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

words: Lethal


feigning the full hormonal flush of careless youth

THE suzi feay COLUMN

Dear mom, love Persephone

MOTHER LOVE by Rita Dove Norton pounds 10.95

Books: A dictionary for Dionysus

WHOM GODS DESTROY: Elements of Greek and Tragic Madness by Ruth Padel, Princeton pounds 19.95

OBITUARY: Martin Price

Martin Price was one of the leading scholars in the field of Greek coinage and one of the most generous and unselfish of men.

Ceasefire: Words: Pan

BEFORE Ulster loyalist spokesmen began throwing verbal bricks at the 'pan-nationalists' I must admit that I had not come across this particular pan- combination. Pan-Buddhists, Pan-Anglo-Saxons and the Pan- Celtic Movement, yes: Pan American Airways certainly. I had even heard of the pan-

BOOK REVIEW / Paperbacks: Mary Renault: A Biography - David Sweetman: Pimlico, pounds 10

Renault was one of my favourite writers as a young teenager, and I can remember dark rumours circulating that this mysterious novelist, whose flyleaf was cryptically short on detail, was Really a Man. Well now I know. She was a lesbian - not a term she liked - who lived for 35 years in South Africa with a woman she met while nursing in Britain. She wrote six novels of contemporary life until she found her subject, ancient Greece, about which she wrote eight more, some of them classics. Sweetman gives useful insights into the more puzzling aspects of Renault - suggesting why, for instance, women are given such a hard time in her novels. He is also concerned to show her sympathy for the politically oppressed - not just homosexuals, but the disenfranchised masses of her adopted home.

Leading Article: Be a giver, and be thankful

NIETZSCHE perhaps went too far in praise of helping the poor. 'Should not the giver be thankful that the receiver received?' he suggested. 'Is not giving a need? Is not receiving mercy?' But the German philosopher hit on an important truth, that charity can be of great value to those who bestow it. His views echoed a long religious tradition. The ancient Greeks believed that beggars were from Zeus and therefore precious. Likewise the Beatitudes bless the poor. Islam acknowledges the therapeutic benefits of giving. Charity is called zakat, meaning 'purifying dues'.

BOOK REVIEW / A to Z of Victorian values: 'All there is to know: A Selection from the 11th Edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica' - ed Alexander Coleman & Charles Simmons: Deutsch, 20 pounds

THE Encyclopaedia Britannica, like many of man's finer creations, originated north of the border. Its first edition was launched in Edinburgh between 1768 and 1771. Some 1,700 years earlier, Pliny the Elder compiled the oldest surviving compendium of knowledge in his great Natural History. The shining conception of an encircling system of instruction, in which all disciplines flowed into each other, formed the basis of free- born education in ancient Greece. Plato's pupil Speusippus produced an encyclopaedia, long- vanished, as did Cato the Very Depressing, as did Varro. But it was in the 18th century that the art or craft reached its apogee, with the 28 volumes of Diderot and D'Alembert's stupendous Encyclopedie, among whose contributors were Montesquieu, Rousseau and Voltaire. Its entries were arranged in the traditional thematic manner. The Edinburgh Encyclopaedia Britannica, more modest in scope, compromised mildly by introducing an alphabetical element. A hundred years later it was in its ninth edition and had become the largest in any language, rivalled only by the German Lexikon. In the high-flowering of autodidacticism on both sides of the Atlantic, a further 10 volumes were added; the resulting opus extended more than seven feet, an unruly, unworkable leviathan.

Rare Greek vases expected to sell for pounds 1m

A COLLECTION of ancient Greek vases is expected to raise more than pounds 1m at Sotheby's in London next month.

Science: Trip to Cern awaits young prize winners

All Europe will be celebrating its scientific heritage next month, in a series of festivities sponsored by the European Community to mark European Week for Scientific Culture. The Independent, in conjunction with the British Association for the Advancement of Science, will participate by running a competition, aimed at 14- to 18-year-olds, starting on the science page on 22 November.

It's not in the genes, it's in the culture

HAVING published their evidence connecting Xq28, an area of the X chromosome, with homosexuality, the team led by Dean Hamer of the US National Cancer Institute returned to their microscopes and began surveying the contiguous Xq29. Only this time their microscopes were even more powerful than before, and what they saw made them gasp with amazement.

THEATRE / True blue, and over the top

WHAT MADE some members of the audience at the Liverpool Playhouse walk out of Lysistrata? Billed enthusiastically as the rudest comedy ever, Aristophanes' play, written during the Peloponnesian War in 411BC, has the women of Athens and Sparta taking steps to end the war. They deny the men sex and take charge of the money supply. Defensive this may be: offensive it's not.
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