Roman Berytus was one of the most lavish cities in the empire, featuring a massive chariot race track and theatre complex where 1,400 gladiators reportedly fought in a single day. Today, it seems more and more of that mythical city is being uncovered and unfortunately wiped away. The racetrack and theatre are now the site of luxury development, as well as an area thought to be a Hellenistic neighborhood, where I was assaulted for taking photos. The site believed to be the Roman gate of Berytus however, has been spared for now, after much activism and public pressure to stop construction.
But more clues may be revealed in the ongoing dig at Saifi Plaza–also slated to be another mega real estate project. The site is near the intersection of George Haddad street and the Fouad Chehab “ring” highway–near the Medco gas station downtown. In the photo above, we can see what appears to be a wall or floor-like structure at the middle of the excavation. Here is a close up:
Could this be part of the Roman city and perhaps part of the wall and city gate discovered not far away at Riad Al Solh:
Archeologists also believe the ruins at Paul cafe in Gemmayze may have also been part of the wall–a tower or perhaps another gate. Here’s what the proximity of the four sites look like on a map:
At the bottom right corner is the Saifa plaza site (1)– subject of this post–above it is the Paul cafe ruins (2), toward the middle is the Roman gate site at Riad Al Solh square (3) left of this is the oval-shaped Roman hippodrome (4), one of the most spectacular structures of ancient Berytus. And lastly the ruins of what may be a hellenistic neighborhood (5).
Archeologists will now be looking to see if there is a connection between sites 1, 2 and 3 as part of the city wall. Site 4 and 5 have already been cleared to make way for a luxury villas in place of the hippodrome and an apartment complex known as DistrictS.
Will the Saifi Plaza site (1) also be cleared?
It seems the process of clearing it has already begun to make way for an office block. Here is what the plot looks like over time.