Was Alexander The Great Gay?
It Depends On What you Mean By “Gay.” If you mean was he sexually and romantically attracted to men, then he wasn’t gay. He was gay on stilts.
But if you mean did he identify himself as “gay,” then the answer is no. The concepts of heterosexuality and homosexuality didn’t exist in ancient times. In that sense asking if Alexander was gay is like asking whether he used cell phones or landlines.
So strictly speaking, Alexander was not gay. He simply had an unquenchable thirst for male flesh.
To fully understand the context of Alexander’s love life, you have to understand how the ancient Greeks perceived the roles of men and women. Basically, women were baby factories. You either married them to carry on your lineage or you married them to acquire something important like territory, strategic alliances, and in many cases, exceptional wardrobes. It’s not that love didn’t exist between men and women; it’s that it wasn’t necessary or even desirable in a marriage.
Famous Gay Men In History
To be sure not everyone agrees that Alexander The Great was gay (or rather, that he loved, had sex with and preferred men). But is that disagreement a correct reading of history? The “gay deniers” all seem to be heterosexual historians who can’t, don’t or won’t believe that history’s greatest military man was homosexual. Clearly there are facts about Alexander’s life that are open to interpretation. For example, he was married more than once. Had kids. So he’s heterosexual, right? But marriages back then, especially between powerful people, were about strategic alliances, not sex or love.
Some things are open to interpretation, but how do you interpret this:
“Alexander was only defeated once…and that was by Hephaestion’s thighs.”
This was written 2,000 years ago by the ancient Cynic philosophers. It’s a phrase well-known to Greek historians but it never seems to get mentioned by the “Alexander The Great Was Not Gay” crowd. And there are a few:
In a post titled, “Was Alexander the Great gay?” the respected pothos.org had this to say:
Let me turn to one of the “hot” modern questions about Alexander. Was Alexander the Great gay? No. I say no, not because he had no relationships with men and boys but because our term “homosexual” and “gay” are inappropriate terms for antiquity. Some may feel this to be splitting hairs. It is not. Language shapes us and the way we see the world. The ancient Greeks had no word that corresponded quite to our term “homosexual” — hence my preference for “homoerotic”.
“The evidence for a sexual relationship is firmer than in the case of Hephaestion (where there is no real evidence, but plenty of assumptions). Even in the case of Bagoas – a eunuch given to Alexander as (dare I say it?) a boy toy by a Persian noble who wished to win his favor — there is some room for doubt, though I would venture to say he “counts” as a male object of Alexander’s sexual interest.”
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Hephaestion (c.357 – 324), a Macedonian nobleman from the capital city of Pella, was educated at the court of King Philip of Macedon, where he met Alexander the Great and presumably Aristotle. Hephaestion is thought to have been Alexander the Great’s gay lover.
Was Alexander The Great Gay?
Read The Excerpt From This Hysterically Funny But Historically Accurate Biography
The biggest mistake people make about ancient Greek culture is to think they celebrated sex between men. They didn’t. In fact, they frowned upon it. What they celebrated was something entirely different: Sex between men and boys.
Paiderastia (love for boys) was not pedophilia. Antiquity viewed sex with children with the same horror we view it now. It’s just that their age of consent was lower than it is today. Back then it was around 13 or 14. Today, it’s 16. Although at the Neverland Ranch, it was 12.
Paiderastia was a Greek philosophical concept that idealized same-sex desire. It was expected that older men would mentor younger men, teach them how to hunt, fight and take their place as noble citizens. And how to give a blowjob your father would be proud of.
The modern mind automatically pictures “older men” as sick perverts in their 50s and 60s who hide in bushes and prey on boys. But the reality was that “older men” in Greece referred to highly respected and accomplished men in their 20’s and 30’s. And they didn’t prey on boys. In fact, they had to woo them. It was up to youths to pick their mentors, not the other way around.
The older man was called the erastes. In Athens it meant “lover.” In Sparta, it meant “inspirer.” In America it means jail time. The youth was called the eromenos. In Athens it meant “beloved.” In Sparta, “inspired.”
The partner’s roles, like their poles, were rigid. The elder erastes (lover, pursuer, and active participant) and younger eromenos (beloved, pursued, and passive participant) could not switch-hit in bed. There was only one raging top (the lover) and one insatiable bottom (the beloved). However, they younger ones knew how to work it. Historians recently discovered a shard of ancient pottery with an inscription that reveals just how sexually cunning the younger eromenos could be: “Grasp your older boyfriend from behind,” begins the text. “Then place your fist on his abdomen and squeeze firmly until he coughs up more cash.” Or something like that.
Paiderastia was a cornerstone of Greek society. It was how men learned to be men. Older men (20 to 30-year olds) were expected to be citizens of outstanding civic responsibility, skilled in warfare, dutiful to their parents, virtuous, brave, honorable, and devoted to truth. The younger men (13 to 19 years old) were commonly described as young men “whose beard had not begun to grow.” They were expected to be athletic, brave, and willing to learn what their lovers could teach about life and love.
Greeks depended on “macho values” instead of “family values” for the stability and advancement of their culture. In fact, Greeks believed that the very survival of their civilization depended, in part, on getting your dick sucked by another guy.
Which, really, is the essential message of today’s gay activists.
Paiderastia had existed for centuries before Alexander came along. Hundreds of ancient images depicting older men doing the hokey-pokey with boys still exist to this day. Same with literature. Poems in Book Twelve of the Greek Anthology, for example, are almost exclusively devoted to the love of young men. Today, the Book is called “Inches.”
There’s plenty of evidence the Greeks believed that erotic love between males made them stronger in battle. The bravery of male couples–as personified by Achilles and Patroklos and Alexander and Hephaestion–was well known throughout ancient Greece and was an important factor in war.
Do These Sandals Make Me Look Fat?
As over-the-top as Alexander could be, he was no Liberace in fatigues. If you’re thinking Sean Hayes in Will & Grace leading 40,000 men across the desert, think again. If you’re thinking Tyler Oakley in hand-to-hand combat you’re deluded. If you’re thinking Andy Cohen slitting his enemy’s throats with a nail file, stop thinking–please, you’re giving us a headache.
Instead, think Patton taking bubble baths, or McArthur in moo-moos, or Schwarzkopf with fag hags. If you locked Alexander in a room with these generals and threw in a knife, only Alexander would walk out without needing medical attention. And he’d walk out like Evita too: On the terrace, arms out-stretched, greeting the adoring crowds below.
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Famous Gay Men In History
As if man-boy love wasn’t enough to give today’s conservatives a stroke, there was also a cult of nudity in Greek life. Indeed, nudity was considered a sign of sophistication. Civilized societies were proud, not ashamed, of their bodies and they liked to display them every chance they got.
For instance, men exercised nude in gymnasiums. Yes, they had gyms 3,000 years ago. In fact, the word gymnasium derives from gymnos, meaning naked. As opposed to nekkid, which means, “naked and you’re up to something.” Imagine working the bench press and asking for a spot from a naked man. Unsurprisingly, the gymnasium exploded with erotic energy.
But enough about L.A. Fitness.
Alexander himself was a member of it. He couldn’t resist their Metabolic Rate Analysis. Plus, they gave him an unusually low monthly fee. Still, the annoying phone calls (“We’re running a special today. Have you considered upgrading your membership?”) was too much, so he ended up at the Y.
Back to the nudity. The male body was so revered that participants in all competitions, including the Olympics, performed in the nude. At religious ceremonies, public festivals, and private feasts, young cupbearers were usually naked. And the biggest event at most festivals was the male beauty pageant, where men were judged for their “manliness.” We’re assuming there were no Evening Gown Competitions. We’re also assuming the friendliest contestant won the title of “Mr. Congenitalia.”
Admiring the male body was so popular that Greek officials sometimes used homoeroticism as an incentive to get men to marry women and have kids. The annual Gymnopaidiai, an important festival in Sparta, was celebrated with dances and performances by naked boys. When their population got dangerously low, Spartan officials guarded the gates of the dick-dangling bashes with a strict entrance policy: Only married men were allowed in.
How twisted is that?
Male love was so ingrained in the culture that many of the debates centered on whether loving a boy was superior to loving a woman. Boy love often won out. Phaedrus, a character in one of Plato’s greatest work, Symposium, declares “There can be no greater benefit for a boy than to have a worthy lover…nor for a lover than to have a worthy object of his affection.”
The Greek ideal of beauty was not a woman; it was a man. There was hardly a book, a painting, a sculpture, a speech, a tapestry, or a piece of pottery that didn’t praise young male beauty. The word kalos (the masculine form of beautiful) was often carved into pottery that illustrated boys, while pictures of girls and the feminine kale were rare.
While paiderestia was a basic building block of society, it was not without rules. Greek society passed harsh judgment if you defied accepted norms of behavior. There were homo do’s and homo don’ts: Don’t shtup the under-aged, don’t rape, don’t prostitute yourself; and don’t engage in sexual congress with slaves. Some senate maybe, but no congress.
It’s not that Greek males weren’t expected to marry and raise children. They were. But they were expected to do something they considered grander—to achieve arête, or excellence. And that required mentoring young boys. We’d say “rearing,” but that sounds dirty.
So the Greek male life had a definite trajectory: In adolescence a young man was courted by older men and would choose one to be his lover. Then he was to reverse roles in early adulthood (20’s to 30’s). Now he was to court and win the love of a deserving young buck. Then he would expand his repertoire, along with his underwear, by taking a wife and having children.
Greeks encouraged man-boy love but discouraged man-man love. Why? Because they were obsessed with perpetuating the superior status of the adult male. That meant the object of a man’s penetration had to be his social and sexual inferior–women or boys.
Only women were supposed to receive pleasure from being penetrated. For boys/young men, it was considered an indignity you had to put up with until you became a man.
Adult males were expected to take the active, penetrative role in sex because their superior status demanded it. Sex was not the mutual thing it is now. For the most part, you did not have sex with your social or sexual equals. It was all about the alpha male’s power and domination.
Misogyny ran deep. Greek society didn’t approve of two grown men in love because sexual tradition forced one of them to take a submissive role in bed. And to be submissive was to act like a girl, to take on the characteristics of someone who had no rights, who was not educated, who could not hunt, who could not defend from an enemy, and who could not excel in athletics. A man acting like a woman was like a diamond pretending to be rhinestone. Why would you lower your market value?
The later Romans, taking a page from the Greeks (and there were plenty of pages who wanted to be taken) even had an exalted term for men who properly engaged in homosexual acts: Vir. It symbolized the ideal man: He who penetrates other men but is himself not penetrated.
Any Greek man who wanted to be penetrated was unnaturally subordinating himself to other men. No “real” man could enjoy that and if he did, he was constitutionally different and therefore unworthy of the status accrued to the noble male citizen. A man did not betray sexual and social expectations without being punished for it.
Even to this day, thousands of years later, “gay identified” men ridicule passive sexual partners and revere active ones. That’s why you’ll never hear anyone complain, “There’s nothing but tops in this town.” Or, dismiss someone by saying, “Oh, he’s just a big top.”
So where did Paiderestia come from? Where everything else in Greek life came from–the gods. According to Greek legend, Paiderastia was invented by the god who jabbed his index finger at an accusatory crowd and declared, “I did not turn into a goat and have sex with that woman.”
Yes, even, Zeus liked a little dick on the side.
Apparently, Zeus was looking for an intern on Mt. Olympus when he spotted the most beautiful boy in the world. “What’s his name?” he asked of a mortal. “Ganymede,” the mortal replied. “Ganymede Lewinsky.”
One day, looking down from his throne on Mount Olympus, Zeus spied Ganymede chatting up some boys in a meadow. Instantly, the King of Heaven got an erection so massive the boys at Pfizer are still trying to figure out how to bottle it. Zeus turned himself into a powerful, majestic eagle and swooped down. Casting lightning every which way and turning day into night, he seized the boy in his talons. Up they rose, higher and higher till they vanished into the blue.
Zeus screwed Ganymede like he was preparing a Thanksgiving turkey—he just spread his legs open and stuffed it in. The sex was so hot, when they finished the onlooking Gods had a cigarette.
Ganymede so charmed Zeus he appointed Ganymede cupbearer at the divine feasts. Ganymede always kissed Zeus’ cup before he filled it and placed it in his hand. The other gods completely approved of Zeus’s decision. They rejoiced in having Ganymede among them, for his beauty was intoxicating.
There was just one little problem with the new Olympian intern: Zeus’ wife, Hera Rodham Clinton.
To make room for Ganymede, Zeus chased away the former cup bearer, who happened to be Zeus’ and Hera’s daughter. You could hear the lamps crashing against the walls as far away as Hades.
Hera, insane with jealousy, vented her rage by destroying the Trojans. Zeus, insistent, kept Ganymede on Mt. Olympus and honored him with a place in the zodiac. You can still see Ganymede today, on a clear night, pouring nectar, shielded by the wing of the Eagle in a nearby cluster of stars. He is the constellation Aquarius, the Water Bearer.
Zeus wasn’t the only god who knew the pleasures of male flesh. Apollo, one of the most important Olympian gods, also lost his head over a boy. Apollo is associated with prophecy and the higher developments of civilization: law, philosophy, the arts, and decaf cappuccinos.
Apollo fell in love with Hyacinthus, the young son of the King of Sparta. They hunted together in the woods or practiced gymnastics, something the Spartans were renowned for.
Once, on a hot summer afternoon, the lovers got naked (big surprise), sleeked themselves with oil, and competed at the discus throw. Apollo threw it so hard he cut the clouds in two. Hyacinthus ran to get the discuss, but it bounced off the ground, hit him on the head, and mortally wounded him.
Horrified, Apollo raced over and held his lover close to his chest until Hyacinthus died in his arms. Apollo’s tears mixed with the boy’s blood as it flowed on the ground. A fragrant flower sprouted as a testament to Apollo’s grief. Today we call the flower hyacinth, and on its petals you can read the letters “Ay,” signifying the sigh of pain rising from Apollo’s heart.
Was Alexander The Great A Gay Man?
Handed down from the gods, male love was a standard feature of Greek life. But, as we’ve seen, only if it were intergenerational. There were exceptions, of course. Like Alexander. His erastes was supposed to be an adult male, but it turned out to be someone just a year older–Hephaestion of Amyntor. Alexander and Hephaestion met when Alexander was about 14. They were practically inseparable for the next 19 years, until Hephaestion’s death.
Hephaestion is described as a bit taller than Alexander and–get this–better looking. Considering that Alexander was so beautiful drooping flowers sprang to attention when he walked by, that’s high praise indeed.
A Cynic philosopher was quoted as saying, “Alexander was only defeated once…and that was by Hephaestion’s thighs.” Hephaestion was the love of Alexander’s life. Both studied under Aristotle. From the moment they met they couldn’t stop philosophizing, playing sports, sharing ideas, or playing hide the hot dog.
Alexander loved Hephaestion so intensely he only had one other boyfriend, a couple dozen flings, and three marriages throughout their relationship.
Hey, in Greece that was considered monogamy.
Regardless of the objects of his desire, some historians believe Alexander was never highly sexed. Certainly, he didn’t come anywhere near his father Philip’s Anything-That-Moves ethos.
He almost always refused the gorgeous slave boys (and women) offered to him when he conquered new lands. Except for one exceptionally pretty eunuch named Bagoas. Still, he seems to have been asexual even in places where you’d expect a whole lot of wiggling and waggling to be going on. Like his “Sacred Band” of male friends—a league of lifelong friends and advisors who had pledged their lives to Alexander. The intensity of their friendships would have surely led to some hanky-panky, but not one of the Sacred Band members ever claimed to have bagged the king.
In some ways, Alexander conformed perfectly to the Greek expectation of male nobility: He took an older lover as a youth (though he and Hephaestion were practically the same age), married by the time he was 30, sired a child, and eventually became an erastes (lover) to someone much younger (Bagoas, the Persian boy). He completed the classic Greek circle. Except that Hephaestion never stopped being the most romantically important person in his heart.
Words were everything to the Greeks, and they chose them very carefully. Alexander never referred to Hephaestion as his erastes (lover) but rather as “Philalexandros” (friend of Alexander), for he felt the word “lover” did not do justice to the closeness of the relationship they had. In contrast, he often called Bagoas, his Persian boy, eromenos (beloved).
One of Alexander’s favorite heroes was Herakles (Hercules), who had a thing for boys and wanted to show it to them often.
Hercules was unquestionably the strongest of the heroes (as a baby he killed two great serpents with his bare hands). He was ordered to perform 12 great labors as punishment for creating a little family drama (if you call murdering his children a little drama). Known for his strength, Hercules was also known for his sexual stamina. Once, he was the guest of a King who wanted Hercules to diddle his virgin daughters.
All 50 of them.
Much as he loved women, Hercules loved boys too. Ancient historians report that counting the number of Hercule’s boy lovers required hand-held calculators. Apparently, Hercules plugged most of the Argonauts, including Jason. His favorite “beloved” was Iolaos, who was 16 and, more to the point, his nephew. Iolaos (pronounced “I-will-lay-us”) served as a helper in many of Hercules’ labors. Hercules once said the labors were easier when Iolaos watched him. Egotistical? Whenever he saw lightning in the sky Hercules thought Zeus was snapping his picture.
Back to Hephaestion. Alexander’s mother, Olympias Dukakis, was said to be terribly jealous of her son’s attachment to Hephaestion. As mentioned earlier, after she sent Hephaestion an angry note, he wrote back: “Stop quarreling with me: not that in any case I shall much care. You know Alexander means more to me than anyone.”
Alexander was known to speak just as devotedly of Hephaestion. When the two men first entered the tent of the conquered Persian King’s harem, they came upon the Persian Queen Mother, who immediately bowed to Hephaestion because he was taller and better looking. When the eunuchs in the tents nervously cleared their throats and let her know she was bowing to the wrong guy, the Queen, in great distress, quickly bowed to Alexander. According to Renault, Alexander said to her, “Never mind, Mother–you made no mistake. He too is Alexander.”
Of course, Alexander’s comment has multiple meanings. First, it tells us how much he cherished Hephaestion. Second, Alexander thought older women were faaaaabulous, and believed in preserving their dignity, which he did on that and many other occasions. He struck up a terrific friendship with the old Persian battle-axe, as he did with many older women (a VERY uncommon practice). Perhaps it was the Queen Mother’s name that made Alexander relate to her so well: Sisygambis.
There isn’t much written about Hephaestion and Alexander’s relationship. They were either on top of each other in bed or side-by-side on the field. Alexander made Hephaestion one of his top generals, along with Craterus. By his name, one assumes he had a scandalous case of acne.
Craterus was apparently one of Alexander’s favorite men—loyal, aggressive in battle, courageous in spirit. Unfortunately, Craterus did not like Hephaestion. Perhaps it was because of Hephaestion’s unblemished face. In any case, both men put aside their differences, for the sake of the king.
Mary Renault tells us: “Alexander showed more affection for Hephaestion but more respect for Craterus. Alexander often said that while Hephaestion was a friend of Alexander’s, Craterus was a friend of the king’s.”
This was so not only because Hephaestion gave Category 5 blowjobs, but because Craterus was more valuable to Alexander as a military strategist. Basically, Hephaestion was not that good at leading or orchestrating combat. He excelled in logistics and diplomacy, which were important, but not as highly esteemed by the macho ancients as combat skills.
Alexander had three wives—Roxane, Statiera, and Parysatis. So that makes Alexander bisexual, no? Again, it depends. He clearly had sex with Roxanne, since she bore him a child. Yet she wasn’t a central part of his life. Not much is written about her. Alexander loved to shave but this was one beard he didn’t mind keeping.
Alexander’s marriages to his other two wives were strictly a means to strengthen his cultural links with Persia. Stateria was the daughter of the former Persian King. And Parysatis was also a scion of a powerful Persian clan.
For his day, Alexander had a fairly radical attitude toward women. For example, he treated them with great respect. He often refused to let his troops rape women when they conquered new lands. As we noted earlier, Alexander also struck up great friendships with women that were considerably older than he was. One can only imagine Alexander asking Hephaestion, “Do these fag hags make me look gay?”
Alexander met the other great love of his life on campaign against the Persians. Once king Darius fell, his general offered many riches to Alexander as a sign of fealty. Among the invaluable gifts was a hubba-hubba, hunka-hunka, slap-yo-mama gorgeous boy named Bagoas.
Alexander had been offered beautiful slave boys before but had always turned them down (something about Hephaestion hissing like a cat). But this time the boy was graced with incandescent beauty, and Alexander was smitten.
Bagoas went from being the lover of a Persian king to being the lover of a Greek one. Good thing the boy loved variety.
A couple of years after Alexander conquered Persia, Bagoas won a dance contest. When he sat at Alexander’s side, Plutarch claims that “the Macedonian troops shouted out, telling him to kiss him, till finally he took him in his arms and kissed him warmly.”
Bagoas had been an actor and a singer in Darius’ court. He’d been turned into a eunuch to preserve his beauty and singing voice. Not much else is written about him. Apparently, some Greek historians conveniently deleted references to the Persian boy to protect what they saw as the superiority of the Greeks. They didn’t care that Alexander was diddling a boy, but they cared a lot that the boy was Persian. Few of Alexander’s countrymen shared his belief that the people they conquered deserved their respect. They were even more upset by Alexander’s marriages to the Persian princesses. It drove them nuts that a Greek heir’s blood would be spoiled by these barbarian sluts.
There is one story that reveals a little about Bagoas’ personality. Alexander had traveled to the Persian city of Persepolis to deal with a satrap who was on trial for looting the grave of Cyrus (a brilliant Persian warrior king whom Alexander admired).
When Alexander first conquered Persia, this satrap, Orxine, had visited and sent fabulous gifts to Alexander and his court, but pointedly overlooked Bagoas. His explanation? “I do not honor catamites” (boys used as sex toys). After sending all the riches, Orxine awaited some kind of reward or gesture of gratitude from Alexander.
But before that happened, Cyrus’ tomb was opened and Alexander learned that it had been robbed. Bagoas took him aside and told him that the tomb had once been full of gold. Alexander often relied on Bagoas to tell him where Persians hid their gold, since Bagoas had been part of King Darius’ court.
Bagoas lied like a tooth puller (“This won’t hurt a bit”) and blamed Orxine for looting the gold-filled tomb. On this “evidence” alone Alexander condemned Orxine. As Orxine was led away, he looked at the lying, vengeful Bagoas and said, “It is a new thing in Persia for a eunuch to rule.”
Catty? If Bagoas had led China they would have called him Chairman Meow.
The Greatest Military Hero Of All Time Was Also The Biggest Drama Queen Who Ever Lived
He conquered most of the known world, yet he cried easily. He threatened suicide if he didn’t get his way. He talked in exclamation marks! He loved to wear outrageous clothes. Everything was an emergency. He could throw hissy fits that would take Liza Minelli’s breath away. And he was so vain his own officers rubbed Preparation H on his ego.
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There is no word on how Hephaestion reacted to Bagoas. Did he like him? Was he jealous? Did he really spot him in the showers and later say to Alexander, “You call that a cock?” We don’t know, since some historians seem to have fallen asleep at the switch.
Hephaestion’s first independent mission as a general was to find and appoint a new king in the recently conquered city-state of Sidon (the hated Persians had formerly controlled it). Although all sorts of ring-kissers and ass-kissers immediately surrounded him, Hephaestion took his time. He asked around to see if there were any survivors of the original royal line. He discovered that one descendant had survived, but he had been born to a peasant family and worked as a gardener. Still, Hephaestion checked around and found that he was a decent and honorable man. He sent word that he wanted to talk to the man about taking the throne and sent royal robes so that when he spoke with Hephaestion he would be dressed appropriately (so as to not embarrass the man by drawing attention to his lowly position).
When Hephaestion arrived, the man was not wearing the robes and was busy watering his garden. Hephaestion immediately proclaimed him King, shocking all the ass-kissers. Hephaestion had found the one man in the kingdom who was immune to bribery.
Alexander had survived a decade of war, mutinies, attempted assassinations, and battlefield wounds that would have killed lesser men. He had survived extremes of weather and other hardships, fatigue and illness, and a 20,000 mile march conquer the known world. But nothing would compare to his grief over Hephaestion’s death. He never really got over it, dying shortly afterwards.
In Ecbatna, a beautiful summer retreat for Persian kings, Hephaestion caught a bad fever. After a week, he appeared to recover. Alexander was presiding at an athletic competition when word reached him that Hephaestion had taken a turn for the worse. He left the stadium full of people with no explanation. He hurried to Hephaestion’s side, but he was too late. Hephaestion had died, depending on which historian you believe, because of fever, alcoholism, or murder.
Whatever the reason, Alexander’s monumental grief resounded from one end of the world to the other. Writes Mary Renault:
“For a day and a night [/fusion_builder_column][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][Alexander] lay upon the body, till his friends dragged him off by force; for three days he could only lie weeping or mute, fasting and unapproachable…when he roused himself it was to wild extravagance of mourning. He sheared all his hair like Achilles for Patroclus (the usual tribute was a single lock, tied into a grave wreath). He had the manes and tails of all the horses clipped as well, and the ornaments removed from the city walls.”
Alexander also had the doctor hanged. There was reasonable suspicion that the doctor had poisoned Hephaestion.
Alexander forbade all music across the land and he ordered mourning services in every city of his great empire. Teams of architects and sculptors were commanded to design memorial shrines and statues.
The only thing that comforted Alexander was the thought of dying and spending eternity with Hephaestion in the Afterworld. But suddenly the fearless king was seized with fright. The fates had decreed that demi-gods could not share the company of mortals in the Afterworld.
In perhaps his most poignant effort to be reunited with the love of his life, Alexander sent desperate requests to the most powerful oracles and priests that Hephaestion be granted Divine Honors, which would ensure that they would not be separated in death.
He sent a special envoy to the Oracle at the oasis of Siwah in Egypt. The oracle, asked if Hephaestion was a god (back then people could become gods by achievement), replied “No, but he was a hunk.” Nevertheless, the oracle declared him a hero–a lesser type of god, and granted him Divine Honors. Alexander would spend eternity with his soul mate, though that reassurance did little to assuage his grief.
The body of Hephaestion was embalmed and carried to Babylon to be burned on a funeral pyre. Little did Alexander know that Babylon was to become his final stop as well.
Hephaestion’s funeral is said to have been one of the most spectacular in recorded history. It even surpassed Alexander’s (the king’s body was considered too sacred a relic and too politically important to be destroyed).
The funeral pyre cost something on the order of $100,000,000 in today’s currency. It was a 200-foot-tall ziggurat (a Persian pyramid), adorned with priceless Greek art. Ornate images of wreathes, eagles, torches, bulls, and lions were carved into the pyramid. Alexander even had beautiful sirens carved into the façade and placed singers behind it. This gave it the illusion that the other-wordily voices were really coming from the carvings. Parts of the structure were covered in gold, others were painted in rich pigments. Alexander planned a memorial that would’ve taken years to build on that site. It never materialized, for Alexander died before construction could begin.
Clearly, the funeral was a consequence of Alexander’s predilection toward the dramatic. But many historians feel it also reflected a lingering fear that the gods would change their minds and separate the lovers in death. By creating a spectacle of mythical proportions, Alexander hoped to appease the gods and ensure Hephaestion’s ascent into the Blessed Realm, where gods and heroes lived forever.
During the burning of the monumental pyre, Alexander had ordered that the sacred fires in the temples be put out. This was only done for the death of the High King. But recall what Alexander had told Queen Sisygambis: “He too is Alexander.”
Remember the gardener that Hephaestion named king of Sidon? This grateful king had a frieze created to commemorate Alexander’s victory in Persia. The central figure of the piece is a handsome man on a horse vanquishing the enemy. It is generally accepted as the only surviving likeness of Hephaestion. Because Alexander died within a year of Hephaestion’s death, all the projects that had been started in his honor were abandoned.
The only person who had been happy about Hephaestion’s death was Roxanne. Roxanne hated Hephaestion with the kind of intensity that Diane Sawyer reserves for interview subjects who steal the spotlight from her. But in his grief, Alexander turned to the diminutive but beautiful Roxanne (known as “Little Star”). She conceived Alexander’s child during his period of intense grief. And even while pregnant, Roxanne is credited with murdering Alexander’s other Persian wife soon after Alexander’s death (she didn’t want anybody else claiming status as Queen). She—and their son—were murdered years later.
Alexander died within eight months of Hephaestion, just as Achilles’ death followed soon after Patroclus’ in the Iliad. For the rest of his life Alexander regretted the one complaint he made to Hephaestion: “I need more space.”