Where is Alejandro? Under the crypt of the Nabi Daniel mosque in Alexandria? Hidden among the thousands of golden mummies of the Bahariya oasis? Destroyed in a thousand relics and amulets of late antiquity? The whereabouts of the body and the grave of the greatest conqueror in the world are unknown. Since he died and was embalmed in Babylon in 323 BC until in 2002 an extravagant aerospace expert, Andrew Chugg, proposed that Alexander lay under the high altar of St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice (!), Dying in 1995, when the doubtful Greek archaeologist Liana Souvaltzi announced the discovery of his tomb in the oasis of Siwa, was not true: it was one of the great disappointments of archeology: the history of the remains of the Macedonian king and the monument designed to contain them, the Soma, is wrapped in wonder, mystery and legend. Even Hamlet speculated on the subject.
We will document all the theories and searches of the location of the tomb of the character and its remains – he considers them the true «grail» of archeology, composing a journey through history, myth and really exciting geography.
In the adventure of the search, worthy of Indiana Jones, notable archaeologists have appeared, including Schliemann, the discoverer of Troy (who was not given permission to dig under the mosque of Nabi Daniel), and Howard Carter, who found the tomb of Tutankhamun, who boasted to Farouk that he knew the whereabouts of the Macedonian king. And also, in great quantity, impostors, visionaries and colorful locos («the fools of Alejandro»). Among the latter, the Greek waiter Stelios Koumatsos, who for thirty years, from 1950, managed to dig through Alexandria, often clandestinely, and said he had interviewed in a subterranean passage, through a hole, a coffin of crystal with the name of Alejandro. He emulated well illustrious and no less bizarre predecessors such as Alexei Ramonsky, an official of the Russian Embassy in Alexandria, who claimed in 1898 to have stumbled into the vaults under the mosque of Nabi Daniel with a block of black alabaster that held a dusty glass urn inside. of which there was a mummified figure sitting on a throne. In 1979, there was even an expedition of seers to Alexandria in search of Alejandro’s whereabouts.
In fact, what is historically known about Alexander’s body is that after his mummification in Babylon he was sent in a large ceremonial chariot to Macedonia. On the way the royal cargo was intercepted by Ptolemy, one of his generals, who had appropriated Egypt, and taken to the land of the Nile as a valuable symbolic instrument of legitimation. Ptolemy, recalls Saunders, installed the body in Memphis while preparing a tomb at his height in Alexandria, the great capital that should enhance Alexander with his post-mortem presence. Of the funeral home that Alexander had in Memphis, for about twenty years, nothing is known. So there is a first archeological enigma: it is possible that it was in the Saqqara area, perhaps in connection with the Serapeum. The exact moment of the transfer of Alexander’s body to Alexandria in his golden sarcophagus is unclear. It is speculated that it could have been the son and successor of Ptolemy, Filadelfo, who would take care of it. In 274 BC, Alexander was already in Alexandria. His stay there would last for centuries, almost all antiquity, and it is most likely that the king (or whatever remains of it) is still in the city. But it seems that it was not always in the same place in the metropolis. It is noted that there was another urban transfer, from a first tomb, solitary, to another more monumental one that would be in connection with those of the kings of the Ptolemaic dynasty who would be buried in the same area of the mausoleum of Alexander. The historian Strabo, who visited the city in 30 BC, points out that the Soma, «which has an enclosure where the tombs of the kings and that of Alexander are,» was in the district of the royal palaces, north of the city. This was, the second and the most famous of the tombs of Alexander the Great in Alexandria.
Today that area corresponds to the promontory Silsileh, but a part of the old area was under water with the rise in sea level and another was razed in the nineteenth century to build the pier, the Alexandrine Corniche. Neither the first tomb nor the great final mausoleum of Alexander, which must have been spectacular, has been found – here we must add a hopeful «still» – no remainder. Nor has there been, and this is very strange, any representation. So, although it is traced how could be the grave, the truth is that you have no idea of its appearance, all are speculations.
The tomb of Alexander was one of the most famous places of antiquity, a hot spot of Greco-Roman tourism, and, between 300 BC and 400 of our era, visited all the famous of the time. We know that among them were Julio César and Octavio Augusto, who placed a golden crown on the mummy of the conquistador – and accidentally broke his nose when he kissed it: he always gets nervous when kissing a mummy. The king apparently no longer rested in his original gold sarcophagus, replaced by Ptolemy X for another baratito alabaster or rock crystal. Nor did he possess his golden ornaments, from which Cleopatra had stripped him to recruit more troops after the defeat of Actium. Later visitors were Caligula, who removed the armor to Alexander and surely to Adriano. Severe Septimio made the tomb close to the beginning of the third century, which at that time seems to be in connection with some disturbing secret rituals.
The struggles between pagans and Christians that devastated Alexandria finally bury the Soma in the darkness of oblivion and rumorology. Nicholas J. Saunders offers the very suggestive theory that the tomb of Jesus Christ in Jerusalem, found in the fourth century, was a timely counterweight to that of Alexander, symbol of paganism.
Remains of any of the tombs of Alexander, including the most important, the Soma, lost in the Palimsesto that is Alexandria, can appear any day. Do not have many illusions about your state. The mummy, more fragile, has it even worse. It may have been hidden by pagans in some secret place or destroyed in any of the violent vicissitudes -human and geographical- of Alexandria. Saunders proposes that he could have an end worthy of the cosmopolitan Alexander: chopped and turned into thousands of amulets scattered throughout the wide world that once the young and heroic Macedonian conquered.