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The bad omens which foretold the end of Alexander the Great

Shortly before the Great Alexander died, bad signs appeared on the horizon (“ioní” as the ancient Greeks called them). These, according to many, announced the death of the great king. Others again express the opinion that these signs were directed by some who secretly wove the plan of the murder of the great conqueror and wanted to attribute the events to a divine will.

A prophecy and the royal hat

When Alexander the Great returned to Babylon in 323 BC, where he eventually died, his ship was making its way through swamps. The risk of malaria was great. Everybody knew that and that is why they were scared. But Alexander was steering the ship as if nothing was going on and that it was the most normal thing to do. Suddenly, the wind took his royal hat off and its ribbon became entangled in some reeds, very close to some graves. According to the legends, in the swamps all the old kings of Assyria were buried.
A sailor, very loyal to his king, fell without a second thought about the danger of diseases into the dirty waters to gather the hat. And on his return to the ship, to prevent the hat to get soiled by the mud, he wore it on his head.
As soon as he returned to the ship, Alexander thanked him for his bravery, but then he ordered to punish him because he had not taken his permission for leaving the ship.

Even though, other sources testify that there was an old prophecy, warning of the misfortunes that will come when “another head, except that of the king, would wear his diadem”.

The royal crown and the Babylonian prisoner

When he arrived in Babylon, which was the centre of his empire, he began to deal with the army’s affairs. So, at a certain moment he left his seat following his lieutenants, a Babylonian prison escapee took his place on the throne, wearing his royal mantle and his crown.
It was the second event that seemed to remind everyone of the prophecy.

Alexander’s men punished him, but he insisted that it was not his fault but that his gods had sent him supposedly this idea. However, Alexander believed that everything was a conspiracy against him in order to depose him from the throne.

The sudden end

On 29 May 323 BC, Alexander the Great felt a sickness. The bad omens all were talking about seemed to become true. That day he drank a lot of alcohol. The next day he raised a fever. His state of health deteriorated and eleven days later he died.
Some people talked about an unknown disease. Some others insisted that the wine he had drunk was poisoned.

The different scenarios were many and the death of the great commander remains a mystery until our days. Of course, prophecies and magic signs can’ t be accepted nowadays as an explanation. But it remains a fact that they strengthen the legend of the great king!

                                          © Lato,
Het Griekse Taal– & CultuurCentrum van Amsterdam

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