Alexandria's founded by Alexander

Alexandria's founded by Alexander the Great (by year BC): 334 Alexandria in Troia (Turkey) - 333 Alexandria at Issus/Alexandrette (Iskenderun, Turkey) - 332 Alexandria of Caria/by the Latmos (Alinda, Turkey) - 331 Alexandria Mygdoniae - 331 Alexandria (Egypt) - 330 Alexandria in Areia (Herat, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria of the Prophthasia/in Dragiana/Phrada (Farah, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Arachosia (Kandahar, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Caucasus (Begram, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria of the Paropanisades (Ghazni, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria Eschate or Ultima (Khodjend, Tajikistan) - 329 Alexandria on the Oxus (Ai-Khanoum OR Termez, Afghanistan) - 328 Alexandria in Margiana (Merv, Turkmenistan) - 326 Alexandria Nicaea (on the Hydaspes, India) - 326 Alexandria Bucephala (on the Hydaspes, India) - 325 Alexandria Sogdia - 325 Alexandria Rambacia (Bela, Pakistan) - 325 Alexandria Oreitide - 325 Alexandria in Opiene (confluence of Indus & Acesines, India) - 325 Alexandria on the Indus - 325 Alexandria Xylinepolis (Patala, India) - 325 Alexandria in Carminia (Gulashkird, Iran) - 324 Alexandria-on-the-Tigris/Antiochia-in-Susiana/Charax (Spasinou Charax on the Tigris, Iraq) - ?Alexandria of Carmahle? (Kahnu)

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Quest for the Tomb of Alexander the Great by Andrew Chugg

The Quest for the Tomb of Alexander the Great (ISBN 0955679001) is not a sequel to Chugg’s 2004 “The Lost Tomb of Alexander the Great”, it is more a 2007 update, meaning that there is no need to be aware of what he wrote previously to dig into this captivating story to find out how much ground he covered over the past three years!

Personally, I like Chugg’s analytical approach of this whole quest. He checks and quotes all the authors from antiquity, the Islamic world, the Middle-Ages down to the most recent books and research, working through them like a police investigator. 

His book includes, for instance a very clear table of Alexander’s illness in Babylon based on what can be found in ancient literature; a list of all his inflicted wounds; the various sources stating Alexander’s wish to be buried in Egypt; detailed maps of the Serapeum in Memphis and the available tomb of Pharaoh Nectanebo II where he probably was laid to rest pending the construction of the Soma in Alexandria; maps of Alexandria at different epochs, including a very detailed one drawn by Mahmoud Bey in 1865, etc. 

Chugg has researched the most probable date for the transfer of Alexander’s body to Alexandria, the location of the tomb and its shape - probably inspired by the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus. He then runs down the list of those eminent persons who have visited Alexander’s Tomb till it vanished towards the end of the 4th century AD. 

An elaborate search then leads the reader to the time where the worship of Alexander as the Founder of Alexandria curiously overlaps that of St Mark, the Founder of the Alexandrian Church shortly after 391 AD. This is a very interesting theory and a very plausible one as well for the disappearance of Alexander’s corpse strangely coincides with the first appearance of St Mark’s tomb at that time. In 828 AD, the corpse of St Mark was abducted by the Venetians, who built a special church to host it. The increasing wealth of Venice, enabled the Republic in 1063 to fund the construction of the more elaborate Basilica of San Marco, the very spot where we still find it today. San Marco was placed in a tomb in the crypt of the Basilica on 8th October 1094, where he rested peacefully until the beginning of the 19th century. It is here that the story is really picking up!

Because of the repeated flooding, the Venetian tomb became at risk in its downstairs crypt and was moved in 1811 to the high altar on the main floor where it is still visible today. This transfer was witnessed by a certain Leonardo Conte Manin stating having seen a head with teeth and the skeleton of a man, while it is generally believed that St Mark’s body was cremated by the pagans of Alexandria in the 1st century AD. I’m quoting the most striking element of Chugg’s investigation but there are many more facts and discrepancies that lead to question if these remains are indeed those of St Mark or if they could belong to Alexander the Great, swapped somewhere back in the obscure days of the 4th century? 

Chugg has contacted the Church in order to obtain a closer look of the remains at San Marco’s Basilica, and to request an independent research by experts and laboratories. Even a simple visual examination could give enough clues to assert whether or not this body could be Alexander’s, simply based on the wounds he received over the years. But the Church does not allow any access to the corpse or any form of examination whatsoever – of course, I would say.

And then there is an additional clue or incentive to investigate the matter further and that is the huge slab that was uncovered when the corpse was moved from the crypt to the present location. This stone, measuring 140x120x30 cm, clearly shows a Macedonian shield of 70cm in diameter, i.e. life-size. Beside the typical relief of the 8-pointed starburst shield, the slab shows a Macedonian sword, the kopis, and a pair of greaves, exactly like what was found in King Philip’s grave in Vergina and in other Macedonian tombs from the 2nd century AD. Intriguing, isn't it? Without further research or explanation, the slab has been moved to the nearby Cloister of St Apollonia in Venice and in spite of Chugg’s insistence, there is no way to obtain an independent thorough examination of the stone! One would think that nobody wants to know!

As to Alexander’s magnificent tomb in Alexandria, all the excavations during the past centuries have been in vain. Chugg’s conclusion however is that the digs were carried out at all the wrong places. According to his theory, the easiest way would be to locate the temenos of the Soma since the most likely location would be near the medieval walls close to the intersection with Street R3 on Mahmoud Bey’s map. What are the experts, archeologists, historians, critics, even money-makers waiting for?

Also available in ebook (ASIN: B0085NSY2A) You can all stay updated on the latest news by visiting the authors website at

Monday, August 23, 2010

Alexander the Great or not?

Some time ago, I saw that Christie’s offered a Hellenistic terracotta statue for sale representing Alexander the Great or one of his successors. Unfortunately, the link is no longer available for this story was quite interesting. This approximately 60 cm high statue has been dated to the late 4th-early 3rd century B.C. and might have served as a model for a large-scale bronze.

What I found so special about this statue, is that it was dressed in the short Greek chlamys but also wore a loin cloth or “Persian Girdle” underneath. I have never seen anything like this before, or maybe I never paid attention but … a Persian Girdle? A few days later, as I was watching the movie “Alexander” for the 100th time or so, it stroke me that Alexander and his companions wore a similar girdle when arriving in Babylon and exploring the Royal Palace! Alexander’s girdle was a golden one and the others wore red. I was absolutely flabbergasted. I thought I knew the movie by heart but this detail had eluded me all this time. Where had Oliver Stone found the very reference or idea? I went through “The Making of Alexander” with all the advice given by Robin Lane Fox but couldn’t find any information. Anyone out there with some good idea? Please let me know.

Now coming back to the terracotta statue at Christie’s, some lucky collector bought it for several thousands of dollars. Some people have all the luck, it seems for Christie's doesn't even allow the very picture of this statue to be published. Sorry folks!

It goes without saying that Christie’s did a good job analyzing the statue. Alexander or whoever it may be stands in the classical pose resting on his left leg and with a stretched left arm that might have held a lance. It is rather detailed with the chlamys draped over his shoulders and pinned down on the right shoulder, exposing the right side of his torso and the famous girdle. He wears comfortable short ankle boots. His head is slightly turned to the right, the curly hair with the characteristic anastole held in place with a headband. All in all, a lean and muscular figure that creates enough confusion to debate whether or not this is Alexander the Great.

Personally, I find there is something wrong with the proportions, but it may be that the ultimate statue had to fit in some niche or was meant to be put up high above eye level. Looking him straight in the face I could recognize some features that would fit Alexander, but not when seen in profile. But then I wonder who among his generals would wear a Persian girdle underneath his chlamys. The only one I could think of is Seleucos… who else?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Funeral Games by Mary Renault

Funeral Games (ISBN 0-375-71419-7) is the third novel Mary Renault wrote, after Fire from Heaven and The Persian Boy – the first about Alexander’s boyhood and the second about his Asian conquests till this untimely death in 323 B.C.

As is generally the case in any trilogy, this book is the least appealing not only because the hero Alexander is no longer the red thread running through the pages but mainly because it is not adding anything to the person of Alexander. What he left to posterity, right after his dead was only a void that nobody knew how to fill. Alexander’s legacy in the long term is huge. It is the kind of ripple mark effect that has not yet come to a standstill. We owe Hellenism to him and we owe our entire Western culture to Hellenism, and thus to Alexander.

The story starts right after Alexander’s death in Babylon and the disbelief and bickering of his generals. Nobody knows what to do; each general pretends to know best but is utterly incapable of taking full charge. In the end, they agree to give the kingship to Alexander’s simple minded half-brother Arrhidaeus, pending the outcome of Roxane’s pregnancy, not knowing whether it will be a boy. But even when the boy is born and is given appropriately the name of Alexander IV, the leadership of Alexander’s empire continues to fall apart.

Leading figure in the events of the Wars of the Diadochi around the succession is played in Mary’s novel by Eurydice who was betrothed to Arrhidaeus who took the title of King Philip III. Eurydice was the daughter of Amyntas, son of King Perdiccas III, the elder brother of Philip II, Alexander’s father. Since Amyntas was only an infant when Perdiccas died, the throne went to Philip, Perdiccas’ younger brother. If the person of Eurydice really existed as painted by Mary is a possibility, not a historic fact. It makes good reading though and navigates us through the complots and envy that ruled the forty years after Alexander’s death.

I find this a sad story, not only because Alexander is no longer in the picture but because of the intrigues between the great men that surrounded him and the disintegration of all what he stood for. In her comments, Mary makes the remark that Macedonia returned to the feudal way of life from before King Philip’s time, i.e. the only way it knew how to survive. I think she pointed to the sore spot there. It took the world eons to recover and Macedonia, in my eyes, sadly never recovered.

Anyway, one should read this book to make the story complete, but I find it much less than Mary’s two previous novels, which are absolutely superb.

Also available as e-Book.