Beirut has seen many armies and empires come and go, but the legacy of this long history is not so much in surviving monuments as in the quintessential Levantine spirit of the people. A commercial hub since the days of the Phoenicians, it was a centre of learning under the Romans, its law school preeminent in the Empire. Beirut was the point of entry to the Levant for many Europeans and Americans undertaking a Grand Tour or a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and visitors (whether their focus was piously Biblical or more prosaic) recorded their impressions of this effervescent port city where East rubs against West. A Beirut Anthology gathers the choicest of these, from writers as diverse as Alphonse de Lamartine and Mark Twain, providing a surprising and vivid glimpse behind the veil of this elusive and alluring city.
T.J. GORTON has published two books of Arabic poetry in translation and coedited Lebanon: Through Writers' Eyes. His most recent book is Renaissance Emir: A Druze Warlord at the Court of the Medici, a biography of seventeenth century Lebanese prince Fakhr al-Din Ma'n.