Posts Tagged With: Jesus Christ

Happy Birthday Hephaestion Amyntoros!

hephaestionOn this day c.356 B.C….

Alright, let’s stop there. Unfortunately, we don’t know when Hephaestion was born, neither the year nor the date. The reason I am celebrating his birthday today is because I believe the 19th is an appropriate day to do so given the closeness of his friendship with Alexander.

Hephaestion was so close to the conqueror that the latter called him another Alexander (Diodorus 37). These were not empty words. During the course of his expedition in the east, Alexander entrusted Hephaestion with numerous important assignments (e.g. D. XVII.47, Arrian III.27, Curtius VIII.2); he let him read his personal correspondence and even write critical letters to his beloved mother (D. XVII.114).

Such was Alexander’s trust in Hephaestion that in due course he made him his deputy. Had Hephaestion still been alive when Alexander died in Babylon, June 323 B.C., I am quite certain that he would have become the soon-to-be Philip III’s guardian, as well as of Roxane’s child after its birth.

I’d like to come back to the above mentioned letter.  When Hephaestion rebuked Olympias for her ‘jealousy [and] sharp criticisms and threats against him’ he said,

Stop quarrelling with us and do not be angry or menacing. If you persist, we shall not be much disturbed. You know that Alexander means more to us than anything.‘ [my emphasis].
(Diodorus XVII.114)

That last sentence is, to my mind, an intensely personal statement. It is of a kind that would only be made by two people – very close friends, and lovers.

Speaking of the latter, many people think that Alexander and Hephaestion were lovers. They may have been but there is no absolute proof. One is free to believe that it was one way or the other.

So, Alexander and Hephaestion were close. Why, though, celebrate the latter’s birthday a day before his king’s? For me, that closeness – the depth of love that they shared, whether platonic or sexual – makes Hephaestion a kind of éarendel figure.

In the Anglo-Saxon poem Crist I, Éarendel is the Morning Star (Venus).

éala éarendel engla beorhtast
ofer middangeard monnum sended
and sodfasta sunnan leoma,
tohrt ofer tunglas þu tida gehvane
of sylfum þe symle inlihtes.

Hail Earendel, brightest of angels,
over Middle-earth to men sent,
and true radiance of the Sun
bright above the stars, every season
thou of thyself ever illuminest.
(From Wikipedia)

Implied here is what the A-S Blickling Homilies say outright – that Éarendel is St John the Baptist (and the Sun is Jesus Christ). Now, in a way, calling Hephaestion Éarendel is invalid as he doesn’t point the way to Alexander – not in the way that St John the Baptist does to Christ. And yet…

He and Alexander both point the way to how fruitful good friendships can be. If you want, they point the way to how fruitful romantic relationships can be. They show us what Men are capable of when they believe in a cause but, more importantly, one another. It’s true, their lives together can be a cautionary tale (Hephaestion’s role in the Philotas affair shows, I think, the more destructive side of love) but there’s nothing wrong with that – forgiveness is golden and we learn to forgive our enemies by first forgiving our friends. In short, they point the way to hope.

So, that’s why Hephaestion is éarendel – like Venus, his light merges into the greater light of the sun, of Alexander, and together they burn all the more brightly across the world, inspiring any who will take the time to look to the stars even if they are in the gutter.


Categories: Hephaestion Amyntoros | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

30. 3. 14

Alexander the Epileptic
I knew that Julius Caesar suffered from epilepsy but not that Alexander did. This, though, is the premise of this excellent poem by Charles Bane, Jr. How typical of Alexander that even as he writhes upon the ground he is thinking of war and warlike things. I am being a little unfair, for as you’ll see there is more to the poem – and Alexander – than that. I appreciated the presence of the dolphins, which put me in mind of Herodotus’ story of Arion, the poet’s use of parenthesis as means of defining what Alexander finds important in his account of the seizure, and the final two lines, which very evocatively prove Alexander did not only think about war.

Thank you to World of Alexander the Great for mentioning the poem on Twitter this week.
Rory Stewart
If you live in the U.K., you may be interested to know that there is a programme at eight o’clock on BBC 2 tonight (i. e. 30th March) in which Rory Stewart discusses Roman Britain and what happened after the Romans left. Today, Stewart leads the ‘sedate’ life of a Member of Parliament for Penrith and the Borders. In 2002, however, he walked across Afghanistan around the same time as America and her allies were invading the country. A year or so later he became a Deputy Governor in Iraq following the invasion of that country. His books The Places In Between and Occupational Hazards give exciting accounts of his walk and tense diplomatic career and I thoroughly recommend them to you. If I recall correctly, Stewart is an admirer of T. E. Lawrence. He certainly has his spirit of adventure.

A Macedonian Yankee 
We love our national stereotypes, and one of my favourites is this idea that everything is done bigger in America. I have never visited the USA but unless American television series are lying to us, their cars are definitely a whole lot bigger than ours. They also have a reputation for serving larger portions of food as well, though I don’t know if this is the case. Anyway, given that Alexander liked to do things bigger than everyone else, I wonder if a case can be made for him being the first American? At any rate, I’m sure he would have approved of America’s cultural unity in diversity.
Seleucus and Apama
In 324 B.C., Alexander a number of his senior officers married Persian wives at the Susa Weddings. Of those officers, only one – Seleucus – did not put his wife aside after Alexander’s death in 323. To the best of my knowledge, he remained married to Apama, daughter of Spitamenes, until his death in 281. Did Seleucus genuinely love her? Let’s hope so, but we must also accept that she was useful to his political ambitions. Apama came from Sogdiana, which was part of Seleucus’ satrapy and, after 306, his kingdom. The reason I mention this is because I have just come across this brief You Tube video of a tourist’s visit to Apamea (in Syria).

As of today, I’m going to try and make more of an effort to watch You Tube videos on Alexander and his men so if you know any good quality ones do let me know. Feel free not to let me know about those that claim that Ptolemy I Soter is or invented Jesus Christ. Yes, they are out there.

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