Alexander’s Death

Another day, another tantalising prospect. Five months after the Daily Mail ran a story that asked if Alexander the Great’s tomb had been found (Most unlikely; you can read what I wrote about it here) various newspapers have run articles raising the possibility that the cause of Alexander’s death has been discovered. Here is the Independent‘s take on the matter.
In short, after ten years study, Dr Leo Schep, a toxicologist at New Zealand’s National Poisons Centre, has come to the conclusion that the Macedonian king was ‘most likely’ poisoned with ‘white or false hellebore’ in his wine. The Independent notes that the symptoms of hellebore poisoning match those given by Diodorus in his account of Alexander’s last illness.
It is very telling, however, that the Independent’s report concludes,

Dr Shep (sic) does however caution that despite his theory, the actual cause of death cannot be proven: “We’ll never know really,” he says.

I take from this that Alexander’s symptoms after Medius’ party also apply to other fatal illnesses. If so, the search for the truth regarding how Alexander died surely lies away from consideration of the medical evidence. I’m not going to suggest where it is, however, as I have no idea.
On a general level, the pro-assassination argument that makes most sense to me is the one that says a disaffected officer – like Iollas or Cassander – poisoned Alexander on behalf of their father, Antipater, to stop him from being executed on his arrival in Babylon.
Against that idea, though, and apart from the fact that I think it came from Olympias who had an interest in besmirching the Antipatrid name, I find it really hard to believe that Antipater and his sons – if they were the murderers – were allowed to survive the aftermath of Alexander’s death and that no one apart from the biased Olympias ever blamed them for it. Surely if the Antipatrids were known to have done the deed one of their enemies would have seen fit to broadcast this later on?
I’ve had other thoughts about Alexander’s death which I have written down and deleted. I shall let them go for now as they really need more thought and study – more than I am willing to give the issue at this time. To be honest, I regard the manner of his death as a lot less interesting than most other parts of his life.

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