In This Chapter
The Siege of Halicarnassus Continues
A few days later, Alexander renewed his assault on the replacement wall. As a sign of his determination to see it destroyed, he oversaw the attack himself.
Perhaps knowing that their wall was in danger of being destroyed, the Persians and mercenaries launched ‘a sally from the city in full force’ (Arr. I.22.1).
The priority of the defenders was two fold; first, to attack the Macedonians; secondly, to destroy the Macedonian siege engines.
To fulfil the first objective, they not only did the obvious and attack the Macedonians out of the gate nearest the siege engines, but also came out of the Tripylon gate. This must have been some distance away from where the Macedonians and siege engines were located as Arrian tells us they weren’t expecting an attack from that direction.
The Tripylon attack undoubtedly gave the defenders the element of surprise that they needed to attempt their second objective. However, they were only partially successful in this. The siege engines were set alight but the Persians and mercenaries were repulsed by ‘a vigorous counter-attack’ (Arr. 1.22.2) from the Macedonians.
The defenders were forced back into the city. Many were lost en route. Those who came through the gate nearest the replacement wall were hampered by the narrowness of the path back and difficulty of climbing over bricks from the collapsed outer wall. Those who came through the Tripylon gate were obliged to pass over a moat built by the Macedonians. Too many tried to do so at once and it collapsed. Those who fell were either trampled underfoot by their own people or shot down in a turkey shoot by the Macedonians.
Panic not only lead to many deaths in the moat but also at the gates. Terrified that the Macedonians might break into the city (as they had nearly done a few days earlier during the drunk attack), the defenders quickly closed the gates trapping many of their own side outside.
After killing the trapped defenders, Alexander called off the attack. Arrian says that ‘he still hoped to save Halicarnassus if the inhabitants would make some positive move to surrender’ (Arr. I.22.7). This reflects his stated attitude towards Thebes (Arr. I.7.7; 10). It would be tempting to call it a humanitarian gesture except that Alexander was more interested in winning glory, and that is hard to come by if there is no one left alive to tell you how great you are.
What might we say about this phase of the Siege of Halicarnassus?
The Tripylon Offensive shows that whoever planned the counter-strike – presumably Memnon and Orontobates (see Arr. I.23.1) – still had their wits about them. The only reason it didn’t work is because the defenders came up against an army that was sufficiently well trained and disciplined enough to, first, soak up the pressure of a surprise attack and, second, launch its own counter-attack.
Speaking of being well trained and disciplined, this is, of course, where the Persians and mercenaries failed. Their morale as they listened to the screams and curses of the men they had trapped outside after they closed the gates must have plummeted. No wonder Memnon and Orontobates straight after decided that they would not be able to resist the Macedonians for too much longer. It wasn’t just the walls that were collapsing.
Finally, not for the first time, and not for the last, we see the fatal effects of panicking. Thus far, the Macedonians have benefitted from causing panic in others. In time, however, even they will be caught cold.