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Tyre


Map of the siege of Tyre. Design Jona Lendering.
The siege of Tyre
Tyre (Phoenician רצ, ṣūr, "rock"; Greek Τρος; Latin Tyrus): port in Phoenicia and one of the main cities in the eastern Mediterranean.

History Photos Texts

Alexander's Mole

In 334, the Macedonian king Alexander the Great attacked the Persian Empire, which immediately launched a naval expedition against the countries along the Aegean Sea, threatening to cut off Alexander's lines of communication. However, Alexander's army proceeded to Syria, defeated the Persian army at Issus (November 333), and continued to Phoenicia. Once the coastal cities had been occupied, Persia was no longer able to attack Greece and Macedonia.
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Tyre, City: Buildings on Alexander's Dam. Photo Jona Lendering.
Buildings on Alexander's Dam.

Most cities surrendered, except Tyre, which was built on an island, some six hundred or seven hundred meters out of the coast, and would be very hard to capture for a Macedonian army without navy. Therefore, Alexander commanded the building of a mole.

Not that this was any easier. The Tyrians had excellent ships and made construction work extremely difficult. On one occasion, they defenders loaded ship ful of combustibles, and made it crash into the mole, which was destroyed. However, the Macedonians broadened the structure and continued to work.

Baedeker's Map of Tyre, showing the remains of the mole.
Baedeker's Map of Tyre (1912), showing the remains of the mole.

At some point, the dam was sufficiently long to bring Tyre within reach of the catapults. Every day, the Macedonians came closer, allowing the catapults to become increasingly dangerous.

Meanwhile, the Persian navy had desintegrated and the Phoenician ships returned home, where they sided with Macedonia. Having control of the sea, Alexander could finally attack. And so he did, from three sides: the Phoenician fleet destroyed the Tyrian fleet in the "Egyptian port"; Macedonian ships attacked the walls with siege engines; and marines from Cyprus landed in the "Sidonian port" and forced their way into the city. This was the end of Tyre.

For centuries, the mole was an obstacle to the sea currents. Sediments were deposited and the mole became a peninsula. In the nineteenth century, the course of Alexander's mole was still visible; nowadays, there are too many modern buildings to recognize anything. 


History Photos Texts
Jona Lendering for
Livius.Org, 2012
Revision: 16 Aug. 2012
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