Settlements > Tyre

Tyre

Background

TYRE (Phoen. and Hebr. דא, הא = "rock," Assyr. Șurru, Egypt. Dara, Early Lat. Sarra), the most famous city of Phoenicia. It is now represented by the petty town of Sur (about 5,000 inhabitants), built round the harbour at the north end of a peninsula, which till the time of Alexander's siege was an island, without water or vegetation. The mole which he constructed has been widened by deposits of sand, so that the ancient island is now connected with the mainland by a tongue of land a quarter of a mile broad. The greatest length of the former island, from north to south, is about ⅝ m. and its area about 142 acres.

The researches of Renan have refuted the once popular idea that a great part of the original island has disappeared by natural convulsions, though he believes that the remains of a submerged wall at the south end indicate that about 15 additional acres were once reclaimed and have been again lost. On this narrow site Tyre was built; its 25,000 inhabitants were crowded into many-storeyed houses loftier than those of Rome; and yet place was found not only for the great temple of Melqarth with its courts, but for docks and warehouses, and for the purple factories, which in Roman times made the town an unpleasant place of residence (Strabo xvi. 2, 23).

In the Roman period the population occupied a strip of the opposite mainland, including Palaetyrus. Pliny (Nat. Hist. v. 19) gives to the whole city, continental and insular, a compass of 19 Roman miles; but this account must be received with caution. In Strabo's time the island was still the city, and Palaetyrus on the mainland was distant 30 stadia; modern research, however, indicates an extensive line of suburbs rather than one mainland city that can be identified with Palaetyrus. This name was given by the Greeks to the settlement on the coast under the mistaken impression that it was more ancient than that on the island; the Assyr. Ushu, frequently mentioned in the Amarna letters, makes it probable that Usu or Uzu was the native name.

Owing to the paucity of Phoenician remains the topography of the town and its surroundings is still obscure. The present harbour is certainly the Sidonian port, though it is not so large as it once was; the other ancient harbour, the Egyptian port, has disappeared, and is supposed by Renan to have lain on the south side of the island, and to be now absorbed in the isthmus. The most important ruins are those of the cathedral, with its magnificent columns of rose-coloured granite, now prostrate. The present building is assigned by De Vogiie to the second half of the 12th century, but the columns may have belonged to the 4th-century church of Paulinus (Euseb. H.E. x. 4). The water-supply of ancient Tyre came from the powerful springs of Ras-al 'Ain (see Aqueduct) on the mainland, one hour south of the city, where there are still remarkable reservoirs, in connexion with which curious survivals of Adonis worship have been observed by travellers. Tyre was still an important city and an almost impregnable fortress under the Arab Empire. From 1124 to 1291 it was a stronghold of the crusaders, and Saladin himself besieged it in vain. After the fall of Acre the Christians deserted the place, which was then destroyed by the Moslems. The present town has arisen since the Motãwila (Metāwila or Mutawileh) occupied the district in 1766.

Sources:

The most important references to Tyre in the Bible are 1 Kings v., vii., ix. ; Is. xxiii. ; Am. i. 9 seq.; Ezek. xxvi.-xxviii. ; 2 Mace. iv. 18 sqq.; Mark iii. 8, vii. 24 sqq. ; Matt. xi. 21 seq. (and parallels); Acts xii. 20. Cf. also Joshua xix. 29; 2 Sam. xxiv. 7; Ezra iii. 7; Neh. xiii. 16; Ps. xlv. 12, lxxxiii. 7, lxxxvii. 4. For the history of Tyre see Phoenicia. See also Renan, Mission de Phenicie (1864); Pietschmann, Gesch. der Phonizier (1889), 61-72; F. Jeremias, Tyrus bis zur Zeit Nebukadnesars (1891); H. Winckler, Altor. Forsehungen, ii. 65 sqq.; A. Socin in Baedeker, Pal. u. Syrien.

1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 27 pp. 549.

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