Siege of Tyre (332 BC)

Siege of Tyre (332 BC)

Infobox Military Conflict

caption= The Siege of Tyre, courtesy of The Department of History, United States Military Academy
conflict=Siege of Tyre (332 BC)
partof=the Wars of Alexander the Great
date=332 BC
place=Tyre, Phoenicia (now Lebanon)
result=Macedonian victory.
territory=Alexander captures the Levant.
Greek allies
combatant2=Tyrian citizens,
Achaemenid Empire
commander1=Alexander the Great
casualties1=400 killed
casualties2=8,000 killed or executed,
30,000 civilians enslaved
__NOTOC__In 332 BC, Alexander the Great set out to conquer Tyre, a strategic coastal base in the war between the Greeks and the Persians. Unable to storm the city, he blockaded Tyre for seven months, but Tyre held on. Alexander used the debris of the abandoned mainland city to build a causeway and once within reach of the city walls, he used his siege engines to batter and finally breach the fortifications. It is said that Alexander was so enraged at the Tyrians' defense and the loss of his men that he destroyed half the city. According to Arrian the Tyrian losses were about 8,000, while the Macedonians lost 400. Alexander granted pardon to the king and his family, whilst the 30,000 residents and foreigners taken were sold into slavery.


Tyre, the largest and most important city-state of Phoenicia, was located both on the mediterranean coast as well as a nearby Island with two natural harbors on the landward side. The Island lay about half a mile from the coast in Alexander’s day, its high walls reaching 200 feet above the sea on the on the east, landward facing, side of the island.


At the time of the siege, the city held approximately 40,000 people, though the women and children were evacuated to Carthage, an ancient Phoenician colony. The Carthaginians also promised to send a fleet to their mother city’s aid. As Alexander did not have much of a navy, he resolved to take the city and thus deny the Persians of their last harbor in the region. After months of trying to capture Tyre the Persian fleet surrendered about 332 BC. This enabled Alexander to attack from all sides.

It is interesting to note that in the Bible in the Old Testamnet book of Ezekiel, Tyre is mentioned in chapters 26 and 27. It goes into great detail about the soon coming destruction well before it took place. Ezekiel 27 states:

The word of the LORD came again unto me, saying,

Eze 27:2 Now, thou son of man, take up a lamentation for Tyrus;

Eze 27:3 And say unto Tyrus, O thou that art situate at the entry of the sea, [which art] a merchant of the people for many isles, Thus saith the Lord GOD; O Tyrus, thou hast said, I [am] of perfect beauty.

Eze 27:4 Thy borders [are] in the midst of the seas, thy builders have perfected thy beauty.

Eze 27:5 They have made all thy [ship] boards of fir trees of Senir: they have taken cedars from Lebanon to make masts for thee.

Eze 27:6 [Of] the oaks of Bashan have they made thine oars; the company of the Ashurites have made thy benches [of] ivory, [brought] out of the isles of Chittim.

Eze 27:7 Fine linen with broidered work from Egypt was that which thou spreadest forth to be thy sail; blue and purple from the isles of Elishah was that which covered thee.

Eze 27:8 The inhabitants of Zidon and Arvad were thy mariners: thy wise [men] , O Tyrus, [that] were in thee, were thy pilots.

Eze 27:9 The ancients of Gebal and the wise [men] thereof were in thee thy calkers: all the ships of the sea with their mariners were in thee to occupy thy merchandise.

Eze 27:10 ¶ They of Persia and of Lud and of Phut were in thine army, thy men of war: they hanged the shield and helmet in thee; they set forth thy comeliness.

Eze 27:11 The men of Arvad with thine army [were] upon thy walls round about, and the Gammadims were in thy towers: they hanged their shields upon thy walls round about; they have made thy beauty perfect.

Eze 27:12 ¶ Tarshish [was] thy merchant by reason of the multitude of all [kind of] riches; with silver, iron, tin, and lead, they traded in thy fairs.

Eze 27:13 Javan, Tubal, and Meshech, they [were] thy merchants: they traded the persons of men and vessels of brass in thy market.

Eze 27:14 They of the house of Togarmah traded in thy fairs with horses and horsemen and mules.

Eze 27:15 The men of Dedan [were] thy merchants; many isles [were] the merchandise of thine hand: they brought thee [for] a present horns of ivory and ebony.

Eze 27:16 Syria [was] thy merchant by reason of the multitude of the wares of thy making: they occupied in thy fairs with emeralds, purple, and broidered work, and fine linen, and coral, and agate.

Eze 27:17 Judah, and the land of Israel, they [were] thy merchants: they traded in thy market wheat of Minnith, and Pannag, and honey, and oil, and balm.

Eze 27:18 Damascus [was] thy merchant in the multitude of the wares of thy making, for the multitude of all riches; in the wine of Helbon, and white wool.

Eze 27:19 Dan also and Javan going to and fro occupied in thy fairs: bright iron, cassia, and calamus, were in thy market.

Eze 27:20 Dedan [was] thy merchant in precious clothes for chariots.

Eze 27:21 Arabia, and all the princes of Kedar, they occupied with thee in lambs, and rams, and goats: in these [were they] thy merchants.

Eze 27:22 The merchants of Sheba and Raamah, they [were] thy merchants: they occupied in thy fairs with chief of all spices, and with all precious stones, and gold.

Eze 27:23 Haran, and Canneh, and Eden, the merchants of Sheba, Asshur, [and] Chilmad, [were] thy merchants.

Eze 27:24 These [were] thy merchants in all sorts [of things] , in blue clothes, and broidered work, and in chests of rich apparel, bound with cords, and made of cedar, among thy merchandise.

Eze 27:25 The ships of Tarshish did sing of thee in thy market: and thou wast replenished, and made very glorious in the midst of the seas.

Eze 27:26 Thy rowers have brought thee into great waters: the east wind hath broken thee in the midst of the seas.

Eze 27:27 ¶ Thy riches, and thy fairs, thy merchandise, thy mariners, and thy pilots, thy calkers, and the occupiers of thy merchandise, and all thy men of war, that [are] in thee, and in all thy company which [is] in the midst of thee, shall fall into the midst of the seas in the day of thy ruin.

Eze 27:28 The suburbs shall shake at the sound of the cry of thy pilots.

Eze 27:29 And all that handle the oar, the mariners, [and] all the pilots of the sea, shall come down from their ships, they shall stand upon the land;

Eze 27:30 And shall cause their voice to be heard against thee, and shall cry bitterly, and shall cast up dust upon their heads, they shall wallow themselves in the ashes:

Eze 27:31 And they shall make themselves utterly bald for thee, and gird them with sackcloth, and they shall weep for thee with bitterness of heart [and] bitter wailing.

Eze 27:32 And in their wailing they shall take up a lamentation for thee, and lament over thee, [saying] , What [city is] like Tyrus, like the destroyed in the midst of the sea?

Eze 27:33 When thy wares went forth out of the seas, thou filledst many people; thou didst enrich the kings of the earth with the multitude of thy riches and of thy merchandise.

Eze 27:34 In the time [when] thou shalt be broken by the seas in the depths of the waters thy merchandise and all thy company in the midst of thee shall fall.

Eze 27:35 All the inhabitants of the isles shall be astonished at thee, and their kings shall be sore afraid, they shall be troubled in [their] countenance.

Eze 27:36 The merchants among the people shall hiss at thee; thou shalt be a terror, and never [shalt be] any more. NKJV

For more on the book of Ezekiel refer to the Bible

The motives

Alexander began with an engineering feat that shows the true extent of his brilliance; as he could not attack the city from sea, he built a kilometer-long causeway stretching out to the island on a natural land bridge no more than two meters deep [Citation
last =Stafford | first =Ned | author-link =
title =How geology came to help Alexander the Great
magazine =
date = 2007-05-14
url =
accessdate = 2007-05-17
] . This mole allowed his artillery to get in range of the walls, and is still there to this day, as it was made of stone. As the work came near the walls, however, the water became much deeper, and the combined attacks from the walls and Tyrian navy made construction nearly impossible. Therefore, Alexander constructed two towers 150 feet high and moved them to the end of the causeway. Like most of Alexander’s siege towers, these were moving artillery platforms, with catapults on the top to clear defenders off of the walls, and ballista below to hurl rocks at the wall and attacking ships. The towers were made of wood, but were covered in rawhide to protect them from fire arrows.Although these towers were possibly the largest of their kind ever made, the Tyrians quickly devised a counterattack. They used an old horse transport ship, filling it with dried branches, pitch, sulfur, and various other combustibles. They then hung cauldrons of oil from the masts, so that they would fall onto the deck once the masts burned through. They also weighed down the back of the ship so that the front rose above the water. They then lit it on fire and ran it up onto the causeway. The fire spread quickly, engulfing both towers and other siege equipment that had been brought up. The Tyrian ships swarmed the pier, destroying any siege equipment that hadn’t caught fire, and driving off Macedonian crews that were trying to put out the fires.

The siege

This convinced Alexander that he would be unable to take Tyre without a navy. Fate would soon provide him with one. Presently, the Persian navy returned to find their home cities under Alexander’s control. Since their allegiance was to their city, they were therefore Alexander’s. He now had eighty ships. This coincided with the arrival of another hundred and twenty from Cyprus, which had heard of his victories and wished to join him. With the arrival of another twenty three ships, Alexander had two hundred and twenty three galleys under his command. Alexander then sailed on Tyre and quickly blockaded both ports with his superior numbers. He had several of the slower galleys, and a few barges, refit with battering rams, the only known case of battering rams being used on ships. Finding that large underwater blocks of stone kept the rams from reaching the walls, Alexander had them removed by crane ships. The rams then anchored near the walls, but the Tyrians sent out ships and divers to cut the anchor cables. Alexander responded by replacing them with chains.The Tyrians tried another brilliant counter attack, yet were not so fortunate this time. They noticed that Alexander returned to the mainland at the same time every afternoon for lunch, at the same time much of his navy did. They therefore attacked at this time, but found Alexander had skipped his afternoon siesta, and was able to quickly counter the sortie.Alexander also was said to have been preparing a new plan of attack involoving elephants from Egypt to counter the Tyrians skill.


Alexander started testing the wall at various points with his rams, until he made a small breach in the south end of the island. He then coordinated an attack across the breach with a bombardment from all sides by his navy. Once his troops forced their way into the city, they easily overtook the garrison, and quickly captured the city. Those citizens that took shelter in the temple of Herakles were pardoned by Alexander, including the king of Tyre. The others, some 30,000 people, were sold into slavery, both because of the length of the siege, and because the Tyrians had executed some captured sailors on the walls.

List of sieges

*724-720 BC: Assyrian Siege by king Shalmaneser V
*701 BC: Assyrian Siege by king Sennacherib
*663 BC: Assyrian Siege by king Ashurbanipal
*585-570 BC: Babylonian Siege by king Nebuchadnezzar II
*332 BC: Macedonian Siege by Alexander the Great.
*1111-1112 AD: By the Crusaders of Baldwin I

ee also

*Diades of Pella


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