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Alexander the Great mysteriously died at the age of 32. Now we know why



"His death may be the most famous case of Pseudothanatos, or a false diagnosis of death ever recorded."

When Alexander the Great died in 323 BC. In Babylon, his body showed no signs of decomposition for a full six days, according to historical accounts.

For the ancient Greeks, this confirmed what they all held about the young Macedonian king and what Alexander believed in himself – that he was not an ordinary man, but a god.

He was only 32 years old and had conquered an empire stretching from the Balkans to modern Pakistan. When he fell ill and died after 1

2 days of agony, he was on the verge of another invasion. Since then, historians have been debating his cause of death and suggesting everything from malaria to typhoid and alcohol intoxication to murder by one of his rivals.

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In a recent theory of the bomb, however, a learned and practicing clinician has suggested that Alexander has suffered from the neurological disorder Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) that caused his death. She also argues that, for a simple reason, people may not have noticed any immediate signs of body breakdown – because Alexander was not dead yet.

Katherine Hall, a lecturer at the Dunedin School of Medicine at the University of Otago, New Zealand, writes in an article that was published in The Ancient History Bulletin most of the other theories about what killed Alexander has focused on the agonizing fever and abdominal pain he suffered in the days before he died.

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In fact, he has also developed a "progressive, symmetrical, ascending palsy". during his illness. And although he was very ill, he remained compos mentis (completely in control of his mental faculties) until shortly before his death.

Hall argues that GBS, a rare but serious autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks healthy cells of the nervous system, can explain this combination of symptoms better than the other theories put forward for Alexander's death. She believes he may have suffered the disease from an infection of Campylobacter pylori a common bacterium at the time. According to Hall, Alexander probably received a variant of GBS that led to paralysis without causing confusion or unconsciousness.

While speculation about what exactly killed Alexander is far from new, Hall throws in a curveball suggesting he may not have died when people thought he did.

She argues that the increased paralysis Alexander suffered, as well as the fact that his body needed less oxygen at shutdown, made his breathing less visible. Because physicians in antiquity relied more on presence or not breathing than on a pulse to determine if a patient was alive or dead, Hall believes that Alexander could have been falsely declared dead before he actually died.


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