ALEXANDER'S BURIAL
AND THE ADVENTURE OF HIS REMAINS

 


Alexander the Great with Macedonian helmet with lambrequin.

It is well known that Alexander the Great died in Babylon in 323 b.C.. According to Herodotus, Strabo and Stobaeus the dead were n ot mummified nor cremated there, but buried enveloped in honey or wax. The same must have happened to the body of Alexander the Great (Will Durant, Th.Birth). Initially it was to be buried in Macedonia, but in 321 b.C. it was violently taken from Damascus to Egypt by Ptolemy I (Pausanias, Arrian, Aelianus). According to the most reliable sources it was buried in the sacred city of Memphis "in observance of the Macedonian custom that wanted the dead to be cremated".(Pausanias, Parion Chronicle, Curtius Rufus)

The view that the body was transferred directly to Alexandria where it was buried (Diodorus Siculus) cannot be supported as it was technically unfeasible for the magnificent mausoleum to be prepared for his burial. There are also other reasons.

Queen Roxanne and their infant child "arrived in Macedonia in the same year and were murdered by Cassander in Amphipolis in 311 b.C. Their remains were scattered" (Diodorus Siculus, Strabo, Justin). Amphipolis was relatively close to Vergina and it was easy for the remains to be carried to the royal tombs.

The first cremation of Alexander's body, which took place in Memphis, is also verified by - among other things - the fact that according to Professor of Anthropology A.Bartsiokas, most of the bones of the male skeleton of Tomb II "were dry when cremated, after the flesh had been decomposed by burial". This means that in Vergina we, probably, have the reburial of the same king.

 


Iron helmet from the tomb II different from Macedonian helmet.

Another important anthropological finding is the fact that according to Professor of Anthropology N.Xirotiris, "this skeleton was nearly complete; even very small fragments had been collected". Also "the remaining bone fragments had been sorted according to size and length and had been arranged anatomically correctly, when they were embedded in the larnax ". "The remaining bone fragments had been sorted according to size and length, and had been arranged anatomically correctly, when they were imbedded in the larnax. In the top layer the fragments of the scull were found. In the middle layers the small bones of the postcranial skeleton and in the lowest layer the long bones of the extremities had been thoroughly layed out diagonally". "It is obvious that the bones must have been carefully cleaned and any ashes removed". (Archaiologike Ephimeris 1981)
On the contrary, according to Pr. Xirotiris, the female bones in the antechamber of the same tomb in comparison to the remains in the main chamber "were scantier and had been soiled with ashes. No bones could be completely reconstructed".

In my view, the logical explanation for this is that these remains were transported and buried in Vergina from two different places, as in the case of Alexander the Great and his wife Queen Roxanne. Roxanne's bones, as mentioned above, "had been scattered", so, naturally, could not have all been collected.

According to the evidence drawn, all personal mementoes of Alexander the Great and Roxanne as well as the field marshal's arms followed at the time of Antigonus Gonatas, after 274 b.C.; they were placed next to the royal family in the Vergina tombs, where they were found. Translation of relics of kings who had died in a foreign land to their homeland was a sacred tradition for ancient Greeks. It would have been impossible for the bones of Alexander the Great to be an exception to this rule.

As one can also conclude, ancient Macedonians "after two unsuccessful attempts, in 321 b.C.", did, finally, manage - as all evidence presented in my book confirms - to remove Alexander's relics from Memphis (Diodorus Siculus, Aelinius). This, in my view, happened before they were transported two years later by Ptolemy I or even later by Ptolemy II to Alexadria (Pausanias) and replaced with other relics or an effigy of Alexander's that may have been seen later by Roman emperors.

We use the word effigy (mummy), because, as mentioned above, Alexander's body was not mummified but cremated; therefore, the mummy they saw could not possibly have been a real mummy of the king.

Egypt had been well known ever since antiquity as a country where they manufactured incredible effigies (Diodorus Siculus). One can form a view on the issue from the book by Egyptian archaeologist Abbas Chalaby, which includes extraordinary effigies of Egyptian kings and princes, as well as from Egyptian museums.

The discovery in 1887of the so-called "Alexander's Sarcophagus" in Sidon, Lebanon, perhaps is not an irrelevant finding in view of the adventure of his relics. No ancient text, of course, has been found that mentions the reinterment of Alexander the Great's relics from Egypt to Aeges (Vergina). However, Arrian, Plutarch, Strabo and other historians mention that ancient Greek writers had written about "the death and burial of Alexander the Great", but all these writings had been lost, just like Strabo's 7th book about Macedonia.

To "TOMB II AND HUNTING SCENE"To "THE HUNTING SCENE MURAL"

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