Poisoned wine could have killed Alexander the Great
10th January, 2014 by Lauren Eads
A scientist believes a toxic wine could have led to the death of Alexander the Great unravelling 2,000 years of mystery.
Dr Leo Schep, toxicologist at the National Poisons Centre and scientist at the Otago University in New Zealand, thinks a poisonous wine made from a plant may have killed the ancient Greek leader, according to a report by the New Zealand Herald.
Alexander the Great built a massive empire before his untimely death at the age of just 32 in 323BC.
Some historians believe he died of natural causes while other believe he was the victim of a plot to poison him at a celebratory banquet.
Dr Schep, who has been researching the toxicological evidence for a decade, said some of the poisoning theories, including arsenic and strychnine, “were laughable” as death would have come far too fast.
In his research, co-authored by Otago University classics expert Dr Pat Wheatley and published in the medical journal Clinical Toxicology, he asserts the most likely culprit was a wine made from Veratrum album, known as white hellebore.
The white-flowered plant can be fermented into a poisonous wine and was was well-known to the Greeks as a herbal treatment for inducing vomiting.
It would also account for the 12 days it took for Alexander the Great to die during which he was speechless and unable to walk.
Of the poisonous wine Dr Schep said it would have tasted “very bitter” but could have been sweetened with wine, but conceded that his death would forever remain a mystery.