The Iliad, Alex and Hephaestion.

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dean
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The Iliad, Alex and Hephaestion.

Post by dean »

I am quite a newcomer to the forum and was reading the
article by Jeanne Zimmerman on this site regarding Alex's relationship with Hephaestion. I say "relationship" rather than sexuality because I think theirs was a bond based much more on love and understanding rather sex.
First Hephaestion was a childhood friend and together they went into exile after the Attalos affair and then again together went to Mieza to study in the retreat with Aristotle. Alex was a passionate reader and above all for the Iliad which is where he found his "model". In my opinion the Iliad is the key to the whole life of Alexander and the script he used
unconsciously or consciously to plan out his life.
Alex slept with dagger and Iliad under pillow, he knew it off by heart. I don't think that enough importance can be given to the Iliad when we speak of Alex's life. Throwing the spear on to the shore of Asia is but one of the symbolic actions he copied from the Iliad and he believed that Achilles was an ancient ancestor of his and above all shared the same attitude of "living a brief life of glory than a long obscure one"
Whether he knew it or not, he was trying to emulate Achilles in his every thought and act(He must have known it). Laying wreaths on the grave of Achilles and Hephaestion on the grave of Patroclus is a clear example that both shared the intrinsic knowledge that they were Achilles and Patroclus reborn.In the ancient Greek world of Homer- bisexuality was common,
When campaigning, soldiers like Achilles and Alexander would be inclined to find comfort, sexually or otherwise with an intimate companion rather than going to prostitutes or forming relationships with women who then couldn't follow them. This reason for the relationship between Alex and Hephaestion most compelling. In my opinion Alexander's sexual desire was almost completely diminshed and that the reason why he was able to accomplish what he did was because unlike the majority of people he was able to channel his sexual energy and desire into other projects. Neither do I think he was completely "asexual". I am a great lover of Mary Renault and although many dismiss her work as "just fiction" I think that she had done a lifetime of research and chosen amongst the sources which seem best to fit to the reality. She seems to advocate, regarding the relationship of Alex with Hephaestion, that their love making took place in conversation- talking of philosophy or other things that interested them.
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Linda
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Re: The Iliad, Alex and Hephaestion.

Post by Linda »

DeanThis has been gone through a few times on the forum, and suffice to say that there is a wide range of views on this - not so much Homer (although I have read that the Achilles/Patroclus thing may have been not so important in their lives as it became to storytellers later), but the sexuality issue. Personally, I have reservations about Jeanne's article, and the assumption that sexuality is a product of environment rather than primarily of nature. I think the ancients knew better than we do that people have different sexual natures - heter- and homo-sexual, and Plato's writings discuss this. The statement that bisexuality was typical of the culture and time is difficult to justify, I think, if you look at the plays, letters etc. I don't remember any in Euripedes, for example, although someone may correct me. Some people obviously were - Philip for example, and maybe Alexander, but you do have to remember that men and women married in those days for economic reasons, when they perhaps wouldn't in our society. But specifically I would like to make the point that women were not scarce - many of the men would have had mistresses or wives with them - not all the time, but some of the time, at least, particularly in the latter part of the campaign. The Companions were wealthy and powerful men. If leonnatus could take a wrestling ring, Alexander could take a chick or two.
It is probable that Barsine and Roxanne both were with the army. Jeanne's statement that intense friendships find sexual expression may make sense in a restricted setting for a limited period of time where the opposite sex were banned, eg boarding school, prison, the Foreign Legion.. but Alexander wasn't in that position. This wasn't Sparta. The whole article reads to me like a defence, and I don't think Alexander needs that.I do not know what exactly went on between Alexander and Hephaestion, but it was obviously a very loving one. I don't think you can quantify - friendship, sex, dependency. It may have been all, and may have differed at different time.I too enjoyed Mary Renault, but do feel that the discussion of homosexuality in Ancient Greece will be up for reassessment someday. Kenneth Dover's book (mentioned by Jeanne) has a hilarious correction to the previous edition where he admits that the younger man in a couple in a depiction may be, ahem, interested, rather than just mechanically manouvered. ie that he wasn't passive. Do these people go out at
susa

Re: The Iliad, Alex and Hephaestion.

Post by susa »

Linda
Thank you :) I-¦ve always wanted to say -¦eeek-¦ to this Achilles/Patroklos thing about Alex/Hephaistion. I know little about time/place of Alex & co., but, well, i never feel at ease with this analogy with the heroes in the Iliad. I don't like to think that Alexander [that man he was] would give so much importance to the Iliad [or to any other book/whatever].
I don't like to think that he did what he did because of that poem. I don't even like to think that his attachment to Hep, and Hep's attachment to him, has anything to do with a book! Don't you think it reminds very much what happened in Europe with Goethe's 'Werther'? When many young men killed themselves as to mimic what happened to Werther in the book? [I wonder if people think that Hep died before Alexander because they wanted everything to be just like in the Iliad?]
I don't think Alex would be so childish as to take the Iliad as a model to his objectives or - gee! - to his affections. His objectives and affections, I think, *were* his, not someone else's. Regards to yoususa
John

Re: The Iliad, Alex and Hephaestion.

Post by John »

This happens: people can model themselves after their heroes - until they grow out of it and become their own person.John
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Re: The Iliad, Alex and Hephaestion.

Post by rick »

Dean, When I got bitten with the bug to learn more about Alexander, Mary Renault's books were my starting point. I find her writing captures a lot of what it might have been like during those times. At the very least, she gives students of Alexander an environmental setting in which to debate finer points. If we were to apply today's terminology to ancient times, then I would agree with you that bisexuality probably was common. But I tend to think that in those times, terms like heterosexuality, homosexuality and bisexuality didn't have any meaning. These terms are "necessary" for us today, because of some perverse need we have to justify or categorize how people relate to each other and somehow tie that to someone's definition of morality. I've decided to avoid the waging battle between the camp who believes Alexander was gay or bisexual, and the other camp who rejects that belief. I don't think it really matters, nor do I think it can ever be definitely proven one way or another. Your statement on how Alexander channeled his feelings is interesting, however, I'm not so convinced that Alexander's sexual desires were diminished, but more controlled. I agree he probably channeled most of his sexual energy into his desire to succeed in his campaigns. And more than likely, for those times when the mortal side of Alexander won out, he relied on a select group of intimates, in which he did not fear compromise. Certainly, his marriage to Roxane gave Alexander not only some opportunity for intimacy, but was a political plus.From what I read, I also think that Alexander was guided by the Iliad. At this time I can't weight in on how it may have affected him, because admittedly I have avoided reading the Iliad so far. Hopefully, by the end of the year I will have overcome this deficiency and be in a better position to offer an educated opinion on this matter.Rick
John

Re: The Iliad, Alex and Hephaestion.

Post by John »

- Maybe Alexander should have given this, Commander of the Hellenes spreading Hellenism all over the place thing up. Commander of the Hellenes was Achilles' territory. The Hellenes were HIS people, not Alexander's. - Unless, of course, Alexander really WAS Achilles re-incarnated.John
HEPHAISTION

Re: The Iliad, Alex and Hephaestion.

Post by HEPHAISTION »

THERE WAS NO SEXUAL RELATION BETWEEN HEPHAISTION AND ALEXANDER. AND STH ABOUT ILIAD:IT'S THE FIRST TEXT YOU CAN FIND THE NAME ALEXANDER AS PARIS'S NAME.
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dean
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Re: The Iliad, Alex and Hephaestion.

Post by dean »

Dear Linda, I appreciate your comments and message. Maybe I didn't express myself clearly when I tried to explain what I meant while talking about the effect of the Iliad or Homer on Alexander's life. First I didn't mean that Alex thought that he physically was Achilles reincarnated- that would be ridiculous. I simply meant that I believe that we all choose role models. I am sure that the majority of people who read the forum have at least one- Alexander himself! Alexander too had his, to him Achilles represented the perfect warrior. To know the Iliad off by heart would mean that he must have read the book countless times and somehow internalised the content- this "leaked" out into his real life, in my humble opinion. As I mentioned yesterday Alex even believed that he was related to the Troyan hero. I have read that after taking Gaza,(plse correct me if I am wrong) Batis' dead body was tied to the back of a chariot and dragged around the fort for some time- just as Achilles did to the body of Hector a thousand years previously. Also curiously in the same place- Gaza a valuable chest was found and all Alex wished placing in it was the Iliad.I am aware that Alex could get "two chicks or even 365 concubines that belonged to Darius but I wasn't talking about sex- he didn't want that- he found deeper satisfaction I believe in his friendship with Hephaestion as Achilles did with Patroclus. Regards Dean.
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dean
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Re: The Iliad, Alex and Hephaestion.

Post by dean »

Dear Susan, just a quick note- regarding my message yesterday- I feel, as I mentioned, that "just a book" such as the Iliad- could be of immeasurable influence in somebody's life- the bible, written thousands of years ago still influences people around the globe- and it is "just a book". To me, the Iliad was the bible for Alexander. He took from it,at an early impressionable age, many values- which then affected his behaviour and the way he perceived the world and reacted to it.And not only that but most important of all his role model- his example of human excellence. Achilles,someone who even his father would think twice about confronting. I don't mean that he lived out the episodes of the Iliad to the letter,(on several occasions he does)I just think that everybody has models of the world- the notion of an ideal and Alexander chose his to be the one found in the Iliad- Greeks against Persians.Achilles and Patroclus and Alexander and Hephaistion is a poetic coincidence- I think that they enjoyed the similarity and the Macedonian soldiers also did too, fantasizing that there was some kind of analogy between both. But that is simply as far as it went. Kind regards Dean.
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dean
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Re: The Iliad, Alex and Hephaestion.

Post by dean »

Dear Rick, the Iliad is not everyone's cup of tea, it is an epic poem but I think that it is important to read not only books about Alexander but the actual things that he read himself- Xenophone is another author Alex was fond of. Anyway, nice hearing from you, Dean.
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John

Re: The Iliad, Alex and Hephaestion.

Post by John »

That story about Batis is in Curtius. But, unlike Achilles, who tied Hector's CORPSE behind his chariot, Curtius says Alexander tied Batis ALIVE to the back of his chariot, dragging him over the ground in terrible torture, trying to outdo Achilles.Personally, I don't believe this story Curtius tells. If it was true, I'm sure the moralist Arrian would have had something to say about it.
John
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Re: The Iliad, Alex and Hephaestion.

Post by maciek »

Hi Dean!I hav red Your posts and have to say that I agree with you fully. I think that Iliad had influenced Alexander. I red until now few books about Alex and now reading Iliad and that story about that box is in few of them so I think it looks like true. In many points of his expedition there are exemples that he was dedicated to this book. I'm now 31 years old and sometimes have that feeling to after some interesting book that I like to be there (even if it would be dangerous). In my opinion it not depends so much on the age but on the character you have, and imagination.Best regards from Maciek
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Re: The Iliad, Alex and Hephaestion.

Post by yiannis »

Well said Maciek!
I can perfectly understand what you're talking about. I have the same feeling when I read a book that really thrills me.
Last time this happened though was 10 years ago when I read "the name of the rose" by Umberto Eco.
Good thing I didn't become a monk after that:-)regards,
Yiannis
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dean
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Re: The Iliad, Alex and Hephaestion.

Post by dean »

Dear Maciek, thankyou for the e-mail- it was nice hearing from you and I wish you all the best.
Dean.
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Re: The Iliad, Alex and Hephaestion.

Post by dean »

Dear John, thanks for the info- I have read the account of Alexander's execution of Batis in several modern day biographies but didn't honestly know the source of the story. Maybe it is false- especially taking into consideration Alex's usual treatment of defeated leaders or perhaps after Alex's nasty injury and loss of consciousness he went crazy? Oh and by the way, I read recently that the Iliad that we know today is one that has undergone throughout the ages constant changes. One theory is that Achilles really did run Hector's body round the Troyan walls while still alive, but the version that has reached us today is somewhat toned down, thus we find Achilles dragging round Hector's dead body. Who knows??? By the way, have you read "The song of Troy" by Colleen McCullough? It is a retelling of the Iliad which I thought was brilliant. Best wishes Dean.
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