Today, I’m going to take you on a journey through history where you will become familiar with one of the most interesting cities in the ancient world.
Tyre, also know as Tyrus, from the root word Tzor, meaning rock for the rocky terrain on which it was built, was a Phoenician city on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Tyre was also an island off the coast of the city. That island no longer exists. The island and city of Tyre was perfectly situated, the Tyrians were productive, laborious, and kind to travelers and traders. Tyrians invented navigation and, because they accepted all people, they were never known as a single people, but a group in possession of the best of the world.
For its position and wealth, the city has been under siege multiple times throughout the course of history. The first of these famous sieges was by Nebuchadnezzar 11, King of kings, who conquered the town of Tyre, but the island withstood him in a siege that lasted 13 years from 587-573 B.C.
Tyre was not only in the perfect position to become the trade center of the world, but it was built for defense and boasted a 200 foot wall from the sea that stretched all around the island. For trade, the island had two natural harbors facing the city on the mainland. Tyre made its fortune and fame from its glass makers and the phenomenon of purple dye which enamored the rulers and rich of the world. Tyre was truly insurmountable in fame, wealth, and warfare.
The siege of Alexander the Great and the Greeks took place about 332 B.C., 241 years after the siege of Nebuchadnezzar. This siege lasted seven months from January to July, eventually resulting in the fall of Tyre.
Initially, Alexander had hoped to bypass the island and sent ambassadors to offer the Tyrian a surrender. The men of Tyre were prideful and felt themselves safe on their island, so they killed the emmissaries of Alexander and threw the over the wall into the sea. Alexander was enraged and after his army took the shoreline city, he ordered his men to throw the rubble of the city into the sea and build for him a causeway 200 feet wide. The work progressed as the months went on.
And they shall make a spoil of thy riches, and make a prey of thy merchandise: and they shall break down thy walls, and destroy thy pleasant houses: and they shall lay thy stones and thy timber and thy dust in the midst of the water.
However, as he neared the island, the water became too deep to continue. So, Alexander built towers made of wood 160 feet high and covered them with rawhide to protect against fire arrows from the walls of Tyre. These gigantic towers were the tallest of their kind ever built. On the top of the towers were mounted catapults with ballistas below to fire at enemy ships. Alexander used his ships to tow the wooden towers to the end of his causeway and open fire on the walls of Tyre.
The Tyrians were intelligent tacticians, and rather than be battered by Alexander’s siege towers, they retaliated by loading an old horse transport ship with branches and combustibles, hanging casks of oil from the yard arms. They weighed down the back of the ship so that the prow would be elevated above the water, then lit the ship on fire and sent it into the causeway, following with more ships full of armed soldiers. The fire ship caught the towers aflame and the war machines in them burned. The men on the ships that followed destroyed the remaining war machines while the Greeks put out the fire.
Alexander was becoming tired of the back and forth of the siege, and sent messengers to his allies and to the nations he had conquered to send ships. When the ships arrived, Alexander possessed more than 223 galleys and commanded the sea. It was only a matter of time now before the city fell.
Eventually, Alexander found a breach in the defense and his men flooded in, destroying everything in their wake. Alexander and his men were so frustrated at the length of the siege, and that the Tyrians had executed Greek captives on the walls of the city some time earlier, that 8,000 Tyrian’s were killed after they had taken the city. 6,000 were cut down as the men marched through and 2,000 were crucified on the beaches. Alexander’s army reduced the city to ash and rubble, completing his victory.
However, for all the trouble the city had caused him, Alexander was not satisfied with simply destroying the city and killing the people. The 30,000 surviving Tyrians were sold as slaves and the city reduced to ash. To insure that it would never rise again, Alexander set up Alexandria as the new economic center of the world.
The land mass of Tyre is a rocky, desolate place that juts out above the water, where today fishermen spread their nets to dry them in the sun.
And I will make thee like the top of a rock: thou shalt be a place to spread nets upon; thou shalt be built no more: for I the LORD have spoken it, saith the Lord GOD.
One would think that this is the end, but here is where the mystery appears.
It is speculated, that over time, the island of Tyre has sunk into the shoreline of its adjacent city. Therefore disappearing completely from all maps. However, no evidence of the island city has ever been found. This is where history meets legend, and it is only the beginning of this story.