Three Final Wishes of Alexander the Great

The_Death_of_Alexander_the_Great_after_the_painting_by_Karl_von_Piloty_(1886)A friend recently sent me a circulating email containing the “Three Final Wishes of Alexander the Great”. I have tried to find a source for the origins of this alleged quote, but I cannot find any reliable confirmation as to its authenticity.

Personally, I doubt this is authentic, especially since most biographies indicate that Alexander was probably unconscious as he lay dying. However, even though its authorship may be not be confirmed, it makes for an interesting reflection on vanity and the finality of death.

This is what Alexander allegedly told his officers upon falling ill and realizing that death was imminent:

“I will soon leave this world. I have three final wishes. You need to carry out what I tell you.”

His generals, in tears, agreed to abide by their king’s last wishes.

“My first wish is that my physicians alone carry my coffin.”

After gasping for air, Alexander continued:

“My second wish is that you scatter the gold, silver, and gems from my treasure-house along the path to the tomb when you ship my coffin to the grave.”

After resting for a while, the dying king continued:

“My final wish is that both my hands be left dangling out of my coffin.”

Though his generals wondered at the king’s strange wishes, no one dared question him.

However, after kissing his hand and pressing it to his heart, one of Alexander’s most favored generals did venture to ask:

“O king, we assure you that all your wishes will be fulfilled. But could you please enlighten us as to why you make such strange wishes?”

After taking a deep breath, Alexander said:

“I want everyone to understand three lessons I have learned…

“To let my physicians carry my coffin is to let people realize that a physician cannot really cure anyone. Especially in the face of death, physicians are powerless. I further hope people will learn to treasure their lives.

“My second wish is to tell people not to be like me in pursuing wealth. I spent my whole life in the pursuit of wealth, but I was wasting my time, energy, and peace of mind.

“My third wish is to let people understand that I came into this world empty handed, as I will leave this world empty handed.”

Having finished talking, Alexander closed his eyes and stopped breathing.

You will find various variants of Alexander’s last three wishes if you make a quick Internet search, and I have taken the liberty of editing it somewhat. Please do let me know in a comment if you do find an original source for this.

Interestingly, Alexander’s alleged last words are echoed in the New Testament:

“For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.”
1 Timothy 6:7 | KJV, Bible Study

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