Little is known of Hephaestion’s personal relationships, beyond his extraordinarily close friendship with Alexander The Great. Alexander was outgoing, charismatic man, who had many friends, but his dearest and closest friend and confidant was Hephaestion. Theirs was a friendship which had been forged in boyhood. It endured through adolescence, through Alexander’s becoming a king, through the hardships of campaigning and the flatteries of court life, and their marriages.
Their tutor, Aristotle, described such a friendship as “..one soul abiding in two bodies”. That they themselves considered their friendship to be of such a kind is shown by the stories of the morning ater the battle of Issus. Diodorus, Arrian and Curtius all describe the scene, when Alexander and Hephaestion went together to visit the captured Persian royal family. Its senior member, the queen Sisygambis, knelt to Hephaestion to plead for their lives, mistaking him for Alexander, because he was taller, and both young men were wearing similar clothes. When she realised her mistake, she was acutely embarrassed, but Alexander reassured her with the words, “You were not mistaken, Mother; this man too is Alexander”. Their love for each other was no secret, as is borne out by their own words. Hephaestion, when replying to a letter to Alexander’s mother, Olympias, said “..you know that Alexander means more to us than anything”. Arrian says that Alexander, after Hephaestion’s death, described him as “..the friend i valued as my own life”. Paul Cartladge describes their closeness when he says: “Alexander seems actually to have referred to Hephaestion’s as his alter ego”.
Alexander and Hephaestion enter the tent of the captive royal family of Darius. From a 1696 edition of Curtius.
Their friendship was also a working partnership; in all that Alexander undertook, Hephaestion was at his side. They worked well together; it is possible to discern a pattern, when studying Hephaestion’s career, of Alexander’s constant trust in, and increasing reliance on Hephaestion. By the time of the advance into India, after the deaths of senior generals from the older generation, there had been worrying instances among senior officers of their own generation, of treachery, a lack of sympathy with Alexander’s aims of further integration of Persians into the army, and of sheer incompetence. Time ater time, when Alexander needed to divide his forces, he entrusted half to Hephaestion, knowing that in him he had a man of unquestionable loyalty, who understood and sympathised with his aims, and above all, who got the job done.
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