Sunday, October 5, 2014

First of all, my apologies to Hephaestion and all of you.  I have had a lot of life drama in the last 6 months that, I am ashamed to say, has caused me to kick my Hephaestion book to the side.  Happily, I find myself in a place where I can not only restart the project but also operating with a new found inspiration for the project.

I don't know if it was the spirit of Hephaestion himself, the Muses, or Apollo, but I have finally been able to decide exactly how I wish to examine Hephaestion's importance and exactly how to explain why he is so underrated.

In the course of my research so far, I have found that many have scoffed at Hephaestion for what they believe to be his lack of skills as a soldier.  They point to the fact that Alexander almost exclusively used Hephaestion for diplomatic or logistical duties rather than those related to battle.  Looking at Alexander as strictly a conqueror leading an army of crack soldiers, they compare Hephaestion to fellow officers like Craterus, Perdiccas, Parmenion, and even Ptolemy Lagides who distinguished themselves on the battlefield and sneer at Hephaestion's supposed lack of soldierly skill.  They accuse Alexander of favoritism in his raising of Hephaestion who supposedly earned nothing by merit.

I disagree wholeheartedly with this view.  I would counter that it is this very skill at logistics and diplomacy that sets Hephaestion above the others.  As history has shown, generals and soldiers able to conquer an empire are not rare by any means.  While I support that Alexander excelled above all others in this area, there have been empires formed throughout history--Roman, Mongolian, Persian, Egyptian, British, Spanish, etc.  What is far more rare are conquerors who can maintain those empires after conquering.  This is where Hephaestion rises above the crowd.

Alexander, a man who had conquered most of the known world and had ambitions to create an more integrated society such as the world had never seen before, turned repeatedly to one man, and one man alone, to help achieve this goal, Hephaestion.  An empire, as well as an army, can only survive if its people are fed, clothed, housed and allowed a degree of autonomy in moral matters.  Lack of any of these causes dissent; dissent breeds instabililty; instability destroys empires.  Hephaestion was trusted time and time again with duties such as establishing and maintaining supply lines to feed several hundred thousand soldiers and their hangers on across thousands of miles, building new towns worthy of settlement in often hostile environmental conditions, important diplomatic missions such as the choosing of new client kings, and even solo commands such as he had in India when Alexander routinely split his forces into thirds.

I maintain that far from being a sub-par soldier who made a career by spreading his legs for Alexander Hephaestion was in fact the most trusted man in the empire.  An examination of a list of duties given to Hephaestion will show that the majority of them are duties that any other conqueror would have done himself.  Hephaestion was trusted to speak in Alexander's name.  Hephaestion made the day to day running of Alexander's empire possible.  Hephaestion was the only one who could keep Alexander's more wild tendencies in check. Alexander's empire did not long outlive Hephaestion.  And the actions and failure of the Successors only brings this point into even clearer focus.

This book will hopefully prove that while Alexander's genius made the creation of such an empire possible, it is Hephaestion's genius that made the maintaining of such an empire possible.  In many ways, it was Hephaestion that made Alexander possible.

I know I talk to a lot of Alexander scholars and Hephaesto-Echelon.  This book is a labor of love and I wish to make it as perfect as possible.  Any thoughts, ideas, and arguments are most welcome.


  1. I wholeheartedly agree. Hephaestion is quite possibly the most underrated man in history. It is up to people like us to show his true worth. Thank you for all your efforts to do just that.

  2. Hallo Jen,

    It is very good to hear that you are returning to this project. To run through some of the things you say -

    I really don't understand the criticism that Hephaestion was much of a soldier. We know he took part in the Battle of Gaugamela as he is recorded as being injured during it and most likely took part in all the major battles. Just because he wasn't a general like Parmenion or Craterus doesn't mean he was a poor soldier. I think anyone who makes this criticism of Hephaestion has been hoodwinked by the Macedonian warrior society ideal. But not only can not all been be generals, it would be undesirable for them to try to be so. You need rank and file.

    Alexander understood this and it is why, in my opinion, he focused Hephaestion's work on logistics. I have read that there were one or two points where, if Hephaestion had failed to deliver supplies, the Macedonian army might have starved. As far as I am aware, however, he never failed to carry out any of his orders. Given the circumstances, that is a very admirable record and one that is worthy of consideration.

    I disagree that Hephaestion alone held Alexander in check - in the Philotas Affair he allowed himself to be part of the problem rather than solution. For that reason, I don't see him as a paragon of virtue. Ironically, and sadly, in this instance he let his own ambition and love of the king get the better of him. This doesn't diminish his professional achievement, though.

    The idea that Hephaestion made Alexander (as a conqueror?) possible is an intriguing one. I personally see Alexander's success as coming out of the fact that he was at the centre of a very talented web of command. All his generals played a part in his success. What sets Hephaestion apart is that his work formed the building blocks of that success. Without his efforts, the army would not have survived to have successfully laid siege to Tyre, fight at Gaugamela, take the Sogdian Rock etc etc.