Cultural Lebanon Arab States City And District Of Tyre, Governorate Of South Lebanon

Tyre ruled the seas and founded prosperous colonies such as Cadiz and Carthage, but its historical role declined at the end of the Crusades. There are important archaeological remains, mainly from Roman times.

From the 5th century BC, when Herodotus of Halicarnassus visited it, Tyre was considered one of the oldest metropolises in the world. To demonstrate the renown of this city, it is sufficient to recall the events that associated it directly with the important stages in human history: the discovery of the alphabet (the Greeks who copied and adapted it honoured Cadmos);that of purple pigment (which legend attributes to Melkart, the Phoenician Heracles);as well as the construction in Jerusalem of the Temple of Solomon, thanks to the competition held by the King of Tyre, Hiram;and the exploration of the seas by the hardy navigators who sailed as far as the Western Mediterranean and founded trading centres, such as Utica, Cadiz and especially Carthage, which ultimately assured a quasi-monopoly of the important maritime commerce.

Sited at the entrance to the sea, according to the prophet Ezekiel, Tyre, which was constructed on an impregnable island, succumbed in 332 to the attack of Alexander of Macedonia who had blockaded the straits by a dyke before his final assault. The original Greek city was followed in 64 BC by a Roman city constructed on this historically charged site. Tyre was to win back on several occasions some of its former splendour. In the early period of Christianity, it was the seat of a province that incorporated 14 bishoprics. Having fallen under Arabic domination in 636, it was retaken by the Crusaders in 1124 with the help of a Venetian fleet. From 1124 to 1294, the date of its evacuation, the city became a stronghold of the Christians who built 18 churches, not including the chapel of the castle, and reconstructed the cathedral reusing elements of the original basilica. Following the Crusades, the historic role of the city declined. Almost totally destroyed by the Mamelukes at the end of the 13th century, it was only modestly reconstructed in the 18th century. Despite a recent increase of population, Tyre has today only 60,000 inhabitants.

In the present souk, archaeological remains essentially include the Roman city and the medieval constructions of the Crusades. These are divided into two distinct zones:

  • On the promontory, the site of the archipelago which, as legend has it, was created by Hiram who grouped several smaller islands into one single island, is the city, which became a colony under Septimius Severus. The imposing ruins of the palaestra, the thermae, and the arena still exist, as do the remains of the cathedral built in 1127 by the Venetians, along with some of the walls of the castle constructed during the Crusades.
  • On the mainland, the necropolis of El Bass is to be found on either side of a wide monumental way dominated by a triumphal arch of the 2nd century. Other important monumental vestiges of this archaeological area are the aqueduct and, especially, the 2nd-century hippodrome, one of the largest of the Roman world.