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TYRUS (Tyre) Lebanon.

On the Mediterranean coast ca. 72 km S-SW of Beirut, one of the most important Phoenician cities and a fortified major port. Tyre was a city to be reckoned with as early as the 14th c. B.C.; it is mentioned in the Tell-el-Amarnah archives. There is a splendid evocation of its early wealth and magnificence in Ezekiel 27, but it does not appear in Homer. Tyre's influence was widespread in the W Mediterranean by 800 B.C., roughly when the Tyrians founded Carthage. The city capitulated to Alexander in 332 B.C. after a siege, and later it became involved in Seleucid-Ptolemaic rivalry. In 64 B.C. Pompey assigned it to the new Roman province of Syria, and Septimius Severus elevated it to the rank of colony late in the 2d c. A.D. It is frequently mentioned by Josephus, and there are descriptions of it by Strabo (16.2.22-24) and Pliny (HN 5.17). Trade is often the reason for mentioning it (Luc. Phars. 10.41), and that trade flourished until at least the late 3d c. A.D. (Hieron. Comm. ad. Ezek. 26.7; 27.2; and see Procop. Secret History 25.14). In the crusading era it was a principal city of the Kingdom of Jerusalem.

The city was originally on an island ca. 1.6 km long, parallel to the shore and some 630 m from it. From early times it was connected by a causeway to the mainland, where another region of Tyre stood. It was this causeway that Alexander expanded into his famous mole 60 m wide; over the years a sandy isthmus has built up.

There were two harbors, the Sidonian at the N of the island and the Egyptian at the S. Aerial photography and both marine and land excavation have revealed not a little about these harbors, especially the S one; this is significant information as Tyre was one of the major ports of the ancient Mediterranean, ranking with Portus, Carthage, and Caesarea. The S harbor was protected by a lofty mole at least 675 m long and ca. 7.5 m wide. A system of broad terraces ran along its inner face, and there were at least two passages through it, one of them zigzag. Both the mole and the city proper were fortified with towers, some of them of considerable size. Docks lined the harbors; there was even a paved dry dock. Here lay the headquarters of a major merchant fleet that maintained offices in both Puteoli and Rome during the Early Empire, here also was the seat of the Roman fleet in the E Mediterranean.

Remains N of the S harbor have been uncovered; what can be seen today is almost entirely Roman Imperial and Early Byzantine in date. Septimius Severus was responsible for much construction here, for Tyre supported him in his struggle with Pescennius Niger, and after his victory he rewarded the city appropriately. The main urban element so far revealed is a colonnaded street which originally ran the length of the island to connect the two ports (cf. Lepcis' grand colonnaded boulevard to the Severan port). It has been partially excavated: doubled columns flanked a street some 10.5 m wide, paved at least in part with mosaic of geometric patterns; it was repaired at some late date with roughly-cut stone blocks. There is a theater of Hellenistic date, rectilinear not only in outline but also in the arrangement of the tiers of seats; there are similarities to the bouleuterion of Priene. Nearby are cisterns of Roman date. A massive triumphal arch, with a single opening and rather simple architectural treatment for its late 2d c. date, has been partly restored, and this is the most visible of Tyre's monuments so far recovered. The Roman forum has been located SE of the Cathedral, and remains of the Hippodrome include the base of the spina and the canonical obelisk of Roman times.

The city, once a center of philosophy, embraced Christianity enthusiastically. It was the seat of a bishop as early as the 2d c. A.D.; Origen died there about the middle of the 3d c. There are remains of a Byzantine basilica. The Venetian Cathedral, begun early in the 12th c. and built partly of ancient stones, was on the site of an early 4th c. church; it is traditionally the burial place of Frederic Barbarossa.

There is a considerable necropolis, including a long avenue flanked in part by late antique and early Byzantine sarcophagi (some are now in the National Museum in Beirut). About 9.6 km SE of Tyre is the so-called Tomb of Hiram, which would date from the 10th c. B.C. if it were his; it is celebrated as such in Freemasonry, but it cannot be of so early a date.


A. Poidebard, Un grand port disparu: Tyr (1939)PI; RE 7 A (1948) 1876-1908P; M. Chébab, “Fouilles de Tyre,” BMBeyrouth 9ff (1948ff); id., Tyr, histoire, topographie, fouilles (1969)PI; EAA 7 (1966) 877-79g.


hide References (2 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (2):
    • Strabo, Geography, 16.2.22
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 5.17
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