By Tony D. Ghossain
The Lebanese are composed of many ethnic, and religious groups. Ethnically, a mixture of Phoenician, Assyrian, Aramaic....., and other Semitic peoples, Persian, Greek, Byzantine, Crusader, and of course Arab. Throughout the ages there has been an influx of Arab tribes, and families from the desert. From the 7th century onward, Lebanon became a refuge for persecuted Christian, and Muslim sects. The Lebanese government recognizes 17 religious sects in Lebanon. Arabic is the language of the Lebanese. There is strong evidence that Arabic has been spoken by the Lebanese as early as the 10th century, and maybe earlier. It has been definitely the lingua franca of the Middle east since the Muslim Arab occupation of the region. For many centuries Aramaic, with its many dialects, was the lingua franca of the whole region, including Lebanon. Syriac, which was high Aramaic, is still used in the liturgy of the Maronite church, Syrian Catholic, and Syrian Orthodox churches today. Greek, which was introduced by the invading armies of the Macedonian conqueror, Alexander the great, was also spoken, but mostly in the cities. The Phoenicians, also known by their ancient neighbours as Canaanites (merchants), arrived in Lebanon about 3000 BC. Their original homeland, according to traditions, was the region of the Persian gulf. They were traders, and colonisers, and by the second millennium, they had already extended their influence along the Levant coast line, Anatolia, Cyprus, Spain, Portugal, Britain, and they colonised a large area of north Africa, Carthage, whose great general Hannibal 247-182 BC defeated the Roman armies in many great battles, and threatened their capital Rome. Phoenicia was invaded by the Egyptians in the 16th century BC. They established suzerainty over much of Phoenicia, which was lost in the 14th century BC. In the 9th century BC The Assyrians took control, then the Persians in 538 Bc. The country was latter taken by Alexander the great, and in 64 Bc by the Romans. The Phoenician language was closely related to Hebrew, and Maobite. It was spread to all its colonies, and its Alphabet became the ancestor of the Greek alphabet, and all western alphabets. The Phoenician Language was superseded by Aramaic in the 1st century BC. Constantine the great 306-337 AD moved the Roman capital from Rome to Constantinople. Christianity became the official state religion. Phoenicia became a part of the eastern Roman Empire, (Byzantine empire). The Byzantine empire was more Greek in culture, and language then Latin. Greek was widely spoken in the cities of Phoenicia, "it is still presently used in the liturgies of the Melkite Orthodox, and Melkite Catholic churches in Lebanon, and the rest of the Arab world". Aramaic was the language of the majority of the populace. The great Profit Mohamed received his prophetic call 610 AD, by the time of his death in 632 AD, he had gathered together a large part of Arabia, and the Islamic Ummah (nation) was increasing in number, and strength while Christian sects were fighting each others, accusing each others of being heretics. Byzantine emperors fuelled the Quarrels, using their military forces to support different factions. Islam came as a saviour to many from the Byzantine tyranny, while others sought refuge in the Lebanese mountains from both the Byzantines, and the Muslims. Many of those refugees were Arabs, Anbaat (Arab town dwellers from Syria, and surrounding region). The Mardaites, Indo European people related to the Iranians, and inhabited the Amanos mountains in present day Hatay province of Turki, were ordered by the Byzantine emperor to occupy the area, which forms present day Lebanon, and part of Palestine, to form a defence line against the Islamic invaders. The Mardaites succeeded, until Justinian II betrayed them, 12000 of their fighters, and their families were removed from Lebanon, and dispersed in Anatolia, What remained of them merged with the rest of the inhabitants of the Lebanese mountain, who were followers of a Syrian hermit, Saint Maron. Led by their Patriarch Saint John Maron they routed the Byzantine army of Justinian II at the battle of Amioun 694AD. The Abbasids Arab dynasty moved Arab, Iranian, and Turkic Muslim tribes into some areas of Lebanon to counter the Maronite threat to the borders of their empire. The Mamluke Sultans of Egypt later did the same by moving a large number of different Islamic people, including Arabs, Turks and others into the south western area of Lebanon to prevent the Crusaders, whom they expelled from returning. The crusaders left behind many of their people, who merged with the Maronites in the Lebanese Mountain. The Ottoman Turks, after defeating the Mamlukes, and taking over the Sultanate, brought with them a large army of Muslim Albanians, and Circassians ( were also a part of the Mamluke Army, and Many Mamlukes were Circassians). All these People contributed to the Lebanese Genetic pool. Members of religious sects in Lebanon married partners from their own sects, and very seldom intermarried with the other sects, even at present. The Lebanese, Muslims, and Christians genetic pool is very rich, and diversified, which makes of the Lebanese people a tough, highly intelligent, and very industrious people indeed.