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Armed Forces

Republican Guard


Air Force




Persian Era

Hellenistic Era

Roman Era









Lebanon traces its history back to ancient Phoenicia, on the east coast of the Mediterranean stretching from present day Akkon in the south to Antakya in the north and inhabited by urbanized fishermen and traders. In the second millenium B.C. Phoenicia became a part of the New Kingdom of Egypt and the Empire of the Hittites. In the 7th century BC it was captured by the Assyrian Empire and in the year 555 B.C. by Cyrus the Great of Persia (559-530 B.C.). Later it was a part of the Hellenistic empires and of Rome and Byzantium until it became a part of the Caliphate of Damascus in 632 and of the Ottoman Empire in 1516.

In the Ottoman Empire Lebanon was ruled by a bey from about 1521. It became a part of Trablusu Şam Eyalet, founded in 1570 and ruled by a beylerbeyi from about 1585.

In the 19th cnetury conflicts arose between the Christians and Maronites. After the Druzes had massacred Christians in 1860, an international commission composed of France, Britain, Austria, Prussia and the Ottoman Empire met to investigate the causes of the events of 1860 and to recommend a new administrative and judicial system for Lebanon that would prevent the recurrence of such events. The commission members agreed that the partition of Mount Lebanon in 1842 between Druzes and Christians had been responsible for the massacre. Hence, in the Statue of 1861 Mount Lebanon was separated from Syria and reunited under a non-Lebanese Christian mutasarrif (governor) appointed by the Ottoman sultan, with the approval of the European powers. The mutasarrif was to be assisted by an administrative council of twelve members from the various religious communities in Lebanon.


After the fall of the Ottoman Empire the League of Nations mandated the territory that makes up present day Lebanon to the direct control of France. A “Etat du Grand Liban” (State of Greater Lebanon) was proclaimed on 1 September 1920 as an autonomous state within Syria. By Art. 1 of the constitution of 23 May 1926 it became a sovereign state. On 8 November 1943, while France was occupied by Germany, a new government unilaterally abolished the mandate and proclaimed the Republic of Lebanon. In the face of international pressure, the French accepted the independence of Lebanon on 22 November 1943. The allies kept the region under control until the end of World War II. The last French troops withdrew in 1946.




As an emblem of state a cedar (Cedrus libani - Pinacea) was introduced on coins minted for Syria and Lebanon in 1924. The cedar is a very ancient emblem of the Lebanon. It is mentioned in the Bible Pslams 92 v. 12: The righteous shall flourish like a palmtree / he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. A tree, moreover, was a symbol connected with Phoenicia in antiquity. Some political movements and petty rulers took the cedar as their emblem in modern times. In particular a white flag charged with a cedar was used by the autonomous government and governor after 1861. During WWI the Lebanese Legion of the French Army had a white ensign with a red cross saltire charged with a cedar.


Flag of the Mutessaryflyk of Lebanon 1861-1915


Flag of the Legion du Liban, 1915


The French tricolore charged with a cedar in the middle was adopted as a flag for the autonomous state of Lebanon in 1920. It was confirmed in the constitution of 23.05.1926, Art 5:


Le drapeau libanais est bleu, blanc, rouge en bandes verticales égales avec un cèdre sur la partie blanche.


(The Lebanese flag is blue, white, red of three equal vertical stripes with a cedar in the white stripe) 


By Constitution of  07.12.1943, also by Art. 5, the flag was changed:


Le drapeau libanais est composé de trois bandes horizontales : deux rouges encadrant une blanche. La hauteur de la bande blanche est égale au double de chacune des bandes rouges. Au centre de la bande blanche figure un cèdre vert dont la largeur occupe le tiers de celle-ci et qui, par son sommet et par sa base, touche chacune des bandes rouges.


[Article 5  [Flag]

The Lebanese flag is composed of three horizontal stripes, a white stripe between two red ones.  The width of the white stripe is equal to that of both red stripes.  In the center of and occupying one third of the white stripe is a green Cedar tree with its top touching the upper red stripe and its base touching the lower red stripe.]


The flag was changed again in 1995 when it was provided that the cedar should be all green.


* The colours of the flag refer to the colours of the Ottoman Empire. In the National Flag the red symbolizes the Kassites and white the Yemenites. These tribes divided the Lebanese society between 634 and 1711, reason why the colours were later interpreted differently. Now red symbolizes the readiness to make sacrifices and white the peace between the peoples of Lebanon. The cedar symbolizes force, sanctity and eternity. [1]


Lebanon has no official emblem of state or coat of arms. When needed a shield is used of the colours and charge of the national flag:




Arms: Gules, a bend sinister Argent charged with a cedar proper.

and after 1995:

Arms: Gules a bend sinister Argent charged with a cedar Vert.


The emblem of the cedar is also on coins. At first it was accompanied by a date and the name of the state but later versions show a more seal-like design showing the cedar and the name of the state in arab and latin script as a legend. In 1968 the legend was changed into: “Banque du Liban”, and the date was reintroduced.


Piastre coin 1924

Cedar and name of the state, date.

Piaster coin 1925 - 1940

Cedar and name of the state.

25 piastres, 1961

Cedar and name of the state.


An emblem of the National Assembly has recently appeared, and probably dates from after the end of the civil war in 1990. It consists of a cedar surrounded by a bordure of six five-pointed stars and falcons and is supported by a phoenician galley. The emblem is on the façade of the National Assembly in Beyrut.


ð See illustration in the head of the essay.


The galley was on coins from the Persian Era (555 - 332 B.C.) and refers to the sea trade of the Phoenicians. In Lebanon it was reintroduced on coins of the Etat du Grand Liban


Secrity Service

The General Security Directorate (La Sûreté Générale / (الامن العام‎ al-Amn al-'Aam) is a Lebanese Security agency was founded on 21 July 1921 and originally known as the "first bureau". According to Decree-Law No. 139 of 12 June 1959, the General Security is subordinated to the Minister of the Interior and headed by a Director General, as President. By Organizational Decree No. 2873 of 16 December 1959 a regional organization of general security was established which created regional departments, border-, maritime- and air branches.

Its full name is "General Directorate of General Security" (Direction Générale de la Sûreté Générale, المديرية العامة للأمن العام).


Intelligence Service



The Lebanese General Directorate of State Security (Direction Générale de la Sécurité de l'Etat Libanais / المديرية العامة لأمن الدولة‎) is the Lebanese National Security Agency, directly attached to both, the Lebanese president and prime minister.

The General Directorate of the Lebanese State Security was established in 1985.




The Internal Security Forces Directorate (المديرية العامة لقوى الأمن الداخلي‎,  / al-Mudiriyya al-'aamma li-Qiwa al-Amn al-Dakhili; / Forces de Sécurité Intérieure, ISF) is the national police and security force of Lebanon.


The modern police were established in Lebanon in 1861, with the creation of the Gendarmerie.



Internal Security Force

General Directorate of Internal Security Forces


Armed Forces





Republican Guard



Arms: Per bend Gules, Argent and Gules, a cedar tree proper

Supporters: Two swords in saltire proper

Garland: Branches of oak and laurel Or

Motto: ‘Republican Guard’ in arab script on a white ribbon crenelé in chief



  • The shield symbolizes protection, its charges the Lebanese nation
  • The swords in saltire symbolize deciciveness and authority
  • The branch of oak symbolizes permanence and pride, the laurel victory










Air Force








Lebanon in Antiquity




The symbol of the Phoenician realm or empire was a sun. Such a sun was also the emblem of the Persian Empire of Cyrus the Great which existed from 559-330 B.C.. A rosette in the shape of the Persian sun is preserved in Leiden but is supposed to date from the Roman Empire and Byzantine Empire.

A sun of the same design is on a silver bowl and may be from the New Kingdom of Egypt Era in Phoenicia.

Silver Phoenician bowl 750-600 B.C.

British Museum number 123053


Silver Phoenician bowl; fragmentary, just over half of vessel preserved; decorated in repoussée and engraved figures and motifs; in the centre is a rosette medallion surrounded by an engraved zig-zag band composed of parallel lines surrounded by three concentric registers of figures: inner one composed of line of couchant sphinxes wearing uraeous and disk; central register has figures in Assyrian dress picking from an elaborate palmette or stylised sacred tree flanked by Egyptian religious figures (Harpocrates, Isis, Re-Harakhte, Nephthys, scarab etc); outer scene shows the siege of a city with files of military figures wearing 'hoplite', Egyptian and Urartian gear with fragmentary chariot entering from right side.


Æ See also: Note [2]

Rosette, basalt 63 B.C. 640 A.D.

From Tell Balata, Palestine.

Rijksmuseum voor Oudheden Leiden


Characteristic Phoenician heraldic devices are from the Egyptian Era. They are most of the time in the form of an achievement, a central piece of a stylised tree supported by heraldic beasts.

These can be seen on the silver bowl below and also on several ivories.


Silver-gilt bowl, 725–675 B.C


Culture: Cypriot

Dimensions: Æ16.8 cm; H. 3.1 cm 

Credit Line: The Cesnola Collection, Purchased by subscription, 1874–76

Accession Number: Metropolitan Museum of Art 74.51.4554




The central tondo shows two falcons and a cherub killing a lion with a sword. The surrounding frieze presents a variety of animal and narrative motifs: bulls, a horse and a lion. The broad outer band features three achievements of Phoenician trees, the first with griffins, the second with ibexes and the third with sphinxes for supporters. In the right upper quarter is an Egyptian pharao killing a griffin, a warrior slaying his ennemies, before the God Horus  and another man killing another griffin. 

Of greatest importance, however, are two inscriptions. At the top, above the pharao figure killing a griffin, a Cypriot syllabic inscription reads, "I am [the bowl] of Akestor, king of Paphos." It was partly obliterated and replaced by "I am [the bowl] of Timokretes," presumably the next owner. The bowl is exceptionally significant for its excellent condition, high quality, and amalgam of Egyptian and Phoenician features.


For a larger picture Æ http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/243823


For a long time and well into the Assyrian Era the art of Phoenicia was influenced by Egypt. Famous Phoenician ivories show Egyptian elements incorporated into a whole of specific Phoenician style.

Many such ivories, preserved in some American and European collections, show a tree between two creatures, making what we may call an achievement in heraldic terms. Of some of these achievements only one half has been preserved, the other half being lost or in other private collections.

Nevertheless, if we complete them by adding a reversed image, a quite impressive series of (quasi-) heraldic achievements is obtained.

As mentioned before, the central image of these achievements is a stylized tree, usually called “a tree of life”. Such a tree is a very old symbol of a territory. It occurs, also as a part of an achievement, in Luristan in about 1250 BC. but is is also known from 9th century B.C. Assyria (from Salmanassar for example)  and from many other places.

As the oldest Phoenician ivories showing the tree are from the Egyptian era we may suppose that the symbol was adopted in that time and is from mixed Egyptian / Phoenician origin.

As for the supporters different kinds of creatures are used which can be labelled as military emblems of rank. The oldest one is of certain Egyptian origin and shows a lion with the Egyptian sun above his head.

Probably younger, but still of Egyptian origin are sphinxes.

A third kind of supporters are men upright, dressed for war and with crowns on their heads. These may be high ranking warriors, probably military governors of Phoenician territories.

Other “supporters” are griffins (Egyptian style) and angels.

A hierarchy of these symbols is suggested in the sequence below.



Tree from a Phoenician Ivory [3]

Lion supporting a tree, the one on the right the same but reversed

Phoenician ivory, 9th century BC. Coll. British Museum London.

The sun the emblem of the Egyptian Empire, the broad collar an emblem of office.

 (comparable with the modern Western crown)


Griffins supporting a sacred tree

Phoenician, ca. 8th century B.C., ivory, H 10.6 cm (private collection (?))


Sphinxes supporting a tree

Phoenician ivory in the FitzWilliam Museum in Cambridge. A tiny ivory carving.


Sphinx, the one on the left the same but reversed

 9th-8th century BC; Ivory; Height: 6.9 cm, width: 7.75 cm; Phoenician style

Found at Fort Shalmaneser, Nimrud (ancient Kalhu), northern Iraq; excavation ID - ME 134322.


Egyptian officials supporting a tree.

8th–7th century B.C. Neo-Assyrian Mesopotamia, Nimrud (ancient Kalhu) Ivory; H. 12.4 cm

MMA, Rogers Fund, 1962 (62.269.3)

The frieze of Egyptian cobras, Royal emblems, with the winged sun of Egypt below.


Angels supporting a tree

Syro-Phoenician ivory panel. Nimrud 8th to 7th centuries BC

Coll. Legion of Honor Museum of Fine Arts, San Francisco, California.

The angels are symbolizing a heavenly mandate and sovereignty


Persian Era

555 - 332 BC



In the Persian Era the representations of the Phoenician society changed. This can be see on coins minted in that period. In the first place an emblem was introduced symbolizing the people. This replaced the former tree, symbolizing the territory. It consists of a seahorse or hippocampus, in mediterranean religion the vehicle of Poseidon, the God of the seas. This refers to the maritime power of the Phoenician tradesmen. A hippocampus is a winged upper body of a horse with a fish-tail, his wings symbolizing his heavenly origin.

A second emblem was introduced symbolizing the state. This consisted of a galley, manned with three armed men, probably representing a triumvirate or archonts: the archon eponymos (president) the archon polemarchos (supreme commander) and the archon basileus (high priest).

On the reverse is the emblem of the ruler consisting of a lion attacking a deer.



Dishekel or Stater from King Azbaal, ca 350-333 BC.

War galley left with lion’s head prow ornament, zigzag row of waves below, three hoplites with round shields within; hippocamp left above murex / Lion attacking deer, Phoenician legend above.



Phoenicia, Byblos, silver 1/8 Shekel.

King Adramalek, ca 4th century BC, 

Galley with hoplites; hippocamp below / Lion attacking deer.


Hellenistic Era 

333-64 BC


In this era, when southern Phoenicia was a part of Egypt again, the representation of society changed once more. The seahorse was maintained but the galley was replaced by a men armed with a bow and arrow, probably symbolizing the military governor. On the reverse are the emblems of the Egyptian king and commander: a falcon (owl) and the Egyptian crook and flail (nekha and nekhaka).



Phoenician Silver Tetradrachm of Tyre

.Ca. 400 BC to 360 BC


Phoenician Silver Didrachm of Tyre

Ca. 360 BC to 332 BC


Attic didrachm,  Tyre

Melqarth riding hippocamp R / owl with crook & flail, year 36, (224 BC).


Roman and Byzantine Era



The annexation by Rome of Syria in 62 BC was the work of Pompeius (*106-†48 BC) who let a number of vassal states exist, only making a province in the north. To these were added some territories from East Cilicia. With the Augustean reform it became an imperial province governed by a legatus with the rank of consul who resided in Antiocha / Antakiya. Septimus Severus (193-211) divided the province in Syria Maior or Coele with Laodicea / Lattakia as its capidtal and governed by a legatus with the rank of consul, and Syria Phoenice, also imperial but with a legatus pretorio who resided at Berytus/Beirut. Around the middle of the 3rd century the short living Kingdom of Palmyra existed which lasted until the victory of Aurelian (270-275) over  Zenobia. 

The rank of Consul was symbolized by an eagle which was printed on coins from Tyre (Soûr). On these coins the armed man-and-sea horse are replaced by the head of the legatus pretorio an so the term for the Phoenician people was abandoned.


Silver tetradrachm from Tyre (Phoenicia) 55 BC

Head of governor and eagle

The Province of Phoenicia and the insignia of its governor

From: Notitia Dignitatum, fol 194r.


With the reform of the Empire by Diocletian Phoenicia became a separate province consisting of the Phoenician coast from Balanea in the north to Dora in the south, the inland with the city of Damascus becoming the province of Augusta Libanensis. In the Notitia Dignitatum five new provinces are documented in the the former Imperial Province (i.e. Cilicia I & II, Euphratensis, Syria, Phoenice) each governed by a Dux (commander of an army division). The province of Phoenicia is symbolized by a “map”of the territory in which each city is represented by its gate. The governor is represented by his insignia consisting of a Liber Mandatorum (Book of Mandates) and a codicil. On the book of Mandates is written the abbreviation of  Floreas Inter allectos comites ordinis primi (Mayst thou prosper amongst the chosen counts of the first rank). It contains the dignitary’s duties and gives the imperial instructions. The codicil is the official document of appointment of the office-holder. [4]

The emblem of rank of a Dux was, according to Gibbon, a golden belt. [5]


The Middle Ages


Phoenicia was captured by the Arabs in 632 and from then Phoenicia was under Arab rule. First as a part of the Caliphate of Mekka and later of its successor Empires. A Christian interim period occurred in the 12th century when the crusader states of Tripoli and Jeruzalem were founded on Phoenician  and Palestine territory.

In today’s Lebanon was the southern part of the County of Tripoli and the northern part of the Kingdom of Jeruzalem including the cities of Beirut, Sidon, Tyre and Akkon.




From about 1205 until 1291 Beirut was ruled by lords from the House of Ibelin. John I d’Ibelin (c. 1179-1236), had rebuilt the city, which had been completely destroyed during Saladin's conquest of the Jerusalem kingdom, and constructed an opulent palace. Beirut was effectively an independent state under his rule.

John d’Ibelin had five sons: Balian (†1247), John (1211-1258), Hugues (1213-1238), Baldwin (†1266) and Guy (1215-1255).

His successors in Beirut were his son Balian († 1247) and his grandson John II d’Ibelin (1247-1264).


The coat of arms of the House of Ibelin seems to have been: Or, a cross Gules. Some members of the family probably used other blasons, depending of their office.


A shield Or, a cross potent Gules, is depicted on a thirteenth century icon, today in the Monastery of St. Catherine, Sinai. The knight bearing this shield has also a white or yellow banner  with a red cross. On another icon, also from the same monastery one of the riders is bearing a white or yellow pennon with a red cross.


Icons of the saints Georgios and of Sergios and Bacchos from the Monastery of St. Catherine, Sinai.


These icons may be a confirmation of the supposed arms of the House of Ibelin. However, as the family had many male members in the 13th century, we are not able to determine who actually are depicted on the icons.  When the sons of John I are meant, the icons may have been painted during the Sixth Crusade or somewhat later, at a time when the fame of John I was at its summit. In 1229 the boys were 18, 16 and 15 years of age which matches very well with the boys depicted.


John d’Ibelin


In about 1252/’53 the coat of arms of John d’Ibelin of Arsuf, Count of Jaffa an Askalon was, according to Joinville  or, with a cross of gules patté. [6] This John d’Ibelin (1211-’58) was the second son of John I d’Ibelin.



Baldwin d’Ibelin


A third son of John was Baldwin d’Ibelin, seneschal of Cyprus. On his seal is a coat of arms with a black cross:


Seal, 16.12.1261: Arms: A cross patté. L.: DE : IBELIN : SE[NE]SCHAL : D [...]REAUMQ(U)E : DE CHIP[R]I. Natural wax, the cross black. Æ 45 mm. [7]


As the trouble is taken to make the cross of a different colour (and not of red wax), it is suggested that the arms of the Teutonic Order: Argent, a cross Sable, are on the seal. The relation of Baldwin d’Ibelin with the Teutonic Order however, is not known.


John II d’Ibelin


John of Ibelin (died 1264), often called John II, was the Lord of Beirut from 1247, named after his grandfather John I, the famous "Old Lord of Beirut". He was a son of Balian d’Ibelin.

Equestrian Seal, 1261: Knight in full battle dress, on his coat and shield, and on the clothes of his horse a cross. L.: X : SIGILL[UM I]O[HANNES DE Y.]B[ELIN : DOMINI : X BE[RIT]ENSIS :. Orange wax, (Æ 62 mm.). [8]


In 1261, John had returned from a very large raid alongside the Templars into Galilee in 1260 on which occasion he had been taken captive. His ransom was  20,000 bezants. For that reason his ensign may have been the cross of the Templars: Argent, a cross Gules.



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© Hubert de Vries, 2011-06-27; 2017-04-06+ 2020-02-13



[1] Hesmer, K.-H.: Flaggen, Wappen, Daten. Die Staaten der Erde von A-Z.. Gütersloh, 1975.

[2] http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=282690&partId=1

[3] Sacred tree Ivory Panel Syro-Phoenician Nimrud 8th to 7th centuries BC. Photographed at the Legion of Honor Museum of Fine Arts in San Francisco, California.

[4] Berger, Pamela: The Notitia Dignitatum. Diss. 1974. Revised ed. New York 1981, pp. 82- 83.

[5] Gibbon Ch. XVII, pp. 618-619. who observes (n. 127): Though the military counts and dukes are frequently mentioned, both in history and the codes, we must have recourse to the Notitia for the exact knowledge of their number and stations. For the institution, rank, privileges, &c. of the counts in general, see Cod. Theod. l. vi. tit. xii-xx.

[6] Joinville and Villehardouin: Chronicles of the Crusades. Penquin Classics, London, 1963. P. 295.

[7] Ricci, Stefania: Il Sigillo nella storia e nella cultura, n° 49 2. The seal of Baldwin d’Ibelin, (†1266) Seneschal of Cyprus.

[8] Ricci, Stefania: op. cit., nr. 49.1. (ASV, S. Maria dei Teutonici, b. 55.) The seal of  his brother  Baldwin d’Ibelin, (†1266) Seneschal of Cyprus: Il Sigillo n° 49 2.  .

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