Modern Lebanese society is primarily the child of the Muslim invasions of the 7th century, since almost 94% of the population is Arabic. The lifestyle of many is western and cosmopolitan though in rural places more traditional forms prevail.
Once Byzantine and Crusader power was eliminated, the area of modern Lebanon became an integral part of the Ottoman Empire for 400 years until 1918. It was then mandated to the French and became a significant centre for intrigue during the Second World War. Lebanon was granted independence in 1943.
For some years the rival Vichy and Gaullist Free French governments had vied for power in Lebanon, and once the French withdrew, Lebanon was to know only intermittent and diminishing stability in between periods of civil strife.
Some of these conflicts have resulted from different internal groups struggling for power - this included a 15-year civil war (1975-1990). Outside influences have not been helpful as other countries, most recently Syria and Iran, have sought to make Lebanon a client state.
In 1948 a new element was introduced to this volatile mix with the creation of the state of Israel. Lebanon joined other Arab States in attacking Israel and the 400,000 Palestiains refugees in Lebanon are a constant source of difficulty.
The control of the southern parts of Lebanon by Hezbollah, actively supported by Iran as a base to attack Israel, further weakens the power of the State.
In general, most Lebanese initially took a more lenient view of Israel than in neighbouring countries, but Israeli bombing, occupation and other raids have gradually changed that.
Nevertheless, long-term conflict between different groups of those who want to move Lebanon towards a global, tolerant society, and those who want radical Islam, and those who simply want power for themselves, continues to make every day a risk, especially in Beirut, where bombings and assassinations have become commonplace.
Like so many places in the Middle East, a beautiful location and potential prosperity is damaged by violence.
Christians in Lebanon
Islam is significantly the majority religion, though their numbers include the Druze, an ancient sect, who preserve their differences and do not always co-operate fully in the agendas of their fellow-Muslims.
There are very significant numbers of Christians, although more than half belong to Maronite and Melkite traditions, which again preserve ancient differences within the Church. There are significant numbers of Orthodox, Catholic and Armenian believers, though modern evangelical churches have struggled to find a foothold.
There is much need for the compassion of Christ in this bloodied and traumatized country.