Alexander's Mummy
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Basic Information

Sometime between the evening of June 10 and June 11 of the year 323 BC, the greatest general of the ancient world, Alexander the Great died. The cause of his death is still up for debate. It could have been malaria; it could have been typhoid fever; popular legend hints that it could have been poison. Whatever the cause, in keeping with his greatness, Alexander was mummified in the Egyptian manner and sent back to his native Macedonia to be buried.

He never got there. Almost immediately after his death, Alexander's generals began squabbling over which one of them was going to succeed him. One of them, Ptolemy, hijacked the body as it was being transported through Syria and brought it to Egypt, the province of Alexander's empire which he governed.

At first, Alexander's body was brought to the holy city of Memphis and interred in the temple of Ptah. Later, Ptolemy's son moved it to a new tomb in Alexandria, the city Alexander founded on the coast of Egypt. Ptolemy's grandson built an even grander tomb called the Mausoleum of the Ptolemies, later known as the Soma1, to house his illustrious ancestors and brought in Alexander to keep them company.

Over the next 500 years, virtually every important general dignitary — including several Roman emperors — who visited Egypt made the pilgrimage to visit Alexander's mummy. Ptolemy IX melted down Alexander's original golden sarcophogus and had the body placed in a glass case, so that it could be better admired by the tourists. Caesar Augustus, it is said, was caught trying to slip Alexander's nose into his pocket as a souvenir. He said it broke off. They made him put it back. The Emperor Caligula actually smashed open the glass case and stole Alexander's breastplate off the corpse.

In the 3rd Century AD, the city of Alexandria suffered from wars and invasions and was sacked numerous times. On July 21, 365 AD, an earthquake in the eastern Mediteranean sent a tsunami which damaged much of the city, including the quarter where the Soma was located. It's possible that the Soma was destroyed in the tsunami — no one knows anymore exactly where the mausoleum stood — and that Alexander's mummy wound up in the harbor of Alexandria. It's also been suggested that Christians might have destroyed it in a wave of anti-pagan zealotry.

One theory is that Alexander's mummy was re-named as the corpse of St. Mark and the Soma re-baptized as a Christian shrine. If that is the case, he eventually wound up buried under St. Mark's Square in Venice.

But no one really knows for sure exactly what happened to the man who conquered the world.


Game and Story Use

  • Alexander's mummy would make a splendid MacGuffin
    • It could have occult significance. After all, Alexander was reputed to be the son of Zeus
    • A collector obsessed with great men of the past wants the mummy for his collection and hires the PC's to find it.
    • Or a mad geneticist wants a sample of Alexander's DNA to make a clone of the greatest military genius of all time!
    • And whatever did happen to Alexander's nose?
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