Historians have been baffled by the mystery surrounding the death of Alexander the Great. The speculation has focused on death by infection, alcoholism or even murder by poison.
A new study by Dr Katherine Hall, senior lecturer at the Dunedin School of Medicine in New Zealand, states that he suffered from Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS), a neurological disorder that leads to paralysis. The article, published in The Ancient History Bulletin, refutes previous theories around his death in 323BC.
Scholars have recorded that his illness began after a ‘drinking party’ during a raucous night where Alexander downed 12 pints of wine. He complained of “aches” the next morning, but he continued to power through another dozen pints that evening. He then became unwell. Bedridden and in pain, within eight days, Alexander lost his ability to move, and was only able to flicker his eyes and twitch his hands.
He is reported to have died eleven days after the initial drinking episode. The disease, caused by a bacterial infection in the stomach, could explain why his brain continued to function until the end according to ancient texts that record him to have been of sound mind.
Experts believe that he slowly entered a state of paralysis even though his brain continued to function, leading to the possibility that he may have been pronounced dead while he was still alive. Reports refer to six days for the great warrior king’s body to begin decaying after he was declared dead, leading his generals to come to the conclusion that he was a god.
Dr Hall and her team of researchers studied ancient accounts of Alexander’s symptoms and modern medical textbooks when conducting their study.
“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,” said Dr Hall. “His death may be the most famous case of pseudothanatos, or false diagnosis of death, ever recorded.”