Tyre was a fortress island off the coast of modern day Lebanon. The city was a strategic coastal base on the Mediterranean Sea. Alexander was so enraged at the Tyrians’ defence of their city and the loss of his men that he destroyed half the city.
Alexander the Great’s Siege of Tyre remains one of the greatest displays of maritime combat. The following is an excerpt from my second book, The Confessions of Alexander the Great. There are so many takeaways and lessons, but the main one is usually the goal you want to accomplishment is a two-step process. Read on and you will understand what I mean.
PERSIST, PERSEVERE, PROFIT
Siege of Tyre
Despite the criticism, Thebes remains one of my greatest domestic policy missions. One of my most impressive foreign policy ones was Tyre. What I may have tried to spin as our seven-month stay at the Tyre Resort proved to be a real challenge to my men and my leadership. To this day, it is known as the Siege of Tyre.
Tyre was an island fortress off the coast of modern day Lebanon along the Eastern Mediterranean shoreline. Tyre was a naval base that served as home to many in Persia’s navy. It was essential for me to capture it in order to break Persia’s naval strength. I made a friendly overture to Tyre, but they refused, countering with an alliance at the very best. I sought submission.
My entire journey took thirteen years. From 356 BC to 323 BC, I fought hard. From 356 BC to 355 BC, the fighting was within the Ancient Greece, from 355 BC to 323 BC, it was on the global front.
That’s twelve years outside of Greek territory, covering twenty-two thousand miles over Greece, Egypt, Persia and India. So when one stop on my world tour put up considerable resistance, or in this case, just under ten percent of the total time of the mission, I would feel considerably slighted and compelled to leave my mark when it was all said and done.
You guessed it: Tyre was one such stop.
Over the course of my life, I battled on foot; I battled on horseback. I battled on land; I battled on the seas. Nowhere was sea warfare more memorable than the siege of Tyre.
The city was valuable to me because it provided control of the Eastern Mediterranean. After all, a secure port was required for supplies, logistics and commercial activity during war and peace. Foregoing its capture would invariably prove costlier than the cost to defeat it.
I met considerable resistance in Tyre and was refused entry to the island fortress. But this was no deterrent to my men and me.
Tyre was about half a mile off the mainland. By our measures, the water surrounding it was eighteen feet deep. Tack on tall walls of over one hundred feet high. Any way I looked at it, we faced a daunting task. There was no land between the surrounding water and foot of the walls. The Tyrians knew that we were coming (who didn’t?), had isolated themselves, stocked up and were willing to bide their time.
Time was not something that I had to spare, but spare some I did.
The question was not whether we would storm the island fortress, but how, and how long it would take us.
With few options, my men started to build a bridge. That’s right, a bridge! Before you get too impressed, this was no Wonder of the World; it was actually a two hundred yard wide mole. Was this done overnight? Of course not. But once it was built, it would help me seize the fortress island and teach the Tyrians a lesson they would not soon forget, on par with the lesson I taught Thebes.
Things got messy. I do not think I underestimated the Tyrians, but we spent seven months playing chess, figuratively speaking of course. We had to erect one hundred fifty foot tall towers to mount catapults since those pesky Tyrians had proceeded to fire red-hot sand at us. This makeshift weapon caused considerable carnage, burning human skin and flesh. Its use was considerably appalling.
Eventually, we got through the wall, piercing a hole big enough to advance into the city.
Upon penetrating the island fortress of Tyre after a seven month siege, we had to show the Tyrians who was boss.
We had to inflict a punishment worthy of the resistance. That’s the way it was. Had we been soft on them, others would have found out and resisted too. Tyrians had also mistreated Macedonian prisoners, taking the captured, raising them to the top of the wall, killing them and tossing them into the sea for us to see. It was demoralizing some of my men.
We slaughtered about eight thousand in all. We then sold thirty thousand more into slavery.
Today, the citizens of Tyre can thank me for connecting the island of Old Tyre with the mainland of New Tyre.
In the end, we persisted, persevered and ultimately profited by virtue of having secured the Eastern Mediterranean shoreline. To this day, the Siege of Tyre remains one of the greatest military achievements ever.