CODEX Entry 5113: Hephaestion (Hephi)


He was Alexander the Great’s dearest friend and, in youth, his lover. They studied together as children and remained fast friends for their whole lives. A member of Alexander the Great‘s personal bodyguard and his second-in-command, he commanded the Companion cavalry. Besides being a soldier, engineer and diplomat he corresponded with the philosophers Aristotle and Xenocrates, and actively supported Alexander in his attempts to integrate the Greeks and Persians. Alexander also made him part of the royal family when he gave him as his bride Drypetis, sister to his own second wife Stateira, both daughters of Darius III of Persia. Hephaestion was also ambitious, encouraging the killing of his rivals Clietus and Philotas, to strengthen his position. He died suddenly at Ecbatana aged thirty-two. Having recently recovered from a week of fever, he had eaten a full meal with wine, then died swiftly. It appears likely that the food or wine was poisoned. Alexander was overwhelmed with grief. He sent messengers to the oracle at Siwa to ask if Amon would permit Hephaestion to be worshipped as a god. This was denied but he could be celebrated as a ‘divine hero’. Hephaestion was given a magnificent funeral, estimated to have cost US$200m in today’s money. At Babylon, funeral games were held with 3,000 competitors. The funeral pyre was sixty metres high, square, with each level decorated with stories of Hephaestian’s achievements. On the day of the funeral, the sacred flame in the temple was extinguished. This was only done on the death of the Great King. Alexander died just eight months later.