three pairs of lovers with space



Arrianos of Nikomedia in Bithynia was a Greek historian and sometime consul of Rome who wrote the most detailed account of Alexander the Great’s reign (336-323 BC).  Though written early in the second century AD, his account was based mostly on lost histories written by Alexander’s contemporaries.

The translation is by E.J. Chinnock in his The Anabasis of Alexander; or, the History of the Wars and Conquests of Alexander the Great (London, 1884) with amendments individually footnoted.  His Latinisation of Greek names has been undone in favour of more literal transliteration into Roman script, but the Anglicisations Alexander, Aristotle, Philip and Ptolemy have been unchanged.


IV 13 i-iv & vii

The aborted conspiracy of some of Alexander’s pages to murder him, described in the following passage, took place in 327 BC.

It was a custom introduced by Philip[1], that the sons of those Macedonians who had enjoyed high office, should, as soon as they reached the age of puberty, be selected to attend the king's court. These youths were entrusted with the general attendance on the king's person and the protection of his body while he was asleep. Whenever the king rode out, some of them received the horses from the grooms, and brought them to him, and others assisted him to mount in the Persian fashion. They were also companions of the king in the emulation of the chase.[2]

Among these youths was Hermolaos, son of Sopolis, who seemed to be applying his mind to the study of philosophy, and to be cultivating the society of Callisthenes for this purpose. There is current a tale about this youth to the effect that in the chase, a boar rushed at Alexander, and that Hermolaos anticipated him by casting a javelin at the beast, by which it was smitten and killed. But Alexander, having lost the opportunity of distinguishing himself by being too late in the assault, was indignant with Hermolaos, and in his wrath ordered him to receive a scourging in sight of the other pages; and also deprived him of his horse.

This Hermolaos, being chagrined at the disgrace he had incurred, told Sostratos son of Amyntas, who was his equal in age and lover[3], that life would be insupportable to him unless he could take vengeance upon Alexander for the affront. He easily persuaded Sostratos to join in the enterprise, as his lover.[4]

They gained over to their plans Antipatros, son of Asklepiodoros, viceroy of Syria, Epimenes son of Arseas, Antikles son of Theokritos, and Philotas son of Karsis the Thracian. They therefore agreed to kill the king by attacking him in his sleep, on the night when the nocturnal watch came round to Antipatros's turn.

Their plot having failed for the night in question because a camp-following woman seer persuaded Alexander to stay up drinking with his friends all night instead of going to sleep in his tent …

The next day, Epimenes son of Arseas, one of those who took part in the conspiracy, spoke of the undertaking to Charikles son of Menandros, who had become his lover[5]; and Charikles told it to Eurylochos, brother of Epimenes. Eurylochos went to Alexander's tent and related the whole affair to Ptolemy son of Lagos, one of the confidential body-guards.

A mosaic in the Macedonian capital of Pella, probably depicting Alexander on the right and his best friend Hephaistion on the left

[1] Ἐκ Φιλίππου ἦν ἤδη καθεστηκὸς τῶν ἐν τέλει Μακεδόνων τοὺς παῖδας ὅσοι ἐς ἡλικίαν ἐμειρακιεύοντο καταλέγεσθαι ἐς θεραπείαν τοῦ βασιλέως, τά τε περὶ τὴν ἄλλην δίαιταν τοῦ σώματος διακονεῖσθαι βασιλεῖ καὶ κοιμώμενον φυλάσσειν τούτοις ἐπετέτραπτο. καὶ ὁπότε ἐξελαύνοι βασιλεύς, τοὺς ἵππους παρὰ τῶν ἱπποκόμων δεχόμενοι ἐκεῖνοι προσῆγον καὶ ἀνέβαλλον οὗτοι βασιλέα τὸν Περσικὸν τρόπον καὶ τῆς ἐπὶ θήρᾳ φιλοτιμίας βασιλεῖ κοινωνοὶ ἦσαν.

[2] τούτων καὶ Ἑρμόλαος ἦν, Σωπόλιδος μὲν παῖς, φιλοσοφίᾳ δὲ ἐδόκει προσέχειν τὸν νοῦν καὶ Καλλισθένην θεραπεύειν ἐπὶ τῷδε. ὑπὲρ τούτου λόγος κατέχει, ὅτι ἐν θήρᾳ προσφερομένου Ἀλεξάνδρῳ συὸς ἔφθη βαλὼν τὸν σῦν ὁ Ἑρμόλαος· καὶ ὁ μὲν σῦς πίπτει βληθείς, Ἀλέξανδρος δὲ τοῦ καιροῦ ὑστερήσας ἐχαλέπηνε τῷ Ἑρμολάῳ καὶ κελεύει αὐτὸν πρὸς ὀργὴν πληγὰς λαβεῖν ὁρώντων τῶν ἄλλων παίδων, καὶ τὸν ἵππον αὐτοῦ ἀφείλετο.

[3] Τοῦτον τὸν Ἑρμόλαον ἀλγήσαντα τῇ ὕβρει φράσαι πρὸς Σώστρατον τὸν Ἀμύντου, ἡλικιώτην τε ἑαυτοῦ καὶ ἐραστὴν ὄντα, ὅτι οὐ βιωτόν οἵ ἐστι μὴ τιμωρησαμένῳ Ἀλέξανδρον τῆς ὕβρεως, καὶ τὸν Σώστρατον οὐ χαλεπῶς συμπεῖσαι μετασχεῖν τοῦ ἔργου, ἅτε ἐρῶντα.

[4] ὑπὸ τούτων δὲ ἀναπεισθῆναι Ἀντίπατρόν τε τὸν Ἀσκληπιοδώρου τοῦ Συρίας σατραπεύσαντος καὶ Ἐπιμένην τὸν Ἀρσαίου καὶ Ἀντικλέα τὸν Θεοκρίτου καὶ Φιλώταν τὸν Κάρσιδος τοῦ Θρᾳκός. ὡς οὖν περιῆκεν ἐς Ἀντίπατρον ἡ νυκτερινὴ φυλακή, ταύτῃ τῇ νυκτὶ ξυγκείμενον εἶναι ἀποκτεῖναι Ἀλέξανδρον, κοιμωμένῳ ἐπιπεσόντας.

[7] Τῇ δὲ ὑστεραίᾳ Ἐπιμένης ὁ Ἀρσαίου τῶν μετεχόντων τῆς ἐπιβουλῆς φράξει τὴν πρᾶξιν Χαρικλεῖ τῷ Μενάνδρου, ἐραστῇ ἑαυτοῦ γεγονότι· Χαρικλῆς δὲ φράζει Εὐρυλόχῳ τῷ ἀδελφῷ τῷ Ἐπιμένους. καὶ ὁ Εὐρύλοχος ἐλθὼν ἐπὶ τὴν σκηνὴν τὴν Ἀλεξάνδρου Πτολεμαίῳ τῷ Λάγου τῷ σωματοφύλακι καταλέγει ἅπαν τὸ πρᾶγμα· ὁ δὲ Ἀλεξάνδρῳ ἔφρασε. καὶ ὁ Ἀλέξανδρος ξυλλαβεῖν κελεύει ὧν τὰ ὀνόματα εἶπεν ὁ Εὐρύλοχος· καὶ οὗτοι στρεβλούμενοι σφῶν τε αὐτῶν κατεῖπον τὴν ἐπιβουλὴν καί τινας καὶ ἄλλους ὠνόμασαν.


VII 27 i-iii

Arrian has just described the final illness and death of Alexander in Babylon in 323 BC.

I am aware that many other particulars have been related by historians concerning Alexander's death, and especially that poison was sent for him by Antipatros, from the effects of which he died. It is also asserted that the poison was procured for Antipatros by Aristotle, who was now afraid of Alexander on account of Kallisthenes. It is said to have been conveyed by Kassandros, the son of Antipatros,[6] some recording that he conveyed it in the hoof of a mule, and that his younger brother Iollas gave it to the king.

For Iollas[7] was the royal cup-bearer, and he happened to have received some affront from Alexander a short time before his death. Others have stated that Medios, being a lover of Iollas, took part in the deed; for he it was who induced the king to hold the revel. They say that Alexander was seized with an acute paroxysm of pain over the wine-cup, on feeling which he retired from the drinking bout.

… These statements I have recorded rather that I may not seem to be ignorant that they have been made, than because I consider them worthy of credence or even of narration.

[1] Πολλὰ δὲ καὶ ἄλλα οἶδα ἀναγεγραμμένα ὑπὲρ τῆς Ἀλεξάνδρου τελευτῆς, καὶ φάρμακον ὅτι ἐπέμφθη παρὰ Ἀντιπάτρου Ἀλεξάνδρῳ καὶ ἐκ τοῦ φαρμάκου ὅτι ἀπέθανε· καὶ τὸ φάρμακον ὅτι Ἀριστοτέλης μὲν Ἀντιπάτρῳ ἐξεῦρε δεδοικὼς ἤδη Ἀλέξανδρον Καλλισθένους ἕνεκα, Κάσανδρος1 δὲ ὁ Ἀντιπάτρου ἐκόμισεν· οἱ δὲ καὶ ὅτι ἐν ἡμιόνου ὁπλῇ ἐκόμισε καὶ τοῦτο ἀνέγραψαν. δοῦναι δὲ αὐτὸ Ἰόλλαν τὸν ἀδελφὸν τὸν Κασάνδρου τὸν νεώτερον·

[2] εἶναι γὰρ οἰνοχόον βασιλικὸν τὸν Ἰόλλαν καί τι καὶ λελυπῆσθαι πρὸς Ἀλεξάνδρου ὀλίγῳ πρόσθεν τῆς τελευτῆς· οἱ δὲ καὶ Μήδιον μετασχεῖν τοῦ ἔργου, ἐραστὴν ὄντα τοῦ Ἰόλλα· καὶ αὐτὸν γὰρ εἶναι τὸν εἰσηγητὴν γενόμενον᾿ Αλεξάνδρῳ τοῦ κώμου· ὀδύνην τε αὐτῷ ἐπὶ τῇ κύλικι γενέσθαι ὀξεῖαν, καὶ ἐπὶ τῇ ὀδύνῃ ἀπαλλαγῆναι ἐκ 3τοῦ πότου. …

[7] καὶ ταῦτα ἐμοὶ ὡς μὴ ἀγνοεῖν δόξαιμι μᾶλλον ὅτι λεγόμενά ἐστιν ἢ ὡς πιστὰ ἐς ἀφήγησιν ἀναγεγράφθω.


[1] Alexander’s father and predecessor as King of the Macedonians, who, like him, had love affairs with noble boys who seem to have been his pages.

[2] [Note by Chinnock:] Cf. Curtius (viii. 21); Aelian (Varia Historia, xiv. 49). After the battle of Pydna, where the Romans conquered the Macedonians, the pueri regii followed the defeated king Perseus to the sanctuary at Samothrace, and never quitted him till he surrendered to the Romans. See Livy, xiv. 6.

[3] Chinnock uses “intimate confidential friend” as a euphemism for “lover”, the translation for “ἐραστὴν” adopted here and in the Loeb Classics translation by P.A. Brunt (volume CCXXXVI, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1976) p. 383.

[4] Again, the Loeb Classics translation, op. cit., of “ἅτε ἐρῶντα” as “as his lover” is preferred to Chinnock’s euphemism “since he was fondly attached to him.”

[5] “Lover” is again preferred as a translation of “ἐραστῇ” to Chinnock’s euphemism “confidential friend.”

[6] To understand the rumour of foul play mentioned here, the following facts need to be known. Antipatros was the aged regent of Macedon in Alexander’s absence, but he had quarrelled with Alexander’s mother, and his replacement had already been ordered. There are numerous grounds for supposing there was considerable personal dislike between his son Kassandros and Alexander. Kallisthenes was a great-nephew of Aristotle and a historian who had come to a bad end after being implicated in Hermolaos’s conspiracy described above.

[7] “Ἰόλλαν” has here been translated as “Iollas” instead of Chinnock’s “this man”, an absurd interpolation; there are not the slightest grounds for supposing Iollas was a man.  On the contrary, serving as the royal cup-bearer was the function of a page, and Arrian made clear in the first passage quoted here that the King’s pages were pubescent.