was a major Phoenician seaport from about 2000 BC onwards through the
on an island and the neighbouring mainland, was probably originally
founded as a colony of Sidon to the north and was mentioned in Egyptian
records of the 14th century BC as being subject to Egypt. It became
independent when Egyptian influence in Phoenicia declined and soon surpassed
Sidon as a trade centre, developing commercial relations with all parts
of the Mediterranean world. In the 9th century BC colonists from Tyre
founded in northern Africa the city of Carthage, which later became
Rome's principal rival in the West. The town is frequently mentioned
in the Bible as having had close ties with Israel. Hiram, King of Tyre,
furnished building materials for Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem (10th
century), and the notorious Jezebel, wife of King Ahab, was the daughter
of Ethbaal "King of Tyre and Sidon." In the 10th and 9th centuries
Tyre probably enjoyed some primacy over the other cities of Phoenicia
and was ruled by kings whose power was limited by a merchant oligarchy.
a mosaic of the ethnic groups that form the peoples of the Middle
East, click "Present."
These ethnic groups are not all Arabs, as most people think.
Photographic galleries of Phoenicia through the
lens of Peter Brown, a Lithuanian/ Scottish American. Visit his
site by clicking on the image of Tyre below.
of the 8th and 7th centuries the town was subject to Assyria, and in
585-573 it successfully withstood a prolonged siege by the Babylonian
King Nebuchadrezzar II. Between 538 and 332 it was ruled by the Achaemenian
Kings of Persia. In this period it lost its hegemony in Phoenicia but
continued to flourish. Probably the most famous episode in the history
of Tyre was its resistance to the army of the Macedonian conqueror,
Alexander the Great, who took it after a seven-month siege in 332, using
floating batteries and building a causeway to gain access to the island.
After its capture, 10,000 of the inhabitants were put to death, and
30,000 were sold into slavery. Alexander's causeway, which was never
removed, converted the island into a peninsula.
subsequently under the influence of Ptolemaic Egypt and in 200 became
part of the Hellenistic Seleucid kingdom; it finally came under Roman
rule in 68 BC. It was often mentioned in the New Testament and was famous
in Roman times for its silk products and for a purple dye extracted
from snails of the genus Murex. By the 2nd century AD it had a sizable
Christian community, and the Christian scholar Origen was buried
there (c. 254). Under Muslim rule from 638 to 1124, Tyre grew prosperous
as part of the kingdom of Jerusalem, a crusader state in the 12th and
13th centuries. The Holy Roman emperor Frederick I Barbarossa, who died
on the Third Crusade, was buried in its cathedral (1190). Captured and
destroyed by the Muslim Mamluks in 1291, the town never recovered its
up harbour on the south side of the peninsula has been excavated by
the French Institute for Archaeology in the Near East, but most of the
remains of the Phoenician period still lie beneath the present town.
built in ancient times on a small rocky island near the coast. In the
10th century BC, King Kiram of Tyre constructed two ports and a temple
on the mainland sector of the city. This was the era when the famous
industries of Phoenician glass and purple dye were developed.
the walls of the old city the Tyrians successfully defied Nebuchadnezzar
for 13 years. Alexander the Great also laid seige to it for 7 months,
finally overwhelming the island city by constructing a great causeway
from the shore to the island. Over the centuries, however, the causeway
was silted up, turning Tyre into an isthmus. In biblical times it was
in Qana (Cana) near Tyre that Jesus turned water into wine at the wedding
modern Tyre's impressive Roman and Phoenician remains prompted UNESCO
to make the town one of its world heritage sites.
said to mean "fishing". It was the third great Phoenician
city-state, rivalling Byblos and Tyre as a naval power. In Darius' time,
towards the end of the 6th century BC, it was the capital of the fifth
Persian satraphy and a showplace of buildings and gardens. The town
was conquered by the Crusaders after a famous siege lasting 47 days,
then retaken by Saladin 70 years later. The Castle of the Sea, built
by Crusaders in 1228, guards the entry to the habour. The Great Mosque,
the ruins of the castle of St Louis, the Phoenician temple to the god
Eshmoun, and the burial grounds with their catacombs and underground
chambers, are all relics of Sidon's impressive past.
was built on the largest rocky promontory of the coast at the near centre
of the country. Later it would become capital of the modern nation,
but in ancient times its deep harbour and central location were not
so apparent and the city was overshadowed by more powerful neighbours.
Its earliest name was "Birot", a Semitic word meaning "well",
or "source". When the city-states of Sidon and Tyre began
to decline in the first millennium BC, Berytus, as it was then called,
acquired more influence, but it was not until Roman times that it became
an important port and cultural centre with its famed Roman Law School.
power waned, Greek influence dominated the Byzantine period beginning
in the 4th century. Later, the Crusaders held the city for some 200
years. It was only at the end of the 19th century, after 400 years of
Ottoman rule, that Beirut began to develop and modernise.
(Jbail), one of the oldest towns in the world, goes back at least 9000
years. The rise and fall of nearly two dozen successive levels of human
culture on this site makes it one of the richest archaeological areas
in the Middle East. Millennia ago Byblos was the commercial and religious
capital of the Phoenician coast. Byblos also gave its name to the Bible
and it was here that the first linear alphabet, ancestor of our alphabet,
was invented. In the modern town, 36 kilometres north of Beirut, the
Roman-medieval port has been repaired and nearby are the extensive excavated
remains of the city's past which stretch from the Stone Age to the Crusader
(Trablos), some of 85 km north of Beirut and the second largest city
in Lebanon, shares the long history of the Levantine coast. It was the
centre of a Phoneician confederation with Sidon and Tyre and Arados
Island - hence the name "Tripolis", meaning "triple city".
The first parliament
ever to convene in the Middle East met in the Phoenician confederate
city of Tripoli.
Island-city with Amrit/Marathus
form of government in the Phoenician cities seems to have been kingship--limited
by the power of the wealthy merchant families. Federation of the cities
on a large scale never seems to have occurred. Joppa (Jaffa, modern
Yafo), Dor, Ashkalon, Acre, and Ugarit. Colonization of areas in North
Africa (e.g., Carthage), Anatolia, and Cyprus also occurred at an early
date. Carthage became the chief maritime and commercial power in the
western Mediterranean. Several smaller Phoenician settlements were planted
as stepping stones along the route to Spain and its mineral wealth.
rarity of indigenous documents is in contrast to the numbers of Phoenician
inscriptions found elsewhere--on Cyprus,
of Baalbeck, in the Beqaa valley 85 Kilometres from Berytus, is the
largest and best preserved corpus of Roman architecture left to us.
Its temples, dedicated to Jupiter, Benus and Bacchus, were built in
the second and third centuries AD. The ruins present a majestic ensemble:
two temples, two courtyards preceded by propylaea (ceremonial entrances)
and a boundary wall upon which Arab architecture has left its traces.
Six immense columns still soar upwards from the holy place where the
Temple of Jupiter once stood.
Beqaa valley is the old "Coele Syria" of the Latins, the granary
of ancient Rome. This great fertile plateau, 176 km long and
15 km wide, was in times past a route for caravans from the
east and north. Traces have been found of the many peoples who have
passed here. Some merely came through - Egyptians, Hittites, Persians,
crusading Franks. Others lingered and settled -- the Greeks, Romans
and Byzantines Caesarea
Maritima (Qisarya), 55 km (34 mi) north of Tel Aviv, Israel, was an
ancient city of Palestine. Originally a small Phoenician port,
it was rebuilt between 22 and 10 BC by Herod the Great, who renamed
the site for the emperor and made it a major port. Caesarea is best
became the seat of the Roman governor of JUDEA in AD 6 and played an
important part in early church history. Pontius Pilate resided here,
and in the Book of Acts the work of Philip, Peter, and Paul at Caesarea
is described. Both EUSEBIUS and ORIGEN worked at Caesarea. After the
destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, Caesarea became the most important
city in Palestine; by the 6th century its population may have reached
100,000. The city's subsequent decline was hastened when the Persians
and the Arabs sacked it early in the 7th century. Last occupied during
the period of the Crusades, it was abandoned after its destruction by
the Mamelukes in 1265. An aqueduct and a theater from Herod's time are
still standing today.
excavations between 1950 and 1961 revealed the main features of the
city as described by the 1st-century historian Josephus, restored the
extensive fortifications built by the Crusaders, and unearthed an
inscription of Pontius Pilate. Investigations by underwater archaeologists
in the 1980s confirmed Josephus's description of the harbor with its
two massive breakwaters.
Cities in Malta, Sicily, Sardinia, Greece, North Africa, France (Marseille),
Spain, and other places
trade was instrumental in the establishment of Phoenician colonies or
cities around the Mediterranean. This subject is covered in some detail
under the subtitle "Phoenician Colonies.