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.


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

  • terrioak

    You know me… Sap that I am, I love to wite about them as lovers. That is their relationship in the fictional stories that I write. That being said, however, my personal opinion is a little different than the fiction that I write. I agree wholeheartedly with the statement that to reduce their relationship to a sexual one is to diminish its value. I think they were truly, as Aristotle mentioned, “one soul in two bodies”. Theirs was a connection of the heart, mind and soul. If the connection extended to the physical as well, good for them. I rather hope they were physical and could turn to each other when they felt the need, but I do not think that was the most important part of their relationship if indeed they did. I think their relationship, whatever the nature it took, was extraordinary. And I also agree that Hephaestion was most likely a calming, rational presence when Alexander got a bit carried away. Their relationship was a working partnership in all aspects. They complemented each other, and, in my opinion, made one hell of a team. Very interesting article…thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 2 people

  • Jeanne Reames

    Thank you for the review. 🙂


  • Jenna Morris

    Although it could have gotten physical at some point(s), I do not think they were lovers either. Their relationship was too important on a practical level to mix any of that in. I feel more like they were brothers. Twin brothers even. Love this blog btw. in gratitude. 🙂


  • Jenna Morris

    I feel like Hephaestion was the brains and Alexander was the braun.

    And p.s. it bothers me that whether or not they were lovers is the only thing most people talk about!!


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Sam E. Kraemer

Writing My Dreams

The Second Achilles

Alexander the Great - He lives and reigns

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