The recent discovery of a unique burial monument in Amphipolis of Macedonia in Greece, has made everyone thinking that maybe this is the long lost tomb of Alexander the Great. The disclosure of the remains of the great conqueror and demigod to many, Alexander, is nothing less than a dream-discovery to the archaeologists and historians around the world.
After conquering all the known world of his time, Alexander the Great died in Babylon on the 10th of June 323 BC. The legend says that the ambitious young king wept when he realised there were no more lands to conquer.
Although Alexander himself had expressed his desire to be buried at the temple of Zeus Ammon at Siwa Oasis, his body was transferred by Ptolemy in Alexandria. Later, his body will disappear so that no man could ever find it.
A place fit for a king
Alexandria lies between the Nile delta, the Mediterranean Sea and Lake Mariout (Mareotis in ancient times). Near the eastern seaport there is an area known as Brucheum. Here, were palaces –including the royal palace of the Ptolemies — gardens, temples and a zoo. It occupied a large part of the northern and central area of the city and was clearly the most beautiful part of Alexandria.
One could find here the Musaeum (University) with its famous Library, the Polytehneio and the Herophilus Medical School. And one could also find here the Sema or Soma (Body), the tomb of Alexander, who’s remains had been brought to the city by Ptolemy I Soter and were placed into a magnificent gold coffin. Some time later, when there was a shortage of money, the gold coffin was replaced by an alabaster one by Ptolemy IX.
It was here that in 30 BC, Octavian Augustus actually saw with his eyes the body of Alexander, which was brought to him from the sanctuary of the temple. Octavian paid his respect to the great man by placing a golden diadem upon his head and flowers on his body. When asked if he would like to see the body of Ptolemy, he replied that his desire was to see a king, not corpses. (Suetonius, Book II, XVIII).
Because the country had taken the side of Antony and Cleopatra, Octavian downgraded Egypt and declared it a province of the Roman Empire. Later, in 200 AD, Egypt will regain its previous status and be self-governed again under the reign of the Emperor Septimius Severus.
Septimius Severus who ruled from 193 to 211 (not to be confused with Alexander Severus who ruled from 222 to 235), visited Alexandria after the victorious campaign against the Parthians in the East. He was accompanied by his wife, Julia Domna, the senator and historian Cassius Dio, who was a friend and mentor, and the secretary of Julia, sophist Flavius Philostratus.
Journey down the Nile
During his visit, Severus wished to travel down the Nile, as he had a special task to complete. Without the historical account by Dio Cassius who wrote in Greek, we wouldn’t know anything about this strange journey, which would not be an exaggeration to say that sealed the fate of mankind. And it’s strange how it has so far escaped the attention of archaeologists and historians. This is how Dio Cassius describes the events that took place in Egypt (Roman History, Book LXXVI, 13, 2, Loeb Classical Library):
After conducting the siege (of Hatra) for twenty days, he then went to Palestine, where he sacrificed to the spirit of Pompey. Thence he sailed to Upper Egypt, passing up the Nile, and viewed the whole country with some few exceptions; for instance, he was unable to pass the frontier of Ethiopia because of a pestilence. He enquired into everything, including things that were very carefully hidden; for he was the kind of person to leave nothing, either human or divine, uninvestigated. Accordingly, he took away from practically all the sanctuaries all the books that he could find containing any secret lore, and he locked up the tomb of Alexander; this was in order that no one in future should either view Alexander’s body or read what was written in the above-mentioned books.
What Dio tells us is that Severus and his company visited those places along the Nile where in the old days the priests of Egypt conducted the sacred Mysteries. Places like Heliopolis, Sais, Abydos, the underground crypts of Memphis and Thebes and Philae (an island of the Nile river) near the first waterfall.
Severus therefore gathered all written material of the sacred knowledge from the remote antiquity and safely sealed it inside the tomb of Alexander the Great, so that it would not fall into the hands of the profane or the uninitiated. One of these books was reportedly the “Book of Thoth”, where one can find the secret of immortality.
From Dio’s words, but also from Suetonius’ account that the body of Alexander the Great was brought “from the depths of the temple” for Augustus to see, we conclude that the tomb of the Macedonian king was not in common view, as the Mausoleum of Lenin in the Red Square, for instance. Instead, it’s location was kept secret and no one could visit it.
It is in this secret place that Severus felt confident that the ancient knowledge was safe. This is because neither the location of the tomb was known nor one could go there by chance. Maybe it was a labyrinth — Egypt, after all, was famous for its underground tunnels that stretched for hundreds of kilometers below the surface.
The end of an era
At the time of Severus (200 AD) the decline of the ancient world is almost complete. It had began five hundred years ago, shortly after the death of Alexander the Great, and ended with what is known to historians as the “crisis of the 3rd century”. This will lead to the fall of the Roman Empire and the birth of the Dark Ages.
So, unlike previous years, there were no longer hierophants able to explain to the candidates the Mysteries of cosmogony and nature. Genuine mystics were rare and, just like today, the Sacraments were nothing more than mere imitation of a ritual without meaning. The Mysteries had either been lost or could no longer be understood.
History has reserved Severus the strange fate of concealing the Mysteries and protecting the true knowledge from the gradual deterioration caused by human perceptions, superstitions and falsehoods.
The tomb of Alexander the Great seems to be the perfect hiding place, since it is hidden itself. And, after all, who else could be a better guardian of this valuable knowledge, other than the pupil of Aristotle who tried to unite all people under a universal idea?
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