Tyre (Arabic صور Ṣūr, Phoenician Ṣur, Hebrew צור Tzor, Tiberian Hebrew צר Ṣōr, Akkadian Ṣurru, Greek Τύρος Týros, Sur) is a city in the South Governorate of Lebanon. There were approximately 117,000 inhabitants in 2003, however, the government of Lebanon has released only rough estimates of population numbers since 1932, so an accurate statistical accounting is not possible. Tyre juts out from the coast of the Mediterranean Sea and it is located about 80 km (50 mi) south of Beirut. The name of the city means "rock" . The adjective for Tyre is Tyrian, and the inhabitants are Tyrians.
Tyre is an ancient Phoenician city and the legendary birthplace of Europa and Elissa (Dido). Today it is the fourth largest city in Lebanon and houses one of the nation's major ports known locally in French as Soûr. Tyre is a popular destination for tourists. The city has many ancient sites, including its Roman Hippodrome which was added to UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites in 1979 (Resolution 459).
"The location of the city of Tyre is not in doubt, for it exists to this day on the same spot and is known as Sur." This can be misleading since ancient Tyre was located on the mainland and on an island just off the coast. Modern day Sur is located between the two on the causeway that was created in the destruction of the mainland site of ancient Tyre. Tyre originally consisted of two distinct urban centers, one on an island and the other on the adjacent coast, before Alexander the Great connected the island to the coast during his siege of the city. One was a heavily fortified island city amidst the sea (with defensive walls 150 feet high) and the latter, originally called Ushu (later, Palaetyrus, by the 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 even records them fighting against each other , although most of the time they supported one another due to the island city’s wealth from maritime trade and the mainland area’s source of timber, water and burial grounds.
Amarna letters Tyre, of 1350 BC has a body of letters-(9, detailed) from the mayor: Abi-Milku written to Akenaten. The subject is often water, wood, and the Habiru overtaking the countryside, of the mainland, and how it affected the island-city.
The commerce of the ancient world was gathered into the warehouses of Tyre. "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) In the time of King David (c. 1000 BC), a friendly alliance was entered into between the Kingdoms of Israel and Tyre, which was ruled by Hiram I. The city of Tyre was particularly known for the production of a rare and extraordinarily expensive sort of purple dye, produced from the murex shellfish, known as Tyrian purple. This color was, in many cultures of ancient times, reserved for the use of royalty, or at least nobility.
It was often attacked by Egypt, besieged by Shalmaneser V, who was assisted by the Phoenicians of the mainland, for five years, and by Nebuchadnezzar (586–573 BC) for thirteen years, without success, although a compromise peace was made in which Tyre paid tribute to the Babylonians. It later fell under the power of the Persians.
In 332 BC, the city was conquered by Alexander the Great, after a siege of seven months in which he built the causeway from the mainland to the island, but it continued to maintain much of its commercial importance until the Christian era. The presence of the causeway affected water currents nearby, causing sediment to build up, making the connection permanent.
After a first failed siege in 1111, it was captured by the Crusaders in 1124, becoming one of the most important cities of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. It was part of the royal domain, although there were also autonomous trading colonies there for the Italian merchant cities. The city was the site of the archbishop of Tyre, 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.
After the reconquest of Acre by King Richard on July 12th, 1191, the seat of the kingdom moved there, but coronations were held in Tyre. In the 13th century, Tyre was separated from the royal domain as a separate crusader lordship. In 1291, it was retaken by the Mameluks which then was followed by Ottoman rule before the modern state of Lebanon was declared in 1920.
Tyre was badly damaged in the late 1970s (Operation Litani) and early 1980s (1982 Lebanon War) during the war between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). The city was used as a base by the PLO, and was nearly destroyed by Israeli artillery. After Israel's 1982 invasion of southern Lebanon, the city was the site of an Israeli military post. In late 1982, and again on November 1983, buildings housing Israeli headquarters were destroyed by bombs, causing dozens of deaths in both cases and known in Israel as the First and Second Tyre Catastrophes. The 1983 explosion, by a suicide truck, happened only 10 days after similar car bombs exploded in the US Marines and French paratroop barracks in Beirut. Israel and the US blame Iran and Hezbollah for all explosions, but they have denied any involvement.
During the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict, 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. Israeli naval commandos also raided Hezbollah targets within the city.
Today, Tyre is a predominantly Shi'a Muslim city with a small but noticeable Christian community. The Amal Movement and Hezbollah are the most popular parties, representing all of the Shi'a seats in the city as of the 2005 elections.
In nineteenth century Britain, Tyre was several times taken as an exemplar of the mortality of great power and status - both by John Ruskin in the opening lines of The Stones of Venice, and by Rudyard Kipling's 'Recessional'. Oscar Wilde referred to Tyre in his poetry: "...my tyrian galley waits for thee, come down the purple sail is spread..." The children's writer E. Nesbit devotes a chapter to Tyre in The Story of the Amulet. The third verse of Bob Dylan's Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands begins "The kings of Tyrus with their convict list / Are waiting in line for their geranium kiss".
The Old Testament makes other references to Tyre. In the Book of Ezekiel, Ezekiel is told to prophesy about Tyre's demise. The Old Testament also mentions some cultural facts on Tyre during that time.