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

After the Roman victory at the battle of Magnesia in 189 BC, the Romans were virtual rulers of the Near East, however they allowed the Seleucid kings general autonomy and freedom to fight among themselves. Eventually, weary of civil wars and general instability the various leaders in 83 BC appealed to Tigranes of Armenia to step in to restore order. Tigranes sided with Mithridates VI in the war against Roman rule and for this offense the Roman general Lucullus compelled Tigranes to relinquish Syria and Phoenicia in 64 BC. Pompey succeeded Lucullus in the Asiatic command and he revised the political divisions of the Near East and included Phoenicia in the Roman province of "Syria". Pompey than proceeded to bring the war to Tigranes in Armenia. Pompey sent Marcus Aemilius Scaurus to handle affairs in Syria. Scaurus went to Damascus where he received various delegates of the regions. A decree found at Tyre dating from about 60 BC indicates that Scaurus helped to arrange that Tyre retain the privilege of a free city in return for a large bribe.

The first formal contact between Tyre and the Romans was when Pompey's wife and children sought sanctuary in the city during the civil war between Pompey and Caesar . When Caesar arrived in 48 BC, he sacked the temple of Melquart, claiming it was due to their support for Pompey, but in reality he needed the money to meet military expenditures.

After the battle of Pharsalus between Caesar and Pompey, Caecilius Bassus, who had fought with Pompey fled to Tyre and persuaded some of the citizens and soldiers to join him in a revolt in favor of Pompey while Caesar was engaged in his African wars. Bassus and his supporters seized Tyre. "Sextus", who had been appointed by Caesar to rule Syria was put to death. Caecilius Bassus ruled for a short time but was defeated by Cassius. Cassius was appointed the first Roman governor of "Syria". During his governorship, Cassius set up petty tyrants throughout Syria - he made "Marion" king of Tyre

In 40 BC in Judea at the court of Hyrcanus, there was a power struggle between Antigonus and "Herod" a former court official who persuaded the Romans to confer the title of king upon him. Marion of Tyre sided with Antigonus; according to Josephus "Antiquities 14":

"Marion invaded Galilee which lay on his borders and captured three strongholds in which he placed garrisons. But Herod came against him also and took from him all these places. The Tyrian garrison however he considerately released and even gave gifts to some of them out of good will to their city."

.Later Marion was deposed of by Mark Anthony. During this period of Roman civil wars, Parthians under Pacorus and Barzapharnes overran Syria and invaded Phoenicia, but due to Tyre's fortified position they survived untouched. Meanwhile, Mark Anthony under the spell of Cleopatra lingered in Egypt according to Dio Cassius:

"He joined Cleopatra and the Egyptians in general in their life of luxurious ease until he was entirely demoralized. So when at last he was forced to bestir himself, he sailed to Tyre with the intention of aiding it, but on seeing that the rest of Syria had already been occupied before his coming, he left the inhabitants to their fate, on the pretext that he had to wage war against Sextus; and yet he excused his dilatoriness with regards to the latter by alleging his business with the Parthians."

Later, Mark Anthony gave Cleopatra various cities with the clear exception of Tyre and Sidon which she pleaded for, which indicates these two cities were not under his control at the time.

Julius Caesar.....Mark Antony..Octavian(Augustus) ....Cleopatra

Mark Anthony and Cleopatra were defeated by Octavian and Tyre became part of the Roman Empire. Octavian came to the middle east in 20 BC where he made various changes including giving gifts to some cities and extracting additional tribute from others. Octavian reduced the people of Cyzicus to slavery because during a quarrel they had flogged and put to death some Romans and he intended to do the same to the citizens of Tyre and Sidon where there also had been disturbances, but instead he settled a dispute between the two cities, however, it appears that he took away Tyre's privilage to mint its own coins. It appears that Herod was able to influence Augustus to maintain the production of the high grade (minimum 96% silver) shekel of Tyre at their own mint near or at Jeruasalem; so that the Jews could continue to pay their temple tax in a religiously sanctioned currency. ref 20 - Mathrew 26 14-16. Thus the Kappa-Rho (KR) monogram on the reverse field of shekels of Tyre minted after 19 BC. Although this theory that the mint was moved to near or at Jerualem is not universally accepted, one thing for sure is that these high grade silver coins were produced exclusively for the Jews to use for payment of the one-half shekel temple tax. At the same time other mints in the area, primarily Antioch, began producing debased imperial tetradrachms for general circulation in the other Eastern Roman provinces. According to Gresham's law the new debased coins (approximately 80% silver) should have driven the higher grade shekels of Tyre out of circulation, yet in Jerusalem the higher grade coins were part of the local economy. A passage in the Mishna states: "What is Tyrian silver? It is a Jerusalemite". Even if the "KR" coins were not minted in Jerusalem they became know as "Jerusalem silver" due to their exclusive use by the Jews, who subsequently sent most of these coins to Jerusalem for payment of the temple tax.

Shekel of Tyre minted under the Romans possibly at a mint in or near Jerusalem (required for temple tax)
Note: This coin is interesting as it was issued in the year 0 or 1 BC/ 1 AD - the change of the millennium.

Herod the Great, to display his generosity, provided halls, porticoes, temples and marketplaces to Berytus and Tyre. There was extensive trade between Tyre/Sidon and Judaea as the coastal cities required agricultural products, however in 44 AD, King Herod Agrippa of Judea became angry with Tyre and Sidon and they sent embassies to Herod to plead for peace as they required his food.

Tyre is frequently mentioned in the New Testament and was visited by Jesus (ref 16 - Mathrew 15:21-22; Mark 7:24) and Paul (ref 15 - Acts 21:3,7) and had a very early Bishopdom. The Bible tells us about the first women who believed in Christianity and became the first convert outside the Jews to be a Phoenician women. From the Northern Phoenician ports Saint Peter left to Rome and built the first church in Tyre, however most Tyrians clung to their old religion and there were several persecutions of Christians in the city.

Emperor Nero started production of his portrait Shekels (known as Neronian Sela) that were minted in Antioch but possibly also in Tyre. These new coins may have been forced on the Jewish people rather than the familiar "Shekel of Tyre".

Neronian Sela

In 66 AD, Juedea rebelled against Rome and expelled the Roman legions from Jerusalem. The Jews began to mint their own unique silver coins and production of the shekels of Tyre apparently ceased. The revolt was put down by the Roman General Vespasian and his son Titus. As a result, it appears that production of all autonomous silver coinage was stopped. From this time forward, all silver coinage of Tyre would have the emperor's portrait, although the reverse on many coins continued with typical Tyrian motifs such as the head of Melquart and/or the Egyptian Eagle. It appears that the mint of Jerusalem may have continued to mint early imperial coins that continued to have the familiar eagle with club in left field reverse as the shekel of Tyre, however this is disputed as the club is considered by many to be the mint mark for Tyre.

Shekel of Vespasion (no mint) but according to a study A.G. McAlee "Eagle on alter" was probably minted in Tyre

Shekel of Titus minted in Tyre


The city of Tyre prospered under the Romans.(ref 18 & 19) The city had a porticoed street that was 11 meters wide with 7 meter high columns. The porticoes themselves were 5 meters wide. It had one of the largest Hippodromes in the Roman world (480 meters long by 160 meters wide) that could sit 20,000 people. Strabo reports that the houses of Tyre had more stories than the houses in Rome. The city was linked by a 6 kilometer aqueduct to reservoirs fed by artesian wells at Rasel Am to the South of the city. At its peak the city had a population of about 30,000.

Current Ruins of Tyre's Hippodrome and Current Ruins of Tyre's Main street

Although Rome's main mint for the area was Antioch, there is some conjecture that coins were also minted in Tyre, but without mint marks. However, under Trajan there is a surge of coins issued from Tyre. It is possible that the Mint of Antioch was destroyed for a period of time during Trajan's reign and therefore the surge of coin production from Tyre.

Shekel of Tyre under Trajan

The city had many famous scientists and philosophers and was a center for the "Stoic School" and "Platonic School" of philosophy. In the 2nd century AD, Hadrian named Tyre "Metropolis of Phoenician" after being impressed by Paulus of Tyre who gave an oration in Hadrian's presence. This declaration settled, in Tyre's favor, the ancient rivalry between Tyre and Sidon. It appears that under Hadrian the primary mint was returned to Antioch as Hadrian's coins minted in Tyre are very rare.

Rare Shekel of Hadrian minted in Tyre

Tyre Bronze Civic issues 1st - 2nd century AD note: "MHGROPOLEWS" on the two larger coins

Marimus of Tyre in the second century AD was a cartographer and mathematician who laid down the basics of the earth's measurement using the extensive archives of geographical data held in Tyre. This data (now lost) was used by Ptolemy (Claudius Ptolemaeus) for his Geographica of the world.

Septimius Severus gave the city of Tyre many great honors for its help against Pescennius Niger during the civil wars (193 - 194 AD), but in reality Tyre only switched to Severus' side after they had heard that Niger was unable to prevent Severus' march through the passes of the Taurus mountains and was in flight. Unfortunately, Niger had not yet been defeated and after hearing of the revolt he sent troops back to Tyre who plundered the city and slaughtered many citizens. In 201 AD, Septimius Severus, for Tyre's support, made the city a "COL" or "COLO" (colony), a preferred position in the Roman empire, which gave Tyrians similar Roman rights as the Italian cities.

Rare Shekel of Septimius Severus minted in Tyre

Under Caracalla, to finance his invasion of Parthia, there was a huge production of coins from all of the Eastern mints including Tyre .Caracalla Tetradrachm of Tyre.

Shekel of Caracalla minted in Tyre and Rare Shekel of co-emperor Geta minted in Tyre

Macrinus assassinated Caracalla and during his short reign the last silver coinage of Tyre was issued.

Debased silver shekel of Macrinus minted in Tyre (last silver issue minted in Tyre

During the initial reign of Elagabalas, Tyre was still a colony with the coins having "COL" or "COLO" in exergus. However, it appears that the Third Legion (Gallica) which was quartered in Tyre attempted to usurp the empire. As a result, Elagabalus revoked the status of colony. The colonial status was later re-instated by Serverus Alexander.

Bronze Coins of the 3rd century AD all have the Emperors head on the obverse, but various reverses:
Military: 'Caracalla 211-217 AD - rev Oxen with Legion III banner. Legion III Galatica was stationed in Tyre. 27 mm
Civic: Diadomenian 218 AD - rev Emperor in Quadriga. 31 mm
: Mythological: Elagabalus 218 - 222 AD - rev Ambrosial rocks with dog and murex shell below. 28 mm

Religious: Gallienus 253 - 268 AD - rev City Goddess praying to temple of melquart. 29 mm

In an effort to re-establish Roman Paganism Emperor Decius in the year 250-251 AD ordered a general persecution of Christians. The Christian scholar "Origen" was imprisoned and tortured. When the Cathedral of Tyre was built, according to tradition, Origen's body was buried behind the Altar. The persecutions under Decius did not significantly affect the growth of Christianity in Tyre. However in 262 AD, Porphyry of Tyre ridiculed Christianity in over 20 books. These criticisms slowed the growth of Christianity in Tyre and so they were answered by "Methodius", Bishop of Tyre. In spite of religious conflicts, Tyre continued to prosper because of her purple-dye, tin, glass and linen industries. Tyre became the scene of bloody persecutions during the reign of Diocletian and Maximian (284 - 305 AD). Most of the city held to its Pagan faith and appealed to the Romans to take measures against the Christians. Maximian issued a Decree (ref 20) that the city should support Zeus, which strengthened the ancient cults.and several Tyrians became martyrs.

Under the emperor Diocletian, the coinage of the empire was standardize and there ceases to be any coins minted at Tyre.

In 312 AD Constantine and Licinius issued the "Edit of Milan" granted religious liberty to every man in the empire. Instructions were issued that restorations be made to Christian churches which had been stripped of their gardens and buildings during the persecutions. The church of Tyre was built at this time by Paulnus, bishop of Tyre.

Emperor Diocletian and .Emperor Constatine the Great

After the Roman Empire's division under Constatine, the economic and intellectual activities continued to flourish in Beirut, Tyre and Sidon for more than a century. By the 4th century AD Tyre had a cathedral. In 335 AD, the "Church Council of Tyre" was held. The fourth century AD saw the Roman empire's decline with barbarian invasions and social and political difficulties.(4th century description ref 21)

During the Byzantine era, the Archbishop of Tyre was the primate of all the bishops of Phoenicia. During this time the city was in a golden age as can be seen from the remains of its buildings and inscriptions in the necropolis. The fifth century witnessed the birth of Maronite Christianity. Saint Maroun (also Maron) found a refuge in the northern mountains of Lebanon, and a great portion of the Phoenicians/Lebanese became Christians and were called after him. Maronites later had a great contribution in Lebanese history, independence and culture. Gradually, the area named Phoenicia gave way to Mount Lebanon or simply Lebanon.

Ruins of Byzantine Necropolis at Tyre


On 22 August 502 AD, half of the city of Tyre was destroyed by an earthquake and the great temples at Baalbek were damaged. The city was badly damaged by another earthquake in 551 AD.

Wars between the Persians and the Byzantines, weakened both nations and they could not make a strong resistance against the Arabs (forces of Islam). In 634 AD, at the battle of Yarmuk the Byzantine army suffered a major defeat and in 635 AD Damascus fell.

In 636 AD, Tyre offered no resistance and surrendered to Yazid Ibn Abi Sufyan and his brother Mucawiyah and became a Muslim city. By 717 AD, the Arab empire stretched from the Pyrenees to central India. In the early period, Islam offered security and religious tolerance, which stood in significant contrast to the Byzantines. The Arabs did not require religious conversion, however non-converts had to pay a poll-tax. At Tyre many Christians became converts to Islam to acquire the rights and privileges of Moslem subjects. This actually displeased the Omayyad caliphs due to the diminished proceeds of the poll-tax. The Omayyads declined and there were civil wars that led to the establishment of the Abbasid caliphs at Baghdad in 750 AD. These civil wars led to unrest and insecurity in Syria, Phoenicia and Palestine. In 891 AD, Ya'qubi an Arab geographer wrote of Tyre, as follows:

Tyre a city of the Jordan Province is the chief town of the coast districts and contains the Arsenal. From here sail the Sultan's ships on the expeditions against the Greeks. It is a beautiful place and fortified. The population is of mixed nationality.

In 985 AD, Mukaddasi visited Tyre and wrote:

Tyre is a fortified town on the sea, or rather in the sea, for you enter the town through one gate only, over a bridge and the sea lies all round it. The city consists of two quarters: the first being built on terra firma; while the second (the harbor) beyond this, in an area enclosed by triple walls with no earth appearing, for the walls rise out of the sea. Into the harbor the ships come every night, and then a chain is drawn across, whereby the Greeks are prevented from molesting them. Water is brought into the town by means of a vaulted aqueduct. Tyre is a beautiful and pleasant city. Many artificers dwell here and ply their special trade.

The Abbasid caliphate declined and in 969 AD Tyre (Sour) became part of the Egyptian Fatimid Empire. In 1001 a ten year truce was made between the Byzantine emperor and the Fatimid caliph - this truce held for 50 years. Under the Dynasty of Banu Aquil vassal of the Fatimid's, Tyre gained some independence. This was a prosperous time for Tyre and the city was adored with fountains and its bazaars were full of merchandise including carpets and jewelry of silver and gold as described by Nasir-i-Khusrau a Persian traveler in 1047(ref 22). In 1071, the Seljuk Turks defeated the Byzantines at Manzikert and the Seljuks took the Bekaa Valley and parts of Lebanon. Tyre was still nominally ruled by the Fatimids until Turgil Bey of the Seljuks took Damascus and imposed their rule on Syria. Egyptian forces attempted to take Damascus but failed.

Gold dinar al-Mustansir (1036 - 1094) minted in Tyre (Sour) dated 442 AH (1051)

Under the Fatimid's there was religious tolerance and they permitted ties between the church in Jerusalem and the West. The Seljuk Turks took Jerusalem in 1071. The native Christians suffered and it became difficult for Christian pilgrims. This prompted the first Crusade that took Jerusalem. In 1100, the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem was proclaimed. At this time there were 4 rich seaports at Acre, Tyre, Sidon and Beirut, which were still controlled by the Fatimid's of Egypt, but their allegiance depended on how close the Egyptian fleet was to their ports. On Christmas day 1100, Baldwin was crowned King of Jerusalem and embassies came from Acre and Tyre with valuable gifts.

From Tyre and Acre pirates would slip out to intercept Christian merchants. In 1102 Egypt was defeated at Jaffa, which gave Baldwin time to strengthen his position on the Palestinian sea coast. In the autumn of 1102, ships transporting pilgrims home were driven ashore by storms, some near Tyre. The pilgrims were captured and sold in the slave markets of Egypt. In response, Baldwin undertook a siege of Acre. Before the city garrison could surrender twelve Fatimid galleys and a large troop transport ship from Tyre/Sidon moved in and Baldwin was forced to stop the siege.

Balwin wanted to enlarge his kingdom. In 1110 the city of Acre was taken by the Crusaders. In November 1111, Baldwin brought up his whole army before the walls of Tyre and assembled all the ships he could and unsuccessfully besieged Tyre for 5 months. Baldwin tried every method he knew to take the city with constant attacks to exhaust the inhabitants, siege engines to shatter the walls, siege towers higher than the city walls to bombard the inhabitants, however the Tyrians were shrewd and valiant. William of Tyre relates:

They met each scheme by a similar one and strove to repel in kind the injuries that were being inflicted upon them. They brought together great quantities of stones and cement, mounted on two towers which were practically opposite our machines and began to build them higher. Thus within a very short time these rose far above the wooden machines opposed to them outside the walls. From there the defenders hurled fire upon the engines below and were prepared to burn everything, unopposed.

Baldwin's fleet only consisted of twelve Byzantine vessels, the Byzantines were still friendly with the Fatimids of Egypt. For their support they demanded that Baldwin assist them in recovering Antioch, when he hesitated they stopped supporting Baldwin. Meanwhile, the Tyrians sought aid from the Seljuk King of Damascus "Tughtigin". Tughtigin advanced on Tyre and besieged Baldwin. Baldwin was forced to lift the siege of Tyre and fight his way back to Acre. Later Baldwin again marched against Tyre, but settled on a blockade of the city from land. Baldwin continued his aggression, and soon Tyre was the only city on the coast that held out against him. Baldwin rebuilt a fortress originally built by "Alexander the Great" only five miles from Tyre to harass the Tyrians. In the meantime, the Venetians successfully attacked Egypt. The Crusaders and Venetians agreed to take Tyre. The forces of the Kingdom of Jerusalem (now under Baldwin II) assembled at Acre where the Venetian fleet was stationed and a treaty was drawn up on the division of spoils. Tyre was besieged starting on 16 February 1124. Siege machines and towers were again employed. Day after day the Crusaders/Venetians and the Tyrians fought with machines and military forces. Eventual "Pons" count of Tripolis reinforced the crusaders. The Tyrians were in despair and sent for help from Damascus and Egypt. Tughtigin sent a force and set up camp to wait for the Egyptian fleet. The Crusaders took the offensive and Tughitigin retreated. The Egyptian fleet never showed up. Starving! the Tyrians agreed to surrender and the Crusaders agreed to allow those wishing to leave - the right to do so and those wishing to stay were guaranteed not to be harmed.On 29 June 1124, Tyre surrendered to the Crusaders. The city was divided into three parts - two for the king and one for the Venetians(ref 23 &24).

Tyre was hit by earthquakes in the years 1127 and 1157.

In 1167, Amaury the King of Jerusalem, sought an alliance with Emperor Manuel of Byzantium and a royal marriage was arranged. The marriage was held between Amaury and Princess Maria on the 29 of August 1169 in Tyre.

In 1170, earthquakes affected the region lasting for four months with three or four tremors every day. The towers of Tyre collapsed on to nearby houses crushing to death many people.

The Crusader historian William was the archbishop of Tyre from 1175 - 1184 and was chancellor of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem from 1174 until his death in 1185. (ref 25)

Tyre was unsuccessfully besieged by Salah-al-Din (Saladin) 8 November 1187 until 3 January 1188.

In 1191 AD, Conrad "King of Tyre" was crowned King of Jerusalem in Tyre, however Jerusalem was still under the control of the Saracens.

This choice of Conrad as "King of Jerusalem" was very controversial. Godfrey of Bouillon had taken Jerusalem in the 1st crusade and declared himself king, although the city was lost, the crown continued to be past through the Godfrey family. Eventually the crown fell to the princess Silbylla who married Guy of Lusign and he claimed the crown by right of marriage. When Silbylla died, without an heir, some thought the crown should pass to her sister Isabella. Conrad forced Isabella to marry him and claimed the crown for himself. After some political maneuvers, Conrad got King Richard's support against Guy of Lusign. Shortly after being crowned, Conrad was assassinated by "Hassassins" and there followed an up-rising that badly damaged the city of Tyre.

Medieval Tyre was strengthened by the addition of a castle in 1192. The city had three distinct districts: the Venetian quarter with many religious buildings, the Genoese quarter with public buildings and the Pisan quarter with church lands and houses.

In the treaty of 1192, between Richard the Lion Hearted and Saladin, it was agreed that the cities of "Tyre", "Acre", and "Jaffa" and the castles and other smaller towns along the coast were not to be attacked by Saladin for at least 3 years. In return, Richard agreed that "Ascalon" would be neutral and the Christians agreed not to try to acquire any further territories. It was agreed that Jerusalem, including free passage, would be open to all pilgrims.

Conrad was assassinate and Guy renounced the title of king in May 1192 and purchased the Island of Cyprus from the Templars. Guy died in 1194 and his widow named Henry I, Count of Champagne (1194-1197), as king, but in 1197 Henry died from an accident. Isabella married a fourth husband, Amaury of Lusignan (1197-1205), brother of Guy and already King of Cyprus. Amaury II concluded a truce with the Moslems.

Kingdom of Jerusalem Amaury II (1197 - 1205) probably minted in Tyre

In 1202, Tyre was practically wiped out by an earthquake and part of the city was abandoned. In 1203, an earthquake brought down the walls of Tyre and the damage was still visible decades later.

Amaury died in 1205. He left an only daughter Mélisende who married Bohemond IV, Prince of Antioch. However, it was to Mary, daughter of Isabella and Conrad of Montferrat, that the barons gave the preference, and they requested the King of France to provide her with a husband. The King chose John of Brienne (1210-1225), who hesitated for a long time before accepting and did not arrive in Palestine until 1210, having first obtained from the pope a considerable loan of money.

A second castle was built at Tyre in 1212. The "Sidonian Port" which was located inside Tyre's fortifications was flanked by two towers. At night an iron chain was flung between the towers to prevent entry into the port.

John or Brienne directed the Crusade of Egypt in 1218 but was defeated and returned to the West. His daughter Isabel (Iolanthe), married Emperor Frederick II, who then assumed the title, and for a short time actually reigned in Jerusalem. He crowned himself in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on l7 March, 1229. In 1229, by treaty, the city of Tyre became part of the "Kingdom of Jerusalem". In 1246, the King of Jerusalem named Philip of Montfort "Prince of Tyre". Philip of Montford joined the seventh crusade and in 1256 he expelled the Venetians from Tyre. The title of King of Jerusalem was borne by Frederick's descendents until Conradin who died in 1268. Then Hugh III, prince of Antioch (1267–80) and regent of the scattered Latin possessions in Palestine for the absent kings of this line, began another series of titular Kings of Jerusalem. He was crowned at Tyre in 1269. In 1270, Philip of Monfort "Prince of Tyre" was assassinated at Tyre.

Rare coin of Philip of Montfort "Prince of Tyre"

In 1291, Tyre was taken and destroyed by the Mamlukes. The inhabitants were massacred, dispersed or sold into slavery. Despite several attempts to restore the city it never recovered its former glory.(ref 26) The city passed to the Ottomans in 1516. In 1766, under the rule of Zahiral-eUmar of Safad (in Palestine), the walls were rebuilt and again in 1832 under Ibrahim Pasha of Egypt. After World War I, with the fall of the Ottoman empire, Tyre became part of Lebanon.

PAGE 1 Ancient before coinage

PAGE 2 Greek with coinage