The Phoenicians spoke the Phoenecian language, later called Punic since the Roman word for purple was Puniceus. In addition to their many inscriptions, the Phoenicians, contrary to some reports, wrote many books that have not survived. Evangelical Preparation by Eusebius of Caesarea quotes extensively from Philo of Byblos and Sanchuniathon. Furthermore, the Phoenician Punic colonies of North Africa continued to be a source of knowledge about the Phoenicians. Saint Augustine knew at least a smattering of Punic and occasionally uses it to explain cognate words found in Hebrew. The name of his mother, Saint Monica, is said to be of Punic origin as well. The region was a territory of the Roman Empire in the province of Syria and during the Middle Ages was important in the Crusades. It was later taken by the Ottoman Empire.
Following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire after World War I, the League of Nations mandated the five provinces of present-day Lebanon to France.
Lebanon's modern constitution, drawn up in 1926, specified a balance of political power among the major religious groups.
The country gained independence in 1943, and French troops withdrew in 1946. Lebanon's history from independence has been marked by alternating periods of political stability and turmoil (including a civil conflict in 1958) interspersed with prosperity built on Beirut's position as a regional center for finance and trade.
The 1975-1990 war
Until the outbreak of the Lebanese Civil War, Beirut, the capital of Lebanon, was noted for its wide boulevards, French-style architecture, and modernity, and was called "the Paris of the Middle East." Lebanon as a whole was known as the Switzerland of the Middle East (Swisra Ash Shark), enjoying a similar conflict-free status as Costa Rica in Central America and (until recently) Uruguay in South America. The term "Civil War" is not adequate due to the complexity and foreign (Iranian-Israeli-Palestenian-Syrian) military forces role in the 1975-1990 war.
On May 22, 2000, Israel unilaterally completed its withdrawal from the south of Lebanon in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 425 of 1978. On September 2 2004, the United Nations Security Council, recalling previous resolutions, especially 425 (1978), 520 (1982) and 1553 (July 2004), approved Resolution 1559, sponsored by the US and France, demanding that Syria, though not mentioned by name, should withdraw its troops from Lebanon. "All foreign forces should withdraw from Lebanon" to allow free elections. The enactors of the Taif agreement however did not enact the clause asking the Syrian occupation to withdraw from Lebanon, or heed the UN Security Council's decision. The Lebanese patriotic movement has intensively lobbied for the withdrawal of the Syrian army from Lebanon since 1989, in governments throughout the western world. This withdrawal was catalyzed in its final stage by the assassination of Prime Minister Hariri in 2005.