Tire, today’s Sur, is one of the oldest cities in the Mediterranean. It was already in the 2nd millennium BC. An important trading town. Their wealth was based on the trade in cedar and purple in ancient times. Phoenician city walls are still preserved today, but most of the ruins date from Roman times, such as the Arch of Hadrian, the hippodrome, the necropolis, as well as colonnades and thermal baths.
Tire Ruins: Facts
|Official title:||Ruins of Tire|
|Cultural monument:||Tyros (today: Sour) as one of the oldest urban settlements in the Mediterranean area with the remains of the Phoenician city walls, the arch of honor for Hadrian, the almost 500 m long hippodrome for almost 20,000 spectators, the Roman and Byzantine necropolis, the colonnades and thermal baths from the Roman times|
|Location:||Tyros (Sour), south of Beirut|
|Meaning:||former trading center for cedar and purple; Starting point for the Phoenician colonization of North Africa and southern Spain|
Ruins of Tire: History
|around 2700 BC Chr.||first traces of settlement|
|around 968-936 BC Chr.||Layout of the city on two islands|
|around 815 BC Chr.||Founding of Cádiz by seafarers from Tire|
|around 800 BC Chr.||Founding of Carthage by seafarers from Tire|
|586-573 (?) V. Chr.||13-year siege by Nebuchadnezzar II’s troops.|
|332 BC Chr.||Conquest by the army of Alexander the Great|
|64 BC Chr.||Beginning of Roman rule|
|120||Construction of the Arch of Honor for Emperor Hadrian|
|190||Installation of the statue of Emperor Septimius Severus in the market|
|at 330||Layout of the great street of columns|
|638||Conquest by Arab troops|
|1124||Conquest by a crusader army|
|1291||Transition to the Mamelukes and decline of the city|
|1991||Excavation of a Phoenician cemetery from the 1st millennium BC Chr.|
|1998||Establishment of a special UNESCO fund to save the cultural monuments of Tire|
|2006||Serious damage during the Lebanon conflict|
The queen of the eastern Mediterranean
“And Hiram, the king of Tire, sent his ambassadors to Solomon (…) and let him say: (…) I want to grant all your wishes for cedar and cypress wood.” This is what it says in the First Book of Kings, Chapter 5, verses 15 to 22. Not only was the wood supplied to build the temple, but Tyrolean builders and craftsmen were also sent to Jerusalem to enable the temple to be built. This explains the architectural proximity of the “Great Temple” to the Tyrenic Temple of Melkart.
However, it was not only the hard-wearing wood for building temples in Jerusalem that made the Phoenician city of Tire famous 3,000 years ago, according to biblical tradition, but also the monopoly on purple, one of the most coveted dyes of antiquity. Because purple-dyed cloth was considered a sign of the highest dignity. The Tyrenians, who made sure that the process of extracting the glandular secretions of the purple snails remained their closely guarded secret, extracted the precious powder from the shelled molluscs that live on offshore reefs. One gram of the dye, which took about 10,000 snails to make, was equivalent to ten grams of gold.
According to computerannals, cedar and purple brought great wealth to the port city in the first millennium BC thanks to extensive sea trade. From the verses of the biblical prophet Ezekiel we know: “O Tire, you say: I am the most beautiful.” And he continues in chapter 27, verses 4 and 5: “Your borders are in the middle of the sea and your builders have you most beautifully mangled. They made all your table work out of cypress wood from Senir and had the cedars brought from Lebanon and made your masts out of them (…). ”
These words of the prophet describe the architectural achievements in the time of King Hiram, when two islands off the mainland were connected by a dam. As a result of this, as well as the associated land reclamation and the construction of breakwaters and jetties, an island city of undreamt-of splendor emerged: the mighty Tire. It was the sea power ruling the Mediterranean for the next few centuries; the North African Carthage and Cádiz, located on the Spanish Atlantic coast, were his foundations.
As is well known, wealth arouses covetousness: In the sixth century BC, the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar besieged the island city protected by a massive city wall for more than ten years before he succeeded in conquering it. Alexander the Great threatened to fail with his army at the siege of Tire before the start of his Persian Wars. Thanks to the construction of a dam connecting the island with the mainland, he was able to bring in heavy “artillery” and take the city.
Under Roman rule those impressive buildings were built, the ruins of which can be admired today: streets lined with colonnades, triumphal arches, an aqueduct and the largest hippodrome of antiquity. This impressive building activity continued under the Byzantine emperors. Tire was not only the residence of an archbishop, but also experienced three councils within its walls. When the Arab armies of the new Islamic faith conquered the Mediterranean, the people of Tire offered no resistance. This was of great benefit to the Tyrene’s trading activities. Under the new political rulers, they expanded the range of their trade goods to include sugar, glassware and pearls, the proceeds of which helped the merchants of Tire to a reputation and the city to new buildings. Similar to Nebuchadnezzar and Alexander the Great before that, the pious crusaders, to whom the city only surrendered after fierce resistance, fared. The new masters erected their defiant “bulwark of faith” on the ruins of Roman-Byzantine buildings. After they were driven out by the Mamelukes at the end of the 13th century, the city’s importance gradually began to decline.