The earliest evidence of civilization in Lebanon dates back over 7000 years, predating recorded history. Modern-day Lebanon was home to the Phoenicians, a maritime culture that flourished for almost 3000 years (c. 3200–539 BC). In 64 BC, the Roman Empire conquered the region, and it eventually became among the empire's leading centers of Christianity. The Mount Lebanon range saw the emergence of a monastic tradition known as the Maronite Church. Upon the region's conquest by the early Arab Muslims, the Maronites held onto their religion and identity. However, a new religious group known as the Druze eventually established themselves in Mount Lebanon as well, generating a religious divide that has lasted for centuries. During the Crusades, the Maronites re-established contact with the Roman Catholic Church and asserted their communion with Rome. The MaroniteCatholic and the Druze founded modern Lebanon in the early eighteenth century, through the ruling and social system known as the "Maronite-Druze dualism" in Mount Lebanon Mutasarrifate.
Born into a well-to-do Lebanese family, Abu Shabaki became interested in poetry at a young age. The son of a merchant, he was left fatherless in his youth, an experience that would mark his earlier works. Elias worked as a teacher, translator and -in addition to publishing several volumes of poetry- as a journalist writing for many Arabic newspapers and literary magazines. Being an adherent to the Romantic school, Abu Shabki believed in inspiration and denounced conscious control in poetry. His poems were gloomy, deeply personal and often contained biblical overtones centering on his internal moral conflicts. Some of Abu Shabaki's work was very controversial in its time, particularly his poetry collection Serpents of Paradise which was regarded as obscene due to its overt sexual content. The poet's obsession with the spiritual consequences of carnality that was manifested in his writings was attributed to the guilt brought upon by his sexual escapades with various women when he was married and until his death from leukemia in 1947.
Abu Shabaki called for the renewal and modernization of Arab literature, he inspired succeeding generations of poets. His contributions to literature were commemorated by turning his house in his hometown of Zouk Mikael into a museum. (Full article...)
Image 26Map showing power balance in Lebanon, 1983: Green – controlled by Syria, purple – controlled by Christian groups, yellow – controlled by Israel, blue – controlled by the United Nations (from History of Lebanon)