PAGE 1 Ancient before coinage -this page Gallery Photos of Ruins of Tyre
PAGE 2 Greek with coinage Mythology and Religion
PAGE 3 Roman and later with coinage Written references to Tyre

Tyre (Greek/Roman); Dr (Egyptian); Sor (Hebrew); Surry (Babylnian); Sur (Arabic); or Sr (Sematic)

During ancient times, Tyre was the most important metropolis in the area of the world known by the ancients as "Phoenicia" from Greek for the color purple-red. Dye Production. Due to the production of the very expensive royal purple dye from the Murex (a sea snail) that was produced in the area (1 gram of the dye was worth 20 grams of gold). Although they accepted the name, the various cities of the area never formed an alliance and probably called themselves Canaanites. For convenience historians usually define Canaanites as the people of the "Bronze Age" before 1200 BC and Phoenicians as the people of the "Iron age" after 1200 BC. The Romans called the lands Punic from the Roman word for purple (Puniceus).

Tyre is one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world. Located in what is now southern Lebanon the city was at the crossroads where the various great civilizations of Greece, Mesopotamia, and Egypt collided. As such, Tyre was under the dominion of various great civilizations, but unlike its southern neighbor "Israel" it seldom rebelled and prospered regardless of the dominate power. Genetic/DNA studies indicate that through all the conquests the people are still the same i.e., Canaanites > Phoenician > Lebanese.

There are various speculations as to where the people originated and controversy as to which of the coastal cities (Byblos, Sidon or Tyre) is older. Egyptian text would indicate Byblos History of Byblos (the biblical city of Gebal and modern day Jebal (famous for the Cedars of Lebanon and rich from it's trade with ancient Egypt) and there are claims by Sidon of establishing Tyre and of Tyre establishing Sidon; regardless, archeology indicates all three cities date back to the third millennium as fishing villages and what we define as Phoenician culture developed in place. Through thousands of years of history each of the Phoenicia cities rose and fell and may have been re-established by the other.

"Tyre" means the rock based on the foundation myth that an "oracle" instructed the first men on earth to build a ship and land on floating rocks, designated as "ambrosial rocks", on which grew an olive tree harboring an eagle and a serpent and enveloped by a fire that did not consume its branches. They were to then capture and sacrifice the eagle. The first men carried out the instruction, then the floating rocks became fixed and "Tyre" was founded. As such, the citizens of "Tyre" considered themselves amongst the original people of earth.

Reverse of coin of Gordian III showing Ambrosial rocks and olive tree from the foundation myth.

Tyre is called the city whose "Antiquity is of Ancient days" by the prophet Isaiah ref 4 - Isaiah 23:7). Herodotus (writing in the 5th century BC) reports that the priests of Melquart told him that the city of Tyre was founded in 2750 BC, which agrees with the archeological evidence.

By 2350 BC, the Phoenicians had sailed out of the Mediterranean through the "Pillars of Hercules" and found sources of Tin. This was so important that they named the area "Barra Tannica" (land of tin) = Brittany = Britain. The introduction of Tin advanced the Mediterranean world to the "Bronze Age". This was so important that the Phoenicians made every effort (including sinking their on ships, if followed) to keep other sea-faring people from the source and thus maintained power for over 1000 years.

By the 12th Dynasty of Egypt (1991 BC) there was already trade between Tyre and Egypt. The first written reference to the city is an Egyptian text dating from 1780 - 1750 BC.(ref 2)

Tyre was part of Canaan, which between about 2000 BC until 1200 BC was made up of independent city-states that paid tribute of goods and workers for royal projects to Egypt. Tyre became rich through its extensive trade in timber with Egypt and in turn relied on the Pharaoh's protection.

Around 1600 B.C. the Phoenicians invented 22 ‘magic signs’ called the alphabet, and passed them onto the world. The Phoenicians gave the alphabet to the Greeks who adopted it; the Phoenician Alphabet eventually evolved to the Latin letters of present-day. Description of the Phoenician Alphabet.

According to Greek Legend during the time of Hero's about 1400 BC (200 years before the Trojan war). The Phoenicians founded Europe.

"Europa" was a princess from "Tyre", daughter of king "Agenor", who was abducted to Crete by Zeus. Her father sent her brothers to the continent that now bears her name with orders not to return without Europa. The brothers were unsuccessful in their search so they could not return to Tyre and instead they settled and founded cities throughout Europe. The most famous of the brothers is Cadmus who founded Thebes and who the Greeks believed brought the first alphabet to Greece. Europa remained in Crete and was the mother of King Minos of Crete, King Rhadamanthus of Cyclades and Prince Sarpedon of Lycia. Tyre mythology.

Reverse of coin of Gallienus showing Cadmus fighting the serpent (dragon)

In the Tell el-Amarna tablets Amarna Tablets to Pharaoh Akhenaton (1378 - 1365), it is recorded that the King of Tyre (Abi-Miliki) is struggling against a Hittite inspired insurrection and as such makes multiple request for assistance The final outcome is not clear, but there are indications that "Tyre" and other Syrian cities renounced their loyalty to Egypt. Under Seti I (1302 - 1290 BC);. Seti battled the Hittites and regained Canaan, Palestine and South Syria, Tyre (Dr) is inclued on a list of the cities conquered by Seti I. Ramsis II tried to extend this conquest, but after the battle of Kadesh the boundaries between Egypt and the Hittites were firmly established.

Mythological King of Tyre +/- 1400 BC ((200 years before the fall of Troy) King Agenor

First recorded King of Tyre Abi-Miliki (+/- 1365 - 1358 BC)

About 1230 BC, there is an Egyptian reference to sending a dispatch to the Prince of Tyre "Baal-Termeg".(ref 5)

In the 13th century BC, Lycians (sea people) were driven out of their homeland by Phrygians and Armenians and settled in Cyprus. From Cyprus they unsuccessfully attacked Egypt twice once in 1232 BC and again in 1183 BC. After their defeats, they moved into Canaan - one group being the Philistines. Other refuges from Lycia moved overland into Syria and Canaan destroying many Canaanite cities but not Tyre, (ref 3 & 4) During this period Tyre seems to have collapsed because according to Justin (writing in the 3rd century AD) Tyre was founded by Sidon, which after being defeated by the King of Ascalon, the Sidonians set sail and settled in Tyre - one year before the fall of Troy.(+/- 1200 BC) and according to Josephus (writing 1st century AD) Tyre was founded 240 years before the building of the the temple of Jerusalem (974 - 934 BC) which agrees with the date of +/- 1200 BC for a refounding of the city of Tyre and coincides with the time of the attacks of the sea people. The sea people were barbarian pillagers not settlers or conquerors, they had iron (steel) weapons and so were able to wreak havoc with the bronze age people. This heralded the beginner of the first dark ages (Greek)(12th century - 8th century BC) and the end of the bronze age and the beginning of the iron age.

After the Exodus (+/- 1200 BC), the Israelites conquered the cities of Canaan, which had been significantly weakened by the sea people. Tyre along with the other allied kingdoms of northern Canaan fell to Joshua at the battle by the waters of Merom. ref 5 - Joshua 11:5-8) Joshua called Tyre "the Strong city" (ref 6 -Joshua 19:29). This is a good description since the city was located on two islands about 600 meters from the mainland and had steep walls ascending from the very edge of the sea. On the mainland was an independent city called Ushu, which later became a suburb of the island city.


Tyre is frequently mentioned in the Bible. Between +/-1200 BC and 1020 BC, Canaan was divided between the 12 tribes of Israel - Tyre was included in the northern most territory and was part of the territories of the tribe of "Asher" (ref 6 - Joshua 19:29-31). Israel was under Philistine oppression starting about 1095 BC. Between 1030 BC and 1010 BC, Saul and David battled the Philistines. During this time, northern Canaan including Tyre broke away from Israel and henceforth the area was known as Phoenicia to differentiate it from southern Canaan "Philistine" and central Canaan "Israel" or "Judea".


During the time of David and Solomon (1010 BC - 925 BC), Hiram I was the king of Tyre. Solomon asked Hiram to build Solomon's temple and to use special woods such as Cedar and Juniper and the best craftsmen saying to set his own wages.(ref 7 - Samual II 5:-11-12 & Kings I:1-11) Hiram I was a good choice since he was responsible for the construction of temples dedicated to "Ba' al Melkart" (the patron God of Tyre). The temple of Jerusalem was built to the Phoenician pattern with two large columns named Jachin and Boaz - the same names as the temple of Melkart in Tyre. Good relations between Tyre and Israel benefited both parties. Tyre being an island nation lacked agricultural land, fresh water and fuel. Israel supplied food to Tyre (ref 14 - Acts 12:20) while Israel made use of Tyre's sea trade routes and timber. At a royal wedding of the son of David, the Phoenicians "daughters of Tyre" are described as the men of wealth who bring gifts to the bride. Later as Solomon's empire grew, he needed Tyrian ship building technology and men for his fleet (ref 11 - Kings I 9:26-28). Solomon became deeply indebted to Hiram I and gave him 20 towns in Galilee. Hiram I was not happy with the towns and complained to Solomon that they were worthless (ref 10 - Kings I 9:10-15). Later it is recorded that Solomon rebuilt the cities of Galilee (ref 9 - Chronicles II 8:2), so either Hiram I refused to accept the cities or he returned them after Solomon paid his debt. Hiram's greatest achievement was to join the two islands and reclaim a large area of land from the sea. Exerts from the bible gives us a fairly complete list of the early kings of Tyre, as follows:

Early 10th century (+/- 1000 - 970 BC) Abi-Baal ruled Tyre (Father of Hiram according to Josephus)

969 BC Hiram I becomes king of Tyre and rules for 34 years

935 BC Hiram I dies and is succeeded by his son Beleazarus, who rules for 7 years

928 BC Beleazarus dies and is succeeded by his son Abdastartus, who rules for 9 years.

919 BC Abdastartus is slain in a coup led by his 4 sons and their nurse, eldest son Deleastartus becomes king.

907 BC Deleastartus dies and his son Astartus becomes king, who rules for 12 years.

895 BC Asermymus the brother of Astartus becomes king, who rules for 9 years.

887 BC +/- Asermymus is killed by his brother Pheles, who rules for only 8 months.

887 BC +/- Ethbaal, priest of Melkart, overthrows Pheles and becomes King of Tyre, who rules for 32 years.

In 877 BC, Ashurnasirpal II of Assyria moved on Phoenicia destroying cities that resisted. Tyre became a vassal state and paid tribute (ref 6), but was only nominally subjected to Assyrian control.

Between 887 BC to 856 BC, Israel's King Ahab married Jezebel the daughter of the Tyrian king Ethbaal who introduced the cult of the Phoenician gods Baal and Ashtoreth (Astarte) to Israel (ref 12 - Kings II 16:29-31). During this period the prophet Elijah practically fought a one man battle to keep all of Israel from accepting Baal as their god. Religious persecutions shook Israel, Jezebel was responsible for killing many priests and Elijah retaliated by putting to death priests of Baal . King Ahab and most of his people still showed a preference for the gods of Jezebel. During this time Tyre must have controlled Sidon because the bible refers to "Ethbaal of the Sidonians". According to Josephus Tyre colonized Botrys in Phoenicia and Auza in Libya and some speculate that much of Phoenicia may have come under Tyrian control. The rule of Ethbaal marked a new golden age for Tyre. Tyre's growing international power and trade demanded an expansion in her harbors. Jezebel was killed in 841 BC. After this time the relationship between Tyre and Israel turns negative and Tyre is counted as one of Israel's enemies, with much biblical envy of its wealth and prophesy of its destruction (ref 2 & 3 - Ezekiel 26,28 & 29). The Biblical king list of Tyre is no longer complete after this time.

856 - 850 BC Ethbaal dies and is succeeded by his son Badezorus (Baalazzor I), who rules for 6 years.

850 BC - 821 BC King Mutto (Matten I) of Tyre (according to Josephus)

821 BC - 774 BC Pygmalion was king of Tyre (according to the legend of the founding of Carthage)

Between 854 BC and 824 BC, Ashurnasirpa II's son (King of Assyria) fearing uprisings reversed his father's policy of benign neglect and undertook nearly continuous campaigns against Damascus, Hamath and the 12 kings from the seacoast (Tyre is one of the 12 kings). In 837 BC, Shalmaneser III marched against Damascus and received tribute from Tyre.(ref 7) An inscription on a bronze gate shows Tyre as a fortified island city and says "I received the tribute brought in ships from the inhabitants of Tyre and Sidon..."

There is no indication that Tyre resented (ref 8) Assyrian dominance and probably liked strong control as trade flourished. Tyre became the leading naval power of the world. Tyrians traveled the known world, setting up trading posts and industries to utilize local resources. They probably controlled Cyrpus. Tyrians founded the city of Cadiz and many other smaller towns.(ref 10 & 15)

Elissa (Dido) the elder sister of King Pygmalion of Tyre establish Carthage in 814 BC. History of Carthage.

According to legend Dido was the daughter of King Mutto of Tyre, sister of Pygmalion, and married to the very wealthy Sichaeus. When Pygmalion became king, he coveted Sichaeus's wealth and had him put to death. Dido along with a large group of friends (both male and female) with all the treasure of Sichaeus escaped from Tyre in several vessels. Upon arriving at their selected new home (Carthage), they asked the natives for only the amount of land that could be enclosed by a bull's hide. This was readily granted by the natives. Dido had a bull's hide cut into extremely fine strips, with which she was able to enclose a sizeable piece of property. She had the citadel "Byrsa" (hide) built; around which arose the city of Carthage.

Reverse of Coin of Gallienus showing Dido supervising the building of Carthage

In 738 BC, Ethbaal II (king of Tyre) is recorded to have paid tribute to Tiglath-Pilesser III (774 - 727 BC) of Syria.(ref 9) During this time it appears that Tyre controlled Cyprus. In 724 BC, the Assyrians under Shamaneser V arranged with the other Phoenician cites for three score ships and eight hundred men to take Tyre, but they were defeated by 12 Tyrian ships (the Tyrians captured 500 men). Shamaneser V then besieged the city putting guards at all the rivers and aqueducts to stop the Tyrians from getting water, however the Tyrians had water from their wells. The siege was lifted in 720 BC, after Tyre surrendered the mainland city to Sargon II (720 - 705 BC) of Assyria and agreed to pay tribute.(ref 11) The Assyrians took Israel in 721 BC and Egypt in 720 BC. In 705 BC upon the death of Sargon II, Tyre stopped paying tribute to the Assyrians and were again besieged by Sargon II successor Sennacherib (704 - 681 BC). By 701 BC, the Assyrians had taken all the cities of Phonecia except the island stronghold of Tyre, which held out for 5 years, but again they lost the mainland city.(ref 12) The king of Tyre (Elulaeus) escaped to Cyprus and was replaced by a loyal vassal of Assyria. Upon accession to the throne of Assyria Esarshadden (680 BC - 669 BC), King Abdimilkutte of Sidon revolted and Esarhaddon destroyed Sidon, executed their king Abdimilkutte and transported the inhabitants of Sidon to Assyria to do forced labor. At this time Esarshadden, for services rendered by the Tyrians, signed a treaty that concedes much of the Phoenician coast to king Ba'lu of Tyre, but it appears that Ba'lu violates the treaty (ref 13) and forms an alliance with "Taharga" Pharaoh of Egypt. In 672 BC, Tyre is again besieged by Esarshaddon, but is not taken; however the mainland city is conquered and its inhabitants killed. Tyre withstood yet another siege in 668/667BC by Ashurbanipal (668 - 633 BC), (ref 14) Tyre surrenders to Ashurbanipal in 663 BC and the King of Tyre Ba'lu surrenders princesses and his son "Iahimilki" as a hostage. The princesses of Tyre were admitted to the royal Assyrian household (probably hostages, but they did come with dowries), but the prince is returned. The king list of Tyre becomes very shaky, based on bits of Assyrian history we get some idea of the Kings of Tyre:

750 - 744 BC Ithobaal II

+/- 744 - 739 BC BC Metenna (Matten II) of Tyre (King?) pays tribute of 150 talents of Gold to king Tiglath-Pileser III.

+/- 739 - 730 BC Hiram (II?)King of Sidonians/Tyre makes donation to Ba'al in Cyprus and pays tribute to Tiglath-Pileser III.

729 - 694 BC Elulaeus (Pylas) King of Tyre flees to Cyprus he ruled for 36 years.

680 - 640 BC in 669 BC King Ba'lu of Tyre signs a treaty with Assyria and in 663 BC and 640 BC he is defeated.

Despite all the battles for tribute, Tyre generally benefited from trade relations with the Assyrian Empire. After Ashurbanipal's reign Assyria fell into disarray and their capital city of Nineveh fell in 612 BC to the Scythians. With the fall of Assyria, the Phoenician city states were freed of paying tribute and they flourished. This is the period described by Ezekiel (ref 1 - Ezekiel 27 regarding the prosperity of Tyre before Nebuchadnezzar.

In 605 BC, Assyrian rule was brought to an end by the Babylonian victory at Carchemish. and Tyre technically became a vassal state of Babylon. Tyre, Sidon, Judah, Edom, Ammon and Moab are recorded as plotting against Nebuchadnezzar, but no coordinated strategy seems to have come from the meeting. In 586 BC, Nebuchadnezzar took Jerusalem and exiled the Jews to Babylon. Tyre withstood a siege by Nebuchadnezzar for 13 years between 586 and 573 BC and their courage, bravery, and tenacity were admired throughout the ancient world. In 573 BC, Nebuchadnezzar took the mainland city of Tyre, however everything of value had been removed to the island. Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the mainland city and the Tyrians never returned to the mainland. Egypt fell to Babylon in 572 BC (ref 3 - Ezekiel 26-29). Nebuchadnezzar restored Babylon and built the famous Hanging Gardens (one of the seven wonders of the world). It is assumed that Nebuchadnezzar never actual took the island city of Tyre, but received a nominal submission to the rule of Babylon and the king and royal family of Tyre were deported to Babylon, however the city remained semi-independent. It appears that there may have been a revolution in the city of Tyre (before or after the departure of the royal family?) and a new government by a council of Judges (similar to Carthage) took control.

After 13 years of siege Tyre's economy was ruined and the rise of Babylon effectively ended much of the cities trade links to the East and the city began to decline. Babylon made "Sidon" the main Phoenician city. Shortly thereafter Tyre's largest colonies (Carthage and Kitton) declared independence. After being ruled by several judges a delegation from Tyre goes to Babylon and requests the return of their hostage king "Merbaal" who returns as king of Tyre and rules for 4 years. At his death, another delegation is sent to Babylon and returns with "Merbaal's" son "Hiram who reigns for 20 years. We continue to get hints of the Kings of Tyre via Babylonian history as follows:

<605 BC - 577 BC in 605 BC the Phoenician kings including "Ithobaal" ("Ethbaal) of Tyre formed an alliance against Nebuchadnezzar and he was the ruler during the 13 year siege.

577 - 567 BC Ithobaal was followed by his son "Baal II" who ruled for 10 years

573 BC (voluntary or revolt?) the king of Tyre is sent to Babylon as a hostage and the city of Tyre is ruled by a series of Judges including: Eknibaal (567 BC), Chelbes (566 BC), Abbar (566 - 565 BC), Matten & Gerastratus (565 - 559 BC) and Baalator (559 - 558 BC).

558 - 554 BC the Tyrians request Babylon to return their king "Merbaal" who than rules for 4 years until his death

554 BC - +/- 534 BC Merbaal dies and a second delegation is sent to Babylon to bring back his son "Hiram III" who rules for 20 years until the time of Cyrus

Babylon fell to Cyrus the Great of Persia in 539 BC and the Jews and other displaced persons were freed to return to their homelands. Tyre accepted the rule of Cyrus of Persia and becomes a Persian vassal state for the next two centuries. Phoenicia, including Tyre, was part of the 5th Persian Satrapy, which ran from Egypt in the south to Cilicia in the north. History of Persia. Cyrus the Great took little interest in his vassal cities as long as their tribute was paid (350 talents for the 5th Satrapy according to Herodotus).

During the reign of Cambyses (529 - 521 BC), Egypt revolted and Tyre lost Cyprus to Egypt. Persia needed Egypt to control the Eastern Mediterranean, but had no fleet, so they granted Phoenicia semi-independence under their own kings in return for use of the Phoenician fleet. The Phoenicians were treated as allies not vassals. However, when the the Persian king wanted to invade Carthage "Tyre" refused to war against their colony and the expedition was abandoned - as Herodotus wrote without "Tyre" the fleet was too weak. Herodotus applauds Phoenicia's autonomy during this period.

"Justin" makes a reference to the kings of this period, he says that there was a slave rebellion. The slaves killed their masters and the citizens of the city seized the government, however one slave pitied his master (Straton and his son) and spared their lives. To select a new king the slaves decided to crown the man who first saw the sunlight. As the citizens stared to the East, Straton looked to the high buildings of the city to the West and thus saw the reflected sunlight, so he won the crown and was succeeded by his son and grandson.

Although the story of the slave rebellion does not seem to fit any other historical account the Kings of Tyre between 534 and 480 BC may have been King Straton, his son and grandson according to the story told by Justin.

During the reign of Darius I (521 BC - 486 BC) the Persian empire was connected by a system of roads, which encouraged trade and must have benefited Tyre.

During the later part of the reign of Darius coinage was introduced to the Persian empire starting a new standard in Trade.

PAGE 2 Greek with coinage

PAGE 3 Roman and Later with coinage