The son of a noble Macedonian family, Hephaestion was the beloved companion of Alexander the Great. Together since boyhood, Hephaestion fought alongside Alexander as he created his great empire. When Hephaestion died in Persia in 324 B.C., Alexander mourned him extravagantly. He was given a royal funeral and Alexander ordered the cities of Greece to worship Hephaestion as a hero.
This head of Hephaestion, broken from a full-length statue, was originally part of a multi-figured group, which might have depicted a sacrificial scene. The J. Paul Getty Museum has more than thirty fragments of this group. The participants include Alexander, Hephaestion, a goddess, Herakles, a flute player, and several other figures, as well as animals and birds. This group may have served as a funerary monument for some nobleman who wanted to associate himself with Alexander, or it might be a monument erected in response to Alexander’s call for the creation of a hero cult.
The appearance of this head has changed over time. A metal ribbon or diadem once circled the head, although only a shallow groove remains today. The head was also re-carved in antiquity, with the hair shortened and the lower eyelids altered.