epigrapher and


Born in France and at home in four European languages and cultures, Henri Seyrig studied classical archaeology after World War I. In 1922 he entered the École d'Athènes, whose general secretary he became in 1928. In 1929 he was appointed director of antiquities of Syria and Lebanon under the French Mandate. Together with René Dussaud he formulated the antiquities law issued by the French High Commission in 1933 that is still in force in Lebanon. Syrian and Lebanese scholars agree that Henri Seyrig had their heritage at heart. He donated his valuable coin collection to the Lebanese Department of Antiquities.

Seyrig had a comprehensive vision of cultural resource protection and management in situ, as well as of the necessity to document all types of heritage from settlements and buildings to antiquities. He was critical of the destructive nature of excavation and defended the rigorous methods developed by figures such as Mortimer Wheeler.

The need for a research center in the region made him reorganize the Institut Français de Damas, which he directed from 1938–1941. In 1946 he created the Institut Français d'Archéologie de Beyrouth. His generosity, scholarship, and all-embracing approaches to archaeology drew talented and dedicated architects, philologists, and archaeologists into his orbit. The result was the recording, restoration, and publication of much of Syria/Lebanon's architectural and cultural heritage. His own contributions on cults in the Orient, particularly at Baalbek and Palmyra, are fundamental and unsurpassed (Seyrig, 1929, 1934–1971).

In France he was instrumental in establishing the Service of Ancient Architecture of the Centre National de Recherche Scientifique, the Center of Documentary Analysis for Archaeology, and the Center for Classical Archaeology. His farsighted views on integrating technological innovations into research prefigured archaeology in the information age.

Resident in Beirut for nearly forty years, Seyrig was an expert epigrapher and numismatist, a brilliant scholar of ancient religions and societies of the Orient and Occident, and a connoisseur of modern and ethnographic art. He preserved and explained cultural resources, considering archaeology a science of the past but for the future.


See also Baalbek; Institut Français d'Archéologie de Proche Orient; Palmyra; and the biographies of Dussaud and Wheeler



  • Le Rider, Georges. Revue Suisse de Numismatìque 53 (1973): 167–171.
  • Seyrig, Henri. “La Triade Héliopolitaine et les temples de Baalbek.” Syria 10 (1929): 314–356.
  • Seyrig, Henri. Antiquités syriennes. 6 vols. Paris, 1934–.
    Articles published in the periodical Syria between 1934 and 1971 (102 titles), dealing mostly with classical and Oriental religion, art, and architecture, but ranging from the Bronze Age to the Islamic period
  • Seyrig, Henri. “Antiquités Syriennes 95. Le culte du Soleil en Syrie à l'époque romaine.” Syria 48 (1971): 337–373.
  • Seyrig, Henri. Trésors monétaires séleucides, vol. 2, Trésors du Levant ancients et nouveaux. Bibliothèque Archéologique et Historique, vol. 94. Paris, 1973.
    His last and comprehensive work on Seleucid coins
  • Seyrig, Henri. Scripta varia: Mélanges d'archéologie et d'histoire. Bibliothèque Archéologique et Historique, vol. 125. Paris, 1985.
    Articles on Near Eastern archaeology and history, not published in Syria
  • Seyrig, Henri. Scripta numismatica. Bibliothèque Archéologique et Historique, vol. 126. Paris, 1986.
    Collection of articles on numismatics
  • Will, Ernest. “Henri Seyrig, 10 novembre 1895–21 janvier 1973.” Syria 50 (1973): 259–265.

Helga Seeden