3. THE PAGES
As an aristocrat, Hephaestion would at some point have been a Royal Page at Philip’s court. The institution of the Royal Pages was long-established at the Macedonian Court and was extended by Philip to include the sons of prominent men from highland Macedon, as well as those from the traditional Macedonian lowlands. These boys would have originally been hostages to the King for their fathers’ good behaviour and loyalty, but gradually the institution evolved into a training academy for future army officers. By being around the older men of Philip’s court, much of their knowledge and skill, loyalties and expectations, would be passed on to the younger generation.
To have a son selected as a Royal Page would have been a hotly contested honour, for it would have announced to everyone that the fathers of the boys selected were too important for Philip to ignore, or that they were in favour with Philip. The boys stood to gain the trust and favour of both the present and a future king and thus secure their own careers and fortunes.
We do not know anything for certain about Hephaestion’s father Amyntor. The usual form of his name in Macedon was Amyntas, Amyntor being the more usual Greek form. Amyntor and Hephaestion are more common names in Attica and Euboea than in Macedon (Jeanne Reames-Zimmerman), although there was a king Amyntor in Thessaly in the age of Heracles. This has led to the supposition that Amyntor, or his family, were originally from Greece proper. Yet there is no direct reference to this in any of the sources, which implies that the relocation of Hephaestion’s family must have been a generation or two back (JRZ). There is no reason therefore for him to have been labelled a ‘foreigner’ or ‘outsider’, as Nearchus for example was known as ‘The Cretan’.
The identification of a certain Amyntor son of Demetrios, who was granted Athenian citizenship in 334 BC - the year Alexander left for Asia - with Hephaestion’s father by Waldemar Heckel has gained such wide acceptance that now it is almost taken as fact. Yet there is no proof that this Amyntor was Hephaestion’s father, or that he was even connected with Macedon. We do not know why this Amyntor and his descendants were granted Athenian citizenship, except that he showed good will towards the Athenian people. Nor do we know, as JRZ points out, why Amyntor should have cared what happened to Athens, unless of course his livelihood and home were there.
It has been suggested by JRZ that this Amyntor might have been involved in the negotiations between Alexander and Athens after the destruction of Thebes in September 335 BC, perhaps because he had family links with Athens – if that is, he was a Macedonian, thus giving Alexander cause to listen to him. Or Amyntor may, like Demeratus of Corinth, have been a wealthy merchant with trading links between Athens and Macedon. Demeratus acted as an envoy for Philip. Yet the son of a merchant is perhaps unlikely to have been one of Philip’s Royal Pages.
According to E R Berve (quoted by Waldemar Heckel), boys would have joined the Royal Pages between the ages of 13 and 15. This, according to JRZ, is based on the known model of the Greek states, where 13 or 14 was the traditional age for a boy to be apprenticed. Given present educational systems and the onset of puberty, 13 would seem to be a point at which boys’ educational needs change.
If there was an annual intake of eligible boys to the Royal Pages, the beginning of the summer campaigning season when men would have come to court after the spring planting was done would seem a sensible time, although Philip gradually ignored the winter/summer divide because he had a standing professional army and not part-time farmers in his army. Or, again, as with the present European educational system, after the harvest and the onset of autumn when they had the whole winter ahead of them would appear to be a logical time. Alternatively, the boys could have joined at any time when they passed a certain birthday.
Similarly, I do not believe we know if entry to the Royal Pages was by royal command, application to the king, or by right of passing certain criteria such as military rank or wealth (although this latter is unlikely as it belongs more to a city-state where wealth would be more easily assessable). I suspect it might be a combination of the first two, with certain boys being enrolled in the Pages as soon as they passed 13 (or the year in which they became 13) because of the prominence of their fathers (eg the sons of Antipater and Parmenion), but other boys might have to wait until either Philip noticed their fathers, or granted their application to have their sons included and thus they might join at a later age. Distance of their home from Pella, or their fathers’ absence on campaign might have slowed some boys’ inclusion. We do not know to which category Hephaestion would have belonged.
As well as being given a general education which included music and poetry (Plutarch), and ‘all aspects of a liberal education’ (Curtius), the boys would of course have had physical education in the skills needed to join the army, building their weapons skills, horsemanship, leadership, strength and endurance. For this they would have needed tutors other than Aristotle. Perhaps Leonidas, Olympias’s relative who oversaw Alexander’s education, or Lysimachus who told stories of Achilles to Alexander, tutored the Pages as well as Alexander. Plutarch actually says that Leonidas oversaw Alexander’s household which perhaps means that he acted as a steward, being responsible for Alexander’s housing, servants, clothes etc., including his tutors, so Aristotle might, technically, have had to answer to Leonidas.
The boys duties as Pages would at first have been menial – waiting at table, fetching and carrying, taking messages, perhaps helping the King to dress and mount his horse, cleaning his weapons and armour etc. We do not know if Alexander was expected to participate in these duties. Justin says that Philip had many sons who died, either in war, through accident or of natural causes. This being the case, at 13 Alexander may have been a junior son who would not have expected to inherit the throne and so he might not have been privileged enough to escape such duties. If he had older brothers who were campaigning with Philip in 342 BC, that could be why he might have spent most of this year with Aristotle at Mieza. Yet even if he were Philip’s only viable son and heir at this age, it seems improbable that he would have been the recipient of the Pages duties as it would have been too demeaning for the sons of aristocrats to wait on a mere boy who might or might not be king one day, for kings in Macedon were elected, although one suspects that there were certain cases where the electee gave the electors no choice. For the same reason, it is improbable that the Pages waited upon any of Philip or Alexander’s generals (except when they were in Philip’s presence or on his errands) as it would have caused too many issues of loyalty and precedence. Consequently, even as Chiliarch Hephaestion would not have had his own set of Pages: it would have been unthinkably imperialistic of him to have been granted the privileges of a Macedonian king.