The ‘Horns’ of a Medical Dilemma: Alexander the Great
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Retrospective 'diagnosis' of clinical disorders of famous historical figures has been of medical interest. In the absence of a patient's 'body', the validity of 'physical symptoms' and their interpretation by contemporary diagnostic criteria are questionable. When the symptoms have been gleaned from the patients's effigy which, as in the case of Alexander the Great, is submerged in legend, the enterprise becomes inherently hazardous. In the present paper, some of the conceptual problems underlying retrospective diagnoses will be identified. Then the use of iconographic records, such as numismatics and sculpture, to provide evidence of clinical symptoms will be shown to be highly misleading.
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