Illustration of Alexander the Great riding horseback, wielding a sword mid-battle.

Where Is Alexander The Great's Tomb?

By the age of 30, Alexander the Great had managed to take down the most powerful nation that had yet to exist. Smashing the Persian Empire into pieces, he even managed to expand its borders into the Indian Subcontinent and parts of Central Asia. Everything from Greece to Pakistan and Armenia to Egypt was his to rule. However, in a sudden twist of fate, Alexander would lose his empire almost as quickly as he obtained it. It is not totally clear how he died or where his tomb exists. Some historians believe he caught malaria, while others think he was poisoned by one of his scheming generals or advisors. Regardless, with no clear successor, the empire splintered into dozens of fragments, never to be reunited again. 

Night view of the Statue of Alexander the Great in Thessaloniki, Greece.

In the chaos that followed, little to nothing was known about what actually happened to the body of Alexander the Great. There is an almost endless supply of hypotheses, but nothing concrete has even been found in the annals of history or in some breakthrough at an archeological site in the Middle East. Even today, the true location of Alexander's final resting space remains a mystery. 

Ptolemaic Egypt 

One of the leading theories of the whereabouts of the body of Alexander the Great points many historians toward Egypt. Upon the collapse of his empire, it is believed that one of his generals, Ptolemy got possession of his body and brought it back with him. 

Name of Alexander the Great in Egyptian hieroglyphs (written from right to left), c. 332 BC, Egypt. Louvre Museum
Name of Alexander the Great in Egyptian hieroglyphs (written from right to left), c. 332 BC, Egypt. Louvre Museum. Image credit: PHGCOM, via Wikimedia Commons.

According to some records, the body was kept in Memphis, an ancient city a few hours south of modern-day Cairo. The body was likely stored there while a larger, much more fitting tomb was being constructed in Alexandria. 

It is important to remember that when Alexander entered Egypt a few years before his death, he was portrayed as a hero saving the Egyptian people from Persian oppression. He went so far as to crown himself Pharoh. 

Considering all of these factors, he would have been given the highest burial rites afforded in Egyptian culture. So a grand tomb in Alexandria does make sense. It is also worth mentioning that it would have been an undeniable point of prestige and legitimacy of Ptolemy's claim to Alexander's empire if he really did have possession of the body. Showing off such a relic in a grandiose tomb would also be quite logical. 

However, it is not clear how long the construction of the tomb took or even if it was ever completed. If it had been finished, it would have been built in the palaces district in the city, an area that has sadly been underwater for centuries at this point. So there is no way to know for sure. 

The City Of Alexander

The harbor in Alexandria.

Formerly known as Rhakotis, Alexandria was renamed after who else but Alexander? Alexander the Great was responsible for renaming dozens of cities and towns after himself and his generals. He even named a city after his horse.  The city remained a beacon of Hellenic culture in the region and would do so up until the Romans conquered Egypt in 30 BC. Considering all of these factors and the close ties Alexander had with the city and the nation, Alexandria is the most likely location of his tomb.

It is mentioned by Julius Caesar that he visited the tomb to pay respects. But Caesar is never clear about its exact location either. Caesar only mentions his experience in the tomb and is hazy with the rest of the details. 

Will The Tomb Ever Be Found?  

The empire, route and battles of Alexander the great from Greece to India
The empire, route and battles of Alexander the great from Greece to India.

As the search for the tomb continues, a growing group of historians and archeologists have become increasingly pessimistic about ever locating the burial place of Alexander the Great. These historians rightfully point out that if the ancient records are correct, then the tomb is either underwater or sits underneath an office building or an apartment complex somewhere in the city. Either way, it would make it almost impossible to find. 

They argue that even if it was found, there is a good chance that it would have been damaged beyond recognition thanks to water erosion and other natural causes. Other burial sites have been found in the area, and the ones that are underwater tend to be in worse shape.  This unfortunate scenario makes it unlikely that experts would even be able to ascertain whether or not it is, in fact, the tomb of Alexander with any kind of certainty. They also factor in the chance that the tomb has already been discovered unknowingly. 

The true location of the tomb of Alexander the Great could endure as one of history's greatest unsolved mysteries. Considering the literal religious devotion towards Alexander after his death, it is surprising that more accurate and concrete records do not exist to tell us where his body is or, at the very least, give us a clearer picture of what really happened. 

While there are dozens of notable historical loose ends that have never been tied, this one certainly bothers historians the most. Alexander was a young man that was only alive for a short time but changed the world forever. 


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