At one point the city of Byblos, which means "papyrus" or "paper" in ancient Greek, was the most important trade center in the eastern Mediterranean. Some scholars believe the need to keep records of trade transactions led to the development of the Phoenician alphabet, a forerunner to the Greek and Roman alphabets that were developed in the city.
When the Romans gained control of Byblos in the first century, they built temples, baths, theaters, colonnades, and fountains. Byblos, like other ancient Mediterranean cities, eventually fell under Byzantine and later Muslim rule, but the largest number of preserved ruins are Roman.
Crusaders mined these ruins for building materials in 1104 to construct a castle and moat. The castle was taken over and renovated in the 13th century by the Mamluks, a group of military slaves formed by Muslim sultans that grew into a powerful ruling class and drove the last of the Crusaders from the region.
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