Toxic wine made from a harmless looking plant might have been the culprit for Alexander the Great's untimely and mysterious death more than 2,000 years ago, new research claims.
Published in the medical journal Clinical Toxicology, the study points to a white flowering plant, Veratrum album, more commonly known as white hellebore and a fabled poison, as the most likely candidate to have killed the Macedonian king in 12 days.
"If Alexander the Great was poisoned, Veratrum album offers a more plausible cause than arsenic, strychnine, and other botanical poisons," wrote New Zealand researchers Leo Schep, of the National Poisons Centre, Pat Wheatley, a classics expert at Otago University, and colleagues.
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The researchers reviewed ancient literary evidence associated with the Macedonian leader's demise in 323 B.C.
Indeed, there are basically two divergent reports of Alexander's death. The first originated in the Royal Diary, allegedly kept in Alexander's court. The second account survives in various versions of the Alexander Romance, a collection of texts and manuscripts about the exploits of the Macedonian king.