The Roman city of Beirut met a traumatic end in the sixth century after a series of devastating earthquakes. As a result, there is little evidence of the city’s glorious Roman period. What little remains are concentrated Downtown.
In front of the Parliament building stand four corniced columns, discovered in 1968. A strand of five more columns stand to the left of the St. George Maronite Cathedral. Discovered in 1963 near Nejmeh Square, they were part of Roman Berytus’ grand colonnade at the city’s basilica. Outside the National Museum are several mosaics, recovered from a 5th century Byzantine church.
A Roman exedra is located on Boulevard Charles Helou near the eastern entrance to the port. It was originally located west of the St. George Cathedral, but moved in 1963. An exedra is a semi-circular recess in a room, often used to give depth to the façade. Exedrae were extremely popular in Roman architecture.
The most well preserved archaeological Roman remains in Beirut are from the Roman Baths. They weren’t fully excavated until the mid-1990s. Situated behind Bank Street, the site is surrounded by a recreation Roman garden. There is a small amphitheater for open-air concerts here as well.
It can be easy to forget that Beirut was an important city in the Roman Empire. It was home to one of the world’s most important law schools and a major port on the Mediterranean. The ruins here are not as well preserved as those of other Roman cities in the Middle East, but they underscore just how old Beirut is and are a nice complement to the Downtown area.