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SIDON (Saida) Lebanon.

Maritime city and Phoenician metropolis celebrated by Homer, subjected to Egyptian influence, and vassal of the Achaemenids. Hellenism reached Sidon in the 5th c. B.C., it was conquered by Evagoras of Cyprus in the 4th c., and then by Alexander the Great, who made Abdelonymus, the gardener, king. It was the naval shipyard of the Diadochos Antigonus. Successively ruled by the Lagids, the Seleucids, and the Romans, Sidon always remained an important town.

The mediaeval and modern city covers the ancient town, which occupied a huge mound, the accumulation of millennia. It extended from the Land Castle to the W to the gardens on the E, on the other side of the wide modern street. Only the SE corner of the Hellenistic rampart is known. A late Latin inscription attributes the construction of the rampart facing the sea to the Diadochos Antigonus. Recent excavations have found remains of a Roman theater on the N flank of the castle hill. The palace of the Achaemenid viceroys has been sought farther N, because of the discovery of marble fragments from bases and columns, and especially of a large capital with foreparts of two kneeling bulls (now in the Beirut museum). Clandestine excavations in the 19th c. uncovered a dozen fine Mithraic statues from a Mithraeum of the 4th c. A.D. (now in the Louvre). On the W side of the mound deposits of murex shells (which form an actual hill farther S) indicate workshops where purple dye was manufactured.

Sidon had two ports, one to the S in a big cove, the other to the N: the inner port was on the site of the modern one, and efficient dredging kept it from silting up; the outer port was protected by a jetty and by the islet of the Sea Castle, the open roadstead by a mole and another rocky islet.

In the valley of the Nahr el-Awali, N of the town (the ancient river Bostrenus), the sanctuary of Eshmun (a healing god assimilated to Asklepios) stood in the middle of orchards which recall the sacred wood mentioned by Strabo. Phoenician inscriptions date to the Persian period the high, massive walls with bosses which support two large terraces built on the slope. The terraces formed the podium of a temple which has disappeared. Parts of a monumental altar about 7 m high have been found near the NW corner of this podium, and many installations, dating from the 4th c. B.C. to Byzantine times, were built against its N wall. Through all of them runs a network of canals and conduits which provided running water for the nymphaeum, the sacred basins, and therapeutic pools.

At a lower level, to the E, is a large chapel with a wide bay to the N. The floor is a basin paved with thick slabs. To the S against the back wall a stone throne, flanked by winged lions, stands on a high monolithic base. A sculptured frieze depicts a hunting scene on the wall above the throne; on the side wall to the right it shows standing figures. This chapel of Sidonian Astarte may date to the 4th c. B.C.

A monumental stairway of the 1st c. A.D. stands against the middle of the N wall of the podium. Somewhat in front and W of this stairway, a cubic altar was built in the 2d c., flanked to E and W by staircases rising to half its height. Farther W a marble base adorned with winged lions, and dating to the 2d c. B.C. at the latest, was reused in a podium of Roman date. Still farther W is an Achaemenid or Early Hellenistic capital with four foreparts of bulls, enclosed in a sort of chapel supported by a masonry base of the 4th c. A.D. Some columns of a huge portico built around the swimming pools and cult installations in the 3d c. A.D. have survived, and many fragments of sculpture (Hellenistic putti playing with animals), dating from the 5th c. B.C. to the 2d c. A.D., have been found in a favissa. Other statues of children and athletes are now in the Chapel of Astarte.

The necropolis of Ayaa, E of the town, has yielded decorated marble sarcophagi of the end of the Classical and beginning of the Hellenistic period, called the sarcophagi of Alexander, the Lycian, the Satrap, and the Weeping Women (now in the Istanbul museum). Anthropoid sarcophagi of Greek marble have been found in other necropoleis, particularly at Ain el-Hilwe. The collection in the Beirut museum illustrates the diversity of types, and the transition from Oriental to Greek influence from the middle of the 5th c. to the 4th c. B.C. Besides the well-known sarcophagus of king Eshmunezar, the necropolis of Mogharet-Abloun to the S has produced a limestone sarcophagus of Roman date with an exact picture of a ship (Beirut museum) and several Hellenistic painted stelai depicting mercenaries (Istanbul museum). Other more recent painted and stuccoed stelai are also in the Beirut museum.

Small cippi of Roman date, with their small columns characteristically adorned with garlands and their cubic bases with epitaphs, are in museums in Beirut, Istanbul, and Paris. Tombs and hypogaea have produced much gold and silver jewelry, and particularly a number of the glass vases which were a specialty of Sidon at the beginning of the Roman period.


E. Renan, Mission de Phénicie (1864-74)MPI; Hamdi Bey & T. Reinech, Une nécropole royale à Sidon (1892)MPI; M. Meurdrac & L. Albanese, “A travers les nécropoles gréco-romaines de Sidon,” BMBeyrouth 2 (1938); 3 (1939); A. Poidebard & J. Lauffray, Sidon, Aménagements antiques du port de Saïda (1951)MPI; E. Kukahn, Anthropoide Sarkophage in Beyrouth und Geschichte diesen Sidonischen Sarkophagkunst (1955)I; I. Kleemann, “Der Satrapensarkophag aus Sidon,” IstForsch 20 (1958)I; M. Dunand, “Rapport préliminaire sur les fouilles de Sidon,” BMBeyrouth 19 (1966); 20 (1967)I; R. Saidah, “Chronique, F. Fouilles de Sidon,” ibid.


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