When Did Hephaestion Die?

A post on The Second Achilles‘ Facebook Page

Categories: Hephaestion Amyntoros | Tags: | Leave a comment

Impressions of Arrian I-II

At the end of August this year, I started a little series on my Alexander Facebook page.

It is called ‘A Quote and a Comment’ and is based on a chapter-by-chapter read through of Arrian’s Anabasis. I hope the title explains clearly enough what the series is about!

As of today, I have managed to publish a new post every day. This record will continue for at least another week as I am currently writing the posts a week ahead of schedule.

If you would like to visit the Fb page, just click on the link above. For links to each post, click here. I am in the process of putting the earlier posts into a PDF document; if you would like to read them in that format, send me an e-mail (thesecondachilles[at]gmail.com) and I will post it to you when it is done.

In this post, however, I thought I would mention four things about Arrian and his work that have impressed themselves upon me since I started writing.

  1. Arrian is the most un-character led author I have ever read. In contrast to, say, Plutarch, he spends no time at all discussing Alexander the man. Only the Macedonian king’s deeds seem to interest him. This is not to say that his Alexander is a cypher. Alexander the man can be found (see below) but only through his deeds.
  2. Arrian’s Alexander is a master of psychological warfare. On several occasions he uses these tactics to gain a vital advantage over his foes. For example, when he used silence, discipline, noise and speed to scare the Taulantians (I.6); his deliberately slow advance towards the Persian army at Issus (II.10), which I think was conducted at least in part to unnerve the enemy soldiers; and his decision to have ships surround and attack Tyre whenever possible (II.24) during the final assault. The immediate aim of this was to keep the defenders wherever they were busy but it must also have had the intended effect of damaging their morale by placing Alexander, as it were, everywhere.
  3. Arrian does not dwell on the battles. I first became aware of this when I read the Siege of Tyre. The whole episode is quite long – II.1624 covers it – but the final assault lasts just one chapter. I have looked back to the Battle of the Granicus (I.15-16) and Issus (II.10-12) and found that they are covered equally quickly. I have a theory that Arrian knew what an awful thing war could be and although he admires Alexander he was not minded to make the battles seem glorious events.
  4. Beware Translatations! I may have blogged about this before but can’t remember. The reason I mention this is as follows. In II.13, we see Sisygambis make her famous mistake – thinking that Hephaestion is Alexander.

    Alexander merely remarked that her error was of no account, for Hephaestion, too, was an Alexander – a ‘protector of men’.

    When I wrote about this, I said that the line “a ‘protector of men'” made it seem that Arrian was not identifying Hephaestion with Alexander the person but with his office. However, that line – which appears in my Penguin Classics edition of the Anabasis – does not appear in the Landmark Arrian; it says

    But Alexander declared that she had not erred, since Hephaistion, too, was Alexander.

    So it would appear that “a ‘protector of men'” is the translator’s interjection rather than Arrian’s; is it what he understood Alexander to mean when he called Hephaestion another Alexander, though, or what he believed Arrian to mean?

    By-the-bye you’ll note that the reference for the two translations is different. The Penguin Classics text was published, I suppose for a general audience and so they were happy to play slightly fast and loose with the start and end point of each chapter in order to make them cover a page length each time.

Have you read Arrian’s Anabasis? If so, what did you make of it? I would love to read your comments. In the meantime, as I have written this after finishing the first two books I will write a follow-up post at the end of Book IV to see if my thoughts about Arrian and his work have developed any further.

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He, however, is not Alexander

Legends of Alexander

from Lee’s Summit Journal
by Bill Virgin
Full post here

I recall a story of Alexander the Great that I had heard sometime back, whether true or folklore.

It went something like this. He was walking through his military encampment and came across a sleeping soldier who was supposed to be on guard. With total disgust and rebuke Alexander awoke him and demanded to know his name. The trembling soldier muttered that his name was also Alexander. In a tone of dismay, Alexander the Great replied, “Either change your name or live up to your name.”

Fact or Fiction? It’s a close run thing but I’m going to say fiction
Any Reason Why? None of the main sources mention this anecdote. However, I have to admit, it does sound like the kind of thing Alexander would have said
Name Something Good Here. The fact that it shows Alexander walking through his camp: something that he would certainly have done; Alexander’s dismayed response. It’s so him!
By-the-bye, Alexander’s words strike me as being the exact reverse of what he told Sisygambis in regards Hephaestion: that his most loyal friend was also Alexander  (Arrian II.13, Diodorus XVII.37) – I wonder if the writer had that story in mind
Rating? Four sarissae out of five. For its realism

Categories: Legends of Alexander | 1 Comment

Iron Earth and Golden Sky

Legends of Alexander

from The New Indian Express
by H. H. Sant Rajinder Singh Ji Maharaj
Full post here

There is a story from the life of Alexander the Great that illustrates the result of  engaging in the desires of the world. Alexander the Great had conquered many people.

He was leading his army into the north-western part of India to conquer those people.  When returning home, he asked his astrologers to tell him how and when he would die.

The astrologers told him, “0 great King, our calculations show that you will not die until  the earth turns into iron and the sky is transformed into gold.” The king was overjoyed and said, “This is great news. It would take many ages for the earth to turn to iron and the  sky to turn to gold. What a miracle! I am going to live for a long time.”

Alexander the Great next decided to go to Persia. On the way he had an attack of  malaria, and told his chief minister who was riding alongside him on his horse, “I have a  terrible fever. My strength is fading. I cannot ride any longer.”

The minister grew worried and said, “0 great King, let us ride a few miles more. We can then find a tree  and you can lie down in the shade.” However, Alexander could  ride no longer. He got off his horse and lay down on the hot ground.

The minister could not bear to see the great king lying in the hot sun, so he made a couch for the king by removing his own coat of iron armour that was lined with forty layers of silk so that the king could rest upon the silk. The minister then held his own  shield over the king’s face to keep the sun off him.

When Alexander opened his eyes and saw the shield decorated with strips of gold,  the astrologer’s prediction came to his mind. “Oh, no,” thought Alexander. “I was a fool  to be happy with the astrologer’s prediction. I thought it meant I would live a long time.

Now, the prediction is true. I am lying on iron as if it were earth. The sky above me is  now the gold shield.” Suddenly, the royal physician rode up on his horse to treat the king.

He examined Alexander and told the king, “I cannot deceive you. You are lying at the door of death.” Alexander cried, “Is there no remedy?” The doctor said, “No, great King,  the fever is too severe. No medicine can help you.”

The king fell into despair. Although he was so weak, he could not believe his life  was about to end. The king turned to his minister and said, “Please announce that I will  give half my kingdom to anyone who can enable me to live long enough to have a last  glimpse of my mother.” The doctor said, “Sir, that is not possible. You have only a minute or two to live.” Alexander panicked, “Whoever will let me live long enough to see my mother will receive all my conquests. I will live only on alms.” The doctor said,

“It is useless. Nothing can save you now.” Then, Alexander the Great, who had terrorized and plundered thousands of people as he conquered their nations, began to cry.

Suddenly, a saint wandered by. He looked in silence at the dying king. He then said to the minister that it was a shame that Alexander threw away all his life for temporary desires of the world. He added that the conquest of all the world is nothing compared to spiritual bliss.

Fact or Fiction? Definitely fiction
Any Reason Why? Alexander never suffered from malaria on his way back to Persia; the Macedonian army did not use iron armour; the idea of giving half or all of his kingdom away would never have occurred to Alexander; the idea of living on alms would have absurd to him; he died in Babylon, not on the road back from India; a wandering saint would never have got that close to Alexander
Name Something Good Here. The story alludes to Alexander’s religiosity. He did take omens and portents seriously (though sometimes defied them, e.g Arrian IV.4)
Rating: One sarissae out of five for being a neat tale even if not remotely true

Categories: Legends of Alexander | Leave a comment

Hair Today, Legendary Tomorrow

Just over a year ago, I wrote this post in which I disparaged the idea that Ptolemy I Soter could be responsible for the claim that Alexander forced his men to shave after almost losing an unnamed battle (but perhaps that of Issus) when a Persian soldier realised he could kill Macedonian soldiers more easily by grabbing hold of their beards and throwing them to the ground first.

I happened to return to the issue in April this year, here. A few months on, I still maintain that the idea of Alexander almost losing a battle because of his men’s beards is nonsense.

However, I have come across evidence to suggest that there really was a tradition that Alexander made his men shave in case their beards were used against them by their enemies.

I haven’t made an exciting new discovery. If you know your Plutarch, you will know which text I am about to quote. It comes from his Life of Theseus. In Chapter 5, Plutarch tells us about a tribe called the Abantes who were experts at close-order combat. He writes,

… in order to deny their enemies a hand-hold on their hair, they cut it off. No doubt Alexander of Macedon understood this, too, when he gave orders to his generals, so we are told, to have the beards of their Macedonians shaved, because these offered the easiest hold in battle.

I wonder: Plutarch’s assertion seems a very reasonable one. Could he be representing a true tradition and St Synesius, not so much a fake one, but a tradition that saw the original information – perhaps Ptolemy’s – embellished to the point where fiction overtook reality?


I was never fond of the Macedonians long hair in Oliver Stone’s Alexander film. As far as I was concerned, only barbarians had such flowing locks; depicting the Macedonians with them was just another absurdity in a film that already had several.

However, He Has A Wife You Know may just have put me right. In this post, the author focuses mainly on beards, but links both them and long hair when he writes,

For the Greeks facial hair, and in particular beards, denoted masculinity. Find any Greek vase depicting Greek men and you’ll witness this simple rule, beardless males are youths, those with beards are men. For a society that prized masculinity as highly as it did the very symbol of that was something quite sacred, beards weren’t to be messed with.

I have to be a bit careful here as I really don’t know much about Macedonian social customs. For all I know, the Macedonians liked having long hair and beards but did not attach the same significance to them as Greeks did.

However, while they formed a distinct society to the men down south, the two did share some important customs (e.g. religion) so it is not beyond the realms of possibility – perhaps we may say it is very likely – that they both looked at long hair and beards in the same way, too, as masculinity was definitely very important to both. If so, I owe Oliver Stone an apology.

And that is the beauty of the internet. It helps you to learn, to write, to discover, to correct, and ultimately, to improve.

Categories: By the Bye | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Quoting and Commenting Upon Arrian

For the last two weeks I have been reading a chapter of Arrian’s Campaigns of Alexander every day, picking a quotation from it and writing a short post based upon both it and the wider chapter.

I am publishing the posts to my Alexander Facebook page. If you would like to read any of the first fourteen posts, then just click here. If you are someone who is already reading the posts and ‘Liking’ them, Thank You! It means a lot that people are taking the time to do both.

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Dionysius’ Revenge

For the last couple of years I have been making – or trying to make, anyway – a concerted effort to learn about Alexander’s life via the four principle sources (plus Justin) of his life.

Although I still have much to learn I think I am now sufficiently comfortable to now start thinking about expanding my focus a little: forwards, past the Wars of the Successors, which are already part of my reading, to the Successor kingdoms, and backwards, to classical Greece.

To that end, I went this week to see the Almeida Theatre’s production of Euripdes’ Bakkhai.


Euripides wrote Bakkhai – or The Bacchae as it is more commonly called – while living in the court of Archelaus I of Macedon, giving the play a nice point of connexion with Alexander.

In it, King Pentheus of Thebes tries to eliminate the worship of Dionysius in his city only for the god to take a fatal revenge on him. As if the tragedy of Pentheus’ pride is not enough for us, he is (literally) torn to shreds by his own mother, whom Dionysius has maddened along with the women of Thebes and taken into the mountains.

There is no doubt that Pentheus acts foolishly in setting himself against Dionysius; whether he deserves to be killed – and in such a gruesome way – is quite another matter, but the gods of Olympius are not known for staying their hands or acting in a half-hearted matter.


I first read Bakkhai a few years ago. My chief memory of it is that I found the play to be quite a disturbing and uncomfortable one. Too many mad people running around for my taste? Probably – that gave it an air of being a horror show, and I definitely not keen on horror as a literary genre, whether in books or, for example, film. I entered the Almeida, therefore, in trepidation. Would I enjoy it? Would I wake up in the middle of the night afterwards in a cold sweat? The answer to these questions is yes and no. Here is why I enjoyed the production.

This production used a translation of the play by Anne Carson. Perhaps rather cheekily, she has added some lines to Euripides’ text so that the modern world gets a mention. I’m not sure that was wholly necessary but it did not detract from the play and was a nice addition to its humorous aspect.

The Stage
The Almeida is a very small theatre. I sat in the front row and could easily touch the stage with my foot. Okay, I am quite tall so have long legs but believe me when I say you sit very close to the action. And this intensifies it, immeasurably – as if it wasn’t intense enough already. Watching this play was like being in the very middle of an unfolding disaster.

The Actors
The lead role of Dionysius was played by Ben Wishaw. With his slight frame and puppy-dog face he might seem a surprise choice to play the wild and malevolent god but Wishaw made the part his own. He did this in a number of ways: a. by the different ways he used his voice. Proud and firm, dreadful and strong for Dionysius, cockney for a Theban survivor of the god’s revenge b. by the way he acted with his body as well as his voice. For example, when he spoke of religion, Wishaw punched the palm of his hand. That’s the Greek gods to a T. c. Allied to b., by the way he used his face. Wishaw may have a ‘puppy dog’ expression but my goodness, when he narrows his eyes he is as fierce as fire. By-the-bye I am convinced that if he did weight training he would make an excellent Hephaestion to Jesse Eisenberg’s Alexander. At first sight, both men are much too small for such a role but as actors they have an inner fire that I am sure could see them do a better job than Colin Farrell and Jared Leto.

Pentheus was played by Bertie Carvel. Pentheus can’t be an easy part to play as he is rather a straight man to Dionysius’ mad character but Carvel was excellent. Straight back, smug face, full of self-assurance – that’s the Theban king through and through.

The third of the three principle actors was Kevin Harvey who played Pentheus’ grandfather, and first king of Thebes, Kadmos. I really liked his interpretation of the aged king. What really made it for me was just one detail: the way Harvey almost let his tongue hang out of the old man’s mouth. That was a little touch but spoke perfectly to Kadmos’ old and sadly decrepid state.

I can’t move on without mentioning the Chorus. The women who formed it were really, really good both in their singing and associated movements. And the way they whacked their thyrsi on the stage. At that point I really would have preferred to have been sitting a few rows back! It was very fearsome.

I have to admit, during the play I did think to myself – Alexander would have seen this, what did he make of Bakkhai? For me this is a question worth considering as Alexander believed in the Dionysius’ reality. With that in mind, I find it very hard to believe that he would have viewed the play as no more than entertainment. Seeing the god so fearsomely portrayed surely would have made an impression on him. Perhaps we owe to such as Euripides’ play Alexander’s strong religious devotion, which he maintained all through his life.


Being able to visit the theatre is a great privilege. Living so close to one, as I do to the Almeida, makes me doubly lucky. Bakkhai was not only enjoyable on the night, but has giving me new things to think about thereafter; I hope, as well, that it will remind me to go back to the theatre sooner rather than later. With Medea opening at the Almeida later this month, that might just be possible.

Categories: Theatre | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

He Conquered Through His Tears

In an article on The Myth of the Macho Christ for Patheos (here), Simcha Fisher writes quotes a correspondent who complained about her definition of masculinity. They wrote,

If an affinity for babies and not having sex is manliness or courage or masculinity then some anemic nerd virgin gamer who babysits his cousins on the weekend is literally more manly and masculine than Achilles or Alexander the Great or Gengis Khan, since they fornicated.

To which Fisher replies,

In charity, we’ll overlook the facts that Alexander the Great almost certainly had sex with men, and is best known for sitting down and crying,

Before proceeding to prove her correspondent wrong in his, or her, definition of what masculinity really is.

I agree with Fisher that Alexander ‘almost certainly had sex with men’ although I would limit their number to either one (Bagoas) or two (Bagoas and Hephaestion)*.

She is, however, is quite wrong when she says that Alexander is ‘best known for sitting down and crying’. Not even the village idiot would say such a thing. I suspect she is thinking of Achilles here, although I don’t know The Iliad well known to say how much time he spends sitting and sobbing. Having said that, I don’t think anyone in their right mind would say Achilles’ greatest claim to fame is the amount of tears he shed. Fisher has created a parody in order to make a point. In charity let’s say that on this occasion her memory of Alexander and Achilles both fooled her. It’s a great shame as the rest of the article is, in my opinion, a good one.

* On that point, see this comment

Categories: Of The Moment, On Alexander | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments

The Thracian Campaign

A few days ago I read the opening pages of Arrian’s Campaigns of Alexander. While doing so, I was struck by his account of Alexander’s Thracian campaign, and what it told me about the Macedonian king’s quality of generalship, even at the young age of 20.


As you may know, the Thracian campaign took place in the Spring of 335 B.C. Alexander undertook it in order to secure Macedon’s northern borders before he began his expedition to overthrow the Persian Empire.

In the course of a few weeks, the king defeated various tribal armies and armed forces in head-to-head battles, forcing numerous tribes to make peace with him. The campaign came to abrupt end when Alexander heard about Thebes’ revolt.


The first incident to jump out at me was the famous cart manoeuvre. As Arrian (I.1-2) relates, Alexander took his army into a ‘narrow defile’ below Mount Haemus only to find a Thracian armed force blocking the upper slopes with carts. They pushed the carts over the edge of the slope intending no doubt not only to cause serious injury to the Macedonian soldiers but put the phalanx into disorder (thus making a counter-attack easier).

Alexander, however, avoided any casualties, firstly by ordering those men who could to step out of the carts’ way or, when that wasn’t possible, ordering them to lie on the ground with their shields on their backs so that the carts rode over them.

I have to admit, his response to the threat of the carts is so simple that it is hard to imagine anyone doing anything else. But while I could imagine any general ordering his men to step out of their way, it surely takes a very creative mind to realise that we could make the carts go over us.


The next incident that stood out was Alexander’s crossing of the Ister (Danube) river. It seems that what he should have done was built a bridge. But, he didn’t. Instead, and as Arrian (I.4) relates, he ordered his men to sew up their tents and stuff them with hay. These were then used as floats during a crossing that took place at night.

This was a very daring plan. Prior to crossing the river, Alexander had assaulted those Triballians and Thracians who were hiding on a mid-river island. He tried to land on it but without success; one reason for this is because the current was too fast. Now, while the water in the open river would have been slower I assume it must have still been flowing at a fair speed in order to become unmanageable ‘through the narrows’ between island and land. If so, that must have made guiding the floats a difficult job. Especially at night time.


The next example of Alexander’s superior generalship that stood out at me was his response to being caught between Cleitus son of Bardylis in the fortified town of Pelium next to the Eordaicus River and troops belonging to Cleitus and Glaucias who held positions in the ‘commanding heights’ above the town.

Had Alexander made a wrong move here, he could have been killed and his army wiped out. So, how did he even the odds? Not by brute force but by employing psychological warfare.

This sounds very grand but as Arrian (I.6) tells us, Alexander simply drilled his men. Simply? He had them ‘execute various intricate movements’ and had them do so silently.

Glaucias’ and Cleitus’ armies – much larger than Alexander’s – were scared to death by the Macedonians’ discipline. As they watched the enemy soldiers go through their paces the silence must have deafened them. When, finally, Alexander ‘called on his men to raise the war-cry’, well, you can imagine what that must have done to the tribal armies frayed nerves. Unsurprisingly, it lead to those on the heights withdrawing from their positions.

To be fair to the tribesmen, not all fell back. One group stayed on a hill that Alexander needed to cross. When he approached it, however, the enemy fled.

With the hill secured, Alexander made his way to the Eordaicus. Crossing it would bring him to safety. As the Macedonians waded through the water, Glaucias’ men attacked them in the rear. The tribesmen didn’t have the guts for a fight, though, for they were careful to keep out of range of the Macedonian archers. Alexander’s shock-and-awe tactic was an on-going success.


Of the three events that I  have mentioned in this post, it is the third that impresses me most. It not only required Alexander to make the right decision in a seemingly impossible situation but his army to hold firm as well. This highlights the fact that a great general, even one of genius, as Alexander was, needs a good army in order to display his talents. In the Macedonian army, Alexander was fortunate to have one of the finest ever to march across the earth.

Categories: Arrian | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

Alexander’s Sexuality

The Bay Area Reporter of San Francisco has published an article titled Alexander the Great & Greek Love on its website. You can read it here.

By the standards of most on-line articles concerning Alexander, the article is a really good one; the writer has clearly looked more deeply into the topic than plenty of other journalists. Occasionally, however, he lets himself down.

Paragraph 1
This is an excellent introduction to Alexander. It’s the kind of passage that I wish I had written. I would dispute that Alexander ‘in the West, [is] probably the best-known ancient ruler’. In my opinion that honour belongs to Julius Caesar.

Paragraph 2
Another good paragraph. Unfortunately, it does contain one mistake: contrary to what the writer asserts, Philip II did not ‘subjugate’ Sparta. He threatened the Spartans but never invaded their country. Ultimately, he had no need to do so. On the positive side, the writer makes a nice point about Olympias, one that is always worth remembering: ‘Olympias must have been remarkable, or else little would be known about her’.

Paragraph 3
Again, a good paragraph. The line ‘Philip was assassinated, perhaps by a former male lover’ (my emphasis) stood out for me. Diodorus (XVI.93) says that that a man named Pausanias was ‘beloved by [Philip] because of his beauty’. In English, to be beloved of someone is not necessarily to be their lover, which is perhaps the reason for the writer’s caution in describing Pausanias. However, Diodorus goes on to describe how he – Pausanias – bad mouthed another man of the same name when he – Pausanias the assassin – ‘saw that the king was becoming enamoured’ of them. Pausanias accused his namesake ‘of being a hermaphrodite and prompt to accept the amorous advances of any who wished’. If Pausanias the assassin was not Philip’s lover I don’t think he would have had any reason to speak to the second Pausanias in that way.

Paragraph 4
This paragraph opens with some excellent questions regarding Alexander’s empire that we will debate until the end of time. The writer then states that Alexander ‘married an Afghanistani chieftain’s daughter’. Roxane, of course, was not from Afghanistan. The country did not exist then. She was Bactrian.

Paragraph 5
It’s hard to judge this paragraph one way or the other as the writer dives into history too early and late for me. However, I like very much that he recognises that it is anachronistic to talk of Alexander being homosexual on the grounds that ‘”homosexuality” and “heterosexuality” as social constructs didn’t exist before the 19th century’. For the record, I have no idea when homo- and hetero- sexuality were invented so I take him at his word that it was indeed in the nineteenth century.

Paragraph 6
The writer points out that ‘many writers’ believe Alexander and Hephaestion could not have had a sexual relationship as they ‘were the same age’ (Curtius III.12.16 says they were the same age) and points to evidence in James Davidson’s The Greeks and Greek Love to show that peers could be lovers. He cites Davidson’s example of Harmodius and Aristogeiton. They lived in the sixth century B.C. It would, I suppose, have been more helpful to use an example from Alexander’s own time as times do change but given how slowly this seems to have happened in the past I doubt much changed between the late sixth century and the middle of the fourth.

Paragraph 7
The following two quotations contain the whole of this paragraph. The writers states,

Most ancient sources agree that Alexander was attracted to young men.

This is more than I know. I know that he was certainly attracted to one young man – Bagoas; I am not aware of any others with whom he had an affair. It would be interesting to know who the writer’s source was, or who his sources were, for this statement.

According to Plutarch, Hephaestion was the man whom “Alexander loved most of all.”

This quotation doesn’t appear in my Penguin Classics (2011) edition of Plutarch’s Life of Alexander but I think it comes from Chapter 47. In my edition, the text there reads ‘In general [Alexander] showed most affection for Hephaestion’.

Their relationship was all-encompassing. They drank, hunted, and campaigned together. Hephaestion acted as Alexander’s Chief of Staff. It was most likely sexual. 

Really? It is equally likely that they were simply very close friends. In terms of how the writer sees Alexander’s and Hephaestion’s relationship, I am on his side, but here I think the last sentence is an example of his wish for the two to have been lovers rather than because the facts he mentions prove it to have been so.

Paragraphs 8 – 9
Here, the writer turns to the best ‘evidence’ to my mind for Alexander and Hephaestion being lovers: their imitation of Achilles and Patroclus (Arrian I.12 cf. Plutarch Life 15)who in their day were believed to be lovers. As a side note, I like that the writer acknowledges that Homer doesn’t call Achilles and Patroclus lovers. It’s this attention to detail which really sets the article above any other I have read on Alexander.

Paragraph 10
The writer now turns to the famous moment when Sisygambis mistook Hephaestion for Alexander (Arrian II.13, Curtius III.12.16-17) only for the king to reply “This one, too, is Alexander.” in support of his case that they were lovers. When considering this passage, I feel that I am at the limit of my understanding of what Alexander meant with those words. Was he implying that the two were one as lovers are or was he referring to a very deep and platonic friendship?

Paragraph 11
The writer refers to Bagoas as Darius III’s ‘boyfriend’ which is a wholly inaccurate and misleading way to describe him. Bagoas was a eunuch, a slave. There was no equality between Darius and Bagoas, such as exists between lovers of the same or opposite sex. The writer goes on to say that Bagoas ‘soon found his way into Alexander’s bed’ as if he managed to inveigle his way there. Far more likely that Alexander told or asked him to come to him. Finally, he writes ‘Bagoas’ presence doesn’t rule out physical intimacy between Alexander and Hephaestion. In any case, they remained inseparable.’ Both these statements are surely and certainly true.

Paragraph 12 – 13
This paragraph begins ‘Nothing demonstrates Alexander’s passion for Hephaestion more than his reaction to his death.’ I could not agree more. The writer goes on to give an account of Alexander’s response to Hephaestion’s death, to which I can only say that even if they did not share a bed, if there is an ounce of truth in account, it is proof positive that Alexander loved Hephaestion very deeply indeed.

Paragraph 14
This paragraph begins with the admission that ‘Unless new evidence is uncovered, the exact nature of Alexander’s sexual orientation (to use an anachronistic term) will never be known.’ It concludes,

Nonetheless, a reasonable interpretation of extant sources, studied within the context of the sexual mores of Classical and Hellenistic Greek societies, leads to the conclusion that his erotic feelings were primarily directed at males.

This I disagree with. Alexander had three wives – Roxane, Stateira II and Parysatis. But these were dynastic marriages, one may say; this is true, but what of his mistresses: Barsine, Pancaste/Callixeina, Thalestris, Cleophis and perhaps Thais, later Ptolemy I’s lover? Some of these relationships may be legendary (e.g. Thalestris) but all? I doubt it. My conclusion to all that I have read is that Alexander was sexually attracted to both men and women, and of them both he liked Hephaestion most.

Categories: Of The Moment, On Alexander | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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