Tyre was an ancient Phoenician port city and the mythological birthplace of Europa and Dido of Carthague. The city had two parts, the main trading centre on an island off the coast, and Ushu or ‘old Tyre’, which was founded around 2750 BC. However, it seems the city was either re-founded, or promoted by Sidon which, together with Byblos, dominated the political sphere until the 10th century BC, when both cities started to decline in benefit of Tyre. This change in the balance of power coincides with the reign of King Hiram I in Tyre between 970/960 and 930 BC. Phoenicia was being pressurized by the Assyrian and Babylonian empires to provide money, goods, and raw materials from the west. To tackle such pressures, king Hiram I decided to create politico-commercial relations with Solomon. While Hiram I provided with advanced technology, building materials, specialist technical assistance, services, and luxury goods, Solomon gave him silver, farm products and foodstuffs. The development of such trade marked the beginning of the golden age of Tyre, between the 10th and 8th centuries BC.
At its height, Tyre specialized in trade with both east and west. In order to acquire raw materials in the west, the Phoenicians produced of high-quality products designed to appeal to Mediterranean markets, such as purple dyes, faience objects, jewellery or ivory carved objects. These items became very sought after in the Mediterranean and were used by diverse elites to promote their status. During this period, Tyre also colonized other sites in the area. In 7th century BC, Tyre came under the control of Assyria and its preeminent role in commercial routes did not remain unnoticed. As a result, in the 6th century BC, king Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon sieged the city for 13 years, but without success. Later, and more dramatically, Alexander the Great placed the city under siege for seven months and eventually conquered it. He battered down the city walls and massacred or enslaved its 30,000 inhabitants. The survivors of the siege fled to Carthague, which came an important port city in northern Africa. Under Roman rule, Tyre was rebuilt but declined soon after the fall of the empire. Nonetheless, its privileged position meant that it continued to be used as a port city during the Late Antiquity and early Middle Ages.
Tyre has been damaged by bombardments in 1982 and 1996, and the site is also threatened by the growth of the modern city, looting, and the decay of the stone due to pollution. In order to tackle these problems, UNESCO created in 1998 a fund for the preservation of ancient Tyre.