In Freemasonry, we learn a bit about the Biblical character Hiram, King of Tyre, or Hiram I, who was an ally of King David and King Solomon, and who was integral in the building of King Solomon's Temple. During Hiram's reign 10th century BC, the height of the kingdom of Tyre, improvements such as cisterns, ports, shipyards, temples, and palaces, were made to the island and made it a jewel in the Mediterranean region.
Tyre, also known in Arabic as Ṣūr, is located 83-km south of Beirut and is the fourth largest city in what is now Lebanon, and which was known for being the dominant city-state of the Phoenician Empire. The literal translation of Tyre is "rock" as the original location of Tyre was very rocky. According to statements made to Herodotus, the city of Tyre was founded around 2750 BC. Originally it was a heavily fortified island, but over the centuries it has been connected to the mainland. The city had many plazas and squares, but due to the space restrictions of the island, many of the buildings were built taller and were the skyscrapers of their time. The Tyrian Island had two harbors, one on the northern and southern sides of the island; these two harbors gave it maritime prominence in ancient days. The northern harbor is still in use today. Prior to Alexander the Great, Tyre was just an island and on the mainland, there was a community known as Ushu, but known as Palaetyrus, or Old Tyre, by the Greeks. This mainland city was primarily used for supplying the island as it sat at the foot of mountains and near the gorge of the ancient Leontes River, and they prospered as a result of the maritime wealth accumulated by Tyre.
Tyre has had a profound effect on the history of civilization. Tyre was a maritime power in the Mediterranean and was known as the "Queen of the Sea." Around 700 BC, Phoenician traders began to expand their trade. In turn, this expansion led the Tyre establishing colonies around the Mediterranean such as Carthage, and as far west as Spain. They traded first with wood, metals, salves, wine, and glass, but one of the trades it was known for, was its rare purple dyes which were used primarily by royalty as it was so costly. It was the purple dye that gave the Phoenicians their name as Phoenician means "purple people," originating from the Greek word "phoinios" meaning "purple." It is said that the alphabet into Greece was attributed to Cadmus of Tyre. The sister of Cadmus was named Europa and it is believed that the continent was named. It was their prowess on the seas and in trade that made them such a great match for King David and King Solomon, and the building of the Temple.
Tyre was continuously attacked by nation and empire; the Persians, the Romans, the Greeks, the Crusaders, and Arabs. The Phoenicians were defeated by Cyrus the Great and Tyre was created one of the four vassal kingdoms of the Empire. Under the Persians, the Tyre was known for furnishing ships. Alexander the Great attempted to lay siege, but was originally unsuccessful. He had to destroy Ushu to build a causeway to the island was he enabled to bring siege engines and scale the walls of Tyre. He was brutal to the people of Tyre; he executed many of the males who were of age to serve in the military, sold thousands to slavery, and razed the city to the ground. This brutality stems from the Tyrians killing an ambassador that Alexander has sent to them asking for a peace treaty. Alexander's primary goal was Egypt, but after the death of his ambassador, he had to set an example. Although the people received brutal treatment, the King, Azemilcus, or Azimilik, was spared. The city would eventually be rebuilt and they regained autonomy, but never to the prominence they once were and eventually, they would be enveloped by the Roman Empire.
The city of Tyre was captured by the Crusaders in 1124 and would become an important city in the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem. Tyre was the site for the Archbishop of Tyre, the most notable of whom was William of Tyre who is known for recording the history of the medieval Knights Templar. In 1291, Tyre was taken by the Mameluks and then became a part of the Ottoman Empire. This lasted until the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the establishment of the state of Lebanon in 1920. At the present day, Tyre covers a larger part of the island and has expanded along the causeway (expanded greatly since Alexander's time) toward the mainland. It is primarily composed of Shia Muslims, but has a small community of Sunnis as well as Christians. Along with fishing, tourism is a primary source of income. This ancient city has had an impact on the world that covers the histories of ancient empires, religious traditions, and even the legends of our ancient and honorable Fraternity.
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