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The siege of Tyre: 333-332 BC

The siege of Tyre, a town which has proved itself impregnable by Assyrians and Babylonians, is the most dramatic military success of Alexander the Great. He has arrived by land, without a fleet, and Tyre stands on an island several hundred yards offshore.

First Alexander demolishes the neighbouring buildings on the mainland, and uses the rubble to build a causeway through the sea to Tyre. The labourers are under constant bombardment from the ramparts of the citadel. When the causeway is complete, wooden towers are constructed at its end to storm the walls. Boring machines and battering rams are brought up to undermine the fortifications.

This wooden equipment, massively constructed from the famous timber of Lebanon, is demolished by fire ships sent out from Tyre. Alexander is determined to rebuild the towers and machines, but realizes he cannot prevail without ships of his own. Raids up and down the coast provide him with a fleet, mainly of Phoenician vessels and crews which have previously served with the Persians.

With support from the sea, Tyre is stormed. About 10,000 of its defenders are executed (possibly by crucifixion, a speciality of Tyre - and there is now a great deal of wood about). Another 30,000 are sold into slavery. In the ancient world it is unwise to resist a conqueror and lose.

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