The Siege of Tyre

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According to Quintus Curtius Rufus (and with the help of Google Earth)

IV. 2. 7-8
“… the Tyrians had sufficient confidence in their position to… withstand a siege. The strait separating the city from the main land had a width of four stades*. It was particularly exposed to the south-westerly wind, which rolled rapid successions of waves on to the shore from the open sea, and nothing represented a greater obstacle to a siege-work – which the Macedonians were contemplating, to join island and mainland – the this wind.
IV. 2. 12
“The people of Tyre… deployed their artillery along the walls and turrets, distributed weapons to the younger men, and allocated the city’s generous resources of craftsmen to workshops.
* ‘Less than half a mile’ according to Heckel who compiled the Notes for the Penguin Classics edition of the work that I am using for these posts

IV. 2. 21, 23
“Little by little the mole now began to rise above the surface and the mound’s width increased as it approached the city… Alexander… had hides and sheets of canvas stretched before the workmen to screen them from Tyrian missiles, and he erected two turrets on the top of the mole from which weapons could be directed at approaching boats.
IV. 3. 2-3
“Meanwhile the Tyrians took an enormous ship, loaded its stern with rocks and sand so that its prow stood high out of the water, and daubed it with bitumen and sulphur. Then they rowed out the ship which, after its sails caught a strong wind, quickly came up to the mole. At this point the oarsmen fired the prow and then jumped into boats that had followed the ship expressly for this purpose. The vessel flared up and began to spread the blaze over a large area. Before help could be bought it engulfed the towers and other structures built on the top of the mole.
Tyre2IV. 3. 8
“The king set to work on a fresh mole, but now he aimed it directly into the head-wind, instead of side-on to it, so that the front offered protection to the rest of the work which, as it were, sheltered behind it. Alexander also added breadth to the mound so that towers could be raised in the middle out of range of the enemy’s missiles.
IV. 3. 23
“Some [Tyrians] advocated the revival of a religious rite which had been discontinued for many generations and which I certainly would not have thought to be at all acceptable to the gods – namely the sacrifice of a free-born male child to Saturn… Had it not been vetoed by the elders, whose judgement carried weight in all matters, cruel superstition would have triumphed over civilized behaviour.”
Tyre3IV. 4. 10 – 12
“The king himself climbed the highest siege-tower. His courage was great, but the danger greater for, conspicuous in his royal insignia and flashing armour, he was the prime target of enemy missiles. And his actions in the engagement were certainly spectacular. He transfixed with his spear many of the defenders on the walls, and some he threw headlong after striking them in hand-to-hand combat with his sword or shield, for the tower from which he fought practically abutted the enemy walls. By now the repeated battering of the rams had loosened the joints in the stones and the defensive walls had fallen; the fleet had entered the port; and some Macedonians had made their way on to the towers the enemy had abandoned.
IV. 4. 13. 16-17
“Alexander ordered all but those who had fled to the temples to be put to death and the buildings to be set on fire… 6,000 fighting-men were slaughtered within the city’s fortifications. It was a sad spectacle that the furious king then provided for the victors: 2,000 Tyrians who had survived the rage of the tiring Macedonians, now hung nailed to crosses all along the huge expanse of the beach.
Nota Bene
As can be seen above, the island city of Tyre is now joined to the mainland. This was caused by the stretch of water between the island city and mainland silting up over the course of years – perhaps as a result of Alexander’s causeway? In his biography of Alexander, Robin Lane Fox states that Tyre had two ports. The south-east one has now vanished as a result of the silting; the northern port, though, is still in use and can be seen in the above image.

Categories: Mapping Alexander | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

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3 thoughts on “The Siege of Tyre

  1. Pete Laberge

    And for a short music video on the topic, see here:
    The story of:
    The Trojan War (“Tainted Love” by Soft Cell)

    To see/hear 50+ other wonderful videos, go here:
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  2. Thank you Pete, I enjoyed watching that 🙂



    • Pete Laberge

      You are most welcome. I enjoyed reading, and I like to return favours. Take care …..


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