*SIDON: or Saïda (Arabic: صيدا, صيدون, Ṣaydā; Phoenician: ???, Ṣdn; Biblical Hebrew: צִידוֹן, Ṣīḏōn; Greek: Σιδών; Latin: Sidon; Turkish: Sayda) is the third-largest city in Lebanon. It is located in the South Governorate of Lebanon, on the Mediterranean coast, about 40 kilometres (25 miles) north of Tyreand 40 km (25 miles) south of the capital, Beirut. In Genesis, Sidon is a son of Canaan, a grandson of Noah. Its name coincides with the modern Arabic word for ‘fishery’. There are 2 castles there which were cleaned and restored by the French in the Early 20th Century – see Krak de Chervailles
Sidon (Classical Arabic: صَيْدونْ Saydoon) has been inhabited since very early in prehistory. The archaeological site of Sidon II shows a lithic assemblage dating to the Acheulean, whilst finds at Sidon III include a Heavy Neolithic assemblage suggested to date just prior to the invention of pottery. It was one of the most important Phoenician cities, and it may have been the oldest. From there and other ports a great Mediterranean commercial empire was founded. Homer praised the skill of its craftsmen in producing glass, purple dyes, and its women’s skill at the art of embroidery. It was also from here that a colonizing party went to found the city of Tyre. Tyre also grew into a great city, and in subsequent years there was competition between the two, each claiming to be the metropolis (‘Mother City’) of Phoenicia. Glass manufacturing, Sidon’s most important enterprise in the Phoenician era, was conducted on a vast scale, and the production of purple dye was almost as important. The small shell of the Murex trunculus was broken in order to extract the pigment that was so rare it became the mark of royalty.
In AD 1855, the sarcophagus of King Eshmun’azar II was discovered. From a Phoenician inscription on its lid, it appears that he was a “king of the Sidonians,” probably in the 5th century BC, and that his mother was a priestess of ‘Ashtart, “the goddess of the Sidonians.” In this inscription the gods Eshmun and Ba‘al Sidon ‘Lord of Sidon’ (who may or may not be the same) are mentioned as chief gods of the Sidonians. ‘Ashtart is entitled ‘Ashtart-Shem-Ba‘al ‘‘Ashtart the name of the Lord’, a title also found in an Ugaritic text.
In the years before Christianity, Sidon had many conquerors: Assyrians, Babylonians, Egyptians, Persians , Greeks, and finally Romans. Herod the Great visited Sidon. Both Jesus and Saint Paul are said to have visited it too (see Biblical Sidon below). The city was eventually conquered by the Arabs and then by the Ottoman Turks.
Like other Phoenician city-states, Sidon suffered from a succession of conquerors. At the end of the Persian era in 351 BC, it was invaded by the emperor Artaxerxes IIIand then by Alexander the Great in 333 BC, when the Hellenistic era of Sidon began. Under the successors of Alexander, it enjoyed relative autonomy and organized games and competitions in which the greatest athletes of the region participated. In the Necropolis of Sidon, important finds such as the Alexander Sarcophagus, theLycian tomb and the Sarcophagus of the Crying Women were discovered, which are now on display at the Archaeological Museum of Istanbul.
When Sidon fell under Roman domination, it continued to mint its own silver coins. The Romans also built a theater and other major monuments in the city. In the reign of Elagabalus a Roman colony was established there, and was given the name of Colonia Aurelia Pia Sidon. During the Byzantine period, when the great earthquake of AD 551 destroyed most of the cities of Phoenice, Beirut’s School of Law took refuge in Sidon. The town continued quietly for the next century, until it was conquered by the Arabs in AD 636.
On 4 December 1110 Sidon was captured, a decade after the First Crusade, by King Baldwin I of Jerusalem and King Sigurd I of Norway. It then became the centre of the Lordship of Sidon, an important lordship in the Kingdom of Jerusalem. Saladin captured it from the Crusaders in 1187, but German Crusaders restored it to Christian control in the Crusade of 1197. It would remain an important Crusader stronghold until it was finally destroyed by the Saracens in 1249. In 1260 it was again destroyed by the Mongols. The remains of the original walls are still visible.
Sidon is the seat of the Greek Melkite Catholic Archbishop of Sidon and Deir el Qamar, and has housed a significant Catholic population throughout its history. Sidon also hosts the seats of the Sunni Mufti and the Shiite Ayatollah of South Lebanon.
|Religion||Voters||Percent (%)||Religion||Voters||Percent (%)|
|Sunni||36163||79.7||Roman Latin Catholic||82||0.2|
|Greek Melkite Catholic||1686||3.7||Syriac Catholic||17||0.0|
|Armenian Orthodox||256||0.6||Other Christians||19||0.0|
The Biblical Sidon
The Bible describes Sidon in several passages:
- It received its name from the “first-born” of Canaan, the grandson of Noah (Genesis 10:15, 19).
- The Tribe of Zebulun has a frontier on Sidon. (Gen. 49:13)
- It was the first home of the Phoenicians on the coast of Canaan, and from its extensive commercial relations became a “great” city. (Joshua 11:8; 19:28).
- It was the mother city of Tyre. It lay within the lot of the tribe of Asher, but was never subdued (Judges 1:31).
- The Sidonians long oppressed Israel (Judges 10:12).
- From the time of David its glory began to wane, and Tyre, its “virgin daughter” (Isaiah 23:12), rose to its place of pre-eminence.
- Solomon entered into a matrimonial alliance with the Sidonians, and thus their form of idolatrous worship found a place in the land of Israel (1 Kings 11:1, 33).
- Jezebel was a Sidonian princess (1 Kings 16:31).
- It was famous for its manufactures and arts, as well as for its commerce (1 Kings 5:6; 1 Chronicles 22:4; Ezekiel 27:8).
- It is frequently referred to by the prophets (Isaiah 23:2, 4, 12; Jeremiah 25:22; 27:3; 47:4; Ezekiel 27:8; 28:21, 22; 32:30; Joel 3:4).
- Elijah sojourned in Sidon, performing miracles (1 Kings 17:9–24; Luke 4:26).
- Jesus visited the “coasts” of Tyre and Sidon (Matthew 15:21; Mark 7:24) and from this region many came forth to hear him preaching (Mark 3:8; Luke 6:17), leading to the stark contrast in Matthew 11:21–23 to Korazin and Bethsaida.
- From Sidon, at which the ship put in after leaving Caesarea, Paul finally sailed for Rome (Acts 27:3, 4).