Beirut is built on a rocky promontory, a site also occupied by pre-historic man. In ancient times it was overshadowed by more powerful neighbours, but when the city-states of Sidon and Tyre began to decline in the first millennium BC, Beirut acquired more influence. It was not until Roman times, when it was made a Roman colony in about 15 BC, that Beirut became an important port and cultural centre. During the roman and Byzantine eras it was distinguished for its Law School, whose professors helped draft the famous Justinian Code.
Beirut was destroyed by devastating earthquake in 551 AD. A century later it was occupied by the Moslem armies and in 1109 it fell to the Crusaders. The city remained in Crusader hands until 1291, when it was conquered by the Mamlukes.
In 1516 the 400-year Ottoman rule began. Later in 17th century, Beirut knew a period of great prosperity under the government of Emir Fakhreddine II. Then, with the break-up of the Ottoman empire at the end of World war I, the city became the capital of modern Lebanon.
Today’s Beirut, with its million plus inhabitants, remains the cultural and commercial centre of the country. The war-ruined city centre is being reconstructed under a 25 year project that envisages a new modern city that will also retain its familiar oriental flavour.
Such landmarks as Martyrs’ Square, the souks (covered markets) and the parliament Building, are part of the design, which covers 1-8 million square meters.
In extensive archaeological investigations, historical periods ranging from Canaanite (3000 – 1200 BC) to Ottoman (1515 – 1918 AD) have been revealed.
In May 2015, Beirut was officially recognized as one of the New7Wonders Cities together with Vigan, Doha, Durban, Havana, Kuala Lumpur, and La Paz.