Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Vanished Tomb

Copyright © Egypt, Cradle of Civilization

"Horus, the strong ruler, he who seizes the lands of the foreigners, beloved of Amun and the chosen one of Ra - meryamun setepenra Aleksandros".

Alexander the Great's image was replicated all over Egypt in both monumental statuary and delicate relief, he appeared in the company of the Egyptian gods wearing traditional Egyptian dress including the rams horns of Amun as worn by pharaohs including Amenhotep III before him.

Although the cause of his death is still a mystery, Alexander the Great, the Macedonian King and great conqueror, died at the age of 33, on June 10, 323 BC in Babylon (modern Iraq).

In 331 BC he left Egypt for Babylon and on his way back to Macedonia he became ill, with fever. It may have been from malaria or perhaps of being poisoned, but with in a few days he died suddenly, without designating a successor.

On his deathbed he asked for his generals and gave his ring to Perdikkas, who was appointed regent of the empire until Alexander's queen, Roxane, gave birth to their child. This child, Alexander IV inherited his father's Empire only briefly, for he and his mother were assassinated by Cassander, who assumed the throne my marrying Thessaloniki, Alexander the Great's sister. In the wake of Alexander’s death and with the endless conflicts among his successors, his body played a symbolic role which influenced the power struggles of these men and eventually led to the fall of the Macedonian Empire.

Yes the cause of his death was a puzzle but the real enigma was the actual disappearance of Alexander the Great’s mummified body and tomb! No one can claim to have seen this tomb after the end of the 4th century and locating the place where Alexander is buried seems to have become an impossible mission for archeologists.

Perdikkas, is thought to have commissioned a magnificent funerary cart for the soul purpose of transporting the mummified remains of Alexander the Great back to Aigai, the old Macedonian capital, for burial. The body was placed in a gold anthropoid sarcophagus which was then encased in a second gold casket and covered with a purple robe. Alexander's coffin was placed, together with his armor, in a richly decorated gold carriage which had a vaulted roof supported by an Ionic peristyle.

By which time Ptolemy Lagos, one of Alexander’s generals, had secured the wealthy territory of Egypt for himself, attacked the funerary procession carrying Alexander's body and redirecting it to Memphis in Egypt, where Alexander was initially buried. It was later moved by Ptolemy II Philadelphos, the son of the first Ptolemy, to Alexandria. After an elaborate ceremony, the body was laid to rest in a Mausoleum called Soma or Sema, an ancient Greek word meaning “dead Body”.

Alexander the Greats tomb was in public display for almost 600 years and was visited by many important personalities such as the Roman emperors Augustus and Julius Ceasar, as well as common tourists. Although Alexander was laid to rest in a golden sarcophagus, King Ptolemy IX replaced it by one made of glass, as he melted down the gold one in order to strike emergency gold coinage.

The tomb was eventually closed to the public by Septimus Severus (early third century AD) out of concern for its safety on account of the hoards of tourists who came to visit the site. By the 4th century, the location of Alexander's tomb was lost. The oblivion lasted until the 19th century, when the Egyptian astronomer Mahmud el-Falaki attempted to locate the tomb. According to El-Falaki the tomb would have been located under the mosque of Prophet Daniel, where he was not allowed to dig. But most archaeologist are convinced that he was buried in Alexandria, the city that he founded in Egypt.

Others have tried to find the tomb, but to no avail! In 1737 a Danish sea captain by the name of Norden visited the city and tried but failed to locate the tomb. James Bruce came in 1768, but his efforts were also in vain. At the end of the 18th century, Sestrini visited the city looking for the Alexander the Great's tomb, but he was shown the Attarine mosque.

Until today no one can be sure where the tomb of one of the greatest men who changed history lies, but besides Alexandria, there have been claims that he rests in Asia, Macedonia, and the Siwa Oasis. There has even been a wild allegation that Alexander the Great could be buried "down under" in Broome in Western Australia!