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Sidon

SIDON (Phoen. px, Hebrew p-s, Assyr. Sidunnu, Egypt. Diduna), formerly the principal city of Phoenicia, now a small town of about 15,000 inhabitants, situated on the Syrian coast between Beirut and Sur (Tyre). The name, which the Arabs now pronounce Saida, has been explained as meaning " fishtown " (cf. Hebr. iis " to hunt," in Phoen. perhaps " to fish "); more likely it is connected with the god Sid, who is known only as an element in proper names (see Cooke, North-Sent. Inscrr. p. 91); possibly both town and people were named after him. The ancient city extended some 800 yds. inland from the shore over ground which is now covered by fruit-gardens. From a series of inscriptions, all giving the same text, discovered at Bostan esh-Shekh, a little way to the N. of Saida, we learn that the ancient city was divided into three divisions at least, one of which was called " Sidon by the sea," and another " Sidon on the plain " (?) (see N.-Sem. Inscrr. App. i.). In front of the flat promontory to which the modern Sidon is confined there stretches northwards and southwards a rocky peninsula; at the northern extremity of this begins a series of small rocks enclosing the harbour, which is a very bad one. The port was formerly protected on the north by the Qal'at el-Bahr (" Sea Castle "), a building of the 13th century, situated on an island still connected with the mainland by a bridge. On the S. side of the town lay the so-called Egyptian harbour, which was filled up in the 17th century in order to keep out the Turks. The wall by which Sidon is at present surrounded is pierced by two gates; at the southern angle, upon a heap of rubbish, stand the remains of the citadel. The streets are very narrow, and the buildings of any interest few; most prominent are some large caravanserais belonging to the period of Sidon's modern prosperity, and the large mosque, formerly a church of the knights of St John. The inhabitants support themselves mainly on the produce of their luxuriant gardens; but the increasing trade of Beirut has withdrawn the bulk of the commerce from Sidon. In earlier days Phoenicia produced excellent wine, that of Sidon being specially esteemed; it is mentioned in an Aramaic papyrus from Egypt (4th century B.C., N.S.I, p. 213). One of the chief industries of Sidon used to be the manufacture of glass from the fine sand of the river Belus. To the S.E. of the town lies the Phoenician necropolis, which has been to a great extent investigated. The principal finds are sarcophagi, and next to these sculptures and paintings. It was here that the superb Greek sarcophagi, which are now in the Imperial Museum at Constantinople, were found, and the sarcophagi of the two Sidonian kings Eshmunazar (Louvre) and Tabnith (Imperial Museum, Constantinople) , both of them with important Phoenician inscriptions.

The ancient history of Sidon is discussed in the article PHOENICIA. In A.D. 325 a bishop of Sidon attended the Council of Nicaea. In 637-638 the town was taken by the Arabs. During the Crusades it was alternately in the possession of the Franks and the Mahommedans, but finally fell into the hands of the latter in 1291. As the residence of the Druse Amir Fakhr ud-Din, it rose to some prosperity about the beginning of the 17th century, but towards the close of the 18th its commerce again passed away and has never returned. The biblical references to Sidon are Gen. x. 15 (the people), xlix. 13; Is. xxiii. 1-14; Ezek. xxvii. 8; Acts xxvii. 3. Sidon is nearly always mentioned along with Tyre Jer. xxvii. 3, xlvii. 4; Ezra iii. 7; Joel iii. 4; Mark iii. 8 and Luke vi. 17; Mark vii. 24, 31, and Matt. xv. 21 ; Matt. xi. 21 and Luke x. 13 f. ; Acts xii. 20. In the Old Testament, as frequently in Greek literature, " Sidonians " is used not in a local but in an ethnic sense, and means " Phoenicians," hence the name of Sidon was familiar to the Greeks earlier than that of Tyre, though the latter was the more important city (ed. Meyer, Encycl. Bibl. col. 4505).

See Robinson, Bibl. Res. ii. 478 ff. ; Prutz, Aus Phonicien (1876), 98 ff. ; Pietschmann, Gesch. d. Phonizier (1889), 53-58; Hamdy Bey and T. Reinach, Necropole royale a Sidon (1892-1896); A. Socin in Baedeker, Pal. u. Syrien. (G. A. C.*)

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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