The city of Tyre (mod. Soûr, Lebanon) was one of the most important ports of the kingdom of Jerusalem from the time of its capture by the Franks (1124) up to its final loss to the Mamlūks in 1291.
Tyre was a major entrepôt for the exchange of goods between the Near East and Europe, thanks to its position at the end of roads from Damascus and Aleppo. Its physical location made the city almost impregnable: it was situated on a tongue of land that was defended on the seaward side by a double, and on the landward side by a triple wall. Muslim Tyre owed allegiance to Fâtimid Egypt at the time of the crusader conquest of Palestine in 1099, and resisted the Franks until 1124, when it was forced to capitulate after a concerted siege by land and sea conducted by the army of the kingdom of Jerusalem and a Venetian fleet, lasting almost four months.
For its help in conquering Tyre, the Republic of Venice received by treaty (the Pactum Warmundi of 1123) one-third of the city and its surrounding area as sovereign territory, along with wide-ranging legal privileges and an annuity of 300 bezants from the proceeds of the royal market in the city. The estates in the surrounding area were granted to leading Venetians as fiefs. The non-Venetian section of the city and its surrounding territory became part of the royal demesne, and this was where the commercial activity of the other Western merchants came to be concentrated. In the period up to 1187, only the Pisans maintained a trading dependency in the royal part of the city; from the time of the Third Crusade (1189-1192) onward, they attempted to secure additional privileges. The Genoese and Provençalsobtained a privileged toehold in Tyre only after 1187.
The native population played no part in long-distance trade, which was dominated by the Italians. The city itself had important industries, notably silk, produced by highly specialized Syrian weavers (especially in the Venetian Quarter), as well as the manufacture of glass. The coastal plain was fertile, and agriculture there was very productive, thanks to a well-developed system of irrigation (at least in the thirteenth century) and to some extent was geared toward the export of products such as sugarcane, wine, and oil.
In the church hierarchy of the Latin patriarchate of Jerusalem, the archbishop of Tyre was second only to the patriarch. However, only his suffragan bishops within the kingdom of Jerusalem (Acre, Beirut, and Sidon) came under the authority of the patriarchate of Jerusalem; the others belonged to the Latin patriarchate of Antioch (mod. Antakya, Turkey). The cathedral was the burial place of Frederick I Barbarossa, Holy Roman Emperor (1190) and of other prominent individuals. Documents refer to several parish churches, as well as to churches inside the Italian trade quarters (whose legal status was frequently contested between the Italian communes and the archbishop), and those belonging to other bishops, military and monastic orders, and canons.
After the defeat of the army of Jerusalem by Saladin at Hattin (3-4 July 1187), Tyre became the most important base of military operations for the Franks of Outremer and crusaders from the West. Thanks to the assistance of the Italians, especially Pisan and Genoese fleets, it was able to repel two Muslim sieges. From July 1187 the defense of the city was directed by Conrad, marquis of Montferrat, who proceeded to make it into a power base of his own in opposition to Guy of Lusignan, king of Jerusalem. The following year Conrad refused Guy entry to Tyre after his release from captivity by Saladin, and in 1190 the king ceded the city to him. On the death of Guy’s wife, Queen Sibyl (3 November 1190), Conrad married her sister Isabella, who was the heiress to the kingdom, and claimed the government for himself. In the spring of 1192 Conrad was recognized as future ruler of the kingdom, but shortly before his coronation he was murdered by the Assassins (28 April 1192); he was buried in the cathedral of Tyre.
From this time Tyre replaced Jerusalem as the coronation venue for the kings of Jerusalem. Its financial importance for the Crown began to overtake that of Acre (mod. ‘Akko, Israel), where, although it was the more important metropolis, many of the royal prerogatives could no longer be exploited or had been surrendered to the Italian and Provençal cities. Thus, from the reign of Henry of Champagne (1192-1197) onward, the monarchy revoked many of the privileges that had been conceded in Tyre to the Italian cities.
When Emperor Frederick II came to the Holy Land in 1228-1229 as regent for his son Conrad (king of Jerusalem after the death of his mother Isabella of Brienne), he was able to assert his claims to Tyre, and secured Frankish rule through his treaty with the Ayyûbid sultan al-Kāmil. After Frederick’s departure (May 1229), Tyre became a stronghold of the pro-Staufen party in the kingdom and the residence of the imperial bailli (regent) Richard Filangieri until his expulsion in 1243. Thereafter it was governed by Balian of Ibelin and from 1246 by Philip of Montfort (d. 1283), to whom King Henry I of Cyprus assigned the guardianship (Lat. custodia) of the city. Philip invested a great deal of money in improving the city’s defenses, which had suffered considerable damage from an earthquake in 1203/1204.
During the War of St. Sabas (1257-1258), Philip allied himself with Genoa against Venice. The expulsion of the Genoese from Acre by the Venetians led him to confiscate all Venetian possessions in Tyre and expel the Venetians from the city. The Genoese who had been driven out of Acre settled in Tyre, which became the seat of the Genoese colonial administration for all of Syria and Palestine. Philip’s treaty with the Genoese in 1264 and its precise description of their position, rights, and responsibilities shows his hope of a revival of international trade from their presence in Tyre and with it an increase of his own income. His son and successor John reestablished peace with Venice in 1277, restoring the rights and property the Venetians had previously held in Tyre, and granting reparations for loss of income and funds to reconstruct buildings in the Venetian Quarter.
In 1269 John of Monfort married Margaret of Lusignan, sister of King Hugh III of Cyprus I of Jerusalem, thus securing the position of his family in Tyre. The city now became Hugh’s most important base on the mainland, although this did not save Tyre from Mamlûk expansion. After the city was threatened by Mamlûk raids in 1266 and 1269, John of Montfort was forced to enter into a treaty with Sultan Baybars I in 1270-1271 over the division, administration, and financial use of the territory around Tyre. In 1285 John’s widow Margaret agreed to a ten-year truce with Sultan Qalawûn, by which she relinquished half of her revenues and promised never to rebuild the defenses of the city. This armistice secured for the sultan the most profitable lands in the lordship. After the fall of Acre (1291), the nobility and wealthier inhabitants fled to Cyprus, and when Mamlûk troops occupied Tyre on 19 May, the remaining inhabitants were either killed or sold into slavery. The city was completely destroyed on the orders of the sultan; it had no significance in the Mamlûk and Ottoman periods.