Lebanon's coastal plain is divided into several isolated sections
by gorges, which are cut by streams that pour down the mountains
in winter and spring. In ancient times, north-south movement along
the plain was nearly impossible.
Villages developed on larger sections of the plain, and those with
good harbors and better agricultural areas evolved into the city-states
These cities then used the Mediterranean Sea to communicate and
trade with one another and beyond the coastal plain. Due to geographical
and other barriers, however, Phoenicia never unified politically.
Later, mountainous areas provided protection for groups seeking
refuge, but these groups, too, were isolated and did not form a
unified nation. The modern nation of Lebanon was formed after World
War I (1914-1918), when the defeated Ottoman Empire, which had controlled
the area, was divided.
When France received a mandate from the League of Nations to rule
Lebanon after the war, the region's people were aligned along religious
and cultural lines, but felt little unity based on a Lebanese nationality.
Lebanon's rich history has been shaped by many cultural traditions,
including Phoenician, Greek, Roman, Islamic, Crusader, Ottoman Turkish,
French, and recently American. The resulting culture is distinctively
Lebanese, a combination of East and West, past and present. Folk
music and dancing have a long tradition and are very popular.
Influential Lebanese writers emerged in the early 20th century
and greatly influenced the Arabic language. Painters, sculptors,
and performers and producers in theater, film, and television have
recently distinguished themselves.