Tuesday 15 May 2007
No man is an island, but it turns out all Alexander the Macedonian needed to take over an entire island was a little help from Mother Nature.
A half-mile-long spit of sand once linked the ancient Lebanese island of Tyre to the mainland, according to a new study of the area’s geological history. Alexander used the natural sandbar to build a causeway, allowing his army to overwhelm the island stronghold during a siege in 332 BC.
Alexander’s conquest of Tyre has long been known to archaeologists, but they never understood how he managed to build a viable overwater passage to the enemy. The challenge probably troubled the Macedonian king at first too, said study leader Nick Marriner of the CEREGE-CNRS, a French geosciences research institute.
Tyre is an ancient Phoenician city and the legendary birthplace of Europa and Elissa (Dido). Today it is the fourth largest city in Lebanon and houses one of the nation’s major ports known locally in French as Soûr. Tyre is a popular destination for tourists. The city has many ancient sites, including its Roman Hippodrome which was added to UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites in 1979.
Details of the study are in the latest edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.