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Alexander the Great Died Mysteriously at 32. Now We May Know Why

Alexander the Great Died Mysteriously at 32. Now We May Know Why



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When Alexander the Great died in Babylon in 323 B.C., his body didn’t begin to show signs of decomposition for a full six days, according to historical accounts.

To the ancient Greeks, this confirmed what they all thought about the young Macedonian king, and what Alexander believed about himself—that he was not an ordinary man, but a god.

Just 32 years old, he had conquered an empire stretching from the Balkans to modern Pakistan, and was poised on the edge of another invasion when he fell ill and died after 12 days of excruciating suffering. Since then, historians have debated his cause of death, proposing everything from malaria, typhoid, and alcohol poisoning to assassination by one of his rivals.

But in a bombshell new theory, a scholar and practicing clinician suggests that Alexander may have suffered from the neurological disorder Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS), which caused his death. She also argues that people might not have noticed any immediate signs of decomposition on the body for one simple reason—because Alexander wasn’t dead yet.

As Dr. Katherine Hall, a senior lecturer at the Dunedin School of Medicine at the University of Otago, New Zealand, writes in an article published in The Ancient History Bulletin, most other theories of what killed Alexander have focused on the agonizing fever and abdominal pain he suffered in the days before he died.

In fact, she points out, he was also known to have developed a “progressive, symmetrical, ascending paralysis” during his illness. And though he was very sick, he remained compos mentis (fully in control of his mental faculties) until just before his death.

Hall argues that GBS, a rare but serious autoimmune disorder in which the immune system attacks healthy cells in the nervous system, can explain this combination of symptoms better than the other theories advanced for Alexander’s death. She believes he may have contracted the disorder from an infection of Campylobacter pylori, a common bacterium at the time. According to Hall, Alexander likely got a variant of GBS that produced paralysis without causing confusion or unconsciousness.

While speculation over what exactly killed Alexander is far from new, Hall throws in a curveball by suggesting he might not even have died when people thought he did.

She argues that the increasing paralysis Alexander suffered, as well as the fact that his body needed less oxygen as it shut down, would have meant that his breathing was less visible. Because in ancient times, doctors relied on the presence or absence of breath, rather than a pulse, to determine whether a patient was alive or dead, Hall believes Alexander might have been falsely declared dead before he actually died.

"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,” Hall said in a statement from the University of Otago. “His death may be the most famous case of pseudothanatos, or false diagnosis of death, ever recorded.”

READ MORE: Why Many Famous Figures Feared They’d Be Buried Alive


Was Alexander the Great Buried Alive?

A controversial new theory has suddenly gotten a lot of press.

Candida Moss

Anastasios71

As far as heroes and mighty leaders go, Alexander the Great is sure to be in anyone’s top three. He succeeded his father Philip II of Macedonia at the tender age of 20 and from there had blisteringly-fast success as he aimed to expand his empire to the “ends of the world and the Great Outer Sea” (they had a different sense of global geography back then). He was enormously successful, advancing as far east as India before he was forced to turn back on account of homesick disgruntled troops. But his military campaigns were truly cut short by his early death, at the age of 32. Now, a new theory claims not only that it can explain the untimely death of (arguably) history’s greatest military genius, but also that he was buried alive.

In a recent article for The Ancient History Bulletin, Dr Katherine Hall, a senior lecturer at New Zealand's Dunedin School of Medicine and practicing clinician, argues the ancient hero met his end thanks to the neurological disorder Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS). Previous explanations for his mysterious death have included typhoid fever, acute pancreatitis, West Nile virus, alcoholism, leukemia, malaria, influenza, and even poison.

There are actually two main accounts of the death of Alexander the Great, which differ from one another. The earliest is that of the first century B.C. historian Diodorus Siculus. Diodorus records that Alexander was struck with pain “instantly” after drinking a bowl of unmixed wine. He had to retire to his quarters and went directly to bed. After 11 days of worsening health and extreme agony he died in great pain. Diodorus does not mention the fever.

A second version derives from the work of the second century A.D. biographer and moralist Plutarch’s Life of Alexander. According to this version, around two weeks before his death Alexander engaged in some heavy drinking, spending an evening entertaining Nearchus, one of his naval officers, and the next day day-drinking with another military buddy Medius of Larissa. After this “he began to have a fever” and had a sudden pain in his back “as though struck with a spear.” The fever got worse, he needed to carried into order to perform religious duties and eventually he was unable to speak. Plutarch cites another source, Aristobulus, who agrees that Alexander had a “raging fever” and got very thirsty when he drank wine.

A similar story, found in Arrian’s Anabasis, uses the same source as Plutarch but adds a few additional details about the ascending paralysis. For example, Arrian notes that when Alexander could no longer speak and his soldiers filed past him (as a gesture of respect) he looked each in the eye with a look of recognition but “struggled to raise his head.”

According to Plutarch, after his death Alexander’s body did not decompose for six days: “His body, although it lay without special care in places that were moist and stifling, showed no sign of such destructive influence, but remained pure and fresh.” The first century A.D. Roman author Quintus Curtius Rufus agrees that there was no “discoloration” or “decay.”

Hall’s theory argues that Alexander had the contracted an acute motor axonal neuropathy variant of GBS and that this is why, in addition to developing a fever, he suffered from paralysis and an inability to speak. Earlier theories have focused exclusively on the drinking, abdominal pain, and fever and have failed to pay attention to the paralysis. In addition she argues that only her theory can explain why Alexander’s body did not decompose: he wasn’t dead, she argues, he was alive and paralyzed. Somewhat horrifyingly, he ended up being buried alive. “The Ancient Greeks,” Hall has said in an interview, “thought that this proved that Alexander was a god this article is the first to provide a real-world answer.”

Hall’s thesis is making waves in the media, but has she solved the puzzle of Alexander’s death? There are several reasons, both medical and historical, to think we have further to go.

Hall has claimed that “none [of the previous theories for the death of Alexander] have provided an all-encompassing answer which gives a plausible and feasible explanation for a fact recorded by one source—Alexander’s body failed to show any signs of decomposition for six days after his death.” And she offers some compelling evidence about symptoms not present in the descriptions of Alexander’s death and detailed analysis of various medical conditions. But a 1998 article she mentions that was published in the New England Journal of Medicine (non-paywalled summary here) argued that typhoid fever could explain the ascending paralysis and the lack of decomposition in Alexander’s body (Hall’s view is that typhoid fever only rarely causes GBS). This article also raises and discuss the possibility that Alexander was experiencing GBS. If either sets of authors are correct then Alexander was buried alive.

The bigger issue is that Hall’s explanation relies exclusively on Plutarch, whose version of the death of Alexander was written at least 400 years after Alexander’s death. This is not to say that Diodorus’s version is accurate, but it is earlier and historians tend to use earlier sources. Now, Plutarch does tell us that he relied upon a source known as the “Royal Diaries” to compose his version of the Life of Alexander so, arguably, he preserves the earliest tradition. Interestingly, Arrian’s use of the same source does not mention the detail about Alexander’s body failing to decompose.

The larger difficulty is whether or not it is appropriate or even possible to diagnose ancient figures from the vague reports of their death provided by ancient sources. Modern medical doctors do not diagnose third-hand without seeing a patient. It’s remarkable to think that anyone can accurately examine Alexander the Great, who died 2,300 years ago. To assume that modern knowledge is so all-encompassing and superior that we can diagnose everyone else’s ills is a very particular form of hubris that critical disability theorist Lennard Davis has described as “nowism.” It’s not that these theories are bad, necessarily, but they are highly speculative and inherently limited.

Hall’s own perspective is revealed by her statement that the Ancient Greeks thought the lack of decomposition proved that Alexander the Great was a god. That’s not an entirely accurate representation of what Plutarch says about the matter. Plutarch includes this detail because, in his opinion, it offers proof that Alexander the Great wasn’t poisoned. He doesn’t say anything at all about this offering proof that he was a god (even if it does say something remarkable about Alexander). Curtius Rufus mentions that the Egyptians and Chaldeans (who had been brought to embalm him) did think that Alexander was a god, but none of them were Greek and these accounts were written long after the events. It’s likely that Curtius Rufus is peddling a trope about the superstitions of foreigners.

The reason Alexander wasn’t buried immediately seems to have been because of preparations surrounding his tomb and competing claims to his body. Some believed, on an account of a prophecy, that the presence of Alexander’s remains in their city would convey power and invulnerability to that place.

The long and short of it is that none of us know why Alexander the Great died. The details that come down to us from ancient texts are the elements of Alexander’s death that ancient authors thought were interesting, interesting, and revelatory. When Hall says that symptoms were “missing” from the descriptions of Alexander’s texts we have to recognize that these authors are not providing a comprehensive list of symptoms. They are describing what they think is relevant. We could use ancient medical texts to try and figure out why ancient people thought Alexander died, but we will never be able to use modern diagnostic tools to speak definitively about what killed him.


Alexander the Great Died Mysteriously at 32. Now We May Know Why - HISTORY

Alexander the Great died in Babylon in 323 BC. His death at age 32 followed a 2-week febrile illness. Speculated causes of death have included poisoning, assassination, and a number of infectious diseases. One incident, mentioned by Plutarch but not considered by previous investigators, may shed light on the cause of Alexander’s death. The incident, which occurred as he entered Babylon, involved a flock of ravens exhibiting unusual behavior and subsequently dying at his feet. The inexplicable behavior of ravens is reminiscent of avian illness and death weeks before the first human cases of West Nile virus infection were identified in the United States. We posit that Alexander may have died of West Nile encephalitis.

Figure. Map of Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq), including its capital, Babylon.

Alexander the Great died in the ancient Mesopotamian city of Babylon, on June 10, of 323 BC (Figure). His death after a 2-week febrile illness (Table) has fascinated ancient scholars and contemporary medical investigators (1), who have posited various diagnoses based on sparse clinical information—a few recorded signs and symptoms. Retrodiagnoses have included poisoning and infectious as well as noninfectious diseases (16). After reviewing ancient accounts and modern theories, we have concluded that Alexander may have died of West Nile encephalitis.

Previous Theories

Poisons

Few poisons induce fever, and few of these were available in Alexander's time—except plant salicylates, which disturb temperature regulation alkaloids, which interfere with perspiration and ergot mycotoxins, which produce a subjective sensation of heat. Plutarch mentions that Aristotle (Alexander’s tutor) procured arsenic to poison Alexander (7). But plants, mycotoxins, and arsenic are not the likely causes of death since none would have caused the reported high, sustained fever.

Infections

Alexander’s death occurred in late spring, upon his return to Babylon from the Indian subcontinent. Environmental conditions were unremarkable (8). Babylon, located on the Euphrates River (90 km south of present-day Baghdad), was bordered on the east by a swamp. Animals, including birds, were abundant (9), and arthropods were also likely present (available from: URL: http://www.ac.wwu.edu/

stephan/Animation/alexander.html). Diseases endemic to the area (present-day Iraq) (leishmaniasis, bubonic plague, hemorrhagic fevers) were not mentioned by chroniclers of Alexander’s death. Also not reported was illness among his troops, mainly Macedonians and local recruits. Descriptions of Alexander’s illness do not include common disease signs (e.g., rash, icterus, “thin blood,” vomiting, diarrhea or dysentery, hematuria, seizures).

Malaria, a diagnosis postulated by previous authors (13), occurred in Mesopotamia (10,11), and is common in today’s Middle East (12). Some of Alexander’s symptoms are compatible with malaria: continuous fever, chills, diaphoresis, prostration, myalgia, progressive weakness, stupor, diminished sensorium, delirium however, dark urine, so called “black water fever,” or intermittent fevers were not reported. Today, most malaria in Iraq is due to Plasmodium vivax (13). Given Alexander’s travel history, had his illness been malaria, it would have been due to P. falciparum however, absence of P. falciparum’s dramatic signature fever curve diminishes the possibility of malaria as a probable cause.

Typhoid fever and its complications have also been thoroughly considered (1). Alexander had a 2-week febrile illness culminating in terminal encephalopathy. As do encephalitis, endocarditis, pneumococcal pneumonia, psittacosis, rickettsial disease, and tularemia, typhoid causes sustained or continuous fever (14). The typical course of typhoid fever lasts one month. In fatal cases, death usually occurs at the end of week 2. Typhoid’s neurologic manifestations, which also include delirium and expressionless demeanor, are seen in week 3. Other signs include cough, diarrhea, “rose spots,” epistaxis, and bloody stool (15). None of these signs or other illnesses similar to Alexander’s were documented by Plutarch. Most other enteric infections have no neurologic sequelae and are generally self-limited. Vibrio vulnificus infection, which may cause fatal sepsis in heavy drinkers (as was Alexander), causes rapid death, accompanied by skin and muscle lesions and bleeding.

Other suggested diagnoses include Schistosoma haematobium infection (4), which causes painless hematuria however, ectopic egg deposition may occur at any time, causing transverse myelitis, paralysis, and death (16). Exposure to cercariae produces pruritus and Katayama fever induces serum sickness (4), but symptoms include low grade fever and pruritic swellings, which were not reported in Alexander’s case. Some leptospirosis symptoms are consistent with Alexander’s illness however, other classic leptospirosis signs (biphasic fever, calf or thigh pain, jaundice, hemorrhage, pulmonic involvement) were not reported. Acanthamoeba spp. (pathogenic free-living amoebae) and Naegleria spp. cause meningoencephalitis, which is acquired during bathing, an activity in which Alexander reportedly participated with compulsion. Acanthamoebae are cosmopolitan but prefer compromised hosts. Moreover, death from naegleriasis usually occurs within a week of onset, and encephalitis caused by acanthamoebae causes death only after a prolonged period of symptoms.

When Alexander’s clinical symptoms were listed on GIDEON (Global Infectious Diseases and EpidemiOlogy Network (13), influenza ranked highest (41.2% probability) on the list of differential diagnoses. While influenza could have killed Alexander, reports did not mention others becoming ill with similar symptoms. Lymphocytic choriomeningitis, an influenzalike illness followed by meningoencephalitis, is rare. Poliomyelitis can occur as an isolated case or as epidemic its characteristics include fever, vomiting, severe myalgia, and prostration, as well as the early complication of flaccid paralysis, which has been postulated as another late sign in Alexander’s illness (1). This interpretation narrows the differential diagnosis to include poliomyelitis (see above), Guillain-Barré syndrome, and the encephalitides. (A list of the many other infectious diseases others have considered as well as additional, less likely candidates is available from the authors.)

West Nile Fever and Encephalitis

West Nile fever was not considered by previous authors as cause of Alexander’s death, possibly because it has only recently emerged globally. West Nile virus (family Flaviviridae, genus Flavivirus), first isolated from a febrile patient in Uganda in 1937 (17), is one of many viruses causing encephalitis. Infection is marked by fever, encephalitis, or meningoencephalitis. Until the early 1990s, the virus was largely confined to Africa, Europe, and Asia. In 1941, an outbreak occurred in Tel Aviv, with no deaths reported. Over the next 60 years, seven outbreaks occurred in Israel and its environs (18). In 1957, during an outbreak in an army camp, a single case of encephalitis was recognized in a group of 300 soldiers (19). By 2000, a countrywide outbreak occurred, with a case-fatality rate of 8.4% (20). In 1999, West Nile virus was introduced to the United States, and 4,156 laboratory-confirmed human cases of infection (earliest onset of illness, June 10) occurred in 2002 (21). Median age in fatal cases was 72 years, although neurologic disease occurred in all cases. Also recognized in both fatal and nonfatal cases was flaccid paralysis in patients with encephalitis.

West Nile virus infections in vertebrates may have been occurring in the Middle East for centuries. Now the virus has spread to new areas of the world and to new populations and causes infection characterized by new signs and symptoms. In the 2000 epidemic in Israel, encephalitis occurred in nearly 59% of 417 human cases. Of 233 hospitalized patients (case-fatality rate 14%), >98% had fever, 46% cognitive changes, and 17% abdominal pain or myalgias. Nearly 18% became comatose (22). Acute flaccid paralysis was noted, as in the United States in 1999 and later (23).

When West Nile virus–infected Culex mosquitoes take a blood meal from a susceptible vertebrate, the virus may be incidentally transmitted. Birds serve as amplifying hosts, the degree of amplification depending on avian species, environmental conditions, and other factors. Birds with viremia provide mosquitoes blood meals these mosquitoes subsequently serve to bridge West Nile virus infection to humans. Responses to recent epizootics and epidemics have improved our understanding of the disease. New competent mosquito vectors are recognized, new human and mammalian symptoms are identified, and new bird species are determined as poor, intermediate, or excellent amplifiers of the virus.

Ludwig et al. examined 437 birds at the Bronx Zoo and Wildlife Conservation Park during the 1999 West Nile virus epizootic and epidemic in New York City (24), where virus activity was first recognized in wild and captive birds in the United States. Avian deaths were observed weeks before the first human West Nile virus encephalitis cases. Even though 42% of birds tested were New World birds, 14 (82%) of 17 deaths were in New World birds and 3 (5%) of 57 were in Old World birds, which suggests that birds in the latter group might have had innate immunity by virtue of their ancestral, coevolutionary history with the virus. Diseased birds manifested various symptoms, including abnormal head and neck posture, ataxia, tremors, circling, disorientation, and impaired vision. Most birds with symptoms died.

In Iraq, several mosquito species, including Culex tritaeniorhynchus, Cx. theileri, and Aedes caspius (25) have been implicated in West Nile virus transmission. Although mosquitoes in Iraq have not been completely catalogued, it is likely that, as in the United States, other mosquitoes there also serve as vectors of West Nile virus. These mosquitoes are found throughout Iraq, from March to December, and have various larval habitats. Annual spring flooding of the Tigris and Euphrates provides ideal breeding grounds for Culex spp. Mosquito species that may have occurred in Babylon are unknown however, breeding habits must be ancient, and mosquitoes are well known for their proclivity to breed in swamps.

Still, the possibility that West Nile virus killed Alexander is mitigated by the fact that he fell ill in May. Although the virus may have occurred at that time, most recent human cases in Israel occurred in July to September, with only a few cases occurring in June. In temperate areas, West Nile virus infection in humans is seasonal. Amplification occurs in mosquitoes and birds several months before the virus spills over into dead-end hosts. Experimentally infected indigenous mosquitoes showed an intrinsic incubation period of 7 to 14 days at 28°C (26). Others have shown that when Cx. pipiens mosquitoes were allowed to feed on viremic chicks infected with West Nile virus and incubated at 30ºC virus could be detected 4 days later (27). This suggests that maximum virus amplification may not be reached until mid-summer. Iraq’s mean high spring temperature is (29ºC) (28), somewhat higher than Tel Aviv’s (24ºC).

Israel has had West Nile virus activity and human cases during the last 3 years, with most human cases not detected until August. Israel is at the same latitude as Iraq and has similar climate. If Iraq also had slightly higher temperatures 2,000 years ago (we will never know this with certainty), onset of disease in humans and birds, including inexplicable avian die-offs, could have occurred earlier in the summer. We reread Plutarch and saw the following passage about Alexander’s entrance into Babylon: “… when he arrived before the walls of the city he saw a large number of ravens flying about and pecking one another, and some of them fell dead in front of him.” (29)

Bird observers (dāgil işşūri) were common in Asia Minor at the time. These diviners considered birds as oracles. Greek Kulturkreis and Babylonian Alalakh tablets mention auguries based on the behavior of birds, particularly fighting birds, to predict the future (30). Plutarch presumably thought it sufficiently noteworthy to record angry or disoriented ravens, although it is impossible to determine whether this event was added later as a necessary metaphoric foreboding of Alexander’s death.

Current geographic distribution of corvids indicates that these likely were ravens (Corvus corax) and not crows (Corvus corone sardonius or other crow species). No ravens were at the Bronx Zoo in 1999 (T. MacNamara, Wildlife Conservation Society, and pers. comm., 2003). However, in the United States today, New World crows (American crow, C. brachyrhynchos and fish crow, C. ossifragus) are among the birds most susceptible to fatal West Nile virus infections. One wonders if an influx of migratory birds might have served as reservoirs of West Nile virus and infected ravens in Babylon, causing a massive die-off.

Pathogenicity of West Nile virus for corvids was established 50 years ago. Work et al., assigned by the Rockefeller Foundation to study arboviruses in Egypt, isolated 23 West Nile virus strains from blood samples of febrile children in the Sindbis area and found that the virus caused illness in more children and young adults than in older adults. In addition, and particularly germane to our hypothesis, they isolated West Nile virus from a hooded crow (Corvus corone sardonius) for the first time, demonstrating experimental infection of birds with viremia as high as 10 9 , and death rates of 100% (31,32). During winter, 80% of these crows were seropositive, and the investigators assumed that during transmission season, crow death rates were high. The experimental studies showed that mosquitoes could be infected by feeding on hooded crows with viremia levels as low as 10 3.5 and could subsequently serve as West Nile virus vectors to humans of any age. This early epidemiologic work provided an early clue in New York City in 1999, when both exotic and domestic birds signaled the introduction of West Nile virus disease to the New World (33). Before 1998, the virus was not recognized as an important cause of death in wild birds therefore, it was surprising to find that the Israeli 1998 strain was the as same that which infected birds at the Bronx Zoo. Ravens dropping dead from the skies likely were also a surprise to Alexander.

Conclusions

lexander the Great died in late spring in the semi-tropical, urban area of present-day Baghdad. Explanations for his death have included poisoning, enteric and parasitic diseases, influenza, and poliomyelitis. Our diagnosis, as well as previous alternative diagnoses, may be subject to author bias, errors in translation, and a paucity of clinical information. We assumed that he died in late spring in Babylon after a 2-week illness that included fever and signs suggestive of encephalitis. We presumed that diseases now endemic to Iraq were also present in ancient Mesopotamia. Recent scholarly thought has been ingenious and rigorous, given the sparseness of available information. Nonetheless, earlier diagnoses did not include West Nile virus encephalitis. Previous considerations omitted an event that was carefully recorded by Plutarch and which, before 1999, would have been considered irrelevant: the erratic behavior and observable deaths of numerous ravens outside the walls of Babylon. This observation might now be construed as an important clue. If this observation is included as part of Alexander’s illness, West Nile virus encephalitis complicated by flaccid paralysis becomes an alternative diagnosis. It is possible that, in the 3rd century BC, disease caused by West Nile virus arrived in Mesopotamia for the first time in recorded history, killing indigenous birds and an occasional human and causing only incidental febrile illness in many others. Over subsequent centuries the virus may have devolved, becoming less pathogenic for indigenous birds, while retaining its potential as a dangerous human pathogen. This is speculative, but in 1999, a “natural experiment” did occur when this Old World epizootic strain was introduced into the United States. What has been observed in the ongoing North American epizootic and epidemic might be similar to what happened in Babylon many years ago. We now know that unexplained bird die-offs can presage human cases of disease caused by West Nile virus. In 323 BC, a similar event might have been considered an omen of Alexander the Great’s death. In this instance, the oracles would have been correct.

Dr. Marr is director of the Office of Epidemiology in the Virginia Department of Health. His research interests include medical history. He has written articles on possible causes of the 10 plagues of Egypt, the Mexican huey cocolitz epidemic of 1596, and the mysterious epidemic preceding the death of the last Incan emperor, Hayna Capac.

Dr. Calisher is professor of microbiology at the Arthropod-Borne Infectious Diseases Laboratory, Colorado State University. His research interests include disease epidemiology, virus evolution, everything about arborviruses, and epidemiology of rodent-borne viruses.

Acknowledgment

We thank many friends and colleagues, including Grayson B. Miller, David N. Gaines, John T. Cathey, and Gregory D. Ebel for their contributions Robert Arnott for providing pertinent sections of Plutarch and anonymous reviewers for their comments and suggestions, which greatly improved the final product.

References

Figure
Table

Please use the form below to submit correspondence to the authors or contact them at the following address:

Charles H. Calisher, Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Pathology, College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523, USA fax: 970-491-8323

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Reactions

Live Science talked to several scientists not involved with the research who discussed their thoughts on Hall's claim.

It's "an interesting idea" that Alexander was killed by Guillain-Barré syndrome said Hugh Willison, a professor at the University of Glasgow College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences, Institute of Infection, Immunity and Inflammation. "Although from the historical evidence available, it is not possible to establish this with any degree of certainty," he added.

Another professor, Michael Baker, said: "Based on a quick scan [of the article] I think the theory is quite plausible," Baker, a professor in the Department of Public Health at the University of Otago, told Live Science. To say anything more definitive, Baker said he'd need more time to review the paper.

The theory is "very interesting," said Pat Wheatley, a professor of classics at the University of Otago. Hall took some of Wheatley's classes, and the two have been discussing the theory for about a year, Wheatley said. However, Wheatley urged caution when looking at the accounts left by ancient historians, noting that the surviving accounts date to well over a century after Alexander's death, and some of the details may be inaccurate. Still, the "the theory is certainly worth floating," Wheatley said.


New Theory: Alexander the Great Poisoned by Flowering Herb?

On June 11, 323 B.C., the famed Alexander the Great died, felled by a mysterious illness that left him too weak to move.

Ever since, the cause of the Macedonian leader's death has been debated. Did he succumb to the cumulative effect of battle injuries received while conquering everything between Greece and India? Did a parasite or bacterium lay him low? Or was Alexander the Great poisoned?

Now, research finds that if poison killed Alexander the Great, the toxin may well have come from an unassuming plant called white hellebore (Veratrum album) that may have been slipped into his wine.

Death of a king

Alexander was the son of the king of Macedonia, Philip II, and Olympias, one of Philip II's five to seven wives. Upon inheriting the throne, Alexander began an ambitious military campaign that would extend the borders of his empire from modern-day Greece to the Himalayan Mountains. He was planning to invade the Arabian Peninsula when he died. [10 Reasons Alexander the Great Was, Well … Great]

There are no surviving records of Alexander's death written at the time, leaving historians struggling to piece together the end of the king's life from histories written, at minimum, 300 years later. Many of these histories are themselves based on questionable sources, such as propaganda penned after Alexander died. And the king's tomb and body have never been found.

With that in mind, determining the cause of Alexander's death is a thought exercise. Modern scientists have suggested culprits ranging from malaria to a bacterial infection from drinking river water to side effects from old battle wounds.

"We can never settle the question for good without a body," said Leo Schep, a toxicologist at the University of Otago National Poisons Center in New Zealand.

Murder or microbes?

In a new study detailed in the January issue of the journal Toxicology History, Schep and his colleagues speculate that if Alexander was indeed poisoned, a plant may have done him in. [The 10 Most Common Poisonous Plants]

Schep got interested in the 2,000-year-old cold case about a decade ago, when a production company in the United Kingdom approached him with the question for a documentary. After that experience, he stayed interested, he told LiveScience.

He and his colleagues first considered the two divergent accounts of Alexander's death. In one, championed by ancient historian Plutarch and others, Alexander is said to have gradually become feverish after a banquet in Babylon. As he sickened, he lost his ability to walk and died after 11 to 12 days of illness. This account is based on ancient historians' citation of the "Royal Diary," a document allegedly written during Alexander's reign. However, modern historians are skeptical that the Royal Diary was really contemporaneous with Alexander it's likely that the document was written after his death to quash rumors of poisoning in an attempt to keep the king's empire together.

The second narrative is similarly unreliable. This one comes from "The Book on the Death and Last Testament of Alexander," which probably also came about shortly after the king died. However, the original document is lost and survived only in highly fictionalized form as "The Alexander Romance."

That version describes Alexander taking a drink of wine at the banquet and crying out from a pain in his liver. Suspecting he'd had too much to drink, he asks his cup-bearer to bring him a feather he could use to induce vomiting. The cup-bearer, who'd poisoned his wine in the first place, brings him a feather smeared with yet more poison, the story goes. The king suffers for 11 days, becoming very weak, and at one point attempts to crawl to the Euphrates river in order to drown himself.

Taking the tale in "The Alexander Romance" at face value, Schep and his colleagues began to narrow down possible poisons that could have caused the symptoms.

Plant poison

Two common poisons, strychnine and arsenic, were quickly eliminated. Both cause death within hours or a few days, and the symptoms don't match Alexander's reported abdominal pain followed by progressive muscle weakness, the researchers wrote. [The 14 Oddest Medical Case Reports]

Schep and his colleagues considered other famous poisons, such as hemlock, which causes muscle paralysis, convulsions, coma and death. But hemlock acts quickly. Another common ancient poison, henbane, doesn't fit the clues, because symptoms include mania and visual disturbances. Alexander was conscious and lucid during his illness, albeit weak.

After ruling out several other plant poisons that would have been accessible, Schep and his colleagues suggest the most likely toxin was white hellebore, a flowering herb common in Europe. The plant affects the central nervous system, shutting down the molecular channels that nerve cells use to communicate. As a result, the nerves that tell muscles to move can't talk effectively, causing muscle and heart weakness.

Upon ingesting white hellebore, the victim is immediately wracked with abdominal pain so severe it's often mistaken for a heart attack, Schep and his colleagues wrote. Compounds extracted from the plant can be fermented along with alcohol, which means they could have easily been slipped into Alexander's wine. After the pain, the muscular effects begin, slowing the heart muscle and leaving the limbs weak. Victims remain conscious but immobile until right before death.

Alexander was a strong leader, but his era was dangerous for royalty. His own mother, Olympias, may have had his father assassinated she forced another of her husband's wives to commit suicide and may have poisoned his half-brother, too. Those who research the dynasty have to come to terms with mysterious deaths and unidentified corpses: One lavish tomb excavated in Greece in 1977 is the subject of a 33-year-long debate over whether it contains the body of Alexander's father or his poisoned half-uncle.

Even finding Alexander the Great's body would probably not settle the question, Schep said. "An autopsy would yield some information," he said, "but if it was death by poison, that may be a bit difficult to prove, unless of course he was poisoned by a heavy metal." It's not clear how long other types of poison would survive in bone for thousands of years, he said.


Why you voted for Alexander the Great:

Alexander was the Philospher King. He led militarily but also understood how to really build an empire that would follow you, even those conquered.
Mike

The man brought down the greatest empire the world had seen, seemingly without difficulty and within a matter of just a couple of years, conquered most of the known world while fighting far from home, never lost a battle, led from the front, was tutored by Aristotle and maintained his passion for philosophy throughout his life, spread Greek culture across the globe … you get the idea. Oh, and he did all of this before the age of 33. Perhaps the clincher, however, is this: Julius Caesar weeped when he considered Alexander’s accomplishments.

He had an undefeated battle record. Upon his death, Alexander had conquered most of the world then known to the ancient Greeks.
Thomas

He conquered most of the known world, frequently doing things that were widely believed to be impossible!
And I’m named after him!
Alex

He conquered the world by his 18th birthday
Shane

He conquered his entire known world and continued onwards

Alexander was the Philospher King. He led militarily but also understood how to really build an empire that would follow you, even those conquered.

He had an undefeated battle record. Upon his death, Alexander had conquered most of the world then known to the ancient Greeks.

He conquered most of the known world, frequently doing things that were widely believed to be impossible!

He conquered the world by his 18th birthday

He conquered his entire known world and continued onwards

Surely its Alexander, he lived in times before Jesus yet they still teach his tactics at military academies today

Alexander III of Macedon , commonly known as Alexander the Great. Alexander the Great’s accomplishments and legacy have been preserved and depicted in many ways. Alexander has figured in works of both high and popular culture from his own era to the modern day. Titles: King of Macedon, Hegemon of the Hellenic League, Shahanshah of Persia, Pharaoh of Egypt and Lord of Asia

For the age in which they lived they were by far the most advanced technological and militarial civilization in the world using many inventions and techniques that still hold sway today. All of this held under a system that in equal measures was democratic but extremely ruthless.

Tremendous lasting impact in both military and cultural spheres – his tactics are still studied 2300 years later.

All would be rulers of the world were in awe of Alexander. His story, based largely on legends of his persona, is everything a military leader wished to be in life (handsome, bold, fearless, an artist and a dashing warrior).

In reality Alexander more than an experienced leader was an extremely lucky and able heir to the throne. Alexander is today revered and set apart from other leaders because of eurocentrism that still remains to this day.

Alexander the Great was one of the greatest conquerors and tactical minds of all time, as evidenced by his large empire acquired with relatively small resources. He was inspiring and charismatic, his men would (and did) follow him anywhere. Beyond the conqueror, however, he took Hellenistic culture to an entirely different level instead of the ideas of liberty, equality, philosophy, drama, and scientific categorization and study remaining in Greece and slowly spreading by basic trade and other modicums of idea osmosis, he spread it like wildfire across Asia Minor and the Middle East all the way to the Indian subcontinent. Very similar to Napoleon, except that Napoleon spread Nationalism, efficient bureaucracy, and a renewed vigor for republics. Both are great, but Alexander has to win in my book.

His stunning and rapid record speaks for itself, brilliant commander and fearless.

Conquered most of the known world, ruled Afghanistan, created one of the largest empires in history, all before he was 33. If he hadn’t dropped dead, he might have conquered the world.

He fought in the head of his army. His conditions were the same as of his soldiers his starting point was terrible small state with a huge an seemingly undefeatable enemy

Out of the choices given I believe Alexander is the greatest leader. I thought of such greats as Bismarck, Washington, Napoleon, and Augustus, however Alexander was able to be a very successful military leader and politician. The others were either great commanders or political leaders, not both.

With Alexander he was able to conquer lands with military tactics across the then-known world. The other candidates weren’t able to spread their military campaigns as far as he did as well as “liberate” territories such as Egypt.

On the battlefield, Alexander, like Napoleon, gave the soldiers a dramatic surge in morale. However, unlike Napoleon, Alexander also understood the different religions, cultures, and economies of the territories he captured. Granted, like Napoleon they may have both been aggressive military leaders, but Alexander was able to gain a lot of respect worldwide by not just conquering but keeping a lot of the conquered areas in-tact.

Because Alexander was able to conquer a lot of territory of the then-known world, allowing to keep their customs, inspiring his soldiers, and acknowledging economics impact by establishing Alexandria, I believe this shows that Alexander was a great military commander and political leader. Which is what makes him the greatest leader out of the choices.

He commanded an elite army inherited from his father, but even so, it takes some talent to crush the greatest empire in the world. Furthermore, he managed to keep his Macedonians from bickering and plotting too much against each other – not bad when leading a people among whom political assassinations was practically a standard procedure and every ascension on the throne was followed by the killing of all those opposed and all rival claimants.

An innovative general, Alexander led a superbly trained army, against many foes and throughout the known ancient world. Yet his force was small compared to those he fought, (Persians, Indians) and he never lost a battle. When he died at 33, he had conquered the entire known world, and we will never know if he was a capable governor because he died so young before he could truly rule his empire, yet as a military leader he is certainly without equal

He’s responsible for spreading Hellenic culture all the way to India shaping the Classical Age single handedly. Julius Ceaser is noted to have cried at the sight of a statue of Alexander because he could never be a great a leader as Alexander. Also, a simple statement of military tactics that is attributed to Alexander “Hammer and Anvil”.

He liberated more than conquered, and fought in the wars he waged.

Alexander III of Macedon (Alexander the Great) is the single greatest leader in all of history because he lead one of the grandest armies in the world and established one of the largest armies of antiquity. Dozens of the cities which he established still exist today, and the culture he spread and assimilated is very evident in the lands in which his empire existed. Truly, Alexander’s exploits have stood the test of time, and likely will remain standing until some other great leader buries them under blood and bone.

Uncomparably vast feats in significantly short space of time that will forever be remembered and compared.

Did the unimaginable by conquering the most powerful empire of its time, then pushing his army east into the unknown, spreading Hellenism and his name throughout the land. Alexander was a brilliant on-the-fly tactician, integrating units from disparate lands and cultures while also utilizing the terrain and his opponents tendencies to his advantage.

He created one of the largest empires in a short time

He was a fearless warrior and took part of front line battles. Therefore, unlike many other leaders, he inspired his people better than a “regular” king of sorts would have done. He was also a tactical and stratetical mastermind. His exploits speak for themselves.

Christopher

He rose from a small kingdom to conquer the known world – and his reputation was so fearsome that decades after his death people still refused to revolt out of fear that he might really still be alive and come back to punish them.

It’s a real shame that Ghengis Khan is not on the list, though.

A huge empire in his lifetime with some splendid military victories.

He helped unify most of the ancient world. And he was a certified military genius. Some of the combat accomplishments were quite amazing.

Alexander was so young when he conquered the then-world that it puts all these other old fogeys to shame – a true child prodigy. He was a kind and fair ruler to his citizens, which held together despite the vast mix of cultures. It was only after he died that his empire crumbled, signalling that it was really him that was the key piece that held the empire together. He also defeated Darius III, another leader in this poll, something that doesn’t apply to any of the other leaders I think. Go Alexander the Great!

Alex won every battle he fought. I believe no one else did that. Ceaser, Augustus, Gendis Khan all lost battles at one time.

Alexander the Great never lost a battle ever in his entire military campaign all the way to India. Had he not died he could have made the Grecian Empire as great or greater than the Roman Empire that was formed years later.

Alexander took the unity forged by his father in the Agean and with it conquered the colossus of Persia in 10 years and enabled Greek thought and language to permiate the entire near east and through the conquests of the Romans, extend throughout Western Europe, influencing all of modern history.

He was the greatest and brightsest leader. He didn’t only conquered all the known world (for the greeks until that time) but he also focused on unifying them.

He also used a lot of scientist during his quest including doctors engineers and many more. All together united under the commands of Alexander made the greatest empire the world has ever known in such a sort time (if we take into account the huge distances and the difficulty of transportation during that period) and by one ruler..

Smart cunning and ruthless he was the greatest because he thought for himself and knew what he wanted how he would get it

Run close by Napoleon, by to achieve so much in such a short period of time is something that is very hard to match, especially as the whole logistical side of what he did would have been far harder than Napoleon, plus he never lost.

He was the first real icon for unity amongst all people, he had his flaws though but his idea & vision is something that would inspire many, and what he achieved being so young in short span of time was amazing aswell. Also one of his quotes or something that he showed. Nothing is Impossible,everything is possible, you just have to have the willpower to do it.

To me, a leader is one who provides a strong example of how followers should live and believe, not necessarily how they must. I think Alexander fits this bill very well.

Not only did he utilize the military advances his father developed to defeat the most imposing army and empire of the time, often leading assaults himself (much to the worry of his officers and troops), but he then tried to join the cultures of Greece and Persia into a greater whole. To advance this idea, he even married a woman of that eastern empire and encouraged his followers to do so as well.

When he led his soldiers to the Indus River and they decided that they would go no further, he let them have their way. Unfortunately, many woes befell them during their return to Babylon, and later, Alexander failed to consolidate his dream for a combined east-west empire, but his conquests did help Greek culture thrive and survive through the middle ages, the crusades and on to inspire the Renaissance.

Alexander was the greatest military strategist of all time. He redefined warfare for ages to come and his death brought a civil war fought between the Seleucids and Ptolemaics that would last until Roman conquest hundreds of years later. Alexander was able to destroy a Persian army that massively outnumbered his and still have enough men to march through Persia and conquer the empire. Alexander may not have had the best of everything, but he made it work

He conquered most of the known world at the time with ease, all before he died young. He was known mainly for his military skills.

It may be true that without his father, Phillipous the second of Macedonia, Alexander the Great would not have been that great. However the reported historical fact depict him as an intelligent and charismatic personality, understanding complexities that go beyond simple strategy and tactics. He used the conquered lands, sent back to Europe a great variety of plants and animals that did not existed and bringing them a lot of the advantages that the Greek city-states had developed. He build cities all around the then known world in strategic locations, many of which continue to prosper. He allowed the conquered nations to continue their existences without forcing a religion upon them. And above all he did all this with minimal resources, always involving himself in all the aspects of his military, economic and cultural campaign. He brought forth an age of contact between nations that ignored each others existence and is rightfully remembered as Alexander the Great. If that is not a sign of greatness, I do not know what is.

He conquered all Greece, then Egypt, Persia, India… that makes a huge empire with so much victories during a so hard period of the History. Desire of territories was his main objective as an explorer and he will stay in the History by Alexander the great who makes Macedonia has one of the most extensive territories of all time.

None other in this list have realy had the same long time effect og his rule, making sure that greek culture became so dominant and making sure Rome herited it. Also he’s seen as a great figure not only in the “western” world, but in the middle east and India as well, and few have had as brilliant military careers as he have.

Because of introducing the psychology of the God/Man King, and using it to his advantage in warfare and conquest, while at the same time inspiring the world with advances in the sciences and mathematics.

No other man in history has conquered so vast an area with so little an Army I will be the first to point out that the classical Macedonians were Greek through and through, and only the snobbery of the Southern Greek states -who viewed anyone who didn’t both speak Greek, and organize themselves in city states as various shades of barbaric- but at the end of it, even if more or less controlled by Macedonia b the time of Alexander, it was the Macedonian army and some mercenary ‘auxiliaries’ that toppled what had been the greatest empire the world had ever seen, spread Greek culture to the Indus (where it would influence Indian culture, and have faint reverberations even in China and Japan- usually seen as culturally impregnable entities, even they felt the result of Alexanders mighty thrust East.)

As a single man, none have accomplished a greater feat the only man who might offer a challenge in terms of pure military conquest, Ghengis Khan falls flat on his face when one considers the cultural effect as a legacy of conquest, and between the two, i think its fairly certain that through modern eyes, it is far more easy to see Alexander, the Philosopher-King as perhaps the greatest ruler our little species has so far produced- had he lived longer, what else might he have done to make his legend yet greater then it already was?

Took over most of Europe and much of Asia and Africa. Was loved by his people. Ahead of his era and forward thinking in the fields of art, religion, architecture, city planning, and many other cultural and technological fields.

A military genius and a man that was wise enough to know when to consult others in areas where he did not know himself.

The battles he won, the enemies he defeated and the subjects he gained. In a few short years he forever became the benchmark for being called great.

Just with the sheer scale of the empire that Alexander created at an early time, he has to be the greatest

Surely its Alexander, he lived in times before Jesus yet they still teach his tactics at military academies today
Ian

Alexander III of Macedon , commonly known as Alexander the Great. Alexander the Great’s accomplishments and legacy have been preserved and depicted in many ways. Alexander has figured in works of both high and popular culture from his own era to the modern day. Titles: King of Macedon, Hegemon of the Hellenic League, Shahanshah of Persia, Pharaoh of Egypt and Lord of Asia
Alexander

For the age in which they lived they were by far the most advanced technological and militarial civilization in the world using many inventions and techniques that still hold sway today. All of this held under a system that in equal measures was democratic but extremely ruthless.
Gary

The man brought down the greatest empire the world had seen, seemingly without difficulty and within a matter of just a couple of years, conquered most of the known world while fighting far from home, never lost a battle, led from the front, was tutored by Aristotle and maintained his passion for philosophy throughout his life, spread Greek culture across the globe … you get the idea. Oh, and he did all of this before the age of 33. Perhaps the clincher, however, is this: Julius Caesar weeped when he considered Alexander’s accomplishments.
Darryl

Tremendous lasting impact in both military and cultural spheres – his tactics are still studied 2300 years later.
Jennifer

All would be rulers of the world were in awe of Alexander. His story, based largely on legends of his persona, is everything a military leader wished to be in life (handsome, bold, fearless, an artist and a dashing warrior).

In reality Alexander more than an experienced leader was an extremely lucky and able heir to the throne. Alexander is today revered and set apart from other leaders because of eurocentrism that still remains to this day.
Rodrigo

Alexander the Great was one of the greatest conquerors and tactical minds of all time, as evidenced by his large empire acquired with relatively small resources. He was inspiring and charismatic, his men would (and did) follow him anywhere. Beyond the conqueror, however, he took Hellenistic culture to an entirely different level instead of the ideas of liberty, equality, philosophy, drama, and scientific categorization and study remaining in Greece and slowly spreading by basic trade and other modicums of idea osmosis, he spread it like wildfire across Asia Minor and the Middle East all the way to the Indian subcontinent. Very similar to Napoleon, except that Napoleon spread Nationalism, efficient bureaucracy, and a renewed vigor for republics. Both are great, but Alexander has to win in my book.
Maxwell

His stunning and rapid record speaks for itself, brilliant commander and fearless.
Alex

Conquered most of the known world, ruled Afghanistan, created one of the largest empires in history, all before he was 33. If he hadn’t dropped dead, he might have conquered the world.
Julian

He fought in the head of his army. His conditions were the same as of his soldiers his starting point was terrible small state with a huge an seemingly undefeatable enemy
Ronen

Out of the choices given I believe Alexander is the greatest leader. I thought of such greats as Bismarck, Washington, Napoleon, and Augustus, however Alexander was able to be a very successful military leader and politician. The others were either great commanders or political leaders, not both.

With Alexander he was able to conquer lands with military tactics across the then-known world. The other candidates weren’t able to spread their military campaigns as far as he did as well as “liberate” territories such as Egypt.

On the battlefield, Alexander, like Napoleon, gave the soldiers a dramatic surge in morale. However, unlike Napoleon, Alexander also understood the different religions, cultures, and economies of the territories he captured. Granted, like Napoleon they may have both been aggressive military leaders, but Alexander was able to gain a lot of respect worldwide by not just conquering but keeping a lot of the conquered areas in-tact.

Because Alexander was able to conquer a lot of territory of the then-known world, allowing to keep their customs, inspiring his soldiers, and acknowledging economics impact by establishing Alexandria, I believe this shows that Alexander was a great military commander and political leader. Which is what makes him the greatest leader out of the choices.
Jaron

He commanded an elite army inherited from his father, but even so, it takes some talent to crush the greatest empire in the world. Furthermore, he managed to keep his Macedonians from bickering and plotting too much against each other – not bad when leading a people among whom political assassinations was practically a standard procedure and every ascension on the throne was followed by the killing of all those opposed and all rival claimants.
Öjevind

An innovative general, Alexander led a superbly trained army, against many foes and throughout the known ancient world. Yet his force was small compared to those he fought, (Persians, Indians) and he never lost a battle. When he died at 33, he had conquered the entire known world, and we will never know if he was a capable governor because he died so young before he could truly rule his empire, yet as a military leader he is certainly without equal
Ben

He’s responsible for spreading Hellenic culture all the way to India shaping the Classical Age single handedly. Julius Ceaser is noted to have cried at the sight of a statue of Alexander because he could never be a great a leader as Alexander. Also, a simple statement of military tactics that is attributed to Alexander “Hammer and Anvil”.
Brett

He liberated more than conquered, and fought in the wars he waged.
Mike

Alexander III of Macedon (Alexander the Great) is the single greatest leader in all of history because he lead one of the grandest armies in the world and established one of the largest armies of antiquity. Dozens of the cities which he established still exist today, and the culture he spread and assimilated is very evident in the lands in which his empire existed. Truly, Alexander’s exploits have stood the test of time, and likely will remain standing until some other great leader buries them under blood and bone.
Will

Uncomparably vast feats in significantly short space of time that will forever be remembered and compared.
Richard

Did the unimaginable by conquering the most powerful empire of its time, then pushing his army east into the unknown, spreading Hellenism and his name throughout theland. Alexander was a brilliant on-the-fly tactician, integrating units from disparate lands and cultures while also utilizing the terrain and his opponents tendencies to his advantage.

He created one of the largest empires in a short time
George

He was a fearless warrior and took part of front line battles. Therefore, unlike many other leaders, he inspired his people better than a “regular” king of sorts would have done. He was also a tactical and stratetical mastermind. His exploits speak for themselves.
Christopher

He rose from a small kingdom to conquer the known world – and his reputation was so fearsome that decades after his death people still refused to revolt out of fear that he might really still be alive and come back to punish them.
It’s a real shame that Ghengis Khan is not on the list, though.
David

A huge empire in his lifetime with some splendid military victories.
Chris

He helped unify most of the ancient world. And he was a certified military genius. Some of the combat accomplishments were quite amazing.
Jonathan

Alexander was so young when he conquered the then-world that it puts all these other old fogeys to shame – a true child prodigy. He was a kind and fair ruler to his citizens, which held together despite the vast mix of cultures. It was only after he died that his empire crumbled, signalling that it was really him that was the key piece that held the empire together. He also defeated Darius III, another leader in this poll, something that doesn’t apply to any of the other leaders I think. Go Alexander the Great!

He dared
Philippe

Alex won every battle he fought. I believe no one else did that. Ceaser, Augustus, Gendis Khan all lost battles at one time.
Stephen

Alexander the Great never lost a battle ever in his entire military campaign all the way to India. Had he not died he could have made the Grecian Empire as great or greater than the Roman Empire that was formed years later.
Ryan

Alexander took the unity forged by his father in the Agean and with it conquered the colossus of Persia in 10 years and enabled Greek thought and language to permiate the entire near east and through the conquests of the Romans, extend throughout Western Europe, influencing all of modern history.
John

He was the greatest and brightsest leader. He didn’t only conquered all the known world (for the greeks until that time) but he also focused on unifying them.
He also used a lot of scientist during his quest including doctors engineers and many more. All together united under the commands of Alexander made the greatest empire the world has ever known in such a sort time (if we take into account the huge distances and the difficulty of transportation during that period) and by one ruler..
Dimitris

Smart cunning and ruthless he was the greatest because he thought for himself and knew what he wanted how he would get it
Trevor

Run close by Napoleon, by to achieve so much in such a short period of time is something that is very hard to match, especially as the whole logistical side of what he did would have been far harder than Napoleon, plus he never lost.
Kevin

He was the first real icon for unity amongst all people, he had his flaws though but his idea & vision is something that would inspire many, and what he achieved being so young in short span of time was amazing aswell. Also one of his quotes or something that he showed. Nothing is Impossible,everything is possible, you just have to have the willpower to do it.
Mohammed

To me, a leader is one who provides a strong example of how followers should live and believe, not necessarily how they must. I think Alexander fits this bill very well.

Not only did he utilize the military advances his father developed to defeat the most imposing army and empire of the time, often leading assaults himself (much to the worry of his officers and troops), but he then tried to join the cultures of Greece and Persia into a greater whole. To advance this idea, he even married a woman of that eastern empire and encouraged his followers to do so as well.

When he led his soldiers to the Indus River and they decided that they would go no further, he let them have their way. Unfortunately, many woes befell them during their return to Babylon, and later, Alexander failed to consolidate his dream for a combined east-west empire, but his conquests did help Greek culture thrive and survive through the middle ages, the crusades and on to inspire the Renaissance.
Jonathon

Alexander was the greatest military strategist of all time. He redefined warfare for ages to come and his death brought a civil war fought between the Seleucids and Ptolemaics that would last until Roman conquest hundreds of years later. Alexander was able to destroy a Persian army that massively outnumbered his and still have enough men to march through Persia and conquer the empire. Alexander may not have had the best of everything, but he made it work
Darren

He conquered most of the known world at the time with ease, all before he died young. He was known mainly for his military skills.
Matthew

It may be true that without his father, Phillipous the second of Macedonia, Alexander the Great would not have been that great. However the reported historical fact depict him as an intelligent and charismatic personality, understanding complexities that go beyond simple strategy and tactics. He used the conquered lands, sent back to Europe a great variety of plants and animals that did not existed and bringing them a lot of the advantages that the Greek city-states had developed. He build cities all around the then known world in strategic locations, many of which continue to prosper. He allowed the conquered nations to continue their existences without forcing a religion upon them. And above all he did all this with minimal resources, always involving himself in all the aspects of his military, economic and cultural campaign. He brought forth an age of contact between nations that ignored each others existence and is rightfully remembered as Alexander the Great. If that is not a sign of greatness, I do not know what is.
Anastase

He conquered all Greece, then Egypt, Persia, India… that makes a huge empire with so much victories during a so hard period of the History. Desire of territories was his main objective as an explorer and he will stay in the History by Alexander the great who makes Macedonia has one of the most extensive territories of all time.
Nicolas

None other in this list have realy had the same long time effect og his rule, making sure that greek culture became so dominant and making sure Rome herited it. Also he’s seen as a great figure not only in the “western” world, but in the middle east and India as well, and few have had as brilliant military careers as he have.
Jimmy

Because of introducing the psychology of the God/Man King, and using it to his advantage in warfare and conquest, while at the same time inspiring the world with advances in the sciences and mathematics.
Steve

No other man in history has conquered so vast an area with so little an Army I will be the first to point out that the classical Macedonians were Greek through and through, and only the snobbery of the Southern Greek states -who viewed anyone who didn’t both speak Greek, and organize themselves in city states as various shades of barbaric- but at the end of it, even if more or less controlled by Macedonia b the time of Alexander, it was the Macedonian army and some mercenary ‘auxiliaries’ that toppled what had been the greatest empire the world had ever seen, spread Greek culture to the Indus (where it would influence Indian culture, and have faint reverberations even in China and Japan- usually seen as culturally impregnable entities, even they felt the result of Alexanders mighty thrust East.)

As a single man, none have accomplished a greater feat the only man who might offer a challenge in terms of pure military conquest, Ghengis Khan falls flat on his face when one considers the cultural effect as a legacy of conquest, and between the two, i think its fairly certain that through modern eyes, it is far more easy to see Alexander, the Philosopher-King as perhaps the greatest ruler our little species has so far produced- had he lived longer, what else might he have done to make his legend yet greater then it already was?
Harrison

Took over most of Europe and much of Asia and Africa. Was loved by his people. Ahead of his era and forward thinking in the fields of art, religion, architecture, city planning, and many other cultural and technological fields.

A military genius and a man that was wise enough to know when to consult others in areas where he did not know himself.
Chris

The battles he won, the enemies he defeated and the subjects he gained. In a few short years he forever became the benchmark for being called great.

Just with the sheer scale of the empire that Alexander created at an early time, he has to be the greatest


Mystery of Alexander the Great's death solved? Ruler was 'killed by toxic wine' claim scientists

Alexander the Great may have been killed by toxic wine made from a poisonous but harmless-looking plant, scientists have claimed.

The mystery of why the Greek King of Macedon, ruler of the largest empire in the ancient world, died at just 32 has baffled historians and scientists for over 2000 years.

Some argue that he passed due to natural causes while others believe he was secretly murdered using poison at a celebratory banquet.

His death in 323BCE came at the palace of Nebuchadnezzar II in Babylon after he developed a fever and soon became unable to speak and walk. He was ill for 12 days.

Dr Leo Schep, a toxicologist from New Zealand’s National Poisons Centre says it is impossible that poisons such as arsenic were to blame - as cited in some theories - as death would have come too fast.

Instead, in his new research, Dr Schep argues that the most likely culprit was Veratrum album, a poisonous plant from the lily family also known as white or false hellebore.

Often fermented by the Greeks as a herbal treatment for inducing vomiting, importantly, it could account for the 12 days it took for the leader to die.

It would also match an account of Alexander the Great’s death written by ancient Greek historian Diodorus, who said he was struck with pain after drinking a large bowl of unmixed wine in honour of Hercules.

“Veratrum poisoning is heralded by the sudden onset of epigastric and substernal pain, which may also be accompanied by nausea and vomiting, followed by bradycardia and hypotension with severe muscular weakness. Alexander suffered similar features for the duration of his illness,” the research, printed in the medical journal Clinical Toxicology says.

Dr Schep has been working on the mystery for over 10 years after he was approached by a team for a BBC documentary in 2003.

“They asked me to look into it for them and I said, 'Oh yeah, I'll give it a go, I like a challenge' - thinking I wasn't going to find anything. And to my utter surprise, and their surprise, we found something that could fit the bill,” he told The New Zealand Herald.

Dr Shep does however caution that despite his theory, the actual cause of death cannot be proven: “We'll never know really,” he says.


Delayed Decomposition

In particular, she claims, none have provided an all-encompassing answer which gives a plausible and feasible explanation for a fact recorded by one source - Alexander's body failed to show any signs of decomposition for six days after his death.

"The Ancient Greeks thought that this proved that Alexander was a god this article is the first to provide a real-world answer," Dr. Hall says.

Along with the reported delay in decay, the 32-year-old was said to have developed a fever abdominal pain a progressive, symmetrical, ascending paralysis and remained compos mentis until just before his death.

Alexander the Great refuses to take water. (Vissarion / Public Domain )

Dr. Hall believes a diagnosis of GBS, contracted from a Campylobacter pylori infection (common at the time and a frequent cause for GBS), stands the test of scholarly rigor, from both classical and medical perspectives.

Most arguments around Alexander's cause of death focus on his fever and abdominal pain. However, Dr. Hall says the description of him remaining of sound mind receives barely any attention. She believes he contracted an acute motor axonal neuropathy variant of GBS which produced paralysis but without confusion or unconsciousness.


Founded Alexandria Became Poster Child for Librarians

Besides razing cities, Alexander also founded about 20 new ones, naming most of them after himself. The most enduring of these is Alexandria on the coast of the Nile delta. In a superb natural harbor where the Persians had once erected a fortress, Alexander had his architects build a grand city along Greek lines.

Alexandria later developed into a cosmopolitan port, with schools, theater, and one of the greatest libraries of antiquity. Greeks ran the city's administration, but Egyptians were allowed to keep their customs and religion -- though they could only become citizens if they learned Greek and accepted Greek traditions.


Which of these inspirational Alexander the Great quotes motivates you the most?

The legacy of Alexander the Great lives on through his incredible quotes and speeches. Read these words of wisdom whenever you seek encouragement, advice, or motivation.

As a leader and commander, Alexander III understood the sacrifices that must be made for success. If you want to achieve your goals, you have to work hard and believe in your true potential. Victory is the ultimate reward for those who put in the effort. These Alexander the Great quotes prove that anything is possible for people who never give up.

You limit your potential every time you doubt your abilities or self worth. These quotes serve as a helpful reminder to always pursue your ambitions. Share these motivational sayings with someone who could use a boost of inspiration.

What are your favorite Alexander the Great quotes and sayings about conquest, ambitions, and power? Let us know in the comment section below.

Everyday Power ► Alexander the Great Quotes to Inspire You to Do the Impossible


Watch the video: June 13, Alexander the Great died. (August 2022).