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Was Alexander the Great Poisoned?

Alexander the Great died at age 32.
Alexander the Great died at age 32.

Alexander the Great died mysteriously at age 32. Alexander lived a hard life and fought many battles. Unlike modern commanders, Alexander fought alongside his troops and experienced the same depravations as his men. He also celebrated as hard as his men. After one such celebration, he grew increasingly ill and died two days later. Some believe Alexander was poisoned. However, medical treatments of the time may be the real culprit. Alexander’s doctors used poisonous plants believing they held medicinal value. As a result, Alexander the Great most likely died from treatment as opposed to assassination.

Alexander and his men partied at the Palace of Nebuchadnezzar. Apparently, the Macedonian king went on a two-day bender in Babylon. After the revelry and debauchery, he grew ill. Alexander developed a fever and eventually could not speak. He died after two days in agony.

Assassination often claimed the lives of ancient monarchs. Alexander’s own father died at the hands of an assassin. Naturally, rumors spread about foul play. However, there is no evidence for this. Additionally, Alexander did not choose a successor, so no one stood to gain from his death. This does not discount the possibility of a more personal motive, but the evidence is lacking.

While there is little evidence for foul play, there is some anecdotal evidence for disease. Alexander lived a hard life involving physical combat and heavy drinking. His immune system must have been compromised. Additionally, he exposed himself to a variety of foreign and exotic climates opening himself to a variety of ailments. Various historians have blamed his death on malaria, typhoid, West Nile Virus, and a variety of other illnesses. It’s entirely possible that he died of one of these maladies or at least contracted one or more these diseases. Whether he was poisoned or suffering from an illness, Alexander needed medical attention following his physical collapse.

Ancient doctors used hellebore for medicine. Alexander’s doctors used this poisonous plant hoping to cure their king. Large doses kill. As Alexander condition worsened, the doctors increased the dosage out of desperation. They may have feared execution or worse if the conqueror died. As a result, the doctors unintentionally accelerated Alexander’s pain and weakened him further eventually leading to death.

Alexander the Great conquered the known world before returning to Babylon to meet his fate. After a couple of days of hard drinking, he grew ill. His doctors treated him with hellebore. Since his condition deteriorated, they increased the dosage to toxic levels eventually killing Alexander. History’s greatest conqueror died in his bed at the hands of his unwitting doctors. 


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