The tomb of Alexander the Great

You know how it is.  You’re slumped in front of the TV, and you turn it on and there’s something about Egypt.  In my case it was Secrets of Egypt: Alexander’s Tomb

Like everyone else, I knew that Alexander’s tomb was in Alexandria, and that it disappears in the confusion in the 3rd-4th centuries AD.  John Chrysostom can ask ca. 390 who knows where the tomb is.

I watched for a while, and then turned it off in disgust.  There was some crank being presented as a novel idea; his novel idea was that Alexander was buried near Cairo.  Naturally I wondered what ancient data demanded this, and how he could ignore the unanimous testimony of antiquity.  The programme makers simply ignored both issues.  Consequently they gave almost no ancient information on the subject at all.

This led me to wonder just what the collected ancient data amounts to.  I’ve been assembling a little dossier, and looking for links.  A reasonable list is here, although not comprehensive.  I may compile a little page of data myself.  What a pity, tho, that we know so little!

6 Responses to “The tomb of Alexander the Great”


  1. Jona Lendering

    Whose idea was it? I would be disappointed of it was Andrew Chugg; I read his book and was impressed (http://www.alexanderstomb.com/main/index.html).

  2. Roger Pearse

    It could have been, since I think he has some unusual view, doesn’t he? but I don’t actually know. The programme was terribly bad at facts, that was the overwhelming impression.

  3. Jona Lendering

    Chugg thinks the body rested for some time in the finished royal tomb and sarcophagus at Saqqara, where indeed some hellenistic sculpture has been found. Later, the sarcophagus was transferred to Alexandria, where the sarcophagus was found. I think he is essentially correct; I also think that his identification of the Hellenistic walls in the Shalalat gardens of Alexandria as part of the enceinte surrounding the tomb, may be right. All this is published in a book and several official scholarly articles, a/o in the American Journal of Ancient History, perhaps in 2004.

    Chugg also thinks that there is a fair chance (25%, he guesses) that the body was not lost after the 365 earthquake, but was kept in the Church of Saint Mark. This raises the interesting possibility that the body in the Basilica of San Marco in Venice…

  4. Roger Pearse

    Many thanks for these details. This doesn’t sound impossible, or particularly in contradiction to the ancient evidence. It sounds as if his book may be interesting and worth a read!

  5. athenas owl

    Andrew participated in the National Geographic program that aired last month. Though they didn’t mention his ideas about Venice. I think this is the same one, though he doesn’t appear until about the midway mark. Around the Hellenistic walls, as a matter of fact.

    Nicholas Saunders is possibly the crank you are referring to. I watched the show to see the locations. The Macedonian alabaster tomb, Saqqara, etc. I haven’t had the opportunity to visit these places so the programs are good for that. It ends with the ubiquitous Zahi Hawass out in the Bahariya Oasis where a temple to Alexander has been found. His theory is that the corpse was removed from Alexandria to that location during the tumult of the 4th century.

    Chugg’s book is quite worthwhile reading.

  6. Roger Pearse

    I saw a repeat of the programme, and Saunders it was. Various people were interviewed. But actually my impression of the programme improved, on second watching. It still was infuriatingly vague about sources, but the images from Alexandria, pictures of the cisterns, etc, were quite nice and quite watchable. Didn’t see the same excerpt as last time!