Sidon (sĪˈdən) [key], ancient city, one of the great seaports of the Phoenicians, on site of present-day Sidon or Saida (1988 est. pop. 38,000), SW Lebanon, on the Mediterranean Sea. It was one of the oldest Phoenician cities and is mentioned in the Tell el Amarna letters c.1400 B.C. After the 2d millennium B.C., all Phoenicians were called Sidonians. Sidon was always an important center for trade, particularly in a later period when it was known for its purple dyes and for glassware (glass blowing is said to have begun at Sidon). Sidon has been excavated, and the sarcophagus of Eshmunzar that was found preserves an inscription of 22 lines mentioning various deities such as Baal and Ashtoreth.
Although eclipsed by its own colony, Tyre, Sidon continued to be a port of prominence under the Persians, in the Hellenistic world, and in the later Roman Empire. It is often mentioned in the Bible. During the 1982 Israeli invasion of S Lebanon, the modern city was captured from the Palestine Liberation Organization by Israeli forces after heavy fighting.
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