Structures > Tomb of Alexander the Great

Tomb of Alexander the Great


Now did the saffron morn her beams display,Gilding the face of universal day.When mourning Priam to the town returned,Slowly his chariot moved, as that had mourned.The mules beneath the mangled body go,As bearing now unusual weight of woe.—The IliadAlexander the Great’s funerary chariot, pulled by 64 mules (321 B.C.):alexander the great's funeral processionThe comments of Diodorus Siculus (Library of History, xviii, 27) on the mules in the funeral procession of Alexander the Great (321 B.C.)"At about this time the funeral obsequies of Alexander were performed. Aridaeus having been chosen by all the governors and grandees of the kingdom to take charge of that solemnity, had spent two years preparing everything that could possibly render it the most pompous and splendid funeral that had ever been seen. When all things were ready, orders were given for the procession to begin. It was preceded by a great number of road builders whose job it was to make all the ways passable through which the procession was to pass. As soon as these were leveled and prepared, the magnificent chariot — which was as much admired for its design as for the immense riches that glittered all over it — set out from Babylon. The body of the chariot rested on four golden wheels made in the Persian style, their rims plated with iron. The hubs were of gold, and represented the faces of lions biting a arrow. The chariot had four poles, to each of which were harnessed four sets of mules, each set made up of four animals, so that it was drawn by sixty-four in all. Only the strongest and largest had been chosen. They were adorned with crowns of gold and collars adorned with precious gems and golden bells.""It was Ptolemy Philadelphus who [c. 280 BC] brought down from Memphis [to Alexandria] the corpse of Alexander." Pausanias, 2nd century AD"Ptolemy Philopator built [in 215 BC] in the middle of the city of Alexandria a memorial building, which is now called the Sema, and he laid there all his forefathers together with his mother, and also Alexander the Macedonian."Zenobius, 2nd century AD"About this time [30 BC] Octavian had the sarcophagus and body of Alexander the Great brought forth from its inner sanctum, and, after gazing on it, showed his respect by placing upon it a golden crown and strewing it with flowers; and being then asked whether he wished to see the tomb of the Ptolemies as well, he replied, 'My wish was to see a king, not corpses.'"Suetonius, 2nd century AD"Octavian next viewed the body of Alexander, and even touched it in such a fashion that, so it is said, a piece of the nose was broken off. Yet he went not to see the corpses of the Ptolemies, despite the keen desire of the Alexandrians to show them to him, retorting, 'I wished to see a king not dead people.'"Dio Cassius, 3rd century AD"[In Alexandria] Ptolemy prepared a sacred precinct worthy of the glory of Alexander in size and construction; entombing him in this and honouring him with sacrifices such as are paid to demigods and with magnificent games."Diodorus, eyewitness c. 50 BC "The Soma also, as it is called, is a part of the royal district. This was the walled enclosure, which contained the burial-places of the kings and that of Alexander."Strabo, eyewitness c. 25 BC"Caligula frequently [c. AD 40] wore the dress of a triumphing general, even before his campaign, and sometimes the breast-plate of Alexander the Great, which he had taken from his sarcophagus."Suetonius, 2nd century AD[AD 200]: "Severus inquired into everything, including things that were very carefully hidden; for he was the kind of person to leave nothing, either human or divine, uninvestigated. Accordingly, he took away from practically all the sanctuaries all the books that he could find containing any secret lore, and he sealed up the tomb of Alexander; this was in order that no one in future should either view his body or read what was mentioned in the aforesaid books."Dio Cassius, 3rd century AD"As soon as Caracalla entered the city [in AD 215] with his whole army he went up to the temple, where he made a large number of sacrifices and laid quantities of incense on the altars. Then he went to the tomb of Alexander where he took off and laid upon the grave the purple cloak he was wearing and the rings of precious stones and his belts and anything else of value he was carrying."Herodian, 3rd century AD"After he had inspected the body of Alexander of Macedon, Caracalla ordered that he himself should be called 'Great' and 'Alexander', for he was led on by the lies of his flatterers to the point where, adopting the ferocious brow and neck tilted towards the left shoulder that he had noted in Alexander's countenance, he persuaded himself that his features were truly very similar."Anonymous, 4th century AD"After a voyage lasting three days we arrived at Alexandria. I entered by the Sun Gate, as it is called, and was instantly struck by the splendid beauty of the city, which filled my eyes with delight. From the Sun Gate to the Moon Gate – these are the guardian divinities of the entrances – led a straight double row of columns, about the middle of which lies the open part of the town, and in it so many streets that walking in them you would fancy yourself abroad while still at home. Going a few stades further [1 stade = 165m], I came to the place called after Alexander, where I saw a second town; the splendour of this was cut into squares, for there was a row of columns intersected by another as long at right angles."Achilles Tatius, circa 3rd century AD"Who could be the friend of such as these? When they behave like this for money's sake, would they keep their hands off temple offerings or tombs? If they were travelling with some companion who had a gold piece, would they not kill him and rob him of it, if they had the chance. And this evil, King, is universal, whether you mention Paltus or Alexandria where the corpse of Alexander is displayed, whether Balaneae or our own city of Antioch. They may differ in size, but the same ailment afflicts them all."Libanius, c. AD 390"For, tell me, where is the tomb of Alexander? Show it me and tell me the day on which he died... his tomb even his own people know not."John Chrysostom, c. AD 400 location of Alexander the Great's tomb is an enduring mystery. Shortly after Alexander's death in Babylon the possession of his body became a subject of negotiations between Perdiccas, Ptolemy I Soter, and Seleucus I Nicator. According to Nicholas J. Saunders, while Babylon was the "obvious site" for Alexander's resting place, some favored to inter Alexander in the Argead burial at Aegae, modern Vergina. Aegae was one of the two originally proposed resting places, according to Saunders, the other being Siwa Oasis and in 321 BC Perdiccas presumably chose Aegae. The body, however, was hijacked en route by Ptolemy I Soter. According to Pausanias and the contemporary Parian Chronicle records for the years 321–320 BC, Ptolemy initially buried Alexander in Memphis. In the late 4th or early 3rd century BC Alexander's body was transferred from Memphis to Alexandria, where it was reburied.The so-called Alexander Sarcophagus, unrelated to Alexander's body and once thought to be the sarcophagus of Abdalonymus, is now believed to be that of Mazacus, a Persian governor of Babylon.Contents [hide]1Background2Historical attestations3Present location4Notes5References6See also7External linksBackgroundFurther information: Death of Alexander the GreatAccording to Quintus Curtius Rufus and Justin, Alexander asked shortly before his death to be interred in the temple of Zeus Ammon at Siwah Oasis. Alexander, who requested to be referred to and perceived as the son of Zeus Ammon, did not wish to be buried alongside his actual father at Aegae. Alexander's body was placed in a coffin of "hammered gold", according to Diodorus, which was "fitted to the body". The coffin is also mentioned by Strabo and Curtius Rufus (subsequently, in 89–90 BC the golden coffin was melted down and replaced with that of glass or crystal).Alexander's wish to be interred in Siwa was not honored. 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 interred in Memphis, the center of Alexander's government in Egypt. While Ptolemy was in possession of Alexander's body, Perdiccas and Eumenes had Alexander's armor, diadem and royal scepter.According to Plutarch, who visited Alexandria, Python of Catana and Seleucus were sent to a serapeum to ask the oracle whether Alexander's body should be sent to Alexandria and the oracle answered positively. In the late 4th or early 3rd century BC Alexander's body was transferred from the Memphis tomb to Alexandria for reburial (by Ptolemy Philadelphus in c. 280 BC, according to Pausanias). Later Ptolemy Philopator placed Alexander's body in Alexandria's communal mausoleum. The mausoleum was called the Soma or Sema, which means "body" in Greek. By 274 BC Alexander was already entombed in Alexandria.Historical attestationsIn 48 BC Alexander's tomb was visited by Caesar. To finance her war against Octavian Cleopatra took gold from the tomb. Shortly after the death of Cleopatra, Alexander's resting place was visited by Octavian, who is 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 199 AD 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.When John Chrysostom visited Alexandria in 400 AD, he asked to see Alexander’s tomb and remarked, "his tomb even his own people know not". Later authors, such as Ibn 'Abd al-Hakam (b. 803 AD), Al-Masudi (b. 896 AD) and Leo the African (b. 1494), report having seen Alexander's tomb. Leo the African, who visited Alexandria as a young man, wrote: "In the midst of the ruins of Alexandria, there still remains a small edifice, built like a chapel, worthy of notice on account of a remarkable tomb held in high honor by the Mahometans; in which sepulchre, they assert, is preserved the body of Alexander the Great... An immense crowd of strangers come thither, even from distant countries, for the sake of worshipping and doing homage to the tomb, on which they likewise frequently bestow considerable donations". George Sandys, who visited Alexandria in 1611, was reportedly shown a sepulchre there, venerated as the resting place of Alexander.Present location1893 map of Alexandria2015 map of Alexandria. Possible site of Alexander the Great tomb is # 7The Egyptian Supreme Council for Antiquities has officially recognized over 140 search attempts for Alexander's tomb. Mahmoud el-Falaki (1815-1885), who compiled the map of ancient Alexandria, believed Alexander's tomb is in the center of Alexandria, at the intersection of the Via Canopica (modern Horreya Avenue) and the ancient street labeled R5. Since then several other scholars such as Tasos Neroutsos, Heinrich Kiepert and Ernst von Sieglin placed the tomb in the same area. In 1850 Ambroise Schilizzi announced the discovery of alleged Alexander's mummy and tomb inside the Nabi Daniel Mosque in Alexandria. Later, in 1879 a stone worker accidentally broke through the vaulted chamber inside the basement of that mosque. Some granite monuments with an angular summit were discerned there, but the entrance was then walled up and the stone worker was asked not to disclose the incident (the image on a Roman lamp in the National Museum of Poznań and others at the British Museum and the Hermitage Museum are interpreted by some scholars as showing Alexandria with the Soma Mausoleum pictured as a building with a pyramidal roof). In 1888 Heinrich Schliemann attempted to locate Alexander's tomb within the Nabi Daniel Mosque, but he was denied permission to excavate.In 1995 Greek archaeologist Liana Souvaltzi announced she identified one alleged tomb in Siwah with that of Alexander. The claim was put in doubt by the then-general secretary of the Greek Ministry of Culture, George Thomas, who said that it was unclear if the excavated structure is even a tomb. Thomas and members of his team said that the style of the excavated object was not, as Souvaltzi contended, Macedonian, and that the fragments of tablets they were shown did not support any of the translations provided by Souvaltzi as proof of her finding.According to one legend, the body lies in a crypt beneath an early Christian church.The 2014 discovery of a large Alexander-era tomb at Kasta Tomb in Amphipolis in the region of Macedonia, Greece, has once again invited speculation about Alexander's final resting place. Some have speculated that it was built for Alexander but never used due to Ptolemy I Soter having seized the funeral cortege. They suggest that the Roman Emperor Caracalla, a great admirer of Alexander, may have had him re-interred in Amphipolis in the late second century AD. However, only future excavation at Amphipolis will reveal if there is any truth in the suggestion. In November 2014, a skeleton was discovered within the tomb, and its full examination is expected to last a few months in order to determine the characteristics of the deceased person in the effort to identify it.In a 2011 episode of the National Geographic Channel television series Mystery Files, historian Andrew Chugg suggests that Alexander the Great's body was stolen from Alexandria, Egypt, by Venetian merchants who believed it to be that of Saint Mark the Evangelist. They smuggled the remains to Venice, where they were then venerated as Saint Mark the Evangelist in the Basilica Cattedrale Patriarcale di San Marco.NotesJump up ^ Saunders 2007, p. 34Jump up ^ Saunders 2007, p. 35Jump up ^ Saunders 2007, p. 38Jump up ^ Alexander the Great at War: His Army - His Battles - His Enemies. Osprey Publishing. 2008. p. 123. ISBN 1846033284.^ Jump up to: a b Lauren O'Connor (2008). "The Remains of Alexander the Great: The God, The King, The Symbol". Constructing the Past. Retrieved 1 November 2013.^ Jump up to: a b Chugg 2007, p. 43^ Jump up to: a b c d Saunders 2007, p. xJump up ^ Saunders 2007, p. 41^ Jump up to: a b "Ancient sources". Hellenic Electronic Center Portal. Retrieved 1 November 2013.^ Jump up to: a b c d e Robert S. Bianchi. "Hunting Alexander's Tomb". Retrieved Aug 21, 2011.Jump up ^ Saunders 2007, p. 53^ Jump up to: a b "Alexander the Great, King of Macedon". Archaeology. July 16, 2013. Retrieved August 12, 2016.Jump up ^ Madden 1851, p. 138Jump up ^ Madden 1851, p. 137^ Jump up to: a b "Where is Alexander Buried?". Hellenic Electronic Center. Retrieved 1 November 2013.^ Jump up to: a b Saunders 2007, p. xiiJump up ^ Chugg 2007, p. 149^ Jump up to: a b "No evidence seen of Alexander's tomb, Greeks say". The Baltimore Sun. February 6, 1995. Retrieved 1 November 2013.Jump up ^ "Alexander's death riddle is 'solved'". BBC. June 11, 1998. Retrieved Aug 21, 2011.Jump up ^ Giorgos Christides (22 September 2014). "Greeks captivated by Alexander-era tomb at Amphipolis". BBC. Retrieved 2 April 2015.Jump up ^ Greek Government - Ministry of Culture and Sports - 12th November 2014 Press Release (in Greek)Jump up ^ "Mystery Files – The Disappearance of Alexander's Tomb". Metacafe.Jump up ^ "Mystery Files: Alexander the Great, Wednesday, June 29". The Sydney Morning Herald.Jump up ^ "About Mystery Files Show – National Geographic Channel – UK". National Geographic Channel – Videos, TV Shows & Photos – UK.ReferencesSaunders, Nicholas (2007). Alexander's Tomb: The Two-Thousand Year Obsession to Find the Lost Conqueror. Basic Books. ISBN 0465006213.Chugg, Andrew (2007). The Quest for the Tomb of Alexander the Great. ISBN 0955679001.Madden, Richard (1851). The Shrines and Sepulchres of the Old and New World. Newby.See alsoTomb of Genghis Khan - also unknownExternal


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