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Hephaestion (born ca. 356 BC - died Autumn 324 BC), son of Amyntor, a Macedonian aristocrat, is known in history for being Alexander the Great's closest friend, second in command, and, in all likelihood, lover. He was born at an unknown date, but sources refer to him as being of the same age as Alexander, or perhaps a little older. When the two men first met is not certain. However, it is possible that Hephaestion shared Alexander's education in the village of Mieza with Aristotle as teacher, like other noble boys. The philosopher is known to have dedicated a volume of letters to him, so they must have met.
Hephaestion accompanied Alexander's campaign in Asia from the very beginning, fighting in the Companions Cavalry Unit. Passing through the city of Troy, Alexander honoured the sacred tomb of the hero Achilles and Hephaestion that of Achilles' beloved, Patroclus, assuming before the whole army the nature of the relation they shared. After the Battle of Issus, Alexander and Hephaestion went to inspect the spoils of war, which included King Darius's baggage train, family and royal harem. One of the best-known episodes of Hephaestion's life takes place when they both met Stateira and Sysigambis, respectively Darius's pregnant wife and mother. Looking at the two men, the queen mother paid her respects first to Hephaestion, who was the taller and by Persian standards more impressive of the two. The king corrected her by saying "Don't worry mother, he too is Alexander".
Haphaestion was not a particularly gifted battlefield commander, but excelled at logistical planning. Whenever Alexander required Haphaestion's leadership on the battlefield, he usually placed another general with him, and sometimes Alexander himself, to make sure no mistakes were made. Haphaestion's strength in logistics far surpassed his shortcomings on the battlefield.
Before the India invasion and the crossing of the Hindu Kush mountains, in modern Afghanistan, Alexander made Hephaestion a chiliarch and minister, recognizing him as second in command. During the India campaign Hephaestion again assumed military responsibilities in the vanguard, bridging rivers and leading one Companion squadron in the Battle of Jhelum.
Back in Susa, capital of the Persian Empire, Alexander married Darius's daughter Stateira and gave her younger sister as a wife to Hephaestion, making him his brother-in-law.
In the autumn of 324 BC, Alexander's army was stationed in the city of Hamadan for the winter. Hephaestion fell sick during the games that were being held for the court and died a week later. Described symptoms are compatible with typhoid fever, but the possibility of poisoning was never ruled out. As Alexander's favourite and intimate friend, his political enemies must have abounded. Whatever the cause of Hephaestion's death, Alexander is reported to have gone mad with grief, shaving his head, as well as the manes of the army horses, cancelling all the festivities, and, legend says, crucifying the attending doctor. He set out immediately for Babylon with the body, where he held fabulous funeral games in his memory. It was determined that Hephaestion should be worshiped as a divine hero. A few months later, a huge funeral memorial was still being built in Hephaestion's honour when Alexander himself died.
- Plutarch. Life of Alexander. Oxford Classics
- Robin Lane Fox. Alexander the Great. Penguin Publishers
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