The world might need to revisit one of the greatest debates of antiquity and rewrite history, as what killed Alexander the Great could well be Guillain-Barre syndrome.
Dr Katherine Hall, a senior lecturer of the Dunedin School of Medicine in New Zealand believes that the legendary Macedonian king was not dead but paralysed when he was buried.
To this day, the most prominent theory regarding the 32-year-old Greek militant’s death has been poisoning resulting in high fever followed by infection and symptoms of alcoholism.
Dr Hall, also a practicing clinician, argues that his state, when presumed dead could have a neurological disorder causing paralysis to the body.
“So Alexander could very well have been lying there, unable to move a muscle, and actually still alive because they didn’t actually take pulses at that time to determine whether people were dead,” she said suggesting the condition could have affected his motor nerves.
“My theory actually provides a rationale for why he did not decompose. And that being, that he wasn’t actually dead yet,” Ms Hall said.
The researcher and her colleagues from Otago University began studying the case during a BBC documentary which supported the theory that the great king was poisoned using a white hellebore plant.
What has always contemplated historians and archaeologists is the reason his corpse reportedly started showing signs of decomposing six days after recorded date of death 10 June, 323 B.C.; a fact that puzzled physicians in Babylon at the time and reinforced the belief that Alexander the Great was a god or demigod.
“For one thing, if my theory is correct, the history books should be rewritten actually. Because his date of death should actually be six days later than what is recorded,” she continued.
In her article published in The Ancient History Bulletin, she insisted previous theories around his death in 323BC have not been satisfactory as they have not explained the entire event.
“In particular, none have provided an all-encompassing answer which gives a plausible and feasible explanation for a fact recorded by one source—Alexander’s body failed to show any signs of decomposition for six days after his death.
“The Ancient Greeks thought that this proved that Alexander was a god; this article is the first to provide a real-world answer,” she said.
“I wanted to stimulate new debate and discussion and possibly rewrite the history books by arguing Alexander’s real death was six days later than previously accepted. His death may be the most famous case of pseudothanatos, or false diagnosis of death, ever recorded. While more modern analyses have attempted to be broader and more nuanced, whatever way people want to conceive of Alexander there is a desire to try and understand his life as fulsomely as possible. The enduring mystery of his cause of death continues to attract both public and scholastic interest.
“The elegance of the GBS diagnosis for the cause of his death is that it explains so many, otherwise diverse, elements, and renders them into a coherent whole.”