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Greek, Ancient: Ἡφαιστίων
Birthplace: Pella, Macedonia
Death: -324 (31-32)
Babylon, Persia
Immediate Family:

Son of Amyntor
Husband of Drypetis, Princess of Persia
Partner of Alexander the Great, king of Macedonia

Occupation: General en Jefe
Managed by: Jason Scott Wills
Last Updated:

About Hephaestion

Hephaestion (Greek: Ἡφαιστίων Hephaistion; c. 356 BC – 324 BC), son of Amyntor, was a Macedonian nobleman and a general in the army of Alexander the Great. He was "... by far the dearest of all the king's friends; he had been brought up with Alexander and shared all his secrets." This friendship lasted throughout their lives, and was compared, by others as well as themselves, to that of Achilles and Patroclus.


Hephaestion and Alexander

Alexander had the reputation for being handsome and stood out among his peers by being clean shaven. Many portraits and sculptures were made in his lifetime, so we can be fairly convinced of his appearance. He was a prodigious athlete and loved strenuous exercise. He loved to show off by jumping off and back onto a chariot moving at full speed. Alexander was rather short and stocky, with one blue and one brown eye. His male lover Hephaestion was taller and even more handsome, so much so that the Persian queen bowed to Hephaestion instead of Alexander when she was presented to them. Alexander said to the mortified queen "Never mind, Hephaestion is also Alexander".

At the time Alexander lived, it was common for Greek men to have wives as well as lovers of either gender; wives were merely for procreation. Alexander, who had become King of Macedonia at the age of twenty when his father was assassinated, did not marry and produce an heir before he set out from Macedonia to conquer the Persians. He was not known to show much interest in women. Even at the height of his power, historians recount that he used his harem “sparingly.” However, Alexander loved his boyhood friend, Hephaestion. Both brilliant adolescents, they were tutored by Aristotle by arrangement with Alexander’s father. Aristotle instilled in the lads a great desire for knowledge and a love for philosophy. Thus Alexander became an avid reader. Hephaestion started off as a regular cavalry soldier and rose through the ranks on merit, carrying out important military and administrative assignments. Later, Alexander also took as a lover a male courtier from the conquered Persian court, scandalous not because the courtier was male, but because he was Persian, since most Greeks thought that all other people were barbarians.

Hephaestion and Alexander wanted their children to be cousins, so Hephaestion married the sister of Alexander’s new wife, who was the daughter of the defeated Persian emperor Darius III (a purely political marriage).

Greece enjoyed a period of peace and prosperity during Alexander's campaign in Asia. Alexander sent back vast sums from his conquests, which helped stimulate the economy and increased trade between the new areas of his empire.

However, soon after Hephaestion and Alexander conquered Asia, Hephaestion died suddenly of typhus. Alexander's grief was boundless and devastating. He ordered an official observance of public mourning for his lover. It was recorded that for two days Alexander neither ate nor drank, cut his hair short and ordered that the horses in his army should have their manes cropped, as well. Alexander resolved that his lover should begin his life in the Unseen World with unstinted wealth, and the precious things he ordered stacked upon Hephaestion’s funeral pile represented a sum of nearly two million and a half pounds sterling. Alexander declared publically that his relationship with Hephaestion was like that of Achilles to Patroclus, male lovers and bothers-at-arms mentioned in the Iliad – Hephaestion and Alexander had been inspired by them in their youthful studies with Aristotle. Alexander asked the Oracles of Egypt if Hephaestion was a god, because in those days a person could become a god through achievements. Alexander was told that Hephaestion was indeed a hero, albeit a lesser type of god. Alexander, who had no doubt about his own divinity, then knew that he would meet his beloved again in the Blessed Realm, where gods and heroes lived in eternity.

Within eight months of Hephaestion's death, Alexander died in Babylon, twelve days after contracting a fever. Historians propose that his death was the result of poisoned wine or contaminated water. In any event, he had yet to realize a series of campaigns that would have begun with an invasion of Arabia and the eventual conquering of the entire Mediterranean basin and all of Africa. It was his desire to conquer the entirety of the known world. He was 32 years old at the time of his death, and never defeated in battle.

Alexander's lasting legacy was not his reign, but the cultural diffusion his conquests afforded. His establishment of Greek colonies (among them Kandahar in Afghanistan) and culture in the conquered lands resulted in a new Hellenistic culture, which was still evident in the traditions of the Byzantine Empire until the mid 15th century. Alexander became the measure against which generals, even to this day, compare themselves, and military academies throughout the world still teach his tactical exploits.


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Hephaestion's Timeline

Pella, Macedonia
Age 31
Babylon, Persia