Two other boys who may well have had an important influence on Alexander’s early life because they were closest in rank to him, and perhaps in fact outranked him, were his cousin Amyntas and his uncle Alexander of Epirus.
Amyntas was the son of Philip’s elder brother Perdiccas, but he was an infant when his father was killed in battle three years before Alexander was born and Philip took over the throne. Technically, a child is regarded as an infant up to seven years old, so Amyntas could have been anywhere between three and seven years older than Alexander. He was clearly brought up as a prince in honour and his relationship with Alexander might well have been similar to that of an older brother – as least while they were younger.
Things may have changed as they grew older and rivalry to be seen as Philip’s heir set in, and Amyntas may have come to resent his lost throne. Although primogeniture was not certain in Macedon, the Macedonians (NH) regarded divine favour in the Temenid line (descendents of Heracles) to pass from father to son. Philip obviously saw Amyntas as his second, spare heir though, sending him with Antipater to Thebes after Chaeronea in 338 BC, and Alexander and Parmenion to Athens. He gave Amyntas his daughter, Alexander’s elder half-sister, Cynane, in marriage. This could have been around the time that he himself married Attalus’s niece Cleopatra (renamed Eurydike) in spring 337 BC, contributing to Alexander’s insecurity around this time, or it could have been later that year.
Philip may well have used Amyntas as a yard-stick to keep Alexander under control, and given the closeness of age and rank between Amyntas and Alexander, it is possible that Amyntas spent some time at Mieza. Ptolemy, who was perhaps about the same age as Amyntas, is believed to have spent time at Mieza.
Philip may have used Amyntas to show Alexander that he had another viable heir to replace Alexander if he stepped out of line, and it may have been Amyntas’s marriage to his sister that, together with the proposed marriage of his half-brother Arrhidaeus, prompted Alexander to offer himself in place of Arrhidaeus in marriage to the daughter of Pixodarus, the satrap of Caria in late 337 BC, after Alexander had returned to Macedon following his father’s marriage to Cleopatra.
It is also interesting that Alexander’s attempt to marry may have been an unconscious attempt to emulate his father’s new paternity, an attempt to rival him by founding a dynasty of his own. His mother was still in Epirus, so it cannot have been at her instigation – which places the incident where Alexander’s parents procured the Thessalian courtesan Callixeina to tempt him into female relations, before this and before he turned 19. It would also appear not to have been at Hephaestion’s instigation, as he is not included in the friends of Alexander – Harpalus, Ptolemy, Nearchus, Erigyius and his brother Laomedon – who were exiled as a result of the affair.
These friends were all noticeably older than Alexander, especially Erigyius and Laomedon who were a generation older, and Philip obviously thought they were a bad influence on Alexander and should have known better than to encourage him in this affair. That Hephaestion was not included in these friends is perhaps due to several causes:
· He wasn’t a close friend of Alexander at this time. This is possible, if Alexander discovered sex and Hephaestion after this, but it seems unlikely if they had been educated together that they wouldn’t have been friends by this age, especially given the comparatively small society they moved in
· Philip didn’t consider Hephaestion old enough to exile. If he was a year or two older than Alexander, who was 19, Hephaestion would have been in the army and quite old enough to fend for himself, and it could have been argued that he led the younger Alexander astray. If he were 19 and closer to Alexander’s age, Philip might have been generous and considered him as gullible as Alexander. If he were 18 or even 17, Philip might not even have considered him important enough to exile and if he were 17 and underage, the Macedonian Assembly might not have agreed to exile him.
· Philip allowed Alexander Hephaestion’s continued presence as a hostage for his future good behaviour. This is Mary Renault’s romantic theory, and if even half-true, argues that Philip loved his son and was not prepared to deprive him of his lover’s company for fear of totally alienating him. Philip, having only just got Alexander back to Pella, may not have wanted to risk losing him again.
Some historians eg Nicholas Hammond doubt that the Pixodarus affair actually happened, but Peter Green sees it as a failed coup d’etat by Alexander. He doesn’t elaborate and it is a little difficult to see how Pixodarus’s support could have helped Alexander to the throne, unless he intended to make some challenge to Philip with Carian support once they had invaded the Persian Empire. Yet this would have alienated Alexander from the Macedonian army. It is difficult to see the Pixodarus affair as anything other than a misguided attempt by Alexander to raise his importance in Philip’s eyes, and perhaps an unconscious attempt by a young man to see how far he could push his father.