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Cleophis, queen of Assacana

Cleophis was the queen of Assacana. When Alexander was traveling down the Indus in 326 BC he besieged Assacana. After he was wounded in the fighting, his men made great efforts to take the city (Metz Epitome 40-41). Cleophis, realising that her people could not hold out and wanting to do what she could for them, surrendered to the Macedonians.

According to Curtius, the queen placed her son (grandson in the Metz Epitome) on Alexander’s lap while her ladies poured libations; and Curtius, as always looking for a good story, suggests that Alexander was inclined to pardon her because of her beauty, rather than because he was sorry for her (QC 8.10.34-35; Metz Epitome 45). Justin provides a more lurid version, saying that Cleophis recovered her kingdom and position by sleeping with Alexander; Justin maintains that she bore Alexander a son. Curtius does concede that she later bore a son whom she named Alexander, he does not commit himself as to the identity of the father (Jus. 12.7; QC 8.10.36. The Metz Epitome makes no mention of the subsequent baby).

The story of Cleophis appears only in Curtius, Justin, and the Metz Epitome, which has led many to believe that it was not true, but concocted by the vulgate source, always happy to include a salacious story. It is generally accepted now that omission from Arrian does not make a story fictitious; but there is still debate about the veracity of Justin’s version—not least because Curtius’ version sheds sufficient doubt as to the more lurid details.

Written by marcus