The mighty king for some, “Messiah” for others, the brutal king for the rest, Alexander the great’s death remains a mystery. The king of Macedonia, the city of ancient Greek wove the largest empire known to the world in ancient history.
Let me help you more, brush the dust off your minds and help you remember who Alexander the great was.
Alexander was also known as the king of kings. Why? The span of the world known at that time was under his might. He was responsible for the greek culture spread in the ancient world.
This article takes you into elaborate detail about Alexander the great’s death and the underlying historical accounts that are often referred to when talking about his unexplained demise. Although lot many theories evolved after his death. Let us see whether these theories pertain to the death of Alexander the Great or not.
1. Who was Alexander?
First things first. The “World Conquerer” is known worldwide, Alexander was the king of Macedonia. The brave, clever, patient, and strategic king turned his father Philip’s well-trained army into the most versatile army in history ever.
1.1. Birth of Alexander the Great
In 356 BCE, Alexander was born at Pella in Macedonia.
His mother Olympias, the princess of king Neoptolemus of Epirus
His father was king Philip II, a member of the Argead dynasty.
1.2. Early Life
Early teen years that is from age 13 to 16 he was under the great greek philosopher Aristotle and learned medicine, science, and philosophy. Alexander showed his military skill from a very young age.
At the age of 16 while his father was out at war he protected his kingdom from local rivals.
With his father’s Philip assassination, Alexander at the meager age of 20 became the king and he magnificently took over his father’s army.
1.3. Death of Alexander the Great
In the ancient Persian city of Babylon, Alexander took his last breath on 13 June,323 BC. Though the death of Alexander the Great remains mysterious, several pieces of research are carried out to date to find the true reason for how he died.
You will be amazed to know the whereabouts of Alexander’s body and that Alexander’s tomb last seen in Alexandria is still being looked for.
2. Why Alexander Was Called “The Great“?
Alexander’s victories didn’t stop him from excelling farther off to the eastern side. After winning the Macedon he traveled with his army to Asia Minor, today it is known as Turkey. With victory at his feet, he plundered on Phoenician cities, Aradus and Marathus, now known as Syria.
For many a historian, Alexander was just trying to bridge the gap between the European nations and Asia and unite the east with the west. But that doesn’t mean he was trying to unite the whole world under the “brotherhood of man“.
But for others, Alexander is no less than a dictator like Stalin and Hitler. Alexander never tolerated any resistance from any land he stepped on. Alexander knew fearlessness only could spread his empire.
2.1. Famous Wars Alexander Fought
Here is a brief information about the wars fought by Alexander. These wars and the strategic information he adopted will help you understand his course of life better and finally, you will be able to unearth the possible cause of the death of Alexander the Great.
2.1.1. Battle of Issus
Alexander the Great overthrew the great king of Persia. The ruler of Persia Darius iii was hard to defeat for he was the cruel and clever ruler of the Persian Empire. The cities of Persia- Persepolis, Babylon, and Susa were under his domain.
2.1.2. Battle of Gaugamela
It was in the battle of Guatemala that Darius iii was murdered and truly marking the end of the Persian monarchy. Alexander the Great got hold of southwest Asia in this battle.
Alexander’s victory over Persia added to the knowledge of the Greeks too. Greeks started following the principles of the Persian court.
In between the Battle of Issus and Guatemala, Alexander wins over Egypt and Tyre and established the city of Alexandria.
2.2. Passionate About Winning the World
- His wild desire to conquer the world is due to two main prophecies:
1.1. A prophecy by a Pythian priestess in Delphi who predicted Alexander to be unconquerable.
1.2. Zechariah’s prophecy of the Greek military machine taking over the land that was known under the leadership of Alexander the Great.
- Alexander on winning over Persia started wearing Persian dress to consolidate the kingdom of Macedonia and Persia.
- Alexander not only wished to win over the world but win over the hearts of the people. He once dismissed his whole army and made Persians part of his military might.
3. Causes – Death of Alexander the Great
After the great king’s death, many theories and assumptions surfaced which described the possible reasons for alexander’s death. But the ancient world failed to record the exact reasons underlying the dying Alexander. The little data support help to get through the multiple causes of Alexander’s death.
Hope the causes listed under help you find your viewpoint on the possible reason for the death of Alexander The Great :
Here is the list of alleged perpetrators for the death of Alexander the Great
- One of Alexander’s wives
- his illegitimate half-brother
- The royal cupbearer
- , or one of his generals.This particular cause of poising the
Alexander the Great, died due to one of the various other reasons which are covered under the new theory formed on the death of Alexander the great.
3.2. West Nile Fever
Some historians believe Alexander the Great died because of West Nile Encephalitis. The disease was at its peak at that time in Babylon. The culex mosquitoes responsible for the disease bred in Babylon and might have infected Alexander.
3.3. Acute Pancreatitis
It is a disease harming the pancreas of the human body. This condition is attributed to heavy alcohol consumption causing an inflamed pancreas. Apart from these, gallstones which when moving to the pancreas and blocking the pancreas could result in acute pancreatitis.
Ancient history shows instances where the host king decided the amount of water to be added to the wine served and it was served in evening assemblies. Don’t you think an apt reason here to connect it with Alexander’s death? As Alexander was heavily drunk before the night he groaned in the pain.
3.4. Fever and Other Infectious Diseases
Another reason Alexander died was typhoid fever widespread in ancient Babylon. Alexander suffered from high fever, extreme exhaustion, chills, and sweats a week before he died, which is evident in various historical accounts.
Malaria is one such infectious disease that is thought to have infected him. Several symptoms of the disease were evident like black water fever, weakness, continuous chills, fever, diminished senses, etc.
3.5. Drinking a Poisonous Wine
Alexander’s condition after drinking wine deteriorated. The symptoms were studied by Slaughter RJ and Vale JA in the research conducted to study the cause of the death of Alexander the great. The poisonous plants available at that time induce fever and then caught hold of the person’s immune system.
The Slaughter RJ and Vale JA revealed that in the 12 days illness span of Alexander, he suffered from nausea, vomiting, epigastric, sudden pain, and severe muscle weakness.
They concluded that wine must have been made from the plant “white hellebore“. No doubt it is a poisonous plant, and their study finds its base in ancient Greeks’ belief in Alexander’s possible poisoning.
3.6. Previous Injury
According to Robert Arnott and A.N. Williams, the previous injury could be the cause of the death of Alexander, the Great. Robert Arnott mentioned that during the Siege of Cyropolis Alexander met with a severe neck injury.
Due to that Alexander was unable to utter a word a few days before his death.
The possible reasons could be alcoholic liver disease, poisoning, infectious diseases, or possible deception from his generals or even his wife.
4. Studies and Research on the Death of Alexander the Great
4.1. Guillain-Barré Syndrome
New Zealand’s Dr. Katherine Hall, a senior lecturer at the Dunedin School of Medicine formulated a theory according to which she postulated the following theory,
” Alexander’s body wasn’t showing any signs of decay even after six days after he was declared dead because he was still alive.”
Now you may question what made her believe it. So, Guillain Barrè is a neurological disorder prevalent at that time. Due to this syndrome, his body became paralyzed and breathing was not prominent to the ancient doctors.
Dr. Hall commented on Alexander the great’s death, the most famous case of false diagnosis noted ever. She even claimed history books should do the changes for Alexander the Great died six days after he was declared dead.
4.2. The Greek Alexander Romance
Alexander Romance is the account of Alexander’s life, myths, and fantasies which originally was accounted for by one of his courtiers Callisthenes. But he died before Alexander died Therefore his accounts are known as Pseudo-Callisthenes.
The Alexander Romance reveals the following about the death of Alexander the Great
- Alexander the Great died due to possible poisoning in the cup of wine which he drank to the full.
- Historical accounts mention chills and exhaustion were evident and he was restless to the extent that he groaned in pain.
5. Interesting Facts About Alexander’s Death
- Alexander’s body was carried in the magnificent carriage decorated, painted, and carried by 64 mules after two years of his death. The magnificent carriage resembled a temple and was rerouted to Memphis, Egypt on the way to Greece. Isn’t it enough to prove that the Greeks thought Alexander to be their god?
- After Memphis in Egypt, Alexander’s body was taken to Alexandria. There it was visited by Julius Ceaser, his adopted son Augustus. But since the 4th century, there remains a question of where Alexander’s tomb is.
- At the time of his death, Alexander was sure that he was the son of his father Philip but the son of the greek god Zeus. Do you know apart from greek gods there are many greek goddesses too? Do refer to a list of the top ten greek goddesses.
- Ancient greeks concluded Alexander must be a god himself as his body took a week to decompose. Greeks thought that a man by his achievements could become God.
- The charismatic leader in Babylon, when laid on the bed as he was gravely ill had many visitors(his soldiers) in his chamber. He attended and acknowledged each by greeting them personally.
- The above scene is beautifully portrayed by A. Castaigne, a french artist. The painting is known as “The Dying Alexander Receiving His Soldiers“.
- The head sculpture of Alexander which resembles what he was like at a young age is there at The Acropolis Museum though the statue of the body below the neck is not there.
- Egyptians believed that Alexander belonged to Egypt. He according to them was the son of the pharaoh, Nectanbo II. Who disguised as God Amun sought refuge in Macedonia under the bed of Olympia and hence son of the pharaoh.
- The argument that broke between the Persian empire and the Greeks after the death of Alexander the Great is equally interesting. Since Alexander was the king to both they both wanted Alexander’s body to be buried near them.
- Alexander on his way eastwards entered a fight with Indian king Porus who he found difficult to combat.
Don’t you think the life journey of Alexander is as mysterious as the death of Alexander the great?
6. Closing Thoughts
I would like to summarize the unexplained death of Alexander the Great by quoting the words of king Alexander the Great,
“Through every generation of the human race, there has been a constant war, a war with fear. Those who dare to conquer it are made free and those who are conquered by it are made to suffer until they dare to defeat it, or death takes them.” – Alexander the Great
The brilliant, skillful, charismatic student of Aristotle with a ruthless, clever, and dictatorial robe, Alexander will be remembered as one of the strategic kings of ancient history. Both life and death of Alexander the Great are no doubt full of contrasting shades.
I conclude that whatever the reason Alexander the Great died or the false diagnosis he fell prey, and untimely death had taken him but he must have braced it courageously and fearlessly.
Be humble and stay courageous! Enjoy Reading!