Ruins at Tyre

Ruins at Tyre Ancient Places and/or Civilizations Archeological Wonders Geography Social Studies World History Visual Arts

The town of Tyre—near today's town of Soûr (in Lebanon)—was part of the Roman world.  Before that time, the city was conquered by Alexander the Great. Before that, it was a Phoenician city.

Historians believe that purple dye was invented in Tyre when it was a great Phoenician city.

At the height of Tyre’s fame, it - and the Phoenicians who populated the city - seemed to rule the sea. They founded seaside colonies in Cadiz (today’s Spain) and Carthage (today’s Tunisia). Those colonies became very prosperous.

After the Crusades, Tyre’s role declined on the world stage. The city’s significant archeological remains date mostly to Roman times.

We find Tyre along Lebanon’ southern coast. It is about 83 km south of Beirut.

What do we know about its ancient history?

Herodotus, the “Father of History,” visited Tyre around the 5th century B.C.  He observed it was built on an island that seemed difficult to conquer. Nearly impregnable, Tyre was founded around 2750 BC.

One of the world’s oldest cities, it was conquered by Alexander the Great who figured-out a way to penetrate the seemingly impenetrable city. He had his men block the straits with a dike.

After Tyre lost its own glory, as a mighty Phoenician city, it was conquered by others. First the Greeks rebuilt it, then the Romans.

Tyre played a role in some of history’s great events, such as:

  • Developing an alphabet (which the Greeks later used);
  • Developing a purple pigment used to dye the clothes of royals and nobles;
  • Aiding the construction of Jerusalem’s “Temple of Solomon” when Tyre’s King Hiram sent materials and an architect to Israel;
  • Establishing prosperous trading centers in the Mediterranean.

Tyre is now a World Heritage Site.  UNESCO provides us with more background:

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 [the market place], 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.

This image depicts ruins at Tyre.  Click on it for a much-better view.

Media Credits

Photo of ancient Tyre by Petteri Sulonen, online via Flickr. 



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"Ruins at Tyre" AwesomeStories.com. Oct 07, 2013. Dec 11, 2019.
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