P. Edronkin

The Survival Of Tyre



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Tyre is an ancient city in southern Lebanon that can teach us a lot about the survival of its inhabitants as well as the town itself. In recent times, Tyre has been the scene of awful battles and politically motivated problems, but it is an ancient city that appeared on the face of the planet thanks to the Phoenicians, more than three thousand years ago: it history has been a mix of opulence and destruction and the effect of some battles fought there have been of massive slaughter in a way quite similar to that of modern-day mass-destruction weapons and tactics.

The Phoenicians were dedicated merchants and business people: naturally, they became rich and that made other envious. Some powerful neighbours of the Phoenician cities, like the Assyrians, Babilonians and Persians targeted Tyre more than once whenever they felt that they somewhat deserved part of the riches that the port city obtained. Tyre is indeed a port, and it was one of the biggest ones in the world during Phoenician times. Aside from the goods that passed from the West to the East and vice versa thorough it, the city has been famous since antiquity for the Purple of Tyre, a product that is a symbol of royalty and opulence: fabrics dyed in this colour are only produced there and their value was - and still is - enormous.

Tyre also had cedars and other trees that turned it into an especially coveted bounty for the Assyrians, living in barren lands and in dire need for wood. Of course, they didn't just buy it always: in Nineveh, alabaster carvings ordered by different kings and rulers like Sennacherib, Asurnasirpal II, Salmansser III, Asarhaddon, Ashurbanipal and others boasted about their massacres and plundering expeditions, often against Phoenician cities: those works silently speak about ransoms, taxes and other feats that suggest that the Middle East has never been a quiet place. Instead, it looks more than the Samurais and the Nazis would feel bound to express admiration for the way in which Middle Easterns of all sorts spill blood.

The local flora and fauna of what is now southern Lebanon suffered terribly from these punitive mass-scale rapes of the land, particularly at the hands of the Assyrians and the Babilonians; the Persians that came after were much more reasonable, tended to manage their issues more peacefully and cared a little bit more for their newly-acquired natural resources.

Tyre was originally built over an island for obvious reasons: that made it far easier to defend and control, and over the centuries and sieges, its defences were greatly improved. However, when Alexander the Great began his campaign against Persia, he found out that before entering into Darius' motherland, he had to deal with those coastal Phoenician ports in some way or another. Those towns were ruled as city-states, and were accustomed to deal with invaders by means of diplomacy and commerce, paying tribute whenever their rulers felt that it was better than fighting: so, most Phoenician cities just welcomed Alexander and his troops, but Tyre decided to resist.

So Alexander mounted yet another siege and naturally found it difficult to overcome the defensive infrastructure of a battle-tested, wealthy town built on an island. So he began to - literally - fill the bottom of the ocean with dirt, rocks and other stuff, and so managed to get close to Tyre's walls before assaulting it. Once his army overcame the walls of Tyre, he killed every single militarily-able male there, and sold the survivors as slaves - a very lucrative proposition until very recent times (See Slave Traders). Since then, Tyre was not an island anymore: the road that Alexander built by filling the sea bottom with dirt began accumulating sediments, and still exists today. It has widened to half a kilometre thanks to sedimentation, and part of present-day Tire has also been built over the Alexander's strange construction.

When Alexander The Great crushed Tyre, the city had already lost some of its former greatness: a revolt, a few centuries earlier, forced a number of nobles to escape and go into exile in what is now Tunisia. There, they founded the colony of Carthage. Later on, a particularly extended siege laid by the armies of Babylon - thirteen years long - weakened the city's economy so much that the Carthaginians were able to get ahead of their motherland in business terms and assuming the role as the ancient world's most important commercial port. The deeds of Alexander only reinforced this decadence.

However, after countless battles, sieges and conquests, Tyre is still there.




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