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 Ariana (Herat, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria of the Prophthasia/in Dragiana/Phrada (Farah, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Arachosia (Kandahar, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in the Caucasus (Begram, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria of the Paropanisades (Ghazni, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria Eschate or Ultima (Khodjend, Tajikistan) - 329 Alexandria on the Oxus (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 Oreitide - 325 Alexandria in Opiene / Alexandria on the Indus (confluence of Indus & Acesines, India) - 325 Alexandria Rambacia (Bela, Pakistan) - 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, December 21, 2015

Alexander’s Tomb by Nicholas J. Saunders

I don’t remember why exactly I purchased Nicholas J. Saunders’ book “Alexander’s Tomb, the Two Thousand Year Obsession to Find the Lost Conqueror” (ISBN 978-0465072033). As far as I am concerned, everything has been said by Andrew Chugg (see: The Lost Tomb of Alexander the Great and The Quest for the Tomb of Alexander the Great) and to my knowledge no new elements that definitely would have made headlines, have surfaced.

It probably was the name of the author that caught my attention more than my search for any new development about the tomb of Alexander the Great, and I was not disappointed. Facts are facts and it does not matter by which author they are expressed, and Nicholas Saunders has projected the known facts about Alexander’s tomb against the political situation in Egypt and the rest of world over the past two thousand years in which people have been venerating the person of Alexander and his achievements.

His tomb remains enigmatic and although it has been mentioned repeatedly in ancient history, nobody seems to have taken the trouble to describe the tomb or its exact location. It seems it was so obvious that it didn’t need to be recorded.

Ptolemy, once one of Alexander’s generals and later founder of the Ptolemaic Dynasty in Egypt, treated Alexander’s remains with due reverence, and so did his son, Ptolemy II Philadelphus who deified his father as Soter (savior god) and established a religious festival in his honor known as the Ptolemaia. By glorifying the Ptolemies he emphasized their connection with Alexander, whose memory was still very much alive in the ancient world, especially in Alexandria, the city he founded.

For the first time, I’m reading this description of the Ptolemaia, apparently reported by Callixeinus of Rhodes, which throws a unique light upon the flagrantly expensive celebrations held every four years. When Queen Cleopatra, the last of the Ptolemies died the Roman emperors were more than happy to follow suite and to continue the Alexander cult till the early Christian leaders felt threatened fearing that Alexander would be more popular than Jesus. Then the Arabs conquered Alexandria and built their own mosques, maybe above or near Alexander’s tomb.

But after that, Alexander and his tomb slowly sank back in time, although his name and great exploits remained forever etched in people’s memory. In the 18th century Napoleon and his entourage tried in vain to retrace the burial site, followed in the 19th century by the famous Heinrich Schliemann and several Greek and Italian archaeologists. And in 1995 the Greek Liana Souvaltzi made headlines by declaring that Alexander’s tomb had been located at Siwah; the building she was referring to was, however, an already excavated Ptolemaic temple. So, we are back to square one as far as Alexander’s Tomb is concerned.

The only “trail” we have till now is Andrew Chugg’s suggestion that Alexander may lie in the Basilica of San Marco in Venice, Italy. In the end, Nicholas Saunders is nowhere closer to finding Alexander’s tomb and his remains, but the background information makes his book interesting reading.

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