Alexander’s The Great’s Drinking Contest That Killed 41 People
One of the greatest rulers in world history also sponsored one of the most irresponsible and deadly competitions
As the King of Macedonia, Alexander III (Better known as Alexander the Great), built his legacy on accumulating great wealth and an unblemished military record. The creator of one of the largest empires in world history, it’s perhaps of little surprise that he was prone to moments of excess. There is no better example of this than when he held a drinking contest where the participants consumed so much alcohol that it led to all 41 of them, including the winner, dying of alcohol poisoning.
Living in the 4th century B.C., Alexander the Great came to power in his early 20s in 336 B.C. after the assassination of his father, Philip II. Having been privately tutored by none other than Aristotle, Alexander had a unique blend of education and ambition upon assuming the throne. He conducted wildly successful military campaigns on multiple fronts in Asia, Europe, Egypt and more. So successful were these ventures that he also became the Lord of Asia and the Pharaoh of Egypt. He died when he was just 32 — most likely due to poisoning or an underlying health condition. However, so many years later, he remains among the most powerful and influential rules the world has ever seen.
Alexander lived and ruled in societies that celebrated and enjoyed alcohol — particularly wine. Some of these cultures even worshipped gods of wine. Many countries preferred to cut their wine, which was stronger than those produced today, with water. However, Macedonians had an affinity for the undiluted version. It was not only an important part of culture, it could help bring different peoples together. This was of particular importance to Alexander, whose military exploits meant he was routinely adding new kingdoms under his vast political umbrella.
Part of Alexander’s success was his deftness at blending cultures between his own native people and those who he acquired by way of the sword. One such effort was a large-scale wedding he arranged to marry select officers and soldiers from his military to Persian nobility in the city of Susa; a move to help solidify his pursuit of being named the…