CHAPTER XX. ALEXANDER THE GREAT, B.C. 336-323.
As Alexander advanced southwards, all the towns of Phoenicia hastened to open their gates; the inhabitants of Sidon even hailed him as their deliverer. Tyre, also, sent to tender her submission; but coupled with reservations by no means acceptable to a youthful conqueror in the full tide of success. Alexander affected to receive their offer as an unconditional surrender, and told them that he would visit their city and offer sacrifices to Melcart, a Tyrian deity, who was considered as identical with the Grecian Hercules. This brought the matter to an issue. The Tyrians now informed him that they could not admit any foreigners within their walls, and that, if he wished to sacrifice to Melcart, he would find another and more ancient shrine in Old Tyre, on the mainland. Alexander indignantly dismissed the Tyrian ambassadors, and announced his intention of laying siege to their city. The Tyrians probably deemed it impregnable. It was by nature a place of great strength, and had been rendered still stronger by art. The island on which it stood was half a mile distant from the mainland; and though the channel was shallow near the coast, it deepened to three fathoms near the island. The shores of the island were rocky and precipitous, and the walls rose from the cliffs to the height of 150 feet in solid masonry. As Alexander possessed no ships, the only method by which he could approach the town was by constructing a causeway, the materials for which were collected from the forests of Libanus and the ruins of Old Tyre. After overcoming many difficulties the mole was at length pushed to the foot of the walls; and as soon as Alexander had effected a practicable breach, he ordered a general assault both by land and sea. The breach was stormed under the immediate inspection of Alexander himself; and though the Tyrians made a desperate resistance, they were at length overpowered, when the city became one wide scene of indiscriminate carnage and plunder. The siege had lasted seven months, and the Macedonians were so exasperated by the difficulties and dangers they had undergone that they granted no quarter. Eight thousand of the citizens are said to have been massacred; and the remainder, with the exception of the king and some of the principal men, who had taken refuge in the temple of Melcart, were sold into slavery to the number of 30,000. Tyre was taken in the month of July in 332.
Whilst Alexander was engaged in the siege of Tyre, Darius made him further and more advantageous proposals. He now offered 10,000 talents as the ransom of his family, together with all the Provinces west of the Euphrates, and his daughter Barsine in marriage, as the conditions of a peace. When these offers were submitted to the council Parmenio was not unnaturally struck with their magnificence, and observed, that were he Alexander he would accept them. "and so would I," replied the king, "were I Parmenio." Darius, therefore, prepared himself for a desperate resistance.
After the fall of Tyre, Alexander marched with his army towards Egypt, whilst his fleet proceeded along the coast. Gaza, a strong fortress on the sea-shore, obstinately held out, and delayed his progress three or four months. After the capture of this city Alexander met his fleet at Pelusium, and ordered it to sail up the Nile as far as Memphis, whither he himself marched with his army across the desert. He conciliated the affection of the Egyptians by the respect with which he treated their national superstitions, whilst the Persians by an opposite line of conduct had incurred their deadliest hatred. He then sailed down the western branch of the Nile, and at its mouth traced the plan of the new city of Alexandria, which for many centuries continued to be not only the grand emporium of Europe, Africa, and India, but also the principal centre of intellectual life. Being now on the confines of Libya, Alexander resolved to visit the celebrated oracle of Zeus (Jupiter) Ammon, which lay in the bosom of the Libyan wilderness. The conqueror was received by the priests with all the honours of sacred pomp. He consulted the oracle in secret, and is said never to have disclosed the answer which he received; though that it was an answer that contented him appeared from the magnificence of the offerings which he made to the god. Some say that Ammon saluted him as the son of Zeus.