Friday, November 16, 2007

Alexander the Great's relationship with alcohol

I read today an interesting article titled Alexander the Great's relationship with alcohol which is from the Addiction, 2003 May;98(5):561-7. It was written by J. A. Liappas, J. Lascaratos, S. Fafouti & G. N. Christodoulou. I could find no online version of this article but an abstract can be found at PubMed.

The article aimed to clarify:

• Whether Alexander indulged pathologically in alcohol.

• If, on the basis of the existing historical evidence, the diagnosis of alcohol abuse, consumption causing harm to health with resulting dependency, or pathological intoxication, as defined by the diagnostic criteria DSM-IV (American Psychiatric Association 1992) and ICD-10 (World Health Organization 1992), can be established.

• The social and political context of alcohol use in Alexander’s time and during his military campaigns.

• The probable accuracy of the attribution of alcohol as Alexander’s cause of death.

Was Alexander the Great an alcoholic? The study did not reach a conclusion. It noted, "In conclusion, it appears that Alexander was indeed involved with alcohol. However, bearing in mind the existing historical evidence, the national, social and cultural conditions of the historical period during which Alexander lived, it appears likely that Alexander periodically consumed large amounts of alcohol which resulted in instances of alcoholic or pathological intoxication. The diagnostic criteria of ICD-10 and DCM-IV seem to prove useful in our endeavour to evaluate the involvement of Alexander the Great in the use of alcohol. On the basis of the currently existing phychiatric classification systems, the existing evidence does not support convincingly the idea that Alexander would be ‘diagnosed’ a posteriori as suffering from either dependence on or abuse of alcohol" (p. 567).

The article has lots of medical jargon but it is understandable. If you are interested in ancient history, this article is worth hunting down in paper.


Margaret said...

Interesting blog! My godmother directed me here (she's a historian and I'm a teacher and write historical fiction, so this is a recurring theme).

This sounds quite fascinating, actually. On the surface of things, it would seem he didn't have much more of a problem than many people in Macedon at the time, which was *legendary* for its alcohol consumption (and its devotion to Dionysus - for which Alexander's family was particularly of note). Apparently, it was fairly common to have drinking contests that would include fatalities (of the drinkers, though probably homicide was also an occasional occurrence - Alexander was drunk when he killed Cleitus).

M said...


You are welcome to post a comment to this blog. However, do not leave a link to that alcohol abuse site. My comments are not a method for you to promote and build links for your site.

Thank you,