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Tyre Obelisk

Present Site:  Hippodrome Site, Tyre, Lebanon
N 33°16'04.8"(33.268010) E 35°12'35.1"(35.209762)
Pharaoh:  Unknown. Probably Romans made this with the stone quarried in Aswan, Egypt
Measurement:  9.5 meters high for obelisk itself
The pedestal is about 2.5 meters high.
Stone:  Red granite

About The Site:
Tyre is an ancient town facing the Mediterranean and is located about 80 km south of Beirut. Tyre is an English name, and it's locally called "Sour" in Arabic. This is a town built by Phoenician in about 2500 BC, and was registered as UNESCO's World Heritage in 1984.
In 64 BC, current Lebanon region became under the control of Roman Empire, and the residents were granted the Roman Citizenship, it was developed as a Roman's Town. The ruins currently remain in Tyre are ones which were built by Roman.
Triumphal arch at the entrance of hippodrome site
Triumphal arch at the entrance of hippodrome site


Hippodrome site is a little inland from the Mediterranean coast, still remains as a long vast vacant land (see photo below right), which is confirmed by the satellite photo of Google Maps. The size of tracks is about 400 m north to south, and about 100 m width, and the ruins of gate for the athlete remain on the north side, and the stands were around the tracks. Although this is smaller than Circo Massimo in Rome, which is about 500 m long, but is huge like about 2 times of Hippodrome in Istanbul. The obelisk stands at the center of the oval track of Hippodrome site.


Obelisk and the hippodrome site

Obelisk and the hippodrome site

How To Get There:
The civil war continues in Lebanon, so U.S. Department of State issues the Travel Warning as "avoid travel to Lebanon because of the threats of terrorism, etc.". The town of Tyre (Sour) area is under the control by UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon). The Lebanese citizen may go to Tyre by the route bus, but for the foreigners like us should join the packaged tour or use the private tour services operated by the local reliable travel agencies.
It's about 80 km from Beirut, and we go through the well maintained national highway, and arrive with about 1 hour and half after passing the several security checkpoints.

About The Obelisk:
This obelisk, upper section is missing. There was no description on the obelisk at the site, but I assumed this would have been repaired after a large-scale excavation in 1940s through the beginning of 1970s. After coming back to my home, I noticed the document entitled "The Region of Tyre and Sidon" by a female historian, Patricia M. Bikai, originally published as "The Madaba Map Centenary 1897-1997" in Jerusalem in 1999. According to this document, the obelisk was found in the underground of the northern end of the Hippodrome, and was re-erected in the early 1970s. I assume the obelisk was fallen by the large earthquake happend in 502 and 551, which caused the large casualty in Tyre Town. Missing upper section was probably took away, and used as the material for another building, when the fallen obelisk was still lying on the ground.
It's considered this obelisk was probably made in AD 1st - 3rd centuries. There is no inscription, in the same way of Quirinale Obelisk and Esquilino Obelisk. However, we can recognize the stone is obviously red granite at first glance, so we can imagine this was transported from Egypt. "The Region of Tyre and Sidon" which is mentioned above also says the Egyptian red granite.
Since the upper section is missing, the original length (height) is unknown, but it would be 12 - 15 meters, because current remaining portion is about 9.5 meters. This is probably a similar size of Caesarea Obelisk.

Notes For Pictures:
No foreign tourist at all was seen in Tyre. I was sorry such state of no tourist, due to a tourists travel postponement recommendations in each country, despite the town itself was quite peaceful. But the security of Tyre was maintained is because the UNIFIL is stationed, I saw the white armored vehicles writing "UN" in large letters, and soldiers of UNIFIL with a automatic rifle.

tyre_north.jpg
North Side

tyre_east.jpg
East Side

tyre_south.jpg
South Side

tyre_west.jpg
West Side

May 4, 2015    by Hiroyuki Nagase    (For high definition image, please click the picture)

Copyright Hiroyuki Nagase nagase@obelisk.org and Shoji Okamoto okamoto@obelisk.org