Thursday, 20 March 2014

Tomb of Alexander the Great

Tomb of Alexander the Great

The tomb of Alexander the Great and, particularly, its exact present location has been a recurring conundrum. Shortly after Alexander's death in Babylon the possession of his body became a subject of negotiations between Perdiccas, Ptolemy I Soter and Seleucus I Nicator. According to Nicholas J. Saunders, while Babylon was the "obvious site" for Alexander's resting place, some favored to inter Alexander in the Argead burial at Aegae, modern Vergina. Aegae was one of the two originally proposed resting places, according to Saunders, the other being Siwa Oasis and in 321 BC Perdiccas presumably chose Aegae.The body, however, was hijacked en route by Ptolemy I Soter. According to Pausanias and the contemporary Parian Chronicle records for the years 321–320 BC, Ptolemy initially buried Alexander in Memphis. In the late 4th or early 3rd century BC Alexander's body was transferred from Memphis to Alexandria, where it was reburied.The so-called Alexander Sarcophagus, unrelated to Alexander's body and once thought to be the sarcophagus of Abdalonymus, is now believed to be that of Mazacus, a Persian governor of Babylon.

According to Quintus Curtius Rufus and Justin, Alexander asked shortly before his death to be interred in the temple of Zeus Ammon at Siwah Oasis. Alexander, who requested to be referred to and perceived as the son of Zeus Ammon, did not wish be buried alongside his actual father at Aegae. Alexander's body was placed in a coffin of "hammered gold", according to Diodorus, which was "fitted to the body". The coffin is also mentioned by Strabo and Curtius Rufus (subsequently, in 89–90 BC the golden coffin was melted down and replaced with that of glass or crystal).Alexander's wish to be interred in Siwa was not honored. In 321 BC, on its way back to Macedonia, the funerary cart with Alexander's body was hijacked in Syria by one of Alexander's generals, Ptolemy I Soter. In late in 322 or early 321 BC Ptolemy diverted the body to Egypt where it was interred in Memphis, the center of Alexander's government in Egypt. While Ptolemy was in possession of Alexander's body, Perdiccas and Eumenes had Alexander's armor, diadem and royal scepter.According to Plutarch, who visited Alexandria, Python of Catana and Seleucus were sent to a serapeum to ask the oracle whether Alexander's body should be sent to Alexandria and the oracle answered positively. In the late 4th or early 3rd century BC Alexander's body was transferred from the Memphis tomb to Alexandria for reburial (by Ptolemy Philadelphus in c. 280 BC, according to Pausanias). Later Ptolemy Philopator placed Alexander's body in Alexandria's communal mausoleum. The mausoleum was called the Soma or Sema, meaning "body" in Greek. By 274 BC Alexander was already entombed in Alexandria.

In 48 BC Alexander's tomb was visited by Caesar.Shortly after the death of Cleopatra, Alexander's resting place was visited by Augustus, who is said to have placed flowers on the tomb and a golden diadem upon Alexander's head. According to Suetonius, Alexander's tomb was then partially looted by Caligula, who reportedly removed his breastplate. In 199 Alexander's tomb was sealed up by Septimius Severus during his visit to Alexandria.Later, in 215 some items from Alexander's tomb were relocated by Caracalla. According to chronicler John of Antioch, Caracalla removed Alexander's tunic, his ring, his belt with some other precious items and deposited them on the coffin.
Later authors, such as Ibn 'Abd al-Hakam, Al-Masudi and Leo the African, report having seen Alexander's tomb. Leo the African, who visited Alexandria in 1491, wrote: "In the midst of the ruins of Alexandria, there still remains a small edifice, built like a chapel, worthy of notice on account of a remarkable tomb held in high honor by the Mahometans; in which sepulchre, they assert, is preserved the body of Alexander the Great... An immense crowd of strangers come thither, even from distant countries, for the sake of worshipping and doing homage to the tomb, on which they likewise frequently bestow considerable donations".George Sandys, who visited Alexandria in 1611, was reportedly shown a sepulchre there, venerated as the resting place of Alexander.

The Egyptian Supreme Council for Antiquities has officially recognized over 140 search attempts for Alexander's tomb.Mahmoud el-Falaki, who compiled the map of ancient Alexandria, believed Alexander's tomb is in the center of Alexandria, at the intersection of the Via Canopica (modern Horreya Avenue) and the ancient street labeled R5. Since then several other scholars such as Tasos Neroutsos, Heinrich Kiepert and Ernst von Sieglin placed the tomb in the same area.In 1850 Ambroise Schilizzi announced the discovery of alleged Alexander's mummy and tomb inside the Nabi Daniel Mosque in Alexandria.Later, in 1879 a stone worker accidentally broke through the vaulted chamber inside the basement of that mosque. Some granite monuments with an angular summit were discerned there, but the entrance was then walled up and the stone worker was asked not to disclose the incident (the image on a Roman lamp in the National Museum of PoznaƄ and others at the British Museum and the Hermitage Museum are interpreted by some scholars as showing Alexandria with the Soma Mausoleum pictured as a building with a pyramidal roof).In 1888 an attempt to locate Alexander's tomb within the Nabi Daniel Mosque was made by Heinrich Schliemann, but he was denied permission to excavate.
In 1995 Greek archaeologist Liana Souvaltzi announced she identified one alleged tomb in Siwah with that of Alexander. The claim was put in doubt by the then-general secretary of the Greek Ministry of Culture, George Thomas, who said that it was unclear if the excavated structure is even a tomb.Thomas and members of his team said that the style of the excavated object was not, as Souvaltzi contended, Macedonian, and that the fragments of tablets they were shown did not support any of the translations provided by Souvaltzi as proof of her finding.
According to one legend, the body lies in a crypt beneath an early Christian church.
In 2011, in a TV series named Mystery Files, episode "Alexander the Great" aired on National Geographic Channel in the UK, 21st century experts believe that Alexander's tomb disappearance is related to the rise of Christianity in the pagan Roman Empire including Alexandria, Egypt. The theory suggests that Alexander's body was unintentionally stolen from Alexandria by a pair of Venetian merchants, taken to Venice, mistakenly renamed and venerated as St. Mark the Evangelist in Basilica di San Marco (Venice, Italy).

Source : Wikipedia


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