SIDON (also Zidon ; Heb. צִידוֹן, צִידֹן), Phoenician port, N. of Tyre in Lebanon. The name (Phoen. צדן; Akkad. Ṣiddunnu) comes from the root ṣwd ("to hunt, fish"). Justin says that Sidon means "fish town" ("piscem Phoenices sidon vocant," 18:13, passim), but W.R. Smith (bibl.) shows that ṣwd was used as part of a divine name (e.g., Ṣ-d-Tannith, Ṣ-d-Melkarth) and was probably a Baal of Lebanon, a food god. Sidon's wealth came from the resources of the sea (commerce, fish, purple dye from mollusks, and later, glass from the sand). Already by the 15th/14th century b.c.e. Sidon was famous as a religious site. The Ugaritic myth of Keret, king of Sidonians, mentions his visit to the shrines of bʿelt Ṣdynm ("goddess of Sidon"; Keret, 4:197–202; 6:279). In later times Sidonian gods (especially Ashtoreth) were very popular with the Children of Israel (Judg. 9:6; i Kings 11:5, 33; ii Kings 23:13). From early times Sidon, as the rest of Phoenicia, was under Egyptian control, but by the 13th century Sidon began to assert its independence and the Tell el-Amarna Letters testify to the secret intrigues of Zimridda, king of Sidon, with Abdi-Airta and his sons, the kings of the Amorites, although Zimridda ostensibly still professed loyalty to Pharaoh (S.A.B. Mercer, The Tell Amarna Tablets (1939), nos. 144, 145; cf. 83:26, 103:18, etc.).
It was its natural resources that made Sidon the leading port of the Phoenician coast by the 11th century b.c.e. It was mentioned in the Egyptian story, The Journey of Wen Amon to Phoenicia (Pritchard, Texts, 25–29), as having 50 ships in commercial contact with Egypt (11th century b.c.e.). About this time Tiglath-Pileser i (1115–1077 b.c.e.) of Assyria invaded Phoenicia, and received tribute from Sidon. By Homer's time (tenth/ninth century) Sidon's craftsmanship in metalwork was well known and highly prized; Menelaus gave Telemachus a present of a beautiful Sidonian gold cup (Odyssey 4:613–9); Sidon was termed "Sidon abounding in bronze" (Σιδῶνος πολυχάλκου) and was said to excel in gold and electrum (ibid. 15:425, 460), as well as dyed clothes (as quoted from Homer in Herodotus, Histories, 12:116). On account of this wealth Sidon was subject to frequent raids from the Greek islands of this period (Odyssey 15:427). Up to this time Sidon held the dominating position in riches, trade, and crafts on the Phoenician littoral, which entitled it to be called "Great Sidon" (Josh. 11:8; 19:28), and "the firstborn of Canaan" (Gen. 10:15), and lent the name Sidonian as a general term for Phoenician (i Kings 16:31). On the invasion of the Twelve Tribes, the Sidonians were living as far south as the hill country of Ereẓ Israel but they were driven back and Asher inherited their land (Josh. 11:8; 13:6; Judg. 1:31). Later they oppressed Israel together with the Amalekites but were beaten (Judg. 10:12).
In the Bible the Sidonians had great fame as carpenters and lumberers. David, Solomon, and the returning Exiles hired Sidonian carpenters to cut wood for the Temple (i Chron. 22:4; Zech. 9:2; Ezra 3:7). Sidon probably founded her colonies about the ninth century in Cyprus (cf. Cook, bibl. no. 11), Hippo, and Kition; and the eighth-century citizens of Sidon, Tyre, and Aradus (Arvad) founded Tripoli in Lebanon (Strabo, Geography, 15:2:15). From the late tenth century on Tyre gradually overtook Sidon in the hegemony of Phoenicia. Shalmaneser iii (858–824) took tribute from Jehu of Israel and Sidon (Pritchard, Texts, 278). Sennacherib (705–681) drove out the rebel Elu-Eli, king of Tyre, who had conquered a large part of Phoenicia, and replaced him with the pro-Assyrian Ethbaal, king of Sidon, who had already submitted to Sennacherib in 701. In 677, Sidon rose against the rule of Sennacherib's son, Esarhaddon, who subsequently cast down the walls of Sidon and destroyed it, beheading her king, Abd-Melkarth. Esarhaddon then built a fort, "Kar," close to Sidon to overawe it, and gave its territory to Tyre. Shortly after 605, Jeremiah prophesied against Sidon, warning it to accept the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar (Jer. 25:22; 27:3; cf. Ezek. 28:22; Joel 4:4). The new Sidon remained subjugated to the Assyrians and then to the Babylonians, and when *Hophra of Egypt (588–568) organized the anti-Babylonian league with Judah and Ammon, he attacked Sidon for not joining their conspiracy (Herodotus, Histories, 2:161). Under Persian rule Sidon, together with Aradus, Byblos, and Tyre were granted internal autonomy, and later – in the fourth century – they federated, choosing Tripoli as the federal capital (Strabo, Histories, 16:2:22).
The maritime reputation of the Sidonians was so great that Darius especially sent to Sidon for ships and crews before invading Greece in 490 (Herodotus, Histories, 3:136). Under the rule of Artaxerxes iii (359–338), the other cities of the federation (mentioned above) cunningly enticed Sidon into rebelling against Persia, promising support, but in effect not helping her at all. In 351, Artaxerxes set out for Sidon with 300,000 infantry and 30,000 cavalry. Tennes, king of Sidon, immediately fled, but the people of the city courageously refused to surrender and burned their ships in the harbor. When the Persians set the city on fire, the inhabitants locked themselves in their houses; more than 40,000 perished and the survivors were transported to Babylonia (Diodorus Siculus, History, 16:41–45). In this episode, Tyre and the other cities acted with deliberate calculation in order to destroy the commercial rivalry of Sidon forever.
With the conquest of Phoenicia by Alexander the Great in 333, Sidon, which was just beginning to recover, immediately surrendered and assisted him at the siege of her ancient enemy, Tyre. Alexander restored Sidon's constitution, returned to her the territories given to Tyre, and appointed Abdalonymus as king in place of Straton ii (342–333), who had assisted the Persians (Justin, 11:10; Arrian, Anabasis, 2:20:1; Curtius, 4:1:16).
Ashtoreth was the supreme deity of Sidon (cf. "Ashtoreth, the god of Sidon," i Kings 11:33; ii Kings 23:13) and was goddess of fertility and generation (cf. Herodotus, Histories 1:105). It was the charge of the kings to build "a house for the gods of Sidonians in Sidon, land of the sea, a house to Baal of Sidon [cf. i Kings 16:31 "Baal of the Sidonians"] and a house to Ashtart" (cf. i Sam. 31:10; Cook, bibl. no. 4). It seems that at this period the "Lord of Kings" (Ptolemy ii) granted Sidon the territories of "the fields of Sharon" (cf. Deut. 3:9), "Dor and Jaffa" (loc. cit.). Shortly after 250 b.c.e., Sidon became a republic ruled by suffetes (Heb. shofet, annually elected magistrates). Josephus identifies the ruling bodies with the Greek Βουλή (Heb. הַזֵּקֵנִים) and the δῆμος (Heb. הָעָם; Jos., Ant., 14:190). In 218, Antiochus iii seized Tyre and Ptolemais from Ptolemy iv, but Sidon was strong enough to resist him and became a center of Ptolemy's operations (Polybius, 5:61, 69). In 200, Scopas (Ptolemy v's general) was defeated at Panion and after being besieged at Sidon surrendered the city to Antiochus, who thereby gained the whole of Coele-Syria by 198 (Jerome, commentary to Daniel, 11:15; Polybius, 10, frag. 7).
At the beginning of the Maccabean wars, Sidon (with Ptolemais and Tyre) persecuted the Jews of Galilee to whose rescue Simon Maccabee went in 163 (i Macc. 5:15). In 111, Sidon gained autonomy from the Seleucids, and this year was the beginning of a new era for Sidon. Pompey recognized her independence in 64 b.c.e. and ceded her territory up to Iturea (Mt. Hermon). Bronze copies of the edicts of Julius Caesar addressed to the council and people of Sidon in 47–44 b.c.e. in favor of John Hyrcanus and the Jews (recorded in Josephus) were set up in Sidon (Ant., 14:190–210). This period proved to be one of the richest periods financially in Sidonian history. Glassblowing was discovered at this time (probably in Sidon; cf. Pliny, 5:76, Sidon artifex vitri). Strabo describes Sidon's two harbors and expounds on her reputation for astronomy, mathematics, and navigation. After some major disturbances, Sidon and Tyre were placed under Roman jurisdiction by Augustus in 20 b.c.e. Sidon soon advanced to the foreground among Hellenistic cities and was beautified by Herod (Jos., Wars, 1:422; cf. Acts 12:20).
By this time, a large number of Jews resided in Sidon, as is testified by the pagano-Jewish inscriptions from Sidon; and a Jewish inscription ending with hopes for the resurrection (Frey, 2, nos. 875–7). The Jewish population also seems to have established for itself some notoriety (Matt. 11:22; Luke 10:14) and Jesus especially went to preach in its vicinity (Matt. 15:21; Mark 7:24). By the first century, Jews were so numerous in Sidon that the Sidonians were afraid of attacking them in 66 c.e., when the Jews of Syria were massacred in other Greek towns (Jos., Wars, 2:479). By Byzantine times, Sidon had lost most of its wealth (the cedars had been cut down, the purple dye was no longer a monopoly, and other places had superseded Sidon in glassblowing). Antoninus Placentius (570) wrote that Sidon was partly in ruins.
Sidon was described by numerous scholars and travelers in the 19th century, including E. Robinson, C. Volney, and others. The famous Sarcophagus of Eshmunazar, King of Sidon, was discovered in 1855 to the southeast of the city. The first excavation in the city was made by E.Renan in 1861. In 1912 G. Contenau excavated a graveyard containing sarcophagi, including one depicting a Roman merchant ship, as well as graves dating back to the 16th century b.c.e. and other finds. Contenau also discovered, next to the Crusader castle of St. Louis, a place where the purple dye was extracted from Murex shells. M. Dunand unearthed a temple dedicated to Mithra in 1924. Elsewhere he excavated the Temple of Eshmun and between 1963 and 1968 expanded the excavations around the sanctuary. Tombs dating from the end of the Middle Bronze Age to the beginning of the Late Bronze Age were unearthed in 1937 by P.E. Guigues. More tombs were cleared by M. Chehab in 1940, dating from the period between the 18th and 14th centuries b.c.e. The harbor installations were investigated by A. Poidebard between 1946 and 1950. From 1966 to 1969 Roger Saidah, of the Lebanese Department of Antiquities, excavated a Late Chalcolithic settlement of oval houses, superimposed by a cemetery with tombs ranging in date from the 14th century through the Early Roman period.
Although it was never large, a Jewish community existed in this ancient Phoenician city throughout the Muslim era. Benjamin of Tudela, the 12th-century traveler, reported that there were "twenty Jews" (families or taxpayers) in Sidon. The *Mamluks destroyed the citadel there after capturing the city from the crusaders; as an open city it began to decline during the latter part of the Middle Ages; its Jewish community did not increase. At the end of the 15th century there was a small community. R. Moshe Basola recounts that during his travels in Syria in the year 1521 there were no more than 20 families of Arabized Jews in Sidon. Under *Ottoman rule Sidon grew again, and the Jewish community also increased. Rabbinical writings of the period show that Jews in Sidon were active in commerce and some were tax collectors (Mabit, Resp. vol. 2, pt. 2, no. 62). R. Joseph Sofer of *Safed wrote that in 1762 there had been six minyanim (60 adult male Jews) in Sidon, but that most of them had died during the plague and barely one minyan survived. R. Mordecai, of the same period, mentions the Jews of Sidon (Resp. no. 16) saying that they did not have a rabbi at the time. David d'Beth Hillel recounts that Sidon had approximately 20 Jewish families in 1824, all Arabic-speaking and native-born; they were similar in customs to the Jews of Ereẓ Israel, and most of them were tradesmen. Most of the travelers mention the tomb of Zebulun, the son of Jacob, located south of Sidon, a place the Arabs called Sheikh Ṣadyā, that was venerated by Jews and Muslims alike. The traditional tombs of Oholiab the son of Ahisamakh, Bezalel, R. Eleazar Bartukha, and the prophet Zephaniah also were not far from Sidon.
[Eliyahu Ashtor /
Shimon Gibson (2nd ed.)]
The Jewish community in Sidon remained traditional and its members observed the religious rituals. During the latter stages of the 1948 War, when the Israeli army occupied parts of South Lebanon, the homes of several members of the small Jewish community in Sidon, numbering 200 persons, were confiscated, and Palestinian refugees were installed in them. But the Lebanese government ordered the police to protect the Jews in the city and enabled them to return to their homes and property. In 1962, the Alliance school in Sidon was closed down, and in 1968 there were about 150–160 Jews in the city. In 1972, the shoḥet of the community left.
By 1975, most of the Jews in Sidon had left the city and only one family remained. Its head, Yosef Levy, worked as a tailor and made uniforms for the Lebanese army, and it maintained good relations with its non-Jewish neighbors. On June 5, 1982, when the Israeli army occupied Sidon, the Levys were permitted to stay in their home. When the Israeli army withdrew from the city, the remaining members of the family left with it and settled in Israel.
[Oren Barak (2nd ed.)]
G.A. Cook, North Semitic Inscriptions (1903), indexes, appendix; P.K. Hitti, History of Syria (1951), index; Oxford Classical Dictionary (1950), s.v.Sidon; W. Robertson Smith, The Religion of the Semites (1927), 578; J.B. Bury, History of Greece (1952), 763–70; G. Roux, Ancient Iraq (1966), index; Pauly-Wissowa, s.v.Sidon; Frey, Corpus 2, no. 875–7; A. Yaari, Iggerot Ereẓ Yisrael (1943), index; J. Braslawsky (Braslavi), in: Edoth, 2 (1946/47), 193–201; idem, Le-Ḥeker Arẓenu (1954), 319–22. add. bibliography: N. Jidejian, Sidon Through the Ages (1971); K.E. Schulze, The Jews of Lebanon: Between Coexistence and Conflict (2001).
Syrian seaport city.
Sidon (in Arabic, Sayda, Saida, or Sayida) was an ancient Mediterranean seaport city founded by the Phoenicians during the third millennium b.c.e. and ruled in turn by Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Alexandrian Greeks, Syrian Seleucids, Egyptian Ptolemys, Romans, Arabs, Crusaders, and Ottomans. Located on the coast of present-day southwestern Lebanon, its name derives from sayd (fishing in Semitic languages), referring to murex marine snail (Murex brandaris) fishing, from which the famous purple dye was extracted. Sidon is mentioned in ancient writings, including the Egyptian Amarna letters, inscriptions in the city of Ugarit, and in Homer's Iliad. The city's golden age was during the seventeenth century c.e., under Amir Fakhr al-Din II, when Sidon became a dynastic capital and a center for the dyeing and silk industries. Fakhr al-Din built castles, gardens, and inns to house foreign tradesmen. During this period, religious coexistence among Christians and Muslims was marked, and it is still reflected in Sidon's Great Mosque of Umar and the Maronite church, whose foundations date to Roman times. Rebuilt after a disastrous 1837 earthquake, Sidon remains a commercial, fishing, and agricultural market center for citrus fruit and vegetables. A petroleum refinery plant, light industry, and fishing provide important sources of livelihood for Sidon's 140,000 inhabitants (as of 2000), the majority of whom are Sunni Muslims.
george e. irani
updated by charles c. kolb