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Alexander's Tomb: The Two-Thousand Year Obsession to Find the Lost Conquerer Paperback – April 24, 2007

3.8 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Although the heroic exploits of Alexander the Great have been memorialized in fiction, films and biographies, the location of his tomb remains a mystery. British anthropologist Saunders (People of the Jaguar), an armchair Indiana Jones, deftly chronicles the various searches for Alexander's tomb by pharaohs, Christian emperors and archeologists from antiquity to the present. As Saunders tells it, while Alexander's corpse lay in state in Babylon in 321 B.C., a power battle among his generals led one of them, Ptolemy, to steal the corpse and carry it to Memphis in Egypt for burial. Later Ptolemy moved the body to Alexandria; 70 years later, one of Ptolemy's sons moved the body yet again to a more ostentatious home in Alexandria. Cleopatra plundered the tomb, and when Christianity became Rome's official religion in the fourth century A.D., Alexander's tomb may have been among the many pagan shrines and tombs destroyed throughout the empire. In 2004, one scholar speculated that Alexander's body lay beneath the altar of St. Mark's Church in Venice, buried by ninth-century Christians who mistook Alexander's remains for those of Saint Mark. Saunders's lively prose draws readers into this compelling tale of conquest, political intrigue and the aura surrounding one of history's great heroes. 16 pages of b&w photos. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"Alexander's tomb has long been as powerful as an idea as it ever was as a place and (Nicholas Saunders') enjoyable book does justice to the continuing strength of that view." Sunday Times "A tantalising glimpse into the possibilities surrounding Alexander's Tomb." Publishing News"

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (April 24, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465072038
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465072033
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,565,615 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Fernando Villegas on January 5, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Entertaining book, no doubt. How the remains of Alexander, his mummy and the place where it lied trough centuries until it disappeared of common knowledge and historic testimonies, are and were very alive trough old and current politics, but also how the obsession to find his body still pervades the mind of scholars and laymen, all of that is certainly a tale worthy of a book and this one fulfill the task very well.

Saunder deliver the merchandise. We see a parade of scholars, amateurs, crazy or deranged people of all description, fake histories, rumors and archaeological discoveries trying to say the last word, but we also see the politics of his age, all kind of kings messing around this famous corpse, making use of it to legitimate patched kingdoms with an artful mixing of myth and legend.

A worthy reading and at last the thought that the aura of Alexander's tomb will vanish -as happened with the Titanic- the very same day it is discovered. Tombs of famous people only lives in imagination if far from museum life.
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Format: Hardcover
A puzzling thing is that books about ancient Greece usually end with the death of Alexander in 323 BC. Yet it was after that time -- not before -- that Hellenism became a world civilization. For some reason, however, historians have chosen to rap rhapasodic about the small city of ancient Athens -- and ignore the huge empire of Alexander and his successors. Author Saunders writes about what happened after Alexander's death. That's ground that hasn't been plowed often and is very much worth the effort of learning about it. The story of the diadochi -- the successors of Alexander -- is as dark and bloody as any in history.

The book focuses on what happened to Alexander's body and its significance as a symbol of power and legitimacy for the successors of the great conqueror. It's interesting stuff and the author, with limited material to work with, conjures up a cult of Alexander and his body in Alexandria, as exemplified by his tomb and the visitors who came to pay homage. However, reading this book I came to a conclusion opposite from the author. Within a few decades after Alexander's death, nobody really gave a damn about his remains. His fabled tomb wasn't on the list of Alexandria's major tourist attractions, is rarely mentioned in ancient sources, and disappeared without a trace.

Saunders brings the story up to date with tales of medieval and modern efforts to find Alexander's tomb and remains. This book is worth reading for the well-described and lucid picture it gives of the city of Alexandria and its society in the several centuries after Alexander's death.

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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Incredible that one can provide so much in-depth research and still have a life. Mr. Saunders kept this wanna-be detective on the trail (I always "have to know") moment by moment, while the dirty dishes just piled up. Of course, I ordered Andrew Chuggs "follow-up", as we're continuing the arduous task/search.....and I just have to know whose bones those are. Absolutely superb authorship, Mr. Saunders!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The Soma.What is it? It is the name given to Alexander's tomb or Mausoleum.

Were is it, it is a mystery as the mystery of the man itself.

This book narrates the history of the Ptolomaic dynasty what they accomplished and what ruined Alexandria Egypt under their, reign.It further goes to describe the Roman Period, the Ottoman Period the Christian period,and the look for Alexander's Soma.The recent digs in the Oasis of Siwa, to the discovery of the Ptolomaic Alexandria right under the Actual Alexandria only 40 feet under.

HOw through the centuries the Soma appeared and dissappeared from history. Is it still in Alexandria, is it in Memphis,or Siwa? Or is it all together gone? What about the sarcopagus at the Nebi Daniel Mosque,did it containe Alexander's body or not?

This book has been published in 2006, and is incredible the research that the author has done.The latest excavations in the Latin cemiteries in the hope of discovering Alexander.What an astonishing accomplishment this would be, in my opinion better than the King Tut's tomb. Alexander accomplished much more than Tut.I hope that he will soon be found,intact with his glass sarcophagus and his mummified body.

It is a very easy book to read.

5 plus stars.
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Format: Paperback
Saunder's has a tough task he has laid for himself here: he wants to discuss the history of Soma and Alexander's Mummy while acknowledging that it is mostly a trial of obscurity. It is unclear when Soma is destroyed because as Roman records drop off between Diocletian and John Chrysostom, Soma disappears and Alexander's body is lost. Despite the Islamic rehabilitation of Alexander as figure of admiration as a figure of admiration (even perhaps a prophet) more than a lingering pagan cult--which probably because Christian clerics saw as a more living thread than Islamic caliphs did--there is little clear about what happens to Soma.

What is more interesting than Soma is the descriptions of the radical changes in the Levant to which Alexander's tomb serve as a backdrop. Saunders--and the historical record--knows more about what was going on in the early Caliphate in Alexandria than in the Fatimid and medieval periods. Alexandria fades more into obscurity as Cairo becomes more and more predominant. Then European imperialism and Napoleon re-spark interest in Soma, and a bunch of failed attempts happen. One learns about not only ancient geo-politics but also 4th century, 6th century, and 16-17th century geo-politics as well as the politicization of Alexander in contemporary Greek and Balkan nationalism.

If one doesn't like intellectual history, then it will be frustrating as we know very little about Soma for certain. It simply isn't described much in the ancient records because it is assumed people know it. Like Pharos and the Library of Alexandria, it is also unclear exactly what destroyed it. This obscurity between ancient, medieval and modern Alexandria seems to plague all those ancient monuments. Saunders is a clear writer with a sound nose for both the need for speculation and responsible limits to it.
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