323 BC: Alexander the Great's Funeral Carriage

To emphasize this amazing technological difference between 1840 AD and 323 BC (2,163 years), I wanted to follow up the Napoleons Funeral Carriage of 1840 with the one of the Alexander the Great dated with 323 BC.

Obviously no 323 BC depictions, if any were ever produced, survived. Therefore, all we are left with are the 19th century attempts to visualize the procession based on the accounts of the Alexander's contemporaries. Well, we are lead to believe that those were the contemporaries. Without emphasizing the date of death of this Diodorus Siculus, which occurred in 30 BC, it's obvious how easy it is to be misled. Essentially we have about 250-300 years between the death of Alexander, and the account of this funeral procession.

Alexander's carriage, according to Diodorus Siculus, 19th-century representation

This here (below) is a 1940 depiction by Jeanne Bucher. In painting this picture, Bauchant seems to have followed very closely the description of the funeral chariot and the accompanying procession given in Charles Rollin's Histoire Ancienne, which according to Maximilien Gauthier (op. cit., p.43) was one of his favourite bedside books. The English translation The Ancient History of Egyptians, Carthaginians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Medes and Persians, Grecians and Macedonians (London c.1830), Vol.3, pp.530-1, gives this passage as follows:
  • As soon as these [the tracks along which the procession was to pass] were levelled, that magnificent chariot, the invention and design of which raised as much admiration as the immense riches that glittered all over it, set out from Babylon. The body of the chariot rested upon two axle-trees, that were inserted into four wheels, made after the Persian manner; the naves and spokes of which were covered with gold, and the felloes plated over with iron. The extremities of the axle-trees were made of gold, representing the muzzles of lions biting a dart. The chariot had four draught beams, or poles, to each of which were harnessed four sets of mules, each set consisting of four of these animals; so that this chariot was drawn by sixty-four mules. The strongest of these creatures, and the largest were chosen on this occasion. They were adorned with crowns of gold, and collars enriched with precious stones and golden bells.
  • On this chariot was erected a pavilion of entire gold, twelve feet wide, and eighteen in length, supported by columns of the Ionic order, embellished with the leaves of acanthus. The inside was adorned with a blaze of jewels, disposed in the form of shells. The circumference was beautified with a fringe of golden network; the threads that composed the texture were an inch in thickness, and to those were fastened large bells, whose sound was heard at a great distance.
  • The external decorations were disposed into four relievos.
  • The first represented Alexander seated in a military chariot, with a splendid sceptre in his hand, and surrounded, on one side, with a troop of Macedonians in arms; and on the other, with an equal number of Persians armed in their manner.
  • These were preceded by the king's equerries.
  • In the second were seen elephants completely harnessed, with a band of Indians seated on the fore-part of their bodies; and on the hinder, another band of Macedonians, armed as in the day of battle.
  • The third exhibited to the view several squadrons of horse ranged in military array.
  • The fourth represented ships preparing for a battle.
  • At the entrance into the pavilion were golden lions, that seemed to guard the passage.
  • The four corners were adorned with statues of gold representing Victories, with trophies of arms in their hands. Under the pavilion was placed a throne of gold of a square form, adorned with the heads of animals, whose necks were encompassed with golden circles a foot and a half in breadth: to these were hung crowns that glittered with the liveliest colours, and such as were carried in procession at the celebration of sacred solemnities.
  • At the foot of the throne was placed the coffin of Alexander, formed of beaten gold, and half filled with aromatic spices and perfumes, as well to exhale an agreeable odour, as for the preservation of the corpse. A pall of purple wrought with gold covered the coffin.
  • Between this and the throne the arms of that monarch were disposed as he wore them while living.
  • The outside of the pavilion was likewise covered with purple flowered with gold. The top ended in a very large crown of the same metal, which seemed to be a composition of olive-branches. The rays of the sun, which darted on this diadem, in conjunction with the motion of the chariot, caused it to emit a kind of rays like those of lightning ...
  • The chariot was followed by the royal guards, all in arms, and magnificently arrayed.
  • The multitude of spectators of this solemnity is hardly credible; but they were drawn together, as well as by their veneration for the memory of Alexander, as by the magnificence of this funeral pomp, which had never been equaled in the world.

Interesting that Walters manuscript W.612 (11th century AH (???) / 17th CE ) depicts the funeral procession of Alexander the Great like this:
  • Nice medieval outfits we have there, don't you think?​
funeral procession of Alexander the Great.jpg


KD: Going back to the size of the carriage. Napoleon, and Alexander... why were these carriages so big? What was inside?

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