Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Sidon, Zidon or Saida, (Arabic صيدا Ṣaydā; Standard Hebrew צִידוֹן Ẓidon, Tiberian Hebrew צִידֹן Ṣîḏōn) is the third-largest city in Lebanon. It is on the Mediterranean coast, about 25 miles north of Tyre and 30 miles south of the capital Beirut. Its name means a fishery.
It was one of the most important Phoenician cities, and may have been the oldest. From here, and other ports, a great Mediterranean commercial empire was founded. Homer praised the skill of its craftsmen in producing glass and purple dyes. It was also from here that a colonising party went to found the city of Tyre.
In 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 BCE, 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.
Sidon has had many conquerors: Philistines; Assyrians; Babylonians; Egyptians; Greeks and finally Romans in the years before Jesus. Herod the Great visited Sidon; both Jesus and St Paul are said to have visited it (see Biblical Sidon below).
On December 4, 1110 Sidon was sacked in the First Crusade. During the Crusades it was sacked several times: it was finally destroyed by the Saracens in 1249. It became the centre of the Lordship of Sidon, an important seigneury in the Kingdom of Jerusalem. In 1260 it was again destroyed by the Mongols. The remains of the original walls are still visible.
After Sidon came under Ottoman Turkish rule in the seventeenth century, it regained a great deal of its earlier commercial importance. The Egyptians, assisted by England and France, captured and held the city in the nineteenth century. During WWI, the British took Sidon; after the war it became part of the French Protectorate in the Eastern Mediterranean.
In 1900 it was a town of 10,000 inhabitants; in 2000 its population was around 200,000. Although there is little level land around the city, some wheat and vegetables are grown and there is much fruit also; some fishing is carried on. The heavily-silted ancient port is now used only by small coastal vessels. There is also a refinery here.
The Bible describes Sidon at various places:
- It received its name from the "first-born" of Canaan, the grandson of Noah (Genesis 10:15, 19).
- 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).
- 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).
- Jesus visited the "coasts" of Tyre and Sidon (Matthew 15:21; Mark 7:24; Luke 4:26) and from this region many came forth to hear him preaching (Mark 3:8; Luke 6:17).
- From Sidon, at which the ship put in after leaving Caesarea, Paul finally sailed for Rome (Acts 27:3, 4).
- additional notes taken from Collier's Encyclopedia (1967 edition)
- Sam Houston State University: Nicholas C. J. Pappas: The Inscription on the Sarcophagus of the Phoenician King Eshmunazar
- Notes on Sidon
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