Tyre appears on monuments as early as 1500 BC, and claiming, according to Herodotus, to have been founded about 2700 BC. The inhabitants of Tyre were leading merchants in the ancient world. The city of Tyre was particularly known for the production of a rare sort of purple dye, known as Tyrian purple, which was in many ancient cultures reserved for royal use.
In the time of King David (c. 1000 BC), a friendly alliance was entered into between the Hebrews and the Tyrians, who were long ruled over by their native kings.
Tyre was often attacked by Egypt, then by the Babylonian Nebuchadnezzar (586–573 BC), and it later fell under the power of the Persians. In 332 BC, the city was conquered by Alexander the Great, after a siege of seven months. During the seige Alexander connected two distinct cities about 1 km apart (one on an island and one on the coast) by a causeway. Tyre continued to maintain much of its commercial importance until the Christian era.
Somewhere near Tyre, Jesus healed a Syrian woman's daughter after she gave him a clever reply about breadcrumbs. (Mk 7:24) A Christian church was founded in Tyre shortly after the martyrdom of Stephen (in Jerusalem) and St. Paul, on his return from his third missionary journey, spent a week in conversation with the disciples there. According to Irenaeus of Lyons, the female companion of the Gnostic magician Simon Magus came from Tyre.
Tyre was captured in 1124 during the First Crusade and became one of the most important cities of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem. It was part of the royal domain, although there were also autonomous trading colonies there for the Italian merchant cities. The city was the seat of the archbishop of Tyre, who reported to the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem.
After the fall of Jerusalem to Saladin in 1187, the seat of the kingdom moved to Acre, but coronations were still held in Tyre. In 1291, Tyre was retaken by the Mameluks. It then passed to Ottoman rule until it became part of the modern state of Lebanon after World War I.