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Panoramic Views > South > Tyre > Monuments

The monuments of Tyre, Monumental Archway and Hippodrome of Tyre

Most of what remains of ancient Tyre dates from the time of the Roman Empire. But it would be wrong to think that Tyre was no more than a Roman colony. From earliest Phoenician times, Tyre was one of the busiest centers on the coast of the levant Early in the third millennium BC a settlement was formed on a group of rocky islands. This settlement became so prosperous that the Phoenician king Hiram was able to put men and resources to work to drain the lagoons that separated the islands and form one solid land area. It was at this time that Solomon was building his mighty temple in Jerusalem, and Solomon wrote to Hiram asking for the loan of his architects and masons. Solomon was eager that his temple to Jehovah should rival in magnificence the temple that had already been built and dedicated to the God Melkart in Tyre.

This temple to Melkart was by no means the only object of admiration and wonder in ancient Tyre. Tyrian commerce and industry was well-known all over the Mediterranean and beyond. To quote the Bible, "Your empire exceeds the oceans, and you carry your trade into the distant islands." Carthage, in North Africa, was founded by people from Tyre, and would later offer a serious threat to Rome for mastery of the world, Hannibal was Carthaginian, and Tyrian ships traded with Marseille, with Cadiz, and beyond.

The Bible also mentions Tyre's industry. "By the abundance of your riches, you have enriched the kings of the earth." Robes of Tyrian purple adorned kings and emperors. Glass from Tyre was superior to anything that even the Romans could produce. But Tyre knew the anger of Jehovah. "Behold, says the Lord, I am exceeding wroth with thee, O Tyre. And I shall cause nations to rise up against thee, even as the sea doth cause to rise up waves."

Tyre was a stronghold. Despite Jehovah's angry words, Tyre was able to withstand all attacks. To do this, she needed the advantage of a strategic position, well constructed defenses, and ingenious and courageous men. All of these, Tyre had. For thirteen years, long after the rest of ancient Phoenicia had surrendered or succumbed, Tyre held out against the invading armies of Nebuchadnezzar and his Assyrians. Tyre finally surrendered to Alexander the Great in the year 332 AD and then only after seven months of siege, during which Alexander was forced to construct a great mole to join the city with the mainland.

Tyre was the only city to dare to hold out against the young conqueror, and she paid dearly for her courage: for those of her people who were not killed during the fighting were crucified at the city gates after the final surrender.

Tyre ultimately became a part of the Roman Empire, and it is the remains of this period that are the most easily visible today. There is a massive Roman and Byzantine necropolis, full of sculptured marble sarcophagi. Many of these bear base-relief scenes from the Odyssey or from the story of Phaedra. To the South of the necropolis there is a vast hippodrome, one of the largest and best-known in Roman times. A good part of the grandstand still survives intact. The town itself was built inland from the Egyptian port (much of which has sadly since disappeared under the waves: but the water is very shallow and the enterprising swimmer can see much with a mask and snorkel). There is a single main street with columns, marble pavement, porticos and baths, as well as a market-place and theatre, which was used as the site for a five-yearly equivalent of the Olympic games.

But the ruins are by no means all Roman. There is a cathedral dating from Crusader times. As with many of their buildings, the Crusaders were not at liberty to travel far for buildings materials, and they used what they found on the spot. The cathedral at Tyre is constructed very largely of pink granite columns which had been brought over from Aswan centuries before. And it is under this cathedral, or very close to it, that archeologists hope to find the ruins of the temple of Melkart.

- The monuments of Tyre: >> View Movie << (2002-05-01)
- Monumental Archway: >> View Movie << (2002-05-01)
- Hippodrome of Tyre: >> View Movie << (2002-05-01)
- Al Bass Archaeological site: >> View Movie << (2017-05-01)
 

 


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