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Alexander The Great
Human Mummy
Istanbul - Museo archeol. - Alessandro Magno (firmata Menas) - sec. III a.C. - da Magnesia - Foto G. Dall'Orto 28-5-2006 b-n
Biographical Information
Name(s) Alexander The Great
Age 32
Sex Male
Status Conqueror
Height Unknown
Source
Culture Ancient Greece
Date(s) 356 BC - 323 BC
Site Alexandria
Current Location
Location Unknown
Catalog #
Alexander III of Macedon, known as Alexander the Great (21 July 356 BCE – 10 or 11 June 323 BCE), was the son of King Philip II of Macedon. He became king upon his father’s death in 336 BCE and went on to conquer most of the known world of his day. He is known as 'the great' both for his military genius and his diplomatic skills in handling the various populaces of the regions he conquered. He is further recognized for spreading Greek culture, language, and thought from Greece throughout Asia Minor, Egypt, and Mesopotamia to India and thus initiating the era of the "Hellenistic World".

Mummification

Sometime between the evening of June 10 and June 11 of the year 323 BC, the greatest general of the ancient world, Alexander the Great died. The cause of his death is still up for debate. It could have been malaria, it could have been typhoid fever, popular legend hints that it could have been poison. Whatever the cause, in keeping with his greatness, Alexander was mummified and placed inside a gold sarcophagus.

The whereabouts of Alexander's tomb and mummy is unknown, and so is the method used to mummify him.

E. A. Wallis Budge suggests that Alexander's body was preserved in a vat of honey while according to Plutarch, Alexander was mummified in the Egyptian manner just like the native pharaohs of Egypt.

Alexander's wish to be buried in Siwa Oasis was not honored, almost immediately after his death, Alexander's generals began squabbling over which one of them was going to succeed him, at first it was decided that his mummy was going to be sent back to Macedonia. He never got there, In 321 BC, on its way back to Macedonia, the funerary cart with Alexander's body was hijacked in Syria by one of Alexander's generals, Ptolemy I Soter. In late 322 or early 321 BC Ptolemy diverted the body to Egypt where it was probably interred in Memphis, the center of Alexander's government in Egypt.

In the late 4th or early 3rd century BC Alexander's body was likely transferred from the Memphis tomb to Alexandria for reburial by Ptolemy II Philadelphus. Later Ptolemy IV Philopator placed Alexander's body in Alexandria's communal mausoleum. The mausoleum was called the Soma or Sema, which means "body" in Greek.

Images (14)

An artist's depiction of Augustus looking at Alexander's mummy

Many people, locals, tourists, and even royals and Roman emperors visited Alexander's tomb to pay their respects and to see his mummy. In 48 BC Alexander's tomb was visited by Julius Caesar. Cleopatra took gold from the tomb. Shortly after the death of Cleopatra, Alexander's resting place was visited by Octavian (Augustus), who was said to have placed flowers on the tomb and a golden diadem upon Alexander's head. According to Suetonius, Alexander's tomb was then partially looted by Caligula, who reportedly removed his breastplate. In AD 199 Alexander's tomb was sealed up by Septimius Severus during his visit to Alexandria. Later, in 215 some items from Alexander's tomb were relocated by Caracalla. According to chronicler John of Antioch, Caracalla removed Alexander's tunic, his ring, his belt with some other precious items and deposited them on the coffin.
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