One of the unsolved mysteries of antiquity is the time-worn tomb of Alexander the Great. His biographer Arrian / Arrian of Nicomedia, or Flavius Arrian, is a Greek who lived in the Roman Empire, historian, politician and philosopher. It is considered the most reliable source for the life of Alexander the Great. He does not mention funeral preparations, but Diodorus Siculus/Siculus (90 BC – c. 30 BC) ancient Greek historian, author of the Bibliotheca historica (“Library of History”) consisting of 40 books , divided into three parts, takes up the challenge in its “library”. Diodorus recounts that Alexander’s body was mummified in Egyptian fashion (he was, after all, the previous pharaoh of Egypt) and placed in a massive golden anthropoid sarcophagus (similar to Tutankhamun’s sarcophagus), which was then placed in another golden coffin , covered with porphyry. Alexander’s tomb is placed in a huge and richly decorated carriage. She departs, drawn by 64 mules from Persia for the long journey to Alexander’s final resting place. The motorcade even has its own team of road builders to level the road. The final destination is said to be Egypt, specifically the temple of Amun Ra in the oasis of Siwa, in the Western Desert. However, Ptolemy Soter, one of Alexander’s generals who would eventually discover the Greco-Egyptian lineage of Egypt’s Ptolemaic pharaohs, marched his army into Syria to meet the cortege. Ptolemy suggests Alexandria (instead of Siva) as the endpoint of Alexander’s sarcophagus.
Others claim that Perdiccas, another of Alexander’s generals, actually escorted the cortege back to Aigai in Macedonia—the place where Alexander’s ancestors were buried. Perdiccas was named regent for Alexander IV, the infant son of Alexander the Great, and so it is often assumed, as Aelian writes, that Ptolemy Soter forcibly appropriated the sarcophagus of Alexander the Great from the general Perdiccas and took it to Alexandria for propaganda purposes.
It would be logical for Alexander’s tomb to be in Egypt: thus the claims to the throne of the underage Alexander IV, of Ptolemy himself, would be legitimized. Alexander IV was the rightful heir to the empire, and the only circumstance which negated his inheritance was the fact that he was not pure Greek; as the son of Roxana, Alexander’s Persian (Bactrian) wife. So what would Ptolemy really have done with Alexander’s sarcophagus to further his claim to the throne of Egypt?
It is entirely possible that Ptolemy hid the sarcophagus in Levan, Phoenicia, as a method of minimizing the influence of the Alexandrian royal dynasty. When he met the cortege, Ptolemy is said to have taken the sarcophagus to Syria, an area that included the entire Levantine coast.
The problem is that Alexander the Great’s tomb is completely missing from history. Its location is one of the greatest mysteries of the archaeological world. So where does Alexander’s ornate sarcophagus finally rest?
And the great search begins. Archaeologists, historians, writer-researchers over the years have been “discovering” the tomb of Alexander the Great.
In 1887, Osman Hamdi Bey, director of the Ottoman Imperial Museum in Istanbul, reported a major find in Sidon, Lebanon. Two sets of underground chambers have been discovered and opened. There are a large number of sarcophagi. One of these is a magnificent sarcophagus carved from Greek Pentelian marble (the same used as the Acropolis), which is surrounded by some of the finest classical Greek sculpture ever discovered. The sarcophagus is of the right age and context to be associated with Alexander; but this “discovery” also brings several problems, as the descriptions of the sarcophagus in Diodorus’ “Library of History” do not match this marble sarcophagus, and the location where it was found also seems unlikely. Faced with these difficulties, the sarcophagus was attributed to Abdalonim, a Phoenician king of Sidon appointed by Alexander himself.
After millennia of searching, archaeologists believe they have found the tomb of Alexander the Great. Now at least two researchers are confident they have solved the mystery.
Two modern experts may have finally solved this age-old mystery. Author and researcher Dr. Andrew Michael Chugg (“The Lost Tomb of Alexander the Great”) and archaeologist Liana Suvaltsi, each in their own way, believe they are getting closer to the truth…
There are many more questions about Alexander’s burial than – clear answers. According to National Geographic, modern historians largely agree that the ancient king was buried in Alexandria, Egypt.
When he died at the age of 32, his advisers initially buried him in Memphis, Egypt, before deciding on Alexandria. His tomb becomes a place of worship. A period of earthquakes and rising sea levels begins, threatening the city.
Suvaltsi believes that the tomb of Alexander is located in the ruins of ancient stronghold in Siwa, Egypt. In 2019, Calliope Limneos-Papakosta, director of the Hellenic Research Institute of the Alexandrian Civilization, succeeded in excavating under present-day Alexandria and made a huge breakthrough in finding the ruler’s tomb.
“This is the first time that the original foundations have been discovered,” says archaeologist Fredrik Hibbert. “It gave me goosebumps when I saw it.”
Although a promising leap forward, Alexander’s tomb has yet to be found. History says that his body disappeared when the Roman emperor Theodosius banned pagan worship in 392. The two competing theories of Chug and Suvaltsi nevertheless converge.
According to the Express, Suvaltsi believes Alexander’s wish was to be buried in the temple of the Egyptian god Amun Ra. This led her to request a permit to excavate the oasis of Siwa in 1984, which the Egyptian authorities granted her in 1989. They discovered lion statues, an entrance, and a 5,651 sq. ft. Hellenistic royal tomb. Suvaltsi believes that the carvings and inscriptions that refer to the transportation of a body were written by Alexander’s famous companion, Ptolemy.
At the time Suvaltsi said: “I have no doubts that this is Alexander’s tomb… I want every [fellow Greek] to feel proud because Greek hands have found this very important monument.”
Although in 1995 it was announced that the tomb of the ancient king had finally been discovered, the Greek government called on the Egyptian government to stop the excavations – as tensions between the two archaeologists grew. Suvaltsi continues to fight to resume excavations as Chug’s latest discoveries become promising.
Dr. Andrew Chugg believes that the sarcophagus of Nectaneb II in the British Museum in London contains the real clues to the true location of Alexander’s remains.
Chug has a different theory when it comes to Alexander the Great’s tomb. He explains in his book that the original temple of Alexander, near Memphis in Egypt, in the Serapeum complex, was built by Pharaoh Nectaneb II. Now, 16 years after the publication of his book, new evidence appears to support this thesis. A piece of masonry found in the foundations of St. Mark’s Cathedral in Venice exactly matches the dimensions of Nectaneb II’s sarcophagus in the British Museum – which may confirm the location of Alexander’s tomb.
Since his body disappeared in 392 and the tomb of St. Mark appeared at the same time, Chug believes that Alexander’s body was stolen from Alexandria by Venetian merchants who mistook it for St. Mark. He was then sent to Venice and has been venerated as Saint Mark in the cathedral ever since.
For Chugg, who says the fragment found in Venice is “just the right height and length” to form the outer shell of a sarcophagus in Britain, this means the remains, in Venice, are of Alexander the Great.
Even the British Museum is now convinced, having changed some of its Curator’s Comments sections to reflect this new evidence:
“This object was wrongly thought to be associated with Alexander the Great when it entered the collection in 1803,” it still reads…but! – missing the important word “wrong”.
The “discoveries” will continue. Archaeologists will argue. But perhaps the lost tomb of Alexander the Great will never be found.
Illustration: Alexander the Great – Roman mosaic