Today on June 10, 323 BC, Alexander the Great suddenly died under mysterious conditions while staying at a royal palace in Babylon.
By the young age of only 32, Alexander the Great had already achieved more than any other man in history. He set a precedent that many other generals would one day aspire to replicate. His ingenuity and glory on the battlefield served to inspire military leaders for thousands of years to come. Over a decade, Alexander the Great managed to conquer most of the known world. His new empire stretched from the Balkans to faraway lands in present-day Pakistan.
The young Alexander was suddenly thrust upon the Macedonian throne following the assassination of his father, King Philip II — who had been brutally murdered by his own bodyguards. Alexander immediately began preparations to fulfill his father's dream of one day conquering the Achaemenid Empire, also known as the First Persian Empire. In 334 BC, he set out from Macedonia at the head of a massive invasion force. Using innovative battlefield tactics, Alexander the Great dealt countless decisive blows to his enemies. Some of his most famous impressive victories took place at the Battle of Granicus River, the Battle of Issus, and the Battle of Gaugamela.
"I am not afraid of an army of lions led by sheep; I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion." — Alexander The Great
After accomplishing more than anyone could have imagined, Alexander's life came to an abrupt end. At the young age of only 32, he died at the Palace of Nebuchadnezzar II in Babylon. Ancient sources note that his body didn't show signs of decomposition for a full six days after his death. Such rumors only served to confirm what everyone had already thought — Alexander the Great was no ordinary man, but a god.
While many accounts of his death were written, two remain as the most credible and widely held. The first account, written by Plutarch — a prominent Greek philosopher, biographer, and essayist — notes that Alexander the Great had been entertaining Admiral Nearchus and Medius of Larissa fourteen days before his death. The men had spent a full two days heavily drinking before the king developed a sudden fever. His condition worsened until he could no longer even speak. According to Plutarch, common soldiers were granted a final farewell to their beloved general as they silently filed past him.
The second account came from Diodorus of Sicily — a Greek historian born over two centuries later — wrote that Alexander was suddenly inflicted with severe pain after drinking a large bowl of wine in honor of Heracles. Eleven days of agony followed, but according to Diodorus, the young king never developed a fever. On the 12th day, Alexander the Great finally succumbed to his illness and died. Arrian, another prominent Greek historian, also supported the account written by Diodorus.
During this period, assassinations were common among the Macedonian aristocracy, and several other accounts have inferred foul play was at hand. Some theories propose that Alexander the Great had been poisoned. But Plutarch simply dismissed any notion of poisoning as pure fabrication. Perhaps the most compelling argument against the poison theory was the fact that it took twelve days for Alexander to die from the onset of his illness. Such delayed and drawn out poisons were not widely known, nor available, in ancient times.
"Bury my body and don't build any monument. Keep my hands out so the people know the one who won the world had nothing in hand when he died."
— Alexander The Great
Death by natural causes is much more likely to have taken the life of Alexander the Great. While impossible to confirm, diseases such as malaria, typhoid fever, or meningitis have been listed as potential culprits. Those in favor of natural-cause theories emphasize that the conqueror's health had long been deteriorating. After years of endless campaigning, the young king fell victim to heavy drinking and had been afflicted with several battle wounds. By the time of his death, the king was undoubtedly in a more fragile condition and powerless to fight off any disease. While many have been dubbed "the Great" in history, none are more deserving than Alexander the Great.