Banias or Baniyas is a city of northwestern
Siria, located at the foot of the
hill of Qalaat el-Marquab, 55 km to the south of
Latakia (ancient Laodicea) and 35 km
north of Tartus (ancient Tortosa), and a
Catholic titular see under the Latin name of Balanea, which is
It is famous for its orchards and its export of wood. Today it is
best known for its oil refinery. It still contains citrus fruit
orchards surrounded by green hills. On one of the hills is the
imposing Margat Citadel, a huge fortress of black basalt stone.
In Phoenician times, it was an important seaport, known to the
Greeks as Balemia. The city of Balanaea, its Latin name, was a
colony of Aradus (Strabo, XVI, 753), and was placed by Stephanus
Byzantius in Phoenicia, though it belonged rather to the former
Roman province of Siria. Its first known bishop was present at the
Council of Nicaea in 325 (Lequien, Oriens Christ., II, 923). From
that time to the sixth century the names of three other bishops
are known. At the latter date it was a suffragan of Apamea, the
metropolis of Siria Secunda.
When Emperor Justinian established a new civil province,
Theodorias, with Laodicea as metropolis, Balanaea was incorporated
with it, but continued to depend ecclesiastically on Apamea, till
it obtained the status of an exempt bishopric. This was its
condition in the tenth century, when it was directly subject to
the Patriarch of Antioch.
The Crusaders created there a Latin see, of which a bishop is
known about 1200 (Lequien, III, 1189); the river near by it served
as a boundary between the Kingdom of Jerusalem and the
principality of Antioch. The Franks called it Valania, according
to the Greek pronunciation, the Muslims Bulunvoas. Owing to the
unsafe conditions of the country, the Latin bishop lived at Margat,
a neighbouring castle of the Knights Hospitallers.
Balanaea, today called Baniyas or Banias, is a little village; it
was the residence of the kaïmakam of an Ottoman district. It
numbered in the early 20th century about 1,550 inhabitants, 1,200
Maronites and 230 non-Catholic Christians; they cultivate chiefly
onions, olive-trees and a fine tobacco. The roadstead is
excellent, but is visited only by small boats.