- Tripoli Overview
Habitation of the site of Tripoli goes back to at least the 14th century BC, but
it wasn't until about the 9th century BC that the Phoenicians established a
small trading station there. Later, under the Persians, it was home to a
confederation of the Phoenician city states of Sidon, Tyre and Arados Island.
Built on the trade and invasion route near the Abu Ali river (Qadisha river),
Tripoli's strategic position was enhanced by offshore islands, natural ports and
access to the interior. Tripolitan Craftsmen were renowned throughout the
Mediterranean for their skills at glass making and fabric weaving; and a
thriving intellectual class dwelt on poetry, art and philosophy.
Under Roman rule, starting with the take-over of the area by Pompey in 64-63 BC,
the city flourished. During this period the Romans built several monuments in
the city. The Byzantine city of Tripolis, which by then extended to the south,
was destroyed, along with other Mediterranean coastal cities, by an earthquake
and tidal wave in 551.
After 635 Tripoli became a commercial and shipbuilding center under the Omayyads.
It achieved semi-independence under the Fatimid Dynasty when it developed into a
center of learning.
At the beginning of the 12th century, the Crusaders lais siege to the city,
finally entering it in 1109. The conquest caused extensive destruction,
including the burning of Tripoli's famous library, the Dar Il-Ilm, with its
thousands of volumes.
During the Crusader’s 180 years rule, the city was the capital of the County of
Tripoli. But the Crusader Tripoli fell in 1289 to the victorious Mamluk Sultan
Qalaoun, who ordered the old port city (today Al-Mina) destroyed and a new city
built inland near the old Castle. It was this time that the numerous religious
and secular buildings were erected, many of which still survive today.
During the long Turkish Ottoman rule 1516-1918, Tripoli retained its property
and commercial importance and in these years more buildings were added to the
city’s architectural wealth. The absence of fountains can be explained by the
abundance of water flowing into the city from the mountains, an advantage that
greatly impressed chroniclers and travelers to Tripoli in the 14th century. The
absence of free-standing mausoleums can also be explained: Tripoli was neither a
capital like Cairo, nor was it a holy city like Jerusalem. It was a provincial
town, where members of the ruling elite or the middle class seem to have
preferred to immortalize themselves by endowing religious buildings, and placing
their tombs inside them.
Tripoli became a part of Lebanon in 1920.
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