Alexander the Great Hephaestion lovers?
Buck Braithwaite as Alexander the Great in Netflix's Alexander the Great: The Making of a God courtesy of Netflix

If you’ve seen the first episode of Netflix’s new documentary series about ancient Macedonian king Alexander the Great, you may be curious to learn more about Hephaestion — a powerful general in Alexander’s army who might also have been the king’s lover.

Though no concrete evidence exists to confirm whether Hephaestion (alternately spelled Hephaistion) and Alexander really were lovers and not just close friends, it’s a question that has been hotly debated in the more than two thousand years since the two great men lived.

Was Hephaestion Really Alexander the Great’s Lover?

One notable modern historian who has expressed the opinion that Hephaestion and Alexander were more than just friends is Robin Lane Fox. A member of Britain’s esteemed Royal Society of Literature, Fox served as a historical advisor to Oliver Stone on his 2004 film Alexander, according to The Guardian, which starred Colin Farrell as the title role and Jared Leto as Hephaestion.

Also Read: Did Cleopatra Really Marry Her Own Brother? Yes — Twice

Indeed, in Fox’s 1973 award-winning non-fiction book Alexander the Great, he writes on page 56: “Hephaistion was the man whom Alexander loved, and for the rest of their lives their relationship remained as intimate as it is now irrecoverable: Alexander was only defeated once, the Cynic philosophers said long after his death, and that was by Hephaistion’s thighs.” You can read Fox’s Alexander the Great for free via the Internet Archive.

One of the main ancient texts that describes the relationship between the two men is by Quintus Curtius Rufus, a Roman senator who is believed to have lived in the first century A.D., about 400 years after Alexander died in 323 B.C. Curtius wrote one of the main surviving accounts about Alexander’s life, called History of Alexander the Great.

Translated from Latin in the Penguin Classic edition, Curtius explains: “Hephaestion was by far the dearest of the king’s friends; he had been brought up with Alexander and shared all his secrets. No other person was privileged to advise the king as candidly as he did, and yet he exercised that privilege in such a way that it seemed granted by Alexander rather than claimed by Hephaestion.”

Both of those examples give context to what Dr. Salima Ikram, a professor at the American University of Cairo, says in Episode 1 of Netflix’s Alexander: The Making of a God: “Hephaestion really was not just a cherished companion, but perhaps his greatest love.”

Titled The Boy King, the episode explains how Alexander rose to power in Macedonia, located in modern-day Greece. Through dramatic reenactments, it depicts he and Hephaestion as romantic lovers as well as close friends who worked together on a professional and military level. Alexander is played by Buck Braithwaite and Hephaestion is played by Will Stevens.

It’s relevant to note that Alexander the Great was born in 356 B.C., at which time — as the Netflix series and Fox both note — open same-sex relationships between men were common.

The truth is, we may never know for sure what the true nature of the relationship between Alexander the Great and Hephaestion was — but we can always dream.

Alexander the Great: The Making of a God is now streaming on Netflix.

Main Image: Buck Braithwaite as Alexander the Great in Netflix’s Alexander the Great: The Making of a God courtesy of Netflix