Story:Alexander – The Three Wishes

Story:Alexander – The Three Wishes

There is very instructive incident involving the life of Alexander, the great Greek king.

Alexander, after conquering many kingdoms, was returning home. On the way, he fell ill and it took him to his death bed. With death staring him in his face, Alexander realized how his conquests, his great army, his sharp sword and all his wealth were of no consequence.

He now longed to reach home to see his mother’s face and bid her his last adieu. But, he had to accept the fact that his sinking health would not permit Him to reach his distant homeland. So, the mighty conqueror lay prostrate and pale, helplessly waiting to breathe his last. He called his generals and said, «I will depart from this world soon; I have three wishes, please carry them out without fail.» With tears flowing down their cheeks, the generals agreed to abide by their king’s last wishes.

«My first desire is that,» said Alexander, «My physicians alone must carry my coffin.»
After a pause, he continued, «Secondly, I desire that when my coffin is being carried to the grave, the path leading to the graveyard be strewn with gold, silver and precious stones which I have collected in my treasury.
«The king felt exhausted after saying this. He took a minute’s rest and continued. «My third and last wish is that both my hands be kept dangling out of my coffin.» The people who had gathered there wondered at the king’s strange wishes. But no one dare bring the question to their lips. Alexander’s favourite general kissed his hand and pressed them to his heart. «O king, we assure you that your wishes will all be fulfilled, but tell us why do you make such strange wishes?»

At this Alexander took a deep breath and said:
«I would like the world to know of the three lessons I have just learnt. I want my physicians to carry my coffin because people should realize that no doctor can really cure anybody. They are powerless and cannot save a person from the clutches of death. So let not people take life for granted.

The second wish of strewing gold, silver and other riches on the way to the graveyard is to tell people that not even a fraction of gold will come with me. I spent all my life earning riches but cannot take anything with me. Let people realize that it is a sheer waste of time to chase wealth.

And about my third wish of having my hands dangling out of the coffin, I wish people to know that I came empty handed into this world and empty handed I go out of this world.»

With these words, the king closed his eyes. Soon he let death conquer him and breathed his last. . . .


Alexander – A New Theory on an Ancient Legend

Alexander the Great

Like millions of others I have been enthralled by the mystery of the Great Pyramid in Egypt. So when I read that in the 9th century a certain Caliph Al Ma’mun had literally smashed his way into it, well my curiosity got the better of me and I decided to investigate.  I found that the renowned caliph was not alone, apart from the labourers required to dig out the tunnels he had also taken a  huge team of highly educated scholars, but why? Surely a man only interested in hidden treasure would not have required such a level of expertise. Goodness! Just imagine the expense he had to go to in employing these experts and at a time when he was busy defending the borders of his caliphate.

The tunnel made by Caliph Al Ma’mun in the Great Pyramid

The tunnel made by Caliph Al Ma’mun in the Great Pyramid (Wikipedia)

The Great Pyramid had been sealed for thousands of years so how did the caliph know there was something of great value inside? The only way he could have known was if he had read an ancient manuscript that recorded such an item being placed in the pyramid. This is quite likely since his father had built the ‘House of Wisdom’ in Baghdad which was famous across the known world for the collection and study of ancient manuscripts. Such was Al Mamun’s interest in the wisdom and secrets of the past that he was known to trade manuscripts with his arch enemy the Byzantine Emperor Theophilos. But the Byzantine emperor had access to even rarer manuscripts, some say actually taken from the library of Alexandria. He also employed the fabulously intelligent scholar known as ‘Leo the Mathematician’, quite literally one of the cleverest men in the world. Here was a man the caliph was desperate to get hold of because Leo could read and translate Coptic and ancient Greek.

Caliph al-Mamun sends an envoy to Byzantine Emperor Theophilos

Caliph al-Mamun sends an envoy to Byzantine Emperor Theophilos (Wikimedia)

So, what Al Mamun and his team discovered in the Great Pyramid was truly amazing and completely planned for!  Ancient legends by a number of Arab historians, such as the 9th century Arabic writer Ebn Abd Alhokim, tell us that amongst other treasures, the caliph discovered a stone statue and that inside was a man who wore a gold breastplate covered in gems. Lying by his side was a fabulously fine sword and shield. On the head of the man lay a huge ruby the size of a chicken egg which shone as the light of day!   The statue in which the body was buried was covered in a mysterious writing that no one at that time could decipher. By the way, some have said that the Great Pyramid’s outer casing stone, now missing, was also covered in Greek or  Coptic writing.

Egyptians were not usually buried in their armour so who was this great warrior? In the quest to uncover who this may have been, I explored many  legends, documents, and medieval paintings. For me there was only one candidate because history said that Alexander the Great was buried in Egypt with his armour on. The only problem was that Alexander was said to have been buried in Memphis or  Alexandria.  However, reports also suggest he was moved and I believe that he has been buried at least three times.

A 19th century depiction of Alexander’s funeral procession based on a description by Diodorus

A 19th century depiction of Alexander’s funeral procession based on a description by Diodorus (

Unfortunately, ancient texts written by people who knew Alexander, or who gathered information from men who served with Alexander, had all been lost. However, there were a few original fragments and inscriptions left. One example of original text is The Parian Marble found at Paros. Amongst other information, it records red letter dates in the life of Alexander, including his burial at Memphis in 321/320 B.C.

The middle section of the Parian Marble

The middle section of the Parian Marble, now at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford

Original accounts written by his contemporaries namely Ptolemy, Aristobulus, Nearchus, and Onesicritus have been lost but luckily for us, there are substantial later works based on the ancient writings that have survived. They include Diodorus Siculus, writing in the first century B.C., Quintus Curtius Rufus, mid-to-late 1st century A.D., Arrian 1st to 2nd century A.D., the biographer Plutarch 1st to 2nd century A.D., and Justin, dated to around the 4th century A.D.

In addition, there is the infamous ‘Alexander Romance’ allegedly compiled from a number of stories  written by Callisthenes.  To confuse the issue further, it is currently accepted that there are a number of authors to this work and the author Callisthenes is referred to as Pseudo-Callisthenes!  It was during the first few centuries after Alexander’s death, when a quantity of the legendary material was gathered into this body of work.  The text underwent, or so it is claimed, numerous expansions and revisions throughout antiquity and the middle ages. Some say that it contains dubious stories, however because of its popularity and that of its hero Alexander, the manuscript has been translated into many languages. These days, historians do not take this work seriously, but because it was taken seriously in the past, I did  take it into account in my research.

17th-century version of the ‘Alexander Romance’

17th-century version of the ‘Alexander Romance’ (Wikipedia)

The most reliable ancient source on Alexander is considered to be Arrian. He took his stories from Ptolemy and Aristobulus and wrote ‘Anabasis Alexandri,’ Campaigns of Alexander, (The Greek term ‘anabasis referred to an expedition from a coastline into the interior of a country) and is probably the most important contribution to the knowledge of Alexander the Great that we can draw on.  Ptolemy I had been a close friend of Alexander’s since childhood and had gone on to become a leading general. After Alexander’s death he became Pharaoh of Egypt.  Some have criticized him for exaggerating Alexander’s attributes both on the battlefield and in his private life. He supposedly upped his eulogy of Alexander and his own close relationship with him  in order to secure his place in Egyptian history and that of the ensuing Ptolemy Pharaohs.

Alexander the Great and Ptolemy I Soter attacking

Alexander the Great and Ptolemy I Soter attacking. Miniature 13 from the Constantine Manasses Chronicle, 14th century (Wikimedia)

The idea that the ancient corpse supposedly found in the Great Pyramid by Caliph Al Ma’mun may have been Alexander the Great is intriguing.

Firstly, if what I have written did actually happen, (the reader must decide having seen the evidence), then Alexander’s final resting place could also be divulged. We would know not only where he was buried now but roughly what year and who buried him in his final resting place. In other words we should be able to trace his whereabouts today because it should lead on directly from the discovery of Al Ma’mun. Indeed, that is the culmination of the story in my book Alexander, A New Theory on an Ancient Legend’, although I did not set out to find it!

Secondly, I have investigated the whereabouts of that huge ruby that Al Ma’mun found lying on the head, (since ancient times a sign of royalty) and I believe the ruby still exists today.

The Astonishment of Saint Sisoes

‘The Astonishment of Saint Sisoes’ shows the saint kneeling before the remains of Alexander the Great (orthodoxwiki)

By embracing the spirit, as well as the law of the letter, admiring the beautiful art as well as studying the context of the written word, I have tried to bring the past and its people into perspective, and I suppose, metaphorically back to life.

Two thousand years may have passed, but our understanding of Alexander’s passion for the glories of both life and death can still fire our imagination and inspire the soul. It can also inspire those of  us interested in ancient origins to search out  the truth no matter where it is hidden!

Further evidence regarding who may have placed Alexander in the Great Pyramid, the year they put him there, and most importantly, why they put him there, is available in Lucy Caxton’s book, ‘Alexander, A New Theory on an Ancient Legend’ or visit her website at

Featured image: Relief depicting Alexander the Great. Source: BigStockPhoto

By Lucy Caxton Brown

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Lions and the Pride of Amphipolis

I will start by pointing out that English is a complicated language, one of whose quirks is the use of strange collective nouns, for example: a murder of crows, or a pride of lions. Once again I am using this as the sort of pun Aristophanes appreciated, in the sense that Greeks should be proud of both the monument formerly known as The Lion Tomb, and the work of the team there. ΣΥΝΕΧΙΣΤΕ ΤΗΝ ΑΝΑΓΝΩΣΗ


Anfípolis era una ciudad importante de Macedonia (después de EGAS la Capital), era la base marítima. Desde allí partió la flota de Alejandro Magno hacia Asia.

Fue fundada como una colonia ateniense en el año 430 a.C.y luego  conquistada y anexada a Macedonia en el año 358 a.C. por Filipo II.

Después de la muerte de Alejandro los principales acontecimientos históricos sucedieron en esta región  de Macedonia , en el Norte de Grecia. ΣΥΝΕΧΙΣΤΕ ΤΗΝ ΑΝΑΓΝΩΣΗ

Is the mother of Alexander the Great in the Tomb at Amphipolis?

The recently discovered sphinxes guarding the entrance to the Lion Tomb beneath the great mound at Amphipolis in Macedonia were unveiled on August 12th 2014 during a visit by the Greek prime minister, Antonis Samaras. They may be telling us more than has yet been realised about the occupant of this newly excavated tomb and its connections with other important Macedonian tombs of the period. That they are indeed sphinxes, rather than griffins or winged lions, is shown by the fact that both originally had human female breasts in the chest area. Despite the fact that these breasts, together with the heads and wings, were removed by deliberate mutilation at some time in the past, published photos clearly show the stone starting to protrude at the rims of the damaged patches (Figures 1 and 2).

Figure 1. The sphinxes recently revealed sitting above the tomb entrance at Amphipolis
Figure 2: Close-up of the right-hand sphinx
The tomb has been dated to the last quarter of the fourth century before Christ (325-300BC) by the archaeologists, led by Katerina Peristeri. This was the period immediately following the death of Alexander the Great in 323BC. Sphinxes are not particularly common in high status Macedonian tombs of this era, but, significantly, sphinxes were prominent parts of the decoration of two thrones found in the late 4th century BC tombs of two Macedonian queens in the royal cemetery at Aegae (modern Vergina) in Macedonia. The first of these was found in the tomb attributed to Eurydice I, the grandmother of Alexander the Great. Carved sphinxes were among the decorations of its panels until they were stolen by thieves in 2001 (Figure 3).
Figure 3. The throne of Eurydice I and its panel with sphinxes
Secondly, a marble throne was found in another royal tomb close by the tomb of Eurydice I by K. A. Rhomaios in 1938. It was in pieces, but has since been reconstructed (Figure 4) and it has sphinxes as supporters for both arm rests and also royal Macedonian starbursts at the head of its back panel. Archaeology has shown that this tomb was never covered by the usual tumulus, so it may never have been occupied. It dates roughly to the end of the 4th century BC. Both of these tombs are from a section of the royal cemetery dominated by high status female graves and therefore known as the “Queens’ Cluster”.
Figure 4: The throne of a late 4th century BC queen from the Rhomaios tomb at Aegae
It therefore seems that sphinxes were a particular symbol of late 4th century BC Macedonian queens. But why might Macedonian queens have associated themselves with sphinxes? One possible answer emerges from Greek mythology. Apollodorus 3.5.8 wrote: Laius was buried by Damasistratus, king of Plataea, and Creon, son of Menoeceus, succeeded to the kingdom. In his reign a heavy calamity befell Thebes. For Hera sent the Sphinx, whose mother was Echidna and her father Typhon; and she
had the face of a woman, the breast and feet and tail of a lion, and the wings of a bird. So the sphinx was the creature of Hera, Queen of the Gods and wife of Zeus. It is well known that the kings of Macedon traced their descent from Zeus via Heracles (e.g. Diodorus 17.1.5 and Plutarch, Alexander 2.1), that they put depictions of Zeus on their coinage and that they associated themselves with Zeus quite generally. They celebrated an important festival of Zeus at Dion and the people of Eresus in Lesbos erected altars to Zeus Philippios (M. N. Tod, A Selection of Greek Historical Inscriptions 2, 1948, no. 191.6) – possibly indicating the divinisation of Philip II in the guise of Zeus. If the Macedonian king posed as Zeus, it would consequently hardly be surprising if his senior queen became associated with Hera, the mistress of the sphinx.
The sphinxes at Amphipolis may therefore be interpreted as suggesting that the occupant of the tomb was a prominent queen of Macedon. Do we know from the historical record that any such queen died at Amphipolis in the last quarter of the 4th century BC? There are in fact two such candidates: Olympias, the mother of Alexander the Great and Roxane, his wife. The situation regarding Roxane is straightforward: she was killed on the orders of Cassander together with her 13-yearold son, Alexander IV, whilst imprisoned at Amphipolis in 310BC (Diodorus 19.52.4 & 19.105.2). The location of the death of Olympias is less clear, the only good evidence being the account of Diodorus 19.50-51. After Olympias surrendered to Cassander in the spring of 316BC at Pydna, he immediately sent troops to seek the surrender of her troops at Pella and at Amphipolis. Pella duly capitulated, but
Aristonous at Amphipolis initially refused compliance. Therefore Cassander had Olympias write him a letter ordering him to surrender. After he had done so, Cassander immediately arranged the murders of both Aristonous and Olympias. Although Olympias’s whereabouts at this point are ambiguous, it would seem very unlikely that Cassander did not himself go to Amphipolis with his army, given that
these events took weeks to transpire. If so, it would seem likely that he took Olympias with him, rather than leave her alone in another part of freshly re-conquered Macedonia, potentially to be rescued by her supporters. Therefore there is a good chance that Olympias too died at Amphipolis.
The tombs of Alexander’s father, Philip II, and of his son Alexander IV, were unearthed under another enormous mound in the royal cemetery at Aegae by Manolis Andronicus in the late 1970s. There are some interesting parallels between this pair of tombs and the new finds at Amphipolis. Firstly, elements of the painted decoration of the architectural elements at Amphipolis are a near exact match to such decoration in the tomb of Alexander IV at Aegae (Figure 5).
Figure 5. Painted decoration in the tomb at Amphipolis (left) and the tomb of Alexander IV (right)
Secondly, a spaced line of 8-petal rosettes newly discovered in the Amphipolis tomb provide a close match for the similar lines of rosettes that decorate the edge bands of the gold larnax from Philip II’s tomb at Aegae (Figure 6). Olympias will of course have been involved in arrangements for the entombment of her husband.
Figure 6. The line of 8-petal rosettes found at Amphipolis match the rosettes on the larnax of Alexander’s father
Thirdly, the lion monument that once stood atop the great mound at Amphipolis was reconstructed on the basis of its fragments by Jacques Roger and his colleagues in an article published in 1939 (Le Monument au Lion d’Amphipolis, BCH 63, pp. 4-42). There are close parallels between the façade of this monument and the facades of the tombs of Philip II and Alexander IV (Figure 7). Note also that the simulated roof edge at the top of the façade of the tomb of Alexander IV matches the simulated roof edge above the rosettes in the Amphipolis tomb (Figure 6).
Figure 7. Roger’s reconstruction of the façade of the Amphipolis monument (left) compared with the facades of the tombs of Philip II and Alexander IV at Aegae.
Finally, it is interesting to note that the freshly revealed floor of white marble fragments fixed in a matrix of red cement in the vestibule of the tomb at Amphipolis has an exact match in a patch of flooring revealed in the late 4th century BC royal palace at Aegae (Figure 8).
Figure 8. Floor section of marble fragments in a red cement matrix in the royal palace at Aegae (left) compared with the similar floor in the vestibule of the Amphipolis tomb (right)
On this evidence I consider Olympias to be the leading contender at the time of writing (6/9/2014) for the occupant of the magnificent tomb at Amphipolis currently being excavated with Roxane also a strong possibility. It should be recalled that the tomb mound has a diameter of 155m, larger even than the Great Tumulus at Aegae and posing the question of whom the Macedonians would conceivably have spent this much money and effort upon commemorating, Olympias is by far the most convincing answer at present. Although it is true that the ancient accounts say that she was unpopular at the time of her death, it is nevertheless clear that she was only really unpopular with Cassander’s faction, whereas Cassander himself was sufficiently worried about her popularity as to arrange her immediate death in order to prevent her addressing the Macedonian Assembly (Diodorus 19.51). Furthermore, her army under Aristonous stayed loyal to her cause long after she herself had surrendered.
Ultimately, her cause was seen at the time as identical with the cause of Alexander himself, so it was in a sense Alexander whom they honoured by building his mother a spectacular tomb. If it were objected that Cassander would not have allowed the construction of a magnificent tomb for his enemies, Olympias and/or Roxane, I would note that Cassander probably did permit the entombment of Alexander IV at Aegae, since his tomb seems to have been constructed during Cassander’s reign. I also see no cardinal reason for Cassander to have denied his enemies burial and it does not appear
generally to have been the practice that rulers did not allow the entombment of dead enemies at the time. Counter examples are numerous, e.g. Arrian 3.22.1 wrote: Alexander sent the body of Darius to Persepolis, with orders that it should be buried in the royal sepulchre, in the same way as the other Persian kings before him had been buried.
It is especially interesting and pertinent that another pair of monumental late 4th to early 3rd century BC freestanding female Greek sphinx sculptures was uncovered by Auguste Mariette in excavating the dromos of the Memphite Serapeum at Saqqara in Egypt in 1851 (Figure 9). These sphinxes are a very good parallel for the Amphipolis sphinxes and Lauer & Picard in their 1955 book on the Greek sculptures at the Serapeum argued that they date to Ptolemy I. A semicircle of statues of Greek philosophers and poets was also uncovered by Mariette in the dromos of the Memphite Serapeum near to the sphinxes (Figure 10) and Dorothy Thompson in her 1988 book on Memphis Under The Ptolemies suggested that the semicircle had guarded the entrance of the first tomb of Alexander the Great at Memphis. I elaborated on this idea in my article on The Sarcophagus of Alexander the Great
published in Greece & Rome in April 2002. Later, in the 2nd edition of my book on The Quest for the Tomb of Alexander the Great (May 2012), I wrote in the context of discussing the semicircle: “In 1951 Lauer discovered a fragment of an inscription in the neighbourhood of some other Greek statues [including the pair of Greek sphinxes] standing further down the dromos of the Serapeum. It appears to be an artist’s signature in Greek characters of form dating to the early third century BC. It therefore
seems likely that all the Greek statuary at the Serapeum was sculpted under Ptolemy I, hence these statues were contemporaneous with Alexander’s Memphite tomb.”
Figure 9. The sphinxes found by Mariette in the dromos of the Serapeum at Memphis
Figure 10. The relationship between the semicircle and the sphinxes at the Serapeum
These monumental pairs of sphinx statues from the late 4th to early 3rd century BC may prove to be virtually unique to the Amphipolis tomb and the probable Serapeum tomb. (The only similar sphinxes I have yet discovered are the pair decorating an end of the lid of the “Lydian sarcophagus” found together with the “Alexander sarcophagus”, belonging to Abdalonymus, in the royal necropolis at Sidon.) If so, it greatly reinforces the connection of both the Amphipolis tomb and the Serapeum with Alexander. It potentially reinforces the dating of the Serapeum sculptures to Ptolemy I (which has been much disputed, though on scant evidence). It also directly connects the Greek sphinxes of the Serapeum with a royal Macedonian tomb of the late 4th century BC located in Macedon, thus boosting the candidacy of the Serapeum as the site of Alexander’s initial tomb, later moved to Alexandria. It is even possible that Olympias commissioned the sphinxes found at the Serapeum in order to decorate the tomb of her illustrious son at Memphis.

Andrew Chugg
Author of The Quest for the Tomb of Alexander the Great and several academic
papers on Alexander’s tomb (see