Posts Tagged With: Tyre

21. Calaenae

Crossing Asia Minor with Alexander

‘Four days later [Alexander] reached Celaenae, where the acropolis, rising steep on all sides, was held under the satrap of Phrygia by a garrison of a thousand Carians and a hundred Greek mercenaries. They sent envoys to Alexander assuring him that they would surrender…’
(Arrian I.29.1-2)

Text used: Arrian ‘Alexander the Great‘ OUP 2013 (translated by Martin Hammond)

… but only if Darius didn’t send reinforcements by a certain date. Alexander regarded the acropolis as ‘completely unassailable’ (Arr. I.29.2) and so agreed. He left a detachment behind and set off for Gordium.

For the second day in a row we see Alexander recognising his limits and acting accordingly. Of course, the two cases are sightly different. From what Arrian says, it seems that Alexander believed he could take Telmissus but not quickly enough so decided to leave it. As above, Celaenae looked too strong to take in the first place. 

What happened between Celaenae and Tyre? How could he ever have thought that the former was impervious to attack and the latter wasn’t? I suspect here that Alexander was swayed by the Celaenians offer to surrender. The acropolis looked hard, really hard; I could stay, but… they are offering to surrender; let’s call it impossible and move on to a better target.

A medieval picture of Alexander taking Calaenae

Credit Where It’s Due
Alexander takes Celaenae: Wikipedia

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Alexander: March/Spring Chronology

Alexander’s Chronology

Spring Philip orders Alexander back to Pella (Peter Green*)

Spring Parmenion and Attalus lead the Macedonian advance army into Asia Minor (Livius, Peter Green)

Early Spring Alexander campaigns in Thrace and Illyria (Peter Green)
NB The Landmark Arrian** dates this campaign to Spring (as opposed to Early Spring. This applies to all similar references below)

Spring Alexander razes Thebes; Greek cities submit (Landmark Arrian)

March – April Alexander crosses into Asia Minor; beginning of his anabasis (Peter Green)
Michael Wood*** dates the crossing of the Hellespont to May
Landmark Arrian dates the crossing to Spring

March – June Memnon’s naval offensive (Livius)

Early Spring
Memnon dies (Peter Green)

Spring Alexander arrives in Gordion where he undoes the famous knot (Landmark Arrian)

Spring (Possibly late spring?) Alexander passes through the Cilician Gates having taken Pisidia and Cappadocia (Landmark Arrian)

NB With reference to the death of Memnon, referred to above, the Landmark Arrian dates it to ‘Spring’ 333, during the Persian navy’s fight against the Macedonians. Contra Livius (below), it adds that after his death, and in the same year, the ‘Persian naval war falter[ered]’

Spring The Persian Fleet disintegrates (Livius)
January – September The Siege of Tyre continues (Michael Wood)

March Alexander visits Siwah (Livius)
NB Peter Green dates Alexander’s Siwah visit to ‘Early Spring’

Spring Alexander resumes his march towards Darius (Landmark Arrian)

Spring Alexander orders the royal palace in Persepolis to be burnt (Landmark Arrian)
Spring Alexander finds the body of Darius (Landmark Arrian)

Spring First crossing of the Hindu Kush (Michael Wood)
NB Peter Green dates the crossing to ‘March – April’

Spring Alexander pursues Bessus across Bactria/Sogdia (Landmark Arrian)
Spring Bessus is betrayed by his officers and handed over to Alexander (Landmark Arrian)
Spring Alexander quells an uprising along the Jaxartes (Tanais) River (Landmark Arrian)

Spring Alexander campaigns in Bactria and Sogdia (Michael Wood)
Spring The Sogdian Rock is captured (Michael Wood)

Early Spring Alexander marries Roxane (Michael Wood)
NB The Landmark Arrian dates the wedding to Spring

Early Spring The Pages’ Plot (Michael Wood)
NB The Landmark Arrian dates the Pages’ plot (and Callisthenes subsequent arrest/possible death) to Spring

Early Spring Callisthenes is executed (Michael Wood)
Spring Pharasmanes and Scythians seek an alliance with Alexander (Landmark Arrian)
The Sogdian Rock is captured (Livius, Peter Green, Landmark Arrian)
Spring The Rock of Chorienes is captured (Landmark Arrian)
Spring Craterus eliminates the last rebels (following Spitamenes’ death in the Autumn of 328) (Landmark Arrian)
Late Spring Second crossing of the Hindu Kush (Michael Wood)

Early Spring The Aornos Rock is captured (Michael Wood)
NB The Landmark Arrian dates the capture of the Aornos Rock to Spring

Early Spring Alexander meets Hephaestion and Perdiccas at the Indus River, which the reunited army then crosses (Michael Wood)
NB The Landmark Arrian dates the crossing of the Indus to Spring

Early Spring Alexander reaches Taxila (Michael Wood)

The Landmark Arrian lists the sequence of events following Alexander’s capture of the Aornos Rock slightly differently to Michael Wood:
Wood Siege of Aornos > Alexander meets Hephaestion & Perdicas at the Indus > Macedonians cross the Indus > Alexander arrives in Taxila
Landmark Arrian Siege of Aornos Alexander sails down the Indus to Hephaestion’s and Perdiccas’ bridge > Alexander visits Nysa > Alexander receives Taxiles’ (‘son of the Taxiles he met in the Indian Caucasus’ the previous summer) gifts > Alexander crosses the Indus > Alexander meets Taxiles

Spring Battle of the Hydaspes River (Landmark Arrian)
Spring Bucephalus is buried (Landmark Arrian)
Spring Alexander founds Nicaea and Bucephala (Landmark Arrian)
Spring Abisares submits to Alexander (Landmark Arrian)

Spring – Summer Journey down the Indus River (Michael Wood)
Spring Alexander defeats the Brahmins, Musicanus, and Sambus (Landmark Arrian)

February – March Alexander’s journey to and arrival in Susa (Peter Green)
NB The Landmark Arrian dates Alexander’s arrival to Spring. It adds that after his arrival he purged the corrupt satraps, held the mass wedding ceremonies,and forgave his soldiers’ debts/awarded ‘gold wreaths to officers’; this did not, howeverm stop tensions rising ‘over Alexander’s moves to integrate the army’
March Alexander meets Nearchus in Susa (Livius)
March Susa Marriages (Livius)
March Alexander issues the Exiles’ Decree (Peter Green)
March Alexander issues the Deification Decree (Peter Green)
Spring Alexander explores lower Tigris and Euphrates (Landmark Arrian)
Spring The 30,000 epigoni arrive in Susa (Peter Green)

Spring Alexander returns to Babylon after campaigning against the Cossaeans (Peter Green)
Spring Bad omens foreshadow Alexander’s death (Landmark Arrian)
Spring Alexander sends ‘spoils of war to Greece; he is hailed as a god by Greek envoys
Spring Alexander makes preparations for an Arabian campaign (Landmark Arrian)
Spring Alexander orders ‘extravagant’ honours to be given to Hephaestion (Landmark Arrian)

*Peter Green Alexander of Macedon 356 – 323 B.C. A Historical Biography (University of California Press 1991)
** The Landmark Arrian Ed. James Romm (Pantheon Books 2010)
***Michael Wood In the Footsteps Of Alexander the Great A Journey from Greece to India (BBC Books 2004)


  • This chronology is part of an on-going work. If you see any mistakes or omissions please feel free to let me know!
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Alexander: January / Winter Chronology

Alexander’s Chronology

Winter Alexander conquers Caria, Lycia, Pamphylia and Phrygia (Landmark Arrian*, Livius)
Winter Alexander son of Aeropos arrested (Landmark Arrian)
Winter Alexander subdues Pisidians (Landmark Arrian)

Winter Alexander asks Tyrians permission to sacrifice to Herakles in Tyre (Landmark Arrian)
January (?) Byblos and Sidon submit to Alexander (Peter Green**)
January-July The Siege of Tyre (Livius, Michael Wood***)
NB Landmark Arrian says that the siege took place between winter and summer

Winter Alexander into Egypt (Landmark Arrian, Wood)
Winter Alexander is informed that the Persian Navy has been defeated in Aegean (Landmark Arrian)
Mid-winter Alexander visits Siwah (Wood)

January Alexander in Heliopolis and Memphis (Livius)
January Alexander founds Alexandria (Wood)
NB Landmark Arrian says Alexandria was founded in ‘winter’
Winter Alexander takes Susa (Landmark Arrian)

Winter Macedonian army enters Persia (Wood)
20th January Battle of the Persian Gates (Livius)
30th January Alexander arrives at Persepolis (Livius)
Jan-May Alexander at Persepolis (Livius)
NB Wood agrees that the Battle of the Persian Gates and Alexander’s arrival in Persepolis both took place in January but doesn’t give the specific date of either event; Green places the sack of Persepolis in January but only with a question mark next to the date

Winter Spitamenes’ second revolt takes place (Landmark Arrian)

January Alexander approaches Kabul (Wood)

Winter Alexander at Zariaspa (Green, Livius, Wood)
Winter Alexander gives orders for Bessos to be mutilated (Landmark Arrian)

Winter Alexander at Maracanda (Livius)
Alexander is based at Nautaca (Livius, Wood)
Winter While in Nautaca, Alexander appoints new satraps (Landmark Arrian)
Winter The Rock of Sisimithres is captured (Wood)
Winter After the Rock of Sisimithres falls, Alexander returns to Zariaspa (Wood)
Winter Callisthenes refuses to perform proskynesis to Alexander (Landmark Arrian)

Winter Alexander stops at Maracanda and Nautaca (Livius)
Winter Hephaestion to the Indus via Khyber Pass (Wood)
Winter Alexander enters the Swat Valley and campaigns there (Wood)
Winter Macedonians at Nysa [where they get drunk en masse] (Wood)
Winter Alexander attacks the Massaga (Wood)

Winter Alexander campaigns against the Mallians and is badly wounded. His men are unsettled until they see him alive (Landmark Arrian)
Winter Mallians and Oxydrakai submit (Landmark Arrian)

January Alexander campaigns against the Mallians and is wounded (Livius)
NB Wood has the Mallian campaign taking place in December
Winter Alexander reunites Nearchus and Craterus in Carmania (Landmark Arrian)
Winter Alexander Return to Persepolis (where he orders Orsines to be executed (Landmark Arrian)
Winter Alexander visits Pasargadae where he orders Cyrus the Great’s tomb to be restored (Landmark Arrian)

January Alexander meets Nearchus in Carmania (Green, Livius)
January Alexander returns to Persia (Wood)
January Alexander’s second visit to Persepolis; also visits Pasargadae (Wood)

Winter Alexander requests divine honours for Hephaestion (Livius)
Winter Alexander campaigns against Cossaeans (Landmark Arrian, Livius)

* The Landmark Arrian Ed. James Romm (Pantheon Books 2010)
** Green Alexander of Macedon 356 – 323 B.C. A Historical Biography (University of California Press 1991)
*** Wood In the Footsteps Of Alexander the Great A Journey from Greece to India (BBC Books 2004)



  • This chronology is part of an on-going work. If you see any mistakes or omissions please feel free to let me know.
  • As can be seen, I have noted where The Landmark Arrian, Livius, Michael Wood and Peter Green have disagreed on the dates; these notes, however, are not comprehensive. My focus has been on recording what each author has said rather than synthesising the dates.

Alternative/Modern Names
Nautaca – ‘Uzunkir near Shakhrisyabz’ (Wood)
Nysa – Jelalabad
Zariaspa aka Bactra – Balkh

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Alexander: December and Winter Chronology

Alexander’s Chronology

Nov-Dec Alexander wins Greek support for war against Persia (Livius)

Nov-Dec Alexander holds festivals in Dion and Aegae (Livius)

Winter Alexander conquers Caria, Lycia, Pamphylia and Phrygia (Landmark Arrian*, Livius)
Winter Alexander son of Aeropos is arrested (Landmark Arrian)
Winter The Pisidians harass Macedonian army but are subdued (Landmark Arrian)

Dec (?) Darius tries to negotiate with Alexander (Livius)

Winter Alexander asks Tyrians if he can enter the city to sacrifice to Herakles; he is denied access (Landmark Arrian)
Winter The Siege of Tyre begins (Landmark Arrian)


Winter Alexander enters Egypt (Landmark Arrian, Michael Wood**)
Winter Alexander founds Alexandria (Landmark Arrian)
Winter Alexander visits Siwah (Landmark Arrian)
Green suggests that the foundation of Alexandria could have taken place in April
Winter Alexander is informed of the Persian navy’s defeat in the Aegean (Landmark Arrian)
Mid-winter Alexander visits Siwah (Wood)
Green has Alexander’s visit take place in early Spring

Early Dec Alexander takes Susa unopposed (Peter Green***)
15th Dec Abulites surrenders Susa to Alexander (Livius)
22nd Dec Alexander leaves Susa (Livius)

Winter Alexander reaches Persia (Wood)
Winter Alexander takes the Susian Gates (Green)
Winter Alexander takes Susa (Landmark Arrian)
Winter Alexander subdues the Ouxioi (Landmark Arrian)
Winter Alexander passes the Persian Gates and enters Persepolis (Landmark Arrian)

Winter Spitamenes’ second revolt is put down (Landmark Arrian)


Winter Alexander at Zariaspa (Green, Livius, Wood)
Winter Bessus is mutilated ahead of being executed (Landmark Arrian)
Winter Bessus is executed (Green)

December Spitamenes is captured (Livius)

Winter Alexander in Maracanda and Nautaca (Livius, Wood)
Winter Alexander captures the Rock of Sisimithres (Wood)
Winter Alexander returns to Zariaspa (Wood)
Winter Callisthenes objects to Alexander’s attempt to introduce proskynesis (Landmark Arrian)
Winter In Nautaca, Alexander appoints new satraps (Landmark Arrian)


Winter Hephaestion to the Indus River via the Khyber Pass (Wood)
Winter Alexander enters the Swat Valley (Wood)
Winter Alexander at Nysa (Wood)
Winter ‘The Dionysus episode’ (Green) i.e. Macedonian army gets drunk en masse
Winter Alexander attacks the Massaga (Wood)
Winter Alexander campaign in the Swat Valley (Wood)


December Alexander campaigns against the Mallians (Wood)
December Siege of the Mallian city  (Wood)
The Landmark Arrian gives the Mallian campaign as happening during the winter of 326/5

December Satraps punished for wrong-doing (Green, Livius)
December Alexander joins up with Craterus in Carmania (Livius)
December Macedonian army reaches Hormuz (Wood)

Winter Alexander joins up with Craterus and Nearchus (Landmark Arrian)
Winter Alexander orders the restoration of Cyrus the Great’s Tomb (Landmark Arrian)
Winter Orxines is executed (Landmark Arrian)

Winter Alexander requests divine honours for Hephaestion (Livius)
Winter Alexander campaigns against Cossaeans (Landmark Arrian, Livius)


* The Landmark Arrian Ed. James Romm (Pantheon Books 2010)
** Wood In the Footsteps Of Alexander the Great A Journey from Greece to India (BBC Books 2004)
*** Green Alexander of Macedon 356 – 323 B.C. A Historical Biography (University of California Press 1991)



  • This chronology is part of an on-going work. If you see any mistakes or omissions please feel free to let me know.
  • As can be seen, I have noted where The Landmark Arrian, Livius, Michael Wood and Peter Green have disagreed on the dates; these notes, however, are not comprehensive. My focus has been on recording what each author has said rather than comparing it to the others.


Modern Names
The Mallian city – Multan
Nysa – Jelalabad
Zariaspa aka Bactra – Balkh

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The Men Who Could Fly

The Nature of Curtius
Book Seven Chapter 10-11
For other posts in the series click here

Chapter Ten
The Polytimetus River
‘Sogdiana is mainly desert’ Curtius tells us at the start of the chapter. That may have been so but it was not a totally inhospitable land, for through it flowed the Polytimetus River.

According to Curtius, the Polytimetus flowed quickly – indeed, as a torrent – down a thin channel. Unfortunately for travellers, this channel entered a cave and disappeared underground. Not too far, though, for Curtius says the sound of it could be heard from above ground. Having said that, it was clearly not too close to the ground as the soil remained dry.

The Polytimetus is the second river to disappear from sight in Curtius’ narrative – you’ll recall that the Ziobetis did the same in Pathiene. Curtius gives no indication of where or if the Polytimetus resurfaced again. Thus, and very regretfully, there was no opportunity for Alexander to play his own version of Pooh Sticks again. His horses were no doubt relieved.

Leaving Sogdia, Alexander made his way to Bactra (aka Zariaspa) where he received reinforcements for his army. Once they had arrived, he made his way north again, this time only as far as the Oxus River, to confront insurgents who were still active in the country.

At the Oxus, Alexander set up camp. The river’s ‘silt content’ made it dirty and unsuitable for drinking, so the men started digging wells. They dug deep but no water was to be found. Until, that is, ‘a spring was discovered right inside the king’s tent’.

What I would really like to know, and what – unfortunately – Curtius does not say is how exactly this spring was found? Who was digging in Alexander’s tent?

From what Curtius says next, it appears that the men were embarrassed not to have discovered the spring earlier – why? Surely the king’s tent was out of bounds for digging in! To cover their blushes, the men ‘pretended [that the spring] had appeared all of a sudden’.

As for Alexander, he was content to call the spring ‘a gift of the gods’.

Chapter Eleven
The Sogdian Rock
Counter-insurgency operations continued on both sides of the Oxus and Ochus rivers until the Macedonian army came to the last hide-out of the rebels. It was ‘a rocky outcrop’ thirty stades high, one hundred and fifty in circumference and ‘precipitously steep on every side’. It’s only access was one ‘very narrow path’, which was guarded.

Curtius reports that 30,000 men were on the rock. Not (only) on the top but also in a cave half-way up. This cave ran deep into the rock and was watered by springs up and down it. The men had two years’ worth of provisions. If Alexander was going to lay siege to the rock, the rebels were well placed to resist him for a long time.

There was no real need for Alexander to waste time with a full siege. There may have been 30,000 men on the rock but given that their only route out was the narrow path they were as ill placed to attack Alexander as he was to put them fully under siege.

Alexander must have realised this because his first thought was to leave. The ‘difficulties of the terrain’ made a siege not worth considering. But then, guess what, the king ‘was overcome by a desire to bring even nature to her knees’. This was nothing new. He had already altered the landscape at Tyre. But there he had been able to get up close to the city via his mole and ships. Surely there was no way to get close to the rebels?

They, and their commander Arimazes, certainly thought so. He asked Alexander’s herald if the king could fly. That would be the only way he would take the rock.

When Alexander was told this, he was ‘incensed’. But Arimazes’ words had given him an idea. He gathered around him the most agile and determined of his men and gave them a simple instruction – climb the rock.

‘My comrades! [Alexander said,] With you I have stormed the fortifications of cities that had remained undefeated. With you I have crossed mountain chains snow-covered throughout the year, entered the defiles of Cilicia and endured without exhaustion the fierce cold of India*.'”

In short, We have overcome Man and nature alike before, now do so again. In case the men quailed at the thought of climbing the Sogdian Rock, Alexander advised them that nature ‘”has set nothing so high that it cannot be surmounted by courage'”.

Given that Alexander had only a short time previously considered the rock too difficult to attack it is tempting to see his words as a lot of hot air but given his track record of personal bravery I should think that he meant everything he said. Yes, he had thought the rock too hard, but that was before he set his mind to assaulting it; when he did, it became possible. As the saying attributed to him goes ‘there is nothing impossible to him who will try’.

The men began their climb. Some used their hands, others flung rope with ‘sliding knots’ over the rocks.

I am not an expert on knots, but I think the reason these men used sliding knots is so that they could throw their rope over the rocks and tighten it enabling them to climb up (feel free to correct me in the comments box if I have got this wrong).

Still other climbers made their way up the cliff face by driving pins in between the rocks and using them to haul themselves up.

The climb was a long and difficult one – the men ‘spent the day in fear and toil’. Thirty-two men died after losing their footing and falling. The rest*, however, made it to the top. Thereafter, they were pointed out to Arimazes, who was then told that ‘Alexander’s men did have wings’. Arimazes was stunned by the sight and immediately surrendered.

* The Notes state that Alexander meant the country just east of the Caucasus

** Curtius is not clear on how many climbers there were overall. After being told about Arimazes’ insulting remark, he ordered ‘the group he normally consulted’ (presumably his senior officers) to each bring him 300 men. We are not told how many officers he was speaking to. Arrian says that there were 300 climbers overall.

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As the Crow Flies

The Nature of Curtius
Book Four Chapters 5-10
For other posts in the series click here

Chapter Five
Offering the impossible
After making good his escape from Issus, Darius wrote to Alexander offering him the hand of his daughter Stateira II and Asia Minor west of the Halys River.


This map comes from Celtia

Do not hesitate to accept this deal, Darius warned him, as fortune never stands still. Darius then told Alexander that his (Alexander’s) fear was that

… like the birds wafted up to the sky by their natural lightness, Alexander would also be carried away by the vanity of his youthful mind – nothing was more difficult than keeping control of great fortune at his age.

To press home his point, Darius warned Alexander that he had ‘many other lands in his power, and… would not always be vulnerable to attack in a narrow pass.’

In his response, Alexander told the Persian messenger ‘that Darius was promising him property which was not his to give’. As for the ‘property’ that remained in Darius’ hands – Alexander dealt with that by giving a sinister version of Ruth 1:16. Wherever he goes, Alexander told the herald, I can follow. Finally, Alexander swapped Darius’ avian metaphor for an aquatic one. The Great King, he told the messenger, ‘should stop trying to frighten with rivers a man whom he knew to have passed over seas’.

Chapter Six
Alexander’s Investment
After leaving Tyre, Alexander’s next major action was a two month siege of Gaza. From the Book of Ruth we fast forward to Matt. 7:24–27 and Luke 6:46–49 and the parable of the house built on rock. When Alexander inspected Gaza, he found it to be akin to the house built on sand in that there was a lack of rock and stone underneath it. So, he ordered his men to undermine the city by digging shafts and tunnels.

While the digging was going on, Alexander carried out a sacrifice. During it, he was struck by a clod of earth dropped by a passing crow. Avian metaphors could be ignored, but not avian actions. What did this one mean?

Aristander’s reply was very unwelcome. The omen predicted ‘that the city would be destroyed’ but that ‘there was also [a] danger that Alexander would sustain injury’. Aristander therefore advised his king to ‘take no initiative that day’. Reluctantly, Alexander agreed.

Events conspired, however, to plunge him into action. Seeing the Macedonians withdraw, the Gazans decided to launch a sortie against them. During the counter-attack, Alexander was shot in his shoulder by an arrow.

Alexander was still recovering from this injury when he undertook another earth-moving project. Gaza stood on a mound (or hill?). To reach its walls, Alexander ordered the construction of a mound. Tall siege towers were rolled up it. The towers were so high the Macedonians were able to fire missiles down into the city.

What did for Gaza, though, were the shafts and tunnels. The shafts that Alexander had ordered to be dug caused the city walls to collapse. Led by their king, the Macedonians poured into the city. It was quickly taken and its governor, Batis, would soon die by being dragged round Gaza’s walls just as Hector’s body had been dragged in front of Troy all those years ago.

Chapter Seven
The fall of Gaza opened Egypt up to Alexander, and it welcomed him with open arms. After settling the country’s administrative affairs he made his famous trip to Siwah. Curtius vividly describes the difficult journey to the oracle of Ammon. Alexander and his small company of men rode through ‘vast stretches of naked desert’ which disoriented the eyes. Curtius refers to the fact that ‘no tree was to be seen [nor] a trace of cultivated soil’. In a ‘vast sea’ of shifting sand dunes this made locating oneself impossible.

Worse was to come when the Macedonians ran out of water. The men’s throats ‘were dry and burned’. Suddenly – perhaps in recompense for causing Alexander such trouble at Tyre – ‘clouds shredded the sky and hid the sun’. The temperatures cooled. Presently, ‘high winds… showered down generous quantities of rain’ which the men collected with the skins and by opening their mouths to the sky.

‘After four days in the desert wastes’, Alexander and his men were met by ‘a number of crows’ which guided them the rest of the way to Siwah. What is it about crows and Macedonians?

Curtius only gives us some specific details about Siwah Oasis. He says that Ammon’s shrine ‘is so well screened on all sides by encircling tree branches that the rays of the sun barely penetrate the shade’ and that the oasis woods ‘are sustained by a wealth of fresh-water springs’.

Curtius also adds that the oasis’ climate is ‘amazingly temperate… providing a healthy atmosphere’. He also tells us about the Water of the Sun – the fountain that (to this day) gets cooler towards midday and hotter at night. For more about the fountain and Siwah, here is what I wrote when I read Diodorus’ account.

Chapter Eight
According to Curtius, Alexander founded Alexandria after his visit to Siwah. At first, he wanted to build the city on the island of Pharos but following an inspection of its ‘natural features’ he decided to locate it on the mainland instead. It appears that Pharos was too small for ‘a large settlement’.

Chapter Nine
Out of Date Tactics
We pick the story up again with Alexander now in Mesop0tamia, on his way to Gaugamela for his final showdown with Darius III.

On hearing that Alexander was approaching, Darius ordered his general Mazaeus to ‘lay waste and burn’ the ground in front of the Macedonians. Mazaeus did as he was ordered but the time for such a policy had long since passed. Alexander had greater trouble crossing the fast-flowing Tigris than he did with provisions.

After giving Mazaeus his orders, Darius marched to the Boumelus River* where he pitched camp. Before him was a wide open plain – the perfect battlefield for his large army. It was a little uneven, though, so the Great King ordered the ‘protrusions in the flat land to be levelled and any higher ground to be completely flattened’.

* The modern day Khazir

Chapter Ten
The Dangerous Eclipse
As we have seen in this series, natural phenomena have played a significant role in the account of Alexander’s journey. In the early hours of 20th September 331 B.C. they played their most important part yet. That night, the moon became pale and then ‘suffused with a blood-red colour’.

The Macedonians observed the eclipse with fear in their hearts. The gods are against us, they said, the rivers forbid access, the moon loses her strength, everywhere is ‘desolation and desert’. And why is all this happening? Because of

… the grandiose plans of one man who despised his country, disowned his father Philip, and had deluded ideas about aspiring to heaven.

‘Mutiny’ Curtius says gravely, ‘was but a step away’. As the Notes say, he is exaggerating but there was ‘clearly already an undercurrent of resentment against Alexander because of his pretensions about Jupiter Ammon’. That, however, is for another post. In this one, we may say that Alexander called his generals and officers together before ordering his ‘Egyptian seers’ to tell him what the eclipse meant.

The Egyptian priests knew exactly what had caused the eclipse. Very smartly, however, they told the Macedonian soldiery (as opposed, I presume, to Alexander et al) that

… the sun represented the Greeks and the moon the Persians, and that an eclipse of the moon predicted disaster and slaughter for those nations.

Their interpretation was accepted and the soldiers’ anxiety eased. Now, they just had a battle to win.

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Nature’s Enmity; Alexander’s Victory

The Nature of Curtius
Book Four Chapters 3 – 4
For other posts in the series click here

Chapter Three
The Young King and the Sea
In order to build the mole, the Macedonians cut down trees and took rocks from the surrounding countryside. On Mount Libanus they were attacked by Arab peasants. This led Alexander to lead ‘a detachment of light-armed troops’ into Arabia to kill them.

In the summer of 323 B.C. Alexander was planning an expedition into Arabia. His death in June, however, meant that it never happened. This punitive expedition would be his only excursion into that sandy region.

The Tyrians did their best to stop the building of the mole. To do so, they used some familiar materials and some that I hope were less familiar (at least, in a martial context).

The familiar came in the form of ‘rocks and sand’. The rocks were piled into a boat at its stern*, so that the prow ‘stood high out of the water’ – all the better to land the boat on the mole with. The boat was also ‘daubed… with bitumen and sulphur’ so that it would burn more easily.

The boat was then launched towards the mole and set alight. We saw yesterday how the weather set itself against the Macedonians. It now did so again, for as the burning ship drew near, ‘an especially high wind whipped up the sea from its very depths and smashed it against the mole’. The mole collapsed, and Alexander was forced to begin building it again.

Curtius takes this opportunity to give a little insight into how the mole was built. Trees were thrown into the sea first and rocks dropped over them. A second line of trees were then placed on top of the rocks. Earth was then placed over the rocks before another layer of rocks and trees were added ‘thus forming a structure virtually bonded’. Alexander tried to make the wind work for him by directing the mole into the head-wind. This ensured that the front of the mole (guarded by towers) protected the men working behind it.

Meanwhile, the Tyrians were not restricting their attacks to boats. Divers attached hooks to the trees at the base of the mole and pulled them away, again causing the structure to collapse.

It is at this point that Curtius says Alexander was ‘dejected, undecided whether to continue or leave’. Very opportunely, new soldiers from Greece and ships arrived from Cyprus. Encouraged by these reinforcements, Alexander decided to stay and see the job through.

The ships surrounded the city. Alexander intended to attack at midnight. At the appointed hour, though, the weather once more intervened. Thick clouds gathered and ‘a layer of fog’ fell. Then a strong wind whipped up the sea. The ships crashed against one another. Most if not all survived but the attack had to be aborted.

When Alexander renewed his attack the Tyrians employed their more unusual – and wholly unpleasant – weapon. We have seen how they used rocks. Now they poured boiling sand on the enemy soldiers. If only it was just that, for they also boiled excrement and poured that down as well. I suppose desperate times called for desperate measures.

* Stern – rear, prow – front (the starboard is the right hand side of the boat as you look forward, the port the left hand side)

Chapter Four
The Walls Came Tumbling Down
Alexander had had enough. He decided to lift his siege and depart for Egypt. And yet, when push came to shove, he could not bear to leave. It would be a disgrace for him to leave Tyre behind for if he did it would be a ‘witness that he could be beaten’. The city would also be a thorn in his side with its ability to disrupt his supply lines.

So, ‘he ordered more ships to be brought up’. At the same time, ‘a sea-creature of extraordinary size’ – perhaps a whale? – gave nature’s verdict on what would happen next. It rose out of the sea and splashed down on the mole.

The Tyrians took this to be a sign that Poseidon (Neptune to Curtius, of course) was ‘exacting vengeance’ for Alexander’s ‘occupation of the sea’. The Macedonians, however, believed that they were being shown the way to point the mole.

In the end, the Macedonians were proved right. They reached Tyre’s walls, broke through them and stormed the city. Many Tyrians were killed, either in the fighting or by being executed afterwards. They had given the Macedonians their hardest fight since the start of the expedition and now had to suffer the consequences.

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The man who had it all

The Nature of Curtius
Book Four Chapters 1 – 4
For other posts in the series click here

Chapter 1
The King Without a Crown
In the last post, we saw how Darius lost the Battle of Issus but was able to escape from the battlefield using horse relays. At the beginning of this chapter, Curtius makes the very poignant point that the Great King fled

through terrain which he had filled with armies almost beyond number but which was now deserted – to form one vast and solitary wilderness.

So, having lost the symbols of his kingship when he removed his royal insignia at the start of his flight it was now as if Darius had now lost his very kingdom. The earth had turned its back to him.

And I think that the earth could not have deserted (if you’ll excuse the pun) a more appropriate king. We know from the other Alexander historians that Memnon of Rhodes recommended a scorched earth policy prior to the Battle of the Granicus River, and that while the satraps had rejected his advice, as Alexander mentioned in his response to Darius’ letter, the Persians had form for carrying out such devastating actions*.

And, of course, there is Arsames – the satrap of Cilicia – who did indeed destroy his land upon Alexander’s approach.

Speaking of Alexander’s letter, it led to what must have been a very long journey for Thersippus who was given the responsibility of delivering it. If you have seen the film 300 you will know that messengers were not always treated very well (see the film clip below).

Admittedly, 300 is not your go-to film for an example of historical accuracy but if we jump forward to chapter 2 of Curtius’ book for a moment, what do we find happening to Alexander’s heralds after they entered Tyre to warn the Tyrians to make peace with the Macedonian king? They were killed and their bodies thrown over the city walls and into the sea. This. Is. Tyre!

In Sidon**, Alexander overthrew the king and gave the job of nominating a successor to Hephaestion. He offered the kingship to the two noblemen he was lodging with only for them to turn it down as they were not members of the royal family.

Impressed by their humility, Hephaestion invited them to chose the new king. They turned to a poor gardener named Abdalonymus who was ‘distantly related to the royal family’.

In what must be one of the nicest scenes in any biography of Alexander, the two noblemen visited Abdalonymus as he worked in his garden. There, they told him to take off his rags, clean himself up, and put on the royal clothing they had brought him.

The choice of Abdalonymus as king did not meet with everyone’s approval. So, Alexander summoned him in order to assess his character. How did you endure your poverty? He asked him. Abdalonymus replied,

‘These hands of mine satisfied my needs. I had nothing, but lacked nothing.’

I don’t know anything about Abdalonymus’ later career except that the Alexander sarcophagus may have been made for him.

I wonder, though, if Curtius was telling us something about Abdalonymus’ future when, as the two noblemen greeted him, the king-to-be was described as pulling up weeds. Weeds today, corrupt officials tomorrow***?

* In his letter, Alexander referred to how Xerxes I ‘left Mardonius in Greece so that he could destroy our cities and burn our fields’
** Or Tyre according to Diodorus, who also called Abdalonymys ‘Ballonymus’ (see here)
*** I must also mention the fact that when the noblemen met Abdalonymus he had no idea that Alexander and Darius were contending with one another for control of the latter’s empire. He was wise, humble and aloof.

Chapter 2
Re-Maker of Worlds
In this post, we have seen nature used as a metaphor – for the loss of a kingdom and for wisdom. At the start of the second chapter, Alexander threatens the Tyrian envoys by using what appears to be hyperbole. You think you are safe, he tells them, because you live on an island,

‘… but I am soon going to show you that you are really on the mainland.’

As it happens, the envoys believed him. To its cost, however, the city did not.

Alexander’s prophecy came true in two ways. Firstly, when his mole finally reached the island. And secondly when, over the years, the mole caused the sea to silt up around it to the point where the old city and island city could be completely joined. For images of joined-up Tyre today, see this post.

Alexander’s ability to not only use the land but change it according to his wishes stand in stark contrast to the impotent figure of Darius as he rides through the lonely wilderness.

Alexander intended to build a mole (i.e a causeway) to carry his army to the gates of the city. He was opposed not only by the Tyrians, but also the weather.

For example, Curtius says that a gap of four stades (under half a mile) separated Tyre from the mainland. That gap was assaulted by a strong ‘south-westerly wind, which rolled rapid successions of waves on to the shore’.

Then there was the depth of the sea which, beyond the shoreline, fell into a ‘fathomless’ depth. Although this was an exaggeration, as it turned out, the sea was still deep enough to fill the Macedonian soldiers ‘with despair’ when they saw it.

But Alexander was stronger than their hopelessness, and he got his men to work. The mole soon began to rise out of the sea.

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The Siege of Tyre

Daily Diodorus
Vol. VIII. Book XVII Ch. 42-46 (Loeb Classical Library)
Read the other posts in this series here

The Headlines
Macedonian Assault of Tyre Begins
Tyre’s Brave Defence
Macedonians Breach Wall: Street-to-Street Fighting
Tyre Falls to Alexander

The Story

Chapter 42
‘[A]larmed at the advance of the mole’ the Tyrians sent out ships armed ‘with both light and heavy catapults’ as well as with ‘archers and slingers’ to attack the Macedonian workers. Their attack was successful – Diodorus reports that there were so many workers on the mole that the missiles could not help but hit their target.

Seeing the Tyrian attack, Alexander led his ships to Tyre’s harbour. His plan was to cut off the Tyrian sailors’ retreat. The sailors feared he would ‘seize the harbour and capture the city while it was empty of soldiers’. Both sides rowed towards the harbour with all their might. The Tyrians made it back first – just, and some at the end of the column were lost to the Macedonians.

The mole continued its approach to Tyre, this time with a fleet of ships screening it from attack. But they could do nothing about the next assault, which left Alexander ‘at a loss [on how] to deal with the harm done to his project’. This is because he was now attacked by ‘a powerful north-west gale’ that blew up ‘and damaged a large part of the mole’.

Alexander was then tempted to give up the siege but ‘driven by ambition’ decided to persevere. Huge mountain trees were cut down and rolled into the sea beside the mole where they acted as breakers.

The damaged part of the mole was repaired. When Tyre came within firing range, Alexander had his siege engines forward. The fight for Tyre now began in earnest.

One Stone throwers were employed to attack Tyre’s walls; light catapults were aimed at the walls’ defenders. Archers and slingers also joined the offensive.

Chapter 43
Two Tyre defended itself against the new onslaught with ‘ingenious counter-measures’. Catapult missiles were broken against or deflected by a spinning wheel. The stone-throwers’ balls were caught by ‘soft and yielding materials’ (See also Thirteen below).

Three While the first assault was taking place, Alexander sailed round the city to inspect Tyre’s walls. By doing so, he ‘made it clear that he was about to attack the city alike by land and sea’.

Four During his tour, Alexander sank three Tyrian ships at the city harbour mouth. Tyre actually had two harbours; Diodorus doesn’t say which one these ships were moored at. After sinking the ships, Alexander returned to his camp.

Five In an effort to give the city extra protection, the Tyrians now (or perhaps earlier?) built a second wall five cubits (seven and a half feet) inside the outer wall. The new wall ‘was ten cubits [fifteen feet] in thickness’. The space between the two walls was ‘filled with stone and earth’.

Six Alexander, meanwhile, began his sea-borne assault of the city by tying a number of triremes together and mounting siege engines upon them. The attack was successful. If I read Diodorus correctly, a one hundred foot wide hole was punched through the inner outer and inner wall.

Seven That Alexander was able to break through both walls and the rubble in-between seems unlikely, but Diodorus does say that after doing this, Macedonian soldiers ‘burst into the city’. The Tyrians fought back, however, and Alexander’s men were repulsed. That night, the damaged wall was rebuilt.

Eight The mole now reached Tyre’s walls. Hand-to-hand fighting took place along them. The Tyrians fought bravely, perhaps even desperately; they knew what a disaster it would be if Alexander captured their city.

Nine The Macedonians set foot on the battlements by means of a bridge flung down from their siege engine. The Tyrians responded by firing barbed tridents, which struck and attached themselves to Macedonians’ shields. The tridents were attached to rope, which were then pulled back. The Macedonian soldier would then face the choice of either releasing the shield and exposing his body to further attack or of being pulled off the siege engine and falling to his death. Another Tyrian tactic was simply to fling fishing nets over the Macedonians as they crossed the bridge. These would then be pulled so that the Macedonian would fall to his death.

Chapter 44
Ten This chapter is dedicated to the various defensive measures employed by the Tyrians. Here is a list of those that Diodorus mentions.

  1. Red hot sand. Heated in bronze and iron shields, the sand was then scattered (‘[b]y means of a certain apparatus’) over the invaders. The sand would get inside the Macedonians’ armour and burn their skin. The victim would scream for mercy only to die in a state of madness.
  2. Fire. Diodorus says that fire was poured (from the walls) and that fire-throwers ‘discharged huge red-hot masses of metal’ at the Macedonians. Once again, there were so many of the latter that the metal always hit someone.
  3. ‘[J]avelins and stones’ – thrown in such numbers that they weakened ‘the resolution of the attackers’.
  4. Poles and ‘spars equipped with concave cutting edges’ were also used to ‘cut the ropes supporting the [battering] rams.
  5. Crows and iron hands – types of grappling hook – that were launched at the Macedonians pulling them to their deaths.

Chapter 45
Eleven Diodorus says that the Tyrians caused ‘extreme terror’ by their use of these defensive measures. And a great deal of death, too. But the Macedonians were unbowed. When one man fell, another came up from behind to replace him.

Twelve Alexander directed the catapults and ‘made the walls rock with the boulders that they threw’. Along with the ‘dart-throwers’ on his towers, the king kept up a constant barrage ‘of all kind of missiles’.

Thirteen Diodorus now refers again to the Tyrians’ ‘ingenious counter-measures’ that we saw in Chapter 43 and at Two, above. This time, he adds that the rotating wheels were made of marble and that the ‘soft and yielding materials’ were ‘hides or pairs of skins’ that were stuffed with seaweed.

Fourteen After a summary of the Tyrians’ fighting performance (bold and valorous) Diodorus adds that some of the defenders used axes ‘to chop off any part of the body of an opponent that presented itself’. By way of an example, Diodorus mentions a Macedonian commander named Admetus – ‘a conspicuously brave and powerful man’ – who was ‘killed instantly when his skull was split by the stroke of an axe’.

Fifteen We now come to a very interesting moment in Alexander’s career. The Tyrians were holding his army ‘in check’. Night was falling so he ordered his soldiers to camp. That night, he decided ‘to break off the siege and march on to Egypt’. But something or someone changed his mind and ‘he reflected that it would be disgraceful to leave the Tyrians with all the glory of the operation’. Diodorus states that only one of Alexander’s Friends supported his decision to continue the siege. You would be forgiven for thinking that that was Hephaestion, but it wasn’t. On this occasion, only a Friend named Amnytas son of Andromenes sided with his king.

Chapter 46
Sixteen Presumably the next day, Alexander addressed his men ‘calling on them to dare no less than he’. The Macedonian fleet was prepared and a ‘general assault’ on Tyre began. It came via land and sea and ‘was pressed furiously’. During the attack, Alexander noticed that the city wall ‘on the side of the naval base was weaker than elsewhere’. He attacked it with the siege engines mounted on the triremes that had been tied together.

Seventeen Unless Diodorus is referring to a different section of wall, it seems that the purpose of the attack wasn’t to demolish the wall. This is because he states that (at an unspecified point), Alexander bridged the gap between trireme and wall. He crossed it first, fearing neither ‘the envy of Fortune nor… the menace of the Tyrians’. Ordering his men after him, Alexander took the fight to the Tyrians with spear, sabre and shield, thus putting ‘an end to the high confidence of the enemy’.

Eighteen At the same time, one of the Macedonian battering rams breached part of the Tyrian wall. Macedonian soldiers entered the city for the first time. Alexander and his men were not far behind. ‘[T]he city was taken’.

Nineteen All may have been lost for the Tyrians but they did not surrender. Far from it. Alleys were barricaded, encouragements shouted, and ‘all except a few were cut down fighting’. Diodorus now gives us the Tyrian casualty figures,

  • Men Dead ‘more than seven thousand’
  • Men Executed ‘not less than two thousand’

As per normal practice, the women and children of the city were sold into slavery. It is at this point that contrary to what he said in Chapter 41 (here), Diodorus now states that ‘most of the non-combatants’ were evacuated to Carthage. Those left behind still numbered ‘more than thirteen thousand’.

Diodorus does not give any figures for the Macedonian dead.

Twenty The siege of Tyre took seven months. After gaining control of the city, Alexander removed Apollo’s golden cords and ordered that he be renamed ‘Apollo Philalexander’. He carried out ‘magnificent sacrifices to Heracles’ just as he said he had wanted to do at the beginning, gave rewards to the brave among his men and organised ‘lavish funerals’ for his dead. Finally, he placed a man called Ballonymus on the throne ‘the story of whose career’ Diodorus tells us, ‘I cannot omit because it is an example of a quite astonishing reversal of fortune’. I agree wholeheartedly with Diodorus on this, and we shall look at what happened in the next post.

This has been a long post, so I shall try and keep these comments brief.

While writing the previous post, I wondered if another reason most of the Tyrian women and children were obliged to remain in the city was because as well as the city’s ports being within range of the Macedonian catapults they were also prey to Alexander’s ships. A Footnote to Chapter 42 confirms that Alexander did indeed have ships at his disposal but doesn’t say when they arrived.

The Tyrians’ ‘ingenious devices’ sound very clever indeed – especially the rotating wheel but did it really exist? The Footnotes confirm that no other Alexander historian mentions them. Perhaps Diodorus heard tell of them elsewhere, or had simply discussed the possibility of such devices with someone and then decided to include them as the kind of thing Alexander would have used if he had the chance.

I must credit the Footnotes again for the conversion of cubit to feet.

Chapter 45 is absolutely fascinating in terms of Alexander’s relations with his generals, with Hephaestion and indeed, Amyntas son of Andromenes.

In terms of the generals, their refusal to support a continuation of the siege represents the first time that I can think of since Alexander became king that he failed to win the support of his Friends for a proposed course of action. In fact, the only other time that I can think of when Alexander was so isolated was when the army mutinied at the Hyphasis River. Then, the army was exhausted. This time, it must have been a professional isolation as there was no bad blood on Alexander’s part once Tyre fell.

Regarding Hephaestion, the fact that he did not support Alexander on this occasion serves as a useful reminder that despite being Alexander’s best friend and intimate – however we choose to interpret that – he was not a cipher and would not always have agreed with the king. We can make of this what we will; I think it points to a maturity in the friendship.

Amyntas has not been mentioned before by Diodorus; had we been reading Arrian, however, we would know him well by now. In the Anabasis, Amyntas is seen at the Battle of the Granicus and Issus, he also accepts the surrender or Sardis and at the attack on Myndus. A friend of Philotas, Amyntas nearly suffered the same fate, but was acquitted at trial.

Having said all that, it should be noted that in his Who’s Who in the Age of Alexander the Great (from where I have taken the above information) Heckel says that while it is ‘plausible’ that Amyntas supported Alexander’s decision to continue the Tyrian siege it is also ‘incapable of proof’.

Match Report
Away win for Macedonia
Tyre made the best use of its resources to mount a sterling defence of the city against a committed Macedonian attack. Such was the Tyrians’ strength and depth that Alexander had to dig deep in order not to let the game get away from him. Fortunately for the Macedonian king, his strikers were in fine form all through the match especially in front of (the) goal. Then, the Tyrians’ lack of a true attacking option came back to haunt them just as 9,000 of their men will now haunt the city. Following a period of co-ordinated forward play, Alexander broke through the Tyrian defence, broke Tyrian hearts and took the well earned win.
Man of the Match Award Admetus. A solid performance only let down by his not so solid head.
Substitutions None, although Apollo did try to excuse himself, the Tyrians prevented him from doing so

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The Macedonian Mole Approaches Tyre

Daily Diodorus
Vol. VIII. Book XVII Ch. 40, 41 (Loeb Classical Library)
Read the other posts in this series here

The Headlines
Alexander Requests Permission To Enter Tyre
Tyre Refuses To Let Alexander In
Construction of Mole Begins
Sea-Monster: What Are The Gods Saying?

The Story
Chapter 40 begins a new year in Diodorus’ chronology but takes us back to the Macedonian camp immediately after the Battle of Issus. After burying his dead, and ‘those of the Persians who had distinguished themselves by courage’, Alexander sacrificed to the gods and gave rewards to those of his men ‘who had borne themselves well in battle’. Once these tasks were over, he let the army rest for a few days before beginning the southward journey to Egypt.

In southern Phoenicia, Alexander came to the island city of Tyre. There, he told the Tyrians that he ‘wished to sacrifice to the Tyrian Heracles’ only to be refused permission to enter the city. Angered by this, Alexander threatened to take the city by force ‘but the Tyrians cheerfully faced the prospect of a siege’.

Diodorus explains that the Tyrians’ decision to bar Alexander was motivated by a desire to ‘gratify Darius’. They also thought that by this show of loyalty ‘they would receive great gifts from the king’.

As he prepared to lay siege to the city, Alexander saw that Tyre would be impossible to take by sea ‘because of the engines mounted along its walls and the fleet that it possessed’. Neither was taking it by land an option as Tyre lay four furlongs away from the coast.

The obvious answer to this dilemma was simply to leave Tyre where it was and continue on to Egypt. But in Alexander’s eyes, this would cause his army to be ‘held in contempt by a single undistinguished [!] city’ and he could not allow that.

His first action was to demolish Old Tyre and start the construction of a mole (a causeway), two hundred feet wide, to bridge the gap between shoreline and city. This kind of project was going to need a large workforce to complete, and Diodorus says that Alexander ‘drafted into service the entire population of the neighbouring cities’ in order to get it done. Which in due course, they did, with some speed.

Chapter 41
At first, though, the Tyrians did not take the mole seriously. They sailed up to it ‘and mocked the king, asking if he thought that he would get the better of Poseidon’. This contempt only lasted as long as it took for the Tyrians to realise that the mole was approaching their city with ‘unexpected rapidity’. An assembly was held and a vote taken. It was decided to

  • Transport all women, children and ‘old men’ (not old women?) to Carthage
  • Post ‘the young and able-bodied to the defence of the walls’
  • Prepare the navy – eighty triremes strong – for battle

Diodorus reports that some women and children – and presumably old men – were removed to Carthage but that the rest were forced to stay in the city by the rapid advance of of the mole.

As you can see by the map below (from Wikipedia’s page dedicated to the siege), Tyre’s two ports were land-facing. Perhaps as the mole progressed this put the ships within range of Alexander’s catapults making their movement impossible.


Having said that, as the Footnotes point out, in Chapter 46 Diodorus says that ‘most of the non-combatants’ were taken out of the city.

Whether or not the women and children got away, the men in the city set about constructing catapults and other anti-siege engines. Work went well ‘because of the [number of] engineers and artisans… who were in the city’.

Strange events now interrupted the siege and caused confusion among the Macedonians and Tyrians alike. As the mole ‘came within [firing] range’ of the Tyrians, a tidal wave caused ‘a sea-monster of incredible size’ to crash into the mole. Neither were harmed and after a while the monster (a whale?) swam back into the sea. But what did it mean? Was it a good or bad omen? Both sides asked themselves this question. And both sides decided it was a sign that Poseidon was on their side.

Around the same time, the Macedonians reported that their rations of bread ‘had a bloody look’. And in Tyre, a man claimed to have had a vision ‘in which Apollo told him that he would leave the city’. He was accused of wanting to ‘curry favour with Alexander, and some of the younger citizens set out to stone him’. The man was rescued by the city magistrates; he hid in the temple of Heracles.

So not everyone believed the man’s vision but enough were convinced, and they tied golden cords round their statue of Apollo to prevent the god from deserting them.

Why did Alexander really lay siege to Tyre? Out of anger, as Diodorus suggests? I agree with anyone who says that his request was a either a ploy to get into the city, whereupon he would take control of it, or a pretext to lay siege to it. Tyre was pro-Persian. That made it too dangerous to leave unconquered. Had Alexander bypassed the city he would have handed the Persians a sea and land base from which to attack him.

No city is an island – even when it is. Notwithstanding the Tyrians’ trust in their strength, it is interesting to note that Tyre hoped Carthage, a colony, would help them out. Diodorus says that part of the Tyrian objective was to hold Alexander up and give Darius time to assemble his army. A Carthaginian attack would surely, though, have allowed Tyre to take the fight to Alexander.

I like the fact that Alexander justified the siege in terms of his army’s honour. Very crafty – even though I think he had sound military reasons for destroying Tyre, telling the men they were going to build the mole to save them from contempt could only have appealed to their pride.

Diodorus doesn’t mention the possibility that Alexander’s ships – he still had some after dismissing his fleet following the siege of Miletus (Ch. 22) – had an influence on Tyre’s inability to evacuate its women and children though they must have been present.

Young men are really not coming off well in Diodorus’ history. First we saw how they failed to break Ephialtes’ army during the siege of Halicarnassus – and had to be saved by the Macedonian veterans; then there was the case of the young men of Marmares who killed their families and fled their city despite resolving to die for its freedom; now, the young Tyrians nearly lynched the visionary. Is there a lesson to be drawn from this? I’ll let you decide.

There is no joke at the end of this post
as I am too tired to make one

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