the northern Levantine region along the eastern Mediterranean coast that was an important source of coniferous woods (especially cedar), resins, wine, oil, and various finished goods for Egypt. The major coastal towns of ancient Lebanon (Akk., labnanu, Heb., lĕbānôn) developed around natural harbors and became wealthy through trade with the Mediterranean world and the Near East. Four narrow and roughly parallel north–south ecological zones (the coast and coastal plain; the Lebanon Mountains; the Biqaʿ Valley, and the Anti-Lebanon Mountains) encouraged the development of independent political entities, rather than a unified country. Lebanon's ports and towns were never a military threat to Egypt, whose interests in the region were largely economic and political. On occasion, however, Lebanese ports served as launching points for Egyptian military campaigns against enemies to the north and east.

Pharaonic Egypt's relations with Lebanon are historically fragmentary and based largely on textual sources. Because the principal Bronze Age and Iron Age coastal towns (Tyre, Sidon, Sarepta, Beirut, and Byblos) mostly lie under present-day cities, the excavation of Lebanon's ancient settlements is rarely possible. Byblos (today's Jebail) and Kumidu (Tell Kamid el-Loz, situated in the southern part of the Biqaʿ Valley) are the only two Bronze Age towns to have had significant excavation; Sarepta (today's Sarafand) is the one Iron Age coastal town.

Analyses of wood from the late Predynastic settlement at Maadi near Cairo indicated that Lebanese cedar had been imported into Egypt by the late fourth millennium BCE. The oldest inscribed Egyptian object found in Lebanon is a broken stone vessel from Byblos that contains the name of Khasekhemwy, the last king of the second dynasty (r. 2714–2687 BCE). This item was probably a gift to a Byblos ruler or temple; in the Bronze Age and Iron Age, Egyptian kings regularly sent gifts to the temples and political authorities of important Lebanese towns, as part of their effort to maintain favorable commercial and political ties.

Egypt's relations with Lebanon intensified during the Old Kingdom, when timbers of Lebanese cedar were imported into Egypt in considerable quantities, and a wealthy Egyptian state and its nobility wanted to acquire sometimes exotic goods. A fifth dynasty relief in the mortuary temple of Sahure at Abusir, for example, shows a Near Eastern bear and flask. Stone vessels, statuary, reliefs, and other large objects inscribed for fourth, fifth, and sixth dynasty kings and officials have been found at Byblos—whose principal goddess, Baalat Gebal, the Egyptians linked with their own goddess Hathor. In addition, an axhead inscribed with the name of Khufu was found at the mouth of the nearby Adonis River. The collapse of Egypt's Old Kingdom and the destruction of Byblos in the late third millennium BCE temporarily ended Egyptian activities on the Lebanese coast.

Egypt's contacts with Lebanon were restored in the eleventh dynasty and flourished once again in the twelfth. The Story of Sinuhe names Byblos as that Egyptian official's first stop, after he fled Egypt following the death of Amenemhet I. At Byblos, during the twelfth and thirteenth dynasties, local officials employed both Egyptian writing and political titles. Egyptian and Egyptianized objects were numerous in that period at Byblos; outstanding objects include an obsidian jar inscribed with the name of Amenemhet III and an obsidian box with the name of Amenemhet IV. A small diorite sphinx inscribed with the cartouche of Amenemhet IV was found during some modern construction work in Beirut, and several Lebanese coastal cities (including Byblos and Tyre) were mentioned in the Egyptian Execration Texts.

Egyptian–Lebanese connections remained close well into the late eighteenth century BCE. A relief fragment depicting the Byblos mayor Yantin, along with a cartouche of Neferhotpe I (r. 1747–1736 BCE), comes from that site, while a fragmentary statue of Khaneferre Sobekhotpe IV (r. 1734–1725 BCE) was discovered at Tell Hizzin in the northern Biqaʿ Valley. Archaeological evidence for relations during the latter half of Egypt's Second Intermediate Period is meager, but the prominent mention in the Kamose Stela at Karnak of three hundred ships of cedar filled with gold, silver, semiprecious stones, oil, and other valuables indicates that the Hyksos rulers of the fifteenth dynasty traded extensively with Lebanon and Syria.


Lebanon. Mountain face, Lebanon Range. (Courtesy Donald B. Redford)

The New Kingdom pharaohs of the early eighteenth dynasty (especially Thutmose III) incorporated Lebanon into Egypt's Near Eastern empire. The coast and coastal plain became part of the district of Canaan, whose administrative headquarters was at Gaza on the southern Palestine coast; the southern Biqaʿ Valley was allocated to a second district, whose operational center was at Kumidu; the northern Biqaʿ Valley was assigned to a third district, headquartered at Sumur on the Syrian coast. New Kingdom texts sometimes refer to the region of Lebanon as rmnn (rbrn, in the Story of Wenamun). Throughout the New Kingdom, Byblos seems to have been the principal center of Egyptian activity on the Lebanese coast.

The Amarna Letters from the reigns of Amenhotpe III and IV (Akhenaten) include a substantial number of messages sent to the Egyptian court by the mayors of the major Lebanese coastal towns: at least sixty-seven cuneiform tablets from Rib-Hadda of Byblos (Amarna Letters EA 68–95, 101–138, 362); ten from Abi-Milku of Tyre (EA 146–155); two from Zimreddi of Sidon (EA 144–145); and three from Ammunira of Beirut (EA 141–143). The letters document disputes and conflicts between the leaders of the various towns, threats to the stability of the region caused by Abdi-Ashirta and Aziru (successive rulers of the Syrian kingdom of Amurru) and a resurgent Hittite empire, and Egypt's general neglect of those events. Finds at the Egyptian administrative center at Kumidu included several cuneiform letters (two evidently sent by Amenhotpe III) as well as a variety of Egyptian imports and Egyptianized objects from the “treasury” building (apparently part of a local royal cemetery).

Later Egyptian texts indicate that in the early nineteenth dynasty, Sety I and Ramesses II reasserted Egyptian military control in Lebanon. Sety I's name appears on a fragmentary stela from Tyre, while Ramesses II's name has been found on a fragmentary stela, doorway blocks, and several calcite (Egyptian alabaster) vessels from Byblos; on a calcite jar from a rock tomb in downtown Beirut; on a stela fragment from Tyre; a rock stela from Adlun; and on three rock stelae carved in the Nahr el-Kalb, just north of Beirut. Later on in the dynasty, Lebanese place names (including Beirut, Sidon, Sarepta, and Tyre) are mentioned in Papyrus Anastasi I, while a dispatch for the ruler of Tyre is noted in the Journal of a Frontier Official.

The incursion of the Sea Peoples into the eastern Mediterranean in the early twelfth century BCE ended Egyptian authority everywhere in the northern Levant. No royal statuary or stelae of the twentieth or twenty-first dynasty, for example, are attested in Lebanon. The Report of Wenamun, from the end of the New Kingdom, records the inhospitable reception given that Egyptian priest by the prince of Byblos, Zekerbaal, who had no reason to fear Egyptian retribution. That a brisk trade between Egypt and the towns of Phoenicia (as the later Greeks called the Lebanese coastal area) continued for at least a while, despite the change in relationship between the two parties, is evident from the mention in the Wenamun text of seventy ships in the harbors of Byblos and Sidon that were trading with Smendes (r. 1076–1050 BCE), the first king of the twenty-first dynasty.

Evidence for a major revival in Egyptian political activity in Phoenicia in the early twenty-second dynasty occurs in the form of several pieces of royal sculpture from Byblos. Two of these items are a fragmentary statue of Sheshonq I (r. 931–910 BCE), reinscribed in Phoenician with a dedication by the local ruler, Abibaal; and a broken statue of Osorkon I (r. 910–896 BCE), which was reinscribed by Abibaal's successor, Elibaal.

Renewed ties with Phoenicia and the extraordinary expansion of Phoenician maritime trade around the Mediterranean world in the Iron Age and later led to the dispersal of Egyptian objects and cultural influence as far away as Greece, Carthage on the North African coast, and the Iberian Peninsula. Egyptian influence on Phoenician culture in its homeland and abroad was substantial, especially in the minor arts (such as ivories, scarabs, amulets, jewelry, and bronze figurines), as well as architecture and religion. In the Persian period, for example, Phoenician dignitaries were buried in huge anthropoid stone sarcophagi of Egyptian form. In addition, the Saite dynasty's Necho II (r. 610–595 BCE) employed Phoenician sailors to circumnavigate Africa, while Psamtik II (r. 595–589 BCE) hired Phoenician mercenaries to serve in his military. The cities of Naukratis and, later, Alexandria became the major emporia for Egyptian trade with Phoenicia.



  • Chéhab, Maurice. “Relations entre l'Egypte et la Phénicie des origines à Oun-Amon.” In The Role of the Phoenicians in the Interaction of Mediterranean Civilizations, edited by William A. Ward, pp. 1–8. Beirut, 1968. Useful though somewhat outdated history of Egyptian–Lebanese relations until the early eleventh century BCE.
  • Chéhab, Maurice. “Noms de personnalités égyptiennes découverts au Liban.” Bulletin du Musée de Beyrouth 22 (1969), 1–47. Convenient catalog of objects found in Lebanon (especially at Byblos) that contain Egyptian royal and private names.
  • Hachmann, Rolf. “Kamid el-Loz 1963–1981. German Excavations in Lebanon, Part I.” Berytus 37 (1989), 5–187. Detailed summary in English of the excavations at Kumidu.
  • Leclant, Jean. “Les relations entre l'Egypte et la Phénicie du voyage d'Ounamon à l'expédition d'Alexandre.” In The Role of the Phoenicians in the Interaction of Mediterranean Civilizations, edited by William A. Ward, pp. 9–31. Beirut, 1968. Survey of Egyptian–Phoenician relations from the early eleventh century BCE to 332 BCE.
  • Lipiński, Édouard, et al. Dictionnaire de la civilisation phénicienne et punique. Turnhout, 1992. Valuable compendium of basic information on Phoenician culture, accompanied by bibliographies for each entry; numerous entries relate to Egypt.
  • Moran, William L. The Amarna Letters. Baltimore, 1992. Includes translations of the Amarna Letters from Lebanon.
  • Ward, William A. “Egyptian Objects from the Beirut Tombs.” Berytus 41 (1993–1994), 211–222. Finds include a jar containing the car-touches of Ramesses II.
  • Ward, William A. “Archaeology in Lebanon in the Twentieth Century.” Biblical Archaeologist 57 (1994), 66–85. Convenient recent survey of archaeological activity in Lebanon, with some references to Egyptian connections.
  • Weinstein, James M. “Egyptian Relations with the Eastern Mediterranean World at the End of the Second Millennium BCE.” In Mediterranean Peoples in Transition: Thirteenth to Early Tenth Centuries BCE: In Honor of Trude Dothan, edited by Seymour Gitin, Amihai Mazar, and Ephraim Stern, pp. 188–196. Jerusalem, 1998. Includes a discussion of Egyptian relations with coastal Lebanon from the end of the New Kingdom through the early Third Intermediate Period.

James M. Weinstein