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date: 17 October 2019

Tyre [Gr. Tyrus; Arab. Sur]locked

  • Nina Jidejian

Extract

[Gr. Tyrus; Arab. Sur]

Ancient city in south Lebanon, c. 30 km south of Sidon, which flourished as one of the leading centres of the Phoenicians (see Phoenician). It was originally an island fortress facing Palaetyros (now Tell el-Rashidiyeh). In 332 bc, after an unsuccessful siege of seven months, Alexander the Great joined the island to the mainland with a causeway, thus turning Tyre into a peninsula. The history of the city spans more than 4000 years. The site was first excavated in 1860 by Ernest Renan, and again briefly in 1903; French expeditions surveyed it in 1921 and 1934–6, and since 1947 excavations have been directed by Maurice Chébab. Most of the finds are in the Louvre in Paris and the Musée National in Beirut.

Excavations have revealed little of the ancient city, but in the first half of the 1st millennium bc the skill of its craftsmen was recorded in the Bible (I Kings 5:18; 7:13–45). The magnificent remains of Roman and Byzantine Tyre, however, prove that the city deserved the title ‘Metropolis of Phoenicia’. A splendid avenue bordered with cipollino marble columns and paved with mosaic leads to the southern port. Other remains include a palaestra bordered with grey granite columns from Aswan in Upper Egypt, baths, a rectangular construction with five tiers of steps used for festivals, and cisterns for the flourishing purple dye industry. A monumental archway 20 m high was raised over the principal road leading into Tyre. The city’s aqueduct ran perpendicularly to the road. On both sides spread a vast Roman-Byzantine necropolis, which has yielded about 300 sarcophagi (e.g. Beirut, Mus. N.). Several of the sculptured reliefs depict episodes from the ...

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