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Coordinates: 33°16′8″N 35°12′59″E / 33.26889°N 35.21639°E / 33.26889; 35.21639

UNESCO World Heritage Site

The Triumphal Arch
State Party Template:Flag
Type Cultural
Criteria iii, vi
Reference 299
Region** Arab States
Inscription history
Inscription 1984  (8th Session)
* Name as inscribed on World Heritage List.
** Region as classified by UNESCO.

Tyre (Arabic: صور, Ṣūr; Phoenician צור, Ṣur; Hebrew: צוֹר‎, Tzor; Tiberian Hebrew צר, Ṣōr; Akkadian, 𒋗𒊒 Ṣurru; Greek Τύρος, Týros; Turkish: Sur; Latin: Tyrus) is a city in the South Governorate of Lebanon. There were approximately 117,000 inhabitants in 2003,[1] however, the government of Lebanon has released only rough estimates of population numbers since 1932, so an accurate statistical accounting is not possible.[2] Tyre juts out from the coast of the Mediterranean Sea and is located about 80 km (50 mi) south of Beirut. The name of the city means "rock"[3] after the rocky formation on which the town was originally built. 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. Tourism is a major industry. The city has a number of ancient sites, including its Roman Hippodrome which was added to UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites in 1979 (Resolution 459).[5]


Map of Lebanon from the CIA Factbook. Tyre is near the southern border.

Tyre harbour

Remains of ancient columns at Al Mina excavation site - supposed palaestra

Rectangular theatre at Al Mina excavation site

The modern south part of Tyre

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... The character of the city has changed, however. In ancient times it was situated on an island, but from the time of Alexander the Great... the city has been linked to the mainland by a dike...[6]

Tyre originally consisted of two distinct urban centers, Tyre itself, which was on an island just off shore, and an associated settlement on the adjacent mainland. Alexander the Great connected the island to the mainland coast by constructing a causeway during his siege of the city.

The original island city had two harbors, one on the south side and the other on the north side of the island. It was these two harbors that enabled Tyre to gain the maritime prominence that it did; the harbor on the north side of the island was, in fact, one of the best harbors on the eastern end of the Mediterranean. The harbor on the south side has silted over, but the harbor on the north side (see Tyre harbor photo to the right) is still in use.[7]

In ancient times, the island city of Tyre was heavily fortified (with defensive walls 150 feet high,[8]) and the mainland settlement, 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.[9] Josephus records that the two fought against each other on occasion,[10] although most of the time they supported one another because they both benefited from the island city's wealth from maritime trade and the mainland area's source of timber, water and burial grounds.


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.[11]

There are ten Amarna letters dated 1350 BC 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 (Cádiz)".[12]

In the time of King David (c. 1000 BC), a friendly alliance was entered into between the Kingdoms of Israel and Tyre, which was ruled by Hiram I.

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,[13] 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 began his own siege of Tyre,[14] taking the city a year later.[15]

In 126 BC, Tyre regained its independence (from the Seleucids)[16] and was allowed to keep much of its independence when the area became a Roman province in 64 BC.[17]

Later history

Jesus visited the "coasts" of Tyre and Sidon (Matthew 15:21; Mark 7:24) and from this region many came forth to hear him preaching (Mark 3:8; Gospel of Luke 6:17, Matthew 11:21-23). A congregation was founded here soon after the death of Saint Stephen, and Saul of Tarsus, on his return from his third missionary journey, spent a week in conversation with the disciples there. According to Irenaeus of Lyons in Adversus Haereses, the female companion of Simon Magus came from here.

After a first failed siege in 1111, it was captured by the Crusaders in 1124, becoming one of the most important cities of the 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 site of the archbishop of Tyre, a suffragan of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem; its archbishops often acceded to the Patriarchate. The most notable of the Latin archbishops was the historian William of Tyre.

After the reconquest of Acre by King Richard on July 12, 1191, the seat of the kingdom moved there, but coronations were held in Tyre. In the 13th century, Tyre was separated from the royal domain as a separate crusader lordship. In 1291, it was retaken by the Mameluks which then was followed by Ottoman rule before the modern state of Lebanon was declared in 1920.

After 1920

A large sign which marks the ancient city of Tyre as protected cultural property according to the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict

The present-day city of Tyre covers a large part of the original island and has expanded onto and covers most of the causeway, which had increased greatly in width over the centuries because of extensive silt depositions on either side. The part of the original island that is not covered by the modern city of Tyre consists mostly of an archaeological site showcasing remains of the city from ancient times.

Tyre was badly damaged in the late 1970s (Operation Litani) and early 1980s (1982 Lebanon War) during the war between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). The city was used as a base by the PLO, and was nearly destroyed by Israeli artillery.[18] After Israel's 1982 invasion of southern Lebanon, the city was the site of an Israeli military post. In late 1982, and again on November 1983, buildings housing Israeli headquarters were destroyed by bombs, causing dozens of deaths in both cases and known in Israel as the First and Second Tyre Catastrophes. The 1983 explosion, by a suicide truck, happened only 10 days after similar car bombs exploded in the US Marines and French paratroop barracks in Beirut. Israel and the US blame Iran and Hezbollah for all explosions, but they have denied any involvement.

During the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict, several rocket-launching sites used by Hezbollah to attack Israel were located in rural areas around the city.[19] At least one village near the city was bombed by Israel, as well as several sites within the city, causing civilian deaths, and adding to the food shortage problem inside Tyre.[20] Israeli naval commandos also raided Hezbollah targets within the city.[21]


The Amal Movement and Hezbollah are the most popular parties, representing all of the Shi'a seats in the city as of the 2005 elections.

Cultural references

Tyre was referred to many times by the poet Tibullus in his books of poetic elegies. It is also frequently mentioned in the Old Testament.

Tyre is also prominently featured in the Shakespeare play Pericles, Prince of Tyre.

In nineteenth century Britain, Tyre was several times taken as an exemplar of the mortality of great power and status - both by John Ruskin in the opening lines of The Stones of Venice, and by Rudyard Kipling's "Recessional". Oscar Wilde referred to Tyre in his poetry: " tyrian galley waits for thee, come down the purple sail is spread..." The children's writer E. Nesbit devotes a chapter to Tyre in The Story of the Amulet. The third verse of Bob Dylan's Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands begins "The kings of Tyrus with their convict list / Are waiting in line for their geranium kiss".[22]

Hiram Abiff, a central figure in the mythology and symbolism of Freemasonry, is said to have hailed from Tyre.

The Old Testament makes other references to Tyre. In the Book of Ezekiel, Ezekiel is told to prophesy about Tyre's demise. The Old Testament also mentions some cultural facts on Tyre during that time.

Threats to Tyre

Threats to Tyre's ancient cultural heritage include development pressures and the illegal antiquities trade.[23] In addition, the hostilities of the 2006 Lebanon War put the ancient structures of Tyre at tremendous risk, prompting UNESCO's Director-General to launch a "Heritage Alert" for the site.[24]

Twin towns - sister cities

Tyre is twinned with:

Notable people

  • List of Kings of Tyre
  • Porphyry (3rd century) Greek philosopher
  • Saint Frumentius Saint who brought Christianity to the Aksumite Kingdom in 4th Century, and helped make it the official religion.

See also

  • List of kings of Tyre


Some or all of this article is forked from Wikipedia. The original article was at Tyre, Lebanon. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

  1. Lebanon - City Population
  2. Lebanon Population
  3. (Bikai, P., "The Land of Tyre," in Joukowsky, M., The Heritage of Tyre, 1992, chapter 2, p. 13)
  4. Tyre City, Lebanon
  5. Lebanon's Archaeological Heritage
  6. Presutta, David. The Biblical Cosmos Versus Modern Cosmology. 2007, page 225, referencing: Katzenstein, H.J., The History of Tyre, 1973, p.9
  7. See Jidejian, Nina. Tyre Through the Ages, 1969, for further information about the history of Tyre and its present condition.
  8. Lorenzi, Rossella (May 21, 2007). Sandbar Aided Alexander the Great. Discovery News. 
  9. 'Tyre' from Encyclopedia Britannica 11th ed.
  10. Historical references to Tyre
  11. Vance, Donald R. (March 1994) "Literary Sources for the History of Palestine and Syria: The Phœnician Inscriptions" The Biblical Archaeologist 57(1) , pp. 2-19
  12. from 'Tyre' in Easton's Bible Dictionary
  13. Nick Marriner, Christophe Morhange, and Samuel Meulé (May 2007). "Holocene morphogenesis of Alexander the Great's isthmus at Tyre in Lebanon". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 104 (22): 9218–9223. doi:10.1073/pnas.0611325104. PMID 17517668. 
  14. 315 B.C. - events and references
  15. 314 B.C. - events and references
  16. 126 B.C. - events and references
  17. 64 B.C. - events and references
  18. The toll of three cities, The Economist June 19, 1982. p.26.
  19. Butcher, Tim. Rebels were ready for attacks. Sydney Morning Herald 27 July 2006.
  20. Engel, Richard. Desperation descends on Tyre, Lebanon. MSNBC 25 July 2006.
  21. Israeli commandos stage Tyre raid BBC 5 August 2006.
  22. Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands, Blonde on Blonde, 1966.
  23. Helga Seeden (December 2, 2000). "Lebanon’s Archaeological Heritage". 
  24. Koïchiro Matsuura, The Director-General of UNESCO (August 11, 2006). "UNESCO Director-General Launches "Heritage Alert" for the Middle East". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. 

External links

This entry incorporates text from the public domain Easton's Bible Dictionary, originally published in 1897.

Template:World Heritage Sites in Lebanon Template:Third Journey of Paul of Tarsus Template:Lebanon topics