Eshmunit site is located in Bterram, a very beautiful village of El Koura (North Lebanon). It is a
very old underground structure, which is composed of eight rock-cut rooms (one big and seven
small) accessible through a stepped ramp composed of 11 rocky stairs (see left picture).
Eshmunit is though to be dedication to Eshmun's consort and the only remaining site dedicated to
her. Eshmun is 'the Holy Prince', the god of the Phoenician city of Sidon, and a god of vital force,
health and healing. He was worshipped in Tyre and in the colonies Cyprus, and Carthage, but not
in Ugarit. The Greeks identified him with Asclepius. His symbolic attributes were a snake rolling
on a rod and also a snake biting its own tail, making a circle, symbol of eternity, power feeding on
Many legends about the temple are still floating and commonly include stories of miraculous
healing and association with fertility. The old inhabitants, mostly the women, still visit the
temple, light candles and touch the walls seeking Eshmunit’s blessing. To keep the spirit of
healing alive, several hundred years ago, Bterram’s Christian church was dedicated to Cosmas
and Damian, the patron saints of medicine. Later on, the church incorporated the old temple of
Eshmunit in its domain and erected a cross on its roof. The proximity of the two structures could
have been a factor.
The access to the main
room of Eshmunit through a
stepped ramp or dromos.
Dr Semaan Salem, who wrote several historical books and publications, is sharing with us the
following additional information: "Eshmunit is about 3500 years old. It's was dug to be a
graveyard. The fact that the name of the monument is still preserved without being written
anywhere indicates that Bterram has been continually inhabited for that long period." Recently,
Dr Salem engraved a short description on a stone affixed to Eshmunit wall (see above picture). The
project was offered by Balamand University.
Three rock-cut chambers inside
|Short historical description by Dr Semaan
Salem engraved on a stone affixed to
Eshmunit's wall (click to enlarge)
Indeed, according to Dr Aksam Merched The dedication of Eshmunit to Eshmun or his consort is
not well documented, but probably inherited from the mysterious legends concerning the healing,
the fertility and the eternity powers residing within the temple. However, one unknown
association might be revealed from a close etymological examination of Bterram, the village
where the Eshmunit temple is located, offering a strong connection to Eshmun’s consort.
Bterram is still known to the older generations as Bturran and old Syriac manuscripts from the XII century A.D.
witness some acts by the Seigneur of Bterram who has been mentioned as “Galterius de Buturân” (Bibliothèques et
Conservation du Patrimoine graphique au Liban). Interestingly, the original name Bturan (Beturan) or “beth”
“Turan” refers to “the house” or “the temple” of “Turan”. Indeed, the latter is a name of Astarte, mainly used by
the Etruscans. This combination of Etruscan and Phoenician names is not as far fetch as it seems, as it reflects
somehow the multicultural nature of the Phoenicians and their beliefs. It should be noted that according to many
analyses, the Etruscans, or the inhabitants of the northern part of what is Italy, and the Phoenicians have very close
Moreover, the attribution of Turan’s name to a Phoenician place is not exclusive to Bturan. For instance, Turan is a village name in Galilee,
known for its catacombs and sarcophagi. The name is associated to a valley and a mountain (Jebel Turan). Interestingly, a deeper analysis of
the history of this place shows it was known before as Ashara, which is the Canaanite goddess Astarte. Probably, the Phoenicians and Etruscans
were having closer connections than we ever thought. More material evidence about this relationship is the recent discovery in the Etruscan
town of Caere (Italy) which showed that the Etruscan king of the city, Thefarie Velianas, had dedicated a sacred place in the Etruscan sanctuary
to the Phoenician goddess Astarte herself. The finding consisted of a bilingual document (Etruscan, Phoenician), the Pyrgi Tablets, found in an
excavation of the Etruscan sanctuary and that goes back to the early 5th century B.C.
Following Dr. Merched's reasoning, Bterram or Bturan meaning “Temple of Astarte” is named after
the mysterious Eshmunit sanctuary, which has being a symbol of fertility, eternity, and associated
with healing and probably death-related rituals. The hypothesis needs further examination and
confrontation with archeological facts yet to be found.