The Siege of Tyre
Thu Aug 6 00:08:02 2009
A few weeks ago I mentioned the quintessentially Greek virtue of metis, using brilliant stratagems and cunning to defeat stronger opponents. We see it portrayed in Epic and History as essential to winning the Trojan and Persian Wars and personified in characters like Odysseus, Themistocles and perhaps Alcibiades. Could Alexander have captured the city of Tyre without artillery and the construction of the mole? Certainly. Like any good Greek hero he could have used deception and cunning to outwit the city. For example he might have moved on with the greater part of his army leaving only a small garrison to lure the Tyrians into attacking. While the small garrison force is pursued by the Tyrian forces, Alexander can return, storm the largely empty city and force them to surrender.
At least that is how Polyaenus describes the conclusion of the Siege of Tyre in his Strategmata (4.3.4). The story reminds me a great deal of Herodotus and his description of the Greeks during the Persian Wars. Actually, the description of Alexander in Arrian also reminds me of Herodotus. The descriptions of all the construction, especially the mole–turning the sea into land you can walk across–are very similar to Herodotus’ descriptions of the Persian approach to war used by Darius and Xerxes. I don’t know which of these stories is true, if any, but I get a sense that Alexander at this point is acting more and more like a Persian and less like a Greek. Or at least that is how he wants to be perceived.