Tyre (Arabic: صور Ṣūr), is one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world, though in medieval times for some centuries by just a tiny population. It was one of the earliest Phoenician metropolises and the legendary birthplace of Europa, her brothers Cadmus and Phoenix, as well as Carthage's founder Dido (Elissa). The city has a number of ancient sites, including its Roman Hippodrome, which was added to UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites in 1979.
Sour (Lebanese French)
Tyre Public Beach
|Coordinates: 33°16′15″N 35°11′46″E|
|• City||4 km2 (2 sq mi)|
|• Metro||17 km2 (7 sq mi)|
|Time zone||UTC+2 (EET)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC+3 (EEST)|
|Designated||1984 (8th session)|
Today Tyre is the fifth largest city in Lebanon after Beirut, Tripoli, Aley and Sidon, It is a district capital in the South Governorate. There were approximately 200,000 inhabitants in the Tyre urban area in 2016, including many refugees.
The present city of Tyre covers a large part of the original island and has expanded onto and covers most of the causeway, which had increased greatly in width over the centuries because of extensive silt depositions on either side. The part of the original island not covered by the modern city of Tyre is mostly of an archaeological site showcasing remains of the city from ancient times.
The neighbouring villages of Burj El Shimali to the East and the refugee camp of Rashidie on the Southern shore are not officially part of Tyre city, but have in fact merged to one urban Greater Tyre over the past decades.
Early names of Tyre include Akkadian Ṣurru, Phoenician Ṣūr (𐤑𐤓), and Hebrew Tzór (צוֹר). In Semitic languages, the name of the city means "rock" after the rocky formation on which the town was originally built. The official name in modern Arabic is Ṣūr (صور).
The predominant form in Classical Greek was Týros (Τύρος), which was first seen in the works of Herotodus but may have been adopted considerably earlier. It gave rise to Latin Tyrus, which entered English during the Middle English period as Tyre. The demonym for Tyre is Tyrian, and the inhabitants are Tyrians.
The original island city had two harbours, one on the south side and the other on the north side of the island. It was the two harbours that enabled Tyre to gain the maritime prominence that it did; the harbour on the north side of the island was, in fact, one of the best harbours on the eastern end of the Mediterranean. The harbour on the south side has silted over, but the harbour on the north side is still in use. In ancient times, the island-city was heavily fortified.
Ushu (later called Palaetyrus, meaning "Old Tyre," by the ancient Greeks) was actually more like a line of suburbs than any one city and was used primarily as a source of water and timber for the main island city.
Josephus records that the two fought against each other on occasion, but most of the time, they supported one another because they both benefited from the island city's wealth from maritime trade and the mainland area's source of timber, water and burial grounds.
"One can call Tyre a city of ruins, built out of ruins".
Herodotus, who visited Tyre around 450 B.C., wrote that according to the priests there the city was founded around 2750 BC as a walled place upon the mainland, now known as Paleotyre (Old Tyre). Archaeological evidence has corroborated this timing. Excavations have also found that there had already been some settlements around 2900 B.C., but that they were abandoned.
According to the Greek historian Eusebius, the common myth was that the deity Melqart built the city as a favour to the mermaid Tyros and named it after her. Melqart was called Melqart Heracles in Greek, but is not to be confused with the demigod Heracles (Hercules), hero of the 12 labors.
In Greek mythology, Zeus, the ruler of the gods, took the form of a bull in order to abduct the Tyrian princess Europa to Crete. There the couple had three sons - Minos,.Rhadamanthus, and Sarpedon, whom became kings of Crete and after their deaths the judges of the Underworld. The continent Europe is named after her.
Some sources go on to say that her brothers Cadmus and Cilix went to search for her, in vain. Instead, Cadmus became the founder and king of the Greek city of Thebes, who also introduced the Phoenician alphabet to the Hellenic world. Cilix fell in love during the quest and gave his name to Cilicia in Asia Minor. Their supposed third brother Phoenix became the eponym of Phoenicia. In this way the Ancient Greek culture expressed its appreciation of the influence that the Phoenician civilisation had on their own.
Egyptian period (1700-1200 BCE)
In the 17th century BCE, the settlement came under the supremacy of the Egyptian pharaohs. In the subsequent years it started benefitting from the protection by Egypt's Eighteenth Dynasty and prospered commercially.
Archaeological evidence indicates that Tyre had already by the middle of the second millenium established the industrial production of a rare and extraordinarily expensive sort of purple dye, which was famous for its beauty and lightfast qualities. It was exploited from the Murex trunculus and Murex brandaris shellfishes, known as Tyrian purple. The colour was, in ancient cultures, reserved for the use of royalty or at least the nobility:
"Tyrians brought their methods in the purple dye industry near to perfection. Their excellent technique of extraction and blending of dyes is the reason why Tyrian purple was so esteemed in the ancient world."
In fact, the very word "Phoenician" is a Greek designation meaning "red" or "purple". However, the ancient author Strabo, who visited Tyre himself, recorded that the dye industry polluted the air so much that its stench made his stay in the city very unpleasant. According to some experts, some 8.000 Murex had to be crushed in order to extract one gram of the dye.
The first clear accounts of the city are given by the ten Amarna letters dated 1350 BCE from the mayor, Abimilku, written to Akenaten. The subject is often water, wood and the Habiru overtaking the countryside of the mainland and how that affected the island-city. Eventually, Egyptian forces defeated a Hittite army that besieged Tyre.
While the city was originally called Melqart after the city-god, the name Tyre appears on monuments as early as 1300 BC. Philo of Byblos (in Eusebius) quotes the antiquarian authority Sanchuniathon as stating that it was first occupied by Hypsuranius. Sanchuniathon's work is said to be dedicated to "Abibalus king of Berytus"—possibly the Abibaal, who became the Phoenician king of Tyre towards the end of the 2nd millenium BC.
In the 12th century BCE, Egypt's pharaohs gradually lost control over the Eastern Mediterranean.
Independent Phoenician period (1200-868 BCE)
During the 11th century BCE the Phoenician city-states began a commercial expansion, benefiting from the elimination of the former trade centers in Ugarit and Alalakh. The Empire of Tyre relied mainly on trade as well as cultural exchange, rather than on military conquest. Most prominently, the Tyrian civilisation has been widely credited for spreading its alphabet and a Vigesimal numerical system. A decisive factor in this global rise were the extraordinary skills which the scholars of Tyre developed in the field of astronomy to navigate their ships. As the space on the island city was limited, the inhabitants were forced to construct multi-storey buildings. They thus acquired a reputation for being great masons and engineers, also in metalworks and especially in shipbuilding.
"The city government was organized as follows: the king was chosen among the royal families and reigned for life. He was backed by a council of the elders (or magistrates,) and their decisions were controlled by the great merchant families."
Hiram I, Abibaal's son, ascended the throne in 969 BCE and led the city-state to a new level of prosperity. Locally, Hiram expanded the urban territory by projects to connect the main island with a number of small rocky islands. Beyond the borders of his kingdom, he forged particularly close relations with the Hebrew kings David and Solomon. Reportedly, Hiram sent cedar wood and skilled workers who helped in the construction of the great Temple in Jerusalem.
Hiram's regional cooperation as well as his fight against Philistine pirates helped to develop trade with Arabia, and North and East Africa and "such was Hiram's success that the Mediterranean Sea became known as 'the Tyrian Sea".
Commerce from throughout ancient world was gathered into the warehouses of Tyre, which thanks to its fortifications offered protection for valuable goods in storage or transit:
Tyrian merchants were the first who ventured to navigate the Mediterranean waters; and they founded their colonies on the coasts and neighbouring islands of the Aegean Sea, in Greece, on the northern coast of Africa, at Carthage and other places, in Sicily and Corsica, in Spain at Tartessus and even beyond the pillars of Hercules at Gadeira (Cádiz).
The collection of maritime merchant-republic city-states constituting Phoenicia came to be characterized by outsiders and the Phoenicians as Sidonia or Tyria. Phoenicians and Canaanites alike were called Sidonians or Tyrians, as one Phoenician city came to prominence after another.
Assyrian period (868-612 BCE)
In the course of the 9th century BCE, the city remained close to the Israelites, as evident through the marriage of Jezebel from a royal Tyrian family with Ahab, King of Israel. However, Tyre started paying tribute to the Assyrians who gradually established sovereignty over Phoenicia. It seems though that Tyre only made a nominal subjection and kept a large degree of independence. Thus, Tyre remained one of the more powerful cities in the Levant. One of its kings, the priest Ithobaal (887–856 BC), ruled as far north as Beirut, and part of Cyprus.
According to the myth, the Northern African city of Carthage (Qart-Hadašt = "New City") was founded in 814 BCE by Tyre's Princess Elissa, commonly known as Dido ("the wanderer"), who escaped after a power struggle with her brother Pygmalion with a fleet of ships. She has also widely been credited as a pioneer mathematician in planimetrics: Legend has it that she purchased a large piece of land from the local Numid ruler, who granted her the size of land that an oxhide could cover, by having it cut into thin threads,
In the course of the 8th century B.C., the Assyrian kings attempted to increase their sovereignty over Tyre. Hence, the city was besieged by Shalmaneser V with support from Phoenicians of the mainland from around 725 to 720, but was not taken. Cyprus - on the other hand - liberated itself from Tyrian domination in 709.
Babylonian period (612-539 BCE)
After the fall of the Assyrians in 612 BC, Tyre was controlled by the Neo-Babylonians until 586, when it rebelled in an alliance with Egypt, the kingdoms of Judah, Edom, and Moab as well as other Phoenician cities. In reaction, Nebuchadnezzar II started a siege that went on for thirteen years and failed. However, the city instead agreed to pay a tribute.
Due to the long siege, Tyre had suffered economically, as its commercial activities were greatly damaged by the instability. Numismatic sources suggest that as a consequence Tyre lost grounds in its traditional rivalry with neighbouring Sidon, which gained the upper hand.
Persian period (539-332 BCE)
The Achaemenid Empire of the Persian king Cyrus the Great conquered the city in 539 B.C. The Persians divided Phoenicia into four vassal kingdoms: Sidon, Tyre, Arwad, and Byblos. They prospered, furnishing fleets for Persian kings. However, when Cambyses II organised a war campaign against Carthage, Tyre refused to sail against its daughter city. Under Persian sovereignty, Tyre - like the other Phoenician city states - was at first allowed to keep its own kings, but eventually the old system of royal families was abolished:
Tyre's economy continued to rely largely on the production of purple dye from Murex shellfish, which appeared on a Silver coin of Tyre around 450-400 B.C., when the city started minting its own currency. Other motives on coins included dolphins. Herodotus visited Tyre around 450 BCE and wrote about the shrine of Melqart:
According to Roman historian Justin, an insurrection of slaves took place during the Persian period, which spared only the life of one slave-master named Straton - who was then selected by the former slaves to be the new king and established a dynasty.
In 392 BCE Evagoras, Prince of Cyprus, started a revolt against the Persian rule with Athenian and Egyptian support. His forces took Tyre by assault - or by secret consent of the Tyrians. However, after ten years he terminated the rebellion and Tyre once again came under Persian control. It abstained from Sidon's insurgency in 352 BCE and profited commercially from the subsequent destruction of the neighbouring city.
Hellenistic period (332-126 BCE)
After his decicive victory over the Persian king Darius III in 333 BCE and the conquest of Persia, Alexander the Great moved his armies south, exacting tribute from all of coastal Phoenicia's city-states. Tired of Persian repressions, they mostly welcomed the new ruler, yet Tyre resisted his ambitions:
Tyre's king Azemilcus was at sea with the Persian fleet, when Alexander arrived in 332 BCE at the gates and proposed to sacrifice to Heracles in the city, which was home to the most ancient temple of Heracles. However, the Tyrian government refused this and instead suggested Alexander to sacrifice at another temple of Heracles on the mainland at Old Tyre.
Angered by this rejection and the city's loyalty to Darius, Alexander started the Siege of Tyre despite its reputation as being impregnable. However, the Macedonian conqueror succeeded after seven months by demolishing the old city on the mainland and using its stones to construct a causeway to the island.
The tallest siege towers ever used in the history of war were moved via this man-made land bridge to overcome the walls of the city, which was running low on supplies. As Alexander's forces moved forward towards linking the fortified island with the mainland, the Tyrians evacuated their old men, women, and children to Carthage. According to some historical sources, fellow Phoenician sailors from Sidon and Byblos, who had been forcefully recruited by Alexander, secretly helped many Tyrians to escape.
Altogether some eight thousand Tyrians were killed during the siege, while Alexander's troops suffered only about four hundred casualties. After Alexander's victory he granted pardon to King Azemilcus and the chief magistrates. Yet according to Arrian, approximately 30,000 citizens of Tyre were sold into slavery.
Alexander's legacy still lives on today, since Tyre has remained a peninsula instead of an island ever since.
In 315 B.C., Alexander's former general Antigonus began his own siege of Tyre. The city had recovered rapidly after Alexander's conquest, but was still taken a year later. Antigonus' son Demetrius ruled Phoenicia until 287 BC, when it once again passed over to Ptolemy. It remained under the control of his successors for almost seventy years, until the Seleucids under Antiochus III invaded Phoenicia in 198 B.C.
Despite those renewed devastations, Tyre regained its standing under Alexander's successors and as a privilege continued to mint its own silver coins. While some of the trade in the Eastern Mediterranean diverted to Alexandria, Tyre profited from the developing Silk Road.
Some Arabian authors claim that Tyre was the birth-place of Euclid, the "Father of Geometry" (c. 325 B.C.). Other famous scholars from Tyre during the Hellenistic period included the philospohers Diodorus of Tyre, Antipater of Tyre, and Apollonius of Tyre.
In 275 B.C., Tyre abandoned the concept of monarchy and instead became a Republic.
During the Punic Wars, Tyre sympathised with its former colony Carthage. Therefore, in 195 B.C., Hannibal, after his defeat by the Romans, escaped by ship to Tyre before moving on to Antioch and Ephesus.
Independence from Seleucid Empire (126-64 BCE)
Roman period (64 BCE- 395CE)
When the area of "Syria" became a province of the Roman Empire in 64 B.C., Tyre was allowed to keep much of its independence, as a "civitas foederata", A decree found at Tyre infers that Marcus Aemilius Scaurus - Pompey's deputy in Syria - played the key role in granting Tyre the privileged status of remaining a free city. Scaurus did apparently so "against a certain payment".
Tyre continued to maintain much of its commercial importance. Apart from purple dye, the production of linen became a main industry in the city as well as garum fish sauce, "comparable to caviar in our days". Its geographical location made Tyre the "natural" port of Damascus, to which it was linked through a road during the Roman period, and an important meeting point of the Silk Road. Thus the Tyrians extended their areas of hegemony over the adjoining regions, such as in northern Palestine region, settling in cities such as Kedesh, Mount Carmel and north of Baca.
It is stated in the New Testament that Jesus visited the region of Tyre. Some sources tell that he drank water with John sitting on a rock by the spring of Ain Sur (Source of Tyre), which is also known as Ain Hiram, named after the Phoenician king. According to the bible, Jesus healed a Gentile (Matthew 15:21; Mark 7:24) and from this region many came forth to hear him preaching (Mark 3:8; Gospel of Luke 6:17, Matthew 11:21–23). Apparently, some of those who followed him hailed from Tyre.
A Christian congregation was founded in Tyre soon after the death of St. Stephen. Paul the Apostle, on his return from his third missionary journey, spent a week in conversation with the disciples there. According to Irenaeus of Lyon in On the Detection and Overthrow of the So-Called Gnosis, the female companion of Simon Magus came from here.
In the early second centuryCE, Emperor Hadrian, who visited the cities of the East around 130CE, conferred the title of Metropolis on Tyre: "great city" mother of other cities. This status was of "utmost importance", as it settled the ancient rivalry with Sidon in Tyre's favour - for the time being. According to the Suda encyclopedia, the orator Paulus of Tyre, who served as an ambassador to the Imperial court in Rome, played the main role in securing this prestigious title. Hadrian also allowed Tyre to mint its own coins.
Subsequently, the famous "Arch of Hadrian" and one of the largest hippodromes in the world (480m long and 160m wide) were constructed. The amphitheater for the horse-racetrack could host some 30.000 spectators. An aqueduct of about 5 km length was built to supply the city with water from the Ras Al Ain basins in the South.
In the middle of the second century, the cartographer Marinus of Tyre became the founder of mathematical geography, paving the way for Claudius Ptolemy's Geography. Other famous scholars from Roman Tyre include the pre-eminent jurist Ulpian, as well as the philosophers Maximus of Tyre, who was one of the tutors of emperor Marcus Aurelius, and Porphyry of Tyre.
When in 193CESeptimius Severus and Pescennius Niger competed against each other for the throne of Rome, Tyre sided with Severus, who was born in Tyre's former colony Leptis Magna. Niger's troops in retaliation looted Tyre and killed many of its inhabitants. Yet after the defeat of his rival, Severus rewarded Tyre's loyalty with the status of a Colony, which enabled the city to regain some of its wealth as it granted Tyrians Roman citizenship, with the same rights as Romans themselves. In 198CETyre became the capital of the province Syria Phoenice.
During the third centuryCEthe Heraclia games - dedicated to Melqart-Heracles (not to be confused with the demigod Heracles, hero of the 12 labors) - were held in the Tyrian hippodrome every four years.
Faced with the growth of christianity in the third century, the Roman authorities supported paganism and encouraged the practise of Tyre's ancient cults, especially the worshipping of Melqart. When Emperor Decius ordered a general prosecution of Christians in 250-251 AD, followers of Jesus in Tyre suffered as well. According to the ancient bishop and historian Eusebius, the Christian scholar Origen died in Tyre around 253 C Edue to injuries from torture.
In the wake of the Diocletianic Persecution as the last and most severe persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire, followers of Jesus in Tyre were harshly affected as well. According to religious accounts, one of the most prominent martyrs was Saint Christina, the daughter of the city's governor, who was executed around 300CE, after her own father had her tortured. In 304CE, some 500 Christians were reportedly persecuted, tortured and killed in Tyre.
However, less than a decade later "the young, and very rich" Bishop Paulinus had a basilica constructed upon the ruins of a demolished church, which in turn had probably been built upon the ruins of the ancient Temple of Melqart. Reportedly, Origen was buried behind the altar. In 315CE, just two years after the Edict of Milan about the benevolent treatment of Christians, the Cathedral was inaugurated by Bishop Eusebius, who recorded his speech and thus a detailed account of the site in his writings. Not only is this considered the oldest description of s church, but:
"The Cathedral of Paulinus is considered the oldest in Church History".
Saint Frumentius - who was born around that time in Tyre - became the first bishop of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, after he and his brother Edesius had accompanied an uncle on a voyage to the Red Sea and ended up shipwrecked on the Eritrean coast. While Edesius returned to Tyre to become a priest, Frumentius has been widely credited with bringing Christianity to the Kingdom of Aksum.
Byzantine period (395-640)
In 395 Tyre became part of the Byzantine Empire and continued to flourishing. Not only its traditional glass and purple-dyeing industries allowed the city to prosper during this period: as Tyre was stayed in a strategic position of the Silk Road, it also profited from establishing a silk production after its secret procedures had been smuggled out of China.
The necropolis on mainland Tyre with more than three hundred sarcophagi from the Roman and Byzantine periods thus grew to be one of the largest in the world. A main road of some 400m length and 4,5m width paved with limestone was constructed there during the Byzantine times. Closeby, two churches with marble decorations were built in the 5th and early 6th century CE respectively, when construction in ancient Tyre reached its zenith.
During the entire period of Byzantine rule, the archbishopric of Tyre had primacy over all the bishops of the Levant. Yet, while Christianity was the main religion, some people reportedly continued to worship the Phoenician deities, especially Melqart. Over the course of the 6th century CE, a series of earthquakes shattered the city and left it diminished. The worst one took place in 551 CE It destroyed the Great Triumphal Arch on the mainland. On the Southern part of the peninsula, the Egyptian harbour and parts of the suburb were submerged in the sea.
The city remained under Byzantine control until it was captured by the Sassanian shah Khosrow II at the turn from the 6th to the 7th century CE, and then briefly regained until the Muslim conquest of the Levant, when in 640 it was taken by the Arab forces of the Rashidun Caliphate.
Early Muslim period (640-1124)
As the bearers of Islam restored peace and order, Tyre soon began to prosper again and continued to do so during half a millenium of Caliphate rule This was despite the fact that the city stayed reduced to a part of the old island after the devastations of the earthquakes in the 6th century CE.
In the late 640s, the caliph's governor Muawiyah launched his naval invasions of Cyprus from Tyre, but the Rashidun period only lasted until 661. It was followed by the Umayyad Caliphate (until 750) and the Abbasid Caliphate. Tyre became a cultural center of the Arab world which hosted many well-know scholars and artists. In the course of the centuries, Islam spread and Arabic became the language of administration instead of Greek, though some people reportedly still continued to follow the ancient religion of Melqart.
Meanwhile, Tyre's economy remained part of the Silk Road. In addition to its traditional industries of purple dye and glass production, sugar production from cane fields around the city became another main business.
In the Revolt of Tyre (996–998), the populace of the city rose against Fatimid rule, led by an ordinary sailor named 'Allaqa - but were brutally suppressed in May 998.
In 1086 it fell into the hands of the Seljuks who lost it in 1089 to the Fatimids. By that time, some estimates put the number of inhabitants at around 20,000.
Ten years later, Tyre avoided being attacked by paying tribute to the Crusaders who marched on Jerusalem. In 1111, King Baldwin I of Jerusalem laid siege on the city for almost five months, but retreated after some 2.000 of his troops had been killed.
Crusader period (1124-1291)
On July 7 of 1124, in the aftermath of the First Crusade, Tyre was the last city to be eventually conquered by the Christian warriors - a Frankish army on the coast and a Venetian fleet from the sea side - following a siege of five and a half months that caused great suffering from hunger to the population.
Under its new rulers, Tyre was divided into three parts: two thirds to the royal domain of King Baldwin and one third as autonomous trading colonies for the Italian merchant cities: mainly to the Doge of Venice, who had a particular interest in supplying silica sands to the glassmakers of Venice. In addition, there were a Genoese quarter, and a Pisan neighbourhood.
Nevertheless, Tyre became one of the most important cities of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, still being part of the Silk Road. It kept booming with commercial activity, especially glassware by the Jewish community, Sendal silk cloth, purple dye, and sugar factories. Contemporary estimates put the number of residents at around 25,000.
The city was the see of a Roman Catholic archbishopric, whose archbishop was a suffragan of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem; its archbishops often acceded to the Patriarchate. The most notable of the Latin archbishops was the historian William of Tyre, who held the office from 1175 to 1184 while also being chancellor of the kingdom.
The Saint Mark Cathedral of Tyre was built upon on the ruins of the Fatimid Grand Mosque - which in turn had probably been constructed upon or at least the near the ruins of the ancient Temple of Melqart.
Despite this Christian domination, there was peaceful coexistence of religion: the Jewish community was estimated to number some 500 members, and Muslims continued to follow Islam, most prominently Um Ali Taqiyya, "one of the first Tyrian women who excelled in poetry and literature". There were reportedly even still followers of the ancient religion of Melqart.
After the loss of Jerusalem to Saladin in 1187, many crusaders escaped to Tyre with its strong fortifications: "The refugee barons of Palestine were now crowded in the city." Saladin put on the Siege of Tyre twice but gave up on New Year's Day 1188. In the meantime, Frankish military and naval reinforcements had arrived, so that Conrad of Montferrat was able to organise an effective defense. Subsequently, Tyre's Cathedral became the traditional coronation place for the kings of Jerusalem and a venue for royal marriages.
When the German Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I, also known as Frederick Barbarossa, drowned in 1190 in Asia Minor while leading an army in the Third Crusade, his bones were reportedly buried in the cathedral of Tyre. After the reconquest of Acre by Richard I of England on July 12, 1191, the seat of the kingdom moved there.
In 1247, Tyre Tyre was separated from the royal domain and became allotted to Philip of Montfort as the Lordship of Tyre. A decade later, Philip expelled the Venetians from the one third of the city that had been conceded to them in 1124.
A year later, Philip was killed by an Assassin, apparently in the employ of Baibars. The new Lord of Tyre became Philip's eldest son, John of Montfort. After his death in 1283 and the death of his brother Humphrey of Montfort in 1284, John's widow Margaret of Antioch-Lusignan - who was the sister of Hugh III - became the Lady of Tyre. Two years later she entered into a land control treaty with Baibars' successor Al-Mansur Qalawun.
Mamluk period (1291-1516)
In the same year of Dame Margaret's retirement - in 1291 - Tyre was again taken, this time by the Mamluk Sultanate's army of Al-Ashraf Khalil. Reportedly, the whole population had evacuated the city by ship on the day that Acre as one of the last Crusader strongholds had fallen after two months of siege, so that the Mamluks found Tyre empty.
The Sultan had all fortifications demolished in order to prevent the Franks from re-entrenching. The Crusader cathedral, which had been damaged by an earthquake before, was destroyed by the conquerors as well.
The traditional pottery and glassware industry in Tyre continued its production of artful objects during the early Mamluk period. However, the purple dye industry, which had been a major source of income for the city throughout its previous history, did not get started again, since new dyes like Turkey red were cheaper.
Subsequently, Tyre - "the London" or "New York" of the Old World - lost its importance and "sank into obsurity." When the Moroccan explorer Ibn Batutah visited Tyre in 1355, he found it a mass of ruins. Many stones were taken to neighbouring cities like Sidon, Acre, Beirut, and Jaffa as building materials. Ezekiel's ancient prophecy about the destruction of Tyre was thus finally fulliflled. In 1610, the English traveller George Sandys noted about his visit to Tyre:
Ottoman period (1516-1918)
Maan family district rule
The Ottoman Empire conquered the region in 1516-17, yet Tyre remained untouched for another ninety years until the beginning of the 17th century, when the Ottoman rulers appointed the Druze leader Fakhreddine II of the Maan family to administer Jebel Amil (modern-day South Lebanon) and Galilee in addition to the districts of Beirut and Sidon.
One of his projects in Tyre was the construction of a residence for his brother, Prince Younes Al-Maani. It "subsequently became the property of the Franciscan fathers." The building was later used as a garrison and transformed into a Khan, "traditionally a large rectangular courtyard with a central fountain, surrounded by covered galleries". Its ruins are still standing in the centre of today's Souk marketplace area and are known as Khan Al-Ashkar, or also as Khan Sour.
However, the efforts to develop the city, including a cooperation with Florence to rebuild the harbour, came to a halt when the Ottoman rulers had Fakhreddine II executed in 1635.
Al-Saghir / Al-As'ad family district rule
In the following years, Ali al-Saghir - a leader of the discriminated Metwali, the Shia muslims of what is now Lebanon - established a dynasty that dominated the area of Jebel Amil until the mid-twentieh century. The scions of its al-As'ad clan have continued to play a political role into the 21st century, though of lately a rather peripheral one.
In 1697 the English scholar Henry Maundrell visited Tyre and found only a "few" inhabitants, who mainly subsisted upon fishing.
Nevertheless, a few years Tyre was - at least nominally - at the center of the schism within the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch: its archbishop of Tyre and Sidon - Euthymios Saif - had been working on regaining communion with the Holy See in Rome at least since 1683. In 1701, by secret decree he was appointed by the Congretation Propaganda Fide to be the Apostolic Administrator of the Melkites. In 1724, one year after Saifi's death, his nephew and student Seraphim Tanas was elected as Patriarch Cyril VI of Antioch. He quickly affirmed the union with Rome and thereby the separation from the Greek Orthodox Church. However, only a handful of Christian families actually lived in Tyre at the time. Church services were held in the ruins of Saint Thomas church near the remains of the Crusaders Cathedral.
Around 1750, Tyre's ruler from the Shiite dynasty of al-Saghir (see above), Sheikh Abbas Al-Mohamad Al-Nassar, initiated a number of construction projects in order to attract new inhabitants to the almost deserted town. Amongst these development projects was a mosque, which is nowadays known as the Old Mosque, the Serail as his own headquarters at the Northern port, and the Al Mobarakee Tower, which is the only military tower still existing today.
In 1752, construction of the Melkite cathedral of Saint Thomas was started thanks to donation from a rich merchant, George Mashakka - also spelled Jirjis MIshaqa - in a place that had already housed a church during the Crusader period in the 12th century. The tobacco trader had been persuaded by governor Nassar to move from Sidon to Tyre. Numerous Greek Catholic families followed him there. Mashakka also contributed greatly to the construction of the mosque.
However, in 1780 the resurgence of Tyre suffered a backlash when Nasser was killed in a power-struggle with the Ottoman governor of Sidon, Ahmad Pasha al-Jazzar, and the Shiite autonomy in Jebel Amil ended for a quarter century. Around the same time, another earthquake shattered the town as well.
Egyptian Occupation (1831-1839)
In 1831 Tyre fell under the rule of Mehmet Ali Pasha of Egypt. A number of Egyptians settled in the city, which still today features a "Street of the Egyptians" in its old town. However, in 1839 Shiite forces in Jebel Amil under the leadership of Hamad al-Mahmud from the al-Saghir dynasty (see above) rebelled against the Egyptian occupation. They were rewarded by the Ottoman rulers with the restoration of Shiite autonomy in the area. Al-Mahmud was succeeded in 1852 by Ali al-As'ad, who died in 1865 after a power struggle with his cousin Thamir al-Husain.
French influence zone (from mid-19th c. on)
Meanwhile, the Egyptian occupation had opened the door for European intervention in Ottoman affairs through various Lebanese communities. Thus France and allied Maronite leaders increased their influence across Lebanon from the mid-19th century onwards. In this context, Tyre saw more of a renaissance of Christianity as well:
In 1860, the Greek-Orthodox church of Saint Thomas was consecrated near the Greek-Catholic Saint Thomas Cathedral. Around the same time, the Latin-Catholic church of the Holy Land was established by the Franciscan order.
In 1860, first archaeological excavations were commissioned by Emperor of the French Napoleon III and undertaken by Ernest Renan. After his departure irregular digging activities disturbed the historical sites.
In 1874, the Bavarian historian and politician Johann Nepomuk Sepp led a mission to Tyre to search for the bones of Frederick Barbarossa. The expedition had the approval of Otto von Bismarck, Chancellor of the German Empire, and openly pursued ambitions to establish a German colony. While Sepp and his team failed to discover Barbarossa's remains, they did excavate the ruins of the Crusader cathedral and took a number of archaeological findings to Berlin where they were exhibited. For their excavations, Sepp and his team had some 120 people evicted, though with some compensation, with the support of local authorities.
According to Sepp, Tyre had some 5,000 inhabitants in 1874. A traveller from the US, who visited Tyre around the same time put the number at maximum 4,000, about half of them Shiites and half Catholic Christians, with "a sprinkling of Protestants."
In 1882, the Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Apparition founded a school at the Western sea side of the Christian quarter.
In the 1880s, many Lebanese from Tyre emigrated to West Africa in order to escape poverty. The city thereafter became known as "Little West Africa". In Senegal, most immigrants originated from Tyre. Hence, one of its main promenades is called "Avenue du Senegal" (see photo in section "Demographics").
In 1903, excavations were resumed by the Greek archaeologist Theodore Makridi, curator of the Imperial Museum at Constantinople. Important findings like fragments of marble sarcophagi were sent to the Ottoman capital.
In 1906, construction of the Maronite cathedral of "Our Lady of the Seas" near the modern harbour was finished. It was built on the on the foundations of an older church.
In 1908, the Ottoman call for elections triggered a power-struggle in Jebel Amil between Rida al-Sulh of a Sunni dynasty from Sidon, which had sidelined the Shia al-Saghir dynasty (see above) in the coastal region with support from leading Shiite families like the al-Khalil clan in Tyre, and Kamil al-As'ad from the al-Saghir dynasty, which still dominated the hinterland. It was
At the beginning of the First World War in 1914, many Shiites in Jebel Amil were conscripted and thus had to leave their farms. One year later famine struck as locusts devastated the fields. This triggered another wave of emmigration to Africa and also to the USA.
As opposition to the Turkish rulers grew across the Levant, Arab nationalism was on the rise in Jebel Amil as well. However, in March 1915 the Ottoman authorities launched a new wave repressions and arrested a number of activists of the Decentralisation Party in Tyre as in other cities like Sidon, Nabatiya, and Beirut. Some of them were executed.
Also in 1915, Abdel Karim al-Khalil - the leader of the al-Khalil clan, who were the Tyrian allies of the al-Sulh dynasty from Sidon - was executed by the Ottoman regime "at the instigation of Kamil al-As'ad from the rival al-Nassar dynasty.
Meanwhile, the French Army used the historical garrison building of Khan Al-Ashkar as a base.
Pan-Arab Kingdom of Syria vs. French-British OETA (1918-1920)
After the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman rule started in 1916 and the Sharifian Army conquered the Levant in 1918 with support from the British Empire, the Jamal Amil feudal leader Kamil al-As'ad of the al-Saghir family, who had been an Ottomanist before, declared the area - including Tyre - part of the Arab Kingdom of Syria on the 5th of October, 1918.
However, this support for Faisal I put the ruling class of Jebel Amil into conflict with the interests of the French colonial empire: on the 23rd of October 1918, the joint British and French military regime of the Occupied Enemy Territory Administration (OETA) was declared, with Jebel Amel falling under French control. In Tyre and the neighbouring areas a guerrilla group started military attacks on French troops and pro-French elements, led by Sadiq al-Hamza from the al-Saghir clan.
In contrast, the most prominent organiser of nonviolent resistance against the French ambitions in Jabil Amil became the Shi'a Twelver Islamic scholar Sayyid Abdel Hussein Sharafeddine (born 1873), the Imam of Tyre. He had played a decicive role in the 1908 power struggle between the al-As'ad clan of the al-Saghir dynasty on the one hand side and the al-Sulh dynasty with their Tyrian allies of the al-Khalil family (see above) in favour of the former. His alliance with al-As'ad strenghtened after WWI, as
"He achieved his prominent position in the community through his reputation as a widely respected 'alim [religious scholar] whose books were taught in prominent Shi'ite schools such as Najaf in Iraq and Qum in Iran."
Thus he became the leading supporter of a Greater Syria. When the King-Crane Commission of the United States government visited the region in 1919, Sharafeddin demanded US-support for a united Syria with Faisal as king:
In early 1920, Sharafeddin led a Shia delegation to Damascus to make the case for unity with Syria. At the same time tensions between Shia and Maronite groups in Jebel Amel increased, while Sharafeddin and al-As'ad promoted a pacifist approach and de-escalation. However, when in April 1920 violent clashes took place in the Jabal Amel area between armed Shia and Maronite groups, a French colonial army assisted by Maronite volunteers crushed the Shia rebellion. Tyre was bombarded by French warplanes and artillery.
French colonial rule (1920-1943)
On the first of September 1920, the French rulers proclaimed the new State of Greater Lebanon with Tyre and the Jabal Amel as the Southern part of the Mandate.
Still in 1920, the first municipality of Tyre was founded, which was headed by Ismail Yehia Khalil from the Shia feudal dynasty of al-Khalil. The al-Khalil family had traditionally been allies of the al-Sulh clan, whereas Imam Sharafeddin supported the rival al-Asa'ad clan of the al-Saghir dynasty since 1908 (see above). As the most prominent opponent of the French imperialist project Sharafeddin was forced to flee the city:
"His home in Tyre was looted by French soldiers, his books and manuscripts were confiscated, another home in a neighboring village was burned. He fled to Damascus, but had to quit that city for Egypt and then for a brief stay several months in Palestine before he was allowed to return to his base in Tyre."
Meanwhile, the common people in Tyre and all of Southern Lebanon suffered from high fines and taxes imposed on their economy in order to punish them for the failed rebellion. In addtion, the French colonial regime forcibly diverted agricultural products from Southern Lebanon to Syria and thus massively reduced trade activity in the port of Tyre. Driven out by mass-povery, emigration from Tyre via Marseille to Western Africa reached another peak. This trend was curbed when the French colonial rulers in Africa imposed stricter controls on immigration at the end of the 1920s.
In contrast, Imam Sharafeddin resurged as the most defining character for the peaceful development of Tyre in the first half of the 20th century. While he succeeded his rival Khalil as head of the municipal council until 1926, he first and foremost changed the city and its hinterland by becoming a social reformer and "activist".
After an archaeological survey of Tyre had been undertaken by a French team under the leadership of Denyse Le Lasseur in 1921, another mission took place between 1934 and 1936 that included aerial surveys and diving expeditions. It was led by the Jesuit missionary Antoine Poidebard, a pioneer of aerial archaeology.
In 1936, the French colonial authorities set up a camp for Armenian refugees in Rashidieh on the coast, five kilometres south of Tyre city. One year later, another one was constructed in the El Bass (El Buss) area of Tyre.
1938 saw a historical turning point, when Imam Sharafeddine founded a school for girls and boys. He pledged his private house in order to build the school, against the opposition of the feudal al-Khalil family. It soon expanded, also thanks to donations from the As'ad clan. Whereas Christians had been benefitting from missionary schools, education for the Shia community was poor before the establishment of the Jafariya School:
"The school became the corner stone tha changed the life of the Shi'ites in Jabal 'Amil in general and Tyre in particular."
The teaching staff consisted, however, not just of Shi'ites, but also of Christians, including the headmaster, Michael Shaban. The school soon also "became a nucleus for political activity", with Sharafeddin supporting especially the Palestinian demand for independence.
In 1940 French soldiers dug out an anti-tank trench at Tyre on the road leading South and discovered a marble sarcophagus from the first or second centuryCE, which is exhibited at the National Museum in Beirut.
In Mid-1941, a joint British-Free French campaign began to topple the Vichy regime in Syria and Lebanon. It relied heavily on Indian troops and also included the Australian 21st Brigade. These forces liberated Tyre from the Nazi-collaborators on June 8.
"We inhabitants of Jabal Amil protest strongly against landing of foreign troops in our country, which is free. This is a slighting of our liberty and a disdain of our honor. We are prepared to defend our independence. We would not hesitate to shed the last drop of our blood to that effect."
In 1946, Jafariya School was upgraded to be a Secondary School, the first in Southern Lebanon. Imam Sharafeddine appointed as its founding director George Kenaan, a Lebanese Christian. The expansion was possible especially thanks to funding from merchants who had emigrated from Tyre to Western Africa and made their fortunes there. Meanwhile, a school project by Sharafeddin's political rival Kazem al-Khalil failed despite support from prime minister Riad al-Sulh, to whose family the al-Khalil feudal dynasty was traditionally allied.
In 1947, archaeological excavations were started by Maurice Chehab, the first Director General of Antiquities of Lebanon.
When the state of Israel was declared in May 1948, Tyre was immediately affected: with the Palestinian exodus - also known as the Nakba - thousands of Palestinian refugees fled to the city, often by boat. Many of them were given shelter by Imam Sharafeddin in the Jafariya School.
On 17 July 1948, two Israeli frigates shelled Tyre in order to attack a unit of Fawzi al-Qawuqji's Arab Liberation Army. Subsequently, Tyre's position next to the closed border further marginalised the city, "which was already sidelined by Beirut and Sidon."
Still in 1948, the Burj Shimali camp was established next to the Tyre peninsula, mainly for displaced from Hawla, Tiberias, Saffuri and Lubieh. The same year, an irregular camp was established at the Jal Al Bahar coastal strip in the Northern part of Tyre, mainly by Palestinian refugees from the village Tarshiha. In Maachouk - with Burj Al Shimali 1 km to the East - Palestinian refugees settled on agricultural lands owned by the Lebanese State.
Palestinian refugees played a key role in developing the citrus plantations in Tyre area, but were also competing for cheap labour opportunities in this field with the Lebanese precariat. On the other side, many of the teachers at the Jafariya Primary and Secondary school were well-educated refugees from Palestine, amongst them the famous cartoonist Naji al-Ali, who worked as a drawing instructor in the early 1960s and went on to create Handala, the iconic symbol of Palestinian identity and defiance.
In 1950, the new building of the Jafariya School was inaugurated and named Binayat al-Muhajir - "Building of the Emigrants" - honouring the contributions from wealthy Tyrians in Africa. At the same time, the number of Lebanese from Tyre joining that diaspora increased once again, corresponding to yet another rise in poverty.
In 1956, the Jafariya School was the platform for a guerrilla group of 25 Lebanese and Palestinian students to launch military strikes in Israel. However, at the end of that year their weapons were confiscated by the military intelligence and the Palestinian headmaster Ibrahim al-Ramlawi was arrested.
1958 Lebanese Civil War
When President Camille Chamoun introduced a new electoral system in 1957, Ahmed al-Asaad from the feudal al-Saghir dynasty for the first time lost the vote for deputy to the Lebanese parliament, which he had even headed as Speaker at the beginning of the decade. He subsequently became a "major instigator of events against Chamoun " and his Shi'ite ally in Tyre: Kazem el-Khalil, who like al-Asaad was a long-time member of parliament and the scion of a family of large landowners ("zu'ama") ruling through patronage systems:
During the 1958 crisis, Kazem al-Khalil was the only Shi'ite minister in the cabinet of Sami as-Sulh, to whose family the al-Khalil feudal dynasty was traditionally allied. Thus,
Then, after the formation of the United Arab Republic (UAR) under the leadership of Gamal Abdel Nasser in February 1958, tensions quickly escalated in Tyre between the forces of Chamoun and supporters of pan-arabism. In popular reaction, demonstrations took place in Tyre - as well as in Beirut and other cities - that promoted pro-union slogans and protested against US foreign policy. The Jafariya school became the base of the opposition. Still in February, five of its students were arrested and "sent to jail for trampling on the Lebanese flag and replacing it with that of the UAR."
On the 28th of March, soldiers and followers of Kazem al-Khalil opened fire on demonstrators, killing three of them. On the second of April, five protestors were killed and twelve were injured. Opposition leaders like Rashid Karami expressed support for the people of Tyre. The neighbouring city of Sidon/Saida joined the strike in Tyre.
In May, the insurgents in Tyre gained the upper hand. They were supported by Ahmad al-As'ad and his son Kamil al-Asaad from the feudal al-Saghir dynasty, also with weapons. Their rival Kazem al-Khalil was expelled from Tyre and the Sharafeddin family "took over control" of the city. Al-Khalil returned still in 1958, but was attacked several times by gunmen.
Despite this victory, the power of the al-As'ad dynasty - who had played a dominant role in Tyre and Jebel Amil for more than two centuries - began to crumble at the same time with the arrival of a newcomer:
Musa Sadr era (1959-1978)
After Imam Sharafeddin's death in 1957, his sons and the Shia community of Southern Lebanon asked his relative Sayyid Musa Sadr to be his successor as Imam. Sharafeddine had invited the Iran-born Sadr for his first visits to Tyre in previous years
In 1959, Sadr moved to Tyre and at first encountered not only suspicion, but also opposition. Yet, within just a few years he managed to create a broad following. As "one of his first significant acts" established a vocational training center in neighbouring Burj el-Shimali that became "an important symbol of his leadership" as well as other charity organisations. His base became the Abdel Hussein Mosque at the entry of the old town.
In 1960, the Feudal lord Kazem al-Khalil also lost his seat in Parliament, whereas one of Sharafeddin's sons - Jafar Sharafeddin - was elected in 1960 as a Ba'athist. In parliament, to which he was re-elected in 1964 and 1968, he made the following plea, which summarises the precarious socio-economic situation in the mid-20th century:
"The district of Tyre has sixty villages, to which God Almighty has given all kinds of beauty. But the rulers of Tyre have deprived Tyre and the surroundings of their rights. Of these sixty villages only a dozen or so have anything that could be called a school or a paved road. Forty villages are without a school. These sixty villages go thirsty in this age of science and the machine, while a river [the Litani] passes them by on the way to the sea. All sixty villages lack electricity. Electricity is the fortune of more privileged districts. .. These sixty villages are deserted, inhabited by old men and women; the young ones have departed to toil in the heat of Africa. Thousands more have come to Beirut, to toil among others of their kind. Tyre itself, the heart of the district, has suffered what no city can suffer. It has become a deformed, ruined place. Everything in it falls short of what a civilised place should be. The government should restore to Tyre its splendor."
By the 1960s, Tyre had a population of some 15,000 inhabitants. In the course of the decade it increasingly became subject to a rural-to-urban movement that has been ongoing ever since. In addition, the arrival of Palestinian refugees continued: In 1963, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) set up a “new camp” in Rashidie to accommodate refugees from Deir al-Qassi, Alma, Suhmata, Nahaf, Fara and other villages in Palestine.
After the Six-Day War another wave of displaced Palestinians sought refuge in South Lebanon. In the following year, there were almost 25,000 registered Palestinian refugees in the camps of Tyre: 3,911 in Al Bass, 7,159 in Burj Al Shimali, and 13,165 in Rashidia. More found shelter in the neighbourhood of Mashouk and the gathering of Jal Al Bahar.
At the same time the arrival of civilian refugees went along with an increasingly strong presence of Palestinian militants. Thus, clashes between Palestinians and Israel increased dramatically. On May 12th, 1970, the IDF launched a number of attacks in South Lebanon, including Tyre. The Palestinian guerrilla presence in southern Lebanon grew further after the Jordanian-PLO conflict of Black September 1970. The PLO allegedly also trained Nicaraguan Sandinista rebels in Tyre.
One of the fiercest opponents of the Palestinian militants became Kazem al-Khalil, Tyre's main feudal lord and former MP, who lost a number of elections in the 1960s. In 1967 he had sought financial assistance from the US Embassy in Beirut, though there is no evidence that this was granted. At the same time, Sadr established the Supreme Islamic Shia Council (SISC).
Meanwhile, in 1970, Jafar Sharafeddin became Minister of Water Resources in a technocratic government by Saeb Salam, but as a traditional ally of Kamil al-As'ad from the al-Saghir dynasty became more alienated from Sadr, who opposed the zu'ama feudal landlords.
The 1973 October Yom Kippur War signalled even more Palestinian military operations from Southern Lebanese territory, including Tyre, which in turn increasingly sparked Israeli retaliation.
Sadr was balancing the relations between the Maronite-dominated state, the Palestinian resistance with its leftist Lebanese supporters, and his own Shia community, which increasingly harboured popular discontent with the PLO domination in Southern Lebanon and being caught in the crossfire with Israel. There, Sadr's power struggle with the traditional feudal rulers escalated: With the backing of the SISC Sadr managed to gradually break up the inherited power of Kamil al-As'ad - a close ally of President Suleiman Frangieh - from the al-Saghir dynasty after more than two hundred years, although al-As'ad's list still dominated the South in the parliamentary elections of 1972 and the by-elections of 1974.
Likewise, the large landlord Kazem al-Khalil in Tyre, who had been a fierce opponent of both As'ad and Sadr, re-gained his parliamentary seat in 1972, but was soon marginalised by two other organisations that Sadr set up:
In 1974, Sadr founded Harakat al-Mahroumin (the Movement of the Deprived) While the movement reached out beyond the Shia communities of Southern Lebanon to those fragmeted ones in the Bekaa Valley and Beirut for creating a united Shia idenity in the Lebanese context, Sadr also sought close cooperation with the Christian minorities, especially with the Greek-Catholic Melkites under the leadership of Tyre's archbishop Georges Haddad.
It is estimated that some 80 thousand of Sadr’s followers rallied in Tyre on 5 May 1974., with weapons on open display. In 1975, before the outbreak of the civil war and despite his pledges to nonviolent means, Sadr also founded the de-facto military wing of his movement: the Afwaj al-Muqawama al-Lubnaniyya (Amal).
On the national stage of politics, one of Sadr's main allies was the Lebanese Druze leader Kamal Jumblatt. However, frictions between them led to a break-up of their coalition soon after the beginning of the civil war in 1975:
When Syria invaded Lebanon in mid-1976, it committed to a proposal by the Arab League not to cross the Litani River southwards. So while the Civil War had started in South Lebanon, it was spared from much of the internal fighting. However, many young men from the area moved northwards to take part in combat.
Thus, it was again especially the common people of Tyre and its hinterlands, who greatly suffered after the beginning of the civil war in 1975. Due to growing mass-poverty a new wave of emigration from Tyre area to West Africa, especially to Ivory Coast, though not so much to Senegal as before.
After numerous attacks and reprisals involving the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) invaded, as part of the so-called 1978 South Lebanon conflict. Though Tyre did not get occupied, it was still badly damaged in the fighting. The official account by the United Nations is as follows:
"In the early 1970s, tension along the Israel-Lebanon border increased, especially after the relocation of Palestinian armed elements from Jordan to Lebanon. Palestinian commando operations against Israel and Israeli reprisals against Palestinian bases in Lebanon intensified.
On 11 March 1978, a commando attack in Israel resulted in many dead and wounded among the Israeli population; the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) claimed responsibility for that raid. In response, Israeli forces invaded Lebanon on the night of 14/15 March, and in a few days occupied the entire southern part of the country except for the city of Tyre and its surrounding area.
On 15 March 1978, the Lebanese Government submitted a strong protest to the Security Council against the Israeli invasion, stating that it had no connection with the Palestinian commando operation. On 19 March, the Council adopted resolutions 425 (1978) and 426 (1978), in which it called upon Israel immediately to cease its military action and withdraw its forces from all Lebanese territory. It also decided on the immediate establishment of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). The first UNIFIL troops arrived in the area on 23 March 1978."
His legacy has continued into the present: he has been widely credited with "bringing the Shi'ite community onto an equal footing with the other major Lebanese communities." And while the loss of Sadr was great, it also became and has remained a major rallying point for the Shia community across Lebanon, particularly in Southern Lebanon.
1982 Lebanon War with Israel
Following an assassination attempt on Israeli ambassador Shlomo Argov in London the IDF started invading Lebanon on the 6th June 1982 and Tyre was heavily afflicted again:
Shelling by Israeli artillery and air raids killed some 80 people on the first day. Though the PLO had reportedly left its positions on the peninsula, urban Tyre with the market area in particular was heavily bombarded as well. Historical buildings like the Serail and Khan Al-Ashkar (Khan Sour) were partly destroyed. However, the Palestinian camps were bearing the brunt of the assault. Noam Chomsky recorded that
"The first target was the Palestinian camp of Rashidiyeh south of Tyre, much of which, by the second day of the invasion, 'had become a field of rubble.' There was ineffectual resistance, but as an officer of the UN peace-keeping force swept aside in the Israeli invasion later remarked: 'It was like shooting sparrows with cannon.'"
On 7 June, the Greek-Catholic (Melkite) archbishop Georges Haddad succeeded in temporarily halting the attack of an IDF tank column in a bold appeal to the Israeli commander, mediated by a Swiss delegate of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), in order to evacuate the civilian population to the beaches. The fighting stopped after two days, but the humanitarian consequences were severe, also because "the IDF had few plans for management or detention of masses of civilians, let alone for feeding."
UNRWA has recorded that in Rashidieh alone "more than 600 shelters were totally or partially destroyed and more than 5,000 Palestine refugees were displaced." Those in the Burj Al Shimali camp were heavily affected as well There were 11,256 registered Palestinian refugees in Burj Al Shimali at the time, and 15,356 in Rashidia, altogether more than the entire population of urban Tyre which was estimated to be around 23,000. Only El Bass camp with 5,415 registered Palestinians was spared much of the violence.
Subsequently, the IDF set up a military post in Tyre and sponsored the return of Shia feudal lord Kazem al-Khalil to the city in July 1982 after an absence of seven years. When his attempts to reconcile with Amal failed, he formed a small militia of some 40 men with Israeli support. Shortly afterwards, though, a new force appeared that would go on to dominate the scene:
In November 1982, Hezbollah carried out a suicide-attack which was named "Jal Al Bahar" after the Palestinian gathering. It killed ninety Israeli soldiers and officers at their military headquarters in Tyre as well as an unknown number of Lebanese and Palestinians who were detainees in the complex. In October 1983, another such attack on the new IDF headquarters in Tyre killed 29 Israeli soldiers and officers, wounding another thirty as confirmed by the Israeli government. Only in 1985, Hezbollah claimed responsibility for the two operations.
In April 1985, the Israeli forces withdrew from Tyre and instead established a self-declared "Security Zone" in Southern Lebanon with its collaborating militia allies of the South Lebanon Army (SLA). Tyre was left outside the SLA control though and taken over by the Amal Movement under the leadership of Nabih Berri, who was a graduate of Jafariya High School. Unlike in other areas of fighting, there were no forced displacements of Christians in Tyre and Tyre area.
Meanwhile, in 1984, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) had declared Tyre a World Heritage Site in an attempt to halt the damage being done to the archaeological sites by the armed conflict and by anarchic urban development.
In the 1998 Municipal Elections, Amal won "a startling victory of twenty one seats in Tyre" ahead of Hezbollah, led by Sayed Hassan Nasrallah. Six years later, Amal held Tyre as its traditional stronghold, but lost support in the District of Tyre to Hezbollah.
During Israel's invasion in the July 2006 Lebanon War, several rocket-launching sites used by Hezbollah to attack Israel were located in rural areas around the city. At least one village near the city was bombed by Israel as well as several sites within the city, causing civilian deaths and adding to the food shortage problem inside Tyre:
According to Human Rights Watch, on July 16 around noon a strike by the Israeli Air Force (IAF) on a residential apartment building behind the Jabal Amel Hospital - known as the Sidon Institute - at the outskirts of Tyre killed eight members of a family. At about the same time, five civilians were killed by another aerial assault on Burj Al Shimali, including two children. Later in the afternoon of that same day, another airstrike on a multistorey apartment building in Tyre, which also housed the Civil Defense Forces, killed 14 civilians, amongst them a one-year-old girl and a Sri Lankan maid. On August 13, five civilians were killed in Burj El Shimali, amongst them three children and one Sri Lankan maid. UNIFIL troops helped with heavy bulldozers to clear debris from those bombardments.
Shayetet 13 (Israeli naval commandos) also raided Hezbollah targets within the city. On August 6, IDF commandos raided a building on the outskirts of Tyre killing at least two Hezbollah fighters.
Meanwhile, again according to the official UN account, on the diplomatic level,
"On 11 August 2006, the Security Council, following intense negotiations, passed resolution 1701 calling for a full cessation of hostilities in the month-long war based upon, in particular, 'the immediate cessation by Hizbollah of all attacks and the immediate cessation by Israel of all offensive military operations' in Lebanon. Aware of its responsibilities to help secure a permanent ceasefire and a long-term solution to the conflict, the Security Council created a buffer zone free of 'any armed personnel, assets and weapons other than those of the Government of Lebanon and of UNIFIL' between the United Nations-drawn Blue Line in southern Lebanon and the Litani river".
Still in August 2006, Italian reinforcements for UNIFIL landed in amphibian crafts on the shores of Tyre. While UNIFIL had a troops strength of about 2,000 at that point in time, the Security Council soon expanded the mandate of UNIFIL, and increased it to a maximum of 15,000 troops.
At least since 2006, Tyre city and its Southern surrounding areas have been part of the Italian UNIFIL sector, whereas its Northern surrounding areas have been part of the Korean sector. UNIFIL has been assisted by the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO).
As UINIFIL has got a budget for small community projects as well, the Italian contingent in particular has supported a variety of civil society activities with great visibility. Amongst them are efforts to preserve the archaeological heritage, to assist artistic expression and interaction, to conduct medical campaigns, as well as to support the children's right to play by constructing playgrounds and supporting clown therapy for children with special needs.
On 9 December 2011, UNIFIL reported that one of its vehicles "traveling on a road at the southern outskirts of the city of Tyre was targeted by an explosion." Five peacekeepers of unnamed nationalities were injured and evacuated.
In the 2018 parliamentary elections, the Tyre-Zahrani district had a 48.1% turnout out of 311,953 registered voters, but only two competing camps. The allied list of Hezbollah and Amal won all seven seats with a 92% landslide, while the one headed by Riad As'ad from the feudal dynasty of al-Saghir only scored 8%.
When the 2019 Lebanese protests against government corruption and austerity measures started across the country on the 17th of October 2019, masses of citizens flocked to the central Elissar Square - named after the legendary founder of Carthage - to join the nonsectarian demonstrations. The venue features the highest flagpole (32.6 meters ) in all of Lebanon with a national flag of 11 X 19 meters.
One day later an arson attack devastated the Rest House hotel at Tyre beach. And then another day later, as UNIFIL reported,
The protestors have kept a tented presence inside the roundabout of Elissar Square since.
Coast Nature Reserve
Tyre enjoys a reputation of having some of the cleanest beaches and waters of Lebanon. However, a 2016 UN HABITAT city profile of Tyre found that "seawater is also polluted due to waste water discharge especially in the port area." There is still also considerable pollution by solid waste.
The Tyre Coast Nature Reserve was decreed in 1998 by the Ministry of Public Works. It is 3.5 km long and covers over 380 hectares (940 acres), which mean it is the widest shore on the country’s coast. The area is divided into three zones:
- the Tourism zone features a public beach of 900m and restaurant tents during the summer season hosting up to 20,000 visitors on a busy day;
- the Agricultural and Archaeological zone next to the springs of Ras El Ain,
Due to its diverse flora and fauna, the reserve is a designated Ramsar Site. It is an important nesting site for migratory birds and the endangered Loggerhead and green sea turtle and the shelter of the Arabian spiny mouse and many other important creatures (including wall lizards, common pipistrelle, and european badger).
Large-scale excavations started in 1946 under the leadership of Emir Maurice Chéhab (1904-1994), "the father of modern Lebanese archaeology" who for decades headed the Antiquities Service in Lebanon and was the curator of the National Museum of Beirut. His teams uncovered most remains in the Al Bass/Hippodrome and the City Site/Roman baths. Those works stopped though soon after the 1975 beginning of the Civil War and many records were lost.
Excavation activities only started again in 1995 under the supervision of Ali Khalil Badawi. Shortly afterwards, an Israeli bomb destroyed an apartment block in the city and evidence for an early church was revealed underneath the rubble. Its unusual design suggests that this was the site of the Cathedral of Paulinus which had been inaugurated in 315CE
The hostilities of the 2006 Lebanon War put the ancient structures of Tyre at risk. This prompted UNESCO's Director-General to launch a "Heritage Alert" for the site. Following the cessation of hostilities in September 2006, a visit by conservation experts to Lebanon observed no direct damage to the ancient city of Tyre. However, bombardment had damaged frescoes in a Roman funerary cave at the Tyre Necropolis. Additional site degradation was also noted, including "the lack of maintenance, the decay of exposed structures due to lack of rainwater regulation and the decay of porous and soft stones".
Since 2008, a Lebanese-French team under the direction by Pierre-Louis Gatier of the University of Lyon has been conducting archaeological and topographical work. When international archeological missions in Syria came to a halt after 2012 due to the war there, someof them instead started excavations in Tyre, amongst them a team headed by Leila Badre, director of the Archeological Museum of the American University of Beirut (AUB), and Belgian archaeologists.
Threats to Tyre's ancient cultural heritage include development pressures and the illegal antiquities trade. A highway, planned for 2011, was expected to be built in areas that are deemed archaeologically sensitive. A small-scale geophysical survey indicated the presence of archaeological remains at proposed construction sites. The sites have not been investigated. Despite the relocation of a proposed traffic interchange, the lack of precise site boundaries confuses the issue of site preservation.
A 2018 study of Mediterranean world heritage sites found that Tyre's City site has "the highest risk of coastal erosion under current climatic conditions, in addition to 'moderate' risk from extreme sea levels."
Like many of the cities in the Levant and in Lebanon, the architecture since the Lebanese Civil War in the 1970s has been of poor quality, which tend to threaten the cultural heritage in the built environment before the war.
In 2013, the International Association to Save Tyre (IAST) made headlines when it launched an online raffle in association with Sotheby's to fund the artisans’ village "Les Ateliers de Tyr" at the outskirts of the city. Participants could purchase tickets for 100 Euros to win the 1914 ‘Man with Opera Hat’ painting by Pablo Picasso. IAST president Maha El-Khalil Chalabi is the daughter of feudal lord and politician Kazem el-Khalil.
The Bible makes several references to Tyre:
- According to Joshua 19:29, Tyre is referred to as a "strong city," and was allotted to the Tribe of Asher.
- King Hiram I was a contemporary of David and Solomon in 2 Samuel 5:11, 1 Kings 5:1, and 1 Chronicles 14:1.
- Tyre is mentioned in the Book of Isaiah (Isaiah 23), the Book of Jeremiah (Jer 25:22, Jer 47:4), the Book of Ezekiel (Ezekiel 26-28), the Book of Joel (Joel 3:4-8), the Book of Amos (Amos 1:9-10), the Psalms, and the Book of Zechariah (Zechariah 9:3-4), which prophesied its destruction.
- Jesus visited the region or "coasts" (King James Version) of Tyre and Sidon (Matthew 15:21; Mark 7:24) and from this region many came forth to hear him preaching (Mark 3:8; Luke 6:17), leading to the stark contrast in Matthew 11:21–23 to his reception in Korazin and Bethsaida.
- In the Book of Revelation, Revelation 18 alludes extensively to the mercantile description of Tyre in Ezekiel 26-28.
- In 19th-century Britain, Tyre was several times taken as an exemplar of the mortality of great power and status, for example by John Ruskin in the opening lines of The Stones of Venice and by Rudyard Kipling's Recessional.
- Tyrus is the title and subject of a poem by the Cumbrian poet Norman Nicholson in his collection 'Rock Face' of 1948.
- In 2015, the French-Lebanese artist Joseph Safieddine published the graphic novel drama Yallah Bye which offers an account of his family’s fate during the 2006 war between Israel and Hizbollah, when they sought refuge in the Christian quarter of Tyre. An English version followed in 2017 and an Arabic one in 2019.
The first cinema in Tyre opened in the late 1930s when a cafe owner established makeshift film screenings. In 1939 the Roxy opened, followed in 1942 by the "Empire".
"By the mid-1950s there were four cinemas in Tyre, and four more soon opened in nearby Nabatieh. Many also hosted live performances by famous actors and musicians, serving as community spaces where people from different backgrounds came together."
In 1959, the “Cinema Rivoli of Tyre” opened and quickly became one of the prime movie theatres of the country. According to UNIFIL, it was visited "by celebrity who’s whos of the time, including Jean Marais, Brigitte Bardot, Rushdi Abaza and Omar Hariri." The likewise prestigeous "Al Hamra Cinema", which opened in 1966, was a venue for some of the Arab world's most famous performers, like Mahmoud Darwish, Sheikh Imam, Ahmed Fouad Negm, Wadih el-Safi, and Marcel Khalife.
The Tyrean artist Ghazi Kahwaji (1945-2017) was Lebanon's first scenographer and for three decades the artistic general director for the Rahbani brothers and Fairuz. He used this prominent position to promote "against confessionalism and fundamentalism". Between 2008 and 2010 he published the sarcastic three-volume book series "Kahwajiyat" about social injustice in the Arab world.
In 1996, the commercial "Festivals de Tyr" - which had been founded in 1972 by Maha al-Khalil Chalabi, but was stopped at the outbreak of the Civil War in 1975 - have been revived and organised annually in the ancient site of the Roman hippodrome, featuring celebrated artists like singers Wadie El Safi, Demis Roussos, Kadim Al-Saher, Melhem Barakat, Majida El Roumi, and Julia Boutros.
In fact, El Roumi's father Halim el-Roumi was from the “Al Baradhy” family in Tyre and born there. For some time, he worked as a teacher at the Jafariya High School. As a radio chief, he discovered the singer Fairuz and composed music for he in a close collaboration. He later became director of the Lebanese Radio. In 2006, the "Centre de Lecture et d’Animation Culturelle" (C.L.A.C.) was opened by Tyre's municipality as the first public library of the city, with support from the Lebanese Ministry of Culture and the French Embassy in Beirut. It is located in the historical building of the "Beit Daoud" next to the "Beit El Medina" in the old town.
In 2014, the NGO Tiro Association for Arts rehabilitated the defunct cinema Al Hamra to establish the non-commercial Lebanese National Theater under the leadership of "Palestinian-Lebanese street theater performer, actor, comedian, and theater director" Kassem Istanbouli (*1986). It launched the Lebanese International Theater Festival, the Lebanese International Short Film Festival, the Tyre International Music Festival, the Palestinian Culture Festival and a number of other festivals. In 2018, the Istanbouli Theatre troupe rehabilitated and moved to the Rivoli Cinema, which had been closed since 1988. It also runs the "Mobile Peace Bus”, which is decorated with graffiti of Lebanese cultural icons, to promote arts in the villages of the neighbouring countryside. Istanbouli has argued:
“In Tyre, we have 400 shops for shisha, one library, and one theatre. But if there are places, people will come.”
In 2019, the film "Manara" (Arabic for lighthouse) by Lebanese director Zayn Alexander, who shot the movie at the Al Fanar resort in Tyre, won the Laguna Sud Award for Best Short Film at the Venice Days strand festival.
Jafariya High School was the first intermediate and secondary school in South Lebanon.
Collège Élite, a French international school, is in Tyre.
In August 2019, the 17-year-old Ismail Ajjawi - a Palestinian resident of Tyre and graduate of the UNRWA Deir Yassin High School in the El Bass refugee camp - made global headlines when he scored top-results to earn a scholarship to study at Harvard, but was deported upon arrival in Boston despite valid visa. He was readmitted ten days later to start his studies in time.
An accurate statistical accounting is not possible, since the government of Lebanon has released only rough estimates of population numbers since 1932. However, a 2016 calculation by UN HABITAT estimated a figure of 201,208 inhabitants, many of them refugees:
The city of Tyre has also become home to more than 60,000 Palestinian refugees who are mainly Sunni Muslim. As of June 2018, there were 12,281 registered persons in the Al Buss camp, 24,929 in Burj Al Shimali and 34,584 in Rashidie. In the ramshackle "gathering" of Jal Al Bahar next to the coastal highway, the number of residents was estimated to be around 2,500 in 2015.
In all camps, the number of refugees from Syria and Palestinian refugees from Syria increased in recent years. Tensions developed since these new arrivals would often accept work in the citrus and banana groves "for half the daily wage" that local Palestinian refugees used to earn.
The Lebanese nationality population of Tyre is a predominantly Shia Muslim with a small but noticeable Christian community. In 2010, it was estimated that Christians accounted for 15% of Tyre's population. In 2017, the Maronite Catholic Archeparchy of Tyre counted about 42,500 members. Most of them live in the mountains of Southern Lebanon, while there are just some 500 Maronites in Tyre itself. The Melkite Greek Catholic Archeparchy of Tyre - which not only covers the District of Tyre in the South Governorate but also neighbouring areas in the Nabatieh Governorate - registered 2,857 members in that year.
Many families in Tyre have relatives in the Western Africa diaspora, especially in Senegal, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ivoy Coast and Nigeria. In Senegal, they are "primarily second-, third-, and fourth-generation migrants, many of whom have never been to Lebanon."
The 2016 UN HABITAT profile found that
As of 2016, Olive trees were reported to comprise 38% of Tyre’s agricultural land, but producers lacked a collective marketing strategy. While Citrus reportedly comprised 25% of the agricultural land, 20% of its harvest ended up wasted.
Tyre houses one of the nation's major ports, though its cargo traffic is limited to the periodical import of used cars.
Lebanon's General Directorate of Land Registry and Cadastre (GDLRC) recorded for Tyre a 4.4 percent growth rate for land transcations between 2014 and 2018, the highest rate in the country during that period. This increase in real estate prices has been largely attributed to the inflow of remittances from diaspora Tyrians.
Twin towns – sister cities
Tyre is twinned with:
- Antipater of Tyre (1st century BCE), Stoic philosopher
- Apollonius of Tyre (philosopher) (c. 50 BCE), philosopher
- Belus King of Tyre in the Aeneid
- Ulpianus (late 2nd century BCE), Roman jurist
- Diodorus of Tyre (late 2nd century BCE), Peripatetic philosopher
- Dido, founder-heroine of Carthage
- Saint Christina of Tyre (3rd century CE) Martyr
- Hiram I, Biblical King of Tyre
- Porphyry, Neoplatonic philosopher and writer
- Pygmalion of Tyre, King of Tyre
- William of Tyre, (12th Century CE), historian and Archbishop of Tyre
- Abdel Hussein Sharafeddine, Shi'a reformer
- Musa Sadr, Shi'a leader
- Halim el-Roumi, singer and composer
- Ghazi Kahwaji, scenographer and writer
- Nabih Berri, leader of the Amal movement
- Resolution 459
- Lebanon's Archaeological Heritage Archived March 11, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
- Tyre City, Lebanon
- Maguire, Suzanne; Majzoub, Maya (2016). Osseiran, Tarek (ed.). "TYRE CITY PROFILE" (PDF). reliefweb. UN HABITAT Lebanon. pp. 39–43, 57, 72. Retrieved 29 October 2019.
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- Woodhouse, Robert (2004). "The Greek Prototypes of the City Names Sidon and Tyre: Evidence for Phonemically Distinct Initials in Proto-Semitic or for the History of Hebrew Vocalism?". Journal of the American Oriental Society. 124 (2): 237–248. doi:10.2307/4132213. JSTOR 4132213.
- Bikai, P., "The Land of Tyre", in Joukowsky, M., The Heritage of Tyre, 1992, chapter 2, p. 13
- "Tyre". Collins Dictionary. Retrieved 21 October 2019.
- Presutta, David. The Biblical Cosmos Versus Modern Cosmology. 2007, page 225, referencing: Katzenstein, H.J., The History of Tyre, 1973, p.9
- See Jidejian, Nina. Tyre Through the Ages, 1969, for further information about the history of Tyre and its present condition.
- 'Tyre' from Encyclopædia Britannica 11th ed.
- Historical references to Tyre
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|Library resources about |
- 360 Panorama of Tyre's Archeological Site
- Lebanon, the Cedars' Land: Tyre
- photo 2u
- Tyre entry in historical sourcebook by Mahlon H. Smith with picture of Tyrian silver shekel.
- Alexander's Siege of Tyre at Ancient History Encyclopedia by Grant Nell
- American University of Beirut (AUB) Museum team discovers first Phoenician Temple in Tyre; only complete one in Lebanon