Sunday, May 10, 2015

Port of Tyre (Sur, Tyr)

The siege of Tyre by the Crusaders and the Venetian fleet. On 15 February 1124 the Venetians and Franks began the siege of Tyre.[6] The seaport of Tyre, now in Lebanon, was part of the territory of Toghtekin, the Atabeg of Damascus. The Latin army was led by the Patriarch of Antioch, the doge of Venice, Pons, Count of Tripoli and William de Bury, the king's constable.

The Venetians and Franks built siege towers and machines that could throw boulders to shatter the city walls. The defenders of Tyre also built engines, hurling rocks at the siege towers. As the siege dragged out the citizens began to run short of food and sent urgent calls for help. Balak died while besieging the city of Hierapolis. Toghtekin advanced towards Tyre, but withdrew without fighting when the forces of Count Pons of Tripoli and Constable William rode to confront him. Toghtekin sent envoys in June 1124 to negotiate peace. After lengthy and difficult discussions it was agreed that the terms of surrender would include letting those who wanted to leave the city to take their families and property with them, while those who wanted to stay would keep their houses and possessions. This was unpopular with some of the crusaders, who wanted to loot the city.

Tyre surrendered on 29 June 1124. After the crusader forces entered the city, according to William of Tyre, "They admired the fortifications of the city, the strength of the buildings, the massive walls and lofty towers, the noble harbour so difficult of access. They had only praise for the resolute perseverance of the citizens who, despite the pressure of terrible hunger and the scarcity of supplies, had been able to ward off surrender for so long. For when our forces took possession of the place they found only five measures of wheat in the city."

After abortive sieges in 1102 and 1111, Tyre was finally captured by the Franks with the aid of the Venetian fleet in 1124. Its strength lay in its remarkable fortifications combined with the topographical advantage of being surrounded on three sides by sea. It remained strongly fortified under the Franks, who strengthened the walls and built the citadel in 1210. It was the only city in the kingdom of Jerusalem that did not fall to Saladin after the Battle of Hattin. Subsequently, after the entire kingdom had fallen, Tyre served as the bridgehead for the Frankish reconquest of the coast in the Third Crusade (1189–92). Thanks to its excellent harbour, Tyre soon came to rival Akko in importance. It had a population estimated at 30,000 (Benvenisti 1970:27), as large as the population of Akko and of Jerusalem. Tyre fell in 1291 after the fall of Akko.

While we are well informed about Tyre in medieval sources, very little remains or has been published of the Frankish city. A large part of the eastern side of the cathedral of Tyre was still standing in 1875 and can be seen in photographs published by Enlart (1927: Atlas, Plate 149). They show the exterior of the southern and central apses of the church and the fallen pillars that had supported the roof. These were later re-erected but little remains of the structure today.

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