Toxicologist Claims Alexander the Great Died from Poisoned Wine
National Poisons Centre toxicologist Dr Leo Schep may have unravelled the mystery surrounding the death of Greek king Alexander the Great, who died at 32 in 323BC.
Schep thinks the culprit could be poisonous wine made from an innocuous-looking plant, according to a report in the New Zealand Herald.
Schep, who has been researching the toxicological evidence for a decade, said some of the poisoning theories – including arsenic and strychnine – were not plausible.
Death would have come far too fast, he said.
His research, co-authored by Otago University classics expert Dr Pat Wheatley and published in the medical journal Clinical Toxicology, found the most plausible culprit was Veratrum album, known as white hellebore. The white-flowered plant, which can be fermented into a poisonous wine, was well-known to the Greeks as a herbal treatment for inducing vomiting.
Crucially, it could have accounted for the 12 torturous days that Alexander took to die, speechless and unable to walk.
Schep began looking into the mystery in 2003 when he was approached by a company working on a BBC documentary.
“They asked me to look into it for them and I said, ‘Oh yeah, I’ll give it a go, I like a challenge’ – thinking I wasn’t going to find anything,” he said.
“And to my utter surprise, and their surprise, we found something that could fit the bill.”
Original article by Dail Mail reporter, January 11, 2014.
Photo by Ocean Corbis.