Siege of Tyre

332 BC, at that time, Tyre was the most important city-state Phoenician, with about 40,000 inhabitants, and was divided into two parts: the New City or island of Tyre, located on an island 800 meters from the coast and the Old City or Continental Tyre, located on the shores of the coast.


The island of Tyre was surrounded by formidable walls that reached 45 meters high in the area facing the coast, also had 2 ports, called the Port of Sidon (located north) and the Egyptian Port (located south) ) and was linked to the small Islet of Melkart, where the temple of Melkart, the most important deity of Tyre, was located. Equivalent to the Greek Heracles. The first great siege of Tyre was made by the Babylonian troops of King Nebuchadnezzar II, who had to wait 13 years to take the city in 574 BC. At this time, the island was hardly populated where the survivors of continental Tyre fled for the destruction of their ancient city. The island fortified itself more and more until it became almost impregnable.


Alexander the Great knew that this objective was necessary if he wanted to secure control over the Mediterranean coast, which would allow him to march eastward without the fear that the Persians would take the war to Greece. The siege of the island lasted approximately 7 months (from January to August, 332 BC).

We started the Tyre site one of the most spectacular in history. When Alexander approached Tyre, the city sent emissaries who offered to place it under his orders. Alexander tested them by asking them to make a sacrifice of state in the Melkart temple, the Heracles tirio.Ello supposes the refusal to open the doors to the Macedonians and the affirmation that they would also prevent the entrance to the Persians, commitment that was not probable that they would comply as soon as Alexander resumed the march. Aware of the immense task that awaited him, Alexander convened a council of war. He claimed that if they left Tyre in the rear, the Persians would use it as a base to invade Greece, in which Sparta had already openly rebelled against the regent Antipater while Athens awaited his chance. Later on Egypt spread, a rich and eager to receive it, for it had not forgotten the brutality and sacrilege of the Persian reconquest. Once the coast was secured and the Macedonian power put under all Asia on this side of the Euphrates, they could advance towards Babylon. This realistic analysis convinced the staff. He made a last attempt to avoid such an expensive place and sent emissaries with an ultimatum. The Tyrians violated the immemorial sacred character of the emissaries, put them on the walls so that Alexander could witness his murder and threw the bodies into the sea. Later, Alexander announced that he had had a dream in which Heracles stood on the walls of Tyre and extended his hand to guide him to the heart of the city. These walls, made of carved stone and mortar, reached 46 meters in height. The stratagem and the surprise attack were discarded; Alexander immediately went to work and began to build a boardwalk from the mainland. Out of reach of the missile weapons, the first section ended quickly. Alexander watched the work and distributed prizes for the tenacity with which they had worked. Then the channel became deeper and the filling required more stones and more time; They were within shooting distance of the walls and now the Tyrian ships had enough draft to board them and harass them. Alexander had two mobile towers erected, mounted with catapults, shielded with hides and with a leather parapet extended between one tower and another.

They displaced them as the works advanced and protected the transporters until the last moment, when they ran out to dump their loads. At a time when a strong wind arose, the Tyrians launched a fire, with the high rods laden with cauldrons of burning pitch. The towers burned and the workers threw themselves into the sea or perished inside. Alexander ordered the construction of new towers and moved to Sidon to organize the army. It took him a couple of weeks in which he unloaded his inexhaustible energy by organizing a 10-day expedition to subdue the neighboring tribes of Antilibano. He took with him the now elderly Lysimachus, back to Sidon, where 120 Cypriot ships awaited him; the rulers of this island had shaken off the Persian yoke and joined their cause. In total he gathered about 200 candles and directed the attack on Tyre. His own flagship occupied a place of danger: the one closest to the city walls.


The Tyrians, surprised by the number of ships, closed the port with a succession of ships, just as Alexander had done in Miletus. There was no way to tempt them to leave. His operations had acquired a huge dimension and, in addition to the Greek experts he had brought with him, included engineers from Cyprus and from all over the Phoenician coast. He mounted catapults on board and bombarded the walls of Tyre with heavy stones. The Tyrians threw rocks into the sea to hinder the maneuvers of the ships. Tenaciously, Alexander ordered that they retrieve the rocks and hoist them. To carry out this maneuver their ships had to cast anchors. The Tyrians sent armored ships to cut the ropes. Alexander had support ships carried. The enemy sent divers to cut the ropes underwater. Alexander replaced them by chains. At the end the channel allowed him to place the fleet along the walls, which also approached the boardwalk. The ingenious Tyrians – advanced with respect to their time – brought out their most modern weapon. They heated sand red hot and threw it on the Macedonians who occupied the first rows. He would sneak under his corselets and his clothes, burn the flesh with intense heat, men shouted and pleaded as tortured and no one could help them; they went crazy and perished because of the excruciating pain they suffered. Many threw themselves into the sea. Ignorant that it would become a regular feature of the civilized war, Alexander considered it an atrocity. In view of his predilection to guide the vanguard, only chance must have saved him from being burned alive. The preparations had taken half a year. In the end, Tyre was assaulted by the boats, with the support of the boardwalk, which nevertheless did not reach the walls. Owner of the nearest channel to land, Alexander was able to approach his assault ships to the walls closest to the sea, which offered the least resistance. Threw heavy stones with the torsion catapults to crack the masonry of the masonry. The arc type were giant versions of the medieval crossbow and the pointed bronze bolts were able to go through armor. The landing craft carried portable towers, and one of the characteristics of this siege is that it hauled them by sections. On the day of the final attack he personally climbed a tower. We can imagine a wide-bridged galley with two or three rows of rowers to give it speed, with the heavy-looking structure located in the middle of the ship and crowned with armed men, behind the brilliant figure of Alejandro, who led the pilot here and towards there in search of a breach, while the iron swayed like a giant tongue, ready to stretch as soon as the occasion arose. At all times Alexander was attentive to acts of courage that deserved honor. He witnessed a heroic act when Admetus, the captain of the guard, jumped to the first breach he saw, encouraged his men and died on the spot. By then, Alejandro’s ship had moved at full speed to support him; the Macedonian ran across the iron and guided the detachment. Meanwhile, their ships broke the barrier of the port. The Tyrians understood that everything was lost and left the walls. The Macedonians pursued them and shot down all they could reach. Alexander forbade them to remove those who were in the sanctuary of the temple. (In a temple they found a famous statue of Apollo – Carthaginian booty of Sicily – chained to a pedestal, because in a dream the god had informed a Tyrian fortune teller who left them to join Alexander). Although there is no death toll, there are an estimated 30,000 enslaved captives and 2,000 crucified as a warning. Perhaps they were corpses, the Macedonians exhibited in this way the bodies of the criminals executed, although without mutilations. When the screams and shrieks drowned in the city, Alexander the Great went to the Temple of Melkart to surrender the sacrifice to the god. It is said that he offered the siege engine that ended up demolishing the sector of the wall from where the Macedonians entered.


Today, the aftermath of this siege is still visible, converting the ancient island city into a peninsula linked to the continent.

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