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Persia 38: The Death and Burial of Alexander

Bikinis from a Lost Planet: Burn after Reading

In myth, the god Osiris (Greek Dionysus) was snared in a love triangle with Isis and Nephthys. Alexander, who closely identified with Dionysus, had married Roxanne daughter of Oxyartes as well as her rival cousin Statiera daughter of Darius III. An embittered Statiera vowed to kill Alexander. Roxanne subsequently killed Statiera. In the book “Alexander the Great: Murder in Babylon” (2004) Graham Philips makes a convincing case that Roxanne also decided to kill Alexander after she became pregnant by him and was increasingly neglected.

It would not be unexpected for Roxanne, in the role of Isis, to have played a part in the assassination. However the killing of an Osiris (archetypal Issachar) was by tradition the more direct work of the leading male deities. The main perpetrators were Seth/Set and Thoth by direction or authority of Geb the heir and Ra the Regent of Egypt. In the Greek hierarchy of Alexander’s day, Antipater son of Iolaus was Regent over Greece. As an “eldest son” of a former Great King, he also doubled in the role of Geb (Reuben). His son Cassander stood in for the “rich man” Thoth (archetypal Simeon). Ptolemy son of Lagus was of the Macedonian line of Seth (archetypal Levi). In “The Death of Alexander the Great” (2004) Paul Doherty concludes just that - Alexander was murdered by conspiracy of Ptolemy son of Lagus with Antipater son of Iolaus and Antipater’s son Cassander.

Note: The name Cassander connotes “Man of Wealth” and “Vain Man”.

By the time Alexander returned from India to Babylon (as Osiris had returned from his military victories in the East), nearly everyone close to him wanted him dead, both men and women of the court. According to the ancient sources (nicely summarized by Doherty) the killing of Alexander was accomplished in two phases. In the first act, Alexander was invited to a banquet by his Companions where he drank wine and ate bread prepared under the supervision of Ptolemy. Alexander became violently ill and spent the night in agonizing pain accompanied by intense sweating. However, he miraculously survived the attack and began showing signs of recovery. Alexander was then offered a feather to induce vomiting (for the purpose of ridding his body of impurities). On the feather was another dose of poison, which led to relapse and ultimately to his death.

In the First Century (New Testament) repetition, it fell to Antipas (a short form of the name Antipater) to orchestrate the glorification of Jesus (as the up-and-coming Dionysus/Alexander of his generation). Immediately preceding his ordeal, Jesus sternly (and strangely) rebukes Peter for asserting that Jesus will not die (as an Osiris figure). This surprising encounter was based on the memory of Cassander, who was sent from Greece by his father Antipater to Alexander in Babylon. Upon his arrival Cassander was verbally abused and physically battered by Alexander for scoffing at the people who were prostrating before Alexander as a divine oriental king, and at Alexander for allowing it. The more canny response of Cassander (in terms of role playing at least) would have been to encourage the reverence of Alexander as a god and thereby signal his fall, which Cassander had himself come from Greece to bring about.

A Night at the Museum

The passion of Christ also unfolds in two stages. After a banquet with his disciples Jesus spends a night of anguish during which he prays to be delivered of the “cup”. By association, Jesus is hoping to be spared from the excruciating fate of Alexander. Alexander had himself retired to a beautiful garden to recuperate, but it was to no avail. The Companions of Alexander were willing but discouraged from holding a vigil through the night for their leader, because the god Serapis declared intercession to be in vain. Jesus was similarly disappointed in his disciples. Nevertheless, the personal prayer of Jesus was answered, at least partially. Unlike Alexander, Jesus survived, either through the use of a substitute (introduced during the scripted sequence of events that followed his entreaty) or by “enduring to the end” of the ordeal.

In the Gospels, the Jesus actually crucified on the next day is presented with a sponge at the end of a hyssop stick, which had been doused in vinegar (Gk oxos, “bad wine”) and gall (Gk. chole, “choleric”). Hyssop was used in certain purification rites within Judaism. This concoction was patterned after the poisons used to kill Alexander (and cleansing him only in the sense of preparing his body for death and burial). Cholera is caused by an often deadly micro-organism and has symptoms that can be confused with arsenic poisoning. Cholera is also associated with green, the color applied to the skin of Osiris in Egyptian art.

The word oxos is evidently a word play, both on the name Roxanne and her purported homeland on the Oxus River. After Jesus was offered the potion, he is next pierced in his side by Longinus. This piercing was perhaps representative of the fatal or final blow to Osiris, but in the case of Alexander it was only simulated using poison, probably strychnine but possibly in combination with arsenic and/or other toxins (as other researchers have suspected). Strychnine kills somewhat slowly but takes hold rapidly, causing the victim to cry out in excruciating pain (from muscle contractions) induced in the side (of the abdomen). Alexander was said to have ordered his men to pierce him and bring his agony to a speedy end, but they declined. Strychnine also induces an unquenchable thirst. It was recorded that later on the thirst of Alexander was so great that he tried to drown himself in the river, even as the body of Osiris was thrown into the Nile.

Note: Graham Philips concludes that Roxanne murdered Alexander using strychnine that she brought back from India. Graham Phillips claims that strychnine was unknown in Greece, however an earlier book by Michael Wood (In the Footsteps of Alexander the Great, p 230) states, “A doctor’s comments on the pharmacology suggests slow strychnine poisoning is the best bet: coincidentally or not, Aristotle’s botanist friend Theophrastus describes its uses and dosage, saying that ‘the best way to disguise its bitter taste is by administering it in unmixed wine’.”

Pan’s Labyrinth

The passion of Christ, as depicted in the Gospels, was a shell game of sorts involving several men who were prospective Jesus-figures, none of which seem to have known for certain whether they would live or die (and therefore emerge as the “Chosen One” within the greater royal family). Among these Christ contenders is a man mentioned in the Biblical account as escaping into the night when Roman troops are brought to seize Jesus. Another potential Christ is Barabbas, “Son of the Father”, who is released by Pilate while yet another Jesus is condemned. There is also Simon of Cyrene, who carries the cross of Christ to Golgotha.

When did the real Jesus of Nazareth make an “exit stage left” in order to defy a literal death? It has been proposed by other researchers that the Jesus on the cross might actually have been taken down still alive. Although Jesus proclaims his great thirst (in imitation of Alexander), he actually refuses to swallow the “vinegar” and “gall” raised to his lips, that is, the cocktail of drugs that would presumably finish him off. The effluence from his wounded side might also indicate that rigor mortis had not set in, i.e., he was not quite dead.

Alternately, the drugs offered to the Jesus on the cross might have been intended to save him. The Hebrew word chole can suggest that a pain killer was being administered, specifically poppy/heroin. Yet the particular “Jesus candidate” hanging between “two robbers” would not or could not partake of it. Alexander in his final hours had severe lockjaw (a side-effect of the poisoning) and could not speak or presumably swallow anything. But the reasons why the Jesus on the cross refused the elixir can only be lunged at. Did this Jesus want to live and ironically refuse a substance he believed would kill (rather than save) him? Or did he want to die and ultimately reject the vain ambition of becoming the Christ? Was he double-crossed, that is, was he told to expect one thing but offered another? These were the dilemmas of a royal player. Who could you trust, and who could be trusted to trust you?

Invasion of the Body Snatchers

What happened to the body of Jesus is equally shrouded in confusion, which again echoes the life of Alexander as transmitted in legend. According to one tradition, Ptolemy fooled his rivals by preparing a dummy corpse and then stealing away the actual body of Alexander. Ptolemy had previously arranged for a “substitute king” to be killed in the place of Alexander, however this only served to lull Alexander into a false security (that the threat to his life had passed). In the Gospels, Joseph of Arimathea (an alias of Herod Antipater) along with Nicodemus (corresponding to Nakdimon/Simon Peter) are allowed by Pilate to take the body of Jesus for burial. However, the body they rescued was likely that of a substitute (a Messianic loser), who was either dead or barely clinging to life.

In the Osiris myth, the body of Osiris was seized by Seth (Levi, archetype of Ptolemy), not for pious preservation but further mutilation and disposal. It was Isis that remembered her love for Osiris and attended to his “resurrection”. Likewise, it is Mary Magdalene in the Gospels that anoints (and thereby exposes) Jesus for his brush with death. She is also the first to see him very much alive after the chaotic ordeal. Seth initially profited from the death of Osiris, but he was eventually compelled to yield the rule of Egypt to the younger Horus. Ptolemy may have anticipated the same outcome, but as fate would have it this time, not only did he found a lasting dynasty but his line ultimately prevailed over all others.

By design, the body of a “true Jesus” was to be “stolen away” by whatever prince had been designated to play the role of Ptolemy. And the Gospels reveal the prince of that generation selected for that coveted role through the story of Lazarus. Prior to the death of Alexander, he had healed Ptolemy (ala Lazarus) of a fatal illness. Ptolemy was not only restored to life at this time, but also promoted by Alexander to an ever greater status. Ptolemy nevertheless cooperated and probably even actively participated in the plot to kill Alexander. In the Gospels, Lazarus (a.k.a. Simon Magus/Apostle Paul) does not appear to take any direct action against Jesus (although this particular mystery deserves further consideration in light of the similarity of the name Paulus and Alexander’s persecuted treasurer Harpalus). In any event, it would not have been necessary for Lazarus/Paul/Simon Magus (as the New Ptolemy) to abscond with the body of the Jesus of Nazareth (as the New Alexander), because this Jesus did not actually die.

Serving the Idiocracy

It is highly ironic that Jesus of the Gospels declares at the Last Supper that one of the disciples would betray him, because all of the disciples were expected to take part in the drama either actively or passively. The role of the betrayer originally derived from Isis, who led (unwittingly or not) the lynch mob to Osiris. However, in the Gospels this role had been transformed into something more. It is Jesus that hand picks Judas for the role. An astute Judas would have instantly realized that he rather than Jesus was far more likely to become a sacrificial victim, and not a victim that would be venerated by posterity.

The name Judas Iscariot like everything else in the Passover Plot is confused. It is a double name. Judas is of course a form of Judah and indicates that this individual had kingly ambitions and potential. Did he intend to steal the election, as he is accused of dipping into the bowl of Jesus’ campaign fund? And did he end up as one of the two “robbers” crucified with a “Jesus” at Golgotha? Could he even have been in the place of Jesus on the middle cross? Alexander also marked his own treasurer Harpalus for death. Harpalus fled from Alexander but was eventually caught and executed.

Iscariot is a more complicated epithet. It suggests a radical (but misguided) militancy of an Issachar-figure predestined for a sacrificial death, that is, an older prince dubbed as tragic forerunner to a younger Jesus-figure. It also embodies an element of the goddess Isis and her particular role in the Osiris drama. The double name of Judas Iscariot corresponds then to a double role, both betrayer and scapegoat. According to one tradition, Judas was cast down from a cliff and disemboweled in the fashion of a scapegoat, a form of death associated with the atonement made for the god Re to absolve his guilt in the killing of Osiris. According to a different tradition Judas hung himself, which better reflects the fate of an Isis-figure who grasped and clung to power a little too eagerly or too long. (Recall also the association of Paul with Isis/Pallas.)

True Blood: Brutus the Thrice Ingrate

The death of Jesus as told in the Gospels compares well with that of Alexander the Great. Another colossus of history, Julius Caesar, was compared in his own lifetime to Alexander the Great. However it is not so much the life as it is the death of Caesar that most concerns us here and now. The similarity of Caesar’s death with Alexander’s has been less appreciated than that of their respective exploits. It will be briefly outlined in the following paragraphs. Intermingled will be a comparison of the death of Jesus with that of Caesar. A fuller understanding of these three perplexing figures is best achieved by comparing all three to each other and also to the Osiris myth.

Caesar had spent much of his career campaigning away from Rome. In his final days Caesar bestirred the waters of Roman willingness to accept him as king and living god, and with considerable finesse. There was acute wariness and resistance in Rome to aspiring tyrants. What Caesar may have failed to totally master was the desire of helpful friends and jealous rivals to promote Caesar beyond any earthly position of influence. A century later, anti-kingship sentiment was even stronger in Herodian Jerusalem, and required greater subtlety in manipulating it. As the story goes, Jesus, like the earlier Caesar, arrives triumphantly in his city at the time of Passover. And immediately there arises a controversy as to whether Jesus was claiming by his measured words and actions to be a divine king. Both the leaders and commoners are divided on the subject.

On the eve of Caesar’s death (the eve of the Ides of March), Caesar was invited by Lepidus to dine at his home with other leading men. Unlike Alexander, Caesar was not poisoned at this time. However, as with Jesus in the Gospels the action against him would begin after the “Last Supper” was observed. Caesar’s ordeal and that of Jesus would be over in less than a day rather than the eleven it took for Alexander to perspire and expire. The killing of Osiris also likely went down hurriedly, yet other aspects, such as the mutilation of his dead body and its eventual recovery by Isis could have taken place over many days. The basic elements of the drama are also rearranged in the various renditions of the royal and ancient Passion Play (of Osiris, Alexander, Caesar, and Jesus), however they are all nonetheless present and carefully accounted for.

Judas Iscariot carried out his assigned task by delivering Jesus to the mob with a kiss. In the case of Caesar, he was betrayed by Decimus Brutus, a man who organized violent gladiatorial combat. Rather than bring Caesar to the hit squad, Decimus Brutus led Caesar to it. Upon his arrival at the Senate, Caesar received a kiss from Senator Popilius. Another Senator, Tillius Cimber, fell at Caesar’s feet like an Isis (and as Mary Magdalene would later “honor” Jesus) and then pulled at Caesar’s robe. Publius Casca Longus drew first blood from the rear with a glancing blow to Caesar’s freshly exposed neck and shoulder.

After this, Cassius Longinus struck Caesar in the face. Caesar at first pretended to be surprised and tried to defend himself. However, when he recognized Marcus Brutus, obviously in the ancient role of “king killer”, Caesar yielded to the assault. Brutus hit the would-be king of Rome in the groin, apparently in remembrance of Osiris, who lost his phallus in the fray. Next, Caesar covered his head, perhaps in expectation of it being lopped off (as was the head of Osiris). With this final gesture he resigned in spirit to his “fate”. In all, Caesar was said to have received 23 wounds, and like Alexander (as well as the mythological Osiris), it seemed as if he had been wounded everywhere. There were as many as 80 conspirators ready to help kill Caesar (compare the 72 against Osiris). On that day a multiplicity of daggers proved mightier than Caesar’s lone stylus.

Like the disciples of Jesus, Cicero had pledged round-the-clock vigilance on Caesar’s behalf, but conspicuously failed to provide any real protection when it was needed. Mark Antony had supposedly been restrained by Trebonius from coming to Caesar’s defense on the Senate floor. After the death of Caesar, Mark Antony rapidly established dominance even as Alexander’s senior general Antigonus the “One-Eyed” had done after Alexander’s death. Mark Antony later named Cicero as ring leader of the plot just like Antipater had been accused of leading the conspiracy against Alexander in a tract published by Antigonus. Mark Antony also moved to secure Egypt. However, it would be Octavius that eventually emerged as the new Ptolemy, and Egypt was deeded to him as a personal estate for the rest of his life.

It is Famished!

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