Alexander's Death

This moderated forum is for discussion of Alexander the Great. Inappropriate posts will be deleted without warning. Examples of inappropriate posts are:
* The Greek/Macedonian debate
* Blatant requests for pre-written assignments by lazy students - we don't mind the subtle ones ;-)
* Foul or inappropriate language

Moderator: pothos moderators

Post Reply
User avatar
Theseus
Pezhetairos (foot soldier)
Posts: 214
Joined: Sun Jul 15, 2007 8:58 pm
Location: USA

Alexander's Death

Post by Theseus »

I have read quite a few different versions of Alexander's death. It seems there has been some great thought into this subject by scientist, Doctors, Historians, archeologist. I guess the main belief now is that he had died of Typhoid fever not poisoning. It took days for him to die and it was said his body was sweet smelling for days after he died. I guess typhoid fever makes you become unable to move and slows all functions of the body, breathing, heart rate ect... So while his men thought he was dead he was probably still alive for a couple to a few days. It's not known if the person is able to hear what's going on around them or if they are unconcious. It's so sad to think that maybe as he was lying there with his generals fighting over his lands that he heard all of it. All that he fought for was being ripped apart. I hope for Alexander's sake he was unconcious and didn't have to know this was going on.
Some also think that Hephaestion may have died of a similar ailment, while again some think he was poisoned.
I tried finding if this topic was posted elsewhere and didn't see it so sorry if it was. :oops:
User avatar
Vergina Sun
Pezhetairos (foot soldier)
Posts: 131
Joined: Sat Jul 07, 2007 2:24 pm
Location: USA

Post by Vergina Sun »

Hi Theseus,

I too have heard many stories on Alexander the Great's death. While poisoning was a popular story once (with Cassander, the mule's hoof, and all), it's somewhat been concluded that no poison known at the time would have caused such a high, continuous fever, and slow death. Though poison is still believed by some, it is generally not said to be the cause of Alexander's death.

While I wouldn't say typhoid fever is the main belief, it certainly is one of the main beliefs. Along with malaria and West Nile Virus, many diseases have been speculated to have killed Alexander. It was in Babylon during the late summer, so I suppose that these diseases might very well have caused the death of Alexander.

Of course there are other theories as well. Perhaps it was a minor sickness, and the medicine given to the impatient king was well over-dosed. This as well could have killed him. With heavy drinking and near-fatal wounds, Alexander's health was in very low levels. On a more touching note, another reason for his death may have been the loss of Hephaestion and his loss of will to live. The will might have been what kept him alive for so long, and without it, he was bound to die soon.

I find your theory of Alexander being alive while the generals were fighting very interesting. Certainly it would have been a terrible scene for the great man, and very tragic for us to think of this dying sight. Yet if he was so weak, would he still be conscious? I'm no medical expert, but I somewhat doubt he would have been able to watch the falling apart of his empire. I too hope Alexander died without witnessing the actual falling of his work. Then again, he isn't truly dead and his work isn't truly gone, for he is still remembered with praise and glory to this day.

I hope I helped!
User avatar
Theseus
Pezhetairos (foot soldier)
Posts: 214
Joined: Sun Jul 15, 2007 8:58 pm
Location: USA

Post by Theseus »

Just the name Cassander evokes such hatred in me. To kill Alexander's son and wife the way he did. I can't imagine he was liked very well by the Macedonian people. From some sources I've read they didn't. I know that Alexander IV was depicted on some Egyptian reliefs so he did have a taste of power I guess.

I too think that after Hephaestion's death that Alexander lost heart. It was so painful for him to be without his lifelong, trusted companion. If you lose the desire to live it does weaken you and leave you open to infections, illnesses. I am trying to find a link to a site where there were these doctors that researched all that was known of Alexander's last days and they had concluded in their "opinion" it was typhoid fever.I finally found one of the links: http://www.umm.edu/news/releases/bug.htm I know it's never going to be 100% known what actually killed this great King. It's just a shame he had to suffer at all.

When I had read a bit about typhoid fever and how it affects the body and how he may have been in a type of coma/unconcious state for a couple of days after his men thought he was dead, it made me remember some things I had heard of people who recovered from comas and they knew a bit of what was going on around them, but were unable to respond. It's a horrible thought that such a great man as Alexander had to witness the savagery of his men ripping his kingdom apart.
He is definately the most famous historic figure the world has.(aside from Jesus of course) He accomplished more than any other king, general, conquerer. Even Augustus wanted to visit Alexander's tomb and when asked if he wanted to visit any others he responded with "no I came to see a real king". or something to that affect. Alexander will never be forgotten.
jasonxx

Post by jasonxx »

Oh That strange diseas what seemed exclusive to Hepheastion And Alexander.

All the ilnesses that appear linked with Alexander and hepheastion... No outbreaks recorded in Ptolemies or any other sources. Ive never swallowed the mystery ilness stuff. He was a 32 year old guy relatively still very young compared to his veterans.He had the guts of a lion.

With referenct to why would it take so long for poison to kill him.. I would say he was that tough it took that long for it to finish him. i reckall the guy getting up with dysentry to lead a charge across a river. i recall a guy with a severe arrow wound to his lung getting up and walking for his soldiers.. the guy was rock hard.

Ithink you would have had to shoot the guy clean in the head to keep him down.as you say cassander poisoned Roxana. olympius and Alexanders son.

the little scrote had form with poison.

kenny
Semiramis
Hetairos (companion)
Posts: 403
Joined: Mon Jul 09, 2007 11:24 am

Post by Semiramis »

Vergina Sun wrote:While poisoning was a popular story once (with Cassander, the mule's hoof, and all), it's somewhat been concluded that no poison known at the time would have caused such a high, continuous fever, and slow death.
I'm wondering though, if somebody got hold of a poison that could kill people slowly and bonus, make it look like a disease, would they really advertise it? Wouldn't it be more useful as a secret? So, maybe it's more likely that historical sources won't have a reference to something like that? Which leaves me wondering, how else do they conclude something like that didn't exist back then? Maybe some of the "magical" powers attributed to priests and "witches" had basis is potions that actually worked?

This is not to argue that there is a strong case for poisoning of Alexander (or Hephaistion). There isn't, nor could we realistically expect anybody to leave behind proof for such an action. But I just don't believe somebody in the Mediterranean hadn't figured out a poison that makes death look like sickness. And if there was such a thing - the Persian royal family, the Harem, the Magi etc. are the most likely people to know about it. They had the most need for it during their intrigues and power struggles and the money to pay for such knowledge. It's only a step from those guys to one of Alexander's Marshals. :twisted:
User avatar
Theseus
Pezhetairos (foot soldier)
Posts: 214
Joined: Sun Jul 15, 2007 8:58 pm
Location: USA

Post by Theseus »

I think the link that I gave states that no poison known back then would have the effects that Alexander exhibited. It took several days from the start of the illness until they assumed he was dead. Also that his body didn't show signs of poisoning either, he would have possibly had sores, rotting of the body would have started as well. Being that his body stayed sweet smelling for days too proves he was alive a few days further on as well.

I'm editing this because I have found a poison that was available back then and does have the symptoms Alexander exhibited.
http://www.grahamphillips.net/Alexander ... strychnine
http://www.bt.cdc.gov/agent/strychnine/basics/facts.asp

I think this will remain a mystery unsolved
Last edited by Theseus on Tue Jul 17, 2007 5:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.
I long for wealth, but to win it by wrongful means I have no desire. Justice, though slow, is sure.
"Solon Fragment 13" poem
User avatar
Theseus
Pezhetairos (foot soldier)
Posts: 214
Joined: Sun Jul 15, 2007 8:58 pm
Location: USA

Post by Theseus »

Here is another source of some information regarding this from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_the_Great

The original story stated that Cassander, son of Antipater, viceroy of Greece, brought the poison to Alexander in Babylon in a mule's hoof, and that Alexander's royal cupbearer, Iollas, brother of Cassander, administered it. Many had powerful motivations for seeing Alexander gone, and were none the worse for it after his death. Deadly agents that could have killed Alexander in one or more doses include hellebore and strychnine. In R. Lane Fox's opinion, the strongest argument against the poison theory is the fact that twelve days had passed between the start of his illness and his death and in the ancient world, such long-acting poisons were probably not available.

The warrior culture of Macedon favoured the sword over strychnine, and many ancient historians, like Plutarch and Arrian, maintained that Alexander was not poisoned, but died of natural causes. Instead, it is likely that Alexander died of malaria or typhoid fever, which were rampant in ancient Babylon. Other illnesses could have also been the culprit, including acute pancreatitis or the West Nile virus. Recently, theories have been advanced stating that Alexander may have died from the treatment not the disease. Hellebore, believed to have been widely used as a medicine at the time but deadly in large doses, may have been overused by the impatient king to speed his recovery, with deadly results. Disease-related theories often cite the fact that Alexander's health had fallen to dangerously low levels after years of heavy drinking and suffering several appalling wounds (including one in India that nearly claimed his life), and that it was only a matter of time before one sickness or another finally killed him.

No story is conclusive. Alexander's death has been reinterpreted many times over the centuries, and each generation offers a new take on it. What is certain is that Alexander died of a high fever on June 10 or 11 of 323 BC.



It could have been from a mixture of illness and medicine that was over used as well. It's sad to know that he did indeed suffer for so many days. :cry:
I long for wealth, but to win it by wrongful means I have no desire. Justice, though slow, is sure.
"Solon Fragment 13" poem
User avatar
Theseus
Pezhetairos (foot soldier)
Posts: 214
Joined: Sun Jul 15, 2007 8:58 pm
Location: USA

Post by Theseus »

Well the theory of typhoid was done in 1998 and the study I just found online was done more recently with the poison theory. When I first started to research Alexander's life I thought he was poisoned then I had found the typhoid theory and leaned towards that, but now I am again looking at poisoning as the culprit. There actually was a poison that caused the symptoms Alexander had and would also be so toxic it would keep the body from decomposing for several days. Peter Green's book touches on that fact that maybe Aristotle mixed it and gave it to Cassander to take to Babylon with him. If Alexander could not be persuaded to believe Antipater was serving him well Cassander was to give the poison to Alexander through his brother (Cassander's) Iolas-who was Alexander's cupbearer. It was also said that maybe Alexander was suffering from something else first which left him weaker.
I had read some where that Aristotle was fearing for his life as his nephew had been executed by orders from Alexander or one of his generals and he may well have been in danger too.
Alexander I guess had been planning to be rid of his Macedonian army and replace it with Persians. Maybe lots of his men feared being replaced and losing power and money? This is a complex web that leaves so many ways to go. So many could have taken part in this.

http://www.grahamphillips.net/Alexander/Theories.htm

I do find it some how comforting that Cassander feared Alexander even after his death. Here is a quote from Peter Green's book:
Cassander got off to the worst possible start in Babylon by bursting into nervous laughter when he saw a Persian prostrate himself before the royal throne. At this Alexander sprang up in a paroxysm of rage, seized Cassander by the hair with both hands and beat his head against the wall. Later when Cassander tried to rebut charges being brought against his father, the king accused him of philosophical hair splitting, and threatened both of them with dire retribution if the accusations were well founded. By so doing he may have signed his own death warrant, he certainly scared the negotiator almost witless. Years afterwards, when he was himself king of Macedonia, Cassander still trembled and shuddered uncontrollably at he mere sight of Alexander's portrait and the hatred engendered during that visit to Babylon lasted until his dying day.
I long for wealth, but to win it by wrongful means I have no desire. Justice, though slow, is sure.
"Solon Fragment 13" poem
athenas owl
Hetairos (companion)
Posts: 401
Joined: Tue Apr 25, 2006 4:07 am
Location: US

Post by athenas owl »

You know, the whole Aristotle "fearing for his life" meme?

I don't know that I buy that at all. Wasn't Aristotle's nephew and son-in-law (adopted son? ) Nicanor still in service to Alexander at the time of ATG's death? As an ambassador and if memory serves he was the one who brought the "Exile's Decree" to the Olympic Games in 324.

Whatever Aristotle may have thought of the death of Callisthenes, his own close kin was trusted enough to still be in the service of Alexander.

Aristotle knew Callisthenes was his own worst enemy. Sadly, in the end, it was the Athenians who were the real danger to Aristotle. One of my favourite lines of ancient history was one attributed him when he escaped from Athens, not wanting to give Athens a chance to "sin twice against philosophy".
User avatar
Theseus
Pezhetairos (foot soldier)
Posts: 214
Joined: Sun Jul 15, 2007 8:58 pm
Location: USA

Post by Theseus »

I am not sure of the whole Aristotle having a part in Alexander's death theory. He was such an extraodinary man and I don't see him diving so low as to murder or have a hand in Alexander's murder. That part about Aristotle was in the same book by Peter Green.
He states that Aristotle's friend, Theophrastus knew of the poison's uses and dosages and said the best way to disguise the bitter taste is by putting it in unmixed wine and it is said that the night Alexander was stricken with severe stomach pains was right after drinking some unmixed wine.
The poison (strychnine)was from a plant that grew in the area where Alexander was at the time, not in Greece. I wonder how many would have known of this plot.
I long for wealth, but to win it by wrongful means I have no desire. Justice, though slow, is sure.
"Solon Fragment 13" poem
jasonxx

Post by jasonxx »

With Reference to assasinations.... Some Scholars argue ir wasnt macedonian way to use poison.... Rather to use sword or dagger.


But going with that theory I wonder how many Macedonians or Greeks would have hasd the balls for that. The purpose of anyone assasinating Alexander was to keep power and to lineones pocket. To kill Alexander with a blade would be tantamount to suicide.

kenny
Semiramis
Hetairos (companion)
Posts: 403
Joined: Mon Jul 09, 2007 11:24 am

Post by Semiramis »

Theseus wrote:I had read some where that Aristotle was fearing for his life as his nephew had been executed by orders from Alexander or one of his generals and he may well have been in danger too.
Not convinced by that one. Aristotle was sending Alexander and Hephaistion letters. Alexander was sending scientific samples back. Even if he wasn’t getting along with Aristotle at one point in time, Alexander would’ve had much bigger fish to fry than Aristotle. I also don’t think the old man would've been stupid enough to get involved in an intrigue as big as this one, sitting right next to his pond. :)
Theseus wrote:Alexander I guess had been planning to be rid of his Macedonian army and replace it with Persians. Maybe lots of his men feared being replaced and losing power and money? This is a complex web that leaves so many ways to go. So many could have taken part in this.
Now, this I can believe. It would be understandable if his generals were not as keen on Alexander’s plans to conquer the Mediterranean. Babylon, Susa, Ecbatana… all more cushy places than another battlefield.
Another thought, maybe Alexander was more vulnerable to poisoning by one of his trusted generals with Hephaistion gone?
jasonxx wrote:With Reference to assasinations.... Some Scholars argue ir wasnt macedonian way to use poison.... Rather to use sword or dagger.
Really? Alexander’s marshals had no problem killing Alexander’s wife, two children, and sister. I find it hard to believe that people who don’t mind killing women and children on the way to power would shirk at poisoning someone.
jasonxx

Post by jasonxx »

Semaris

Yes your right with the Marshalls poisoming Alexander remaining Relations. Im not disputing that I am disputing. None would have the balls to try Killing Alexander with blade or dagger as some scholars argue that by the blade was the Macedonain way... As you clearly state they had no problems using poison against his relatives and kin.

I really cant believe how the mastery illness get taken so seriously. There are no definates or real prognosis by any writers of the time just sketchy mystery ilness... The mystery Ilness as i say confined to Hepheastion and Alexander. No where does Ptolemy or Arian say how concerned they should be of an e pedemic or maybe Ptolemy himself just a little worried he may have the mystery ilness as he had traveled with Alexander.

im pretty sure knowledge and understandings of poisons were pretty good and would have the potions to do a number on Alexander...


My main reason for assasination Is that both Alexander and hepheastion were killed... Its pointless taking out Alexander with the risk his best mate might carry on what your trying to stop by killing alexander.


kenny
User avatar
Theseus
Pezhetairos (foot soldier)
Posts: 214
Joined: Sun Jul 15, 2007 8:58 pm
Location: USA

Post by Theseus »

Semiramis, I posted that I too don't believe Aristotle had anything to do with Alexander's death.

I wonder if Hephaestion did indeed die of poisoning, if the people involved did it with the intent that Alexander would be so distraught that he would commit suicide then they wouldn't have to kill him themselves? Or maybe they wanted to test it out on Hephaestion first to see the poisons effects? Hephaestion seemed to be getting better, maybe they didn't use enough at first, then he drank a cooler full of wine and ate. So maybe more poison was used then because he died soon after that.
I am sure it wasn't only the Persians that knew of the poison in the area of Babylon. I think there were a good number of people involved. Wouldn't it have seemed odd if Cassander or any of his other "enemies" asked to prepare Alexander's wine? So many must have just looked the other way.

I agree with Kenny that it was an "illness" confined to just Hephaestion and Alexander.It was not written any where that there was an outbreak of typhoid fever and Malaria was not present in Babylon and only stays in your system for 10 months and it had been about 2 years since Alexander or Hephaestion had been in an area with Malaria. The symptoms written about them really mirror the symptoms of strychnine poisoning. So tragic. I wonder what more Alexander could have accomplished if he hadn't died.
I long for wealth, but to win it by wrongful means I have no desire. Justice, though slow, is sure.
"Solon Fragment 13" poem
Alita
Pezhetairos (foot soldier)
Posts: 62
Joined: Sun Mar 11, 2007 2:15 pm

Post by Alita »

Vergina Sun wrote:Hi Theseus,

I too have heard many stories on Alexander the Great's death. While poisoning was a popular story once (with Cassander, the mule's hoof, and all), it's somewhat been concluded that no poison known at the time would have caused such a high, continuous fever, and slow death. Though poison is still believed by some, it is generally not said to be the cause of Alexander's death.
Yes, I agree with you Vergina Sun. If it had been poison though, who's to say it wasn't Roxane who administered it? I find that theory quite interesting; after all, she may have been just as jealous and possessive as Alexander's own mother... a revolving wheel of fate that came back to haunt Alexander in his later years.
Along with malaria and West Nile Virus, many diseases have been speculated to have killed Alexander. It was in Babylon during the late summer, so I suppose that these diseases might very well have caused the death of Alexander.
I'm quite in favour of the malaria theory too. It is totally believable. If we consider Alexander's amazing tolerance of high altitudes, this is perfectly in line with him having very erythrocite-rich blood, which would have been a prime target for the malarial parasite. The sources say he had a very ruddy colour.
On a more touching note, another reason for his death may have been the loss of Hephaestion and his loss of will to live. The will might have been what kept him alive for so long, and without it, he was bound to die soon.
I totally agree with you. This was definitely at least part of it. My grandfather was healthy and strong up until the age of 90; then he lost his wife, and he died within the next year. I think there comes a point when a person feels themselves drawn to the people they've lost to the other side and this life doesn't hold them anymore.
I find your theory of Alexander being alive while the generals were fighting very interesting. Certainly it would have been a terrible scene for the great man, and very tragic for us to think of this dying sight.
This would be hard for anyone. Yet I think we should give Alexander more credit than to think he would be at all surprised by this. I believe he knew his mens' hearts and knew that as soon as he was gone, they would be jockeying for the leading role. In fact, I think Alexander was the type of person who often let his friends have a joke at his expense, as long as it did not threaten his position of authority. He was a clever man. There's no way he wouldn't have known that every general in his command would kill for his job. But I don't believe this offended, as much as flattered him. Also, if he did hear them fighting as he lay dying, it would make his life come full circle in a way, as he would realise that he wasn't the be-all and end-all of the universe and that, just as he was thirsty for power and glory at the expense of his relatives, these men were now likewise thirsty for power at his. It would have been an important lesson for him and something that I think every person must confront at some point in their lives.
Then again, he isn't truly dead and his work isn't truly gone, for he is still remembered with praise and glory to this day.
Alexander lives and reigns. :D
First, be human.
Post Reply