Tyre is a beautiful town on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea.
It is located at the meeting point of three continents and, as such, has been the crossroads of many civilizations whose traces may still be seen today.
Tyre was a major Phoenician seaport from about 2000 BC onwards through the Roman period.
Tyre, built on an island and the neighboring mainland, was probably originally founded as a colony of Sidon to the north and was mentioned in Egyptian records of the 14th century BC as being subject to Egypt. It became independent when Egyptian influence in Phoenicia declined and soon surpassed Sidon as a trade centre, developing commercial relations with all parts of the Mediterranean world. In the 9th century BC colonists from Tyre founded in northern Africa the city of Carthage, which later became Rome's principal rival in the West. The town is frequently mentioned in the Bible as having had close ties with Israel. Hiram, King of Tyre, furnished building materials for Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem (10th century), and the notorious Jezebel, wife of King Ahab, was the daughter of Ethbaal "King of Tyre and Sidon." In the 10th and 9th centuries Tyre probably enjoyed some primacy over the other cities of Phoenicia and was ruled by kings whose power was limited by a merchant oligarchy.
For much of the 8th and 7th centuries the town was subject to Assyria, and in 585-573 it successfully withstood a prolonged siege by the Babylonian King Nebuchadrezzar II. Between 538 and 332 it was ruled by the Achaemenian Kings of Persia. In this period it lost its hegemony in Phoenicia but continued to flourish. Probably the most famous episode in the history of Tyre was its resistance to the army of the Macedonian conqueror, Alexander the Great, who took it after a seven-month siege in 332, using floating batteries and building a causeway to gain access to the island. After its capture, 10,000 of the inhabitants were put to death, and 30,000 were sold into slavery. Alexander's causeway, which was never removed, converted the island into a peninsula.
Tyre was subsequently under the influence of Ptolemaic Egypt and in 200 became part of the Hellenistic Seleucid kingdom; it finally came under Roman rule in 68 BC. It was often mentioned in the New Testament and was famous in Roman times for its silk products and for a purple dye extracted from snails of the genus Murex. By the 2nd century AD it had a sizable Christian community, and the Christian scholar Origen was buried there (c. 254).
Under Muslim rule from 638 to 1124, Tyre grew prosperous as part of the kingdom of Jerusalem, a crusader state in the 12th and 13th centuries. The Holy Roman emperor Frederick I Barbarossa, who died on the Third Crusade, was buried in its cathedral (1190).
Captured and destroyed by the Muslim Mamluks in 1291, the town never recovered its former importance.
The silted up harbor on the south side of the peninsula has been excavated by the French Institute for Archaeology in the Near East, but most of the remains of the Phoenician period still lie beneath the present town.
Tyre was built in ancient times on a small rocky island near the coast. In the 10th century BC, King Kiram of Tyre constructed two ports and a temple on the mainland sector of the city. This was the era when the famous industries of Phoenician glass and purple dye were developed.
Behind the walls of the old city t
he Tyrians successfully defied Nebuchadnezzar for 13 years. Alexander the Great also laid siege to it for 7 months, finally overwhelming the island city by constructing a great causeway from the shore to the island. Over the centuries, however, the causeway was silted up, turning Tyre into an isthmus. In biblical times it was in Qana (Cana) near Tyre that Jesus turned water into wine at the wedding feast.
Behind the walls of the old city the Tyrians successfully defied Nebuchadnezzar for 13 years. Alexander the Great also laid siege to it for 7 months, finally overwhelming the island city by constructing a great causeway from the shore to the island. Over the centuries, however, the causeway was silted up, turning Tyre into an isthmus. In biblical times it was in Qana (Cana) near Tyre that Jesus turned water into wine at the wedding feast.
In 1980, modern Tyre's impressive Roman and Phoenician remains prompted UNESCO to make the town one of its world heritage sites.