We are in Batroun, a coastal city in northern Lebanon, located 50 km north of Beirut and 30 km south of Tripoli. This is one of the oldest cities in the world, with a history of human occupation going back to at over 5,000 years.
Despite this, very little is known about its history. Once was a flourishing city and port in Phoenician times (3000 – 64 BC) and one of the most important Phoenician cities in the region. Its name derives from the Greek, Botrys (or Bothrys), which was later Latinized to Botrus, ‘bunch of grapes’, referring to the vineyards that covered the area. Historians and scholars believe that the Greek name of the town originates from the Phoenician word “bater”, which means “to cut”, probably referred to the maritime wall that the Phoenicians built in the sea to protect them from tidal waves, that continues still today. Others instead believe that the name of the town came from by the Phoenician words “beit” and “truna”, which translates to “house of the chief”.
The best-known period in Batroun’s history was under Ottoman rule from 1861 – 1918, during which it flourished in religion, culture, architecture and economics, as still shown by the beautiful Ottoman houses, and Saint George and St Stephen Cathedral. During this time, Batroun also prospered with its surrounding trees like mulberry, olive, almond and fig, vineyards, wheat and tobacco.
The sea wall was originally a natural structure made of petrified sand dunes, and later was gradually reinforced by the Phoenicians with rocks. The process went on until it took its actual shape in the first century B.C. The Phoenicians used this wall as protection against sea storms and invaders, while during Roman times it again functioned as a quarry.
The wall is 225 meters long and from 1 to 1.5 meters thick. Some parts has collapsed, but the remaining still stand strong and proud in Batroun’s bay, and is still today an authentic piece of Lebanon’s ancient history.
Situated just north of the sea wall, there is the fisherman harbor of Batroun, where remains of the old Phoenician port are still visible. A perfect area for a stroll or a lunch or dinner in one of its nearby fresh seafood (excellent!) restaurants.