The Death of Alexander the Great

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Alexander III of Macedon was one of the most brilliant rulers in ancient history, with a fierce temper and carefree spirit, which earned him the title Alexander the Great. Suddenly, at the age of thirty-two, the young king mysteriously died. Medical professionals had closed the case of Alexander’s death as alcohol poisoning or malaria, ignoring the suspicion behind his untimely death. With many years of research, historians and medical professionals discovered possible errors in the description of his death which opened the door for theories and analyses behind the true demise of the king. Many have suspected that Alexander the Great died from alcohol poisoning, historians have openly speculated about the possibility of a conspiratorial murder.

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Alexander the Great’s death had been speculated as a tragic accident, but the symptoms that led up to his passing may have revealed premeditated murder. He first fell ill at a banquet in May of 323 BC and collapsed in pain at the dinner table. According to historical sources he suffered from symptoms such as delirium, intense pain, fevers, speech difficulty, intense thirst, and seizures. One of the main symptoms of alcohol poisoning was projectile vomiting causing the victims to either die from severe dehydration or by choking to death on their own vomit. “Even though Plutarch does say…not once does he or any of the other historical sources mention vomiting or even nausea as one of Alexander’s symptoms.” Amazingly, Alexander’s death has often been ruled as alcohol poisoning when he never even inhibited the most crucial symptoms of the illness.

Another well-liked theory was that Alexander the Great died from malaria or typhoid. Malaria was mostly spread by mosquitos, which resided in humid locations. According to records Alexander only traveled to a humid location in India almost a year prior, which made it unlikely that he would have contracted the disease that long after. Death by malaria often occurred by the rupturing of the spleen, but Alexander would not have started recovering for a few days if his spleen had given out. Although he showed possible signs of typhoid fever, like the fact that his body showed no symptoms of decomposition up to a week after his death, it was usually not a singular incident. “As such, there would almost certainly have been an epidemic of the disease when Alexander fell sick.” Typhoid was usually spread by contaminated water or food, but no one else was reported sick but him. Also one of the main symptoms of typhoid was bowel discomfort and excessive diarrhea which was a symptom that he had not been reported to have.

Records had shown that Alexander the Great felt adequate enough a couple of days after the banquet to resume his normal activities but suddenly resumed the mysterious illness a few days later. A historical account written by Plutarch stated, “He bathed and removed into his chamber, and spent his time in playing dice with Medius. In the evening he bathed and sacrificed, and ate freely.” He almost seemed to be recovering completely from his sickness, possibly suggesting that if he had been poisoned, the lethal amount had not been given. Soon after he had slowly appeared to recover, he suddenly resumed the same signs of illness that he had a couple of days prior. The fact that he had seemed to be recovering, then inhibited the same symptoms all over again may have been due to the possibility that he was not poisoned correctly the first time and may have been poisoned a second time.

29 April 2022

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