Review of “Hephaestion’s Journal” by Hannah Saiz

I originally posted this on the In the Footsteps of Alexander blog, but I am reposting here in case anyone missed it.

So I know that it has taken far too long to get this review over a 137 page book, but health problems have reared their head.  For that I heartily apologize.  I will, from this point on, once again, try to get these blog posts coming at a much regular rate.

We finally come to our topic, a review of Hephaestion’s Journal.  When I saw this on Amazon, I couldn’t resist even though I suspected it would be horrible as it was only about $8.  It turned out to be exactly what I expected, absolutely horrible!

My first problem is that this is completely a work of fiction written by a Hannah Saiz, yet everything on the cover, the title page, and book leads one to believe this is an actual historic work translated by a Valintin Numbers.  There is even a story invented on where and how these journals were found.  To the uninitiated researcher, this could create confusion and lead to the belief that this is in fact a true historic document.  I would suggest that the fictional nature be better explained in a much more visible way.

I think the best way to review this will just be to go through the notes that I made.  This work, as mentioned before, pretends to be Hephaestion’s personal journal with notes sometimes appearing in the margin in Alexander’s own hand.  It begins with the childhood under Aristotle’s tutelage and tells the story of Alexander’s taming of Bucephalus, who Hephaestion refers to repeatedly as bad-tempered and almost downright evil to anyone but Alexander and occasionally Hephaestion himself.

Page 28-29 “Bravery does not lie in being fearless; it is trekking over the bodies of your friends, your countrymen, even while terrified you will share their fate. [Doing anything] to succeed.” This quote is attributed to Alexander as he is recounting his adventures in the Battle of Chaeronea to Hephaestion upon his return to Macedon.  This refusal to bow to fear will characterize his Alexander for the first half of the work.

Page 33 Hephaestion implies that at some point Alexander slept at least once with Perdiccas who he refers to as a “pretty boy licentious bastard”.  The accompanying footnote says Hephaestion presents Perdiccas as sadistic but effete.

Footnote on page 43 questions whether Alexander’s temper is due to bipolar disorder or multiple personality disorder.  It goes on to call Alexander vicious, even to the point of killing his own men in a frenzy as evidence.

Footnote on page 44 says “Alexander’s violent tendencies manifested early” and that Hephaestion’s non-violent tendencies are a strange foil to Alexander’s temperament and the vast majority of his close companions.

Page 45 calls Ptolemy as “hedonistic fop”

Hephaestion refers to the rape of some women to show Perdiccas’ sadism

Page 50 calls Alexander and Hephaestion’s comparision to Achilles and Patroclus  as indicating a roman of dubious interpretation.  It also refers to Alexander’s consistent sacrificing to gods and heroes as evidence of his superstitious nature.

Page 53 Footnote claims this section comes after Granicus.  Hephaestion tells of Alexander being tortures by the voices of the dead he claims will not let him be.

Page 55 Alexander questions why Hephaestion is on the expedition telling him that he is not a warrior in spirit.

Page 95 Hephaestion tells of Alexander intercepting letters from Darius to his troops promising untold wealth for Alexander’s death.  Hephaestion sides with Parmenion in saying the men should not be told saying “I would not have you die for some fool to gain a fortune.”  This, the author claims, is supposed to hint at the closeness of their relationship.

Page 97  It hints at an argument between Hephaestion and Alexander where Hephaestion tells him he can no longer proceed as a liberator as he now heads for Persia as you can not liberate a people from themselves.

Page 100  This is where the story of the Sibyl of Apollo is dealt with.  “To Asia’s bountiful eath will come an unbeliever who wears the purple cloak;  a man who is wild, despotic, fiery.  As a storm he shall flash and all Asia will sink under the evil yoke as the earth herself drowns, glutted in blood.”  Hephaestion says the burning of Persepolis proves Alexander has become her prediction.  He says Alexander told he he became a tyrant because the Persians would not believe him to be anything else.  “Since I could not convince them otherwise, I will give them a tyrant they may know how to fear.”

Footnotes 146 & 147  speak of Hephaestion becoming the standard representative for all barbarian people’s interests.

Footnote 149  says he sees bits of Philip in Alexander and wonders is Alexander does too and and that is what drives him in his eastward quest.

Page 108  Hephaestion says Philotas said he knew Hephaestion would not allow Craterus and Perdiccas to simply invent his confession.  Hephaestion says he is very uncomfortable with the whole affair and even doubts Philotas’ guilt.

Page 110  “Had I tears left in me, I would weep to mourn the passing of freedom, the passing of the man I knew when I was a boy, and the love I yet bear for a memory that has been lost to me.”  Here Hephaestion refers to the growing changes he sees in Alexander, changes he does not feel are for the better.

Page 112  Hephaestion wonders if the damage the death of Philotas does to Alexander will ever be undone or even lessened.

Page 114  Alexander meets Roxane.  The author says Hephaestion’s relationship to Alexander from this point is difficult to determine.

Page 118  Hephaestion tells Alexander he is not a god.  Alexander asks, “Aren’t I?  Aren’t I your god, Hephaestion?”  The author wonders if Alexander means he is Hephaestion’s personal god as in a relationship.

Hephaestion says doubts in the Somatophylakes wounds Alexander more than any enemy weapon he ever encounters.

Page 119-120  This comes after the trail of Callisthenes.  Hephaestion says Alexander is now lost in his own world and will not return to his.

Page 126  This comes after the death of Bucephalus and the army’s refusal to cross the Hyphasis.  Hephaestion describes Alexander as “pale as the linens he wore and far too thin…matted hair, lost eyes…the blue which seemed so bright [had] dulled and the depths of his dark eye [has] lessened.  He looks weary.  Yet this is Alexander, and he would never admit to such weakness.”

As the story goes on, Hephaestion refers to Alexander as mad more and more

Page 129  Following his punctured lung, Alexander rides through his troops.  Hephaestion says, “…Something inside of Alexander has broken, and it is something I am sure I cannot fix.”

These are the notes of things which stuck out to me.  It is a unique version of Alexander with a couple of points that I admit are intriguing to explore but one which overall I don’t think I agree with.  I leave it to you to come to your own conclusions based on what you read.

One response to “Review of “Hephaestion’s Journal” by Hannah Saiz

  • terrioak

    This is the same comment I left on Malcolm’s post about this book —
    Even on, I would have been disapointed. It’s so….impersonal. For someone who was supposed to be Alexander’s best friend (and maybe a little more), this work is surprisingly emotionless. His Alexander doesn’t show many redeeming qualities. Hephaestion does mourn the loss of the “man I knew when I was a boy” and “the love I yet bear for a memory that has been lost to me”, yet his writings from when Alexander was young certainly don’t seem to indicate he ever felt that way about him. His description of Perdiccas seems odd, considering that, historically, they seemed to make a great team who accomplished a lot together. I don’t like one bit the way the real author sets this up as an actual historical document, translated by someone who just so happens to be fictional. Those who don’t know better might miss the fact that this is, indeed, fiction. I don’t see enough in this book that would make me want to read a more fleshed out version, since none of her characters are very likable. I’m glad the book was cheap. The only thing I’m really out is the time I wasted reading it.

    Liked by 1 person

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Sam E. Kraemer

Writing My Dreams

The Second Achilles

Alexander the Great - He lives and reigns

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