Talk to me about Alexander/Hephaestion and that whole "Without me, you would be nothing" incident? I feel like that's the only time the two of them have clashed so equivocally in public, and I'd love to hear your thoughts about how that fucked up their dynamic and/or made Hephaestion secretly bitter or resentful? Do you think they resolved their differences, or was it always simmering beneath the surface from that point on?
this is possibly one of my FAVORITE INCIDENTS, EVER,
from plutarch’s anabasis, 47.5 - 7:
Moreover, when he saw that among his chiefest friends Hephaestion approved his course and joined him in changing his mode of life, while Craterus clung fast to his native ways, he employed the former in his business with the Barbarians, the latter in that with the Greeks and Macedonians. And in general he showed most affection for Hephaestion, but most esteem for Craterus, thinking, and constantly saying, that Hephaestion was a friend of Alexander, but Craterus a friend of the king. For this reason, too, the men cherished a secret grudge against one another and often came into open collision. And once, on the Indian expedition, they actually drew their swords and closed with one another, and as the friends of each were coming to his aid, Alexander rode up and abused Hephaestion publicly, calling him a fool and a madman for not knowing that without Alexander’s favour he was nothing; and in private he also sharply reproved Craterus. Then he brought them together and reconciled them, taking an oath by Ammon and the rest of the gods that he loved them most of all men; but that if he heard of their quarrelling again, he would kill them both, or at least the one who began the quarrel. Wherefore after this they neither did nor said anything to harm one another, not even in jest.
me @ perseus: what a shit translation, dont u know that the RIGHT translation should be ‘alexander-loving’ and ‘king-loving’, maybe if you went to school for these things you might have a better grasp on the ancient world, etc.
anyway, way more than if these two kissed and made up (which we’ll get to in a sec!!!) is the political context around this incident which, lemme tell u, is a killer
like, this is a fun thing to talk about because yes, you’re right, this is pretty much the first and only time they’ve ever clashed in public, and its also interesting because this is like, the only time hephaestion has a personality in any of the accounts w/o andrew chugg inferring the shit out of the sources. but what’s necessary to note is that, on the indian campaign in probably about 326 b.c., alexander was in a really precarious political situation - the court had split pretty decisively down the middle post the parmenio/philotas liquidation and the murder of cleitus, the only difference is now that people are kind of scared of being openly critical. craterus takes over from cleitus in being the proponent of the old guard, and hephaestion is very staunchly pro-alexander. and this is an interesting incident bc it actually runs p close to another account of plutarch’s about another one of hephaestion’s feuds, this time with eumenes, alexander’s secretary.
that particular feud apparently kind of exploded after hephaestion put a flute player in eumenes’ chambers in babylon, which is likely to have been an actual deep rooted political conflict that exploded over something really trivial. that’s really what this reads as: that craterus and hephaestion, as heads of opposing factions at court, literally pulled out their dicks - sorry swords - over something really small. alexander publicly chastising hephaestion, while craterus gets spared the humiliation is another interesting tidbit - and personally, i think its likely that, you know, alexander already being accused of surrounding himself with sycophants like an Eastern Gay Feminized Tyrant made a specific point of rebuking hephaestion in public instead of craterus, which could have inflamed his faction even more. note that plutarch says that this is more than just a fight in the middle of the camp - their ‘friends came to aid’, which means the opposing factions, which means that this could very well have broken into a riot, or outright mutiny.
keep in mind, as well, that this is before his army refuses to go any further into india - tension would have been running high, they’ve been on campaign for ten years, etc etc. alexander has an iron fist around his men, but i dont think he could have afforded at that point to antagonize the old guard which still, even at this point, makes up the bulk of his infantry. ergo, make a point.
but what’s also interesting is the CHOICE of rebuking - he tells hephaestion that without him he is nothing, that he is a fool and a madman. alexander, throughout his career, has favoured ‘new men’. some people think its an oedipal reaction, some people think that it’s just tactically advantageous to be the nexus of your court - if they have no prior loyalties and owe everything to you, it’s much easier to extend control. either way, chugg and renault and some others actually have a theory that hephaestion might not have been native macedonian - literally no traces of his family extend beyond his patronym, amyntoros for amyntor, which is a form of the macedonian name amyntas that was more common in athens, not to mention that there is literally a temple in the athenian acropolis called ‘the hephaesteion’ etc etc. if that theory is correct, then the ‘without me you’re nothing’ thing really takes on new meaning.
in any case, i… dont think this is the kind of thing that people get over? i do think that like, they’ve spent more than 20 years of their lives together, so it’s easy to forgive. at this point, i do think that alexander wouldn’t have done anything to hephaestion even if it was politically expedient, just because he literally lets him get away with shit that no one else would have been able to get away with. having craterus killed would antagonize a huge part of the court, and would make up the third incident in the pattern, if we’re going by moscow rules, but having hephaestion killed - hephaestion, who had a shittonne of enemies in the court - may not actually have been that bad. so yeah, the fact that hephaestion came out of this incident unscathed really shouldn’t be overlooked. what also shouldn’t be overlooked is that shortly after this, in 325/324, alexander sends craterus back to macedonia, while he marries the persian princess to hephaestion - therefore making him his brother-in-law, theres also a really gay part in like, i think it was green or chugg, that says its because alexander wanted them to share a bloodline, like bitch… - makes hephaestion chiliarch, etc etc. like… honestly people usually just buy some flowers and make some carbonara, boy really goes all out w giving the bae widesweeping executive power like damn
so in conclusion
yes, it was a Dick Move, but also i think it had underlying political reasoning, based off circumstantial evidence, that plutarch just never went into. i don’t think something like that was ever really forgiven, since it resembles public humiliation so much, but one thing that stays constant about alexander is that he really has a flair for the dramatics, for saying the right thing at the right time, and leveraging other people’s sentimentality back at them in the most vicious way possible. and right there? in the middle of the camp on a testy campaign, where tensions are running high, and they’re on the verge of breaking into a riot and he has to shut things down fast? whats the thing you say that would make someone go cold instead of hot? make him shut down instead of furious? what do you say to someone like that, who gets described as philosalexandros?
its a very very effective way to handle a situation, is all im saying.