Siege of Tyre, 332 BC

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Citizens versus Alexander the Great: The Tyrian citizens refuse to surrender their walled, island fortress to a Macedonian army under Alexander. Which side will prove to be overconfident in their abilities?

tyre preview 1
 Tyre was under complete siege a total of six times in history, Alexander being the only one to capture the island fortress. This is impressive, considering that one of the sieges took place in the twelfth century where technology was far more capable than what Alexander possessed.
Persistence comes to mind when explaining why Alexander was able to conquer Tyre while others were not. DeVries plays with the idea that Alexander’s new torsion catapults played a decisive role (2008: 29-30). The untrained citizens of Tyre compared to its other sieges must have also played a part; the breach in the south was easily overrun by veteran Macedonian forces.
tyre preview 2
It is always difficult to try and animate – that is show rapid, constant movement – a siege in which both sides sit still. Every siege I animate is a new challenge but I feel my first two, Tyre and Alesia, have been up to standards. By completing this animation I have completed the first commander spotlight in which I animate three battles fought by the same commander. A note on casualties: figures only include casualties suffered before the city surrendered and the Tyrian percentage only accounts for men of military age.
– Jonathan Webb
Works Consulted
Cummins, Joseph. Turn Around and Run Like Hell: Amazing Stories of Unconventional Military Strategies that Worked. London: Murdoch, 2007.
DeVries, Kelly. “Siege of Tyre, 332 BC.” In Battles that Changed Warfare 1457 BC – AD 1991, 28-37.London: Amber, 2008.
Fuller, J.F.C. The Generalship of Alexander the Great. London: Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1958.
Warry, John. Warfare in the Classical World. London: Salamander, 1980.

Alexander the Great:
Macedonian infantry:
Map of the Persian Empire: Sheppard, Ruth. Alexander the Great at War. Oxford: Osprey, 2008
Map of the world:
Tyrian men of military age:

Readers Comments (27)

  1. The information about Tyre being the only city on the coast to oppose Alexander is not correct. The city of Gaza held out for two months under Batis only to meet a similar fate; a general massacre and the brave Persian commander emulating Hektor; being dragged behind a chariot.

  2. Gaza did also oppose Alexander; this will be corrected in the next wave of edits. In the near future, I hope to enlist a research assistant and general editor to ensure no errors slip through into the animations.

  3. Some of your explanation of how the battle proceeded is incorrect. The Macedonians never manage to create a breach in the wall facing the mole, according to Arrian the wall at this point was a 150 feet tall and porportionally think and although they do attempt to breach it with rams, they do not make a mark. It is true however that Alexander does attempt to assault this part of the wall (he does this mainly by usuing ladders and is reported by Diodorus) but still fails. The probing itself was not immediate too, once the ships manage to create a breach in the south wall Alexander immediately sends a battalion to try to attack it and are defeated (Diodorus tells us that at this point Alexander considered giving up the siege). So Alexander waits three days, for better weather, then he sends in his ships with torsion catapults mounted on them to enlarge the breach he then runs a gangway from the boats to the breach and leads his hyspastists through it (according to Arrian Alexander was the second man through).

  4. You didnt write much, and looks like most of it is incorrect. Way to go on informing the public about Greek history.

  5. Mason: Perhaps my diction is a little unclear and will be reconsidered.

    Helen: If you are looking for a website devoted to Greek history, you are on the wrong site. This site is devoted to military history, strategy and tactics and consciously omits lengthy prose unless it is absolutely essential to the battle’s events or results.

    As a whole, yes, the animation does not feature a great deal of text but I think you’re missing the website’s concept. There are a great deal of books which cover any single battle extensively but relatively few short, concise accounts which depict all the vital aspects of the battle without boring or over-loading the reader.

    As I’ve stated in numerous posts before, accounts for battles (especially those two thousand years ago) differ greatly depending on sources used. For this battle, a list of works consulted can be found here:

  6. Hey, so I’ve read that Alexander only conquered Tyre because a “silver shield” shot a beam of light on section of the walls where then Alexander’s men stormed the city? Any info on this?

    🙂 Please these questionable fancy stories never cite their sources.

    FYI – Helen, that is one harsh comment.

  7. It would be much more accurate if you refered to Alexander’s army as Greek army, like you do for the army in the battle of Marathon, and not as Macedonian.

    Alexander after defeating all the other Greeks united them under his command and marched against Persia with the intend to free the greek cities in Minor Asia and stop the recurring attacks of the Persian Empire against Greece.

    • Dear Stamatis, Alexander learn Hellenic language by Aristotle. For the Helens the Macedonians as Spartans was barbarians, who tells us that they don’t have the same language and culture, this is sure. Alexander destroy Athens and burned Thebes. We can’t say that Macedonians other than Macedonians, for sure because there was a Hellenistic coalition in the Aegean see, that’s it. But the culture of arts and the knowledge, this was what’s Alexander loved to the Athenians.

  8. Pretty cool. To all other negative comments if you think you’re all smart and correct lets see you guys make a website and inform people. This man is trying to do all he can to educate people and while he may not be perfect at least he’s trying to do his best. Thanks Mr. Webb.

  9. Jonathan Webb June 1, 2010 @ 3:16 am

    Thanks Panzer. I certainly am not perfect!

  10. For people who do not have a BA in miltary history this site is a goldmine 🙂 TYVM for all your hard work. For those that do have a BA in miltary history, also a goldmine due to compression and the need to summarize, a nit pickers paradise. To any who disagree with presented facts/data, Cite your sources or shut up and go whine in a forum with all the others. According to me, the whiners suffered a humiliating loss at the battle of forum and should be whipped from the page with due haste. Then again, the whiners may cite differently. To the victor go the rights to history.

  11. I really liked this page. It was very helpful and I could understand it

  12. this was a great website!

  13. Juliann Barbee March 16, 2011 @ 2:42 pm

    Hola amigo! Tengo ir nadar en la clase de matematicas porque yo quiero a tomar un helado.

  14. this website was so helpful!

  15. I love love LOVE this website!!!! Long Live John Webb!!! Thanks a lot man. I wanna see more Persian victory battles though, all you have is losses!!

  16. I have to say that I love your site.
    But I can also see that there are some mistakes and that some people were having a “debate” about it.
    Well, one side is that you can’t be perfect, you are trying to do the best you can in your field, on the other hand there is someone who is pointing a mistake and from my point of view this can make you only better. Search for more info, check the historical records and this can only makes you better. Last thing I have to say is that nobody have to make his website to point an inacurate information.

    Once again, I really love your site and I think that with a lil help this can become #1 site in the field

  17. Christiaan Balke October 24, 2011 @ 9:01 pm

    Your presentations on battles is fantastic. I think you have found the optimum between completeness, clarity and conciseness. I learn a lot from this sites and for many battles I now have a more clear picture of the order in which things happened.
    One small tip, mention the date in the slide, especially if it is a multiple-day battle.
    Keep up the good work!

  18. Matthijs de Rijk December 2, 2011 @ 8:51 pm

    I like this animations, mainly because they help my imagination to realize how it could have been those days.

    I lately read a book from a writer from italy, valerio manfredi and he managed to put this happening in a great story while keeping the facts.

    this brought me to the idea to make a reconstruction of the siege with the game 0AD:
    i will put it online soon…

    keep up the great work 😉

  19. In one slide you show two Citizens’ ships sling shooting a horse barge into the Mole. You have the two ships moving together north. However I’m inclined to think that the two ships would sling the barge and then row in opposite directions to gain more momentum for the barge.

  20. Oh BTW, I love this site. I play a lot of strategy games like the Total War series and I want to say that every single one of your tactics wins me battles. I’ve tried them all and I have found them to be invaluable during gameplay.

    Anyone who loves this kind of stuff, please check out the Total War games. They demonstrate the most realistic battle scenarios in any PC game. The latest is Shogun 2. Each new Total War game the AI seems to be getting better in each new release.

  21. Vasil from Macedonia March 29, 2012 @ 7:17 pm

    @helen Macedonians were not “greeks” or hellens stop stealing Macedonian history you brainwashed “modern greek”
    as Eugene Borza said :
    “The conclusion is inescapable: there was a largely ethnic Macedonian imperial administration from beginning to end. Alexander used Greeks in court for cultural reasons, Greek troops (often under Macedonian commanders) for limited tasks and with some discomfort, and Greek commanders and officals for limited duties. Typically, a Greek will enter Alexander’s service from an Aegean or Asian city through the practice of some special activity: he could read and write, keep figures or sail, all of which skills the Macedonians required. Some Greeks may have moved on to military service as well. In other words, the role of Greeks in Alexander’s service was not much different from what their role had been in the services of Xerxes and the third Darius.”

    1. The ancient Macedonians were a distinct nation, separate from their neighbors, the ancient Greeks, Illyrians, and Thracians. The ancient Greek and Roman historians tell us that the Macedonians spoke a separate Macedonian language and had their own customs, culture, and traditions. Archeological discoveries confirm that the material culture of the Macedonians also defer greatly from all their neighbors, and it is by far more superior in artistry (gold, paintings, weapons, mosaics) then anything found in contemporary Greece, Illyria, and Thrace. The texts of the ancient writers distinguish the Macedonians from the ancient Greeks, just like they distinguish the Romans and the Carthaginians. Yet, like the other non-Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, Illyrians, and Thracians, the Macedonian high society also used the Greek language along with Macedonian. Greek was spoken by the nobility of many different ancient nations, just like French was spoken in the 19th century (at the German and Russian courts for example). Unfortunately there are only about 150 glosses that have survived of the ancient Macedonian language (most of them with no relation whatsoever with ancient Greek), and like ancient Carthaginian, Illyrian, and Thracian, it can not be reconstructed. There is no doubt nevertheless that the Illyrains, Thracians, and Macedonians were non-Greeks, or in the words of the ancient Greeks “barbarians” which literally means people who spoke other non-Greek languages.

    2. Macedonia became a world power when the Macedonian king Philip II conquered Thrace, greater part of Illyria, and the whole of Greece (except Sparta). At the battle of Chaeronea in 338, the Macedonian army destroyed the united Greek army, and put an end to Greek freedom and ancient Greek history. To secure the Macedonian conquest, Macedonian garrisons were established in the Greek cities, just like they were established in Thrace and Illyria.

    3. Alexander the Great (336-323 BC), Philip II’s son took the Macedonian armies even further and conquered the Persian Empire, making Macedonia the largest and most powerful nation in the world for centuries to come. In his army next to the Macedonians, he utilized also troops from the Balkan nations that his father Philip II conquered – Greeks, Illyrians, and Thracians. The Greeks in the Macedonian army however were commanded by Macedonians, their contribution in the conquest was insignificant and miniscule, and modern historiography calls them nothing but Macedonian “hostages” who would ensure a good behavior of their friends and families back in Greece (Peter Green, Urlich Wilcken, Ernst Badian, Eugene Borza, A.B. Bosworth). Aware that the Greeks despised the Macedonians, Alexander left massive Macedonian occupation troops in their country before heading for the conquest of Persia, although he knew that he would need as many as possible Macedonians for the dangerous campaign ahead. He however rid himself of the Greeks in his army the first chance he got, after burning the Persian capital Persepolis, and learning that the last Greek state Sparta was defeated by the Macedonian troops he left to watch rebellious Greece.

    4. Despite all, the Greeks never stopped fighting the Macedonians. While Alexander was conquering Persia with his 25-30,000 Macedonians, more then 50,000 Greeks actually fought on the side of the Persians against the Macedonians (Curtius). The Macedonians slaughtered 18,000 of them in the first battle and sent 2,000 to forced labor in Macedonia (Arrian). After Alexander died the Macedonian general Pithon massacred 23,000 more in a single battle when the Greeks revolted in Bactria (Diodorus). In Greece, when the news of Alexander the Great’s death became known, the Greeks united once again and threw out the Macedonians out of their country in the Lamian War (Diodorus). But the Macedonian army returned with massive reinforcements, defeated the Greeks both on land and sea, and re-occupied Greece, putting a bloody end of the Lamian War (Diodorus).

    5. The Greeks nevertheless continued raising rebellion after rebellion against the Macedonians to free Greece from the foreign occupation. All successors of Alexander the Great fought them, and the Macedonian king Antigonus II Gonatas fought three Greek uprising who unified against the “barbarous Macedonians” (Diodorus, Plutarch, Justin). Finally in 197 BC, the Macedonian king Philip V was defeated by the joint force of Romans and Greeks, and Macedonia lost Greece after almost 150 years of occupation. When the Romans proclaimed that Greece is free, such an enormous burst of enthusiasm exploded among the Greeks that the Roman general who made the announcement was almost killed by the mass of people that flocked to shake his hand and congratulate him for diving the Macedonians out (Livy, Polybius).

    6. After the defeat of the Macedonian king Perseus in 168 BC, and the end of the Macedonian rebellion in 148 BC, Macedonia, Greece, and Carthage became part of the Roman Empire. In 395 AD with the split of the Roman Empire, Macedonia and Greece became part of the East Roman (or Byzantine) Empire.

    btw good job Jonathan !

  22. This animation is really good. I hope that you don’t mind, but I’ve used it to help my GCSE Ancient History class understand the seige of Tyre. Many thanks for saving me hours of lesson prep!

  23. I think you’re doing a great job. Keep up the good work. -AG

  24. Hello Jonathan,

    here is a BIG TIME SAVING TIP for you!

    please check out the new PowerPoint 2016 MORPH Transition
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    just move the copy the pieces from the starting slide (start position) to the next slide (end position) as you like them, and PowerPoint will auto-animate ALL THE IN-BETWEEN MOVEMENT for you using the Morph transition in-between the slides, and do so instantly automatically and even with a smooth in & out easing motion!

    it will save you a ton of time
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    (and PS it works with 3D and re-sizing
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