3 – The Siege of Tyre (332 BC)
Alexander had achieved a significant amount of momentum with his win at Issus and was able to march into Phoenicia and take Sidon and Byblus without resistance. He wanted to make a sacrifice to the God Heracles in Tyre, but its residents believed this to be a ploy designed to allow the Macedonians to take the city. They told him he could make the sacrifice at Old Tyre which had no strategic importance. The Tyrians knew it was a declaration of war but were confident that their city would be able to withstand any attack.
Their confidence was not unfounded as the city was an island approximately 0.8 kilometers from the shore. The walls on the landward side were around 150 feet high according to estimates, and the Tyrian army and navy were formidable. Their women and children were evacuated to Carthage, and 40,000 people remained to defend the city. The Carthaginians also promised to send more ships, men, and supplies.
The siege began in January 332 BC, and Alexander constructed a causeway across the channel which was designed to go right to the walls of the city. Things started smoothly enough until the engineering team came to a point where the seafloor shelved sharply to a depth of 18 feet. The work gang was also close enough to the city to be bombarded by missiles from the Tyrians.
The Macedonians got around this issue by building two siege towers at the end of the causeway. There were artillery engines at the top as a means of returning fire and the construction of the causeway recommenced. The Tyrians launched one successful attack which burnt some siege engines, but Alexander refused to quit. He asked for the causeway to be widened, and more artillery towers were built. He also briefly left the siege to get more ships from Sidon; places such as Cicilia, Rhodes, and Lycia also offered him ships.
Alexander sailed this fleet straight for Tyre and completely surprised the Tyrians. They responded with further artillery assaults and eventually took to the water with 13 galleys and destroyed a couple of Alexander’s ships. The Macedonians launched a fierce counterattack which damaged some Tyrian ships. He was able to bring his ships beneath the walls and began bombarding them with battering rams. After several days, the Macedonians finally made a breakthrough and streamed into the city.
Thousands of Tyrians fled to the old fortress of Agenorium but were quickly massacred. The angry Alexander displayed his ruthless streak as 8,000 Tyrians were slaughtered with 30,000 more sold into slavery. He made his sacrifice to Heracles and could now turn his attention to conquering Egypt.