This image by Andre Castaigne (c. 1898-1899) depicts the mighty conqueror, Alexander the Great (r. 336-323 BCE), on his deathbed in Babylon. It is one of the more debated events from the Macedonian king’s life, as even the most ancient sources disagreed about the manner of the Alexander’s death, as well as his final words to his trusted officers. Whatever the case, Alexander the Great fell incredibly ill after a heavy night of partying at Babylon in 323 BCE. By morning, he was bedridden and his health (deteriorated by an unhealthy lifestyle, disease or poison) never recovered. Alexander died at the young age of 32 years, an untimely death that would lead to the massacre of his family and the division of his hard-won empire between his ambitious generals. The Greek-Roman warrior and scholar, Arrian (c. 90-173+), summarized some of the differing reports of Alexander’s final moments, writing “The accounts of Ptolemy and Aristobulus end at this point [with the king’s death]. Other writers have added that the high officers most closely in his confidence asked him to name his successor, and that Alexander’s reply was ‘the best man’” (Anabasis of Alexander, Book 7, section 27).
Written by C. Keith Hansley
- The Campaigns of Alexander by Arrian, translated by Aubrey de Sélincourt. New York: Penguin Classics, 1971.
- 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.