A leading Phoenician city located about 20 miles (32 km) south of another major Phoenician city, Sidon, on the coast of what is now Lebanon. Tyre (modern Sur), which the Phoenicians themselves called Sur, meaning "Rock," was called Surru by the Assyrians and the Babylonians, who both coveted it, and Tyros by the Greeks. The reference to a rock likely came from the fact that the city, which may have been founded as early as the late third millennium b.c., was originally built around a fortress atop a rocky knoll on the shore. Over time the inhabitants constructed a quay that joined the old city to a newer section on an island lying about .5 miles (.8 km) offshore. This also created two excellent harbors, from which the Tyrians launched their famous colonizing and trading expeditions. Tyre established colonies in the Aegean Sea; North Africa, including Carthage; Sicily; Spain; and elsewhere in the Mediterranean basin. The Tyrians also vigorously traded a number of products, the most desirable of which was a purple dye called Tyrian purple, imported by royal houses far and wide because purple was viewed as the signature color of royalty in ancient times.
   Owing to its strategic location, wealth, influence, and excellent fleets, Tyre became a prize fought over by the Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, and other ancient peoples. The strong Assyrian king Shalmaneser III (reigned ca. 858-824 b.c.) besieged the city for five years; later, Babylonia's Nebuchadnezzar II (ca. 605562 b.c.) spent up to thirteen years trying to take the city. Both of these sieges ultimately failed, although in the end the Tyrians did agree to pay the Babylonians tribute. The city was unable to withstand the onslaught of the Greeks under Alexander the Great during his conquest of Persia, however. In 332 b.c. he attacked the island portion of Tyre for seven months and eventually captured it. Following Alexander's death in 323 b.c., Tyre became part of the Greek-ruled Ptolemaic Empire, but in time the Seleucid Empire, centered in Mesopotamia, took possession of the city. Finally, in the first century b.c., the Romans seized control of Tyre and made it part of their new province of Syria.
   See also: Alexander III ("the Great"); Phoenicians; trade

Ancient Mesopotamia dictioary. . 2015.

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