Tyre (Hebrew Zor; Latin Tyrus) is an ancient Phoenician city in southern Lebanon, jutting out into the Mediterranean Sea. It is located about 23 miles north of Acre (Akko), and 20 miles south of Sidon. The modern city's name is Sur.
Tyre has a long and illustrious history. In ancient times it was the most important city of the Phoenicians, amassing great wealth and power from the export of purple dye.
In the first century AD, Tyre was the home of a Christian community visited by St. Paul, and it became a major stronghold of the Crusaders in the 12th century. Today, Tyre (Sur) is the fourth largest city in Lebanon and is a popular stop for tourists due to its ancient ruins. It was added to UNESCO's World Heritage list in 1984.
History of Tyre
Tyre appears on monuments as early as 1500 BC, and claiming, according to Herodotus, to have been founded about 2700 BC. The inhabitants of Tyre were leading merchants in the ancient world. The city of Tyre was particularly known for the production of a rare sort of purple dye, known as Tyrian purple, which in many ancient cultures was reserved for royal use.
In the time of King David (c. 1000 BC), a friendly alliance was entered into between the Hebrews and the Tyrians, who were long ruled over by their native kings.
Tyre was often attacked by Egypt, then by the Babylonian Nebuchadnezzar (586–573 BC), and it later fell under the power of the Persians. In 332 BC, the city was conquered by Alexander the Great, after a siege of seven months. During the seige Alexander connected two distinct cities about 1 km apart (one on an island and one on the coast) by a causeway. Tyre continued to maintain much of its commercial importance until the Christian era.
Somewhere near Tyre, Jesus healed a Syrian woman's daughter after she gave him a clever reply about breadcrumbs. (Mk 7:24) A Christian church was founded in Tyre shortly after the martyrdom of Stephen (in Jerusalem) and St. Paul, on his return from his third missionary journey, spent a week in conversation with the disciples there. According to Irenaeus of Lyons, the female companion of the Gnostic magician Simon Magus came from Tyre.
Tyre was captured in 1124 during the First Crusade and became one of the most important cities of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem. It was part of the royal domain, although there were also autonomous trading colonies there for the Italian merchant cities. The city was the seat of the archbishop of Tyre, who reported to the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem.
After the fall of Jerusalem to Saladin in 1187, the seat of the kingdom moved to Acre, but coronations were still held in Tyre. In 1291, Tyre was retaken by the Mameluks. It then passed to Ottoman rule until it became part of the modern state of Lebanon after World War I.
What to See at Tyre
Today, Tyre offers visitors an impressive array of excavated ancient ruins, which are spread across three separate archaeological areas. Sights include the remains of a Roman cemetery (necropolis) with several freestanding stone tombs, a Roman triumphal arch, bathhouse, aqueduct, and cardo (street), and a Byzantine mosaic floor from an ancient church.
Tyre's hippodrome (arena for chariot racing), of which a significant amount survives, is unique in being built of stone instead of the more usual brick. It could seat 20,000 spectators.
Remains from other periods have also been unearthed at Tyre, including those from the Byzantine, Arab and Crusader eras, but it is the Roman ruins that are most numerous and impressive.
The sights of modern Tyre (Sur) include a colorful souk (market), a double-domed Shia mosque, and a Christian quarter that is the seat of the Maronite Bishop of Tyre and the Holy Land.
Near Tyre is the reported tomb of King Ahiram (Hiram) (970-936 BC), contemporary of King David, who sent cedar and craftsmen to help build King Solomon's temple in Jerusalem. It is located on the road to Qana El-Jaleel, 6 km southeast of Tyre.
Quick Facts on Tyre
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|Coordinates:||33.266245° N, 35.194016° E|
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Map of Tyre, Lebanon
Below is a location map and aerial view of Tyre. Using the buttons on the left (or the wheel on your mouse), you can zoom in for a closer look, or zoom out to get your bearings. To move around, click and drag the map with your mouse.