In 332 BC, Alexander the Great set out to conquer Tyre, a strategic coastal base in the war between the Greeks and the Persians. Unable to storm the city, he blockaded Tyre for seven months, but Tyre held on. Alexander used the debris of the abandoned mainland city to build a causeway and once within reach of the city walls, he used his siege engines to batter and finally breach the fortifications. It is said that Alexander was so enraged at the Tyrians' defense and the loss of his men that he destroyed half the city. The town's 30,000 residents were massacred or sold into slavery.
The letter from Darius
During this siege, Alexander received a letter from King Darius III offering a truce. He offered to pay ransom for his family and thanked Alexander for their well being. Darius also offered to cede all lands west of the Euphrates and to create an alliance of friendship and mutual benefit.
General Parmenion advised Alexander to accept Darius's offer. He said to Alexander, "I would accept, were I Alexander." Alexander famously replies, "I too, were I Parmenion!"
The Siege of Tyre, courtesy of The Department of History, United States Military Academy
In a reply to Darius's terms, Alexander wrote, "Your ancestors invaded Macedon and the rest of Greece and did us harm although we had not done you any previous injury. I have been appointed commander-in-chief of the Greeks and it is with the aim of punishing the Persians that I have crossed into Asia, since you are the aggressors. You gave support to the people of Perinthus, who had done my father harm, and Ochus sent a force to Thrace, which was under our rule. My father died at the hand of conspirators instigated by you, as you yourself boasted to everybody in your letters, you killed Arses with the help of Bagoas and gained your throne through unjust means, in defiance of Persian custom and doing wrong to the Persians. You sent unfriendly letters to the Greeks about me, to push them to war against me, and sent money to the Spartans and some other Greeks, which none of the other cities would accept apart from the Spartans. Your envoys corrupted my friends and sought to destroy the peace, which I established among the Greeks.
I therefore led an expedition against you, and you started the quarrel. But now I have defeated in battle first your generals and satraps, and now you in person and your army, and by the grace of the gods I control the country. All those who fought on your side and did not die in battle but came over to me, I hold myself responsible for them; they are not on my side under duress but are taking part in the expedition of their own free will. Approach me therefore as the lord of all Asia. If you are afraid of suffering harm at my hands by coming in person, send some of your friends to receive proper assurances. Come to me to ask and receive your mother, your wife, your children and anything else you wish. Whatever you can persuade me to give shall be yours.
In future whenever you communicate with me, send to me as Lord of Asia; do not write to me as an equal, but state your demands to the master of all your possessions. If not, I shall deal with you as a wrongdoer. If you wish to lay claim to the title of king, then stand your ground and fight for it; do not take to flight, as I shall pursue you wherever you may be."
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