TYRE (tīr, Heb. tsôr, a rock, Gr. Tyros). A Phoenician port south of Sidon and north of Carmel. Phoenicia itself is a coastal strip backed by mountains, and Tyre was further defended by rocky promontories (one of them the famous “b.c., Josephus as late as 1217. Isaiah (23:2, 12) implies that Tyre was a colony of Sidon, and Homer’s mention of “Sidonian wares,” without reference to Tyre, seems to confirm the greater antiquity of the former city. The Letters, apparently refuting Josephus’s date, contain an appeal from the ruler of Tyre, dated 1430, imploring help from Amenhotep IV against the invading Habiri. Joshua assigned Tyre to Asher, but in all probability the city was not occupied (
An obscure period of some four centuries follows, and Tyre emerges into history again with the name of Hiram, friend of David (
During the two hundred years of Assyrian aggression, Tyre suffered with the rest of the Middle East but, owing to the strength of her position and her sea power, maintained a measure of independence over much of the troubled era. She broke free from Nineveh a generation before the last stronghold of the Assyrians fell (606 b.c.). These years were the greatest years of Tyrian glory. Ezekiel’s account (
TYRE tīr (צֹ֔ר, rock; Τύρος, G5602). A famous port of the Phoenicians, some twenty-five m. S from the sister port of Sidon and fifteen m. N of the Lebanese border with Israel. It is a natural geographical frontier. Behind Tyre, the high coherent spine of the Lebanon Range is already broken down into the confused hill country that continues S to form the uplands of Galilee, and then, with the sole break of the Esdraelon Plain, to build the hill country of Ephraim and Judah. A dozen m. S of Tyre, a seaward thrust of hills and promontories forms a natural wall. It marks the modern border, a score of m. S of which lies the great Israeli port of Haifa. Both Tyre and Sidon still function as ports, but the ruins of Tyre are far more extensive and the subject of major archeological investigation and excavation.
The Gr. historian Herodotus (c. 490-430 b.c.) dates the foundation of Tyre as early as 2740 b.c.; Josephus, as late as 1217 b.c. Such wide discrepancy throws suspicion on both figures. Herodotus is more likely to be correct, but the missing factor in all such dating is the exact time of the coming of the Phoenicians to the coastal strip between the Lebanon mountains and the coast. Excavation at more than one point of settlement on the coast reveals a Neolithic layer under the mass of Phoen. remains, themselves heavily overlaid by the structures of Greeks, Romans, and sometimes Crusaders, a phenomenon visible from Byblos to Tyre. The Phoenicians, like the Greeks, were not a national unit, and never achieved anything like unity. Like the Greeks they were organized in city states, and rival claimants in historical tradition might fix varied points for a city’s significant beginning; hence, the discrepancy.
There are no clear records over the next three or four centuries, but history becomes sharp and definite with Hiram, king of Tyre, the friend of David. Hiram seems to have enjoyed an extraordinarily long reign, for he is mentioned first when he sent cedar and craftsmen to David (
Together the two monarchs established a trade partnership based on the Gulf of Akaba, to the N of which Solomon had his oresmelting plants. Hiram was glad to trade Phoen. skill in shipbuilding and navigation for ready access across Heb. territory to the Red Sea and the trade routes to Ophir, India, and Ceylon.
In addition to the cedar timber, which was the first occasion of the commercial contacts with Israel, Tyre also traded in the incomparable crimson dye made from the murex shellfish on her coast. Timber, dye, dyed cloth, a mighty carrying trade, her cargoes of tin and tin ore from Cornwall, silver from Spain, and copper from Cyprus made the Tyre of Hiram one of the great commercial cities of the ancient world.
As far as the fragmentary record can be pieced together, it would appear that grave dynastic strife followed the stability of Hiram’s long reign. The shift of power to Sidon under Ethbaal has been noted above. It was the daughter of Ethbaal who became Ahab’s notorious queen, Jezebel, a dynastic marriage of convenience, which marked the transfer to the northern kingdom of the now sundered Heb. people, the profitable trading partnership that Solomon had established and exploited. Tyre and Phoenicia generally were poor in agricultural land, and the primary products of Israel were the natural exchange for her luxury goods.
Throughout the long two centuries of Assyrian domination in the Middle E, Tyre had her share in common with other communities of aggression and strife, but her naval power and her almost impregnable position on her offshore island gave her a measure of immunity. It is significant that she contrived to break free from the dominance of Nineveh a generation before that last stronghold of the Assyrian imperialist kings fell in the closing decade of the 7th cent. b.c. The date was either 612 or 606 b.c. This was another Golden Age of Tyrian affluence and power. Ezekiel’s chapters (
Tyre appears to have endured a time of dependence upon Egypt, then the rule of Babylon, and then that of Persia, which succeeded to Babylon’s empire and pattern of command. Ezra (
In 332 b.c., in the course of his march through the crumbling Pers. empire, Alexander appeared before Tyre, and the city, confident in her strong position, closed her gates against the small Macedonian army. The siege that followed became one of the epic stories of military history. Alexander built a causeway across the narrow strait, which still remains the core of the wedge-shaped promontory that to this day attaches the ancient island site of Tyre to the mainland. The modern town occupies the shore and the artificial isthmus. It was only by this vast engineering feat and the costly assault at the end that Alexander took Tyre. Ezekiel’s prophecy came true, and the great city became a drying place for the nets of fishermen (
The site, however, retained its old prestige, and Tyre made a measure of recovery and functioned for a time as a republic. She recognized the rising star of Rome, established early political relations with the Republic and retained her independence until Augustus and the Empire. When the prince absorbed Tyre into his provincial system in 20 b.c., the city disappeared from history.
The remains, uncovered with some care, are extensive and the stratification reads like a history of the whole crowded and historic coast. The ruin of Phoen. docks and warehouses lies beneath the building of Greeks and Romans. An odd feature of the Gr. period is an oblong theater, unique in the Mediterranean world. A fine 1st-cent. pavement, a mosaic-floored street of shops and colonnades, has special interest for it dates from the time when Christ, following the hill paths from Galilee, visited the Phoen. coast. He might have trod this pavement on His further journey N. Today the hostile frontier lies across His path.
CAH, I (1924); II (1926); III (1925); IV (1926).
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
(tsowr. tsor, "rock"’ Turos, "Tyrus"; modern Sur):
1. Physical Features:
The most noted of the Phoenician cities situated on the coast, lat. 33ø 17 minutes, about 20 miles South of Sidon and about 35 North of Carmel. The date of its foundation is uncertain, but it was later than that of Sidon. It is mentioned in the travels of the Egyptian Mohar, dating probably from the 14th century BC, and in the Tell el-Amarna Letters of about the same period. Herodotus describes the temple of Hercules at Tyre and says it was built 2,300 years before his time, which would carry back the beginning of the city to more than 2700 BC. It was a double city, one part on an island, a short distance from the shore, and the other on the mainland opposite. The island city had two harbors, connected by a canal, one looking North and the other South. The island was rocky and the city was fortitled on the land side by a wall 150 ft. high, the wall being of less elevation on the other sides. It was an exceedingly strong position, and is referred to in the Bible as the "strong" or "fortitled" city (
(1) Tyre was for centuries subordinate to Sidon, but when the Philistines subdued the latter city, probably in the 12th century. (see Sidon), Tyre received an accession of inhabitants from the fugitives which gave it the pre-eminence. From this time dates its great commercial and colonial activity. Its mariners pushed boldly out to the West and founded colonies in Spain and , some of which, like Gades, Abdera and Carthage, became famous. They extended their commerce more widely than Sidon had ever done and ventured into the Atlantic and reached the coasts of Britain and . They reached out to the East also, and had their ships in the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean, and their land routes threaded all Western Asia (see Phoenicia). Tyre, like all the Phoenician cities, became subject to Egypt under Thothmes III in the first half of the 15th century BC, and remained so for some 300 years, but it enjoyed practical autonomy under native kings, being only subject to tribute and to furnishing contingents of ships when the Egyptian kings made their expeditions to the North. In the Tell el-Amarna Letters, dating from the first half of the 14th century, we find a certain Abi-melek (or Abi-milki) writing from Tyre to the king of Egypt asking for aid against the Amorite leader, Aziru, and the king of Sidon, who had joined the rebels. The name is Phoenician, and we know that it was the policy of the Egyptian kings to leave the native dynasts on the throne.
(2) After the decline of Egypt, Tyre regained her independence and exercised the hegemony over most of the Phoenician towns, at least as far North as Gebal (Byblus), as appears in the control that Hiram had over the Lebanon forests in the time of David and Solomon. Hiram was evidently desirous of an alliance with Israel, since he sent messengers to David and furnished cedar and workmen to build him a house, apparently without solicitation. The friendly connection between the two kingdoms was advantageous to both, since David and Solomon needed the timber and the skilled artisans that Hiram could furnish, and Hiram needed the food products of the land of Israel (
(3) The list of kings who succeeded him contains the names of Baal-azar, Abd-ashtoreth, murdered by his brothers, the eldest of whom succeeded him, followed by Astartus and Aserymus murdered by his brother, Pheles, who was overthrown by the high priest Eth-baal, showing how disturbed the period was. Eth-baal, or Ithobal, was the king who made an alliance with Ahab and gave him Jezebel, his daughter, in marriage, which proved most disastrous both to her and the country because of the introduction of the Baal-worship into Israel. Eth-baal was an energetic monarch, and is said to have rounded Botrys (Batrun). He reigned 32 years, and was followed by Badezor and Mattan, who gave his daughter, Elissa (Dido), in marriage to her uncle Sicharbas and transferred the throne to them; but they were set aside by an uprising of the people, and Pygmalion, son of Mattan, was placed on the throne, and Sicharbas put to death. Elissa fled with a party of nobles, by sea, to Africa and founded the city of Carthage. This happened about the middle of the 9th century BC, Josephus putting it at 860 BC.
(4) In the first half of this century Tyre became subject to Assyria, and her hegemony in Phoenicia came to an end, but her prosperity was not seriously checked as we may infer from
(5) On the decline of Assyria, Tyre regained its independence, and its greatness is indicated by the fact that it resisted Nebuchadnezzar 13 years (598-585); it is uncertain whether the island city was taken, but it evidently came to terms with the king of Babylon (compare
(6) It was by no means hindered in its commercial prosperity, and its great strength is seen in the brave and energetic resistance it made to. All Phoenicia submitted to him without resistance, and Tyre was willing to admit his suzerainty, but declined to receive him into the city. This so angered Alexander that he at once commenced a siege that proved the most difficult undertaking in all his wars. He had no fleet and was obliged to build a mole (causeway) from the mainland to the island, but before he could finish it the Tyrians destroyed it and beat back their assailants handily. Alexander had to do the work all over again, and since he was convinced that without a fleet he would not be able to take the city, he procured ships from the Phoenician towns that had submitted, and with the aid of these was able to blockade the port and prevent the besieged from issuing forth to destroy the new causeway. This was at length pushed up to the very wall of the city, which was finally breached, and the troops of Alexander forced their way in. But even then the defenders would not yield, and the king himself had to lead the assault upon them with his bodyguard and put them all to the sword. Those who died with arms in their hands were 8,000, and the survivors, women, children and slaves, to the number of 30,000, were sold in the open market. He placed over the ruined city, into which he introduced some colonists, a certain Abd-elonim, and left it after having spent about seven months in subduing it.
(7) After the death of Alexander, Tyre passed into the hands of Ptolemy Lagi, and when Antigonus, in 314 BC, took Phoenicia from him, Tyre resisted, and he had to blockade it 15 months before it would yield, showing how quickly it had recovered from its previous disaster. It became a part of the Seleucid kingdom whendrove the Ptolemies from Syria (198 BC), and the Seleucid kings regarded it of importance and gave it the right of asylum, and it was allowed the status of a free city by the Romans, Antony recognizing the magistrates and council of Tyre as allies. When the Parthians attacked and took Syria, in 40 BC, Tyre would not submit and was left untouched, being too strong for them. Augustus deprived it of its freedom, but it was given the status of a "metropolis" by Hadrian, and this title appears on its coins.
(8) Tyre is mentioned in the
Christianity was accepted by the people of Tyre, so that the 2nd century AD saw a bishopric established there, and in the 4th a council was held there to consider charges against Athanasius, by the party of Arius; he was condemned, a decision which brought the Tyrian church into disrepute. Tyre was already obnoxious to Christians because the anti-Christian philosopher Porphyry was from there. Tyre continued a commercial center, and Jerome says that it was the noblest and most beautiful of the Phoenician cities and an emporium of commerce for almost the whole world (Commentary on Ezekiel). It was of considerable importance in the Crusades and continued so until toward the end of the 13th century, when its trade declined, and it has now dwindled to a town of some 5,000 inhabitants. For "literature" see Phoenicia.