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Alexander The Great: Grave, Death, Tales & Burial


Aug 19, 2003
I couldn't find an Alexander thread apart from one about the Film, so I guess this deserves a thread of its own.

Rare Discovery: Engraved Gemstone Carrying A Portrait Of Alexander The Great
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/20 ... 101147.htm

This is an engraved gemstone carrying a portrait of Alexander the Great. The gemstone was found in the course of recent excavations at Tel Dor. (Credit: No'a Raban-Gerstel, University of Haifa)ScienceDaily (Sep. 22, 2009) — A rare and surprising archaeological discovery at Tel Dor: A gemstone engraved with the portrait of Alexander the Great was uncovered during excavations by an archaeological team directed by Dr. Ayelet Gilboa of the University of Haifa and Dr. Ilan Sharon of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

"Despite its miniature dimensions – the stone is less than a centimeter high and its width is less than half a centimeter – the engraver was able to depict the bust of Alexander on the gem without omitting any of the ruler's characteristics," notes Dr. Gilboa, Chair of the Department of Archaeology at the University of Haifa. "The emperor is portrayed as young and forceful, with a strong chin, straight nose and long curly hair held in place by a diadem."

The Tel Dor researchers have noted that it is surprising that a work of art such as this would be found in Israel, on the periphery of the Hellenistic world. "It is generally assumed that the master artists – such as the one who engraved the image of Alexander on this particular gemstone – were mainly employed by the leading Hellenistic courts in the capital cities, such as those in Alexandria in Egypt and Seleucia in Syria. This new discovery is evidence that local elites in secondary centers, such as Tel Dor, appreciated superior objects of art and could afford ownership of such items," the researchers stated.

The significance of the discovery at Tel Dor is in the gemstone being uncovered in an orderly excavation, in a proper context of the Hellenistic period. The origins of most Alexander portraits, scattered across numerous museums around the world, are unknown. Some belonged to collections that existed even prior to the advent of scientific archaeology, others were acquired on the black market, and it is likely that some are even forgeries.

This tiny gem was unearthed by a volunteer during excavation of a public structure from the Hellenistic period in the south of Tel Dor, excavated by a team from the University of Washington at Seattle headed by Prof. Sarah Stroup. Dr. Jessica Nitschke, professor of classical archaeology at Georgetown University in Washington DC, identified the engraved motif as a bust of Alexander the Great. This has been confirmed by Prof. Andrew Stewart of the University of California at Berkeley, an expert on images of Alexander and author of a book on this topic.

Alexander was probably the first Greek to commission artists to depict his image – as part of a personality cult that was transformed into a propaganda tool. Rulers and dictators have implemented this form of propaganda ever since. The artists cleverly combined realistic elements of the ruler's image along with the classical ideal of beauty as determined by Hellenistic art, royal attributes (the diadem in this case), and divine elements originating in Hellenistic and Eastern art. These attributes legitimized Alexander's kingship in the eyes of his subjects in all the domains he conquered. These portraits were distributed throughout the empire, were featured on statues and mosaics in public places and were engraved on small items such as coins and seals. The image of Alexander remained a popular motif in the generations that followed his death – both as an independent theme and as a subject of emulation. The conqueror's youthful image became a symbol of masculinity, heroism and divine kingship. Later Hellenist rulers adopted these characteristics and commissioned self-portraits in the image of Alexander.

Dor was a major port city on the Mediterranean shore from the Middle Bronze Age (2000-1550 B.C.E) until the establishment of Caesarea during the Roman period. Alexander the Great passed through Dor in 332 B.C.E., following the occupation of Tyre and on his way to Egypt. It seems that the city submitted to Alexander without resistance. Dor then remained a center of Hellenization in the land of Israel until it was conquered by Alexander Janneus, Hasmonean king of Judah (c. 100 B.C.E.).

The team of archaeologists has been excavating at Tel Dor for close to thirty years and recently completed the 2009 excavation season. A number of academic institutions in Israel and abroad participate in the excavations, directed by Dr. Ayelet Gilboa of the University of Haifa and Dr. Ilan Sharon of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The project is supported by these two institutions along with the Israel Exploration Society, the Berman foundation for Biblical Archaeology, the Zinman Institute of Archaeology, the Wendy Goldhirsh Foundation, USA, and individual donors. The gemstone will be on public display at the Dor museum in Kibbutz Nahsholim.
Mere speculation really, but interesting:

Alexander the Great Killed by Toxic Bacteria?

An extraordinarily toxic bacterium harbored by the "infernal" Styx River might have been the fabled poison rumored to have killed Alexander the Great (356 - 323 B.C.) more than 2,000 years ago, according to a scientific-meets-mythic detective study.

The research, which will be presented next week at the XII International Congress of Toxicology annual meetings in Barcelona, Spain, reviews ancient literary evidence on the Styx poison in light of modern geology and toxicology.

According to the study, calicheamicin, a secondary metabolite of Micromonospora echinospora, is what gave the river its toxic reputation.

The Styx was the portal to the underworld, according to myth. Here the gods swore sacred oaths.

"If they lied, Zeus forced them to drink the water, which struck them down. The 8th-century B.C. Greek poet Hesiod wrote that the gods were unable to move, breathe or speak for one year," co-author Adrienne Mayor, a research scholar at Stanford University's Departments of Classics and History of Science, told Discovery News. etc

http://news.discovery.com/history/alexa ... teria.html
Chavez has just dug up Bolivar, to see if he was murdered!

I think there's an article in the breaking news section, from yesterday?
Ah, ok, hadn't heard about that one, thanks.
Now his fathers bones.

The famous "Tomb of Philip" is not after all the tomb in which the remains of the legendary kingPhilip II of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great, were laid to rest. Another adjacent well-known tomb is, however, the actual tomb in which his remains were found.

These are the results of a study, published in theProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), of skeletal remains found in what has been designated 'Tomb I' within the Great Tumulus hill located near the northern Greek town of Vergina in Macedonia. Led by Antonis Bartsiokas of the Democritus University of Thrace and Juan-Luis Arsuaga of the Centro Mixto Universidad Complutense de Madrid, a team of researchers, using state-of-the-art scanning and radiography techniques and equipment, closely examined a partial skeleton that had been long disinterred from the first ('Tomb 1') of three royal tombs of the Vergina Tumulus.

Now his will!

... This brings me to a story that Microsoft has been promoting in the news feed they stick in their web browser, and which has consequently been making the rounds on social media. A British man self-published a book claiming to have found Alexander the Great’s last will and testament, and he convinced British newspapers to write about his book. The Daily Mail turned their article into a video, and it ended up circulating through Microsoft’s online properties. At no point did anyone involved stop to ask whether the man’s claims were actually true.

David Grant holds a master’s degree in history and claims to have spent ten years contemplating the death of Alexander the Great, which is ten years longer than Alexander spent dying, and sveeral times longer than Alexander’s successors took to deal with his passing. From that decade of study, he came to the conclusion that … wait for it … history as we know it is wrong, academic historians are beholden to an outdated paradigm, and he has discovered the true last will and testament of the Macedonian king.

This last will and testament isn’t too hard to find. It’s part of the Alexander Romance, a collection of fantasies and fables about Alexander assembled in Hellenistic times and reworked many times thereafter. Grant identifies the testament of Alexander included in this romance—long dismissed as a fiction—as the king’s real will. Three different major recensions of the text exist, including a Greek version, an Armenian version with some additions, and a Syriac version that is abridged and somewhat revised. Needless to say, the three versions contradict one another in places. ...

From the Department of Total Speculation:

THE mystery over the death of Alexander the Great may have finally been solved – and his passing was grislier than historians had ever imagined.

The fearsome military genius succumbed to a rare disease that left him paralysed for six days, gradually robbing him of his ability to move, speak and breath, claims a new study.

The towering leader fell ill suddenly in Babylon aged 32, and for decades historians have puzzled over what finished him off, with some blaming typhoid, alcoholism or even poison.

"I wanted to stimulate new debate and discussion and possibly rewrite the history books by arguing Alexander's real death was six days later than previously accepted," said study author Dr Katherine Hall, of the Dunedin School of Medicine in New Zealand.

"His death may be the most famous case of pseudothanatos, or false diagnosis of death, ever recorded."

Dr Hall's team pored over ancient accounts of Alexander's symptoms, as well as modern medical textbooks, for their research.

His illness is said to have begun after a raucous night of drinking in which he downed 12 pints of wine.

Alexander complained of fatigue and "generalised aches" the next morning, but chose to power through another dozen pints of wine that evening.
A day later, and sharp abdominal pains plagued Alexander, while an increasingly severe fever took hold of the doomed warrior.

Bedridden and in excruciating pain, Alexander gradually lost his ability to move, only able to flicker his eyes and twitch his hands just eight days after his symptoms began.

By the eleventh day, the King of Macedonia and Persia was pronounced dead, though staff claimed he remained sound of mind right until the end.

Dr Hall says Alexander's symptoms match up with the brain disorder Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS).

There's a lot of weirdness here. Alexander was unable to speak, and yet remained "of sound mind". And how exactly did they determine his state of mind seeing he was unable to speak? Not to mention the effect that the alcohol consumption must have had on him. Of course we don't know how strong the wine was, but still - 12 pints a day? What does that say about being of sound mind?

I think her own statement "I wanted to stimulate new debate and discussion and possibly rewrite the history books " is far more telling than anything she wrote about Alexander. I am amazed that a University Professor can get away with something as speculative as this.


As you say: from the Department of Total Speculation.

Consider these dates:
323 BCE Alexander dies
90 BCE Diodorus is born. Diodorus is one of our best written sources, but was born 233 years after Alexander's death.
46 CE Plutarch is born. Plutarch is one of our best written sources, but was born 369 years after Alexander's death.
2nd century CE Historian, Justin, was writing about Alexander's death.
3rd century CE The Alexander Romance, another "source", was written

Records from the time of Alexander's death are scarce, and would necessarily be politically biased. As soon as a king dies, everyone who is involved in the game of power is thinking of one of three things (or some combination):
  • The posthumous reputation of the deceased (whether it is to be favourable or otherwise)
  • Who will succeed the deceased
  • Who might be blamed for the death
The modern idea of recording accurate facts for later historians was not on their list of priorities. I might suggest that it is a niche interest among journalists even today!

So, we have little or no reliable evidence to go on. There are two or three conflicting accounts of Alexander's death, and they are not contemporaneous. We do not have the body to examine. It was transported a long distance preserved in honey, so it would be contaminated, if anything remained at all after 2,341 years.

Many restrospective diagnoses have been made by other historians and commentators, some more academic than others.

But moving on, this is another example of a special sort of subject that is of interest to Forteans because:
  • There must be a true answer
  • But that truth can never be established
  • And any attempt to explain the facts can never be a "scientific hypothesis because there are no circumstances in which it could be tested.

This is up there with examples like:
  • What was Otzi the Iceman's name when he was alive? He no doubt had one, but we can never in any circumstances find out.
  • The date and circumstances of the end of the universe — because, however carefully we consider the evidence, there can never be an observer in a position to test the hypothesis, let alone report on their findings.

I would have thought that a proper academic historian would be primarily interested in the events leading to and following Alexander's death. A knowledge and understanding of common diseases of the time would be of historical interest. Speculating on the exact medical cause of Alexander's death is no more than a pseudo-academic game.

Here's a link to Dr Katherine Hall's details including a list of her publications, and areas of specialism. Make of it what you will, taking care not to be libellous, but I don't see anything relevant to this particular field of "study":
I don't see the Guillain-Barre Syndrome theory as any more speculative than some others that have been put forward, but neither do I see it as a late-arriving all-in-one explanation. I'd say it deserves a place well down the list of possibilities.

The bit about pseudothanatos does strike me as purely speculative - and even sensationalistic - insofar as it pertains to how others treated him rather than what caused his disastrously diminished condition.

It's worth pointing out that GBS typically presents after some other significant infection, so a diagnosis of latter-stage GBS doesn't rule out any of the infection-related theories at all. GBS would simply represent a subsequent follow-on blow.

The various accounts of Alexander's last days all seem to start with severe stomach / abdominal pains and a protracted high fever. This strikes me as a fairly clear pointer to some sort of infection.

Alexander had recently returned from a long campaign involving major duress and multiple war wounds. One of his significant wounds was to the neck. I mention this because damage or inflammation of a certain branch off the vagus nerve complex can render one mute (one of the symptoms cited as specifically supporting the GBS theory).

Exposure to serious infectious disease can't be ruled out. Babylon was reputed to be a hotbed of serious sickness. His entrance to Babylon was preceded by time spent in the nearby marshes / wetlands as a result of:

- inspecting flood or flood preventive measures in the marshlands around Babylon; and

- traveling all the way around the city to enter via the western gate because he'd been advised this was more propitious with respect to symbolism / omens.

On top of all this, there were plenty of well-positioned folks who had motive to want him dead.
Has the Location of Alexander the Great’s Tomb Finally Been Identified?

Source: ancient-origins
Date: 4 March, 2020

The mysterious location of the tomb of Alexander the Great might finally have been confirmed.

Alexander the Great was a king of the ancient Greek kingdom of Macedon from 336–323 BC and after conquering the Greek city-states he rolled over Persia founding an empire with 70 cities across three continents covering an estimated two million square miles.

Now, a piece of masonry from an ancient tomb discovered in the foundations of St Mark ’s in Venice matching the dimensions of a sarcophagus in the British Museum might confirm the location of the tomb of Alexander the Great, and what’s more, the lost royal burial place of the last native pharaohs of Egypt, and the Greek pharaohs that came thereafter.

A related and informative article, which may be of interest:

Battle of Gaugamela: Alexander the Great Thrashes the Achaemenids

Source: ancient-origins.net
Date: 2 March, 2020

No name in world history rings more familiar than that of Alexander the Great. A man that managed extraordinary feats, conquering huge swaths of the world and placing his banner in many a kingdom and empire. His empire spanned from Greece to India - one of the largest empires in history. But gaining it was no small achievement and a lot of blood was shed in the years it took to seize these lands. Still, Alexander was never defeated in battle - and is considered one of the most important military commanders to have ever lived. His victories are many and today we will focus on one of his most successful - the Battle of Gaugamela.

This was Alexander the Great’s decisive victory over the Achaemenid Empire and the victory gained him many riches and greatly expanded his territories. It was one of his finest victories and a devastating, echoing defeat for the Achaemenids and their ruler Darius III. Let us relive the glorious battles of Alexander !

The period that preceded the Battle of Gaugamela was filled with a steady onward progression of the forces of Alexander the Great. He delivered a crushing defeat to the Achaemenid ruler Darius III at the Battle of Issus in 333 BC - one of the defining victories of Alexander’s conquests. Even when Darius cut off Alexander’s invading march and endangered his supply lines, Alexander managed to soundly defeat his opponent.

Another Alexander portrait unearthed.

'I nearly fell out of my chair': 1,800-year-old mini portrait of Alexander the Great found in a field in Denmark

The miniature bronze portrait depicts Alexander the Great with his wavy hair and crown of ram horns.

A bronze alloy portrait of a man with wavy hair and ram horns

The bronze alloy portrait of Alexander the Great was found in a field in Denmark. (Image credit: M. Peterson, Museum West Zealand)

Metal detectorists have unearthed a miniature bronze portrait of Alexander the Great on an island in Denmark.

Finn Ibsen and Lars Danielsen made the discovery while conducting survey work in a field outside Ringsted, a city on the Danish island of Zealand, and surrendered the artifacts to Museum West Zealand, Danish news outlet TV2 Øst reported.

The bronze fitting, known as a bracket, measures approximately 1 inch (2.7 centimeters) in diameter, is cast of bronze alloy and includes an engraved portrait of a wavy-haired man wearing a crown of twisted ram horns, according to a statement from Museum West Zealand. ...