Friday, April 18, 2008


Eshmoun: The Temple of Eshmoun, less than an hour from Beirut, is situated one kilometer from Sidon in a lush valley of citrus groves on the Awwali River. The site is known locally as "Bustan Esheikh". Whether you visit in spring when the air is fragrant with blossoms, or early winter when the fruit is ripe, Eshmoun is special. This Phoenician temple complex, dedicated to the healing god Eshmoun, is the only Phoenician site in Lebanon that has retained more than its foundation stones. Building was begun at the end of the 7th century BC and later additions were made in the following centuries. Thus, many elements near the original temple site were completed long after the Phoenician era, including the Roman period colonnade, mosaics, a nymphaeun, and the foundations of a Byzantine church. All of these buildings testify to the site's lasting importance.

Legend has it that Eshmoun was a young man of Beirut who loved to hunt. The goddess Astarte fell in love with him, but to escape her advances he mutilated himself and died. Not to be outdone, Astarte brought him back to life in the form of a god. It is also said that the village of Qabr Shmoun (Eshmoun's grave), near Beirut, still preserves the memory of the young god's tomb. Known primarily as a god of healing, Eshmoun's death and resurrection also gave him the role of a fertility god who dies and is reborn annually. As the god of healing, Eshmoun was identified with Asklepios, the Greek god of medical art. It is from belief in the healing power of Eshmoun-Asklepios and the snake that we get the sign of the medical profession that is now used worldwide.

Eshmoun, can be included in a visit to Sidon, or made an excursion of its own. Visitors with a sense of curiosity will find that several hours are easily filled exploring this ancient Phoenician spa.

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