Friday, June 14, 2013

In her book The Nature of Alexander, Mary Renault calls Hephaestion the most underrated man in history.
I fully agree with this statement.  I have always felt one of the secrets to Alexander's success was Hephaestion.  From what I have read of Alexander, the one thing that kept his more wild tendencies in check was Hephaestion.  When Alexander succumbed to his darker side or to one of his faults, Hephaestion reminded Alexander of who he was.  He was, in a sense, Alexander's moral compass.  Everything that was good in Alexander rested in Hephaestion.

I think the best example of this can be seen in Alexander's behavior following the death of Hephaestion.  He did not eat.  He did not sleep.  He did not campaign.  He executed Hephaestion's doctor in a horribly cruel manner.  Though he did, after a time, leave his tent, begin planning for future campaigns, and ordered full honors for his fallen comrade, it seems as though he was walking dead, a man going through the motions, a ship without it's compass.  And perhaps the best example of all, within 8 alcohol-hazed months, the seemingly invincible Alexander, who was covered with battle scars and had survived near-fatal illnesses, was dead himself.  The body seems to have finally followed the soul.

This is my hypothesis anyway.  I am currently undertaking the research to prove it.  I hope to find the sources support this, and it is not just my extreme fondess for Hephaestion that colors my opinion.  If you are interested in the findings, please comment below and watch this space.

Jen Jones

Monday, June 10, 2013

2336 years ago today, Alexander the Great died.  There is no part or parcel of the modern world that Alexander did not touch.  We live in Alexander's creation.  I try to live in Alexander's footsteps.

While the myths focus on the fact that Alexander dreamed of being Achilles, it was not only glory he sought.  He was also a man who thirsted for knowledge.  Trained by various philosophers, including the esteemed Aristotle, Alexander gathered as much information as he could from wherever his campaigning led him.  He brought Homer and other Greek classics and Western knowledge with him and brought Eastern knowledge home.  He treated his men with his vast medical knowledge and constantly sought new cures from the natives he encountered.  Against the vehement wishes of many of his men, he embraced many Persian customs, combined them with Greek & Western ones, and created something entirely new.

This is why Alexander should be remembered.  Alexander, unlike any before him, took the world he was in and created an entirely new one.  Alexander took a melange of ethnicities, nations, tribes, people and set the foundations for a truly global society.  That very hated decision to adopt some Persian customs was an example of this very trait.  Alexander took what he saw to be the best of Western society and the best of what he found in the East and combined them to create Alexander's world, a world in which all lived on equal intellectual footing under the banner of Alexander.

Alexander possessed great faults but also great strengths.  He also possessed the love & loyalty of Hephaestion, who served not only as Alexander's rock but his moral compass.  Together these two men created a new world that resonated far beyond their death.  Their accomplishments have never been equaled.  This is why I walk in their footsteps.

(The above represents my thoughts on Alexander.  I am far from an Alexander expert, but this is what I have gleaned from my studies.  Any errors are mine.)