From Macedonia to Egypt and from Greece to part of India, this warrior has remained undefeatable, but his final conquest has eluded even him. Learn how did Alexander the Great die, and what happened after him.
The life and conquests of Alexander the Great have always captivated historians and enthusiasts alike. His extraordinary military prowess and unmatched ambition led him to build one of the most expansive empires in history. However, his untimely death has remained an enigmatic mystery for centuries, shrouded in myths and speculations.
Here, we set out on an exciting journey to learn the truth about how this legendary figure met his end, delving into the known facts of history as well as the fascinating myths that have grown up around his demise. Let us look through the lens of history and find out how did Alexander the Great die and left many mysteries behind.
Alexander the great: A born leader
Alexander III of Macedon, more commonly known as Alexander the Great, was born in Pella, the ancient capital of Macedonia, in 356 BCE. He was the son of King Philip II and Queen Olympias, both of whom played significant roles in shaping his character and ambition.
From a tender age, Alexander exhibited remarkable intelligence and inquisitiveness. His father, King Philip, recognized his potential and enlisted the renowned philosopher, Aristotle, to serve as his personal tutor. Under Aristotle’s guidance, Alexander received a comprehensive education in various subjects, including philosophy, politics, science, and literature. This early exposure to knowledge would form the bedrock of his intellectual acumen and pave the way for his future achievements.
Destined for greatness – the prophecies
Beyond his exceptional upbringing, Alexander’s destiny was further reinforced by prophecies and omens that foretold his greatness. Legend has it that the Oracle of Delphi proclaimed him to be invincible, anointed by the gods themselves. This divine blessing instilled in Alexander an unshakable belief in his divine right to rule and conquer.
Moreover, his mother, Queen Olympias, fervently believed in the divinity of her son. She claimed that he was the offspring of the god Zeus, further solidifying his sense of destiny and entitlement to greatness. Olympias, a fierce and influential woman, instilled in Alexander a deep appreciation for Macedonian culture and a fervent desire to fulfill his divine purpose.
The mentorship of Philip ii
As Alexander approached adulthood, his father, King Philip II, entrusted him with significant responsibilities within the Macedonian court and army. Alexander became a prominent military commander at a remarkably young age, leading troops to victories in various skirmishes and battles.
King Philip, himself a brilliant military strategist, imparted invaluable lessons in leadership, governance, and statecraft to his son. Under his father’s mentorship, Alexander honed his military acumen, learning the art of war and strategy that would later propel him to conquer vast territories.
The influence of homeric epics
Another key factor that influenced Alexander’s character and ambitions was his deep admiration for the Homeric epics, particularly the Iliad. The epic tale of heroism and conquest inspired Alexander, and he saw himself as a modern-day Achilles, destined for immortal glory through heroic feats and conquests.
Inspired by the deeds of mythical heroes, Alexander’s dreams of greatness reached new heights, and he became determined to carve his name into history through his own extraordinary accomplishments.
How did Alexander the Great die?
The death of Alexander the Great is a topic that has intrigued historians for centuries. The primary cause of his demise is believed to have been a sudden and severe fever, which incapacitated him in the midst of his triumphant military campaigns. However, the specific nature of the illness has been a subject of debate.
According to historical accounts, in June 323 BC, Alexander fell violently ill after a lavish banquet in Babylon. His condition quickly deteriorated, and he experienced agonizing symptoms, including a high fever, chills, and excruciating abdominal pain.
The precise details of Alexander the Great’s death have been elusive, leading to countless theories and speculations. According to historical accounts, in June 323 BC, Alexander fell violently ill after a lavish banquet in Babylon. His condition quickly deteriorated, and he experienced agonizing symptoms, including a high fever, chills, and excruciating abdominal pain.
Theories on the cause of Alexander the Great’s death:
Despite numerous attempts by historians to unravel the cause of Alexander’s death, no consensus has been reached. The most widely debated theories include:
Some believe that Alexander succumbed to malaria, a prevalent and deadly disease in the regions he had conquered. Malaria’s intermittent fever and debilitating symptoms align with the description of his final illness.
Another theory posits that he died from typhoid fever, a highly contagious bacterial infection transmitted through contaminated food and water. This theory gained traction due to the abrupt onset of his symptoms after the banquet.
West nile virus:
It is also proposed that Alexander might have contracted the West Nile virus, which was known to be present in the Nile Delta during that time. The virus can cause severe neurological symptoms and, in some cases, be fatal.
The poisoning conspiracy
A gripping and oft-discussed theory suggests that Alexander was the victim of poisoning by political rivals or even a trusted confidant. Historians have cited historical sources that mention plots against the ruler, fueling speculation that his death might have been a carefully orchestrated assassination. However, concrete evidence to support this theory has yet to be uncovered.
The curse of the pharaohs
Intrigue and mystery further surround Alexander’s death with the notion of the “Curse of the Pharaohs.” Some legends suggest that disturbing ancient tombs or artifacts could trigger a curse, bringing misfortune or death to the violator. This concept, though lacking empirical evidence, has continued to captivate the imaginations of history enthusiasts and adds an alluring layer of mystique to the enigma of Alexander’s death.
What happened when Alexander the Great died?
As Alexander’s health deteriorated, news of his illness spread throughout his vast empire, causing widespread distress among his troops and subjects. His soldiers, who had followed him with unwavering loyalty, were devastated by the prospect of losing their fearless leader.
In his final days, Alexander the Great reportedly summoned his generals and close confidants to discuss the issue of succession. However, the absence of a clear heir or designated successor sowed the seeds of internal strife. The great conqueror, facing the abyss of mortality, could not name a definitive successor and instead uttered cryptic words that would have profound consequences in the aftermath of his passing.
The enigmatic final words of Alexander the great
One of the most enduring mysteries surrounding Alexander the Great’s death lies in the ambiguous response he gave when asked about his successor. According to some historical accounts, when questioned about who should inherit his vast empire, he replied, “To the strongest.” This cryptic statement unleashed a wave of speculation and power struggles among his generals, each interpreting the words to support their own claims to the throne.
The wars of the Diadochi
With no clear successor, Alexander’s generals, known as the Diadochi, embarked on a fierce struggle for power. The empire he had forged through his military genius swiftly disintegrated into smaller kingdoms, each vying for control over different territories. The Wars of the Diadochi, a period of intense conflict and political intrigue, reshaped the geopolitical landscape of the Hellenistic world.
The Diadochi, including notable figures such as Seleucus, Ptolemy, Antigonus, and others, waged war against each other for decades, leading to a long-lasting era of instability. This turbulent period witnessed shifting alliances, betrayals, and countless battles, ultimately culminating in the emergence of new power centers and the decline of Alexander’s once-unified empire.
Who defeated Alexander the Great?
Contrary to popular belief, there is no record of Alexander the Great ever suffering a defeat on the battlefield. His military genius and strategic prowess were unparalleled, leading him to conquer vast territories and establish one of the most extensive empires in ancient times. It is crucial to note that Alexander’s demise was not a result of military defeat but rather an enigmatic illness that cut short his remarkable conquests.
Throughout his relentless campaigns, Alexander faced formidable adversaries and overcame numerous challenges. He defeated the mighty Persian Empire, led by Darius III, in a series of decisive battles, including the Battle of Issus and the Battle of Gaugamela. These victories established Alexander as a formidable force, and his prowess as a military commander was respected throughout the known world.
In his pursuit of military glory, Alexander ventured into the vast and treacherous lands of India. There, he encountered the tenacious Indian king, Porus, whose forces fiercely defended their homeland. The Battle of the Hydaspes was one of Alexander’s most challenging encounters, with Porus displaying remarkable resilience and tactical acumen. Although Alexander emerged victorious, he greatly admired Porus’s bravery and leadership, leading him to treat the defeated Indian king with respect and honor.
What led to the fall of Alexander the Great’s empire?
The fall of Alexander the Great’s empire can be attributed to a combination of factors, each playing a significant role in destabilizing the once-vast domain. Here are the six factors that contributed to the fall of the great Alexandrian Empire.
The lack of a clear successor
One of the most critical factors that led to the fall of Alexander’s empire was his failure to designate a clear and capable successor. With no direct heir or definitive plan for succession, a power vacuum emerged upon his untimely death, leaving his generals and allies vying for control over the vast territories he had conquered. This lack of a strong central authority paved the way for political strife and internal conflicts that hastened the empire’s disintegration.
The wars of the diadochi
After Alexander’s death in 323 BCE, his loyal generals, known as the Diadochi, embarked on a relentless struggle for supremacy. The Wars of the Diadochi plunged the Hellenistic world into a prolonged period of turmoil and instability as each general sought to carve out his own realm from the vast empire Alexander had left behind. This tumultuous era of power struggles and military campaigns further weakened the cohesion of the empire and ultimately led to its division into smaller kingdoms.
Alexander’s empire spanned vast regions, from Macedonia and Greece to Egypt, Persia, and beyond. Maintaining control over such a diverse and expansive domain posed significant challenges. The conquered territories were culturally distinct, and the diverse populations often resisted foreign rule. The burden of administering these distant lands stretched the empire’s resources thin, making it increasingly difficult to maintain a unified front.
Because of his insatiable desire for territory, Alexander the Great engaged in lengthy and exhausting military campaigns. The continuous warfare and long periods of campaigning placed immense strain on both the soldiers and their leader. As the conquests expanded further eastward into the vast Persian and Indian territories, the troops grew weary, and morale began to decline. The exhaustion and weariness of the army, coupled with the lack of tangible rewards, weakened the once-invincible force that had conquered the known world.
Cultural and religious clashes
Alexander’s empire was an amalgamation of different cultures and religions, resulting in clashes between Hellenistic culture and the diverse belief systems of the conquered territories. While Alexander attempted to foster cultural exchange through his policy of “fusion,” tensions between Greeks and locals persisted. The religious practices of the conquered regions often conflicted with Hellenistic beliefs, leading to resistance and discontent among the local populations.
The logistics of governance
The vastness of Alexander’s empire posed considerable challenges in terms of governance and communication. The lack of efficient communication and transportation made it challenging for the central authority to enforce its rule over far-flung territories effectively. This logistical difficulty hindered the empire’s ability to respond swiftly to internal challenges or external threats.
12 Lesser known facts about Alexander the great
Alexander the Great was born in 356 BCE in Pella, the ancient capital of Macedonia. His father, King Philip II of Macedonia, and his mother, Queen Olympia, were influential figures, yet Alexander’s birth was met with skepticism as rumors of his divine parentage circulated.
Alexander’s education under the tutelage of the great philosopher Aristotle had a profound impact on his character and ambitions. Aristotle instilled in him a love for literature, science, and philosophy, shaping the young prince into a well-rounded and enlightened leader.
Bucephalus, the loyal companion:
One of the most endearing stories from Alexander’s life revolves around his wild stallion, Bucephalus. Alexander tamed the untamed horse, forging an unbreakable bond that lasted until Bucephalus’s death. This faithful steed accompanied him on numerous conquests, becoming a symbol of loyalty and courage.
Inspired by Achilles:
Alexander held a deep admiration for the heroic tales of Achilles, the legendary Greek warrior from Homer’s Iliad. In many ways, Alexander aspired to emulate the hero’s bravery and sought to conquer as Achilles had on the battlefield.
After defeating the Persian Empire, Alexander set his sights on Egypt, where he was welcomed as a liberator and hailed as the son of the Egyptian deity Amun-Ra. The city of Alexandria, founded by Alexander, became a significant cultural and trade hub, connecting the East and West.
Throughout his conquests, Alexander founded over twenty cities, many of which he named after himself or his trusted companions. These cities, known as Alexandria, played a crucial role in spreading Greek culture, language, and ideas across the vast empire.
Although Alexander married several times, he held a deep affection for Roxana, a Persian princess whom he met during his campaigns in Asia. Their love story endured despite cultural and political differences, showcasing the depth of Alexander’s emotions.
The Gedrosian Desert Expedition:
In one of his boldest military campaigns, Alexander led his troops through the treacherous Gedrosian Desert, facing extreme heat, thirst, and a scarcity of supplies. This daring expedition demonstrated his audacity and unwavering determination.
During his lifetime, Alexander allowed the construction of temples in his honor, and some of his subjects regarded him as a god or a divine figure. This “deification” was an unprecedented practice that elevated him to near-mythical status in the eyes of his followers.
The mystery of his tomb:
Despite numerous efforts to locate his final resting place, the tomb of Alexander the Great remains undiscovered to this day. Legends and theories abound regarding its whereabouts, making the quest for his burial site one of history’s most captivating unsolved mysteries.
Alexander employed daring military tactics, such as the famous “Alexander’s Knot,” which showcased his brilliance as a commander and strategist.
The life and death of Alexander the Great continue to be captivating topics that spark curiosity and fascination. While the exact circumstances of his demise remain shrouded in mystery, the impact of his conquests and legacy on history is undeniable. From his early tutelage under Aristotle to the founding of numerous cities and from his enigmatic final words to the enduring myths surrounding his death, Alexander’s story is an enthralling mix of historical facts and intriguing legends.
As we delve into the life of this extraordinary figure, we come to appreciate the complexities of his character and the enduring influence he has had on the world. His story reminds us that even in death, legends continue to live on, and the allure of Alexander the Great’s life and demise will forever captivate the imagination of generations to come.