What Made Alexander So Great?

Going Downhill

Nevertheless, when Hephaestion died, Alexander was consumed by grief. He was already on edge because his army, exhausted after more than a decade of fighting, had flatly refused to push on into India.

"The traditional interpretation is that he worsens in character in the later stages of life," said Carney. "Most people who want to modernize it go with clinical depression."

Alexander also -- like many of his time -- was a heavy drinker. When he fell ill in Babylon, he knocked back a lot of wine, which undoubtedly made things worse. He died in Babylon on June 10, 323 B.C.

No one knows for sure what caused his high fever. At the time, poison was widely suspected. But in an age when there were no antibiotics, any minor illness could prove fatal. The general consensus is that he died of natural causes.

It's tempting to imagine what else Alexander might have conquered if he had lived longer. One thing is sure, said Martin: "Alexander was never going to stop."

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