1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Lebanon
LEBANON (from Semitic laban, “to be white,” or “whitish,” probably referring not to snow, but to the bare white walls of chalk or limestone which form the characteristic feature of the whole range), in its widest sense is the central mountain mass of Syria, extending for about 100 m. from N.N.E. to S.S.W. It is bounded W. by the sea, N. by the plain Jun Akkar, beyond which rise the mountains of the Ansarieh, and E. by the inland plateau of Syria, mainly steppe-land. To the south Lebanon ends about the point where the river Litany bends westward, and at Banias. A valley narrowing towards its southern end, and now called the Buka’a, divides the mountainous mass into two great parts. That lying to the west is still called Jebel Libnan; the greater part of the eastern mass now bears the name of the Eastern Mountain (Jebel el-Sharḳi). In Greek the western range was called Libanos, the eastern Antilibanos. The southern extension of the latter, Mount Hermon (q.v.), may in many respects be treated as a separate mountain.
Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon have many features in common; in both the southern portion is less arid and barren than the northern, the western valleys better wooded and more fertile than the eastern. In general the main elevations of the two ranges form pairs lying opposite one another; the forms of both ranges are monotonous, but the colouring is splendid, especially when viewed from a distance; when seen close at hand only a few valleys with perennial streams offer pictures of landscape beauty, their rich green contrasting pleasantly with the bare brown and yellow mountain sides. The finest scenery is found in N. Lebanon, in the Maronite districts of Kesrawan and Bsherreh, where the gorges are veritable canyons, and the villages are often very picturesquely situated. The south of the chain is more open and undulating. Anti-Lebanon is the barest and most inhospitable part of the system.
The district west of Lebanon, averaging about 20 m. in breadth, slopes in an intricate series of plateaus and terraces to the Mediterranean. The coast is for the most part abrupt and rocky, often leaving room for only a narrow path along the shore, and when viewed from the sea it does not suggest the extent of country lying between its cliffs and the lofty summits behind. Most of the mountain spurs run from east to west, but in northern Lebanon the prevailing direction of the valleys is north-westerly, and in the south some ridges run parallel with the principal chain. The valleys have for the most part been deeply excavated by mountain streams; the apparently inaccessible heights are crowned by numerous villages, castles or cloisters embosomed among trees. The chief perennial streams, beginning from the north, are the Nahr Akkar, N. Arka, N. el-Barid, N. Kadisha, “the holy river” (the valley of which begins in the immediate neighbourhood of the highest summits, and rapidly descends in a series of great bends till the river reaches the sea at Tripoli), Wadi el-Joz (falling into the sea at Batrun), Wadi Fidar, Nahr Ibrahim (the ancient Adonis, having its source in a recess of the great mountain amphitheatre where the famous sanctuary Apheca, the modern Afka, lay), Nahr el-Kelb (the ancient Lycus), Nahr Beirut (the ancient Magoras, entering the sea at Beirut), Nahr Damur (ancient Tamyras), Nahr el-’Auwali (the ancient Bostrenus, which in the upper part of its course is joined by the Nahr el-Baruk). The ‘Auwali and the Nahr el-Zaherani, the only other considerable streams before we reach the Litany, flow north-east to south-west, in consequence of the interposition of a ridge subordinate and parallel to the central chain. On the north, where the mountain bears the special name of Jebel Akkar, the main ridge of Lebanon rises gradually from the plain. A number of valleys run to the north and north-east, among them that of the Nahr el-Kebir, the Eleutherus of the ancients, which rises in the Jebel el-Abiad on the eastern slope of Lebanon, and afterwards, skirting the district, flows westward to the sea. South of Jebel el-Abiaḍ, beneath the main ridge, which as a rule falls away suddenly towards the east, occur several small elevated terraces having a southward slope; among these are the Wadi en-Nusur (“vale of eagles”), and the basin of the lake Yammuna, with its intermittent spring Neb’a el-Arba’in. Of the streams which descend into the Buka’a, the Berdani rises in Jebel Sunnin, and enters the plain by a deep and picturesque mountain cleft at Zaḥleh.
The most elevated summits occur in the north, but even these are of very gentle gradient. The “Cedar block” consists of a double line of four and three summits respectively, ranged from north to south, with a deviation of about 35°. Those to the east are ‘Uyun Urghush, Makmal, Muskiyya (or Naba’ esh-Shemaila) and Ras Zahr el-Kazib; fronting the sea are Kam Sauda or Timarun, Fumm el-Mizab and Zahr el-Kandil. The height of Zahr el-Kazib, by barometric measurement, is 10,018 ft.; that of the others does not reach 10,000 ft. South from them is the pass (8351 ft.) which leads from Baalbek to Tripoli; the great mountain amphitheatre on the west side of its summit is remarkable. Farther south is a second group of lofty summits—the snow-capped Sunnin, visible from Beirut; its height is 8482 ft. Between this group and the more southerly Jebel Keniseh (about 6700 ft.) lies the pass (4700 ft.) traversed by the French post road between Beirut and Damascus. Among the bare summits still farther south are the long ridge of Jebel el-Baruk (about 7000 ft.), the Jebel Niha, with the Tau’amat Niha (about 6100 ft.), near which is a pass to Sidon, and the Jebel Rihan (about 5400 ft.).
The Buka’a, the broad valley which separates Lebanon from Anti-Lebanon, is watered by two rivers having their watershed near Baalbek, at an elevation of about 3600 ft., and separated only by a short mile at their sources. That flowing northwards, El-’Asi, is the ancient Orontes (q.v.); the other is the Litany. In the lower part of its course the latter has scooped out a deep and narrow rocky bed; at Burghuz it is spanned by a great natural bridge. Not far from the point where it suddenly trends to the west lie, immediately above the romantic valley, at an elevation of 1500 ft., the imposing ruins of the old castle Kal’at esh-Shakif, near one of the passes to Sidon. In its lower part the Litany bears the name of Nahr el-Kasimiya. Neither the Orontes nor the Litany has any important affluent.
The Buka’a used to be known as Coelesyria (Strabo. xvi. 2, 21); but that word as employed by the ancients had a much more extensive application. At present its full name is Buka’a el-’Aziz (the dear Buka’a), and its northern portion is known as Sahlet Ba’albek (the plain of Baalbek). The valley is from 4 to 6 m. broad, with an undulating surface.
The Anti-Lebanon chain has been less fully explored than that of Lebanon. Apart from its southern offshoots it is 67 m. long, while its width varies from 16 to 13½ m. It rises from the plain of Hasya-Homs, and in its northern portion is very arid. The range has not so many offshoots as occur on the west side of Lebanon; under its precipitous slopes stretch table-lands and broad plateaus, which, especially on the east side looking towards the steppe, steadily increase in width. Along the western side of northern Anti-Lebanon stretches the Khasha’a, a rough red region lined with juniper trees, a succession of the hardest limestone crests and ridges, bristling with bare rock and crag that shelter tufts of vegetation, and are divided by a succession of grassy ravines. On the eastern side the parallel valley of ‘Asal el-Ward deserves special mention; the descent towards the plain eastwards, as seen for example at Ma’lula, is singular—first a spacious amphitheatre and then two deep very narrow gorges. Few perennial streams take their rise in Anti-Lebanon; one of the finest and best watered valleys is that of Helbun, the ancient Chalybon, the Helbon of Ezek. xxvii. 18. The highest points of the range, reckoning from the north, are Halimat el-Kabu (8257 ft.), which has a splendid view; the Fatli block, including Tal’at Musa (8721 ft.) and the adjoining Jebel Nebi Baruh (7900 ft.); and a third group near Bludan, in which the most prominent names are Shakif, Akhyar and Abu‘l-Hin (8330 ft.); Of the valleys descending westward the first to claim mention is the Wadi Yafufa; a little farther south, lying north and south, is the rich upland valley of Zebedani, where the Barada has its highest sources. Pursuing an easterly course, this stream receives the waters of the romantic ‘Ain Fije (which doubles its volume), and bursts out by a rocky gateway upon the plain of Damascus, in the irrigation of which it is the chief agent. It is the Abana of 2 Kings v. 12; the portion of Anti-Lebanon traversed by it was also called by the same name (Canticles iv. 8). From the point where the southerly continuation of Anti-Lebanon begins to take a more westerly direction, a low ridge shoots out towards the south-west, trending farther and farther away from the eastern chain and narrowing the Buka’a; upon the eastern side of this ridge lies the elevated valley or hilly stretch known as Wadi et-Teim. In the north, beside ‘Ain Faluj, it is connected by a low watershed with the Buka’a; from the gorge of the Litany it is separated by the ridge of Jebel eḍ-Ḍahr. At its southern end it contracts and merges into the plain of Banias, thus enclosing Mount Hermon on its north-west and west sides; eastward from the Hasbany branch of the Jordan lies the meadow-land Merj ‘Iyun, the ancient Ijon (1 Kings xv. 20).
Vegetation.—The western slope of Lebanon has the common characteristics of the flora of the Mediterranean coast, but the Anti-Lebanon belongs to the poorer region of the steppes, and the Mediterranean species are met with only sporadically along the water-courses. Forest and pasture land do not properly exist: the place of the first is for the most part taken by a low brushwood; grass is not plentiful, and the higher ridges maintain alpine plants only so long as patches of snow continue to lie. The rock walls harbour some rock plants, but many absolutely barren wildernesses of stone occur. (1) On the western slope, to a height of 1600 ft., is the coast region, similar to that of Syria in general and of the south of Asia Minor. Characteristic trees are the locust tree and the stone pine; in Melia Azedarach and Ficus Sycomorus (Beirut) is an admixture of foreign and partially subtropical elements. The great mass of the vegetation, however is of the low-growing type (maquis or garrigue of the western Mediterranean), with small and stiff leaves, and frequently thorny and aromatic, as for example the ilex (Quercus coccifera), Smilax, Cistus, Lentiscus, Calycotome, &c. (2) Next comes, from 1600 to 6500 ft., the mountain region, which may also be called the forest region, still exhibiting sparse woods and isolated trees wherever shelter, moisture and the inhabitants have permitted their growth. From 1600 to 3200 ft. is a zone of dwarf hard-leaved oaks, amongst which occur the Oriental forms Fontanesia phillyraeoides, Acer syriacum and the beautiful red-stemmed Arbutus Andrachne. Higher up, between 3700 and 4200 ft., a tall pine, Pinus Brutia, is characteristic. Between 4200 and 6200 ft. is the region of the two most interesting forest trees of Lebanon, the cypress and the cedar. The former still grows thickly, especially in the valley of the Kadisha; the horizontal is the prevailing variety. In the upper Kadisha valley there is a cedar grove of about three hundred trees, amongst which five are of gigantic size. (See also Cedar.) The cypress and cedar zone exhibits a variety of other leaf-bearing and coniferous trees; of the first may be mentioned several oaks—Quercus subalpina (Kotschy), Q. Cerris and the hop-hornbeam (Ostrya); of the second class the rare Cilician silver fir (Abies cilicica) may be noticed. Next come the junipers, sometimes attaining the size of trees (Juniperus excelsa, J. rufescens and, with fruit as large as plums, J. drupacea). But the chief ornament of Lebanon is the Rhododendron ponticum, with its brilliant purple flower clusters; a peculiar evergreen, Vinca libanotica, also adds beauty to this zone. (3) Into the alpine region (6200 to 10,400 ft.) penetrate a few very stunted oaks (Quercus subalpina), the junipers already mentioned and a barberry (Berberis cretica), which sometimes spreads into close thickets. Then follow the low, dense, prone, pillow-like dwarf bushes, thorny and grey, common to the Oriental highlands—Astragalus and the peculiar Acantholimon. They are found to within 300 ft. of the highest summits.
Upon the exposed mountain slopes a species of rhubarb (Rheum Ribes) is noticeable, and also a vetch (Vicia canescens) excellent for sheep. The spring vegetation, which lasts until July, appears to be rich, especially as regards showy plants, such as Corydalis, Gagea, Colchicum, Puschkinia, Geranium, Ornithogalum, &c. The flora of the highest ridges, along the edges of the snow patches, exhibits no forms related to the northern alpine flora, but suggestions of it are found in a Draba, an Androsace, an Alsine and a violet, occurring, however, only in local species. Upon the highest summits are found Saponaria Pumilio (resembling our Silene acaulis) and varieties of Galium, Euphorbia, Astragalus, Veronica, Jurinea, Festuca, Scrophularia, Geranium, Asphodeline, Allium, Asperula; and, on the margins of the snow fields, a Taraxacum and Ranunculus demissus. The alpine flora of Lebanon thus connects itself directly with the Oriental flora of lower altitudes, and is unrelated to the glacial flora of Europe and northern Asia.
Zoology.—There is nothing of special interest about the fauna of Lebanon. Bears are no longer numerous; the panther and the ounce are met with; the wild hog, hyaena, wolf and fox are by no means rare; jackals and gazelles are very common. The polecat and hedgehog also occur. As a rule there are not many birds, but the eagle and the vulture may occasionally be seen; of eatable kinds partridges and wild pigeons are the most abundant.
Population.—In the following sections the Lebanon proper will alone be considered, without reference to Anti-Lebanon, because the peculiar political status of the former range since 1864 has effectually differentiated it; whereas the Anti-Lebanon still forms an integral part of the Ottoman province of Syria (q.v.), and neither its population nor its history is readily distinguishable from those of the surrounding districts.
The total population in the Lebanon proper is about 400,000, and is increasing faster than the development of the province will admit. There is consequently much emigration, the Christian surplus going mainly to Egypt, and to America, the Druses to the latter country and to the Hauran. The emigrants to America, however, usually return after making money, build new houses and settle down. The singularly complex population is composed of Christians, Maronites, and Orthodox Eastern and Uniate; of Moslems, both Sunni and Shiah (Metawali); and of Druses.
(a) Maronites (q.v.) form about three-fifths of the whole and have the north of the Mountain almost to themselves, while even in the south, the old Druse stronghold, they are now numerous. Feudalism is practically extinct among them and with the decline of the Druses, and the great stake they have acquired in agriculture, they have laid aside much of their warlike habit together with their arms. Even their instinct of nationality is being sensibly impaired by their gradual assimilation to the Papal Church, whose agents exercise from Beirut an increasing influence on their ecclesiastical elections and church government. They are strong also in the Buka’a, and have colonies in most of the Syrian cities.
(b) Orthodox Eastern form a little more than one-eighth of the whole, and are strongest in S. Lebanon (Metn and Kurah districts). Syrians by race and Arab-speaking, they are descendants of those “Melkites” who took the side of the Byzantine church in the time of Justinian II. against the Moslems and eventually the Maronites. They are among the most progressive of the Lebanon elements.
(c) Greek Uniate are less numerous, forming little more than one-twelfth, but are equally progressive. Their headquarters is Zahleh; but they are found also in strength in Metn and Jezzin, where they help to counterbalance Druses. They sympathize with the Maronites against the Orthodox Eastern, and, like both, are of Syrian race, and Arab speech.
(d) Sunnite Moslems are a weak element, strongest in Shuf and Kurah, and composed largely of Druse renegades and “Druse” families, which, like the Shehab, were of Arab extraction and never conformed to the creed of Hamza.
(e) Shiite Moslems outnumber the Sunni, and make about one twenty-fifth of the whole. They are called Metawali and are strongest in North Lebanon (Kesrawan and Batrun), but found also in the south, in Buka’a and in the coast-towns from Beirut to Acre. They are said to be descendants of Persian tribes; but the fact is very doubtful, and they may be at least as aboriginal as the Maronites, and a remnant of an old Incarnationist population which did not accept Christianity, and kept its heretical Islam free from those influences which modified Druse creed. They own a chief sheikh, resident at Jeba’a, and have the reputation, like most heretical communities in the Sunni part of the Moslem world, of being exceedingly fanatical and inhospitable. It is undoubtedly the case that they are suspicious of strangers and defiant of interference. Another small body of Shiites, the Ismailites (Assassins (q.v.) of the crusading chronicles), also said to be of Persian origin, live about Kadmus at the extreme N. of Lebanon, but outside the limits of the privileged province. They are about 9000 strong.
(f) Druses (q.v.), now barely an eighth of the whole and confined to Shuf and Metn in S. Lebanon, are tending to emigrate or conform to Sunni Islam. Since the establishment of the privileged province they have lost the Ottoman support which used to compensate for their numerical inferiority as compared with the Christians; and they are fast losing also their old habits and distinctiveness. No longer armed or wearing their former singular dress, the remnant of them in Lebanon seems likely ere long to be assimilated to the “Osmanli” Moslems. Their feud with the Maronites, whose accentuation in the middle of the 19th century was largely due to the tergiversations of the ruling Shehab family, now reduced to low estate, is dying away, but they retain something of their old clan feeling and feudal organization, especially in Shuf.
The mixed population, as a whole, displays the usual characteristics of mountaineers, fine physique and vigorous independent spirit; but its ancient truculence has given way before strong government action since the middle 19th century, and the great increase of agricultural pursuits, to which the purely pastoral are now quite secondary. The culture of the mulberry and silk, of tobacco, of the olive and vine, of many kinds of fruits and cereals, has expanded enormously, and the Lebanon is now probably the most productive region in Asiatic Turkey in proportion to its area. It exports largely through Beirut and Saida, using both the French railway which crosses S. Lebanon on its way to Damascus, and the excellent roads and mule-paths made since 1883. Lebanon has thick deposits of lignite coal, but of inferior quality owing to the presence of iron pyrites. The abundant iron is little worked. Manufactures are of small account, the raw material going mostly to the coast; but olive-oil is made, together with various wines, of which the most famous is the vino d’oro, a sweet liqueur-like beverage. This wine is not exported in any quantity, as it will not bear a voyage well and is not made to keep. Bee-keeping is general, and there is an export of eggs to Egypt.
History.—The inhabitants of Lebanon have at no time played a conspicuous part in history. There are remains of prehistoric occupation, but we do not even know what races dwelt there in the historical period of antiquity. Probably they belonged chiefly to the Aramaean group of nationalities; the Bible mentions Hivites (Judges iii. 3) and Giblites (Joshua xiii. 5). Lebanon was included within the ideal boundaries of the land of Israel, and the whole region was well known to the Hebrews, by whose poets its many excellences are often praised. How far the Phoenicians had any effective control over it is unknown; the absence of their monuments does not argue much real jurisdiction. Nor apparently did the Greek Seleucid kingdom have much to do with the Mountain. In the Roman period the district of Phoenice extended to Lebanon. In the 2nd century, with the inland districts, it constituted a subdivision of the province of Syria, having Emesa (Homs) for its capital. From the time of Diocletian there was a Phoenice ad Libanum, with Emesa as capital, as well as a Phoenice Maritima of which Tyre was the chief city. Remains of the Roman period occur throughout Lebanon. By the 6th century it was evidently virtually independent again; its Christianization had begun with the immigration of Monothelite sectaries, flying from persecution in the Antioch district and Orontes valley. At all times Lebanon has been a place of refuge for unpopular creeds. Large part of the mountaineers took up Monothelism and initiated the national distinction of the Maronites, which begins to emerge in the history of the 7th century. The sectaries, after helping Justinian II. against the caliph Abdalmalik, turned on the emperor and his Orthodox allies, and were named Mardaites (rebels). Islam now began to penetrate S. Lebanon, chiefly by the immigration of various more or less heretical elements, Kurd, Turkoman, Persian and especially Arab, the latter largely after the break-up of the kingdom of Hira; and early in the 11th century these coalesced into a nationality (see Druses) under the congenial influence of the Incarnationist creed brought from Cairo by Ismael Darazi and other emissaries of the caliph Hakim and his vizier Hamza. The subsequent history of Lebanon to the middle of the 19th century will be found under Druses and Maronites, and it need only be stated here that Latin influence began to be felt in N. Lebanon during the Frank period of Antioch and Palestine, the Maronites being inclined to take the part of the crusading princes against the Druses and Moslems; but they were still regarded as heretic Monothelites by Abulfaragius (Bar-Hebraeus) at the end of the 13th century; nor is their effectual reconciliation to Rome much older than 1736, the date of the mission sent by the pope Clement XII., which fixed the actual status of their church. An informal French protection had, however, been exercised over them for some time previously, and with it began the feud of Maronites and Druses, the latter incited and spasmodically supported by Ottoman pashas. The feudal organization of both, the one under the house of Khazin, the other under those of Maan and Shehab successively, was in full force during the 17th and 18th centuries; and it was the break-up of this in the first part of the 19th century which produced the anarchy that culminated after 1840 in the civil war. The Druses renounced their Shehab amirs when Beshir al-Kassim openly joined the Maronites in 1841, and the Maronites definitely revolted from the Khazin in 1858. The events of 1860 led to the formation of the privileged Lebanon province, finally constituted in 1864. It should be added, however, that among the Druses of Shuf, feudalism has tended to re-establish itself, and the power is now divided between the Jumblat and Yezbeki families, a leading member of one of which is almost always Ottoman kaimakam of the Druses, and locally called amir.
The Lebanon has now been constituted a sanjak or mutessariflik, dependent directly on the Porte, which acts in this case in consultation with the six great powers. This province extends about 93 m. from N. to S. (from the boundary of the sanjak of Tripoli to that of the caza of Saida), and has a mean breadth of about 28 m. from one foot of the chain to the other, beginning at the edge of the littoral plain behind Beirut and ending at the W. edge of the Buka’a; but the boundaries are ill-defined, especially on the E. where the original line drawn along the crest of the ridge has not been adhered to, and the mountaineers have encroached on the Buka’a. The Lebanon is under a military governor (mushir) who must be a Christian in the service of the sultan, approved by the powers, and has, so far, been chosen from the Roman Catholics owing to the great preponderance of Latin Christians in the province. He resides at Deir al-Kamar, an old seat of the Druse amirs. At first appointed for three years, then for ten, his term has been fixed since 1892 at five years, the longer term having aroused the fear of the Porte, lest a personal domination should become established. Under the governor are seven kaimakams, all Christians except a Druse in Shuf, and forty-seven mudirs, who all depend on the kaimakams except one in the home district of Deir al-Kamar. A central mejliss or Council of twelve members is composed of four Maronites, three Druses, one Turk, two Greeks (Orthodox), one Greek Uniate and one Metawali. This was the original proportion, and it has not been altered in spite of the decline of the Druses and increase of the Maronites. The members are elected by the seven cazas. In each mudirieh there is also a local mejliss. The old feudal and mukataji (see Druses) jurisdictions are abolished, i.e. they often persist under Ottoman forms, and three courts of First Instance, under the mejliss, and superior to the petty courts of the mudirs and the village sheikhs, administer justice. Judges are appointed by the governor, but sheikhs by the villages. Commercial cases, and litigation in which strangers are concerned, are carried to Beirut. The police is recruited locally, and no regular troops appear in the province except on special requisition. The taxes are collected directly, and must meet the needs of the province, before any sum is remitted to the Imperial Treasury. The latter has to make deficits good. Ecclesiastical jurisdiction is exercised only over the clergy, and all rights of asylum are abolished.
This constitution has worked well on the whole, the only serious hitches having been due to the tendency of governors-general and kaimakams to attempt to supersede the mejliss by autocratic action, and to impair the freedom of elections. The attention of the porte was called to these tendencies in 1892 and again in 1902, on the appointments of new governors. Since the last date there has been no complaint. Nothing now remains of the former French predominance in the Lebanon, except a certain influence exerted by the fact that the railway is French, and by the precedence in ecclesiastical functions still accorded by the Maronites to official representatives of France. In the Lebanon, as in N. Albania, the traditional claim of France to protect Roman Catholics in the Ottoman Empire has been greatly impaired by the non-religious character of the Republic. Like Italy, she is now regarded by Eastern Catholics with distrust as an enemy of the Holy Father.
See Druses. Also V. Cuinet, Syrie, Liban et Palestine (1896); N. Verney and G. Dambmann, Puissances étrangères en Syrie, &c. (1900); G. Young, Corps de droit ottoman, vol. i. (1905); G. E. Post, Flora of Syria, &c. (1896); M. von Oppenheim, Vom Mittelmeer, &c. (1899).