Alexander’s first Days as King

Daily Diodorus
Vol. VIII. Book XVII Ch. 1, 2, 5 & 6 (Loeb Classical Library)
Read the other posts in this series here

Alexander Secures The Macedonian Throne
Attalus is Assassinated
Darius Becomes Great King

The Story
In Chapter 94 of Book XVI of his Library of History, Diodorus relates how Pausanias assassinated Philip II. The first chapter of Book XVII begins with a brief introduction to Philip’s successor, Alexander III whom we call The Great. It is an introduction that the new king would have found very satisfactory. ‘In twelve years’ Diodorus says, Alexander ‘conquered no small part of Europe and practically all of Asia, and so acquired a fabulous reputation like that of the heroes and demigods of old’.

According to Diodorus, Alexander’s first action as king was to punish Philip’s murderers before overseeing the funeral of his father. Unfortunately, Diodorus does not tell us who those murderers were – in the previous book he implied that Pausanias acted alone. In the Footnotes, however, we learn the ‘known’ victims’ names,

  • Amyntas, son of Perdiccas III (Alexander’s ‘older cousin’)
  • Alexander of Lyncestis’ family (though not Alexander himself)
  • Cleopatra Eurydice (Philip’s seventh and last wife)
  • Europa (Cleopatra Eurydice’s infant daughter)

Cleopatra and Europa were murdered on the orders of Olympias. Alexander was greatly displeased by his mother’s actions. According to Plutarch ‘he showed his anger against’ her for the deaths. What this meant in practice one can only imagine.

When Alexander ascended to the throne of Macedon he was just twenty years old. Unsurprisingly, he was ‘not uniformly respected’ by his people. Despite this, he ‘established his authority far more firmly’ than was thought possible.

At this point, Diodorus makes up for his meagre account of the Battle of Chaeronea and failure to give more information about Philip II’s murderers by explaining what Alexander did to secure the throne. He,

  1. spoke to the Macedonians in a ‘tactful’ manner
  2. assured his people that he would rule the kingdom ‘on principles no less effective’ than those used by Philip II
  3. kept the army occupied with ‘constant training… and tactical exercises’. He also ‘established’ (perhaps this means ‘enforced?) discipline in the ranks as well

At the same time, Alexander sweet talked the various ambassadors who were at that time in Macedon so as to breed good will with the various Greek city-states.

If you know anything about Alexander you will undoubtedly be aware that one name has been conspicuous by its absence in this blog post thus far: Attalus. Diodorus calls him a ‘possible rival for the throne’ although the Footnotes make clear that he had ‘no known claim’. Either way, Diodorus now explains how Alexander sent an agent named Hecataeus to Asia Minor to either bring Attalus home alive or, if that were not possible, to assassinate him.

We have now reached Chapter 3 of Book XVII. It is here that Diodorus digresses to give an account of the Greek response to Philip’s death. To keep the narrative thread alive, we’ll jump forward to Chapter 5 to find out what happened to Attalus. I’ll come back to the Greek response in the next post.

In Chapter 5, therefore, Diodorus effectively accuses Attalus of treason. He says that immediately after Philip II’s death, the general ‘actually… set his hand to revolt and had agreed with the Athenians to undertake joint action against Alexander’. At some point, though, Attalus got cold feet. Instead of revolting, he forwarded to Alexander a letter written by Demosthenes (in which he, presumably, advocated rebellion against the king) along with his own ‘expressions of loyalty to remove from himself any possible suspicion’.

It was too late, though; Hecataeus was lurking in the shadows waiting for his chance to deal with the general once and for all. It soon came and Attalus met his end.

Diodorus now turns to Persia and gives a short account of how Darius came to be Great King. First, there was Ochus who ‘oppressed his subjects cruelly and harshly’. He was done away with by a eunuch named Bagoas (not the same Bagoas who Alexander liked). Bagoas put Ochus’ youngest son, Arses, on the throne.

Within two or three years, though, Arses developed that very dangerous thing when there is a power behind the throne: an independent mind. He ‘let it be known that he was offended’ at Bagoas’ behaviour in killing Ochus. You’re offended? said Ochus, Try being dead.

Ochus’ assassination brought the direct line of the Persian Royal House to an end. So, Bagoas put the grandson of Ostanes, who was Great King Artaxerxes II’s brother, on the throne instead. His name was Darius, and he was the third of that name. Upon hearing that Bagoas meant to murder him as well, Darius managed to kill the eunuch first.

In Chapter 6, Diodorus prepares us for the great war between Macedonia and Persia, Alexander and Darius, by highlighting the latter’s bravery ‘in which quality’ he says, ‘he far surpassed the other Persians’. In proof of this he tells how Darius once beat a Cadusian warrior who had ‘a wide reputation for strength and courage’ in single combat.

It is hard to fault the means by which Alexander secured the Macedonian throne. They show that he was not only a great general but capable of being a good ruler as well. In light of this, it makes his later failures in this regard more difficult to take. Perhaps he lacked the foresight to make political decisions of lasting rather than momentary value.

I don’t know about you but I am not really convinced that Alexander meant for Hecataeus to bring Attalus back to Macedon. If Attalus was a serious threat it would surely have been counter-productive to bring him back. Mind you, as we saw in the previous post, we are in a world where enemies could become trusted friends at a stroke.

Staying with Attalus – I wonder why he chose not to rebel against Alexander. He had an army to do so and was a popular general. Perhaps he feared Parmenion’s response – although could he not have been murdered? – or simply came to feel that loyalty rather than betrayal would serve him better in the long run.

For Alexander’s part, Diodorus says that he ‘had good reason to fear that [Attalus] might challenge his rule, making common cause with those of the Greeks who opposed him’ but does not really justify this statement. He doesn’t appear to mention the one occasion when Alexander and Attalus came to blows – the wedding party on the occasion of Philip II’s marriage to Cleopatra Eurydice – but perhaps he had that in mind.

We Need To Talk About Bagoas – one previous owner, now dead
War and Peace – don’t worry if your edition comes without the ‘Peace’ section, there was very little of it in those days
The Way of all Flesh – A handy guide to poisons, written by A Eunuch

Attalus’ death brings the first days of Alexander’s rule to an end. Diodorus doesn’t say where he was killed but I should think it was in Asia Minor. This means that he died very close to where, some 55 years later, the Battle of Corupedium would be fought, which brought the awards of the Successors to an end. This seems fitting.

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Plutarch’s Women: Athena, the Persian Royal Family, Barsine & Callixeina (Chapts. 15, 19 & 21)

For the other posts in this series click here

We pick up Plutarch’s narrative again in chapter 15 of his Life of Alexander when, upon his arrival at Troy, the Macedonian king ‘sacrificed to Athena’. Unfortunately, that’s all Plutarch has to say about her. Understandably, he is more interested in Alexander’s acts of homage to his great hero, Achilles.
By-the-bye, I could not help but note Alexander’s remark that ‘Achilles was happy in having found a faithful friend while he lived and a great poet to sing of his deeds after his death.’ This comment appears to suggest that Alexander considered that – in contrast to Achilles – he had neither a faithful friend nor a great poet. The latter is true; Callisthenes was no Homer; but where does that leave Hephaestion?
Going back to Athena, I wish Plutarch had given a context for Alexander’s act of worship. I suppose he assumed, no doubt rightly, that his audience would be aware of why the sacrifice was carried out. We who come to the text so many years later, however, may need a little help. Theoi reminds me that Athena supported the Greeks during the Trojan War (you can read more about her here) so perhaps that is why Alexander sacrificed to her.
After Athena, no more women are mentioned until chapter 19 when (in 333 B.C.), as he lay seriously ill in bed, Alexander was given a note from Parmenion warning him that his doctor, Philip, meant to poison him. According to Parmenion Darius had ‘… promised [Philip] large sums of money and even the hand of his daughter if he would kill Alexander’.
When I wrote about this incident a few weeks ago (here) I mentioned my suspicion that Parmenion was using Alexander’s illness to carry out a coup. If we pretend for a moment, however, that the threat was real, who might Darius have married Philip to in the event that the latter did successfully  assassinate Alexander? Darius married twice and had at least three daughters – an unnamed one from an unnamed wife (who was the daughter of a Persian nobleman named Pharnaces) and two by his sister-wife Stateira, namely, Stateira II and Drypetis.
We don’t know when Stateira II was born, but because Alexander took her as his wife at the Susa Weddings (in February 324 B.C.) she is believed to be Drypetis’ elder sister. As for the ‘younger’ sister, depending on when she was born, Drypetis could have been as young as 12 when Alexander fell ill, or as old as 16. Either way, she would go on to make a good match at Susa in that she became Hephaestion’s wife.
Sadly, their marriage only lasted a few months as Hephaestion later the same year. After Alexander died the following June, the sisters’ days were numbered and indeed they were both soon killed by Perdiccas and Roxane as part of the dynastic struggle.
We move on now to chapter 21 of Plutarch’s Life but stay with Stateira II and Drypetis as Plutarch relates how, following Alexander’s capture of the Persian camp after the Battle of Issus,

… word was brought to him that the mother, the wife and the two unmarried daughters of Darius were among the prisoners…

Darius’ mother was named Sisygambis; the wife being referred to here is Stateira I. Upon being taken prisoner by the Macedonians and seeing Darius’ bow and chariot they beat their breasts and cried in the belief that their lord was dead. This is the only insight into their character that Plutarch gives us before detailing Alexander’s most gentlemanly response to the news that his army had captured them. It isn’t much of an insight – perhaps ‘just’ a ritual response? Although even if it is it tells us something about their fidelity to Persian mourning traditions.
Either way, and in fairness to him, Plutarch does add that the women were ‘chaste and noble’ (Plutarch adds that Stateira I was regarded as being ‘the most beautiful princess of her time’ and that Stateira II and Drypetis ‘resembled their parents’. It’s interesting that propaganda of this nature survived even though the daughters fell victim to more powerful interests after Alexander’s death).
Chapter 21, and this post, ends with a delineation of Alexander’s moral character, which references a few women. Plutarch tells us that,

… Alexander… thought it more worthy of a king to subdue his own passions than to conquer his enemies…

To this end he avoided meeting the Persian queens and princesses. In fact, Plutarch explains that until his marriage (i.e. to Roxane), he avoided women altogether… almost: Barsine, Memnon’s widow, and daughter of Artabazus ‘who had married one of the Persian king’s daughters’, became his mistress. Citing Aristobulos as his authority, Plutarch adds,

Alexander slept with [Barsine], as… Parmenion had encouraged him to have relations with a woman of beauty and noble lineage.

This reminds me of the story of Callixeina ‘[a]n exceptionally attractive Thessalian heteira‘*. Philip and Olympias were worried that Alexander was showing no interest in women. So, his mother entreated her son to sleep with one. Eventually, Alexander did, with Callixeina being the lucky lady. According to Waldemar Heckel, however, this story is suspect as it comes from a hostile tradition. I’d like to think that Alexander did not sleep with Barsine at Parmenion’s suggestion but why would Aristobulos lie about something like that? Let’s hope his information was just, plain wrong.
The final reference to women in chapter 21 is an aside that Alexander makes after seeing the other female Persian prisoners. We are told that Alexander,

… took no… notice of them than to say jokingly, ‘These Persian women are a torment for the eyes’ He was determined to make such a show of his chastity and self-control as to eclipse the beauty of their appearance, and so he passed them by as if they had been so many lifeless images cut out of stone.

Timothy E. Duff, in the Notes, compares Alexander’s words to the actions of the Persian ambassadors to Macedonia in Book 5:18 of Herodotus’ Histories. They describe the Macedonian women as a torment to their eyes but, unlike Alexander, are unable to control themselves. We end, then, with women becoming a means by which Alexander may prove his superiority to the Persians. It wasn’t enough to defeat them twice on the battlefield, he had to do it in love as well.
* Waldemar Heckel Who’s Who in the Age of Alexander the Great (Wiley-Blackwell, 2009)

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14. 3. 2014

By-the-Bye No. 1
Tom Holland and Mary Renault’s Alexander Trilogy
A few weeks ago on my Alexander Facebook page I mentioned that Virago Books are re-releasing Mary Renault’s Alexander Trilogy. I started reading one of them, The Persian Boy, I think, a while ago but got nowhere with it. Not the book’s fault – the story was being told from Bagoas the eunuch’s perspective, and I’m not really interested in him. I might have another go with the new editions, though, especially as they will come with an introduction-or-three by Tom Holland.
Alexander the Fourth… Version
Did you know that Oliver Stone is releasing a fourth version of his ‘biopic’ of Alexander? It will be called Alexander The Ultimate Cut and is due for release on 3rd June this year. Here it is at Amazon. I will buy it, if only to see what changes Stone has made. Unfortunately,  I don’t expect to come away thinking ‘Finally, Oliver Stone has made a great picture’. This is because, to my mind, his Alexander is fundamentally flawed; for example, in silly mistakes such as the absurd accents or the insipid interpretation of Hephaestion, but also in the more serious errors such as the hatchet job done on Philip II. This is not to say that the film is and always will be unwatchable – I enjoyed watching Alexander Revisited for my scene-by-scene series and appreciated the film more as a result – but I do think it means that no matter what Stone does to the film he will never get the first class picture that he craves.
And yet, he must clearly love it to come back to it time and again. If only he would move on and, perhaps, direct or produce a documentary series on Alexander. That would be worthy of his devotion and give him a new chance to write the story he obviously wants.

300 Rise of an Empire
300 Rise of an Empire has just come out in Britain. Lucky us. I am being a little unfair. 300 was immensely silly but enjoyable in its own silly way; I daresay that Rise of an Empire is more of the same. I enjoyed reading Pop Classics’ review of it; particularly as it taught me a new word – parallelaquel, being a sequel that takes place before, during and after the original movie!

Forgotten Dynasties
A couple of days ago I opened the Livius website and started reading about the Attalid and Antigonid dynasties. Before doing so you could have summed up my knowledge of both as – the Attalids? Who? Where? And, Antigonids? You mean the ones defeated by the Romans? So it was good to learn a little more about them both. Next, I should do the same for the Seleucid kings. My heart will always be with the Argeads and Ptolemies but it is good to fill in the blank spaces in one’s knowledge.
Well Done to The Last of Us et al
The British Film Academy held its annual video game awards this week (Here is the Daily Telegraph’s report). Am I the only one who would love to see a game based on the Macedonian phalanx. It could be a First Person… what? Shooter obviously won’t do; I am going for Stabber and Slasher. I believe there are strategy games based on Alexander’s conquests but the FPS&S would allow the player to get up close and personal at the front of the phalanx. Blood, gore and mayhem. Brilliant.

Pi in the Sky
Happy Pi Day to this blog’s American readers.
The official (??) website claims that this day is celebrated ‘around the world’. Alas, not in Britain where – as you can see from the title of this post – we place the day before the month. Still, the sentiment – that we use the day to celebrate maths – is a good one. As I am as good with numbers as Ptolemy I Soter, though, I fear I will use our different method of dating as an excuse to ignore all things mathematical until tomorrow (and thereafter).
2058 Years of Hurt
Speaking of anniversaries – tomorrow is, of course, the Ides of March. Had I been around in First Century BC Rome I would definitely have been on Julius Caesar’s side* so it will naturally be a sad occasion for me. I may have to take a little wine to assuage the pain. If so, I shall raise a glass to the other great man. 

* Well, okay, I would probably have been a peasant but I’m sure we have all harboured thoughts of being a patrician. Haven’t we?

This blog uses the WordPress “Adventure Journal” theme. I would like to replace it with one that looks more professional without being totally smooth and soulless. Can you recommend one? All ideas are welcome! On this point, if you have any comments about the content of the blog, I am very happy to receive them – this applies not only to what you have read but also anything that you like or dislike about the blog or would like to see etc. I may or may not act upon what you say but I will certainly take your thoughts into account in deciding what to write in the future.

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Happy New Year!

… I hope it is a fruitful one for you.

Dionysus (Wikipedia)

Dionysus (Wikipedia)

I will be resuming regular blogging here next Monday. In the meantime, here is a ‘plug’ for my other two blogs. Myrmicat Forever is my personal blog. It is dedicated to the arts – mainly books – with the occasional foray into religion and other matters. I have just started a new blog called Escaping Hades. When not dreaming of Alexander I enjoy playing Grand Theft Auto V. So much so that I decided to spend some time in 2014 writing ‘fan fiction’ inspired by the game and, by-the-bye, the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. I can’t speak to the quality of the writing but three chapters in I am enjoying it very much.
Anyway, whether you read all, some, or none of the above please accept this as my best wishes for you in the year ahead. May you drink deeply from cup and book alike!

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Happy Christmas!

Thank you for your support over the last year. It means more than I can say. May the joy of the feast of this other God-man be a blessing to you. 

The Nativity by Caravaggio (Wikipedia)

The Nativity by Caravaggio (Wikipedia)

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For Argument’s Sake: The Rosetta Stone


The Rosetta Stone (credit: Wikipedia)

1. In the reign of the young one who has succeeded his father in the kingship, lord of diadems, most glorious, who has established Egypt and is pious

2. Towards the gods, triumphant over his enemies, who has restored the civilised life of men, lord of the Thirty Years Festivals, even as Hephaistos the Great, a king like the Sun,

3. Great king of the Upper and Lower countries, offspring of the Gods Philopatores, one of whom Hephaistos has approved, to whom the Sun has given victory, the living image of Zeus, son of the Sun, Ptolemy

4. Living for ever, beloved of Ptah, in the ninth year, when Aetos son of Aetos was priest of Alexander, and the Gods Soteres, and the Gods Adelphoi, and the Gods Euergetai, and the Gods Philopatores and

5. The God Epiphanes Eucharistos; Pyrrha daughter of Philinos being Athlophoros of Berenike Euergetis; Areia daughter of Diogenes being Kanephoros of Arsinoe Philadelphos; Irene

6. Daughter of Ptolemy being Priestess of Arsinoe Philopator; the fourth of the month of Xandikos, according to the Egyptians the 18th Mekhir.

The Rosetta Stone is a very overrated object. This might seem an odd thing to say given that we owe its multilingual translation of an inscription from the mid Ptolemaic era for our knowledge of hieroglyphs, but that is chiefly of interest to Egyptologists and linguists. For the average tourist, the inscription is simply a verbose piece of sycophancy on behalf of Ptolemy V Epiphanes by the Egyptian priests who wrote it.

I took the above translation of the Stone from Fordham University’s web page here. I dare you to read it to the end without sighing with relief afterwards! Give me Arrian’s no-frills text, anytime. In fact, give me Herodotus or even a myth. There may be proportionately less that is true or correct in each but at least they are both readable.

Of course, I am being deliberately contrary here and – I admit – jealous. Why are these people not in the Alexander Room round the corner admiring the famous bust of the king?!

There’s a good reason for that: the room is often closed. On my last visit to the Museum I asked the BM man why this was. They didn’t have the staff. Unacceptable. This is the Alexander Room! Granted I am thoroughly biased, but I could name any number of other less interesting rooms that could be closed first.

Failing that, why not swap the Rosetta Stone and the bust? Which is more important, anyway – the chance to see a stele praising Ptolemy V or the opportunity to contemplate a vision of the greatest king who ever lived. Bah.

Read more Sunday Art and Poetry posts here

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Hephaestion, Regent or King

The exact date of Alexander the Great’s death is not known but it appears to have been either today, 10th June, or tomorrow, in 323 BC.
In this post, I would like to indulge in a little counter factual discussion by asking what might have happened to Alexander’s empire after his death if Hephaestion had still been living in June 323.
The reason this question interests me is that at the time of his own death in November 324, Hephaestion held the rank of chiliarch, meaning that he was Alexander’s deputy. Had he lived, therefore, it would have been him assigning satrapies to Alexander’s senior officers in June 323 rather than his successor in that office, Perdiccas.
So, what might have happened?
I see no reason to think that the same men would not have got the same offices, barring changes here and there, that they got in real settlement. The key difference would have been ideological. I am certain that Hephaestion, unlike Perdiccas, will have wanted Alexander IV to ascend to his throne in the fullness of time. Perhaps Hephaestion would also have continued Alexander’s integrationist policies out of loyalty to his friend’s ideals.
Of course, Hephaestion would have had to have stayed alive in order to see his – Alexander’s – legacy secured, but he was as good a soldier as any in Alexander’s high command. His relationship to the late king was probably unorthodox – it wasn’t the done thing for adult men to be in a sexual relationship with one another in those days – but I am sure that with a good propagandist Hephaestion could have convinced the army, which was pro-Argead, to support him. Certainly, so far as staying alive is concerned, he would never have made the same mistake as Perdiccas did outside Memphis.
In other words, I believe that had Hephaestion gone to war against Ptolemy as Perdiccas did, or tried to do, there is no reason to believe that he would not have seen it through, and once he controlled Egypt… well, Ptolemy did alright from there, didn’t he?
In fact, Ptolemy was so well entrenched in Egypt that he survived a catastrophic mauling at the hands of Demetrius Poliorcetes in 306 during the fourth diadoch war. Ptolemy lost half of his armed forces and control of the Aegean in the naval battle for Cyprus but to the best of my knowledge did not face any challenge to his authority in Egypt. Antigonus Monophthalmus and Demetrius subsequently tried to invade Egypt with a huge – 90,000 strong – army but the Ptolemaic defences were still too strong for them.
Again, if Ptolemy – a man with considerably less high level military experience than Hephaestion – could manage that, then why not/how much more Patroclus himself?
The above notwithstanding, the ability to fight well would not have been enough to see Alexander IV to the throne. I suspect Hephaestion would have needed to have make a few deals along the way as well – especially since what really happened after Alexander’s death shows that very few of the Successors – perhaps only Eumenes, and maybe Craterus (?) – had any interest in seeing Alexander IV come to the throne. None so far as I can tell had any time for the late king’s integrationist policies. Hephaestion was a seasoned diplomat, though, and I am sure he would have held his own on the negotiating table. Not that treaties in those days seemed to have been worth the papyrus or clay that they were written on. With the right cunning, though, Hephaestion could easily have worked even that to his advantage.
Had Philip Arrhidaeus and Alexander IV died anyway, could Hephaestion have reunited Alexander’s empire under his own name? I am determined to say ‘yes’ to this. The two men who really came closest to doing so – Antigonus Monophthalmus and Seleucus – were, in Alexander’s lifetime, high ranking officers but no more special than any of the others. We hardly see Antigonus at all since he got left behind in Asia Minor at the start of the anabasis. As with Ptolemy, If they nearly managed it, I see no reason why Hephaestion could not have done. I must admit, though, I doubt he would have proved any more successful than Seleucus at holding back the Indian conqueror, Chandragupta.
Such questions! And all, ultimately, unanswerable ones. For sadly, Hephaestion died eight months before Alexander. Still, we can dream. And if we feel that dreaming of what might have been is too hard or simply useless then perhaps we might dream instead about Achilles and Patroclus in Elysium, at play in the land of the gods.

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6. A Little Pillow Talk

by Ptolemy Lagides
It was nearly dawn when Hephaestion finally slipped into Alexander’s bed. Alexander’s eye flicked open. It was bright and alert. He watched his friend’s tanned thighs and chest disappear under the blanket closely.
“Where have you been?” Alexander asked, as Hephaestion brought his head level to his own.
“To see a few people. Friends… to make sure they remain friends.” Alexander did not reply, but instead, looked over Hephaestion’s shoulder and gazed thoughtfully out of the open window into the pale sky.
“But why are you even here?” Hephaestion continued, “I thought you were sleeping with the Queen Mother, tonight.”
“The Queen Mother…” Alexander echoed, “I was. I couldn’t sleep,” he said, running his finger down Hephaestion’s temple and curling it round his lips, “she snores so loudly.” Hephaestion chuckled. He pushed his hand under the cover of the bed. Alexander watched it disappear and smiled.
“Uh-uh; eyes on me.” Hephaestion said. Alexander obeyed even as he squirmed at the gentle touch of Hephaestion’s hand on his chest and abdomen. His body warmed and stiffened in readiness for what had to come next. Suddenly, to his surprise, and – he had to admit, disappointment – he felt Hephaestion take hold of his hand. Alexander raised his eyebrow humorously. Hephaestion replied with a knowing grin. Pulling Alexander’s hand out from under the blanket, he folded it into a fist and looked at his friend’s gold ring and the large emerald jewel that was set in it. Hephaestion kissed the jewel softly.
“You did well, today,” he said, “the guests and the court could have scattered in panic; instead, they now sleep easily.”
“I doubt that,” Alexander said, “I am the king but the succession has not yet been decided. Blood must still be shed. Still… I must thank Antipater and Alexander* for what they did. Their gestures were simple but authoritative. Who knows how many lives they have saved.”
Alexander pulled his hand away from Hephaestion’s grasp; he stroked his friend’s shoulder with it before running it impatiently down his arm, and then onto his hip. For a few seconds, he caressed Hephaestion’s buttock before pulling it towards him. Hephaestion let his right leg slide over Alexander’s as their bodies touched.

“I must say,” Alexander continued, “Antipater impressed me today… his presence of mind… exemplary.” He kissed Hephaestion on the forehead. It was a hard, rough, kiss.
“He was your mother’s ally. Just like Perdiccas and the others.”
“And you, Hephaestion?” Alexander asked, with a sudden sharpness, “Were you my mother’s ally?”. Before Hephaestion could respond, Alexander slipped his body on top of his friend’s and pushed him face downwards into the bed. As he did so, Alexander slid his own body on top. Kissing Hephaestion once more, this time on the neck, but still roughly, he placed his legs between Hephaestion’s and pushed them apart.
“Were you?” Alexander repeated.
“Of course,” Hephaestion said, calmly. “There is nothing I would not do for you, Alexander. You know that.” He paused, and slid his hand under the pillow; he pulled out Alexander’s golden dagger slowly, “Tell me to kill myself, and I would do it.” For a moment, Alexander stared at the dagger dumbly. Then, at Hephaestion with growing horror.
“No!” he exclaimed, grabbing the dagger and throwing it across the room, “No! Hephaestion…!” He threw himself off his friend and stared wildly up at the ceiling.
“Don’t say such things. Not even in jest.”
“I wasn’t joking.”.
“I mean…” Alexander wiped the hot sweat that was forming on his brow away, “Just… I… just don’t say that again. Never talk about death to me, Hephaestion, I…” He shook his head as he fought to find the words to say, “I’m sorry. I… I’m sorry. I love you.”
“You have a unique way of showing it.” Alexander glanced guiltily at his friend, hoping to see a smile, fearing to see a scowl. He found, instead, an impassive appearance. Neither condemned nor excused,  simply understood. His heart burned for love of this man whom the gods had blessed his life with..

“I am sorry,” Alexander said, sliding off Hephaestion’s back, “I feel… somehow I feel as if my father has been wronged. I mean, by me. Now that he is dead, I wish he had died on the battlefield. It would have been better…”
“Death comes to us all and not always in the way we – or anyone – would wish. And it teaches us,” Hephaestion added, putting his hand on Alexander’s shoulder, “that we should make the most of the time we have.” He pulled Alexander’s body towards him before pushing it into the bed just as Alexander had done to him. Alexander did not resist. Hephaestion kissed him roughly on the shoulder, biting Alexander’s neck with such force that he drew blood and made the king gave a small cry; then, once more just as Alexander had done, he forced the king’s legs apart with his own before reaching for the golden bowl of olive oil that sat by the bed. He dipped his hand into it.
“This is not to my liking,” Alexander laughed, “One day, people will say that you were the one I could never conquer.”
“Would that be so bad?” Alexander paused.
“Actually, yes,” he said, “I want to be invincible. Always victorious. Invincible.”
“Then you should never have become Achilles.” Hephaestion replied, as he began to smear the oil in the place that it was needed.
* Alexander of Lyncestis

To be continued…

  • The list of chapters can be read here
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Camp Notices – Dangerous Women Edition

The man with the wisdom

The King’s Speech

If the fate of King Midas teaches us that good may sometimes be bad we would do well to wonder if the reverse might also be true. It would not be a wasted exercise. Take foul tasting medicine, a strict instructor or my war of revenge against Persia. Yes, they may have been hard to swallow, hard to obey, and hard to survive but what happened when you stood firm and stayed the course – health, expertise, and glory.

However, depending on circumstance, a man may never have to take medicine, be taught by a strict tutor, or go to war. He will, however, without question, come into the company of women. Our fathers have taught us that the proper place of women is in the home, and that women may not on pain of punishment step outside this rôle; those who do are regarded as being dangerous to the well-being of society.

But times are changing. Solon gave women the right (under certain circumstances) to inherit property; my mother shows that a woman can rule. Praxiteles, of whose death I was this week informed, was the first sculptor to show us that the female nude is a thing of beauty and worthy of note just as much as the male is. Times are changing, and we must change with them.

As a man you may well be superior to women but as much as they deserve your protection they also deserve your respect. Therefore, I exhort you to follow my example; treat the women you know and female strangers alike with kindness. In no circumstance do they pose any danger that is greater than our failure to treat them with compassion and with love. And when that happens, we become our own worst enemy. The danger of women are men. Let it not be so.


What’s Making Elektra Mad This Week?
The Camp Notices is practising its irony by having this column straight after Alexander’s but the fact is that Elektra is still finding things to be mad about.

hemera heliou Mouse ears
hemera selenes Forget-me-nots
hemera Areos Time immemorial
hemera Hermu Gravestones
hemera Dios Pebble beaches
hemera Aphrodites Cold water
hemera Khronu Snow

This column is sponsored by Alecto

Book chart – Female List
Yes, The Iliad remains number one for the three hundred and something or another year in the general chart but what does the “women only” list look like?

1. Sappho Collected Poems
2. Anaximenes of Lampsacus Speech for the Prosecution (Illustrated Edition)
3. Aspasia of Miletus Meticulously Yours: Politics, Prostitutes and Pericles
4. Cynisca of Sparta My Olympics
5. Olympias of Epirus An Unauthorised Biography [Leonnatus please read this and make sure it is complimentary. I do not want to be crucified by Alexander if it is not – Eumenes]

Good Sex Guide
By Lady Aphrodite Who Does it Behind Xerxes’ Palace with any man who has the talent

We need more female musicians; in this edition of the GSG I will explain to the ladies how to blow the flute without breaking it

1. Do not bite; simply press your lips to the flute softly
2. Do not blow. I know we are ‘blowing the flute’ but this is done first by playing it with your tongue
3. Blow down the shaft of the flute when your reach the climax of the song
4. Stop for as long as your audience may bear then start again!

Helen who is Lady Aphrodite who etc etc

Society Notices

The Union of Macedonian Mothers
On behalf of the UMM I, Cleopatra, would like to thank Alexander for his kind words in this week’s Camp Notices. Contrary to popular rumour the UMM will not be sponsoring a performance of Lysistrata to celebrate so called women’s power. Being forced to deprive one’s husband of what we both enjoy (yes, we do; why is this so hard to believe?) is not good. Instead, over the next few weeks, we will be updating our proscription list so that you men – or, the ones who survive – are left in no doubt regarding our strength.

Sleep tight, boys!

The Secret Distaff Society
The Secret Distaffians will be holding an open meeting in the ruins of Xerxes’ Palace two hours before sunset on the next hemera Hermu for all men who wish to learn how to spin flax. The SDS is a male-only club that exists to initiate men into What Women Get Up To While Men In The Agora. Believe it or not, your wife is probably not having an affair but making your new clothes. This is how she does it.

The Wine Sarissa Club
Tomorrow, we will be holding a special meeting in the Aegae Wine Tent for women to see our collection of sarissas. Exhibits will include,

  • Philip II’s personal, engraved sarissa
  • A sarissa reputed to belong to Herakles
  • Sari, the sarissa that inspired Ptolemy son of Lagos to write his first story
  • Over ten different models of actual wine sarissas – all used in WSC initiation rites; there will be a demonstration of this rite after sundown. Deaths will be expected.

Pork Chop Soc
In advance of Alexander’s message regarding women, the Pork Chop Soc carried out a survey to find out how women would carve up the world were they given the chance to run it. Amyntas of the Ultimate Partitioning will give a talk tonight on the results which will surprise and, if we are being honest, disappoint, all men deeply. Women uniformly opted for peace and co-operation with one another rather than war and conquest; you can be sure that we will not dwell on this but will spend most of the evening drinking wine out of amphorae in the shape of female bodies.

Sisters of the Sarissa Queen
Would you like to learn how to hold your own sarissa and stab stupid men with it? Find me in the shadows of the AWT and we’ll talk… SQ [Leonnatus, how much were you paid to run this advert? Was it really equal to the cost of our lives if ANY man sees it, let alone the king-? Eumenes]

Engineering and the Chicken Soc
On the hemera heliou Aristobulos will carve a reproduction of Praxiteles’ famous Aphrodite of Knidos out of mashed fruit. Due to the erotic nature of this work, only married women will be permitted to attend the demonstration. In accordance with club rules, immediately after the meeting is over the work will be fed to Aristobulos’ chicken. Any man who attempts to copulate with the statue in the intervening period will be arrested.

Face of Our Mothers

Sappho, daughter of Lesbos, poet.

Sappho of Lesbos

Notes and Theories
I have heard that Alexander is responsible for his father’s assassination; is this true? The justification for this argument was that he had most to gain from it.
– [name withheld by editor for the idiot writer’s safety. Let him not forget this]
No, he didn’t; Persian gold caused Pausanias to murder Philip. Tell that story again and we know which tent you live in.
I have just discovered that Meleager is the commander of my taxeis. I thought I would share this as no-one else seems to know it. Or him.
Amyntas of the Untidy Tent
Thank you for sharing that information; not that anyone will remember it.
I saw Darius III in the kitchen of the Pella Wine Tent last night; I think he is hiding there right under our noses! Please can I have permission to burn it down?
Only if you don’t mind being impaled if, as is likely, it isn’t him but an innocent chef; your call.
Solon’s reforms would not have been overturned had he not gone abroad; he was the wisest man who ever lived
Naïf Amyntas
Never pursue a political career, Amyntas; you would be a fish in the mouth of sharks.
My friends and I were in the PWT a few nights ago and we got into an argument over where the boundary between Europe and Asia should be. Those of my friends who survived the ensuing fight argued for the Dardanelles but I really do think the Red Sea would be better due to its great length. What do you think?
Thoughtful Amyntas
N&T congratulates you on holding a serious conversation in the PWT; however, you are wrong. It ought to be the Dardanelles due to Asia Minor being full of barbarians. Except the cities on its eastern coast, would you like them to be regarded as Greek? Would you?
Women are great; in fact, they are the equal of men. There, I said it.
Ptolemy son of Lagos
You are funnier than Seleucus! Yes, Alexander has praised them but steady on, soldier! Go and have another flagon of wine.

Camp Notices
Editor: Eumenes of Cardia
Deputy Editor: Leonnatus Son of Anteas

Wise Words
“Her hair shone with the light of the sun, and her soul with the grace of the heavens.”
(Sappho Apocrypha)


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30 Seconds to Persia in the Aegae Wine Tent

Play List
Come Together
Welcome to the Conquest (Babylon rewrite)
Your Time is Gonna Come, Darius
This Is Persia
One Night in Babylon
Seven City Army
Phalanx Kept a Rollin’
When the Empire Comes Crashing
Wine To Die (For)
Between Hades and Olympus
Silver and Gold
Oh My Gods

Book One of The Iliad
A Pindaric Victory Ode

Notes by Hephaestion

Come Together
One of the first songs that we wrote together as a band, and also our most controversial. We wrote it after Alexander razed Thebes and subdued Greece. It was just meant to be a playful number. Unfortunately, the Greeks thought it mocked them and were naturally offended by it, while Alexander thought we were advocating equality with the poleis. I had to work very hard to put his mind at ease..

Seven City Army
Amyntas of the Kithera and I wrote this song in the aftermath of the controversy over Come Together. We wanted to write a song that made Greeks forget about where they came from and look only to what they were about to achieve. This was an impossibility, of course, so we just wrote a feel good ‘We’re all here, we hate each other, but we hate the Persians more, so let’s just look forward to killing them’ type song. I regret making it so anti-Persian but it is probably our most popular song now so we can’t get away from it.

Welcome to the Conquest
Amyntas of the Drums and I first wrote this song on the day we crossed the Hellespont. Back then, it was a sort of rallying cry for the troops: Here we go, let’s overthrow us an empire! When we entered Babylon, the song became obsolete. We had finally conquered the Persian Empire, so, because we liked the music a lot, we rewrote it to take account of the new circumstances.

Your Time is Gonna Come, Darius
Another song that Drum Amyntas and I wrote. We did so a few days after the battle at the Granicus river. We were recovering from our wounds but exhilarated to have won our first major battle. In fact, we thought we were invincible. A belief, which, as far as the Persian Empire is concerned, turned out to be true. I particularly like the Homeric quotes in it. I should add that the coda, referring to the ‘heroic Persian’ refers to Memnon not Darius.

This is Persia
I wrote this song by myself the night before we fought Darius for the second time at Gaugamela. I was walking through the camp when I saw Craterus talking to a few young boys who at the Granicus and Issus battles had been at the back of the phalanx but were now at the front and were, frankly, scared to death of being there. Craterus picked up some sand, showed it to them and said, “This is Persia!”. He threw the sand to the ground and stamped on it. I immediately knew I had a song. The famous lyric ‘We must end Persia, or Persia will end us’ was written by Kithera Amyntas.

When The Empire Comes Crashing
I started writing this song three nights after the battle at Gaugamela. It is one of our hardest songs with both a drum and kithera solo. I shout more than sing in this song and for that do not really enjoy performing it; however, I really wanted to get across to the audience what a big thing the fall of the Archaemenid empire was. As befitting the destruction of an empire over two hundred years old, this is also our longest song by some margin. The foreign language that I sing in the middle is indeed Persian.

One Night in Babylon
Amyntas of the Drums, Kithera and Lute all wrote this song after a night out in Babylon. It’s a very simple song, being about girls, girls, girls. It is also very embarrassing but a good laugh to sing once I have had a few flagons of wine to drink.

Phalanx Kept A Rollin’
I wrote this song at the request of Parmenion and Craterus who wanted a song that celebrated the achievement of the phalanx. We were more than happy to oblige them.

Wine To Die (for)
Amyntas of the Lute and I wrote this song. It started out as a playful number but gradually got more serious. We have been on the road for five years now, and in that time, I have seen a number of friends die due – I think – to over drinking. It has been very hard seeing their decline from beautiful men to red-faced, purple nosed wrecks. I hope Alexander never goes that way. Or that, if he does, I do not live to see it… please stop the scribe, I need a moment to myself…

[a few minutes later]

Between Hades and Olympus
This is the only song on the play list that doesn’t refer to any particular event. It is simply about our relationship to the gods: You scratch our back, we scratch yours. You ignore us, we destroy you. I know Olympus is that excellent place where the gods live, but when you have that kind of a relationship with them, Hades and the Lethe do seem a preferable option.

Silver and Gold
We all – that is to say, the band – wrote this song. It is dedicated to my childhood friend Harpalus who, somehow, is in charge of the king’s money back west. I don’t know why. He started thieving when he was young and hasn’t stopped since. If he wasn’t a friend of Alexander’s as well he would be dead by now. Actually, maybe he wouldn’t, since he is such a witty character! Hopefully, although we make fun of him in the song, we get that across, too. I can confirm, though, I would never put him in charge of my money.

Oh My Gods
I have heard that the royal palace at Persepolis is even grander than the ones here at Susa and in Babylon. This song is really me imagining what my reaction will be when I finally see it. The song also looks forward to what we might find if we go further east. Apart from Ocean. I daresay there are lots of tribes out there and, who knows, maybe more grand buildings, ones that are even more splendid that we have hitherto seen.

Hephaestion was speaking to Eumenes.

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