Review of Hephaestion’s appearances in Ian Worthington’s “Ptolemy I: King and Pharaoh of Egypt”

At the suggestion of our friend, Malcolm, I recently read Ian Worthington’s new biography Ptolemy I: King and Pharaoh of Egypt.  Ptolemy, the drunken Macedonian frat brother we all wish we had! If you are interested in Alex and his merry band, I highly recommend reading it.  It’s not too long and is a fast read.

Since this blog focuses on Hephaestion, I wanted to look at a couple of the points that Worthington made about our boy.  Worthington feels that by dividing duties and powers between his various friends and officers, Alexander caused jealousy and disharmony which exploded after his death into the Successor Wars.  As a specific example, he points out that one of Ptolemy’s first actions upon taking over Egypt was to cancel plans for a shrine to Hephaestion.  He feels this action shows the enmity that the entire senior command felt toward Hephaestion.  Another example frequently given to support this thought is the fight between Hephaestion and Craterus which was broken up by Alexander himself who scathingly divided them into philobaselius and philAlexandros. (I’m typing those Greek terms from memory at the moment, so I may not have spelled them correctly.)

Now, come everyone’s favorite moment, audience participation time.  Thoughts?  Do you agree with Worthington that Alexander was responsible for the Successor Wars?  Malcolm, you have done extensive reading on the Successor, so please help us out.

4 responses to “Review of Hephaestion’s appearances in Ian Worthington’s “Ptolemy I: King and Pharaoh of Egypt”

  • delos13

    The only way in which Alexander was responsible for the War of Successors is that by the time of his death he didn’t left a son. However, I don’t think any son would do; such a son would have to possess a minimum two qualities – be at least 18 years of age and could boast the same military clout as Alexander himself at that age.

    I don’t think such an expectation is a realistic one. As the wise saying goes, nature rests on children and at best skips a generation. The number of exceptions to this rule throughout the human history can be counted on fingers of one hand and one of such exceptions was Philip – Alexander. To hope that Alexander’s son could continue the lucky streak is beyond reasonable.

    Alas, just by being who he was and achieving what he did, he made the War of Successors an inevitable affair. That’s my opinion.


  • M J Mann

    I feel I must start by saying that the real Ptolemy was far from being a ‘drunken Macedonian frat brother’! That interpretation is a result of the fevered imagination of his Twitter amanuensis’ imagination!

    I have a copy of Worthington’s book but have only just started reading it. When you say that he ‘feels that by dividing duties and powers between his various friends and officers, Alexander caused jealousy and disharmony which exploded after his death into the Successor Wars’ is he criticising Alexander thereby? If he is, I feel that is an unfair criticism to level at Alexander specifically. He – Alexander – inherited this dangerous political system. We could say ‘Oh, he should have changed it’ but it is not always possible to change political systems in just a few years. Not without causing even greater suffering.

    I didn’t know Ptolemy cancelled a shrine to Hephaestion in Egypt. Does Worthington give his source for that? I assume it is somewhere in Diodorus XVIII but I haven’t found it yet.

    My first reaction is that if this happened it can be explained by very simply: Building a shrine to Hephaestion would not only give Ptolemy no political benefit but it would get in the way of his own self-aggrandisement – something that for him was not just about ego but potentially a matter of life and death.

    This seems to me to be a far more realistic possibility than saying it is proof that the entire high command hated Hephaestion. If Hephaestion had been that much disliked, the fact would have been noted. It isn’t.

    From high command to Craterus and, for that matter, Eumenes: Hephaestion’s dispute with Craterus has a very specific locus: their love of Alexander. Unfortunately, they loved him so much that they became jealous of each other. As for Eumenes, he was no saint; not if the story about him acting in such a tight fisted manner towards Alexander is true (Plutarch Life of Eumenes 2). It seems to me that Eumenes had a petty and selfish side that invited a negative response from others.

    Oh, and did Alexander cause the Successor Wars? No. The lack of an adult heir who could rally the army around him and the nature of the Macedonian political system made the wars inevitable.

    Liked by 1 person

  • terrioak

    I agree, Malcolm. Alexander did not in any way cause the War of the Successors….unless you want to blame him for having the nerve to die!

    Liked by 1 person

  • Angela

    The Macedonians had a history of killing each other off. That Philip (yes, he deserves mention) and Alexander survived such brutality shows us the kind of men they were. Alexander was the glue that bound the men together. Hephaestion was the glue that held Alexander together. When he died, Alexander lost his anchor. Without anyone to hold onto, he couldn’t hold onto his so-called friends because he didn’t trust them. “To the strongest”, is kind of vague, don’t you think? Hephaestion was the strongest of his companions, and that’s why they all hated him. Alexander was relatively isolated after Hesphaestion’s death, thus making him very vulnerable.

    Liked by 1 person

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Sam E. Kraemer

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Alexander the Great - He lives and reigns

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