biruta" was destroyed by Diodotus Tryphon in his contest with Antiochus VII Sidetes for the throne of the Macedonian Seleucid monarchy. Later it was soon rebuilt on a more conventional Hellenistic plan and renamed Laodicea in Phoenicia (Greek: Λαοδίκεια ἡ ἐν Φοινίκῃ) or Laodicea in Canaan in honor of a Seleucid Laodice.

The city was conquered by the Romans of Pompey in 64 BC and renamed "Berytus", as a reference to the name of the old original Phoenician port-village. The city was assimilated into the Roman Empire, veteran soldiers were sent there, and large building projects were undertaken.[1][2][3]

...(Berytus) was made a Roman colony about 14 B.C. Herod the Great, Agrippa I and II, and Queen Berenice built exedras, porticos, temples, a forum, a theater, amphitheater, and baths here. In the 3d c. A.D. the city became the seat of a famous school of law and continued to flourish until the earthquake of A.D. 551 ravaged the city....Its streets, laid out on a grid plan, are spaced at roughly the same intervals as those of Damascus and Laodicea. The new Roman city spread farther S and W (of the port), with its Forum near the (actual) Place de l'Etoile. On its N side was a civic basilica 99 m long with a Corinthian portico of polychrome materials..., dating from the 1st c. A.D. Some large baths have been uncovered on the E slope of the (actual) Colline du Sérail, and the hippodrome lay on the NW side of the same hill. Some villas in a S suburb facing the sea had mosaic floors (now in the Beirut Museum).Some 12 km upstream on the Beirut river are the ruined arches of an aqueduct.[4]

Berytus was considered the most Roman city in the eastern provinces of the Roman Empire.[5] It was one of four Roman colonies in the Syria-Phoenicia region and the only one with full Ius Italicum (meaning: exemption from imperial taxation). Its territory under Claudius reached the Bekaa valley and included Heliopolis: it was the only area mostly Latin-speaking in the Syria-Phoenicia region, because settled by Roman colonists who even promoted agriculture in the fertile lands around actual Yammoune. From the 1st century BC the Bekaa valley served as a source of grain for the Roman provinces of the Levant and even for the same Rome (today the valley makes up to 40 percent of Lebanon's arable land):Roman colonists created there even a "country district" called Pagus Augustus.[6]

Beirut - Lebanon - Paris of the East! - November 2008 - Downtown Beirut is re-constructed mostly thanks to Rafik Hariri - The Paris of the East is back!
Roman Columns of Basilica near the Forum of Berytus

In 14 BC, during the reign of Herod the Great, Berytus became an important Roman colonia. The city was named Colonia Iulia Augusta Felix Berytus in honor of Julia, the only daughter of Augustus (according to Theodore Mommsen, "Res gestae divi Augusti", II, 119). Furthermore, the veterans of two Roman legions were established in the city of Berytus by emperor Augustus: the fifth Macedonian and the third Gallic.[7] Consequently, the city quickly became fully Romanized. Large public buildings and monuments were erected and Berytus enjoyed full status as a part of the empire.[8]

Agrippa greatly favoured the city of Berytus, and adorned it with a splendid theatre and amphitheatre, beside Baths and porticoes, inaugurating them with games and spectacles of every kind, including shows of gladiators. But now only minor ruins remains, in front of the Catholic Cathedral of Beirut.

Indeed, four large bath complexes as well as numerous private baths increased the city’s water consumption: the Romans constructed an aqueduct fed by the Beirut River whose main source was located 10 km from the city. The aqueduct crossed the river at Qanater Zbaydeh and the water finally reached the place of actual Riad Al Solh Square; there, at the foot of the Serail Hill, it was stored in large cisterns. An intricate network of lead or clay pipes and channels distributed the water to the various pools of the Roman Baths.

Roman Berytus was a city of nearly 50,000 inhabitants during Trajan times and had a huge Forum and necropolis[9] The Hippodrome of Roman Berytus was the largest known in the Levant,[10] while literary sources indicate there was even a theater.[11] Scholars like Lynda Hall pinpoint that the hippodrome was still working in the fifth century [12]

Claudius Æ 20mm 863165
Roman coin minted in Berytus[13]

Berytus had a monumental "Roman Gate" with huge walls (recently discovered[14]) and was a trade center of silk and wine production, well connected by efficient Roman roads to Heliopolis and Caesarea. According to Kevin Butcher,[15] the Latin character of Berytus remained dominant until the fifth century: the city was a center for the study of Latin literature and -after Septimius Severus- of Roman Law. Under Nero the son of a roman colonist, Marcus Valerius Probus (born in Berytus around 25 AD), was known in all the empire as a Latin grammarian and literature master philologist.

Roman emperors promoted the development of high-level culture in the fully Romanized city (even in Greek language as with Hermippus of Berytus).

Its Law School was widely known in the Roman empire;[16]: it was famous the latin motto Berytus Nutrix Legum ("Beirut, Mother of Laws"). Indeed two of Rome's most famous jurists, Papinian and Ulpian, both natives of Phoenicia, taught there under the Severan emperors.

When Justinian assembled his Pandects in the sixth century, a large part of the "Corpus of Laws" -all in Latin- was derived from these two jurists, and in 533 AD Justinian recognized the school as one of the three official law schools of the empire.

Flag of beirut
The flag of Beirut features an open book with the motto "Berytus Nutrix Legum" (Beirut, Mother of Laws) on one side and its Arabic translation "بيروت أم الشرائع " on the other.

The law school of Beirut supplied the Roman Empire, especially its eastern provinces, with lawyers and magistrates for three centuries until the school's destruction in a powerful earthquake. After the 551 Beirut earthquake[17] the students were transferred to Sidon.[18]

Since the third century, the city had an important law college. It was here that the great codification of Roman Law, which was to be propagated by emperors like Theodosius II and Justinian, was prepared.[19]

Under the Eastern Roman Empire, some intellectual and economic activities in Berytus continued to flourish for more than a century, even if the Latin language started to be replaced by the Greek language.

However, in the sixth century a series of earthquakes demolished most of the temples of Heliopolis (actual Baalbek) and destroyed the city of Berytus, leveling its famous law school and killing nearly 30,000 inhabitants. Furthermore, the ecumenical Christian councils of the fifth and sixth centuries AD were unsuccessful in settling religious disagreements within the surviving community.

Berytus became a "Christian See" at an early date, and was a suffragan of Tyre in "Phoenicia Prima", a province of the "Patriarchate of Antioch". In antiquity its most famous bishop was Eusebius, afterwards Bishop of Nicomedia, the courtier-prelate and strong supporter of Arianism in the fourth century....In 450 AD Berytus obtained from Theodosius II the title of metropolis, with jurisdiction over six sees taken from Tyre; but in 451 AD the "Council of Chalcedon" restored these to Tyre, leaving, however, to Berytus its rank of metropolis (Mansi, VII, 85-98). Thus, from 451 AD Berytus was an exempt metropolis depending directly on the Patriarch of Antioch.[20]

This turbulent Byzantine period weakened the Romanized (and fully Christian) population and made it easy prey to the newly converted Muslim Arabs of the Arabian Peninsula.[21] Roman Berytus -reduced to the size of a village- fell to the Arabs in 635 AD.[22]

Roman baths beirut
Roman Ruins in the "Roman Baths Garden"
Roman baths 5
General view of the "Roman Baths Garden"

Recent discoveries

Recently at the Garden of Forgiveness the two main streets of Roman Berytus, the Cardo and Decumanus Maximus, were discovered in the Beirut Central District. Their shaded colonnades became busy markets on festival days. At other times, these streets would have been frequented by Law School students and citizens passing to the Forum or visiting temples and churches.

In 1968 were discovered the "Roman Baths" Gardens, that is a landscaped public space that lies on the eastern slope of the Serail Hill. It consists of a garden and a set of uncovered ruins of the ancient Roman baths of Berytus (hence the name of the place). These ruins underwent a thorough cleaning and further excavation in 1995-1997. Designed by the British landscaping firm Gillepsies, the Garden's layout is dominated with low-slung glass walls and lookout platforms that can be turned into concert venues, thus giving a 21st-century touch without harming the area's historical fabric.[23]

At the turn of the 20th century was identified the area were existed the famous school of Roman law at Berytus. Archaeological excavations in the area between the Saint George Greek Orthodox Cathedral and Saint George Cathedral of the Maronites unearthed a funerary stele etched with an epitaph to a man named Patricius, "whose career was consecrated for the study of law".[24] The epitaph was identified as being dedicated to the famous 5th-century law school professor.[25] In 1994, archaeological diggings underneath the Saint George Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Beirut Central District's Nejmeh Square identified structural elements of the Anastasis cathedral, but they were restricted to an area of 316 square metres (3,400 sq ft) and failed to unearth the interred school.[26] In the 5th century, Zacharias Rhetor reported that the school stood next to the "Temple of God", the description of which permitted its identification with the Byzantine Anastasis cathedral.[27]

See also


  1. ^ About Beirut and Downtown Beirut,
  2. ^ Beirut Travel Information, Lonely Planet
  3. ^ Czech excavations in Beirut, Martyrs' Square, Institute for Classical Archaeology> Archived July 23, 2013, at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ Princeton E.: Berytus
  5. ^ Morgan, James F. The Prodigal Empire: The Fall of the Western Roman Empire, page 87
  6. ^ Butcher, 2003; p.230
  7. ^ Roman Berytus: a colony of legionaries
  8. ^ About Beirut and Downtown Beirut, Retrieved November 17, 2007.
  9. ^ Data with map of Roman Berytus (in Spanish)
  10. ^ Berytus hippodrome, with image reconstructed
  11. ^ The Roman colonies: Berytus
  12. ^ Lynda Hall, p. 68
  13. ^ Claudius coin, legionary issue
  14. ^ Roman gate of Berytus
  15. ^ Butcher, 2003; p. 230
  16. ^ Beirut,
  17. ^ History of Phoenicia
  18. ^ History of Berytus Archived 2009-06-28 at the Wayback Machine
  19. ^ Livius: Berytus
  20. ^ Catholic E.:Berytus ([1])
  21. ^ Gil, Moshe; Ethel Broido. "A History of Palestine". pp. 634–1099
  22. ^ Donner, Fred McGraw (1981), "The Early Islamic Conquests". Princeton University Press, ISBN 0-691-05327-8
  23. ^ "Beirut Shakes Off Rubble, Dons Slick New Architecture". Co.Design.
  24. ^ Collinet 1925, p. 73
  25. ^ Collinet 1925, pp. 61–73
  26. ^ Skaf 2005, pp. 224–229
  27. ^ Collinet 1925, pp. 63–73


  • Butcher, Kevin. Roman Syria and the Near East Getty Publications. Los Angeles, 2003 ISBN 0892367156 ([2])
  • Collinet, Paul (1925). Histoire de l'école de droit de Beyrouth (in French). Paris: Société Anonyme du Recueil Sirey.
  • Gil, Moshe; Ethel Broido (1997). A History of Palestine. Cambridge University Press ISBN 978-0-521-59984-9.
  • Hall, Lynda J. Roman Berytus: Beirut in late antiquity. Psychology Press. London, 2004 ISBN 978-0-415-28919-1 ([3])
  • Mann, J.C. The settlement of veterans in the Roman Empire London University. London, 1956 ([4])
  • Mouterde, René et Lauffray, Jean (1952) Beyrouth ville romaine. Publications de la Direction des Antiquités du Liban, Beyrouth.
  • Skaf, Isabelle; Yasmine Makaroun Bou Assaf (November 29 – December 3, 2005). Aïcha Ben Abed Ben Khader; Martha Demas; Thomas Roby (eds.). Une nouvelle approche pour la préservation in situ des mosaïques et vestiges archéologiques au Liban: La crypte de l'église Saint-Georges à Beyrouth. Lessons Learned: Reflecting on the Theory and Practice of Mosaic Conservation (9th ICCM Conference, Hammamet, Tunisia) (in French). Getty Publications. ISBN 9780892369201.

Beirut (; Arabic: بيروت‎, romanized: Bayrūt; French: Beyrouth) is the capital and largest city of Lebanon. No recent population census has been conducted, but 2007 estimates ranged from slightly more than 1 million to 2.2 million as part of Greater Beirut. Located on a peninsula at the midpoint of Lebanon's Mediterranean coast, Beirut is the country's largest and main seaport.

It is one of the oldest cities in the world, having been inhabited for more than 5,000 years. The first historical mention of Beirut is found in the Amarna letters from the New Kingdom of Egypt, which date to the 15th century BC.

Beirut is Lebanon's seat of government and plays a central role in the Lebanese economy, with most banks and corporations based in its Central District, Badaro, Rue Verdun, Hamra, Ryad el Soloh street, and Achrafieh. Following the destructive Lebanese Civil War, Beirut's cultural landscape underwent major reconstruction. Identified and graded for accountancy, advertising, banking/finance and law, Beirut is ranked as a Beta World City by the Globalization and World Cities Research Network.

Cardo Decumanus Crossing

Cardo Decumanus Crossing was in the heart of Roman Berytus (actual Beirut, Lebanon).

Cisterns of the Roman Baths, Beirut

Cisterns of the Roman Baths are archaeological remains built during Roman times and are located in downtown Beirut, Lebanon. The cisterns were built in order to store and supply water to Roman Berytus

Colonnaded Street

Colonnaded Street is located in downtown Beirut, Lebanon. it was an important street of Roman Berytus.

Francesco Onofrio Hodierna

Francesco Onofrio Hodierna (born 1643) was a Roman Catholic prelate who served as Titular Bishop of Berytus (1727), Bishop of Valva e Sulmona (1717–1727) and Bishop of Bitetto (1669–1717).

Giovanni Francesco Nicolai

Giovanni Francesco Nicolai, O.F.M. (died 1737) was a Roman Catholic prelate who served as Vicar Apostolic of Houkouang (1696–1737), Titular Archbishop of Myra (1712–1737), and Titular Bishop of Berytus (1696–1712).

Hermippus of Berytus

Hermippus of Berytus (Greek: Ἕρμιππος ὁ Βηρύτιος; fl. 2nd century AD) was a Greek grammarian from Berytus (Beirut) who flourished under Trajan and Hadrian. By birth he was a slave, but having become the disciple of Philo of Byblos, he was recommended by him to Herennius Severus, and attained to great eminence by his eloquence and learning. He wrote many works, among which were an account of dreams in five books, and a book Περὶ Ἑβδομάδος. He wrote a work on famous slaves, which included Parthenius of Nicaea. He is also quoted by Clement of Alexandria, and by Stephanus of Byzantium.

Hippodrome of Berytus

The hippodrome of Berytus was a circus in the Roman colony of Berytus (modern-day Beirut). It is one of two hippodromes in Beirut.

Law school of Beirut

The law school of Beirut (also known as the law school of Berytus and the school of Roman law at Berytus) was a center for the study of Roman law in classical antiquity located in Beirut (Latin: Berytus). It flourished under the patronage of the Roman emperors and functioned as the Roman Empire's preeminent center of jurisprudence until its destruction in AD 551.

The law schools of the Roman Empire established organized repositories of imperial constitutions and institutionalized the study and practice of jurisprudence to relieve the busy imperial courts. The archiving of imperial constitutions facilitated the task of jurists in referring to legal precedents. The origins of the law school of Beirut are obscure, but probably it was under Augustus in the first century. The earliest written mention of the school dates to 239 AD, when its reputation had already been established. The school attracted young, affluent Roman citizens, and its professors made major contributions to the Codex of Justinian. The school achieved such wide recognition throughout the Empire that Beirut was known as the "Mother of Laws". Beirut was one of the few schools allowed to continue teaching jurisprudence when Byzantine emperor Justinian I shut down other provincial law schools.

The course of study at Beirut lasted for five years and consisted in the revision and analysis of classical legal texts and imperial constitutions, in addition to case discussions. Justinian took a personal interest in the teaching process, charging the bishop of Beirut, the governor of Phoenicia Maritima and the teachers with discipline maintenance in the school.

The school's facilities were destroyed in the aftermath of a massive earthquake that hit the Phoenician coastline. It was moved to Sidon but did not survive the Arab conquest of 635 AD. Ancient texts attest that the school was next to the ancient Anastasis church, vestiges of which lie beneath the Saint George Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Beirut's historic center.


Lupercus of Berytus was a Greek grammarian. He wrote On the Word, The Foundation of Arsinoe in Egypt, and other works.


Nibhaz (Hebrew for "the barker") was a deity of the Avim during the time of Shalmaneser I (2 Kings 17:31). Some indications of worship have been found in Syria, between Berytus and Tripolis, in the form of a dog, a contention first found in the Talmud. Others identify Nibhaz with the Persian god Ibnakhaza or even with the Babylonian Nebo. Those who understand Nibhaz as being related to dogs tie it to the Egyptian deity Anubis.

Parthenius of Nicaea

Parthenius of Nicaea (Greek: Παρθένιος ὁ Νικαεύς) or Myrlea (Greek: ὁ Μυρλεανός) in Bithynia was a Greek grammarian and poet. According to the Suda, he was the son of Heraclides and Eudora, or according to Hermippus of Berytus, his mother's name was Tetha. He was taken prisoner by Helvius Cinna in the Mithridatic Wars and carried to Rome in 72 BC. He subsequently visited Neapolis, where he taught Greek to Virgil, according to Macrobius. Parthenius is said to have lived until the accession of Tiberius in 14 AD.

Parthenius was a writer of elegies, especially dirges, and of short epic poems.

He is sometimes called "the last of the Alexandrians".

Patricius (jurist)

Patricius (Patrikios) was a fifth-century Roman jurist who taught in the ancient Law School of Berytus (present-day Beirut). Patricius was of the seven revered "Ecumenical Masters" (Greek: τῆς οἰκουμένης διδάσκαλοι) and occupied the position of Quaestor of the Sacred Palace in the East, a senior legal office in the late Roman Empire, from the middle to the late fifth century.

Phoenicia under Roman rule

The Phoenicia under Roman rule relates to the Roman control of Syro-Phoenician city states (in the area of modern Lebanon), that lasted from 64 BC to the Muslim conquests of the 7th century.


Quartus (Greek: Κούαρτος, romanized: Kouartos) was an early Christian who is mentioned in the Bible.

According to church tradition, he is known as Quartus of Berytus and is numbered among the Seventy Disciples. Furthermore, he was Bishop of Beirut and suffered for the faith. He converted many to the Christian faith. His feast day is November 10.

Roman Baths, Beirut

Roman Berytus (Roman Baths) are located in the middle of downtown Beirut, Lebanon between Banks Street and Capuchin Street. The remains of a Roman bath of Berytus now surrounded by government buildings were found and conserved for posterity.

Roman Forum, Beirut

Roman Forum is located in Beirut, Lebanon.

Tell Kazel

Tell Kazel is an oval-shaped tell that measures 350 m × 325 m (1,150 ft × 1,070 ft) at its base, narrowing to 200 m × 200 m (660 ft × 660 ft) at its top. It is located in the Safita district of the Tartus Governorate in Syria in the north of the Akkar plain on the north of the al-Abrash river approximately 18 km (11 mi) south of Tartus.

ÓBerytus Women

ÓBerytus (Arabic: بيريتوس‎), also stylized as O'Berytus or O Berytus, is a Lebanese women's association football club based in the Jnah district of Beirut. Founded in 2016, they compete in the Lebanese Women's Football League. They also compete in youth divisions, with the U18 Women's team having competed in the Gothia Cup.

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