Tyre was queen of the seas in the Phoenician times, an island city of unprecedented splendor. Tyre grew wealthy from her far-reaching colonies and her industries of purple-dyed textiles. But she also attracted the attention of jealous conquerors among them the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar and Alexander the Great.
Five Millennia of History
Founded at the start of the third millennium B.C., Tyre originally consisted of a mainland settlement and a modest island city that lay a short distance off shore. But it was not until the first millennium B.C. that the city experienced its golden age. In the 10th century B.C. Hiram, King of Tyre, joined two islets by landfill. Later he extended the city further by reclaiming a considerable area from the sea. Phoenician expansion began about 815 B.C. when traders from Tyre founded Carthage in North Africa. Eventually its colonies spread around the Mediterranean and Atlantic, bringing to the city a flourishing maritime trade. But prosperity and power make their own enemies. Early in the sixth century B.C. Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, laid siege to the walled city for thirteen years. Tyre stood firm, but it was probable that at this time the residents of the mainland city abandoned it for the safety of the island.
Alexander the Great In 332 B.C. set out to conquer this strategic coastal city during the war between the Greeks and the Persians, Unable to storm the city he blockaded Tyre for seven months, Tyre held on but the conqueror used the debris of the abandoned mainland city to build a causeway and once within reach of the city's walls, Alexander used his siege engines to batter and finally breach the fortifications.
Alexander was so enraged at the Tyrians' defense and the loss of his men that destroyed half the city. The town's 30,000 residents were massacred or sold into slavery. Tyre and the whole of ancient Syria fell under Roman rule in 64 B.C.. Nonetheless, for some time Tyre continued to mint its own silver coins.
The Romans built great important monuments in the city, including an aqueduct, a triumphal arch and the largest hippodrome in antiquity. Christianity figures in the history of Tyre, the name Tyre is mentioned in the new testament, During the Byzantine era the Archbishop of Tyre was the primate of all the bishops of Phoenicia. At that time the city witnessed a second golden age as it can be seen from the remains of its buildings and the inscriptions in the necropolis.
Tyre surrounded to the Islamic armies in 634, the city offered no resistance and continued to prosper under its new rulers, exporting of sugar as well as objects made of pearl and glass making was a good source of income for the city. With the decline of the Abbasid caliphate, Tyre acquired some independence under the dynasty of Banu Aqil, vassals of the Fatimid Caliphate. This was a time when Tyre was adorned with fountains and its bazaar were full of different kinds of merchandise including carpets and jewerly of gold and silver.
Thanks to Tyre's strong fortifications it was able to resist to onslaught of the Crusaders until 1124. After about 180 years of Crusader rule, the Mamluk retook the city in 1291, then it was passed on to the Ottomans at the start of the 16th century.