An Ancient Mystery: Where Is Alexander the Great’s Tomb?

By Paul Darin, Epoch Times
April 2, 2015 Updated: April 2, 2015

King, warrior, uniter, conqueror, these words are often used to describe the man known as Alexander the Great of Macedonia, who at a young age set out to conquer the known world and, before the age of 33, nearly succeeded.

“My son, ask for thyself another kingdom. For that which I leave is too small for thee,” were words spoken to Alexander the Great by his father Phillip II, King of Macedonia, according to “The New Student’s Reference Work Volume I.”

His funeral preparations supposedly lasted two years and were followed by an extensive procession.
He became king at the young age of 20 upon his father’s assassination at the wedding of Alexander’s sister in 336 B.C. Within two years Alexander would forcibly unite Greece and begin his conquest of Asia. The Persian Empire soon fell, and Egypt was next. There he would create the great city of Alexandria. He conquered and established Macedonian colonies in Iran as he headed toward India. He overthrew northern India and spared the Indian King Porus.

His funeral preparations supposedly lasted two years and were followed by an extensive procession. At the far reaches of the known world, his armies refused to press forward, and Alexander started his return trip. During his return, he was in the preliminary stages of planning a campaign toward the west, which included Rome and Carthage. However, he contracted a fever and died in Babylon on June 10, 323 B.C.; he was 32 years old.

Alexander the Great visits the tomb of Achilles, but we cannot visit his tomb. This painting is by Giovanni Paolo Panini. (Public domain/ Wikimedia Commons)
Alexander the Great visits the tomb of Achilles, but we cannot visit his tomb. This painting is by Giovanni Paolo Panini. (Public domain/ Wikimedia Commons)

So, where is his final resting place?

Unfortunately, no one knows for sure. At some point, Ptolemy, Alexander’s general and future king of Egypt (305 B.C.) took control of Alexander’s body.

“Alexander’s body was taken to Memphis by Ptolemy, into whose power Egypt had fallen, and transferred from there a few years later to Alexandria, where every mark of respect continues to be paid to his memory and his name,” according to Ancient Roman historian Curtius Rufus, in “Histories of Alexander the Great.”

A later descendent of Ptolemy, Ptolemy Philopator, may have moved Alexander’s remains again, placing them in a communal mausoleum with the other Ptolemaic predecessors. This could have occurred somewhere between 222 and 205 B.C.

Several Roman emperors reported visiting Alexander’s tomb. Octavian, future emperor Augustus, reportedly visited the tomb in 30 B.C. paying his respects with flowers and placing a golden diadem (crown) upon his mummified head.

The last alleged visit was by Roman Emperor Caracalla in A.D. 215. Since then, the location of the third tomb has been lost to history.

Looking for the Tomb

Many organizations continue to look for the lost tomb of Alexander. One group is the Polish Center of Mediterranean Archaeology. The group, however, was the subject of an Internet hoax last summer, when some Internet news agencies reported that the group discovered the missing tomb in downtown Alexandria, according to the Cairo Post.

In 2008, Pennsylvania State University researchers announced that a tomb in the northern Greek village of Vergina was that of Alexander the Great’s half-brother Philip III Arrhidaeus, according to National Geographic News. Among the artifacts discovered were a helmet, shield, and silver crown that the researchers believe could have belonged to Alexander himself as his brother supposedly claimed these items after Alexander’s death.

This past fall, scientists confirmed at the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki that bones found in the two-chambered tomb discussed above were those of Alexander the Great’s father King Phillip II, according to Discovery News.

The search for Alexander the Great’s tomb continues. But, unfortunately, the resting place has changed many times throughout history and ancient city landscapes have been covered over, changed, and lost to the ages. However, the remains of his family as well as artifacts that he likely used in life are known to present scientists, and these bring the legend closer to real life. Perhaps one day his final resting place will once again be a place people can visit to pay their respects to the man who nearly ruled the world.