History of Alexander the Great and ancient Macedon
Thu, Oct. 14th, 2010, 11:04 pm
kizzikat: 1870 Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities ed W Smith
Part of the entry on Hephaestion:
‘For it is equally to the credit of Hephaestion and Alexander, that though the former undoubtedly owed his elevation to the personal favour and affection of the king, rather than to any abilities or achievements of his own he never allowed himself to degenerate into the-position of a flatterer or mere favourite, and the intercourse between the two appears to have been uniformly characterised by the frankness and sincerity of a true friendship.’
‘It was fortunate for Hephaestion that his premature death saved him from encountering the troubles and dissensions which followed that of Alexander, and in which he was evidently ill qualified to compete with the sterner and more energetic spirits that surrounded him. Even during the lifetime of the king, the enmity between him and Eumenes, as well as that already adverted to with Craterus, had repeatedly broken out, with a vehemence which required the utmost exertions of Alexander to repress them; and it is but justice to the latter to observe, that his authority was employed on these occasions without any apparent partiality to his favourite. (Plut. Alex. 47, Eum. 2 ; Arr. Anab. vii. 13, 14.) If, indeed, we cannot refuse this obnoxious name to Hephaestion, nor affirm that he was altogether exempt from the weaknesses and faults incident to such a position, it may yet be fairly asserted that history affords few examples of a favourite who abused his advantages so little.’
Mary Renault says something similar in The Nature of Alexander - "that so little is adduced against him is remarkable." Perhaps she had read this.
Fri, Oct. 15th, 2010 08:17 am (UTC)
Well, I don't agree that his elevation was due to the personal favour and affection of the king, rather than to any abilities or achievements of his own...
Fri, Oct. 15th, 2010 06:03 pm (UTC)
I'd agree with you but I thought this was rather sweet, and in contrast to many historians' view of Hephaestion, especially from W Tarn (1948) to Mary Renault (1975). Tarn was very influential and he regarded Hephaestion as a competent cavalry officer but fundamentally stupid, and a boon companion rewarded for his dogged devotion - not very flattering!
Fri, Oct. 15th, 2010 06:30 pm (UTC)
I have to say that I'm quite surprised that a great historian like Tarn thought that Alexander could have put his kingdom in jeopardy giving important responsibilities (or responsibilities whatsoever) and important positions to a stupid and unqualified person (even if this person was his favourite)... ;-P
Fri, Oct. 15th, 2010 08:25 pm (UTC)
True, but Tarn would probably argue that Hephaestion was never given a major battle command and his commands were shared with someone else such as Perdiccas to watch over him. I think he basically started from a position of disliking nepotism, probably from too many examples from the Roman Emperors, and failed to see whether it was justified in Hephaestion's case.
Sat, Oct. 16th, 2010 02:42 pm (UTC)
I can't say I know Alexander as well as Tarn, but I can't imagine an Alexander so blindly in love to give his lover a position whatsoever in his army (even with Perdiccas watching over him) if this lover wasn't a qualified person.
I think Hephaestion just needed the king's favour to make his qualities shine.
And anyway, a historian shouldn't "like" or "dislike" historical facts: he/she should be neutral.
Sat, Oct. 16th, 2010 06:16 pm (UTC)
Completely agree with you, but since Mary Renault, influential people (Jeanne Reames, Oliver Stone) have come to appreciate Hephaestion more!
Sat, Oct. 16th, 2010 07:57 am (UTC)
The author is fair to Hephaestion, at least. Yes, I don't think that his elevation was just due to Alexander's feelings for him, but the love and affection of the king surely had a great part on it.
Sat, Oct. 16th, 2010 06:19 pm (UTC)
Yes, he wasn't a total non-combatant, and I think Alexander, as king, came to depend upon him more and more. Hephaestion obviously picked up a lot of the slack that Parmenion's death left.
Nice to see you back, btw!
Sun, Oct. 17th, 2010 07:00 pm (UTC)
Thank you :) I think I will be more around from now on ;)
As for Hephaestion and his true personality, I've always found impressive that - either he meant it or not, and that's the point we still need to find out - he got ridden of all his ennemies: Parmenion and Philotas (who were leaders of a clan opposite to Hephaestion's), Kleitos (who was killed by Alexandros, accidentally probably, but he had already lost his major command on Alexander's order to Hephaestion's advantage)and Krateros (who was sent back to Macedonia with the veterans just when his enmity with Hephaestion was breaking out with violence)...so,I really tend to agree with Reames-Zimmermann when she calls Hephaestion the "eminence grise" at Alexander's court: I believe that his place behind the throne was far more important than we use to think.
Tue, Oct. 19th, 2010 07:25 pm (UTC)
There is some evidence that Hephaestion was ambitious enough to manipulate Alexander to his own advantage when the opportunity arose. In Plutarch's Life of Eumenes, Alexander originally chided Hephaestion, but then changed his mind and decided Eumenes was in the wrong - a case I think of Hephaestion exterting his influence over Alexander. In the case of Philotas, Alexander was orginally inclined to forgive Philotas until persuaded otherwise by his friends, Hephaestion doubtless included. Hephaestion may have persuaded Alexander to sideline Cleitus, but this cannot be proven, and he may have suggested that the old-timer Craterus was the best man to return to Greece with the veterans and replace Antipater - but this might well have been self-evident to Alexander, and the removal of other old-timers such as Parmenion might well have coincided with Alexander's own inclinations and policy. Whether Hephaestion was Machiavellian enough to manipulate events to present these opportunities for his own advancement is something that perhaps can't be proven, but I think he is certainly guilty of ambitious opportunism!
Tue, Oct. 19th, 2010 07:41 pm (UTC)
The quarrel with Eumenes is another subtle evidence that Hephaestion was ready to use his influence over Alexandros and that he perfectly knew how to "take" the King, and of course he knew, they had been friends since their childhood...I can't blame him for that, though: he was loyal to Alexandros and he surely loved him, but when your friend/lover is also a King, it's very difficult not to try to take some advantage...