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Tyre

Lebanon Travel Guide - August 17, 2013, 10h14
 Tyre Tyre Roman ruins and coastline lebanon.

The name of Tyre originally comes from the word «Sor», which means «rock» in Phoenician language. In fact, the city in located on a rock on the coast, 70 km approximately to the south of Beirut. In the Antiquity period, Tyre was divided into two parts: the first part was located on an island and the other part on the coast. Around 600 meters separated both parts that were linked with a sand strip. The origins of Tyre are not confirmed yet, but according to some archeologists, Tyre might have existed since the early third century BC (around -2750).

Following the excavations that were carried out in Tyre consecutively since 1861, a spot check was carried out on the soil of the island city center (it is believed that the first inhabitants of Tyre used to live on the island part of the city.) These spot checks showed many levels of foundation (Phoenician, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Arab and Franks…), the most ancient of which goes back to the first quarter of the third century. In the beginning of the second century, Tyre did not have a historical role in the region. The Egyptian texts mention Tyre as being a city having a strategic southern situation. It was only a small harbor serving as a port of call between the Egyptian coasts and Byblos. Starting the second half of the second century (during the period that extends between -1500 and -1100), Tyre benefited from its position as a strategic harbor to develop its trading and industrial activities (transparent glass industry in particular and purple extraction technique), thanks to its relationships with the other cities of the Levant.

However, it’s until the tenth century before Christ that Tyre reached its gold age. During this period, King Hiram I (who helped Salomon build the Jerusalem temple), ordered the construction of Melkart temple in Tyre, as well as two other ports: the port of Sidon in the north (used today) and the Egyptian port in the south (deserted since the Byzantine period). The Melkart temple has not been found yet; it is believed to exist under the cathedral of the Crusades where Phoenician remains have already been discovered.

During the period of the tenth century, Tyre witnessed remarkable commercial and cultural prosperity. It joined its neighbor Sidon (between the tenth and the ninth century before Christ). It had then a powerful commercial and military fleet, which made it subject to greed and enemies. It witnessed several invasions among which the Assyrian one at the end of the eighth century.

Sidon refused to cooperate with the Assyrians and parted from Tyre which led to a commercial and political weakening of both cities. However, the commercial activity of Tyre continued to develop until the arrival of Alexander the Great around 333 before Christ after his victory over the Persians. On the Phoenician coast, the cities chose to pacifically unite with him, except for Tyre which resisted him. In 332, Alexandre the Great imposed a 7-month siege upon Tyre. He succeeded in enlarging the sea wall, joining the insular city to the continent. Tyre was finally conquered by Alexander. After the death of this latter, Ptolemy I occupied Tyre as well as the other Phoenician cities. During the following centuries, the successive dynasties split during the conflicts which made them weak. Finally, in -64, Tyre became subject to the Roman domination.

During the Roman period, Tyre witnessed a remarkable urbanization. Many vestiges were left from this period and were subject to many rehabilitation works. Among these roman constructions is the Hippodrome considered one of the widest at that period, although unfortunately it wasn’t finished.

Roman road and columns in Tyre, Lebanon

What to See in Tyre?
Nowadays, Tyre (twin town with the French city Perpignan), continues to flourish in spite of its proximity with the South frontiers, in a region subject to regional conflicts. Many skyscrapers were erected in Tyre making its landscape lose some of its charm. In return, in the old city, one can contemplate the old houses as well as the traditional harbor activity.

The Necropolis
It extends on both sides of a large Roman road with colonnades, repaved during the roman period. On both sides of the roadway, you can contemplate as far as your eyes can reach, funeral monuments, which account to more than 300. There are also marble Roman sarcophagus decorated with pastoral delicate designs, sarcophaguses in the form of chapels (with niches that received dead people’s ashes or corps), vast tombs that resemble to small villas and other modest ones. Most of the tombs were violated in the Antiquity period, either to seize the funeral objects that they contained or to reuse them.

The Triumph Arch
Erected in the second century BC, with an altitude of 20 m, the Triumph Arch stretches over the roman road. It was composed of one principal and two secondary bays, under which there are pavements trimmed with columns. All over the roman road can be found vestiges of the old aqueduct.

Ruins of ancient Roman Triumphal Arch, Tyre, LebanonQana
Qana, isn’t it the name of the city of Galileo where, according to the Bible, Jesus Christ accomplished his first miracle? It is an open discussion.
In any case, one cannot enter the village without contemplating the valley Wadi Qana where the cliff contains many sculpted figurines. Specialists think that they go back to the Hellenistic period or to the beginning of the Roman period.

The Hippodrome
150 meters large and 480 meters high, the hippodrome is one of the most vast and most conserved places dating from the Roman period. Impressive by its beauty and its status, it is trimmed with stone steps that can cater for 30 000 people.

Excavations
Around an 11-meter large and 175-meter long road leading to the harbor, one can see the ruins of the roman city. The road is surrounded with a portico and 5-meter large pavements, as well as with columns considered among the biggest in the world (their diameter is more than one meter and they are more than 8 meters high.)

Registration in the Unesco
Given its historic richness, Tyre was registered in the Unesco World Heritage in 1984 based on the following criteria:
It “bears a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared.” “It is directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance.”
Tyre

Tags
#Heritage, #HistoricalSite
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