Lebanon in History from the Earliest Times to the Present

By Philip K. Hitti | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XVIII MARONITES, DRUZES AND OTHER SECTARIANS

HISTORICAL obscurity shrouds the land of Lebanon throughout the first four and a half centuries of its experience under Islam. Only the broad outlines between the Arab conquest and the Crusades are discernible. Byzantine sources almost dry up; Arab sources do not begin to flow. From the torrent of Arabians who poured into the Fertile Crescent in the wake of the conquest, a tiny stream must have reached Lebanon, maritime Lebanon. There they occupied the deserted habitations of Byzantines or Byzantine sympathizers who had withdrawn or had been expelled in connection with the conquest. Around 663 Muʿāwiyah transplanted Persians to Sidon, Beirut, Jubayl, Tripoli, ʿArqah and other towns as a measure of protection against possible Byzantine naval raids.1 But Lebanon the mountain offered no attraction to warriors, government officials, Bedouins or semi- Bedouins from Arabia. Agriculture was below the dignity of such men. Snow was no favourite of theirs. Nor was mountain warfare ever palatable to Arabians.

A large number of plants in this conquered area, both wild and domestic, have preserved their pre-Arab Semitic names. Technical terms used in farming and agriculture are mostly Syriac and Aramaic, as are terms relating to theology and ritual (such as ʿimād, baptism; karz, preaching; qissīs, monk; mazmūr, psalm).2 The overwhelming majority of Lebanese villages still bear Aramaic or Phoenician names, not Arabic. In al-Mashriq3 there is a list of 530 such villages, all called Syriac. In all, Lebanon comprises some 1500 villages and towns. Those compounded with bayt (house of) or its attenuated form ba (Bayt al-Dīn or Bataddīn, house of judgment; Baṭar-

Aramaic survivals

____________________
1
Yaʿqūbi, p. 327.
2
For more borrowings consult Michel T. Feghali, Étude sur les emprunts syriaques dans les parlers arabes du Liban ( Paris, 1918), pp. 87-95.
3
Vol. xxxvii ( 1939), pp. 387-412; cf. vol. ix ( 1906), pp. 7-15, 81-7, 152-7.

-244-

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