Hephaestion Amyntoros

Dear Jun,


I have finally finished this first part of the essay I promised you, and I’m sorry it took so long!  It started off being an essay on the early years of Hephaestion, but we know little for certain about Hephaestion’s early life other than the following:


  • He lived in Pella and his father was called Amyntor
  • He was educated with Alexander
  • He went to the Olympic Games in summer 341 BC with Alexander
  • He probably went to Athens with Alexander in 338 BC
  • He honoured Patroclus’s tomb at Troy in 334 BC.


As I’ve always wanted to write a proper historical novel about Alexander, this therefore ended up being background research.  I hope it doesn’t bore you too much!


1.          AGE (1)



The only reference we have for Hephaestion’s age, apart from Arrian calling him a young man at his death, is from Curtius who says he and Alexander were about the same age.  The original Latin term used is ‘coevals’, usually translated as ‘the same age’, although it could mean a year or two either way.  We know nothing about the particulars of Hephaestion’s early life except what can be inferred in general about the life of a young Macedonian aristocrat by looking at the Royal Pages, and in particular by looking at the people surrounding and consequently influencing Alexander, and with whom, as Alexander’s friend, Hephaestion might have been in almost daily contact.


Robin Lane Fox quotes Aristotle’s opinions on the young, perhaps gleaned from his days in Macedon – “They are passionate and quick tempered .. They strive for honour, especially for victory, and desire both much more than money.  They are simple-natured and trusting .. Their hopes fly high .., their memories are short .. They are brave but conventional, therefore easily abashed .. they prefer the noble to the useful: their errors are on the grand scale, born of excess.  They like laughter, they pity a man because they always believe the best of him .. they think they know it all already.”


It is generally accepted that Aristotle came to Macedon to teach Alexander in 343 BC, the year Alexander turned 13 about 20th July.  A philosopher at the Macedonian court was nothing new since Euphraeus, a member of Plato’s Academy in Athens, had been at the court of Philip’s older brother Perdiccas, exerting a great deal of influence over the young king, and Philip probably already knew Aristotle, since his father had been a doctor at the Macedonian court in the 350’s BC.


Philip had noted, according to Plutarch, that Alexander was strong-willed and responded better to reason than to force and needed principles by which to guide himself.  Aristotle taught him ethics, politics, philosophy, metaphysics, as well as natural sciences, including botany and medicine.  Alexander took to Aristotle, later saying that he had been more of a father to him than Philip, because of the latter’s long absences.  Philip spent most of the following year, 342 BC, in Thrace and Epirus, which may imply that Alexander spent most of this year at Mieza with Aristotle, perhaps at a time when a boy, beginning to grow up, could have done with his father’s presence.


Alexander’s statement implies that Aristotle treated him with respect and kindness, although he also believed in discipline, and that he engaged Alexander’s interest in the subjects he taught him.  Indirectly, it also implies that Hephaestion found Aristotle congenial too, for it is unlikely that Alexander would have liked a teacher so much whom his best friend didn’t like.  They appear to have been happy days at Mieza, under the guidance of one who understood the young, and who would understand their fascination with things like cuttlefish, wrynecks, hedgehogs and mosquitoes (RLF).


Aristotle taught Alexander that the ‘purely hedonistic life was beneath contempt’ (Peter Green).  This is the young, idealistic Alexander who strove fervently ever to be the best, respected women, drove himself hard, impulsively gave away his wealth, and disregarded the demands of his body for sex and sleep.  Under Aristotle’s influence, he seems to have become something of a bookworm for the rest of his life.  His favourite book of course was a copy of Homer’s Illiad, annotated by Aristotle, and having read all of his books, asked Harpalus to send more eastwards to him from Ecbatana later in his life.  It seems very likely that Hephaestion would have shared all of the above characteristics and been as fervent in his ideals as Alexander.


© 2010


Dear Carol,

I was so happy to see this post. I especially enjoyed the Robin Lane Fox's quote on Aristotle's opinion against youth; the Macedonian youth. It is such a vivid image of Alexander and his friends in Mieza.

I also remember from somewhere that Alexander once said that his father gave him life, but Aristotle taught him to live well. And I agree with you, Hephaistion must have been right there with Alexander to experience and absorb all the knowledge Aristotle had to offer.

I also found the statement 'disregarded the demand of his body for sex and sleep' very interesting. It reminded me of Moon's recent story.

This was far from boring. I enjoyed reading it very much, and I cannot wait to see how deeply and thoroughly you are going to dissect the life and the character of Alexander and Hephaistion.

Thank you,

You are more than welcome! I had wanted to do this for a long time, but you gave me the impetus to finish it, so thank you.
Looking forward to reading this and all the rest of it. It looks excellent. And sending sincere apologies for 'disappearing' once again - I will be in touch (if you can bear it!)
Hello! I'm so glad you're still around! I wondered whether I should send you a message to let you know that I had returned from my own self-imposed 'exile', and I look forward to hearing from you soon!
Dear Kizzikat,
it's totally NOT boring! it's fascinating and fantastic. I read quite all Alexander's biographies that are wrote in italian. Thanks you so so much!!!
Thank you very much, and thank you for taking the trouble to let me know what you thought!
Hello kizzicat, this is Fiona from Alexander's Army, I hope you do not mind me posting here, but I heard about your splendid essay and wanted to read it for myself. I've really enjoyed this first part and I'm looking forward to reading the rest. I think that's a good point that coevals could mean a year or two either way. It'd be interesting to know if Macedon graduated a group of 'ephebes' to manhood every year, like Athens did, or if it was more irregular. If it was more irregular, then that group would have been seen as coevals, and equals, even if they weren't exactly the same age, I suspect.
I love the idea of seeing the youthful Alexander and Hephaistion in Aristotle's comments on the young - it's lovely to think that they may have inspired his thoughts, isn't it?
I thought that was a very good and original point that Alexander's fondness for Aristotle implies that Hephaistion liked him too - I think you are surely right that Alexander would not have been likely to like a teacher so much, if his best friend hadn't liked him.
And I love your conclusion, that Hephaistion was likely as fervent in his ideals as Alexander - it gives such a vibrant picture of both of them.
Many thanks for this thoughtful and interesting piece,
Thank you very much for taking the time to comment on this, and I'm always happy to discuss Alexander and Hephaestion with anyone.

I rather doubt there was a graduation ceremony, or celebration of reaching the age of majority. Athens appears to have had a greater 'cult' of the worship of youth than Macedon. Given the different rates at which youths develop, maybe some boys were big enough and strong enough to fight regularly in the agema before they were 18, and I doubt anyone would have stopped them for a technicality like age. I get the impression Macedonian society was much less strict than say Athens.

And I so believe in a Hephaestion who was every bit as alive and passionate as Alexander, and not a passive work of art. I doubt he would have held Alexander's attention for 20 years if he were not an interesting person!
The author of Envy of the Gods also thinks that Hephaistion was younger.

Regarding who was dominant sexually, as coevals they probably took turns but after Alexander was king he could not have taken a passive position with anyone else. This would afford Hephaistion a unique position.
Re: Age
Thanks for commenting. I haven't read this book yet, but I will have to get round to it. My idea of the relationship is also that they were equals and took turns, and that it would have been very difficult for Alexander to maintain his authority as king, certainly once he had reached his mid or late twenties, if he were submissive to someone. Yet who knows what happened if they were very discreet?
Olympic Games
The games were not held in 341 BCE, but in 340 (Summer - August?). Both youths would have been 16 years old.