Alexander the Great - ALEXANDER'S DEATH

ALEXANDER'S DEATH (Illustration) Archeological Wonders Biographies Famous People Film Geography Philosophy Social Studies World History Ancient Places and/or Civilizations

A Babylonian Astronomical Diary, written in cuneiform script, is the only contemporary account which discusses the death of Alexander the Great.  This image, by Shaunnol, depicts that tablet which is now maintained at the British Museum.  It is from the year 323-322 BC, and the reference to Alexander simply refers to him as “The King.” Alexander had been warned, by a Babylonian astronomer, not to enter Babylon.


In 323, Alexander wanted to take his army to Babylon. There were so many omens against it, however, that Alexander wondered whether he had fallen out of favor with his gods.

Despite the warnings and concerns, he followed his own desire and arrived in Babylon during the late spring.

Not long after, Alexander developed a fever which lasted ten days. While some scholars think he had been poisoned, that seems unlikely given the length of his illness.

On the 7th of June, many of his men filed past his bedside although he was no longer coherent. With Alexander as their leader, these Macedonians had:

  • Marched more than 22,000 miles
  • Overthrown the Persian empire
  • Conquered approximately 2 million miles of territory
  • Established new towns throughout the journey
  • Never lost a battle except with the desert

On June 11th, he was gone. Squabbling over his replacement, and who should control his remains, erupted immediately.

Ptolemy, Alexander's great friend and general who ultimately became Pharaoh of Egypt, had the prince of Macedonia embalmed in the Egyptian manner and his men brought him to Alexandria. There he was enshrined in a sarcophagus.

Hundreds of years later, Caesar Augustus wanted to gaze upon Alexander's body. The historian Suetonius, in his Life of Augustus, tells the story:

When Alexander's sarcophagus was brought from its shrine, Augustus gazed at the body, then laid a crown of gold on its glass case and scattered some flowers to pay his respects. When they asked if he would like to see Ptolemy too, "I wished to see a king," he replied, "I did not wish to see corpses."   (The Lives of the Twelve Caesars, "Life of Augustus," 18.1.)

No conqueror, before or since, has ever achieved as much. Because he failed to name a successor, however, his empire soon fell apart.

Alexander believed the honor should go to the man most worthy. No one, apparently, fit that description. No one came close:

As a conqueror he came less to change than to inherit and restore; but as a man he inspired and demanded what few leaders since have dared to consider possible. (Robin Lane Fox, Alexander the Great, page 59.)

Alexander proved what has been known ever since: The magnetic force and sheer drive of one's personality is sometimes enough to change the world.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5183stories and lessons created

Original Release: Oct 01, 2004

Updated Last Revision: Apr 23, 2019

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"ALEXANDER'S DEATH" AwesomeStories.com. Oct 01, 2004. Nov 20, 2019.
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