Tyre, city, temple of Melqart

Tyre (Phoenician צר, ṣūr, "rock"; Greek Τύρος; Latin Tyrus): port in Phoenicia and one of the main cities in the eastern Mediterranean. The temple of Melqart was one of the most important sanctuaries in the ancient world.

Crusader Church on the site of the former temple of Melqart, with some of the ancient columns

Melqart, a name that means "king of the city", was the supreme god of Tyre. It would seem that king Hiram, who is often dated to the tenth century BCE but who may be a legendary person (more), introduced this god. This is not really compatible with the words of the fifth-century Greek researcher Herodotus of Halicarnassus who learned from a local spokesman that the temple of Melqart was 2,300 years old.note Of course we can formulate hypotheses how in the twenty-eighth century BCE, a temple could be built for a god who was not worshipped until the tenth century: it may have been a different god, and so on.

However this may be, Herodotus observed that in his age, the sanctuary was richly furnished and that there were many votive offerings. He also saw two pillars: "one of pure gold and one of an emerald stone of such size as to shine by night". The exact function of these columns is not known, but it is tempting to think of the columns named Jakin and Boaz in front of the temple of Jerusalemnote and the two pillars on the Great Court in front of the Temple of Jupiter in Baalbek.

Almost nothing remains of what was one of the most important sanctuaries of the eastern Mediterranean. The exception is a couple of Egyptian-style columns, which were recycled when the Crusaders built a church. We may be optimistic that the sanctuary stood somewhere close to the church and may one day be identified.