Photo compliments of Dale Smith

The Temple of Baalat Gebal, the "Lady of Byblos"

The city of Byblos is one of the oldest cities in the world, having been inhabited continuously since Neolithic times more than 7000 years ago.  It is located in today's Lebanon, about 35 km north of Beirut.  In ancient times it was an important sea port from which the famous cedar trees of Lebanon were exported to Egypt in exchange for papyrus, ivory, ebony and gold.  Trade goods from as early as Egypt's 2nd dynasty have been found there.  Byblos is also noteworthy as the place where the linear alphabet was invented.  This became the basis for the modern alphabet that we use today.

The local goddess of Byblos was Asarte, whose spheres of influence included war, protection, love and fertility. She was known as the Baalat Gebal, the "Lady of Byblos." A beautiful temple overlooking the blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea was built in Her honor around 2700 BCE. The Baalat Gebal was also patroness of the shipmasters, which was appropriate for such an important shipping port as Byblos.  Early trading connections between Egypt and Syria led to the identification of the two goddesses with each other.  Like Asarte, Het-Hert was patroness of shipping, as well as mistress of women, fertility, and foreign countires. During Egypt's 12th Dynasty Byblos became an Egyptian dependency, paving the way for Astarte to be welcomed into the Egyptian pantheon as an Eye of Ra, protecting the King's chariot in battle. 

Photo compliments of Dale Smith

The Temple of Obelisks at Byblos

The temple of the Baalat Gebal with its nearby sacred pool was in use for over 2000 years, until it was replaced with a Roman style building during the Roman Era. As early as the 5th and 6th Dynasties, Egyptian kings sent vases and other objects as gifts to the temple, with the royal names inscribed in hieroglyphs. At the nearby Temple of Obelisks, hieroglyphs were also engraved on an obelisk erected in honor of the Lady of Byblos. This site has yielded over 1300 votive offerings, including many small obelisks, faience cats, hippopotami, dwarfs, images of Taweret, and human figures covered with gold leaf. 


Reference for Images

Photos of Byblos compliments of Dale Smith


Baines and Malek, Atlas of Ancient Egypt, p 35, 48.
Bleeker, C.J., Hathor and Thoth: Two Key Figures of Ancient Egyptian Religion, p. 72-73.
Nelson, Harold H., "Fragments of Egyptian Old Kingdom Stone Vases from Byblos, Berytus , vol. I, 1934, p. 19.
Geraldine Pinch: Votive Offerings to Hathor, Griffith Institute, c. 1993, p. 79.
Shaw and Nicholson, The Dictionary of Ancient Egypt, p. 42, 57-58.


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