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Tyre

Tyre

Tyre is a city in the South Governorate of Lebanon. With 117,100 inhabitants, Tyre juts out from the coast of the Mediterranean Sea and it is located about 80 km (50 mi) south of Beirut. The name of the city means "rock" [1]. The adjective for Tyre is Tyrian, and the inhabitants are Tyrians. Tyre is an ancient Phoenician city and the legendary birthplace of Europa and Elissa (Dido).

Today it is the fourth largest city in Lebanon [4] and houses one of the nation's major ports known locally in French as Sor. Tyre is a popular destination for tourists. The city has many ancient sites, including its Roman Hippodrome which was added to UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites in 1979 (Resolution 459).

History

The location of the city of Tyre is not in doubt, for it exists to this day on the same spot and is known as Sur." (Katzenstein, H.J., The History of Tyre, 1973, p9) Tyre originally consisted of two distinct urban centers, one on an island and the other on the adjacent coast (approximately 30 stadia apart or 3.5 miles according to Strabo in his Geography xvi, 2), before Alexander the Great connected the island to the coast during his siege of the city. One was a heavily fortified island city amidst the sea (with defensive walls 150 feet high) and the latter, originally called Ushu (later, Palaetyrus, by the Greeks) was actually more like a line of suburbs than any one city and was used primarily as a source of water and timber for the main island city. [3] Josephus even records them fighting against each other [4], although most of the time they supported one another due to the island city's wealth from maritime trade and the mainland area's source of timber, water and burial grounds.

Foundation

Tyre was founded around 2750 BC according to Herodotus and it appears on monuments as early as 1300 BC. Philo of Byblos (in Eusebius) quotes the antiquarian authority Sanchuniathon as stating that it was first occupied by one Hypsuranius. Sanchuniathon's work is said to be dedicated to "Abibalus king of Berytus" -- possibly the Abibaal who was king of Tyre.

Amarna letters Tyre, of 1350 BC has a body of letters-(9, detailed) from the mayor: Abi-Milku written to Akenaten. The subject is often water, wood, and the Habiru overtaking the countryside, of the mainland, and how it affected the island-city.

Early history

The commerce of the ancient world was gathered into the warehouses of Tyre. "Tyrian merchants were the first who ventured to navigate the Mediterranean waters; and they founded their colonies on the coasts and neighbouring islands of the Aegean Sea, in Greece, on the northern coast of Africa, at Carthage and other places, in Sicily and Corsica, in Spain at Tartessus, and even beyond the pillars of Hercules at Gadeira. In the time of David (c. 1000 BC), a friendly alliance was entered into between the Jews and the Tyrians, who were long ruled over by their native kings.

The city of Tyre was particularly known for the production of a rare and extraordinarily expensive sort of purple dye, produced from the murex shellfish, known as Tyrian purple. This color was, in many cultures of ancient times, reserved for the use of royalty, or at least nobility.

It was often attacked by Egypt, besieged by Shalmaneser V, who was assisted by the Phoenicians of the mainland, for five years, and by Nebuchadnezzar (586-573 BC) for thirteen years, without success, although a compromise peace was made in which Tyre paid tribute to the Babylonians. 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 in which he built the causeway from the mainland to the island[6], but it continued to maintain much of its commercial importance until the Christian era.

The presence of the causeway affected water currents nearby, causing sediment to build up, making the connection permanent. In 315 BC, Alexander's former general Antigonus begins his own siege of Tyre[5], taking the city a year later. In 126 BC, Tyre regained its independence[7] (from the Seleucids) and was allowed to keep much of its independence when the area became a Roman province in 64 BC.

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