Alexander the Great

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the Great


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Words by: Theodora Sutcliffe

So who was Alexander the Great?
One of the greatest generals of all time, Alexander transformed himself from Prince of Macedonia into ruler of an empire that stretched from Greece to India - all in the space of a decade. His sexual tastes were Catholic even by the standards of the time: his romantic life encompassed not only the adult, male love of his life, Hephaestion, but wives, specially trained slave girl escorts, a young eunuch and several teenage boys.

Where did he drink?
Alexander drank in conquered palaces and army camps all across Europe and Asia, generally reclining on a couch, garlanded in leaves, perfumed with oil and tended to by slaves of various genders.

What did he drink?
We imagine Alexander would have liked his spirits, but distillation had yet to be invented. So the great man drank wine from the finest vineyards and regions of Greece, then home to the finest wines in the world. And he drank a lot of it. In an era where most men drank their wine mixed with water (sometimes seawater!), Alexander took his straight, no chaser.

Any famous drinking buddies?
The philosopher Aristotle was Alexander's tutor, until, aged sixteen, his father considered Alexander old enough to run a kingdom and manage his own battles. We like to imagine the old man and his young student sitting down over some fine Greek wine.

How did drink change his life?
Many people believe drink actually, umm, killed Alexander. A couple of weeks before he died, he'd enjoyed a boozing session with one of his admirals and a friend named Medius that extended all night and all the way through the next day. Later he got sick (perhaps with alcohol poisoning or even alcohol withdrawal), and attempted to treat it by drinking a large bowl of unmixed wine. At which point he died, and his empire came to a rapid end.

Any drinking stories?
Alexander was not a mellow drunk. He had to leave Macedonia in a hurry after a booze-fuelled falling out with his father at his wedding. He killed Cleitus the Black, a childhood friend who had saved his life in battle, at a banquet in Samarkand, after an argument escalated from throwing of apples to hurling of spears. Wracked with remorse, Alexander cried for three solid days.

Alexander became increasingly moody and unpredictable during the last few years of his life. His rapidly growing ego required that he be knelt to in the manner usually reserved for gods, a fact for which some blame the booze.

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