TYRE and Sidon were celebrated cities of Phoenicia, situated on the eastern coast if the Mediterranean Sea, between Beirut and Carmel. Tyre was about one hundred miles directly north of Jerusalem.  Sidon, or Zidon, some twenty miles north of Tyre and thirty-five or forty south of Beirut, seems to have been the most ancient of the two cities; indeed, it is believed to have been one of the most ancient cities of the world. In the time of Homer the Zidonians were eminent for their trade and commerce, their wealth and prosperity, their skill in navigation and architecture, and for their manufactures, especially of glass. They had also a commodious harbor.  Tyre, though termed the "daughter of Sidon," and probably at one time a colony of it, soon gained the ascendency over the mother-town and all the towns of Phoenicia, It became a proud and magnificent city, and was known as " the mistress of the seas." The city consisted of two parts, one town situated on the mainland and the other upon a rocky island lying about half a mile from the shore. Some three centuries before Christ, the city was besieged by Alexander the Great. The people withdrew to the island city, where for seven months they defied him. Not being able to reach its walls with his engines, he at last collected the whole remains of the old city on the shore stones, timbers, rubbish and threw them, with great quantities of earth, into the narrow channel, thus forming a causeway across from the mainland to the island; and in this way he succeeded in taking the city. Ever since then, Tyre has stood upon a peninsula, with no appearance, to ordinary observation, of ever having been surrounded by waters; and the sands of ages drifting in, have transformed the original narrow causeway into a belt of land about half a mile broad.

During the reigns of David and Solomon, we find Tyre under king Hiram. He seems to have been on the most friendly terms with both these monarchs. From Tyre were obtained both timber and skilled workmen for the temple and other magnificent buildings erected at Jerusalem. The timber was sent by floats down to Joppa, and from thence conveyed by land to Jerusalem. Later, we learn of the marriage of Ahab, king of Israel, with Jezebel, daughter of the "king of the Zidonians." The consequences of this marriage were very fatal, as Jezebel brought with her the idolatrous worship of her fathers, and thus led Israel astray. Whatever friendship still existed between the Tyrians and the Israelites was most likely ended by the revolution of the kingdom and the destruction of Jezebel in Samaria, by Jehu.

The inhabitants of these cities, especially Tyre, are represented in the Old Testament as tilled with pride and luxury, and all the sins attendant on prosperity and great wealth; judgments are denounced against them in consequence of their idolatry and wickedness; and the destruction of their cities is foretold: "The Lord lath given a commandment against the merchant city to destroy the strongholds thereof " (Isaiah 23:11); "They shall destroy the walls of Tyrus, and break down her towers; I will also scrape her dust from her, and make her like the top of a rock;" "Thou shalt be a place to spread nets upon, and shalt be built no more." (Ezekiel 26.) The decline and ruin of these cities have been so complete as to satisfy in a literal way these terrible predictions of the Hebrew prophets.

The ruins of both cities are still inhabited, and are visited by travelers with great interest. The modern Tyre is situated upon the junction of the isthmus with the island. Its walls, with one gate, enclose some three or four thousand inhabitants.

The modern name is Sur, Most of the houses are mere hovels; the streets are narrow, crooked, and filthy; and even the walls and buildings of a superior class are shattered by earthquakes that they look as if about to fall to pieces. "A walk around the ruins of Tyre is indescribably mournful. One is reminded at every step and by every glance, of the prophecies uttered against this city." "A mournful and solitary silence now prevails along the shore which once resounded with the world's debate." "Ruins on the top of ruins cover the peninsula, and are strown among the waves around it." "We are struck with the aspect of desolation, broken columns half buried in the sand, huge fragments of sea-beaten ruins, and confused heaps of rubbish, with a solitary fisherman spreading his net over them, or a few workmen digging up building-stones." 

Many fine stones have been removed to other cities.

The modern city lies only upon the eastern part of the island. The western shore is a ledge of ragged rocks, strown "from one end to the other along the edge of the water and in the water, with large columns of red and gray granite of various sizes, the only remaining monuments of the splendor of ancient Tyre." Truly they have laid her "stones and timbers and dust in the midst of the waters." ,Three or four small one-sail vessels drifting in the harbor is all the shipping of which the once proud mistress of the seas can now boast. And this is Tyre, whose glories were once the talk of the world, whose merchants were princes, and whose ships covered every sea. "How art thou destroyed, that wast inhabited of sea-faring men, the renowned city, which was strong in the sea."

Sidon, now known as Saida, is not so desolate as Tyre. It is surrounded by a wall, and has some eight or nine thousand inhabitants, partly Moslems and partly Jews. The streets, like those of Tyre, are narrow, crooked, and dirty; but the houses are some of them large and even elegant. The town is without trade or manufactures worthy of the name, and com- pared with what it once was, is a poor, miserable place; yet surrounded as it is by fragrant gardens and orchards, it presents a beautiful appearance. "Oranges, lemons, citrons, bananas, and palms, grow luxuriantly, and give the environs of the old city a look of eternal spring.''

This city once divided the empire of the seas with her daughter Tyre, but her harbor is now choked with sand and inaccessible to any but the smallest vessels. The architectural ruins about Saida are not extensive, but this is the only place in Phoenicia where Phoenician monuments with Phoenician inscriptions have as yet been found. For centuries the ruins of ancient Sidon have furnished building materials for other cities. Saida has few antiquities. As Dr. Thomson so forcibly remarks, 

"She is too old. Her decline commenced before antiquity began."

"Though silent and forgotten, yet nature still laments

The pomp and power departed, the lost magnificence:

The hills were proud to see thee, and they are sadder now;

The sea was proud to bear thee, and wears a troubled brow, 

And evermore the surges chant, forth their vain desire:

"Where are the ships of Tarshish, the mighty ships of Tyre?"


E. B.