National Geographic : 1968 Jan
In the Footsteps of Alexander the Great a key naval base and the commercial center of the Middle East. He found Tyre a proud, high-walled city on an island. He left it in humble ruins on a peninsula. Half-mile Causeway Topples Proud Tyre When the Tyrians refused him entry, Alex ander ordered a 200-foot-wide mole built to the island half a mile from shore. For seven months the Macedonians labored on the causeway, under a rain of stones and arrows. At last Alexander's catapults rolled within range of the east wall. Shipborne battering rams breached the south wall (pages 26-7). Tyre fell, and the Persian fleet, left with out a port, became his own. Drifting sand has widened Alexander's mole, and an asphalt road leads across it to the harbor where Tyrian galleys once an chored. Small boats puff black diesel fumes into the still air. Fishermen mend blue nylon nets on the quay or sip coffee and smoke water pipes, while they listen to Radio Cairo. While Alexander was still at Tyre, he re ceived a message from Darius, suing for peace. Darius offered Alexander his daughter in marriage, 10,000 talents (a weight of gold worth 300 million dollars today), and all the territory west of the Euphrates, one-third of his empire. Alexander consulted his staff. "Were I Alexander," Parmenion advised, "I would accept." "So would I, were I Parmenion," Alexander replied. The young king was now determined to take all Darius's empire. Refusing to nego tiate, he continued down the coast to Egypt, where he found the Egyptians ready to ac cept him and crown him Pharaoh. For us no such direct route was possible. Travelers are not permitted to move from Lebanon to Egypt through Israel. We stored the Land-Rover and flew to Cairo. There Fauzy Abd El Hamid, a jovial Egyp tian journalist, joined us for the duration of our stay in his country. We rented a car and took the delta road to Alexandria. The Nile Delta, the richest land in Egypt, spread on both sides, green with wheat, millet, cabbages, alfalfa, and cotton. Then, across a salt lake, we saw the tall buildings of the greatest and most enduring of the many cities Alexander founded. For more than a thousand years, through Greek, Roman, Christian, and Moslem occu pation, Alexandria's universities, libraries, and museums drew scholars from every coun try in the East. Until 15 years ago, Alexandria served as Egypt's summer capital, one of the gayest spots on the Mediterranean. Though the city is still a favorite resort for Egyptians, its old international flavor is no more. As one Alexandria businessman told us: Strength against strength, wrestlers strain for an advantage at a village festival amid the ruins of Ephesus. Olive oil smears their bodies. Though Alexander cared little for wrestling, he often held races and dramatic entertainments for his troops.