News A statue of Alexander the Great in the northern Greek city of Salonica. Scientists believe they may have solved the 2000 year old mystery of how the ruler died

A leading toxicologist has said that Alexander the Great may have died after drinking wine made from a poisonous plant that would have cause a slow and painful death

THEATRE / All present and erect: Paul Taylor reviews Ranjit Bolt's stylishly smut-strewn translation of Aristophanes' Lysistrata at London's Old Vic

The gussets of the men's trousers are so floor-sweepingly voluminous you feel you'd have no problem stuffing a full week's family shopping into them. Which is just as well, given what they're forced to accommodate in the second half of Aristophanes' sublimely lewd Lysistrata. Here the hard-ons are as high as an elephant's eye or, to put it another way, is that a shoe-tree in your pocket or are you just pleased to see me? When one poor male attempts a courteous bow, he practically concusses himself on his reared-up rigidity.

Oarsmen learn the secrets of ancient Greek war machine : Almost unbeatable in battle, the triremes still had flaws. David Keys reports

A GROUP of British and American historians, naval architects and rowing enthusiasts have discovered how the ancient Greeks' greatest war machine worked.

Show People: Dirty old man does it again: 81. Aristophanes

TO ARISTOTLE, he was vulgar. To Plato, he was dangerous. To less snooty citizens of the world's first democracy, he was Spitting Image, Viz and Ray Cooney rolled into one. He didn't invent comedy, but he is the earliest comic playwright whose work survives. They say humour doesn't travel, and satire is not supposed to last, but this week Aristophanes of Athens, aged about 2,450, is back in the West End of London.

BOOK REVIEW / Greece is the word: 'Shame and Necessity' - Bernard Williams: University of California, 18.50

AT LONG last philosophers within the Anglo-American tradition are turning to literature. They have always been ready to quote from literature (a whole book could be written on the role of quotations from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland within this tradition), but literature has usually been a source of pithy examples rather than a particularly rich and interesting area of human endeavour. The continental tradition is quite different in this respect. From Hegel through Kierkegaard and Nietzsche to Sartre and Derrida, some of the deepest insights have come from questioning literature (and of course painting).

BOOK REVIEW / Handshakes all round, and the faint sound of snores: 'A Cultural History of Gesture' - Ed. Jan Bremmer and Herman Roodenburg: Polity, 12.95 pounds

THERE DO not seem to be many languages these days that cannot be learnt in 24 hours, given the right all-in-one multipack of tapes, videos, brochures, diet programmes, and so on. But body language remains a tough one. For historians there is an extra difficulty: physical mannerisms survive the test of time only in stylised forms, such as portraits and etiquette manuals. But one of the brightest aspects of modern history is its willingness to explore the minutiae of earlier life, and A Cultural History of Gesture is a keen examination of arms, legs, hands, feet, heads, hats and elbows.

Letter: Man means person

Sir: Yve Newbold (letter, 18 February) is on the wrong tack. By assigning the whole of mankind to the male half, she condemns herself to perpetual slight and feelings of inferiority. The more he-

Letter: Be economical with the plot, please

Sir: Politicians are often accused of being frugal with facts. Not so Tim Renton, MP (Letters, 9 February). Adam Mars-Jones may have confused his Greek mythology when describing the film Damage, but at least he didn't give away the plot. Can I sue for passive denouement?

THEATRE / A revenger's tragedy: Paul Taylor on Peter Shaffer's new play The Gift of the Gorgon, at the Barbican

Here's a paradox: a drama about the superiority of forgiveness to blood vengeance that leaves you murderously disposed towards the playwright-protagonist. It's about the only point in Peter Shaffer's The Gift of the Gorgon where your emotions are illuminatingly confused (though it's hard to say how intentional this is).

Edinburgh Festival Day 17: Breaking the sound barrier: Andrei Serban has tapped the sounds of ancient Greece to plumb the subconscious depths of modern-day Romania. Kevin Jackson reports

LEGEND has it that on the eve of one crucial by-election of the Sixties, Harold Wilson was alarmed at the prospect of Labour voters staying home to watch television rather than turning out for the polls; so alarmed, indeed, that he began to fantasise about coercing the BBC into screening an evening of such excruciatingly boring fare that even the most apathetic households would be driven out to vote. After pondering the problem for a while, he hit on the perfect formula. 'An evening of Greek tragedy,' grinned the Prime Minister. 'In the original Greek.'

Health: An unspeakable pain in an unmentionable place: When Mary Roberts found she had piles, her first thought was to keep it secret

I HAD always assumed it was a medical complaint that afflicted men over the age of 60 - until it happened to me.
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