The death of Alexander the Great - poisoning hypothesis

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The death of Alexander the Great - poisoning hypothesis

Post by ViaNocturna » Fri Jul 24, 2020 11:01 am

There are a few hypotheses concerning Alexander's death. One of them points out that he fell ill suddenly, after an all-night feast. Apparently not having enough fun, he arranged an after-party for himself and his closest companions. He took a cup of wine and while drinking he suddenly moaned "as if a spear had pierced him". The first thing that comes to mind is poison. Alexander was a great leader, but he was not loved by everyone.

During his stay in Babylon, he assimilated the local tradition that the subjects worshiped the rulers. This was unthinkable for the Macedonians or for the Greeks. So they began to oppose. The old warriors, who still remembered Alexander's father, Philippe the Macedonian, did not like the new order. And Alexander began to smell the conspiracy. He sentenced the experienced leader Parmenion and his son Filotas to death and killed Cleitus defending the veterans. Cassander, who laughed, seeing the Greeks falling on his face, was simply beaten by him.

And it was Cassander who became one of the suspected poisoners. He was the son of Antipater, ruling on behalf of the Macedonian conqueror in the European part of the empire. Called by the ruler to Babylon, Antipater sent Cassander there. Upon his arrival, Alexander was dead not before long. So is Cassander and the poison, probably brought from Europe, guilty?

Source of the material is the book by Jurgen Thorvald "Science and Secrets of Early Medicine"

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Re: The death of Alexander the Great - poisoning hypothesis

Post by Alexias » Sun Jul 26, 2020 10:47 am

Hi, and welcome. As you can imagine, this topic has been touched on many times on this forum, most recently here viewtopic.php?f=12&p=46932#p46932.

Alexander's cry may have been caused by a sudden cramp on drinking chilled wine, or a rupture of a something internal. In itself it is not an indication of poisoning. Most poisons do not cause a high fever and take 10 days to kill someone, which we know happened to Alexander. There may be some but you would need to consider whether at that point in time the Macedonians knew of them or had access to them. However, no one at the time suspected poisoning as the cause of Alexander's death. This was a later invention. If you do some searching, you should be able to find out exactly when the theory was first put forward.

If Cassander did poison Alexander then he was a bigger fool than subsequent history showed him to be because he gained nothing by it. He was newly arrived in Babylon and had no control over the army, the Treasury or Alexander's wives. He had no power base in Babylon to take control and he takes no part little or no part in the immediate aftermath of Alexander's death. Thus, in throwing the whole situation in Babylon into chaos, he would have risked losing all the Macedonians had gained in the previous 10 years. And he, and others, were too mercenary and power-hungry to do that.

If Cassander did feel that he needed to assassinate Alexander because he insulted him by banging his head against a wall, the Macedonians seem to have adopted an honour code in such cases. You killed a man face to face with a knife so that he, and everyone else, knew by whom and why, he was being killed. If Cassander had poisoned Alexander, he would also have been putting his own brother Iollas in danger as, being Alexander's cupbearer, he would have been immediately suspected.

Alexander may have been angry that Antipater sent Cassander to Babylon rather than coming himself, but Cassander would have been aware that Alexander could have dispatched Antipater in the same way he had Parmenion, so his job was to appease Alexander, not assassinate him.

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