Byblites


Byblites
Inhabitants of Byblos.
    One of the main commodities which Egypt lacked was an ample supply of good quality timber for use in the construction of tombs, coffins, ships, doors and other requirements. Therefore, from the earliest times, they traded with the people of Byblos, the major port on the Syrian coast, in order to obtain supplies of cedarwood from the hinterland. Byblos retained its independence from Egypt, but excavations undertaken there by the archaeologists, Montet and Dunand, have provided evidence that Egypt had direct contact with Byblos from very early times and that the Byblites were much influenced by Egyptian styles and customs.
    The Thinite rulers of the Second Dynasty were already importing cedar through Byblos. The first Egyptian object at Byblos which can be dated with accuracy is a fragment of a stone polished vase which bears the name of King *Kha'sekhemui, but there was increased activity by the Old Kingdom and reliefs in *Sahure's pyramid complex show ships returning from Syria, perhaps from an expedition to obtain wood. Bearded foreigners appear on the ships; they are obviously envoys or visitors, not bound captives, and they raise up their arms in praise of the king. Excavations at Byblos have also revealed stone vessels which bear the names of Old Kingdom kings such as *Teti and *Unas. These and other pieces were probably brought as offerings by Egyptian traders to the local goddess, the Mistress of Byblos, who was identified both with the native Semitic deity, Astarte, and with the Egyptian goddess, Hathor, who was also widely worshipped in Sinai and *Punt.
    Byblos was never an Egyptian colony but Egyptian traders were welcomed regularly in times of peace and prosperity. When Egypt suffered troubles (as in the First and Second Intermediate Periods), this trade slackened or disappeared and ships no longer travelled to Byblos. During the First Intermediate Period, trade was renewed under the Heracleopolitan kings and the subsequent rulers of the Eleventh Dynasty; in the Middle Kingdom, very close contacts were restored with Byblos, to the extent that the native rulers of the city used an Egyptian title which meant 'hereditary prince' or 'governor' and they even wrote their names in hieroglyphs. The Byblites used goods and wore jewellery which were either of Egyptian origin or were locally produced in imitation of Egyptian styles.
    In the New Kingdom, cedarwood was one of the few commodities which Egypt imported as an essential raw material that they were unable to produce at home. This wood and other commodities passed through the port of Byblos and most of Egypt's Mediterranean trade was conveyed along the Syrian coast. During *Tuthmosis III's campaigns to Syria, his troops were provisioned through the coastal harbours, and men and equipment were probably moved there by sea, in ships built in Egypt, at the Peru-nefer dockyard near Memphis. Indeed, in the Egyptian navy, there was a type of vessel called a 'Byblos ship', which was named after the port; this was a large, sea-going ship which was used to sail along the Syrian coast and elsewhere in the Red Sea.
    By the Twentieth Dynasty, the situation had changed, and in the narrative known as the 'Story of *Wenamun', the Theban official Wenamun is sent to Syria to buy cedarwood for the second barque of the god Amen-Re, but the ruler of Byblos refuses to provide him with the timber until he is paid in cash. In another literary source which recounts the famous *Osiris myth, Byblos is mentioned again, this time as the place where Isis discovered her husband's body.
BIBL. Montet, P. Byblos et l'Egypte. Paris: 1928; Dunand, M. Fouilles de Byblos, 1926- 1932. Vol. 1. Paris: 1937, 1939, 1933-38. Vol. 2. Paris: 1950, 1954.
Biographical Dictionary of Ancient Egypt by Rosalie and Antony E. David

Ancient Egypt. A Reference Guide. . 2011.

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