Cedars of Lebanon and DEORestation (CEDARS Case)

        CASE NUMBER:        187
        CASE NAME:          Cedars of Lebanon and Phoenicians


      Owing to the diminution of rainfall from north to south,
      from west to east, and from highland to lowland, these
      were exactly the directions in which the chief lumber
      traffic moved [along the Mediterranean].  Exceptions
      occurred mainly where choice woods from a limited area of
      production gradually acquired wide use, as in the case of
      ...the unsurpassed cedars of Lebanon.  [Semple, pp.267-

      The cedar trees of Lebanon were much heralded in the times of
antiquity for their beauty, fragrance, commercial value, and
utility in building.  Research derived from historical abstracts
reveals the relationship between ancient Lebanese cedar trade for
commercial and economic profit, and the denudation of the once
beautifully forested lands of the Levant.  This case study,
therefore, has certain relevance as an ancient trade issue with
apparent environmental consequences, as demonstrated by a minimally
forested Lebanon today;  the significance of this research is hence
justified.  To know the appearance of Mount Lebanon in ancient
times, as well as how its vegetation changed to a great degree,
"[I]s to come to grips with processes that offer unrivaled evidence
of man's ability to transform nature." [Mikesell, p.1]  
      In antiquity, there were a variety of different peoples
populating the Levant;  the most prominent being the Canaanites,
Aegeans, Aramaeans, and Phoenicians.  For the purposes of this
paper, I will focus on the Phoenicians and their pursuit of a
thallasocracy (defined as a maritime empire) based on the sale of
lumber throughout the Mediterranean.  The results of their
commercial interests and sea-faring exploits had a special impact
on the timbered areas of Lebanon, as near-total denudation took
place.  Of secondary importance to this paper will be the effect of
military campaigns and the exaction of tribute on Levantine
      Along coastal strips and lowlands of the Mediterranean, the
primary areas of settlement, forested land was rapidly cleared.
[Semple, p.266]  As a consequence, a lumber trade developed between
well-timbered regions and sparsely-timbered or deforested regions
of the Mediterranean.  For nearly three millennia (c. 2600 B.C. -
138 A.D.), the timber from the mountains of Lebanon served obvious
needs of early settlement, demand for fuel, ship and other building
material, and timber for cabinets inclusive. [Semple, p.267]2
      Writers such as Theophrastus, Homer, Pliny, and Plato, along
with the Old Testament provide the modern world with documented
descriptions of the once richly forested mountains of Lebanon.  The
wood's importance in social development and improving the economic
well-being of ancient civilizations is also alluded to in the
historical record.3  
      Among the most significant centers of trade in lumber were
Sidon and Tyre.  Due to their geographic location close to the sea,
the cities acted as ports for trade, wherein cedar logs from the
outlying mountains would be felled and sent down stream, often tied
together as rafts.  The destinations were, in these cases, often
populous coastal lowland nations, e.g. Egypt and Palestine, which
had little timber and a need for building materials. [Baramki, p.19
and Semple, p.271]  "...Phoenicia, especially Byblos, supplied
Egypt with the timber which she needed for her buildings, her
boats, her furniture and fuel, and especially her funerary
equipment.  Vast quantities of cedar and pine timber were made into
rafts and towed by boats from Byblos, mainly to Egypt, as early as
2800 B.C..." [Baramki, p.18]  Egypt chose Phoenician ports for
commercial relationships because of its relative proximity.  The
next nearest source of lumber trade would have had to come from
Amanus or Cyprus. [Meiggs, p.62]
      Records detail trading relationships which developed for such
important historical constructions as Jerusalem's new temple built
by King Solomon of Israel.  A contract was made between Solomon and
King Hiram of Tyre, wherein cedar logs from the mountains of
Lebanon, as well as pine, were gathered and sent downstream for the
specific purpose of building the famously ornate Second Temple. 
The communication between the two kings reads:  ■As you dealt with
David my father and sent him cedar to build himself a house to
dwell in, so deal with me.■ [II Chronicles, ii.3]  Biblical
passages such as this one represent the most detailed record of the
Phoenician lumber trade.  It is written that Solomon even went so
far as to send forced laborers to Phoenicia in order to assist in
the clearing and facilitate the transportation of cedar to
Palestine.4 [Mikesell, p.18]  Meiggs contends that securing cedar
wood was a necessity for Solomon,  because he was attempting to
compete with other regional kingdoms for prestige and reputation. 
Lebanese cedars built into the Israelite Temples would help Solomon
in this regard. [Meiggs, p.69]
      Of further interest, Harden explains the dominating Phoenician
influence in the temple's architecture.  "The full description in
the Bible of Solomon's temple at Jerusalem, built as it was by
Phoenician workmen, gives some indication of what an important
temple looked like."  He continues, "The inner sanctuary...of
Solomon■s temple was panelled with cedars from floor to ceiling and
its ceiling was of cedar beams and planks forming recessed panels."
[Harden, p.91 and p.141, as well as Mikesell, p.18]  Meiggs
provides the details:  
      Cedars were also lavishly used in the palace and adjoining
buildings.  The so-called House of the Forest of Lebanon was larger
than the temple, 150x75x45 feet.  The wide span of seventy-five
feet, more than twice the width of the temple, needed internal
supports for the roof.  There were four rows of cedar columns with
beams of cedar over them and further lengths of cedar on top of the
walls, which were made of carefully cut blocks of stone.  These two
series of cedar beams formed the basis of the roof, with smaller
cedar timbers over them and a sealing of mud.  Cedar was also used
for the panelling of the Hall of Judgement. [Meiggs, pp.70-71]

      These Tyrian and Sidonian commercial relationships with the
Israelites represent the level at which Levantine cedar timber was
esteemed in Palestine.  Not only were cedars used in the first two
sacred temples of the Israelites, but contracts were also made to
ship Phoenician timber for the restoration of the Second Temple (c.
520 B.C.). [Ezra, iii.7]  The relationship continued to develop, as
men of Kings Hiram and Solomon engaged in joint commercial
expeditions along the Mediterranean. [Meiggs, pp.71-72]  
      In another case, because timber along the coastal region of
Asia Minor was exhausted, cedar wood from Lebanon was imported for
the well-reputed edifice:  the Temple of Diana. [Semple, p.275] 
Also, in  sixth century B.C. Egypt, Amasis claimed that he happened
upon Osiris■ sacred barge at Thebes.  Upon finding that it was made
of weak, small acacia wood, he rebuilt it with strong, large cedar
wood. [Meiggs, p.59]  A further popular use of cedar timber in
antiquity was with monumental doors and roofing.  In the Near East,
as well as Rome and Greece, long boards of cedar were cut for roofs
and temple and palace doors.  The famed temples of Seti I at Thebes
and Osiris at Abydos serve as examples of cedar-based architecture.
[Meiggs, p.64]
      Additionally, because of its richly forested mountains, the
Levantine region was the object of repeated conquest by neighboring
peoples, most notably Babylonia, which had been importing wood for
its temples as early as 3,000 B.C.5 [Semple, p. 271]  Throughout
antiquity, however, there was a demonstrated effort on the part of
all controlling nations to make use of the cedar timber of Lebanon. 
Meiggs explains that, "The most colorful records [of the forest
area vegetation pattern] are the royal inscriptions of Mesopotamian
and Egyptian kings, who thought it natural to include records of
their tree-felling in the accounts of their military campaigns and
to hand down to posterity a description of the palaces they built."
[Meiggs, p.53 and Mikesell, p.12]  The conquest of areas
surrounding the mountains of Lebanon, therefore, provide modernity
with a veritable historical record of the forests, as well as
documentation of the several uses of its timber and efforts at
clearing areas.  "Cedar was thought to be the prize which all the
states of the Near East coveted, and for which the empires of Egypt
and Mesopotamia were prepared to fight." [Meiggs, p.55]  
      Accounts abound concerning the diminution of cedar timber in
the mountains of Lebanon as a result of tribute payments.  Due to
the constant quest for control of the valuable forested lands,
records from various royal peoples detail the spoils of their
successful military campaigns.  Thut-Mose III, Seti I, and Ramses
III are but a few who made a point of mentioning the fine timber
secured from Lebanon as tribute;  the cedars supplied them with
wood for ships, ceremonial barques, beams, masts, temples, etc.
[Mikesell, p.12]  The Phoenicians, often were required to construct
ships as well.  Meiggs contends that this was the case with the
campaign of Thut-Mose III, who demanded ships be built so that his
armies could cross the Euphrates.  "When my majesty crossed over to
the marshes of Asia, I had many ships of cedar built on the
mountains of God's Land near the Lady of Byblos." [Quoted in
Meiggs, pp.65-66]  
      Oftentimes, military campaigns consisted of elaborate plans
for logging expeditions (the means of assuring payment of tribute). 
Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar inscribed the details on-site in
      I cut through steep mountains, I split rocks, opened
      passages and [thus] I constructed a straight road for the
      [transport of the] cedars.  I made the Arahtu float
      [down] and carry to Marduk, my lord, mighty cedars, high
      and strong, of precious beauty and of excellent dark
      quality, the abundant yield of Lebanon, as [if they be]
      reed stalks carried by the river. [As quoted by Mikesell,

      In this way, Egyptians and Mesopotamians used military means
to overcome a domestic shortage of a natural resource which was
slow to replenish itself.6  Leaders of these various nations then,
looked at wood as a justification for military campaigns;  the
exaction of tribute enabled conquerors of the Levant to
appropriate, and thence denude, parts of the Levant■s rich supply
of forested land.  By doing this, they easily circumvented
shortcomings at home.  Spoils of victory in the ancient Near East,
then, included wood from Lebanon.7  Cycles of consolidated power in
Egypt and Mesopotamia (later Persia too) reflected the fluctuations
in Phoenician commercial history and forest use.  Relative
prosperity by either one of the flanking kingdoms amounted to
effective control of the Levantine timber (which often manifested
in demands for tribute). [Meiggs, pp.72-73]  Isaiah's terse
memorial for the forest-clearing Nebuchadnezzar (upon his death in
562) reads:
      The whole world has rest and is at peace;
            it breaks into cries of joy.
      The pines themselves and the cedars of Lebanon exult over you.
            Since you have been laid low, they say,
            no man comes up to fell us. 
      [Isaiah, 14:7-8]

      Mesopotamia, not unlike Egypt, contained sparse plots of
serviceable trees.  In order to supply the Mesopotamian kingdoms in
antiquity with wood for palaces and temples, external supply
sources were sought.  At first, Amanus was chosen because it was
closer;  however, as detailed above (fn.7), the tall cedars of
Lebanon soon overshadowed their shorter Syrian counterparts from
Amanus.  Lebanese timber, then, became the object of veneration and
eventual conquest. [Meiggs, p.63]
      Historically, the Phoenicians had the most prominent and
dominating influence (commercially-speaking) in the Levant.  Owing
to their Aegean ancestry, the Phoenicians were a great sea-faring
people, and their fleet of ships were built primarily with cedar
and pine timber from the mountains of Lebanon.8 [Semple, p.270-71] 
Baramki points out that the Phoenician people, "[E]stablished a
thalassocracy over the Mediterranean for over four centuries and
over the Aegean for at least three and a half centuries.  They were
never eclipsed as a maritime nation until the rise of Venice, Genoa
and Pisa in the Middle Ages.  It is this fusion of [the Aegean and
Canaanite] races which heralded the Golden Age of Phoenician
greatness." [Baramki, p.26]  
      Harden adds that the joining of trade in raw materials, such
as cedar timber, and imported raw materials helped to establish
their maritime dominance. [Harden, p.137]  Baramki  further
maintains that, ■It was the unlimited produce of the hinterland
from the Lebanon to the Persian Gulf that they carried over the
seas to Egypt, Greece, Cyprus, Africa, Spain and the Islands in the
basin of the western Mediterranean and brought back the products of
the latter countries to Phoenicia whence they were carried...to the
hinterlands of Asia.■ [Baramki, p.62]
      From the location of Phoenician settlement, it may be
extrapolated that the cedar timber from Lebanon, by virtue of its
geographical proximity, provided an integral - perhaps even a
necessary - resource with which their thalassocracy was established
and on which it thrived. [Baramki, p.63]  Additionally, it may be
suggested that the cedar forests, which provided the Phoenicians
with the timber needed to produce their galleys, helped to export
the several products (other than wood) for which Phoenicians are
famous:  namely the alphabet, knowledge of astronomy, and their
renowned purple dyes, as well as, "[P]roducts of Egypt, Babylonia,
Assyria and Syria to the Greek world, to North Africa, to Sicily,
to Spain, and even to the remote coast of Etruria." [Baramki,
pp.58-62]  Richer detail of Phoenician trade is added by Ezekiel: 
"[T]he markets of Tyre...offered linen from Egypt, silver, tin,
lead, and iron from Spain, copper from Cyprus, horses, mules, and
articles of bronze from Asia Minor, sheep and goats from Arabia,
gold precious stones, and spices from Yemen, and a host of other
products from near and far." [Ezekiel xxvii.1-25]  It was the ship
building, however, that served as the primary industry of the
Phoenicians during their Golden Age. [Baramki, p.63]
      Evidence of cedar timber brought from Phoenicia to nations
along the Mediterranean, especially that which was used in the
construction of buildings, is extant in texts and historical
artifacts. [Semple, p.270]  Nevertheless, timber from other
regional forests near and around the Mediterranean contributed
significantly to the resource supply.  "It was especially the
northern mountains of the Mediterranean Basin, with their heavier
rainfall and denser forests, which yielded the most ample and
varied supply of timber, and which therefore, furnished the chief
cargoes for the lumber fleets of ancient times."[Semple, p.273]  
      The cedar lumber from Lebanon, therefore, did not serve as an
exclusive resource in antiquity.  Nevertheless, the Levantine
forests were the object of continual military campaigns.  This
point serves as a marker of the cedar wood■s relative value in the
Mediterranean.  "In addition to the Levantine forests, pine was
available on Jabal Sinjar, and oak, juniper, hawthorn, and other
species could be found in the Zagros range.  Thus the importance of
the Phoenician forests is probably best explained not merely by a
need for timber but, rather, by a desire for timber of exceptional
size." [Mikesell, pp.16-17]  The consequent campaigns in the Levant
when other wood could be had were an indication of the cedar
timber■s veneration.
      Lebanese cedar wood was revered for various reasons by ship
builders and those involved in the construction of buildings. 
Pliny used the cedars of Lebanon as a standard by which all other
timbers would be measured.  [Semple, p.283]  The Greek historian
Diodorus also documented the relative strength and beauty of the
Lebanese cedars. [Meiggs, p.57]  Detail of the venerable cedars is
provided by Meiggs.  He describes how, when given a choice among
Levantine woods, the cedar was an obvious first option:
      The kings of Mesopotamia and Egypt chose cedar before fir for
several reasons.  As a tree it was a patrician, the fir plebeian. 
The wood of the cedar, unlike the fir, resisted rot and insects and
was very durable, as was demonstrated in the temple of Artemis at
Ephesus, the roof-beams of which were of cedar and still in good
condition four hundred years later.  It also had an attractive
aromatic scent, took a good polish, and was appreciated by
carpenters and cabinet-makers because it had a close, straight
grain and was easy to work.  ...[B]oth cypress and juniper were
less handsome and neither could compare with the cedar in height.
[Meiggs, p.55]
      Around the time of Plato, the local forests of Greece were
denuded, and as a result, the Athenians imported an extensive
amount of timber, most notably from Phoenicia. [Semple, p.276]  It
is this wood that contributed to the development of the great
Athenian fleet of ships. [Semple, p.276]  Semple establishes that:
      Later the expansion of Macedon over all this coast as far as
the Hellespont excluded Athens from her nearest and surest lumber
supply, and jeopardized her sea connection with the Caucasus and
Pontic forests, until her incorporation into Philip■s empire again
opened these sources of supply.  Athens revolted from Cassander in
305 B.C. and forfeited her right to use the Macedonian forests. 
Then she turned to Demetrius of Syria and was promised timber for
a hundred war ships.  The wood doubtless came from the Lebanon
range. [Semple, p.277]
      Theophrastus attests to the acclaimed utility of cedar (along
with fir and pine) in ship-building in several of his passages.
[Cited in Meiggs, pp.56-57]  The reputation of  Lebanese cedars■
durability and fragrance traversed the Mediterranean to the Greek
and Roman worlds.  It later penetrated the world of the Persian
empire as well.  In fact, references provided by historians cite
the Phoenicians' cedars as being central to the construction of the
Persian fleet which battled the Greeks during the fifth century
B.C. [Meiggs, p.83] 
      Clearly, lumber from the Levant proved to be an invaluable
resource in antiquity.  The cedar■s seemingly endless supply in the
sparsely forested eastern Mediterranean region, along with its
intrinsic value, helped to bring its reputation to one of
prominence.  Hitti provides the relevant citations.  "[The Lebanese
cedars■] excellences have been sung by poets, prophets and
historians.  References abound to its strength (Ps. 29:5),
durability (Jer. 22:14), majesty (2 K. 14:9;  Zech. 11:1-2),
suitability for carving (Is. 44:13-15), stateliness (Is. 2:13; 
Ezek. 17:22)."9 [Hitti, p.37]  The prose in Ezekiel sufficiently
attests to the cedar's reputation:
      Look at Assyria:  it was a cedar in Lebanon,
            whose fair branches overshadowed the forest,
      towering high with its crown finding a way through the
      Springs nourished it, underground waters gave it height,
      their streams washed the soil all around it
      and sent forth their rills to every tree in the country.
      So it grew taller than every other tree.
      Its boughs were many, its branches spread far;
            for water was abundant in the channels.
      In its boughs all the birds of the air had their nests,
      under its branches all wild creatures bore their young,
      and in its shadow all great nations made their home.
      A splendid great tree it was, with its long spreading boughs,
      for its roots were beside abundant waters.
      [Ezekiel 31:3-7]
      The reverence for and knowledge of the forests of Lebanon in
ancient Mesopotamia is presumed in tales from antiquity, such as
The Epic of Gilgamesh.  The story tells that, ■When they had come
down from the mountain, Gilgamesh seized the axe in his hand:  he
felled the cedar.  When Humbaba heard the noise far off, he was
enraged;  he cried out, ■who is this that has violated my woods and
cut down my cedar?■■ [The Epic of Gilgamesh, 2nd millennium B.C.] 
Mikesell elaborates on the historical references:  "[T]he vivid
forest episode of the Gilgamesh Epic suggests an awareness among
ancient inhabitants of Mesopotamia of a vast 'green mountain,'
where tall cedars ■raised aloft their luxuriance■ and cast a
■delightful shade." [Mikesell, p.14]
      Historically, resinous wood such as the Lebanese cedar had
numerous applications, and as a result, was continually sought
after.  Semple delineates its uses:
      According to the evidence, the crying need of eastern
Mediterranean lands was for ship timber.  A multitude of fishing
smacks, naval vessels, merchant ships, and coastwise transportation
boats kept up the demand for fir, pine, cedar and minor woods which
entered into their construction.  The coniferous forests were
therefore constantly levied upon;  and they were further depleted
by the steady demand for pitch, tar, and resin.  Traffic in these
usually accompanied the lumber trade, and emanated from the same
sources of supply...
      The demand for all products of resinous woods was relatively
greater in antiquity than now.  They were employed for the
preservation of ship wood and all ship equipments, for coating the
interior of earthenware wine jars, and for the preparation of
volatile oils, salves and ointments, which were almost universally
used in ancient times.  Resin and tar were the chief basis for
cough medicines prepared by Greek physicians, and were ingredients
of salves for external use.  Oil of cedar, distilled from the
Syrian cedar, was regularly used for these purposes, because its
antiseptic or cleansing qualities were recognized.  It was exported
from Phoenicia to Egypt where it was needed for embalming the dead. 
The Romans used it for soaking wood as a protection against decay
and insect attack.  This was the ancient forerunner of the modern
creosoting process.  [Semple, p.282]
      Baramki adds another dimension to the historical record when
noting that Egypt, "one of the largest timber-consuming countries
of antiquity," required cedar wood for the solar barque of Ra■, but
it did not possess the natural resource domestically.  Indeed,
because of Egypt■s funerary rituals and buildings, trade with
timber suppliers, such as the Phoenicians, developed. [Baramki,
p.19]  Mikesell substantiates this by noting that cedar wood was,
"[P]rized by Egyptian builders of sarcophagi, coffins, and other
appurtenances of burial.  In addition, resins from cedar, fir, and
pine were used in mummification." [Mikesell, p.13]  Edifices as
well as coffins throughout Egyptian and other north African
archaeological sites also bear this point out. [Harden, p.141]  
      Nevertheless, overland commercial trading proved to be
problematic in most instances for Egypt because of the dangers
posed by the nomadic bandits of the Sinai Peninsula and Palestine.
[Baramki, p.19]  As a result, oversea trading with a maritime power
such as Phoenicia was cheaper and more reliable - not to mention
safer.  Thus, a commercial relationship spawned by sea.  At times,
however, the relationship was quite lopsided, as Egypt periodically
maintained control over Byblos and other nations occupying the
Levant. [Baramki, p.21]  Consequently, much of the timber Phoenicia
exported to Egypt was done partly as a form of tribute. [See above
and Baramki, p.21] 
      The bandits were not limited to the Sinai and Palestine,
however.  Evidence points to a perennial problem with robbers
living in the Levantine mountains as well.  Reportedly, they were
able to hinder Phoenician commerce and harass woodsmen from the
highlands to the Mediterranean.  This domestic problem was tempered
for a short time during the reign of Hadrian;  nevertheless, it
continued unabated for some time during free Phoenician rule.
[Mikesell, p.21]
      Unfortunately, along with the great tales of the rich forests
of Lebanon and the collateral commercial and economic
opportunities, come stories of forest clearing and denudation.  Due
to the relatively limited supply of lumber along the eastern
Mediterranean, as well as the extensive demand placed upon it by
the rapidly growing population centers in the area, denudation of
the Levantine forests took place rather quickly.10 [Semple, p.289] 
Additionally, only the best trees, Lebanon cedars inclusive, were
sought after for the construction of elaborate and ornate palaces,
temples, and other buildings.  As this demand grew progressively
over time, the timber supply correspondingly dwindled into a state
of scarcity. [Semple, p.290] 
      Evidence of exploitation in times of modernity records that, 
Timber from Mount Lebanon was undoubtedly used in construction of
the first Muslim fleet (c. 645) at Acre and Tyre.  Evidence that
the pine forest near Beirut was exploited for shipbuilding during
the Crusades has already been cited.  That timber continued to be
exported from Mount Lebanon is indicated by the use of cedar in
Umayyad palaces and mosques.  Similarly, when al-Mansur moved the
seat of Abbasid government from Baghdad to Samarra in 836, he
ordered that wood for the new capital should be imported from
"Antioch and all the littoral of Syria." [Mikesell, pp.23-24]

      Grainger recounts some of the perils faced by the forests of
Lebanon.  He explains that, "Not only was timber used for ships -
both warships and merchant ships - but it was used as fuel for many
other industries.  Theophrastus mentions two especially located in
Phoenicia, burning lime to make mortar and a technique for
producing pitch which involved burning the living tree.  Further,
an old-established industry at the cities or, at least, Tyre and
Sidon, was bronze manufacture, while Sidon was known for the
manufacture of glass, both of which consumed great quantities of
fuel."[Grainger, pp.71-72]   Mikesell adds that, "[M]erchants of
Damascus, Tripoli, and other Levantine cities continued to exploit
its denuded slopes for firewood and charcoal, a practice that
persists today.' [Mikesell, p.24]  Therefore, it is clear that the
industries of Phoenicia that have survived over time contributed
(and contribute) significantly to the permanent state of
deforestation in Lebanon.  In an attempt at verification of this,
Mikesell interpolates the historical record from details
surrounding current lifestyles of Druze and Maronite villagers atop
Mount Lebanon.  Many, for instance, have noticed that smelting and
wood-consuming industries exist to this day. [Mikesell, p.23]  
      With the denudation of the forests came the denudation of the
soil, the consequence of which was a feedback effect.  An absence
of forest cover resulted in a scouring of the earth by torrential
autumn rains.  Humus was washed away leaving the mountain sides
barren and vulnerable to the elements. [Semple, p.291]  "In many
sections of the Mediterranean a single deforestation has meant
denudation of the soil also and hence, the permanent destruction of
the forests.  Hence all Mediterranean lands today show a low
percentage of forested area, despite the predominant mountain
relief which would naturally be devoted to tree growth."[Semple,
p.291]  The loss of fertile soil closed the causal loop;  trees are
unable to grow back and replenish the barren area once home to
dense forests.  It can only be assumed that plants and animals
dependent on the forest growth and cover also perished as a result
of the twin forms of denudation.
      The difficulty in replenishing the timber supply is due in
part also to the porous limestone soils, which only produce a maqui
when devoid of tree life.11 [Semple, p.261]  Maronite and Druze
villages high atop points of Mount Lebanon have given tacit
approval of shepherding, which has resulted in the destruction of
seedlings and the felling of many remaining, mature trees.
[Mikesell, p.23]  Goat and sheep grazing, fires (either begun
intentionally or accidentally), summer droughts, lack of shade, and
the excruciatingly slow accumulation of soil, have all worked
against any natural replenishment as well as human-introduced
efforts at reforestation. [Semple, pp.290-91]  The forests suffer
seemingly permanent losses as a consequence.  "With the exception
of quick-growing pines, coniferous species seldom play a prominent
role in the colonization of abandoned land, for goats continue to
range over most of Mount Lebanon.  Cedar, delicate in its
reproductive requirements and slow to mature is especially ill
equipped to colonize in regenerating formations used as goat
pasture." [Mikesell, p.25]  
      Although the Phoenicians were largely responsible for the
cedar lumber's extensive trade and consequent scarcity, they also,
quite possibly, helped to preserve what exists today.  In other
words, the insight and resourcefulness of the Phoenicians likened
them to environmentally conscious traders.  They recognized that
their timber supply was depleting, and they sought to maintain it
as best as they knew how.  Semple explains, "One is led to surmise
also that those expert Phoenician woodsmen, who were commended by
King Solomon, may have understood the fundamental principles of
forestry and therefore have intelligently exploited their timber
supplies."[Semple, p.289]  As the wood grew scarcer, the
Phoenicians looked elsewhere for timber supplies and carefully
preserved the remains.  
      The motive for the Phoenician invasion of Cyprus (eleventh
century B.C.) quite probably was due, at least in part, to the
necessity of preserving and conserving the timber from the
mountains of Lebanon.  The forested mountains of Cyprus furnished
an alternate supply source of timber for the Phoenicians as
resources in the Levant began to dwindle. [Semple, p.271]
      There were several other short-lived attempts throughout
history at protecting the forests from clearing and exploitation. 
Emperor Hadrian provides an excellent example of this effort at
delimiting an area of preservation and control.  The Mamluk dynasty
also looked upon the wood from the Levant with great reverence; 
consequently, the sultans controlled the forest land and regulated
(often from Damascus) the use of its timber. [Mikesell, p.24]
      In sum, the development of lumber trade in the Mediterranean
in times of antiquity has left the mountains of Lebanon with few of
its historically venerable cedar trees.  Harden reports that, "The
Lebanon was in ancient times prolific in cedar trees and other
useful timber, but only a few plantations now remain, carefully
preserved.  The best lies near the source of the Nahr Quadisha,
inland from Tripoli." [Harden, p.301]  Several of the existing
forests are owned by villages within which the trees stand.  The
trees are maintained in expectation of a tourist trade developing; 
unfortunately, there is evidence that tourism is also contributing
to the demise of Lebanese cedars.  Mikesell points to the
"incessant trampling of the forest floor by visitors" which
"precludes the possibility of its regeneration." [Mikesell, p.27]
      The existing forests scattered about at higher elevations are
a consequence of accessibility and modern forms of protection. 
■Indeed, several of the remnant stands of cedar...can be described
as sacred groves.  Chapels have been built in the stands...and the
forests...are under the protection of the Maronite patriarch.  The
quasi-sacredness of the trees in these stands is indicated by the
modern Lebanese reference to them as "cedars of the Lord."
[Mikesell, p.27]  
      Reforestation efforts will be ineffective, however, unless
rural economic reform takes place.  Use of wood as charcoals and
fuel, as well as goat herding will have to cease.  Mikesell
surmises that even with successful reforestation efforts, ■The
barren slopes of the Levantine mountains will continue to offer
dramatic evidence of the use and misuse of a resource that was once
described as the ■glory of Lebanon.■■ [Mikesell, p.28 (citing
Isaiah, lx.13)]  It is unlikely, therefore, that the much heralded
cedars of antiquity will return to their plentiful state. 
4.    AUTHOR:  Benjamin T. Kasoff
5.    DISCOURSE AND STATUS: DISagreement and COMPlete
      he number of groups and nations of people involved have
not been statistically noted in the historical record.  Grainger
points out that, "Quantification of trade is a task which cannot
even be contemplated, since no data exist.  We do not know with
any pretence at accuracy any of the relevant numbers -
population, numbers of seamen, numbers of ships, production
quantities, wealth in total or in breadth of distribution, levels of
supply and demand.  For none of these can any figures even be
suggested which will not be a guess." [Grainger, p.75]
      Domain:     MIDEAST
      Site:       North Mideasst [NMID]
      Impact:     LEBANanon
12.   TYPE OF MEASURE:  Regulatory Ban [REGBAN]
      Specific references to trade restrictions are provided by
Grainger, Semple, Mikesell, and Meiggs.  Grainger tells of how,
"In Roman times, the forests were already restricted to the
higher slopes, and the Emperor Hadrian had the bounds of the
royal forests marked."  He continues later, "It can be safely
assumed that the Phoenician cities along the Lebanese coast
controlled the seaward slopes of Mount Lebanon as far as, and
including, the forest."[Grainger, pp.17 and 19]  Mikesell further
establishes that, "[A]n attempt was made to delimit the surviving
forests and mark them as imperial domain."  He adds, "Their
appearance elsewhere suggests that the surviving forests were
regarded as a threatened, or at least an exhaustible,
resource."12 [Mikesell, p.19]  In this sense, restrictions on trade
and use of cedar wood appear to have been implemented in order
to forestall the diminution of the forested area of Mount Lebanon.
      Meiggs, contrarily, asserts that it is doubtful Hadrian would
have marked inscriptions on rocks covering barren slopes.  The
likely reason for the inscriptions was to assert sovereign control
over timber that was being felled and cleared.  "The loss to the
imperial exchequer was a sufficient motive for making imperial
ownership more explicit."[Meiggs, p.87]
      Some quantitative data, although perhaps not precise,
indicates that 18th and 19th century villagers from Bsharri
sought to maintain forest growth.  Figures of its grove tallied
twenty-three to twenty-four trees at the end of the 17th century
and about four hundred trees by 1810. [Mikesell, p.27]  Currently
the Bsharri grove stands as a Lebanese national monument. 
      As stated in the description [IB], the forests of Lebanon
were under constant siege through the times of antiquity.  Their
control was subject to varied laws and directives.  Semple
establishes that demand for ship supplies resulted in efforts to
control the lumber trade by early governments.  "The object was
to guarantee ample provision for the home state, and to cripple
rivals by excluding them from the best lumber markets."  She
continues, "Even states with abundant lumber permitted its
export only by treaty agreement."[Semple, p.267]    
      Meiggs outlines the taxes and other trade measures
legislated by the Assyrian ruler, Sargon II (721-705).  Sargon's
letter to Tyre reads:
      I levy taxes on anyone who brings down wood, and I
      have appointed tax-collectors over the quays of all
      Mount Lebanon, and they keep watch...I appointed a
      tax-collector over those who come down to the quays
      which are in Sidon...I made a statement to them, that
      they might bring down the wood and do their work
      with it, (but) that they were not to sell it to the
      Egyptians or to the Palestinians or I would not allow
      them to go up to the mountain. [Quoted in Meiggs, p.75]

      These measures, of course, amount to an historical version
of modern-day protectionist-mercantilist trade practice.  Cedar
wood was used as a means of control, in the form of taxation, as
well as leverage, in the form of timber sanctions on Egypt.
Unfortunately, little else has been discovered by this author
with respect to specifically delineated measures, save the above
scant references.
      Directly Related:       Yes WOOD
      Indirectly Related:     No
      Not Related:            No
      Process:                Yes DEFORestation
      Phoenicians of various cities along the eastern
Mediterranean Levantwere wood exporters.  Also, others who
dominated the region, including Egypt and Babylonia.
Various nations along the Mediterranean were importers,
including Greece, Spain, Egypt, Palestine, and Rome, among
      The zone above 1,200 meters in altitude primarily contains
conifers, cedars, firs, and junipers.
23.   URGENCY OF PROBLEM: LOW and 1200 of years
24.   SUBSTITUTES: Conservation [CONSV]
      The many Biblical references attest to the cultural
importance of the case.
      Military campaigns resulted in the transferal of cleared
cedar timber from Phoenicia to nations such as Egypt and
Mesopotamia.  Also, the territory of forested areas in Lebanon
was delimited at times to implement zones of environmental
protection;  boundaries were thus cast.
1.     Dimitri Baramki.  Phoenicia and the Phoenicians (Khayats: 
Lebanon, 1961).
2.  E. W. Bealsz.  "The Remnant Cedar Forests of Lebanon,"
Journal of Ecology.  Volume 53 (1965).
3.  Wallace B. Fleming.  The History of Tyre (Columbia Univ.
Press:  NY, 1966).
4.  John D. Grainger.  Hellenistic Phoenicia (Oxford Univ. Press: 
NY, 1991)
5.  Donald Harden.  The Phoenicians (Frederick A. Praeger, Inc.: 
NY, 1963).
6.  Philip K. Hitti.  Lebanon in History (Macmillan:  London, 1967).
7.  Russell Meiggs.  Trees and Timber in the Ancient
Mediterranean (Clarendon Press:  Oxford, 1982).                    
8.  Marvin W. Mikesell. "The Deforestation of Mount Lebanon," The
Geographical Review. Volume LIX, Number 1 (January, 1969).
9.  Sabatino Moscati.  The World of the Phoenicians (Frederick A.
Praeger, Inc.:  NY, 1968).
10. M. B. Rowton.  "The Woodlands of Ancient Western Asia,"
Journal of Near Eastern Studies.  Volume 26 (1967).
11.  N. K. Sanders.  The Epic of Gilgamesh (Penguin Classics: 
Harmondsworth and Baltimore, 1960).
12. Ellen Churchill Semple.  Geography of the Mediterranean
Region (Henry Holt and Co.:  NY, 1931).
13. D. S. Walker.  The Mediterranean Lands (Methuen & Co.: 
London, 1962).


1.    Mikesell reports that the earliest Egyptian and
Mesopotamian documents detail the value of the Levantine
timber.  The records continue their documentation through the
rule of Emperor Hadrian.
2.    It is believed that Sidon, another Levantine port city, also
sent cedar logs from Lebanon to Jerusalem for Solomon. [Semple,
3.    Semple notes that, "Scarcity of timber made tall trees
conspicuous landmarks and even objects of worship." [Semple,
pp.265, 268-69]
4.    The Bible cites a figure that is most probably exaggerated
(30,000 men).  The likely figure is quite less according to Meiggs,
5.    Although not in dispute with Semple, Mikesell dates the first
direct evidence of the Phoenician timber trade at c. 2600 B.C.
from indications on the Palermo stone.  The records of Pharaoh
Snefru, ■[A]cknowledge the arrival of forty ships filled with
cedar wood and then boast of the construction of a ship of this
wood a hundred cubits (about 170 feet) long and the use of cedar
in making doors of a palace.■ [Mikesell, p.12.  Also see Meiggs,
p.63]  Although the evidence is not entirely clear, documentation
points to the fact that the cedar wood came from Byblos of
Phoenicia.  For evidentiary details, see Meiggs, pp.64-65. 
6.    Mikesell indicates that although Egypt was not devoid of
trees, its supply paled in comparison to that of the Levant, both
qualitatively and quantitatively.  "Cultivated trees, such as the
fig and the date palm, could not be felled while they were
productive, and wild species, such as the acacia, were of limited
use in construction.  The tall conifers of Mount Lebanon provided
suitable lumber for shipbuilding and were indispensable in the
construction of palaces and other large buildings." [Mikesell,
7.    As an example, annual tribute to the Assyrian ruler
Shalmeneser III (858-821) amounted to one talent of silver, two
talents of purple wool, and two hundred cedar logs. [Meiggs,
p.74]  For further references to Assyrian exaction of tribute and
a description of the timber■s uses, see Mikesell, p.13.
8.    Baramki maintains that the Phoenicians, a race which joined
Canaanites and Aegeans, "[S]tepped into the gap left by the
disruption of the Aegean world, and inherited the
thalassocracy...  [T]he new race of mariners were not entirely
ignorant of the waters through which they plied, partly from the
Aegean side of their ancestry and partly from the fact that they
were seamen from time immemorial." [Baramki, p.58] 
9.    Also see Psalms xxxvii.35, lxxx.10, xcii.12;  Amos ii.9.  These
citations further describe the beauty, fragrance, and durability
of the Lebanese cedars.
10.    Contradictory accounts are provided by Procopius, who
detailed Emperor Justinian■s quest for timber on the northern
side of Mount Lebanon.  There he described a dense forest cover
with notably tall cedar trees.  There is no reason to believe,
however, that this swathe of forested land remained for long.
[Mikesell, p.20]
11.   Thick, scrubby underbrush prominent along the
Mediterranean coasts.
12.   Mikesell refers those interested in the actual forest
inscriptions of Hadrian (and can read French) to Ernest Renan's
"Mission de Phenicie." (Paris, 1864).

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