Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Alexander the Great's Tomb

Here's a trick question for you: where is Alexander the Great buried?
  • (a) Macedonia
  • (b) Babylon
  • (c) Alexandria
  • (d) Western Australia
If you answered (a) you probably remembered that Alexander was Macedonian, not Greek as many people think, but sadly that's not the right answer.

If you answered (b) you might know a bit of history, and that Alexander basically drunk himself to death in Babylon after returning from India, but that's not the right answer either.

If you answered (c) congratulations! This is where, according to ancient sources, Alexander's body was taken after he died, but his tomb was later looted by both the Pharoahs and the Romans, and no one is quite sure what happened to his body after that.

If you answered (d)... well I'm not sure what would possess anyone to answer (d), unless of course you read this article recently which suggests just this very thing- that Alexander the Great's final resting place is in a cave near Broome, Western Australia.

Plutarch (writing some 400 years after the event) describes the death of Alexander in Babylon, though he neglects to tell us what happened to the body afterwards.

On the eighteenth of the month, he slept in the bathing-room on account of his fever. The next day he bathed and removed into his chamber, and spent his time in playing dice with Medius. In the evening he bathed and sacrificed, and ate freely, and had the fever on him through the night. On the twentieth, after the usual sacrifices and bathing, he lay in the bathing-room and heard Nearchus’s narrative of his voyage, and the observations he had made in the great sea. The twenty-first he passed in the same manner, his fever still increasing, and suffered much during the night. The next day the fever was very violent, and he had himself removed and his bed set by the great bath, and discoursed with his principal officers about finding fit men to fill up the vacant places in the army. On the twenty-fourth he was much worse, and was carried out of his bed to assist at the sacrifices, and gave order that the general officers should wait within the court, whilst the inferior officers kept watch without doors. On the twenty-fifth he was removed to his palace on the other side the river, where he slept a little, but his fever did not abate, and when the generals came into his chamber, he was speechless, and continued so the following day. The Macedonians, therefore, supposing he was dead, came with great clamors to the gates, and menaced his friends so that they were forced to admit them, and let them all pass through unarmed along by his bedside. The same day Python and Seleucus were dispatched to the temple of Serapis to inquire if they should bring Alexander thither, and were answered by the god, that they should not remove him. On the twenty-eighth, in the evening, he died. This account is most of it word for word as it is written in the diary.

At the time, nobody had any suspicion of his being poisoned, but [some say he was poisoned with] water, deadly cold as ice, distilling from a rock in the district of Nonacris, which they gathered like a thin dew, and kept in an ass’s hoof; for it was so very cold and penetrating that no other vessel would hold it. However, most are of the opinion that all this is a mere made-up story, no slight evidence of which is, that during the dissensions among the commanders, which lasted several days, the body continued clear and fresh, without any sign of such taint or corruption, though it lay neglected in a close, sultry place.

No comments: