Byblos is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. A settlement has been present on the site since at least 5000 BC, when a small Neolithic community of fishermen lived there in monocellular huts. At the beginning of the Early Bronze Age (c.3200 BC) the region became commercially active: Byblos became an important centre for the shipping of tinder and cedar, which was a great attraction for Egyptians, who also acquired oil, leather, and wine from Byblos. In exchange, Egypt traded with gold, alabaster, papyrus rope, and linen. A period of prosperity and economic wealth began for Byblos and lasted most of the Bronze Age.
At the end of the Bronze Age (c.1200 BC), Byblos, just like other settlements in the Levant, Egypt, Greece, and the Greek islands, suffered several consecutive and very destructive attacks. At around this time an alphabetic phonetic script was developed, the first instance being an inscription on the sarcophagus of King Ahiram of Byblos. This was the precursor of our contemporary Latin alphabet. This new writing system was spread by Phoenician merchants in their commercial maritime ventures in the Mediterranean.
Byblos, located in the middle of the area dominated by the Phoenicians (the Levant, a region roughly corresponding to modern-times Lebanon), soon became one of the dominant political powers, partly due to its privileged position. Together with Sidon, Byblos retained a preeminent position until around 900 BC, when it started to decline to the benefit of Tyre. Phoenician traders had strong contacts with Greeks throughout the Iron Age and the Archaic Period, and it was the Greeks who called the city Byblos, perhaps because it was the place where they acquired papyrus. However, the city’s inhabitants did not recognize that name and referred to it as Gubla or Gebal instead.
The city came under Persian influence in the mid-6th century BC until it was conquered by Alexander the Great, after which it was soon hellenized. The inhabitants of Byblos adopted the Greek language, culture and customs, which prevailed when Pompey took over the city in the first century BC. During the Roman Period the appearance of the city was improved by the erection of temples, baths, several other public buildings and a colonnaded bordered street around the city. Inhabitation in Byblos was uninterrupted and fell under the control of diverse powers, including Arab rule in 637, and the crusaders in 1104.