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Alexander the Great Died Mysteriously at 32. Now We May Know Why

January 23, 2019 in History

By Sarah Pruitt

When , most other theories of what killed Alexander have focused on the agonizing fever and abdominal pain he suffered in the days before he died.

In fact, she points out, he was also known to have developed a “progressive, symmetrical, ascending paralysis” during his illness. And though he was very sick, he remained compos mentis (fully in control of his mental faculties) until just before his death.

Hall argues that GBS, a rare but serious autoimmune disorder in which the immune system attacks healthy cells in the nervous system, can explain this combination of symptoms better than the other theories advanced for Alexander’s death. She believes he may have contracted the disorder from an infection of Campylobacter pylori, a common bacterium at the time. According to Hall, Alexander likely got a variant of GBS that produced paralysis without causing confusion or unconsciousness.

While speculation over what exactly killed Alexander is far from new, Hall throws in a curveball by suggesting he might not even have died when people thought he did.

She argues that the increasing paralysis Alexander suffered, as well as the fact that his body needed less oxygen as it shut down, would have meant that his breathing was less visible. Because in ancient times, doctors relied on the presence or absence of breath, rather than a pulse, to determine whether a patient was alive or dead, Hall believes Alexander might have been falsely declared dead before he actually died.

“I wanted to stimulate new debate and discussion and possibly rewrite the history books by arguing Alexander’s real death was six days later than previously accepted,” Hall said in a statement from the University of Otago. “His death may be the most famous case of pseudothanatos, or false diagnosis of death, ever recorded.”

READ MORE: Why Many Famous Figures Feared They’d Be Buried Alive

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Source: HISTORY

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