For a historical figure in the 4th century BCE, Alexander the Great’s life is fairly well documented. The various ancient biographies and accounts about the great king may come to different conclusions about the character of Alexander, as well as motivations behind his conquests, but they tell a remarkably concise story for a man who lived and died more than two millennia in the past.
Like most other periods of Alexander the Great’s conquests, a variety of sources described Alexander’s actions in Egypt. We know that after the Battle of Issus in 333 BCE, Alexander the Great marched his army against the Middle East. In 332 BCE, he massacred the population of Tyre after a grueling siege. In the same year, he allegedly took most of Gaza without bloodshed, except when a city led by a man named Battis refused to surrender. The citizens of that particular city were butchered or enslaved, and the leader was tortured to death. In Egypt proper, we know he visited Memphis and paid respects to the sacred Apis Bull. He also founded the great city of Alexandria, and traveled to the Siwah Oasis to honor the god Ammon, who was often associated with Zeus. After that, he left Egypt and continued to press deeper into the Persian Empire.
After reading about all of these things that Alexander the Great did in the Middle East and Egypt, many observers have an interesting question—did Alexander the Great visit the Great Pyramids of Giza? Unfortunately, no one knows. Every single major source about Alexander’s life neglects to mention if the king went to see the pyramids and their iconic guardian sphinx. As an educated and worldly man, there is no way that Alexander was ignorant of the pyramids’ existence. For the most part, most scholars believe Alexander the Great certainly took a trip to the Great Pyramids—yet, the ancient sources oddly made no mention of the great king ever paying the famous structures a visit.
Written by C. Keith Hansley.
- Alexander the Great by Philip Freeman. New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2011.
- Alexander the Great: The Story of an Ancient Life by Thomas R. Martin and Christopher W. Blackwell. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012.