Although the earliest origins of Tyre are unknown, the testimonies of ancient historians and some archeological evidence suggest that it goes back to the start of the 3rd millennium B.C. Originally a mainland settlement, with an island city a short distance offshore, it came of age in the 10th century B.C. when King Hiram expanded the mainland and built two ports and a temple to Melkart, the city’s god. Its flourishing maritime trade, Mediterranean colonies and its purple dye and glass industries made Tyre very powerful and wealthy. But the city’s wealth attracted enemies. In the sixth century B.C. the Tyrians successfully defied Nebuchadnezzar for 13 years. Alexander the Great laid siege to it for 7 months, finally overwhelming the island city by constructing a great causeway from the shore to the island. In their days, the Romans built a magnificent city. The remains of its Roman streets, arcades and public buildings, including one of the largest hippodromes of the period, are Tyre’s major attractions today.
Occupied by the Muslim Arabs in 636, then captured in 1124 by the Crusaders, Tyre was an important fortified town of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. In 1291 the Mamluks took the city, then during the 400-year Ottoman period beginning in 1516, it remained a quiet fishing town.
In 1984 Tyre’s important archeological remains prompted UNESCO to make the town a world heritage site. Located 79 km from Beirut, prosperous Tyre is notable for its many high-rise buildings. Nevertheless, the inner city has retained its industrious maritime character and its interesting old-style houses.