For 15 years I have sought the body of Alexander the Great. It is the greatest relic of civilization, and all my attempts to locate it have led me to the Nabi Daniel Mosque to the closed doors behind which his body is fervently protected by the Cheihs of Islam.
The others who have been my rivals are content to believe that his body is the one in the catafalque, venerated as the prophet Daniel from the Bible. Everything about the legend of Daniel and the Nabi Daniel mosque, however, describes Alexander the Great. The legends bespeak of being hatched by the educated cheihs who did all they could to protect his body from the rapine of the intolerant conquerors. No denigration was to befall Iskander. He is the “King of the Greeks” mentioned in the Bible in the Book of Daniel, of course. He is the embodiment of all that sets a young man’s heart to burn– young, set free from the box in which we live and think and to conquer the world with his boyhood companions.
From the earliest of times the legends spoke of the mosque of the “Sire with the Two Horns” over which was built the Nabi Daniel. There is no quester for Alexander who does no know what that means. It comes from the Alexandrian image of the great conqueror on the coins and roundels– Alexander wearing the diadem of Amun with the two horns.
Unlike my rivals, and for so they are, I do not believe his is the body in the catafalque. Tradition holds 2 bodies are there– Daniel and a companion. Some of those before me are content to believe that the mosque was built over the Royal SOMA that carried his soma– body– and perhaps this image inspired the name of the mosque. There is little reason to disagree. But what body was eventually brought up and placed in the catafalque much later when the Nabi Daniel mosque was built?
Alexandria was leveled to rubble long before the Muslim conquests when in the great earthquake of 365 AD struck. The priests of his cult would have found him, but they would have secured him somewhere now that his great cone-shaped tomb had been destroyed.
Curiously, no Ptolemaic tomb has been found. No item or artifact has ever turned up, indicating that they too remain intact below, buried near Alexander in the vast necropolis complex collectively known as The SOMA after his body.
Many centuries, many centuries went by before the Nabi Daniel was built on the site over the ramshackle precursor of the Dzoul Karnien (Sire of the Two Horns). Many centuries before the legend of Daniel was made to fit. But what bodies were brought up from the necropolis below? The last internments had been Antony and Cleopatra, and I tend to believe that their bodies were the ones brought up– two unidentified bodies to take the place of Daniel and his friend Sidi Lokum.
But Iskander remained below. He remained below in his crystal coffin, the golden sandals still on his feet.
His body had been venerated in the ancient world. His tomb was open, like Macedonian tombs, and it was crowded with gifts. A treasure developed around him, set amongst his helmet, shield, greaves, and breastplate. Caesar wept over him. Augustus kissed him. That knave Caligula stole his helmet and wore it in a horse race.
Ironically the tomb and body of one of the greatest humans to ever live has vanished. Yes, the priests of his cult would have retrieved the body and placed him somewhere safe in the maze of marble-lined tunnels below. They have been glimpsed. People have been shooed out. Passageways have been bricked up.
Perhaps some of my rivals prefer to believe that his body is in the catafalque because it is protected against the radicals there. But I think it is not. No Muslim king would desecrate it, but we do not speak of kings when we speak of radicals.
All the world has always wondered why no Ptolemaic tomb has ever been found. But the idea that the necropolis fell into the sea has no merit. The location of the SOMA was known, and the modern streets trace the two main cross streets of the ancient city where it had been located.
In later posts we will go through an antiquarian history from great and small who tried to find, and some who even claim to have seen, the body of the “prophet Iskander” deep below the modern city of Alexandria.
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Since 1990 Gian J. Quasar has investigated a broad range of mysterious subjects, from strange disappearances to serial murders, earning in that time the unique distinction of being likened to “the real life Kolchak.” However, he is much more at home with being called The Quester. “He’s bloody eccentric, an historian with no qualifications who sticks his nose into affairs and gets results.” He is the author of several books, one of which inspired a Resolution in Congress.