the 4th century BCE Macedonian warlord, the world most famous homosexual, created the
biggest empire in ancient history after conquering the Persian
Empire. Yet Alexander sudden death at the age of 32 has been a
mystery for centuries. Some experts say he died of malaria,
others suggest a bout of typhoid caused by tainted food, or
chronic liver poisoning brought on by his bacchanalia.
But the latest theory suggests he was the victim of a plot by
his wife, Roxane, allegdly the daughter of Last Achaemenid
Emperor Darius III. She is said to have poisoned him with what
was then a little- known toxin taken from the strychnine plant.
The disclosure will intrigue followers of a historical whodunnit
which has fascinated scholars down the ages. The jealous wife
theory is being propounded by Graham Phillips, an author of
popular history, who believes Alexander was murdered by Roxane
in revenge for taking another wife or perhaps flaunting his
homosexual lover, Hephaestion, who also died in mysterious
He believes that both Hephaestion and Alexander suffered the
classic symptoms of strychnine poisoning. Roxane was one of the
few people who could have known about the deadly derivative of
the strychnine plant Strychnos nux vomica.
What little is known about Alexander's sudden death starts in
Babylon, with a funeral feast held at the end of May in 323BC in
honour of the late Hephaestion.
Roman historians, drawing on original accounts of the banquet,
suggest that Alexander was gripped by pain before collapsing.
"The initial symptoms were agitation, tremors, aching or
stiffness in the neck, followed by a sudden, sharp pain in the
area of the stomach". "He then
collapsed and suffered excruciating agony wherever he was
touched. Alexander also suffered from an intense thirst, fever
and delirium, and, throughout the night, he experienced
convulsions and hallucinations. "In the final stages he
could not talk, although he could still move his head and arms.
Ultimately, his breathing became difficult and he fell into a
coma and died."
Toxicologists at the University of California believe the
symptoms fit those of poisoning by strychnine, a toxin that
interferes with the chemical transmitters of the nerves
controlling the body's muscles.
Strychnine would have been unknown in the West at the time
because it came from a plant that only grew in the Indus valley,
where Alexander has visited two years previously, he said.
Roxane, who accompanied Alexander, took an interest in local
customs and is said to have visited a sacred grove where small
doses of strychnine could have been used by local priests to
induce spiritual hallucinations.
"The one person who know about strychnine was Roxane. She
was not only in India, she knew about local customs. I came to
the conclusion that she could have killed him," he said.
Professor Robin Lane-Fox of Oxford University, who acted as the
history consultant for Oliver Stone, is sceptical of claims of
Roxane's guilt. "If you were going to
kill Alexander you would want to make sure he was killed on the
spot. You wouldn't want to risk a slow death by poisoning which
would alert his suspicions," Professor Lane-Fox said. "We
don't know what really killed him. Alexander had many old
wounds, he traveled in marshes riddled with malaria, he drank
all night. He simply might have had a seizure," he said.