Lebanese American University


LAU event tackles Tyre’s ancient history and impact on Phoenician civilization

The Center for Lebanese Heritage launched its monthly cultural activities with an event dedicated to the ancient coastal city in south Lebanon.

The panel discussants of the CLH event.

An image presented at the event shows how the Phoenician alphabet evolved throughout the years.

CLH Director Henri Zoghaib welcomes attendees.

Click on any photo above to view all three images

LAU’s Center for Lebanese Heritage opened its series of activities for this academic year on October 5 with an event dedicated to Tyre, the ancient coastal city in south Lebanon.

CLH Director Henri Zoghaib came up with the idea of devoting the first event to Tyre after its inclusion in a well-known international guide as one of the oldest cities in the globe.

“Last week, Time Out’s guides division issued The World’s Greatest Cities that includes the 10 oldest cities in the world, among which, four Lebanese cities: Beirut, Byblos, Sidon and Tyre,” said Zoghaib.

The panel discussion in Arabic, entitled “The Phoenician Tyre: Peace Carrier to the Mediterranean,” brought together Maha al-Khalil Shalabi, head of the office of the International Committee for the Safeguarding of Tyre in Lebanon, and Dr. Antoine Kassis, professor of ancient history and Semitic languages at the Lebanese University.

Shalabi and Kassis addressed Tyre’s Phoenician history, impact on the development of the Phoenician civilization, and links to Canaanite, Punic and other Phoenician cities. They argued that the city was a center of cultural radiance, a pioneer of peace in the ancient world, and the ambassador of the Phoenician cities in the Mediterranean.

Thanks to the successful management of its political, administrative, economic and religious affairs, Tyre “attracted the attention of the world and the inhabitants of the ancient Phoenician cities that created strong ties with Tyre, learned from its expertise, and benefited from its strategic location,” said Kassis.

Shalabi explained the 5,000-year-old Canaanite, Punic and Phoenician cities had the same language and alphabet, despite their geographical distance, because seafarers sailed from Tyre “carrying real peace and a new alphabet [and] spreading the Phoenician civilization to the Mediterranean.”

Kassis added that “Tyre did not only enter history, but it also created it,” due to the visit of the ancient Greek historian Herodotus to Tyre and the writings of other historians that affected the evolution of Phoenician civilization.

The event also tackled the role of the International Committee for the Safeguarding of Tyre — a UNESCO association founded in 1980 — in preserving the city’s rich cultural heritage.

About a week after the LAU event, on October 14, the committee announced the launch of the League of Phoenician, Canaanite and Punic Cities, which will be part of the Tyre Foundation that was established last year to support and implement the committee’s projects in Lebanon. The league will aim at enhancing cooperation and exchange among different Mediterranean cities as well as establishing a museum in Tyre for the preservation of ancient ruins and crafts.

Like last year, CLH’s activities will take place every first Monday of each month. The two next events will revolve around Lebanese poet and writer Mikhael Naimeh, while from January-June 2010 a series of activities will spotlight the Rahbani brothers.


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