Monthly Archives: October 2016

Review of J. Reames’ “An Atypical Affair? Alexander the Great, Hephaistion Amyntoros and the Nature of Their Relationship”

I recently read this article that was ferreted out by one of our readers, Cassidy.  As you may recall, we have talked of Jeanne Reames before.  Her PhD thesis was on Hephaestion, and she is one of his foremost scholars.  I have been drawn to her work, because she sees many things about Hephaestion in the same light as I do though we do differ at times.  This article which can be found here:

deals with Alexander and Hephaestion’s relationship and whether or not it was sexual in nature.  Those of you who have been around for a while know that this is my least favorite topic when it comes to these two.  I am in no way shape or form homophobic.  In fact, one of my favorite hobbies is reading male-male romance stories.  I find common ground in the “otherness” and loneliness that is often at the center of these stories.  However, I absolutely hate the attempt to make these two the poster boys for gay romance.  Reames agrees somewhat with this view.

Like me, she does not deny that their was a relationship between the two, and that that relationship was the most important in each their lives.  She states:

In terms of affectional attachment, Hephaistion–not any of Alexander’s three wives–was the king’s life partner.  Whatever the truth of any sexual involvement, their emotional attachment has never been seriously questioned.  No doubt as teenagers, both had learned from Aristotle some version of what he would later write in his Nikomachean Ethics–that perfect love was the highest friendship (1156b), and that friendship was a state of being, not a feeling (1157b).  Moreover, Aristotle speaks of the friend as the ‘second self’ (1170b) and indicates that there is only one special friend (1171a).

I fully agree with this.  I have long thought that much as Alexander is reported to have told Sisygambis upon meeting her that these two men were two halves of the same whole.  In Hephaestion, Alexander found a constant source of unquestioned support.  As a man who was used to contention in his life, whether it be between his parents or between he and his men, in Hephaestion he had someone who would listen to anything he would say and offer sound, quiet advice.  In fact, I have long supposed that Hephaestion served as a brake on a sometimes erratic likely bipolar Alexander.  He was Alexander’s moral compass.  A single word from Hephaestion was often far more powerful that the loudest challenge from one of his generals or dissenters.

Reames goes on to point out the following about the relationship when the question of sex is brought up:

I do think it quite possible that Alexander and Hephaistion were physically intimate at some point.  I do not necessarily think, however, that they were still physically intimate in the latter years, though they may have been.  Mostly, I don’t think it greatly significant to the affection they held for one another.

This is the very point I have always tried to make.  Whether or not they had sex at some point, it doesn’t matter when considering the overall strength of their relationship and to attempt to reduce their relationship to simply a sexual one is a massive insult to both men.  It is entirely possible to have a relationship with another person that goes beyond the basic bonds of friendship but in no way includes a sexual component.  In fact, my best friend and I have a very similar relationship.  We are closer than friends, but are not family by blood.  Though attraction may have existed at some point, we have mutually agreed that it has no place in our current relationship.  There is no need for sex between us, because there is no way to be emotionally closer than we already are.  In each other, we have found an unquestioned source of support and an understanding mind.

I know that to deny a sexual relationship between Alexander and Hephaestion sets me against all the Farrell-Letoers out there among others.  However, I brave their disapprobation to stand by my point.  As always, these posts are intended to open a dialogue so feel free to comment.

Sam E. Kraemer

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Alexander the Great - He lives and reigns