Beirut, in Phoenicia, a titular Latin see, and the residential see of several prelates of Oriental rites. The earliest form was likely Beeroth “springs”, not Beroth (II Kings, viii, 8) or Berotha (Ezech., xlvii,16), probably situated near Baalbek in Coele-Syria. It is difficult to explain the more usual form, Berytos, but it probably comes from Beriiiti, the Phoenician name of a fish-goddess related to the god of Gebal or Byblos, two towns of the Giblites, a Chanaanite tribe. Berytos was the birthplace of Sanchoniathon, an early Phoenician author, and seems to have been unimportant in remote times. It is mentioned by the Greeks before Alexander, but is not spoken of in connection with the expeditions of this conqueror. After the time of Antiochus IV, Epiphanes (175-164 B.C.), Berytos was known as Laodicea of Chanaan, a name which it kept until the reign of Alexander II, Zabinas (129-123 B.C.); see J. Rouvier, in “Revue de numismatique” (1896), and “Revue biblique”, VII, 272-275. According to Strabo (XVI, ii, 9) it was destroyed by King Tryphon (137-134 B.C.). If this be true, it must have been rebuilt after a short time, for there are records for the complete series of the coins of Berytos from 123 to 14 B.C. It is certain that the Romans enlarged and embellished it; that it was garrisoned by two legions, the Leg. V Macedonica and Leg. VIII Augusta, and that in the year 14 B.C. it became a Roman colony with the name Colonia Julia Augusta Felix Berytus, so called after Julia, the daughter of Augustus (Mommsen, Res gestae divi Augusti, II, 119). The Jewish kings Herod the Great, Herod Agrippa I, and Herod Agrippa II built sumptuous monuments at Berytos and gave gladiatorial combats there (Josephus, Bell. Jud., I, xxi, 11; Antiq., XVI, xi, 2; XVII, x, 9; XIX, vii, 5; XX, ix, 4); Titus also, after the siege of Jerusalem, gave gladiatorial games at Berytos, in which the combatants were Jews. (Josephus, Bell. Jud., VII, iii, 1.) From that time dates the magnificent aqueduct, the remains of which are yet visible, which carried to the city the waters of the River Magoras, now Nahr Beiruth. About the middle of the third century Berytos became the seat of the most renowned law school in the Eastern Roman Empire. Many celebrated jurisconsults were among its teachers (Montreuil, Hist. du droit byzantin, I, 264-273, 279-283). This school was spared by Justinian when he closed all similar schools in favor of Constantinople. The town had suffered much from an earthquake in 529, and when taken by the Arabs about 635 it had fallen into decay.
Berytos became a Christian see at an early date, and was a suffragan of Tyre in Phoenicia Prima, a province of the Patriarchate of Antioch. In antiquity its most famous bishop was Eusebius, afterwards Bishop of Nicomedia, the courtier-prelate and strong supporter of Arianism in the fourth century. Lequien (II, 815-820) gives a list of thirteen Greek bishops reaching to 1673, rectified and completed by Cyril Charon, a Greek Catholic priest (in Al-Mashriq, Beirut, March 1, 1905). In 450 Beirut obtained from Theodosius II the title of metropolis, with jurisdiction over six sees taken from Tyre; but in 451 the Council of Chalcedon restored these to Tyre, leaving, however, to Beirut its rank of metropolis (Mansi, VII, 85-98). Thus, from 451 Beirut was an exempt metropolis depending directly on the Patriarch of Antioch. The city was captured on April 27, 1111, by Baldwin I, King of Jerusalem, and with the exception of short intervals was held by the Franks till 1241. At an early date they established there a Latin see subject to Tyre and, with the provinces of Arabia and Phcenicia Prima, erroneously comprised in the Patriarchate of Jerusalem. Lists of its Latin bishops are available (Lequien, III, 1325-27; Gams, 434; Eubel, I, 137; II, 117; Revue benedictine, 1904, 133-34).
Owing to the fertility of the soil and the security of the harbor, Beirut soon became one of the most active commercial cities in the East. The Druse Ameer Fakhr ed-Din (1595-1634) improved the city and made it better known in Europe. He was a ruler of genius, and succeeded in creating a principality all but independent of the Porte. Beirut was his residence, and the environs his gardens. He planted near the city the beautiful pine wood which is still its finest walk. He had relations with the Venetians and with the Medici at Florence; in 1633 he embraced Catholicism, and in the following year suffered martyrdom for his faith. The fact is undeniable, for the letters of the Capuchin who was the means of his conversion have just been published (de Barenton, O. M. C., “La France catholique en Orient”, 158-164). In the course of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the Turkish Government succeeded in reducing the power of several native families that had forced themselves upon Beirut; at the present time Turkish authority is supreme. The city was shelled in 1840 by the English and in 1860 occupied by the French after the frightful slaughter of Christians in Syria; since that date it has been steadily thriving. Ships of the heaviest tonnage visit its harbor; railroads connect it with Damascus by way of Lebanon, and with Tripoli; carriage-roads connect it with the inland and seaboard towns. The country is well watered and cultivated, and the view from the city is beautiful. Beirut is the capital of a homonymous vilayet. The population, which is about 150,000, shows a steady increase. There are 40,000 Mussulmans, besides the small garrison; 40,000 Maronites, 35,000 Greeks, 12,000 Catholic or Melchite Greeks, 2,000 Latins, 2,000 Protestants, 2,000 Jews, Druses, and Gregorian Armenians, 1,000 Catholic Syrians and Armenians.
Apart from its interest as a Latin titular bishopric, it may be noted that Beirut is: (I) a Greek metropolitan see with about 70,000 believers and many elementary schools; in the city of Beirut are 5 schools for girls conducted by 23 teachers in the pay of the Russian Government; (2) a metropolitan see for Catholic Greeks or Melchites, who number about 15,000 and have a large college at Beirut; (3) a Maronite see, with 50,000 subjects; 50 churches and chapels, 30 priests, and a seminary and college located in the city; (4) a Syrian Catholic see, with about 1,000 faithful, the residence of the Syrian patriarch having been transferred from Mardin to Beirut. The Latin Vicar-Apostolic of Syria, who is also the Apostolic delegate for Oriental rites, has been stationed since 1890 at Beirut (previously at Aleppo), with about 6,000 under his spiritual rule.
In Beirut are many Maronite and Greek Catholic monasteries of Baladites, Aleppines, and Salvatorians, who unaided would be unable to compete with the Protestant propaganda which has taken Beirut as a center whence it spreads over the whole of Syria. Since 1866 the German mission has had charge of the Hospital of the Knights of St. John, an orphan asylum, and a school for girls conducted by deaconesses. The Jewish mission of the Church of Scotland since 1864 has conducted two schools for boys and girls. Miss Taylor’s “St. George’s Institute” has charge of Mussulman or Druse girls. Since 1860 the British Syrian Mission has had a parish, 10 schools, and a normal school for women. Since 1825 the Presbyterian Church of New York has maintained at Beirut a church, a printing-house, its Bible agency, and a school for girls. At a later period it built there the American university, which includes an intermediate college, a medical school, and a theological school for the training of native preachers and clergymen. It also publishes a newspaper and a review; and maintains outside of Beirut 130 primary schools with 109 teachers and 8,000 pupils. In spite of so much effort and expense the Protestant missions have gained in the last 80 years only about 5,000 adherents in all Syria.
The Catholic opposition to their propaganda is supported chiefly by French missionaries. The Capuchins, Franciscans, and Lazarists each have a monastery and a school; the Christian Brothers, schools and a college; the Sisters of Charity, priory schools, a boarding-school, an orphan asylum, and an industrial school for orphan girls; they also have charge of the hospital at the Catholic University. The Sisters of St. Joseph and the Dames de Nazareth have a boarding-school; the Sisters of the Holy Family, a school; the Mariamets, native nuns, their principal house. The most imposing institutions are those of the Jesuits. They maintain and direct outside of Beirut 192 schools for boys and girls, with 294 teachers and 12,000 pupils. There is in the city a faculty of medicine (120 students) founded in 1881 with the help of the French Government; its examinations are conducted before French and Ottoman physicians, and its diplomas are recognized by both France and Turkey. They conduct, moreover, St. Joseph’s Catholic University, the title of which was granted by Leo XIII, February 25, 1881. This university includes: (I) a seminary (60 students) for natives of all rites, which up to 1902 had sent out 228 students, including 3 patriarchs, 15 bishops, 115 priests, and 83 friars; (2) a faculty of philosophy and theology (30 students), which grants the same degrees as the Gregorian University in Rome; (3) a faculty of Oriental languages and sciences, founded in 1902, which teaches the literary and conversational use of Arabic, Hebrew, Syriac, Coptic, and Ethiopic; the comparative grammar of Semitic languages, the history and geography of the Orient; Oriental archmology; Graeco-Roman epigraphy and antiquities; a classical and modern tuition college (400 pupils); 3 primary schools (600 pupils). A printing-house, inaugurated in 1853, is now famous as the foremost Arabic printing-house. Since 1871 the Jesuits have published “Al-Bashir”, a weekly Arabic newspaper, and since 1898 a fortnightly Arabic review, “Al-Mashriq”, the editors of which took rank at once among the best Orientalists. In 1906 they began a collection of philological papers, “Melanges de la Faculte orientale de l’Universitd Saint-Joseph”. Finally, they contribute to many scientific periodicals and publish, chiefly in Arabic, works of great value. We may mention here another precious collection: “Documents inedits pour servir a l’histoire du christianisme en Orient”, the first volume of which appeared at Paris in 1905. These missionaries are the strongest bulwark of Catholicism in Syria.