Berytus

BERYTUS ber’ i tus. Berytus is modern Beirut in Lebanon, in ancient times one of the great ports of the Phoen. coast, rivaling Byblos to the N and Tyre and Sidon to the S. Berytus finds no mention in the OT (Berothai of 2 Sam 8:8 and Berothah of Ezek 47:16 are not Berytus) but is cited in Egyp. records as early as a 15th cent. list of Tothmes III. It is also found in the Amarna letters of about 1400 b.c., when Berytus, important to Egypt as a cedar port and maritime outpost against the Hittites, was firmly in the hands of an Egyp. vassal named Ammunira. This local chief, at any rate, gave asylum to one Rib-Addu of Byblos, a pro-Egyp. leader who was driven out of the northern town. Berytus functioned as a trading port through the imperial centuries of Assyria, Babylon, Persia, and the Seleucid period. It played no notable part in history comparable to that of the royal Phoen. ports of Tyre and Sidon, except that the city was taken and destroyed by Tryphon in his struggle for the Seleucid throne in 140 b.c. Augustus’ lieutenant, Marcus Agrippa, occupied the port in 15 b.c. and made it a military colony, and Berytus from this point made a few appearances in history.

Herod I adorned Berytus and here held the dramatic assize before which he arraigned and sentenced his two sons (Jos, Antiq. XVI. xi. 2). Agrippa I and Agrippa II presented theaters to the city, and in Berytus, according to Josephus (B.J. VII. iii. 1.), Titus celebrated the fall of Jerusalem and Vespasian’s birthday with games. This was appropriate, for the forces of the eastern armies which raised Vespasian to the principate in a.d. 69 had gathered and conferred at Berytus (Tacitus, Hist. 2. 81). Berytus became famous in imperial times as a center of learning, esp. of legal studies. Its ancient history was virtually ended by the disastrous earthquake of a.d. 521.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

ber’-i-tus, be-ri’-tus (Berutos; Arabic: modern Beirut, Beyrout, Beyrouth): An ancient Phoenician city situated on the North side of a promontory jutting out from the base of Lebanon to the West into the Mediterranean and forming a bay on the North connected with the fable of George and the Dragon, and hence called George’s Bay. The city is about 25 miles North of Sidon and about 12 South of the famous Lycus or Dog River, at the mouth of which are found the sculptured rocks bearing the monuments of the ancient kings of Egypt, Babylonia and Assyria.

The city has been thought by some to be the Berothai of 2Sa 8:8 or the Berothah of Eze 47:16, but the connection in which these cities are mentioned seems to preclude the identification. The town is, however, an ancient one, for it occurs in Tell el-Amarna Letters as Beruti where it is closely connected with Gebal of which it may have been a dependency.

Though not mentioned in Old Testament or New Testament it appears in the history of Herod the Great as an important town where was assembled a court of 150 judges, presided over by Saturninus, a former Roman consul, to try the case which Herod brought against his two sons, Alexander and Aristobulus, who were condemned there by the Roman court (Ant., XVI, xi, 2). Beirut was a Roman colony at this time where many veterans settled and it afterward became the seat of a great Roman law school which was attended, in the days of Justinian, by thousands of students. It was utterly destroyed by an earthquake in 551 AD, and for a time was abandoned. Many remains of temples and public buildings of the Roman period remain. It rose to some importance during the Crusades and is at present the chief seaport of Syria, and has the only harbor on the coast. It is a town of about 125,000 inhabitants.