Arrian on the Siege of Tyre (332bc)


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(for comparison, Plutarch gives a very muddled account, concentrating on the dreams and omens connected to the siege, but you may be interested to compare Arrian's account below with that of Diodorus)
Arrian, Anabasis of Alexander 2.18–24
Alexander easily persuaded his men to make an attack on Tyre. An omen helped to convince him, because that very night during a dream he seemed to be approaching the walls of Tyre, and Heracles was stretching out his right hand towards him and leading him to the city. Aristander explained that this meant that Tyre would be captured with great effort, just as the labours of Heracles also demanded great effort. Certainly the siege of Tyre was a considerable undertaking. The city was an island and defended on all sides with high walls; at that time the balance of power by sea was in favour of the Tyrians, since the Persians were still masters of the sea and the Tyrians had a large fleet ready for use.

When nonetheless Alexander persuaded them to do what he wanted, he decided to build a mole from the mainland out to the city. The place he chose was a crossing covered in pools of water which had shallows and patches of mud on the part close to the mainland, but close to the city, where the deepest part of the crossing was, it was about 18 feet in depth. But there was a great quantity of stone and wood, which they placed on top, and it was not a difficult matter to fix stakes in the mud, and the mud itself bound together the stones so that they stayed in place. The eagerness of the Macedonians for the task was great, and Alexander was there directing each step of the work, sometimes inspiring them with his words, at other times encouraging those who worked exceptionally hard with gifts. While they were working on the part close to the mainland, they successfully completed the mole without great difficulty, as they were working in shallow water and no one was trying to stop them. But when they reached the deeper water and were closer to the city itself, they began to face greater difficulties as missiles were thrown at them from the walls which were high, all the more so because they were kitted out for manual labour rather than for fighting; the Tyrians sailed up to different parts of the mole in their ships, since they still had control of the sea, and made the further development of the mole impossible for the Macedonians in many places. The Macedonians erected two towers on top of the mole which now stretched out some distance into the sea, and put engines on the towers. They used hides and skins as coverings for the towers to protect them from burning missiles hurled from the wall and also to offer some defence against arrows for those who were working underneath. At the same time, any Tyrians who sailed up and tried to harm those who were building the mole would be forced to retreat when attacked from the towers.
The Tyrians developed to counter response to this as follows. They filled a ship usually used for transporting horses with dry logs and other wood which was easy to burn, and set up two masts in the bow, and built up the sides as high as they could so that it could carry as much woodchip and torches as possible; as well as this, they put pitch and sulphur and whatever else would encourage a huge blaze. They also fitted a double yardarm on both masts, and attached to it in cauldrons whatever was likely to increase the flames when poured or thrown on them, and they placed heavy weights in the stern, so as to raise the prow as high as possible. Then they waited for a wind blowing in the direction of the mole, and then fastening the boat to some triremes, they dragged it behind them. And when they were approaching the mole and the towers, they set fire to the contents and they dragged the ship as violently as they could with the triremes and drove it onto the edge of the mole; those who have been on the burning ship had already swum away without difficulty. In the meantime the great mass of flames fell on the towers, and the yard arms broke and poured out onto the fire all that had been placed to further feed the burning. Those in the triremes kept their ships close to the mole and fired arrows at the towers so that it would not be safe for anyone to approach to put out the fires. As the towers were now engulfed in flames, many men rushed out of the city and jumped into smaller boats, then made for different parts of the mole and tore apart the palisade which had been put in front of it; they set on fire all the war engines which have not been burnt by the fire from the ship.

Alexander ordered his men to start building up a broader mole from the mainland, so that it would take more towers, and he told his engineers to build replacement engines. While these things were being got ready, he took some infantry and the Agrianians to Sidon as he had collected there all the ships he had, because the siege seemed impossible while the Tyrians controlled the sea.
In the meantime Gerostratus king of Aradus and Enylus of Byblus learned that their cities were held by Alexander, so they left Autophradates and his ships, and came over to Alexander with their own contingent, and the ships of the Sidonians came as well, with the result that about 80 Phoenician ships joined his fleet. In the same days there arrived from Rhodes nine triremes and the state guard ship, and from Soli and Mallus another three, together with 10 from Lycia and a fifty-oar ship from Macedonia, captained by Proteas, son of Andronicus. Soon after this, the kings of Cyprus arrived at Sidon with about 120 ships, as they had learned about Darius’ defeat at Issus and were very concerned that the whole of Phoenicia was already under Alexander’s control. To all of these Alexander granted an amnesty for what happened before, because he realised that they had provided contingents for the Persian navy more through compulsion than by their own choice.

When his fleet had been put in order, he stationed on the decks as many of the infantry as seemed sufficient for the task, in case the sea battle turned out to be more like hand-to-hand fighting than skilful manoeuvring. He set out from Sidon on sailed to Tyre with his fleet in battle formation; Alexander himself was on the right wing which was on the seaward side, and together with him were the kings of Cyprus and all the Phoenicians, apart from Pnytagoras, who with Craterus commanded the left wing of the whole battle line.

The Tyrians had earlier decided to accept a naval battle if Alexander sailed against them, but then they saw the great number of ships beyond their expectations (for they had not yet received news that Alexander controlled all the Cyprian and Phoenician ships) and Alexander’s fleet was drawn up for battle in good order; just before they reached the city, the ships with Alexander held their position for a time at sea, in case after all they might draw out the Tyrians for a battle, but then, when this did not happen, they sailed on with a great roar. When the Tyrians saw this, they refused the sea battle, and using as many triremes as the mouths of the harbours would take, they blocked the entrances and guarded them to make sure the enemy fleet did not use any of their harbours.

When the Tyrians did not come out to face him, Alexander sailed against the city. He decided not to force his way into the harbour which faced towards Sidon because of the narrowness of its entrance and at the same time he saw that the channel was blocked by many triremes, their bows facing outwards. The Phoenicians attacked the three triremes moored furthest out, and sank them, after striking them head-on; those on the ships easily swam away to the friendly shore. Then the ships with Alexander anchored not far from the newly constructed mole along the shore where there appeared to be some protection from the wind. On the next day Alexander ordered the Cyprians with their ships under the command of the admiral Andromachus to blockade the city at the harbour which looked towards Sidon, while the Phoenicians were to do the same at the harbour on the further side of the mole facing towards Egypt, where Alexander’s tent was.
Alexander had already collected many engineers from Cyprus and from the whole of Phoenicia, and many war engines fitted together, some on the mole, others on the horse transports which he had brought with him from Sidon or on those triremes which were not designed for speed. When everything was in a state of readiness, they brought the engines along the mole and from the ships which were at anchor at different points along the wall and were putting it to the test. The Tyrians put wooden towers on the part of the wall facing the mole and wherever else the engines were deployed, so that they could fight from them, and they defended themselves with missiles and fire burning arrows at the ships, which made the Macedonians reluctant to approach the wall. The wall opposite the mole was about 150 feet in height and broad in proportion, made of huge blocks of stone held together with mortar. It was not easy for the Macedonian transport ships and triremes which were bringing engines to the wall to approach close to the city, because many stones were being hurled into the sea, which prevented them from making an attack at close quarters. Alexander decided to drag the stones out of the sea, but this task was completed with difficulty, as they were trying to do it from ships and not from solid land; this was particularly the case because the Tyrians had put protection on some of their ships and attacked the anchors of the triremes, cutting the anchor ropes making it impossible for the enemy ships to anchor by the city. In turn, Alexander protected some 30 oared vessels in the same manner and placed them in front of the anchors to repel the attack of the Tyrian ships. But even so, underwater divers were cutting the cables. The Macedonians began to attach chains rather than ropes for the anchors, and lower them down, so that the divers were not able to achieve anything further. They fitted rope around the rocks from the mole and pulled them out of the sea, then lifting them with the engine, they put them in the deep water where they no longer posed a threat. Where they managed to make the wall clear of obstructions, the ships easily got in close.

The Tyrians were now in great difficulties in every way, and they decided to make an attack on the Cyprian ships which were blockading the harbour which faced towards Sidon. For a long time they covered the mouth of the harbour with sails, so that no one could see them manning their triremes; about the middle of the day, when the sailors had scattered to do what they needed to, and Alexander had just left the fleet on the other side of the city for his tent, they manned six smaller ships and seven triremes with their best trained crews and with men suitably equipped to fight from the decks, all men who were boldest in naval battles. At first they began to move out quietly in single file, without anyone calling the stroke; but when they were turning towards the Cyprians and were almost in sight of them, they then began to attack with much shouting and encouragement to each other, rowing with an even stroke.

On this particular day, it happened that Alexander went to his tent but did not spend time there as he usually did, but soon returned to the ships. The Tyrians attacked the ships at anchor unexpectedly, and found some completely empty, while others were being manned with difficulty by those who chanced to be there in the midst of the shouting and the attack. In the first attack, they sank the ship of King Pnytagoras, together with those captained by Androcles from Amathus and Pasicrates of Curium, and they drove the others to the shore and smashed them.

When Alexander noticed that the Tyrian triremes had sailed out, he ordered the majority of the ships with him, as soon as the crews were in place, to hold their position at the mouth of the harbour, to prevent any other Tyrian ships leaving. He took the quinqueremes he had and five triremes which had got their crews on board in great haste and began to sail round the city to face the Tyrians who had already sailed out. The Tyrians on the wall saw the attack of the enemy and Alexander himself on the ships, and they tried to signal to their men to return to the harbour by shouting; when this could not be heard because of the din of those involved in the battle, they kept trying different types of signal to bring them back. When the men in the ships noticed too late the attack of the ships with Alexander, they turned about and made for the harbour. A few of the ships managed to get to the harbour before their pursuers, but Alexander’s ships rammed the majority, making some of them unsailable and capturing two of their ships at the very mouth of the harbour. There was little opportunity for slaughtering the crews, because when they saw that their ships were taken, they easily swam into the harbour.

As the Tyrians were no longer able to gain any assistance from their ships, the Macedonians brought their engines right up to the wall. When they were brought along the mole they achieved nothing worthy of mention because of the strength of the wall, so they brought some of the ships that carried engines up to that part of the wall which faced towards Sidon. When even there they did not do any better, Alexander sent them round to the south and the part of the wall facing towards Egypt, so as to test every part of the fortification. It was at this point that the wall was first of all battered to a considerable extent and then partly destroyed by a breach. At that time, Alexander made a limited attack, just throwing gangways where the wall had been damaged; the Tyrians easily drove back the Macedonians.

Two days later, after waiting for calm weather and encouraging his battalion commanders for the task in hand, Alexander brought up the engines to the city on ships. First he batted down a considerable section of the wall, and when the breach seems sufficiently broad, he ordered that the ships carrying the engines to back off; he then led in two others which were carrying gangways which intended to place where the wall had been breached.

The company of guards took over one of the ships, under the command of Admetus, while the squadron of Coenus took over the other; Alexander himself intended to cross the wall with his guards wherever it was possible. He ordered some of his triremes to sail round the entrances to both harbours, in case they could force an entry into them while the Tyrians were distracted by his assault on the wall. The other triremes, which either had missiles for hurling from the engines or archers on the decks, were ordered to sail round the wall in a circle, then land where possible or stay within firing range as long as landing proved impossible, so that the Tyrians, under assault from all sides, would be at a loss in the terrible crisis.

When the ships with Alexander approached the city and the gangways were thrown onto the wall from them, the royal guards went along then bravely on to the wall. Admetus showed himself a brave man at this time, and Alexander followed them, taking energetic part in the action, yet watching to see if there were any outstanding display of courage by others in the crisis. The wall was first captured where Alexander had stationed himself; the Tyrians were easily thrust back from the wall, since the Macedonians for the first time were making their assault from a secure foundation which was not excessively steep in every direction. Admetus was the first onto the wall, and as he was ordering his men to follow up, he was struck by a spear and died there. Alexander followed him and seized the wall with his companions. When he gained control of some towers and the parts of walls between them, he went through their fortifications towards the palace because the descent into the city seemed easier by that route.

As for the men on the ships, the Phoenicians, who happened to be moored near the harbour which faced towards Egypt, forced their way in and after destroying the booms began wrecking the ships in the harbour; some they rammed while they were at sea, and others they forced onto the shore. At the other harbour which faced towards Sidon there was not even a barrier across the entrance, and the Cyprians sailed in and captured the city on this side straightaway. The majority of the Tyrians, when they saw that the wall had been captured, deserted it and gathered together at what is called the shrine of Agenor, and there they turned to fight the Macedonians. Alexander fell upon them with his royal guards, and slaughtered some of them fighting there, then pursued those who fled. There was a great massacre, since those who were coming from the harbour now had control of the city and Coenus’ battalion had entered it. In their anger the Macedonians turned on everything, annoyed at the time wasted on the siege and also because the Tyrians had captured some of them as they were sailing from Sidon, and marched them up onto the wall where they could be seen from the camp and killed them and hurled them into the sea. About 8000 Tyrians died, and in that attack the Macedonian losses consisted of Admetus who was first to capture the wall, showing himself a brave man, and with him about 20 of the royal guards; in the whole siege about 400 men died.

Many of the Tyrians fled to the sanctuary of Heracles: amongst these were the men of greatest authority and the King Azemilcus, and some envoys from Carthage who had come to their mother city to honour Heracles in accordance with an ancient custom. Alexander granted an amnesty to all of these; he enslaved the rest, some 30,000 in number, both Tyrians and foreigners.

Alexander offered a sacrifice to Heracles and held a procession for him with all his contingents under arms; his ships also sailed past in honour of Heracles, and Alexander held athletic games and a torch race in the sanctuary as well. He placed the siege engine by which the wall had been breached in the temple, and he also dedicated the Tyrian sacred ship which he had captured during the attack.

This is how Tyre was captured in the archonship of Nicetus at Athens in the month Hecatombaeon.