Lykos (Nahr al-Kalb)


Lykos or Nahr al-Kalb: river, northeast of modern Beirut, best known for a large series of rock inscriptions, both ancient and modern.

Nahr al-Kalb

The Lykos river is a remarkable place. Winter storms blowing down the gorge make a howling noise, which explains the name of this river, which means "wolf". The present name, Nahr al-Kalb, means "dog river".

In the thirteenth century BCE, the Egyptian king Ramesses II left three reliefs on the south bank of the Nahr al-Kalb, north of Berytus, which commemorated the northern campaigns that culminated in the battle of Kadesh (1274 BCE). Several centuries later, the Assyrian king Esarhaddon, having forced cities like Tyre into submission, conquered Egypt, and chose to put a memorial of his own opposite the relief of Ramesses. Ever since, armies have left inscription at the Nahr al-Kalb, a custom that was known to the Greek researcher Herodotus of Halicarnassus (more).

All in all, there are twenty-two inscriptions and two monuments, with texts in seven languages: Egyptian, Assyrian, Greek, Latin, Arabic, French, and English. There is also the pedestal of a statue of an animal, which may have been a wolf or dog (cf. the name of the river). The making of stelas in this area is mentioned in several Assyrian texts (example).

In Chronological Order

14 1275 The god Ra gives the sword of victory to Ramesses II after his First Syrian Campaign; "year four" is still legible
16 1269 In front of the god Amun, Ramesses II is about to strike at an enemy, after his Sixth Syrian Campaign; "year ten" is still legible
8 Unknown Ramesses II slaying an enemy in front of the god Ptah; probably, the relief mentioned by Herodotus (more)
17 671 Esarhaddon, after conquering Egypt
6 Unknown Unidentified Assyrian king
7 Unknown Unidentified Assyrian king
13 Unknown Unidentified Assyrian king
15 Unknown Unidentified Assyrian king
1 605-562 The Babylonian king Nebuchadznezzar
12 Third century BCE Unidentified Hellenistic king, perhaps Antiochus III the Great after his victory in the Fifth Syrian War
3 215 CE The Roman emperor Caracalla, travelling from Antioch to Alexandria (CIL 3.206)
11 382-383 Inscription by governor Proculus of Phoenicia, who built a road and sacrificed in Baalbek
2 1382-1399 Inscription to commemorate the building of a bridge by the Mamluq sultan Barquq
5 1861 Inscription of Napoleon III to commemorate a French intervention in the conflict between Druzes and Maronites
18 1901 Text on an Ottoman bridge
9 1918 Collapse of the Ottoman Empire: Capture of Damascus, Homs, and Aleppo by Arab and Allied troops
10 1918 Collapse of the Ottoman Empire: Capture of Beirut by French and British troops
4 1920 French intervention in Syria: general Gouraud's inscription to commemorate general Goybet's victory at Maysalun, and the entry of French troops into Damascus
- 1927 Monument for the French garrison of Beirut (originally from Beirut, moved to this place after the Mandate of the League of Nations had ended)
19 1941 The Free French liberate Damascus from Vichy troops
20 1942 Text on railroad bridge
21 1946 Evacuation of the foreign forces from Lebanon; beginning of the independence
22 2000 Evacuation of the Israeli forces from southern Lebanon

From East to West

Pedestal of a statue (of a dog or wolf?)

If you want to visit the place and arrive from Beirut, you must follow the coastal road to Jubayl (ancient Byblos) and turn right immediately after the tunnel. Continue for some 400 meters; there's a Medieval bridge, built by the Mamluk sultan Qalawun (r.1279-1290). Here, you can park your car, and here you will find inscription #2. Walking back in the direction of the tunnel, you will pass several other monuments.

There's a passage over the tunnel, after which the path winds itself up the hill. Inscription #15 is on the summit, and you will see the interesting #16 and #17 if you proceed and go down again. There is also the pedestal of the ancient statue of a dog or wolf: nowadays nothing but a damaged stone, but one day a monument that must have caught everybody's attention.

In the valley, between the Medieval bridge and the tunnel
2 1382-1399 Barquq (Mamluq sultan)
3 215 Caracalla
-   Monument French garrison of Beirut
18 1901 Inscription on Ottoman bridge
19 1941 Liberation of Damascus
4 1920 General Gouraud
22 2000 Evacuation of the Israeli Forces
21 1946 Evacuation of foreign forces
5=8 1861 Napoleon III (replaced inscr. Rameses II)
6 Unknown Unidentified Assyrian king
9 1918 Capture of Damascus
7 Unknown Unidentified Assyrian king
10 1918 Occupation of Beirut
Beginning of the passage over the main road
11 382/383 Proculus
End of the passage; the inscriptions below are on the rock itself
20 1942 Railroad inscription
12 Third century BCE Unidentified Hellenistic king
Pedestal of a statue of a dog or wolf
13 Unknown Unidentified Assyrian king
14 1275 Ramesses II
15 Unknown Unidentified Assyrian king
16 1269 Ramesses II
17 677/676 Esarhaddon
1 605-562 Nebuchadnezzar (across the river)


Anne-Marie Maïla-Afeiche e.a. "Le site de Nahr el-Kalb", special issue of Bulletin d'archéologie et d'architecture Libanais (2009)

This page was created in 2012; last modified on 13 August 2020.