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

The Persian King Darius I History Persia introduced roads and coinage to the empire and trade flourished. Tyre became a powerhouse of commerce. Herodotus on his travels to Egypt writes about an entire quarter of Memphis assigned to the Tyrians:

Silver Siglos of Darius I through Xerxes

"The whole district hereabouts is known as the camp of the Tyrians, because the houses in the neighborhood are occupied by Phoenicians from Tyre. within the enclosure there is a temple dedicated to Aphrodite the Stranger." (Herodotus 2.112)

The Tyrians were also located in Jerusalem as Nehemiah objected to their commercial activities on the sabbath:

"Men of Tyre also, who lived in the city, brought in fish and all kinds of wares and sold them on the sabbath to the people of Judah, and in Jerusalem." (Nehemiah 13.16)

The Tyrians had also taken control of the Gold mines of Thasos according to Herodotus:

"These Phoenician mines lie between Coenyra and a place called Aenyra, on the south-eastern side of Thasos, facing Samothrace. A whole mountain has been turned upside down in the search of gold." (Herodotus 6.47)

The Ionian revolt against Persia interrupted the peace and spread to Caria and Cyprus. At the request of Darius the Phoenicians provided a fleet to put down the revolt. The Phoenicians lost the sea battle, but Darius won the land battle. This was the first military encounter between the Greeks and Phoenicians and there was a hatred between the two peoples as the Aegean Greeks challenged the Phoenicians for dominance of the sea.

Aegean Turtle Coin for international trade

In 494 BC, the Phoenician fleet of about 600 ships under Darius defeated the Ionians near the island of "Lade" and continued to conquer other Aegean islands. There was again a period of peace and profitable commerce, however Darius wanted to expand his empire and eyed Greece proper.

Tyre was the major naval support for the Persians throughout the Graeco-Persian wars. They lost a large number of ships in 492 BC when they were dashed against rocks off Mount Athos. After the death of Darius I came Xerxes who was determined to conquer Greece. The loss of the fleet at Athos convinced Xerxes that success depended on cutting a canal through the isthmus that joined Athos to the mainland. The first attempt failed, but the project was saved by the ingenuity of the Phoenicians.

The Phoenicians had a fleet of 300 ships at the battle of Salamis (480 BC).(ref 16) Tyre's engineers designed the bridge across the Hellespont. Greek - Persian war. After the defeat, Xerxes blamed the entire disaster on the Phoenicians and when some of their captains tried to offer an explanation they were executed on the spot. The remaining commanders deserted and the fleet sailed away.

Prince Matten (Mapen) son of Sirom (Hiram II?) of Tyre is included as one of the kings participating in the battle of Salamis in 480 BC.

After Salamis, the Athenian General "Cimon" pushed the Persians away from the Mediterranean coast. Cimon takes Aespendos, There is no indication of any Phoenician service to the Persians for the next 15 years. However, when the Athenians threatened the Phoenician colonies of Cyprus the Phoenician fleet took a stand and defending the island.

With the weakening of Persia, and with Athens engulfed with her own problems during the Peloponnesian wars, there was probably a shortage of Persian siglos and Athenian "owl" coins, so Tyre began to issue her own coins on the Phoenician standard "Shekel" (+/- 14 grams) in the 5th century BC. The first coins ((Betlyon series 1 & 2) have a dolphin (naval power) on the obverse and on the reverse an owl (similar to the familiar owl coinage of Athens) but posed in the Egyptian style with crook and flail, which represent Egyptian kingship some with a murex shell Dye Production. According to Betlyon these date from about 435 BC.

Shekel of Tyre with Dolphin and Owl 435 - 410 BC (note incuse around owl)

In 392 BC, Evagoras I (prince of Cyprus) seized power by putting to death the appointed head of state -Abdermon of Tyre. Athens sent a fleet to support Evagoras I and the King of Egypt sent him aid. Evagoras I took the city of Tyre (by assault or secret sympathy?) and he gained control of 20 Tyrian triremes.

Tetraobol of Evagoras I

In 390 BC, the obverse of the coins of Tyre is changed to show the Persian King/hero riding a mythical sea creature "Hypocamp" with bow in hand (some suggest this may be the god Ba'al or even Melkart, however there are none of the prerequisite symbols on the coin that would designate a god) . Early Tyre Coins. (Betlyon Series 3 on thick fabric). This series contains a lot of silver plated copper coins, maybe 60% or more, (called fouree). It may have been due to Evagoras I, who was unconcerned about the economic soundness of the Phoenician money and allowed the issue of these fourees or simply that Athens had cut off the supply of silver from Anatolia and the western Mediterranean to Persia/Phoenicia and these were an emergency issue. Of course it could have simply been crooks who were more bold under Evagoras I than under the Persian authority. In 387 BC at the peace of Antalcidas, Athens withdrew support from Evagoras I and he submitted to Persia. The Persians allowed Evagoras I to keep his crown. Tyre returned to Persian control.

After regaining control, Persia encouraged the Phoenicians to develop some type of organization. In response Aradus, Sidon and Tyre founded Tripoli (3 city). (ref 17) The name is appropriate as each of the three founding cities administered its own district. In Tripoli, a council was established to deliberate matters of importance to the Phoenician city-states. During this time, to separate the bad money from the new, Tyre resumed its usual high quality silver coinage with new denominational types and a bronze series.

Approximately 380 BC, the Persians had given-up most of their control of Phoenicia and there was a surge of nationalism amongst all the Phoenician states. Some of the coins of Tyre have the letter "mem" probably representing the name of the king possibly "Mattan" (II?). Later, the letter "bet" appears on the coins of Tyre which may indicate a change of rulers at this time or possibly stands for the powerful king of Sidon "Ba'lsallim II" who may have controlled both cities at the time.

Shekel of Tyre 390 - 377 BC with the letter "mem" ..... Dishekel of Sidon - Ba'lsallim II (386 - 372 BC)

After the Corinthian War (395 BC to 387 BC), the Athens dominated Athenian Alliance (377 BC) became the economic power throughout the Mediterranean.

Athens Owl coin for international commerce

In 377 BC, there appears to be a new king of Tyre (Betloyon series 4) because the coins have regal dates, which was a bold move by the Tyrians after Persia failed to recover Egypt in 375 BC and the revolts by various satraps throughout Asia Minor that followed. This king is only known by the abbreviation of his name the letter "zaiyin" on his coins of the last three years (11,12 &13). This king ruled for 13 years until 365/64 BC. .

Early Tyre Shekel w/ king/hero on Hypocamp and owl reverse thick fabric (377-364 BC) dated year 3 = 375 BC


During the next reign, Tyre's coins become more refined and of "Flatter" fabric. In 365/364 BC, Sidon revolted against Persia, which was put down by the Persians by 359 BC, what part Tyre played in this revolt is unknown, but there appears to be an interruption of Tyrian coinage for a few years.

Tyre Shekel of "Flat" Fabric 364 - 359 BC

In 357 BC, Tyrian minting privileges were returned and there is a surge of coin production, but this time on the Attic standard (8.6 gram didrachm or 17 gram Tetradrachm) rather than the shekel (14 grams). Greek craftsmen may have been brought to Tyre to improve the coinage. For three years 357 - 355 BC there is a new king of Tyre (Betlyon series 5) whose abbreviation is also "mem". This new king oversaw the change from the shekel standard to the Attic standard Tyre Didrachm. He was probably a puppet of Persia and the changing of standards could have only been done with the approval of Persia to help facilitate trade with the Greeks. The owl on these coins started to more resemble the Athenian owl rather than an Egyptian owl, indicating a change in trade priorities.

In 352 BC at the common council in Tripolis, the Phoenician cities declared independence from Persia. The same year the Sidonians revolted against Persian rule, expelled the Persian garrison, devastated the royal park and burned the Persian cavalry's stores of grain. The Sidonians formed an alliance with Egypt who sent 4000 Greek mercenaries to aid Sidon. The Persian king (Artaxerxes) collected a large army and arranged for naval support. Tyre did not strongly resist and fell quickly to Artaxerxes. The Sidonian King "Tennes", in return for his own safety, betrayed his people and handed the city over to the Persians. Rather than fall into the hands of the Persians; 40,000 citizens of Sidon barricaded themselves in their houses and set fire to themselves. The Persians later executed Tennes. The coins of this period (Betlyon 6th series) are poorly struck and often called "barbarous" probably because quality was sacrificed for wartime needs.

With the destruction of Sidon, Tyre was freed from competition for the next 20 years and prospered. The first two years were difficult for Tyre with rebuilding and Persian restrictions. However, the Macedonian threat was looming over Persia and Sidon was completely destroyed, so the Persians needed Tyre's full support and restrictions were lifted. In 347 BC, Tyre regained its ability/right to mint coins under their new king's "Uzzimilk" own name (Betlyon 7th series). Coins are dated (years 3 - 17) starting in 347 BC, beginning with the year 3 (III) of "Uzzimilk's reign the coins contain his abbreviation "o".


Tyre Didrachm 347 - 332 BC dated year 3 = 347 BC

This coinage continued until Tyre's defeat by Alexander the Great when they started producing coins of the Alexander type. Alexander Tetradrachm. Alexander Drachm.

When Alexander III (the Great) arrived, Tyre sent envoys. Alexander received the envoys with courtesy, but when they refused to allow him to enter their city (ostensibly to worship Hercules) he became angry. The Tyrians, confident in their walls (said to be 45 meters high) and support of Carthage decided to fight. The Tyrians murdered the envoys that had been sent by Alexander to offer terms of peace. The Tyrians felt safe - Alexander's navy was far away and so he could only reach the island by building a causeway. This was an enormous undertaking as the island was in deep water 5.5 meters near the walls and the wind brought a constant battering of waves against the shore. In addition, the Tyrians had a well equipped array of missiles that could be fired from the walls and a strong navy. His envoys having been murdered, Alexander had no choice and in 332 BC he besieged the city and began building a causeway using the rubble of the old mainland city. At first the Tyrians seemed to underestimate the threat and the causeway was well on its way before they began attacking the work by sea and sending raiding parties to attack the workers carrying the stones from the old ruined onshore city. Frustrated by the slow work, Alexander took a detachment of the army into Arabia. When Alexander returned, he found the causeway in ruins. The Tyrians had beached a "fire ship" into the work and destroyed two wooden towers that had been built to protect the soldiers as they worked. Alexander had the work started again building, into the wind, a causeway wide enough to have towers along the center. The Tyrians countered with new tactics; such as, sending divers to drag away the logs that supported the stones and soil. The turning point came when Alexander received a fleet consisting of 224 ships from various states ( including 80 from the other Phoenician cities and 120 from Cyprus) The Tyrians lost their superiority of the sea and began evacuating their wives and children (mainly to Carthage). In desperation, they even tried human sacrifice to their gods, however they continued to fight. A final navy engagement resulted in the loss of nearly all the Tyrian fleet and two days later Alexander led his main assault against the city and breached the walls. The Tyrians had held out against Alexander for 7 months. When he finally took the city he was so enraged that he destroyed half the city, massacred over 2000 inhabitants crucifying them along the wall and sold 20,000 into slavery. For their stance against Alexander the Great, Tyre lost its control of trade with the Black Sea through the Hellespont, which was transferred to Rhodes.

Tyrian ships battle Alexander's construction of a causeway to the city of Tyre.

After taking Tyre Alexander installed a new king a man named "Ballonymous" according to Diodonus this choice was made as follows:

Alexander requested his friend "Hephaestion" to nominate whoever he pleased to be king, Hephaestion wanted a citizen of Tyre who was not of royal blood, but the Tyrians suggested a poor member of the royal family - Hephaestion agreed and the Tyrians went after the man who was dressed in rags and working as a water carrier. Ballonymous was dressed in royal robes and named king of Tyre.

After Alexander's death, the empire was divided and Tyre was given to "Laomedon". Ptolemy I (given Egypt) did not agree with the distribution and he attacked Laomedon and took Phoenicia, which he held until 315 BC. Antigonus (given Turkey) was not satisfied with his territories and wanted control of all Asia. After successfully taking Babylon, Antigonus easily took the Phoenician cities except the strong walled city of Tyre (the city had recovered during the 18 years since the conquest by Alexander). Antigonus had few ships because Ptolemy had moved the Phoenician fleets and crews to Egypt. Antigonus camping near the ruined mainland city of Tyre called together all the kings of Phoenicia and viceroys of Syria demanding that they help him build ships and he established ship yards at Tripolis, Byblos and Sidon. Antigonus blockaded Alexander's causeway to Tyre, but still as long as Tyre had easy access to the sea it would be difficult to conquer. Eight thousand men were employed to cut and saw wood and one thousand men were employed to transport the wood to build a fleet. After a 15 month siege, Tyre succumbed to Antigonus and Ptolemy's garrison was allowed to leave. Antigonus's son "Demetrius" was put in charge of Tyre and he ruled until 287 BC. Starting in 305 BC, Demetrius began minting Alexander type coins in Tyre.

Alexander the Great Tetradrachm and Gold Stater Tyre mint under Demetrius Poliorcetes (son of Antigonus)

In 287/86 BC, Ptolemy I took control of Tyre. Ptolemy as Satrap. Ptolemy as King.

After being thrown out of Macedonian, Demetrius Poliocretes moved his Army to where he had his last remaining support, i.e. Phoenicia (Tyre). He was welcomed back and in 286/285 BC, using old obverse dies of Alexander the Great and new reverse dies with his own name, Demetrius Poliorcetes issued a rare coin series at Tyre.

Tetradrachm of the Alexander type but in the name of Demetrius (minted in Tyre 286 BC)

Ptolemy I quickly regained control of Tyre, and stripped it of much of its trade, as the Ptolemies established the city of Alexandria as the new trading center of the Eastern Mediterranean. The final blow came when Ptolemy II built the harbor of Berenice on the Red Sea, built a road with stations and watering places to Coptos and reopened the canal which joined the Pelusiac branch of the Nile to the Gulf of Suez, as trade between the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean via the Red Sea moved form Petra and the ports of Phoenicia to Alexandria so did the wealth that the trade generated. This new trade route benefited Alexandria under Ptolemy II. The coins minted at Tyre became of the Ptolemaic style with Ptolemy I's portrait and an eagle on the reverse, but with the addition of Melkart's (Hercules') club as a mint mark. In 219 BC, Antiochus III drove the Egyptians out of Seleucia and invaded Phoenicia taking Tyre - for a short time. At the battle of Raphia in 216 BC, Ptolemy IV successfully held Tyre by withstanding an advance by Antiochus III of the Selukid kingdom. Tyre passed back and forth between Seleucia and Egypt for next few years.

Ptolemaic Shekel of Ptolemy III with portrait of Ptolemy I (minted in Tyre)

Ptolemaic Tyre Coin set AE 15 -2.7 gm, AE 18 - 5.3 gm, AE 24 - 12.4 gm, AE 34 - 38.9 gm, AE 41 - 68.7 gm


In 202 BC, Antiochus III again attacked Tyre. In 200 BC after the boy king Ptolemy V's defeat at the battle of Panion the city was permanently lost to Antiochus III. Tyre was happy about being under the Seleucid kings as they expected to regain their trade position.

Shekel boy king Ptolemy V minted in Tyre and Tetradrachm of Antiochus III (great) minted in Tyre

During the Punic wars, Tyre naturally sympathized with their formal colony (Carthage). After Hannibal's defeat by the Romans in 200 BC, the exiled Hannibal was welcomed by Tyre (192 BC) with great honor. From Tyre Hannibal encouraged Antiochus III to war against Rome. Tyrian ships were among the ships that Antiochus III used to battle the Romans and Rhodians at Magnesia in 189 BC (Hannibal participated in this battle).

The Selukids started having serious problems after the defeats of Antiochus III. The Selukid's lost most of their northern territories to Pergamon with the help of the Romans in 190 BC. In addition, the Selukid's were constantly at war with the break away eastern provinces of Parthia and Baktria.

Under the Selukids the Tyrians were granted many privileges including the right to issue coins. They continued to produce coins with the Egyptian eagle, but changed the portrait of Ptolemy I to the portrait of the current Selukid king , Selukid king drachm.

Under Antiochus IV, the Selukids imposed Greek (Hellenic) culture on the empire. Tyre rapidly became Hellenized and Greek festivals, gymnastics, pageants and processions became regular parts of life in Tyre. In 175 BC, Antiochus IV personally attended an important Greek festival held in Tyre. In 172 BC, Antiochus IV set in judgment in the city of Tyre against the Jewish high priest "Menelaus", who was accused of plundering the "Temple" and selling some of the holy vessels to the Tyrians. "Menelaus" through bribery was acquitted.

Demetrious I with ships bow and Antiochus IV and Seleucus IV with ships stern

Shekel of Alexander I (Balas) minted in Tyre and Shekel of Demetrios II (1st reign) minted in Tyre

Interestingly under Antiochus VII, Tyre issued two types of coins "Shekels" for dealings with the East and Tetradrachms for dealing with the Greeks.

Tyre Shekel of Antiochus VII minted in Tyre and Tyre Tetradrachm of Antiochus VII minted in Tyre

After the defeat of the Selukid King Demetrios II (killed in the city of Tyre) by Alexander Zebina in 126/125 BC, Tyre gained semi-independence from the Selukids and started to issue its own coinage again.

Tyre Shekel of Demetrios II (2nd reign) minted in Tyre

The new coin was known as the Shekel of Tyre and was renowned throughout the ancient world for the quality of its silver and as such became the standard coinage for international transactions. The coin continued to have the Egyptian eagle reverse, but the portrait on the coin was changed to Tyre's supreme god Baal-Melkart (considered by the Greeks and Romans to be Hercules). A permanent fire burned in his temple. The Shekel of Tyre was the only coin accepted by the Jewish temple in Jerusalem for payment of the temple tax and as such was probably the coins of the "30 pieces of silver" that Judas was paid for betraying Jesus ref 20 - Mathrew 26 14-16.


Shekel of Tyre the most likely coin type paid to Judas "30 pieces of silver"

The weakness and civil wars of the Seleucid kings Philodelphos gradually brought about an end to their rule. In 83 BC, "Tigranes" (king of Armenia) was invited to govern the country. Tyre was under Tigranes from 83 BC until 69 BC at which time the Romans intervened militarily in the Near East.

PAGE 1 Ancient before coinage

PAGE 3 Roman and later with coinage