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A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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New Thoughts on the Death of Alexander the Great

Monday, February 4, 2019

DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND—Katherine Hall of the University of Otago suggests that Alexander the Great may have died of Guillain-Barré syndrome, a rare neurological condition, according to a Live Science report. Hundreds of years after his death, historians wrote that the king of Macedonia had died at the age of 32 in June of 323 B.C. in Babylon, after a brief illness characterized by fever and paralysis. Many believed he had been poisoned. The historic record also suggests that Alexander's body did not decay for seven days after he was declared dead. Hall suggests these symptoms could be explained by Guillain-Barré syndrome, which is an autoimmune disorder that causes gradual paralysis and could have put Alexander into a deep coma resembling death. In addition, while the syndrome is generally extremely rare, it occurs more often in the region where Alexander died, particularly in the spring and summer. For more, go to “In Search of History's Greatest Rulers: Alexander the Great, King of Macedon.”

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