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TYRUS (Τύρος, Hdt. 2.44, &c.: Eth. Τύριος, Eth. Tyrius), the most celebrated and important city of Phoenicia. By the Israelites it was called Tsor (Josh. 19.29, &c.), which means a rock but by the Tyrians themselves Sor or Sur (Theodoret. in Ezek. xxvi.), which appellation it still retains. For the initial letter t was substituted by the Greeks, and from them adopted by the Romans; but the latter also used the form Sara or Sarra, said to be derived from the Phoenician name of the purple fish; whence also the adjective Sarranus. [p. 2.1249]Plaut. Truc. 2, 6, 58; Virg. Georg. 2.506; Juv. 10.38; Gel. 14.6, &c.) The former of these etymologies is the preferable one. (Shaw, Travels, ii. p. 31.) The question of the origin of Tyre has been already discussed, its commerce, manufactures and colonies described, and the principal events of its history narrated at some length [PHOENICIA, p. 608, seq.], and this article will therefore be more particularly devoted to the topography, and to what may be called the material history, of the city.

Strabo (xvi. p.756) places Tyre at a distance of 200 stadia from Sidon, which pretty nearly agrees with the distance of 24 miles assigned by the Itin. Ant. (p. 149) and the Tab. Peuting. It was built partly on an island and partly on the mainland. According to Pliny (5.19. s. 17) the island was 22 stadia, or 2 3/4 miles, in circumference, and was originally separated from the continent by a deep channel 7/10ths of a mile in breadth. In his time, however, as well as long previously (cf. Strab. l.c.), it was connected with the mainland by an isthmus formed by the mole or causeway constructed by Alexander when he was besieging Tyre, and by subsequent accumulations of sand. Some authorities, state the channel to have been only 3 stadia (Scylax, p. 42) or 4 stadia broad (Diodor. Sic. 17.60; Curt. 4.2), and Arrian (Arr. Anab. 2.18) describes it as shallow near the continent and only 6 fathoms in depth at its deepest part near the island. The accretion of the isthmus must have been considerable in the course of ages. William of Tyre describes it in the time of the Crusades as a bow-shot across (13.4); the Pére Roger makes it only 50 paces (Terre Sainte, p. 41); but at present it is about 1/3 of a mile broad at its narrowest part, near the island.

That part of the city which lay on the mainland was called Palae-Tyrus, or Old Tyre; an appellation from which we necessarily infer that it existed previously to the city on the island; and this inference is confirmed by Ezekiel's prophetical description of the siege of Tyre by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, the particulars of which are not suitable to an island city. Palae-Tyrus extended along the shore from the river Leontes on the N., to the fountain of Ras-el-Ain on the S., a space of 7 miles; which, however, must have included the suburbs. When Strabo says (xvi. p. 758) that Palae-Tyrus was 30 stadia, or 3 3/4 miles, distant from Tyre, he is probably considering the southern extremity of the former. Pliny (l.c.) assigns a circumference of 19 miles to the two cities. The plain in which Palae-Tyrus was situated was one of the broadest and most fertile in Phoenicia. The fountain above mentioned afforded a constant supply of pure spring water, which was received into an octagon reservoir, 60 feet in diameter and 18 feet deep. Into this reservoir the water gushes to within 3 feet of the top. (Maundrell, Journey, p. 67.) Hence it was distributed through the town by means of an aqueduct, all trace of which has now disappeared (Robinson, Palest. iii. p. 684.) The unusual contrast between the bustle of a great seaport and the more tranquil operations of rural life in the fertile fields which surrounded the town, presented a striking scene which is described with much felicity in the Dionysiaca of Nonnus (40, 327, sqq.).

The island on which the new city was built is the largest rock of a belt that runs along this part of the coast. We have no means of determining the origin of the island city; but it must of course have arisen in the period between; Nebuchadhezzar and Alexander the Great. The alterations which the coast has undergone at this part render it difficult to determine the original size of the island. Maundrell (p. 66) estimated it at only 40 acres; but he was guided solely by his eye. The city was surrounded with a wall, the height of which, where it faced the mainland, was 150 feet. (Arrian, Arr. Anab. 2.18.) The foundations of this wall, which must have marked the limits of the island as well as of the city, may still be discerned, but have not been accurately traced. The measurement of Pliny before cited must doubtless include the subsequent accretions, both natural and artificial. The smallness of the area was, however, compensated by the great height of the houses of Tyre, which were not built after the eastern fashion, but story upon story, like those of Aradus, another Phoenician island city (Mela, 2.7), or like the insulae of Rome. (Strab. l.c.) Thus a much larger population might be accommodated than the area seems to promise. Bertou, calculating from the latter alone, estimates the inhabitants of insular Tyre at between 22,000 and 23,000. (Topogr. de Tyr, p. 17.) But the accounts of the capture of Tyre by Alexander, as will appear in the sequel, show a population of at least double that number; and it should be recollected that, from the maritime pursuits of the Tyrians, a large portion of them must have been constantly at sea. Moreover, part of the western side of the island is now submerged, to the extent of more than a mile; and that this was once occupied by the city is shown by the bases of columns which may still be discerned. These remains were much more considerable in the time of Benjamin of Tudela, in the latter part of the 12th century, who mentions that towers, markets, streets, and halls might be observed at the bottom of the sea (p. 62, ed. Asher).

Insular Tyre was much improved by king Hiram, who in this respect was the Augustus of the city. He added to it one of the islands lying to the N., by filling up the intervening space. This island, the outline of which can no longer be traced, previously contained a temple of Baal, or, according to the Greek way of speaking, of the Olympian Jupiter. (Joseph. c. Apion, 1.17.) It was by the space thus gained, as well as by substructions on the eastern side of the island, that Hiram was enabled to enlarge and beautify Tyre, and to form an extensive public place, which the Greeks called Eurychorus. The artificial ground which Hiram formed for this purpose may still be traced by the loose rubbish of which it consists. The frequent earthquakes with which Tyre has been visited (Sen. Q. N. 2.26) have rendered it difficult to trace its ancient configuration; and alterations have been observed even since the recent one of 1837 (Kenrick, Phoenicia, p. 353, &c.).

The powerful navies of Tyre were received and sheltered in two roadsteads and two harbours, one on the N., the other on the S. side of the island. The northern, or Sidonian roadstead, so called because it looked towards Sidon (Arrian, 2.20), was protected by the chain of small islands already mentioned. The harbour which adjoined it was formed by a natural inlet on the NE. side of the island. On the N., from which quarter alone it was exposed to the wind, it was rendered secure by two sea-walls running parallel to each other, at a distance of 100 feet apart, as shown in the annexed plan. Portions of these walls may still be traced. The eastern side [p. 2.1250]of the harbour was enclosed by two ledges of with the assistance of walls, having a passage between them about 140 feet wide, which formed the mouth of the harbour. In case of need this entrance could be closed with a boom or chain. At present this harbour is almost choked with sand, and only a small basin, of about 40 yards in diameter, can be traced (Shaw, Travels, vol. ii. p. 30); but in its original state it was about 300 yards long, and from 230 to 240 yards wide. part of the modern town of Sur, or Sour, is built over its southern portion, and only vessels of very shallow draught can enter.

PLAN OF TYRE. (From Kenrick's “Phoenicia.” )
  • A. Northern harbour.
  • B. Supposed limit of ancient harbour
  • C. Tract of loose sand.
  • D. Southern, or Egyptian, harbour.
  • E. Southern, or Egyptian, roadstead.
    • FF. Isthmus formed by Alexander's mole.
    • GG. Depression in the sand.
    H. Northern, or Sidonian, roadstead.
    • aa. Portions of inner sea-wall, visible above water.
    • bb. Ancient canal.
  • 1. Entrance of northern harbour.
  • 2, 2. Original line of sea-wall.
  • 3, 3. Outer wall, now below water.
  • 4, 4, 4, 4. Line of rocks, bordered on the E. by a wall, not of ancient construction.
  • 5. Ledge of rocks projecting 90 feet into the sea.
  • 6. Columns united to the rock.
  • 7. Rock, below 5 feet of rubbish.
  • 8. Ledge of rocks extending 200 feet into the sea.
  • 9. Remains of a wall, with irons for mooring.
  • 10. Masonry, showing the entrance of the canal.
  • 11,11,11,11. Walls of the Cothon or harbour, about 25 feet broad.
  • 12, 12. Portions of wall overturned in the harbour.
  • 13. Rocky islets.
  • 14. Supposed submarine dyke or breakwater.
  • 15. Commencement of the isthmus, covering several yards of the harbour wall.
  • 16. Angle of the ancient wall of circumvallation. and probable limit of the island on the E.

The southern roadstead was called the Egyptian, from its lying towards that country, and is described by Straho (l.c.) as unenclosed. If, however, the researches of Bertou may be relied upon (Topogr. de Tyr. p. 14), a stupendous sea-wall, or breakwater, 35 feet thick, and running straight in a SW. direction, for a distance of 2 miles, may still be traced. The wall is said to be covered with 2 or 3 fathoms of water, whilst within it the depth is from 6 to 8 fathoms. Bertou admits, however, that this wall has never been carefully examined; and if it had existed in ancient times, it is impossible to conceive how so stupendous a work should have escaped the notice of all the writers of antiquity. According to the same authority, the whole southern part of the island was occupied by a cothon, or dock, separated from the roadstead by a wall, the remains of which are still visible. This harbour, like the northern one, could be closed with a boom; whence Chariton (7.2. p. 126, Reiske) takes occasion to compare the security of Tyre to that of a house with bolted doors. At present, however, there is nothing to serve for a harbour, and even the roadstead is not secure in all winds. (Shaw, ii. p. 30.) The northern and southern harbours were connected together by means of a canal, so that ships could pass from one to the other. This canal may still be traced by the loose sand with which it is filled.

We have already adverted to the sieges sustained by Tyre at the hands of Shalmaneser, Nebuchadnezzar, [p. 2.1251]Alexander, and Antigonus. [PHOENICIA, pp. 610--613]. That by Alexander was so remarkable, and had so much influence on the topography of Tyre, that we reserved the details of it for this place, as they may be collected from the narratives of Arrian (Arr. Anab. 2.17-26), Diodorus Siculus (17.40--45), and Q. Curtius (4.4-27). The insular situation of Tyre, the height and strength of its walls, and the command which it possessed of the sea, seemed to render it impregnable; and hence the Tyrians, when summoned by Alexander to surrender, prepared for an obstinate resistance. The only method which occurred to the mind of that conqueror of overcoming the difficulties presented to his arms by the site of Tyre, was to connect it with the mainland by means of a mole. The materials for such a structure were at hand in abundance. The deserted buildings of Palae-Tyrus afforded plenty of stone, the mountains of Lebanon an inexhaustible supply of timber. For a certain distance, the mole, which was 200 feet in breadth, proceeded rapidly and successfully, though Alexander's workmen were often harassed by parties of Tyrian troops, who landed in boats, as well as by the Arabs of the Syrian desert. But as the work approached the island, the difficulties increased in a progressive ratio. Not only was it threatened with destruction from the depth and force of the current, often increased to violence by a southerly wind, but the workmen were also exposed to the missiles of the Tyrian slingers and bowmen, aimed both from vessels and from the battlements of the city. To guard themselves from these attacks, the Macedonians erected two lofty wooden towers at the extremity of the mole, and covered them with hides as a protection against fire. The soldiers placed on these towers occasioned the Tyrians considerable annoyance. At length, however, the latter succeeded in setting fire to the towers by means of a fire-ship filled with combustibles; and afterwards, making a sortie in their boats, pulled up the stakes which protected the mole, and destroyed the machines which the fire had not reached. To complete the discomfiture of the Macedonians, a great storm arose and carried away the whole of the work which had been thus loosened.

This misfortune, which would have damped the ardour of an ordinary man, only incited Alexander to renew his efforts with greater vigour and on a surer plan. He ordered a new mole to be constructed, broader than the former one; and in order to obviate the danger of destruction by the waves, he caused it to incline towards the SW., and thus to cross the channel diagonally, instead of in a straight line. At the same time he collected a large fleet from Sidon, whither he went in person, from Soli, Mallus, and other places; for, with the exception of Tyre, all Phoenicia was already in the hands of Alexander. He then made an incursion into Coelesyria, and chased away the Arabs who annoyed his workmen employed in cutting timber in Antilibanus. When he again returned to Tyre with his fleet, which he had joined at Sidon, the new mole had already made great progress. It was formed of whole trees with their branches, covered with layers of stone, on which other trees were heaped. The Tyrian divers, indeed, sometimes succeeded in loosening the structure by pulling out the trees; but, in spite of these efforts, the work proceeded steadily towards completion.

The large fleet which Alexander had assembled struck terror into the Tyrians, who now confined themselves to defensive measures. They sent away the old men, women, and children to Carthage, and closed the mouths of their harbours with a line of triremes. It is unnecessary to recount all the incidents which followed, and we shall therefore confine ourselves to the most important. Alexander had caused a number of new machines to be prepared, under the direction of the ablest engineers of Phoenicia and Cyprus. Some of these were planted on the mole, which now very nearly approached the city; others were placed on board large vessels, in order to batter the walls on other sides. Various were the devices resorted to by the Tyrians to frustrate these attempts. They cut the cables of the vessels bearing the battering rams, and thus sent them adrift; but this mode of defence was met by the use of iron mooring chains. To deaden the blows of the battering engines, leathern bags filled with sea-weed were suspended from the walls, whilst on their summit were erected large wheel-like machines filled with soft materials, which being set in rapid motion, either averted or intercepted the missiles hurled by the Macedonians. A second wall also was commenced within the first. On the other hand, the Macedonians, having now carried the mole as far as the island, erected towers upon it equal in height to the walls of the town, from which bridges were projected towards the battlements, in order to take the city by escalade. Yet, after all the labour bestowed upon the mole, Tyre was not captured by means of it. The Tyrians annoyed the soldiers who manned the towers by throwing out grappling hooks attached to lines, and thus dragging them down. Nets were employed to entangle the hands of the assailants; masses of red-hot metal were hurled amongst them, and quantities of heated sand, which, getting between the interstices of the armour, caused intolerable pain. An attempted assault from the bridges of the towers was repulsed, and does not appear to have been renewed. But a breach was made in the walls by battering rams fixed on vessels; and whilst this was assaulted by means of ships provided with bridges, simultaneous attacks were directed against both the harbours. The Phoenician fleet burst the boom of the Egyptian harbour, and took or destroyed the ships within it. The northern harbour, the entrance of which was undefended, was easily taken by the Cyprian fleet. Meanwhile Alexander had entered with his troops through the breach. Provoked by the long resistance of the Tyrians and the obstinate defence still maintained from the roofs of the houses, the Macedonian soldiery set fire to the city, and massacred 8000 of the inhabitants. The remainder, except those who found shelter on board the Sidonian fleet, were sold into slavery, to the number of 30,000; and 2000 were crucified in expiation of the murders of certain Macedonians during the course of the siege. The lives of the king and chief magistrates were spared.

Thus was Tyre captured, after a siege of seven months, in July of the year B.C. 332. Alexander then ordered sacrifices, and games in honour of the Tyrian Hercules, and consecrated to him the battering ram which had made the first breach in the walls. The population, which had been almost destroyed, was replaced by new colonists, of whom a considerable portion seem to have been Carians. The subsequent fortunes of Tyre have already been recorded. [PHOENICIA, p. 613.]

For the coins of Tyre see Eckhel, Doctr. Num. [p. 2.1252]P. i. vol. iii. pp. 379--393, and 408, seq. Respecting its history and the present state of its remains, the following works may be advantageously consulted: Hengstenberg, De Rebus Tyriorum; Kenrick, Phoenicia; Pococke, Description of the East; Volney, Voyage en Syrie; Richter, Wallfahrt; Bertou, Topographie de Tyr; Maundrell, Journey from Aleppo to Damascus; Shaw's Travels; Robinson, Biblical Researches, &c.



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