Lebanon: A History, 600-2011

By William Harris | Go to book overview

1
Emerging Communities, 600–1291

Progenitors of Lebanon’s mountain communities occasionally feature in early medieval sources. In June 659, Mu’awiya bin Abi Sufyan, Muslim governor of Syria and soon to become the first Umayyad caliph, summoned followers of “the House of Lord Maron” to debate in his presence Christian doctrine with their Jacobite opponents. The reference, from a Syriac chronicle written in about 664, is the first documentary trace of Maronite monks.1 The Maronites apparently had the better argument; the chronicle relates: “When the Jacobites were defeated, Mu’awiya ordered them to pay 20,000 denarii and commanded them to be silent.”2

In December 758, an Islamic judge in Damascus recorded:

The emir Mundhir and his brother Arslan came to me and asked me to
make a written record of the deaths of their fathers on parchment so
that they could keep it safe from the ravages of events … because they
had determined to go forth [to live] in the mountains of Beirut on the
orders of the commander of the faithful [the Abbasid caliph] Mansur.3

This opens the chronicle of the Arslan family, a branch of the Arab Tanukh clan who settled in Mount Lebanon to help hold the coast for the caliphate against the Byzantines, and who 250 years later spearheaded the establishment of the Druze sect in the hills above Beirut.

In 842, economic distress drove the peasants of Jabal Amil, the hills of modern southern Lebanon inhabited from the early days of Islam by partisans of the Caliph Ali and the Shia Imams, to insurrection against Abbasid authority. The Arab historian al-Ya’qubi wrote in the 870s:

A man in Palestine called Tamim al-Lakhmi, known as Abi Harb and
also named al-Mubarqa’a, incited the Lakhm, Judham, Amila, and
Balqin tribes to rebellion …. [The Abbasid caliph] al-Wathiq dispatched

-29-

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Lebanon: A History, 600-2011
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Studies in Middle Eastern History ii
  • Title Page v
  • Table of Contents ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • A Note on Transliteration xiii
  • Glossary xv
  • Timeline for Lebanon and Its Communities xxiii
  • Introduction 3
  • Part One - Foundations 27
  • 1 - Emerging Communities, 600–1291 29
  • 2 - Druze Ascent, 1291–1633 66
  • 3 - Mountain Lords, 1633–1842 104
  • Part Two - Modern Lebanon 145
  • 4 - Emerging Lebanon, 1842–1942 147
  • 5 - Independent Lebanon, 1943–1975 193
  • 6 - Broken Lebanon, 1975–2011 232
  • Conclusion 277
  • Abbreviations 285
  • Notes 287
  • Bibliography 323
  • Index 335
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