On the Shores of the Great Sea  by M. B. Synge

The Fall of Tyre

"Is this your joyous city, whose antiquity is of ancient days?"

—Isaiah xxiii. 7.

S O the Greek nation slowly arose on the shores of the Great Sea, and by-and-by the colonies founded by Phœnicia, in Greece, had to be given up one by one. No longer were the Phœnicians free to come and go, to buy and sell, along the opposite shores. Greek cities rose, Greek ships put to sea, Phœnician colonies became Greek colonies.

But if a dangerous rival had appeared by sea, a yet more dangerous one had appeared by land. Nebuchadnezzar was King of Babylon, and Babylon was growing very powerful and strong. And this great king came down from the north, with chariots and horses and much people; he captured Sidon, laid low Jerusalem, and then came to reduce the renowned old city of Tyre.

For the last time, through the piercing eyes of Ezekiel, we seem to see Tyre, the old queen of commerce, in all her ancient glory:—

"The ships of Tarshish were thy caravans for thy merchandise:

And thou wast replenished, and made very glorious in the heart of the sea.

Thy rowers have brought thee into great waters:

The east wind hath broken thee in the heart of the sea.

And all that handle the oar, the mariners, and all the pilots of the sea,

They shall come down from their ships, they shall stand upon the land;

And shall cause their voice to be heard over thee, and shall cry bitterly.

.     .     .     .     .     .     .     .

And they shall weep for thee in bitterness of soul with bitter mourning.

And in their wailing they shall take up a lamentation for thee,

And lament over thee, saying, Who is there like Tyre,

Like her that is brought to silence in the midst of the seas?"

And Nebuchadnezzar made forts against Tyre; he set his battering engines against her walls—those walls that Hiram had built so strong. He broke down her towers; her walls shook at the noise of his horsemen, when he entered into her gates. With the hoofs of his horses he trod down all her streets; he slew her people with the sword; he took her gold and silver, broke down her walls, destroyed her pleasant houses, while her timber from Lebanon, he cast into the waters.

Well, indeed, might the prophet Isaiah cry, "Howl, ye ships of Tarshish; for your strong place is laid waste."

Phœnicia fell in the year 574 B.C.

So busy had they been with the vast expansion of their trade on the seas that they had neglected home defence; when invasion came, they were powerless. Again, they had collected great wealth, but they had no worthy use for it. They did not understand, that wealth, if used aright, is but a means to nobler ends. To the Phœnicians it was an end in itself. The old Egyptian civilisation had not affected them, the wondrous new beginnings of Greek art did not appeal to them. They were the conquerors of the sea, the first colonisers in the Old World, and as such will always be remembered.

They have been compared to a flower that has bloomed too much and withered at its root; but the work was done, the seed had fallen in many places.

They vanished from the pages of history, leaving but memories behind, and now the tideless waters of the Mediterranean Sea lap peacefully over the old cities of Tyre and Sidon, while the world-famed Phœnicia of ancient days plays no part in the busy world of commerce which has shifted westwards.