The Mystery of Alexander the Great’s Tomb

By: LaRinda Chapin | Date: Wed, August 27th, 2014

Alexander The Great

Photo from Daily Mail online

Historians have long wondered just exactly where Alexander the Great is buried. With the recent announcement by a Greek culture minister that archaeologists have uncovered a massive tomb in northern Greece believed to be from Alexander’s era, the whereabouts of the great general’s remains is once again in the news.

Speculation about just exactly who is buried in the tomb ranges from Alexander himself to a military official to an unknown Macedonian of importance. Excavation on the site began in 2012, and archaeologists hope to enter the tomb by the end of the month to begin unraveling the mystery of who lies inside.

History records Alexander as being buried in Egypt. So, while it’s possible this tomb was meant for him, it’s unlikely. But, we could all end up surprised.

Lead archaeologist Katerina Peristeri dates the burial tomb to between 325 B.C. and 300 B.C., in the era at the end of the reign of Alexander the Great, the Macedonian warrior-king who rose from the surrounding land of northeast Greece to establish an ancient empire that touched three continents and stretched from the Danube River to India. “It looks like the tomb of a prominent Macedonian of that era,” an official from the culture ministry told Reuters. The newly unearthed burial site is believed to be the largest ancient tomb ever discovered in Greece, dwarfing those of Macedonian royals, including Alexander’s father Philip II, buried more than 100 miles west of Amphipolis in the small town of Vergina.

Read the full story: Tomb Dating From the Time of Alexander the Great Found in Northern Greece

About Alexander’s Demise

On June 10 or 11, 323 B.C., one of history’s best known generals died before returning home from his ten-year campaign to conquer land from the eastern Mediterranean to the western borders of India. After two weeks of fever, Alexander the Great breathed his last breath. He was only 32. Starting at the age of 20, this man of immense energy and ambition, put down revolts in his own kingdom, conquered lands on three continents, crossed deserts and mountain ranges, established a string of cities named for himself, brought down one empire, created his own, and had declared himself the offspring of a god. Yet debate still rages about what the actual cause of his death was.

Even living in the middle Persia did not remove him from the dangers of Macedonian politics (his own father had been assassinated, as well as a half-brother, a half-sister, a stepmother, and a number of court members), and many of the ancient sources suggest the possibility of Alexander having been poisoned at the hands of jealous family members. At one point even the philosopher Aristotle, who had been Alexander’s tutor, was implicated in a murderous plot against his former student.

Alexander first became ill after drinking excessively, and developed a fever from which he would not recover. Some accounts record that he drank unmixed wine, while some say he was poisoned by ice cold water contained in the hoof of an ass. Many historians have discounted the poisoning theory because slow-acting poisons weren’t well known in the ancient world, but modern researchers have put forth strychnine, white hellebore, and contaminated river water as potential toxins. Other theories as to the cause of death have included typhoid fever, malaria, meningitis, pancreatitis, and hard living finally catching up with him.

After his death, Alexander’s body was supposed to be returned to Macedonia. However, according to the historian Aelian, the body remained in limbo because each of the generals vying for control of the now fractured empire wanted to take it to his own territory after it was prophesied that “the Land which should receive the Body in which his Soul first dwelt, should be absolutely happy and unvanquishable forever.” Finally Ptolemy, one of the generals, absconded with the body and headed for Egypt. When another general followed him, Ptolemy had a copy of the body made, which he clothed in royal garments and placed in a chariot decorated with gold and silver. At the same time he had the real body disguised and sent on without any ornamentation to indicate the importance of the cargo. The other general was fooled and captured the fake. Meanwhile, Ptolemy took the real body to Memphis, where Alexander’s remains rested in a gold casket filled with honey as a form of embalming.

Later Egyptian kings first moved the body to Alexandria and then replaced the gold coffin with a glass one so the gold could be melted for coins. Several Roman emperors were said to have visited the tomb, but after about 215 A.D. there are few records of what happened to the site.

More news about the discovery of what could be Alexander the Great’s tomb can be found in the following links.

History.com: Tomb Dating From the Time of Alexander the Great Found in Northern Greece

NBC News: ‘Extremely Important’  Tomb From Alexander the Great’s Era Found in Greece

Daily Mail Online:  Have archaeologists discovered the grave of Alexander the Great?

 

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