previous next


Ἡφαιστίων), son of Amyntor, a Macedonian of Pella, celebrated as the companion and friend of Alexander the Great. We are told that he was of the same age with the great conqueror himself, and that he had been brought up with him (Curt. 3.12); but the latter statement apparently refers only to the period of childhood, as we find no mention of him among those who shared with Alexander the instruction and society of Aristotle. Nor does the name of Hephaestion occur amidst the intrigues and dissensions between Alexander and his father, which agitated the close of the reign of Philip. The first occasion on which he is mentioned is that of Alexander's visit to Troy, when Hephaestion is said to have paid the same honours to the tomb of Patroclus that were bestowed by the king himself on that of Achilles,--an apt type of the relation subsisting between the two. (Arr. Anab. 1.12.2; Ael. VH 12.6.) For it is equally to the credit of Hephaestion and Alexander, that though the former undoubtedly owed his elevation to the personal favour and affection of the king, rather than to any abilities or achievements of his own, he never allowed himself to degenerate into the position of a flatterer or mere favourite, and the inercourse between the two appears to have been uniformly characterised by the frankness and sincerity of a true friendship. It is unnecessary to do more than allude to such well-known anecdotes as the visit paid by the king and Hephaestion to the tent of Dareius after the battle of Issus, or the delicate reproof conveyed by Alexander to his friend when he found him reading over his shoulder a letter from Olympias. If we can trust the expression of Plutarch, on the latter occasion, that it was no more than he was accustomed to do (ἅμα τοῦ Ἡφαιστίωνος, ὥσπερ εἰώθει, συναναγινώσκοντος), there cannot well be a stronger proof of the complete familiarity subsisting between them. (Arr. Anab. 2.12; Curt. 3.12; Diod. 17.37; Plut. Alex. 39, Apophth. p. 180d., De fort. Alex. Or. 1.11.) But it appears that Alexander's attachment to Hephaestion never blinded him to the fact that his friend was not possessed of abilities that qualified him to take the sole command of important enterrises, and that he would not in fact have attained to eminence by his own exertions alone. On one occasion, indeed, he is said to have expressed this truth in the strongest manner, when finding his favourite engaged in an open quarrel with Craterus, he exclaimed that Hephaestion must be mad if he were not aware that without Alexander he would be nothing. Throughout his life he appears to have retained a just sense of their different merits; and while he loved Hephaestion the most, he yet regarded Craterus with the greater reverence: the one, he often observed, was his own private friend (φιλαλέξανδρος), the other that of the king (φιλοβασιλεύς). (Plut. Alex. 47.)

During the first years of Alexander's expedition in Asia we scarcely find any mention of Hephaestion as employed in any military capacity. Curtius, indeed, tells us (4.5.10) that he was appointed to command the fleet which accompanied the army of Alexander along the coast of Phoenicia, in B. C. 332, but this was at a time when there was little fear of hostility. In the following year, however, he served with distinction at the battle of Arbela, where he was wounded in the arm. (Arr. Anab. 3.15; Curt. 4.16.32; )iod. 17.61.) On this occasion he is called by Diodorus the chief of the body-guards. We have no account of the time when he obtained this important post, but it is certain that he was one of the seven select officers who, under the title of body-guards (σωματοφύλακες), were in close attendance upon the king's person. (Arr. Anab. 6.28.6.) Afterthe death of Philotas (B. C. 330), the command of the select cavalry called ἑταῖροι, or horse-guards, was divided for a time between Hephaestion and Cleitus, but it does not appear that on the death of the latter any one was appointed to succeed him, and thenceforward Hephaestion held the sole command of that Important corps,--a post which was regarded as the highest dignity in the whole army. (Arr. Anab. 3.27, 7.14, apud Phot. p. 69a.; Diod. 18.3.) From this time forward--whether Alexander trusted to experience having supplied any original deficiency of military talent, or that he had really seen occasion for placing greater confidence in his favourite--we find Hephaestion frequently entrusted with separate commands of importance, during the campaigns in Bactria and Sogdiana, and still more during the expedition to India. Thus he was not only charged by Alexander with the care of founding new cities and colonies, with preparing the bridge over the Indus, and with the construction of the fleet on the Acesines, which was to descend that river and the Indus, but was detached on several occasions with a large force for strictly military objects. When Alexander approached the Indus in B. C. 327, Hephaestion was ordered to advance, together with Perdiccas and the Indian king Taxiles, by the direct line down the valley of the Cophen, while the king was engaged in subduing the warlike tribes farther north; and on reaching the Indus, he reduced an important fortress, after a siege of thirty days. Again, after the passage of the Acesines, and the defeat of Porus, the task of subduing the other king of that name was assigned to Hephaestion, a service of which he acquitted himself with much distinction. After this he was appointed to conduct one division of the army along the left bank of the river, while Craterus led the other on the opposite side; and throughout the descent of the Indus, and the subsequent march through Gedrosia, the command of the main body of the army, whenever it was separated from the king, devolved upon Hephaestion, either singly or in conjunction with Craterus. (Arr. Anab. 4.16, 22, 5.21,29, 6.2, 4, 5, 13, 17, 18, 20-22, 28, Ind. 19; Diod. 17.91, 93, 96; Curt. 8.1, 2, 10, 9.1, 10.) By his services during this period Hephaestion earned the distinction of being among those rewarded by Alexander with crowns of gold on his arrival at Susa (B. C. 324): a still higher honour was conferred on him at the same time by Alexander's giving him in marriage Drypetis, the daughter of Dareius and sister of his own bride Stateira. (Arr. Anab. 7.4; Diod. 17.107.) Hephaestion now found himself in possession of the highest power and distinction to which a subject could aspire; but he was not destined long to enjoy these accumulated honours. From Susa he accompanied Alexander, towards the close of the year 325, to Ecbatana, where he was attacked by a fever, which carried him off, after an illness of only seven days. Alexander's grief for his loss was passionate and violent, and found a vent in the most extravagant demonstrations. A general mourning was ordered throughout the empire, and a funeral pile and monument erected to him at Babylon (whither his body had been conveyed from Ecbatana), at a cost, it is said, of 10,000 talents. Orders were at the same time given to pay honours to the deceased as to a hero--a piece of flattery which is said to have been dictated by the oracle of Ammon. Alexander also refused to appoint a successor to him in his military command, and ordered that the division of cavalry of which he had been chiliarch should continue to bear his name. (Arr. Anab. 7.14; Diod. 3.110, 114, 115; Plut. Alex. 72; Justin, 12.12.)

It was fortunate for Hephaestion that his premature death saved him from encountering the troubles and dissensions which followed that of Alexander, and in which he was evidently ill qualified to compete with the sterner and more energetic spirits that surrounded him. Even during the lifetime of the king, the enmity between him and Eumenes, as well as that already adverted to with Craterus, had repeatedly broken out, with a vehemence which required the utmost exertions of Alexander to repress them; and it is but justice to the latter to observe, that his authority was employed on these occasions without any apparent partiality to his favourite. (Plut. Alex. 47, Eum. 2; Arr. Anab. 7.13, 14.) If, indeed, we cannot refuse this obnoxious name to Hephaestion, nor affirm that he was altogether exempt from the weaknesses and faults incident to such a position, it may yet be fairly asserted that history affords few examples of a favourite who abused his advantages so little.


hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
332 BC (1)
330 BC (1)
327 BC (1)
324 BC (1)
hide References (28 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (28):
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 17.107
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 17.37
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 17.93
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 17.91
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 17.96
    • Plutarch, Alexander, 47
    • Plutarch, Alexander, 39
    • Plutarch, Alexander, 72
    • Arrian, Anabasis, 1.12.2
    • Arrian, Anabasis, 2.12
    • Arrian, Anabasis, 3.15
    • Arrian, Anabasis, 3.27
    • Arrian, Anabasis, 4.16
    • Arrian, Anabasis, 4.22
    • Arrian, Anabasis, 5.21
    • Arrian, Anabasis, 6.28.6
    • Arrian, Anabasis, 7.13
    • Arrian, Anabasis, 7.14
    • Arrian, Anabasis, 7.4
    • Curtius, Historiarum Alexandri Magni, 3.12
    • Curtius, Historiarum Alexandri Magni, 4.16.32
    • Curtius, Historiarum Alexandri Magni, 8.1
    • Curtius, Historiarum Alexandri Magni, 8.10
    • Curtius, Historiarum Alexandri Magni, 8.2
    • Curtius, Historiarum Alexandri Magni, 9.1
    • Curtius, Historiarum Alexandri Magni, 9.10
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 18.3
    • Aelian, Varia Historia, 12.6
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: