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The Diplomat

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I. Mieza, 341 B.C.

 

The door opened with a bang, rousing a sleeping youth.  Another young man bounded through the door, carrying something in his arms.

“Hephaistion, my friend, are you awake or asleep?”[i]

“No.” Hephaistion leaned up on his elbows, “I don’t see any light outside.”

“That’s because the sun has not yet risen,” said Alexander and he closed the door to the small sleeping chamber. He sat at the foot of Hephaistion’s pallet, tucking one leg under another, and placed his burden on his lap. He unwrapped it. It was a small lyre. His head bowed over the instrument as he tuned it and his curls shielded his face.

Hephaistion shook his head and pulled himself up. “My father always said that it’s not civilized to wake a man before the sun.” He rubbed at his eyes and stretched, letting his blanket fall away from his chest.

“My uncle Leonidas,” Alexander recollected, “used to get me up before dawn to train when I was just a boy.[ii] He told me that if I could not, I would make a weak king.”

“Your uncle was a son of a bitch.”

The prince laughed. “I agree,” he said. He finished fixing the pegs of the instrument, and looked back up. “He also once told me that . . .”

Alexander’s words died on his tongue. His eyes lingered on his friend’s bare chest, and the dark hair already growing there. There was a long moment. When their eyes met, the prince’s cheeks were deeply blushed.

Alexander cleared his throat.

“I had a dream about you,” he announced. “I think it was a true dream.”

Hephaistion prodded him with his foot. “Sounds exciting.”

“You and I were walking by a river.”

“Which river?” His foot had come to rest under the hem of the prince’s tunic.

“I did not recognize it, but it was very large, and rather fast. We spoke to each other.”

“That’s not a very exciting dream.” Hephaistion brushed his toes up Alexander’s thigh.

Alexander fixed his piercing blue eyes on Hephaistion as if to focus him “You gave me a star.”

Hephaistion paused. “A star? Are you sure?”

“It was my dream.”

“What does it mean?”

Alexander shrugged. “I do not know.” He grinned, “It did, however, remind me of a song and I knew that I should come sing it to you at once.”

Hephaistion shook his head in mock worry, “To lose one’s mind at such a young age is truly a tragedy.”

Alexander ignored his friend and let his fingers pluck a song to life. Hephaistion groaned as he recognized the melody, “A hoplite’s song. Alexander, really?”

But the prince ignored him as he began to sing.

“The Lover and the Beauty were walking by a river,

By the river, the Lover asked the Beauty,

Love me and if you take me, Love me and if you take me

I’ll give you my game bag, I’ll give you my game bag.”[iii]

The young prince’s voice was warm and inviting, so Hephaistion obliged by taking up the girl’s part;

“I don’t want your game bag, I don’t want your game bag,

Give me another something, give me another something.”

The prince sang again;

“Love me and if you take me, Love me and if you take me

I’ll give you my sword belt, I’ll give you my sword belt.”

Hephaistion began to inch closer to Alexander, singing;

“I don’t want your sword belt, I don’t want your sword belt

Give me another something, give me another something.”

Smiling, Alexander turned to him,

“Love me and if you take me, Love me and if you take me

I’ll give you my wool cloak, I’ll give you my wool cloak.”

Hephaistion knelt behind Alexander, bracketing the prince with his knees. He sang low,

“I don’t want your wool cloak, I don’t want your wool cloak

Give me another something, give me another something.”

He laced his fingers in Alexander’s hair and pulled him against his chest. Tipping his head back, he pressed his lips against Alexander’s.

Alexander sighed, opening his mouth to Hephaistion. Hephaistion bit the prince’s full, lower lip, before licking his way into the smaller man’s mouth. Alexander moaned then, and Hephaistion felt his cock harden.

“The song is not over, ”Alexander protested weakly when they broke apart.

“Oh, we’re done singing for now.” Hephaistion lowered his mouth to the nape of his friend’s neck. Alexander’s head fell forward, submitting to Hephaistion’s assault.

Alexander continued to speak, his voice breathy, “There’s still the verse about going to see the villages and valleys.”

Hephaistion smiled and ran his hands down Alexander’s sides, settling at the notch of his waist. “There’s only one valley I want to see.”

Quick as lighting, Alexander turned in his arms, pushed Hephaistion down to the pallet, and forced his arms to the side. He grinned as he bent over his prone friend, “What makes you think that I will allow you to see it?”

Hephaistion was bigger, and stronger, he swung out his legs and flipped the two of them, pinning Alexander to the mattress with his thighs.[iv] He took Alexander’s wrists, first one, and then the other in his left hand and ran his right up Alexander’s thighs until he grasped the thick, hard cock that tented the prince’s tunic.

Alexander hissed. His eyes darkened, and his face grew flush. The muscles in his thighs shook with desire.

“I don’t think you would ever want to resist me, my love,” said Hephaistion.

Slowly, he began to stroke Alexander’s cock with long, twisted pulls, hot and hard and dry in his hand. He watched the prince’ face, with each stroke, Alexander’s eyes closed tightly and his breath grew more desperate.  Hephaistion changed his angle and let his sword callouses brush the head of his lover’s cock.

Alexander let out a small cry, and his knees fell further apart.

Hephaistion let go of the prince’s hands and lowered his head between his thighs. He pushed the tunic up until Alexander was completely uncovered from the waist down. Alexander’s cock stood proudly erect, the head dripping with clear fluid. “By Zeus,” he whispered, “you smell amazing.”

He knew that it was unseemly, unmanly, unnatural, but he did not care. He took Alexander’s erect penis in his mouth, and began to suck.

Alexander moaned and spread his legs fully. His hands came down and rested on Hephaistion’s head, not quite gripping, but still urgent. “Hephaistion, you, gods, do not stop!” he ordered.

Hephaistion laughed, and the vibrations caused the dick in his mouth to pulse. He could not swallow all of it at once, but he licked his way up and down the shaft, humming and sucking as best he could. Sometimes he paid special attention to the head with his lips while his hands encircled the rest, wet with saliva and pre-come.

Alexander’s hips began to thrust up into Hephaistion’s mouth, and his grip on his hair tightened.

Hephaistion relaxed his mouth and let Alexander fuck up into his throat. He reached down to his own cock and found it blazingly hard. He tugged at it in rhythm with Alexander’s thrusts as they sped up.

“Hephaistion, I am, I am, I am,” panted Alexander desperately, trying to pull him off. Hephaistion shook his head and stayed where he was, giving one last suck. Alexander shuddered beneath him and came, spilling himself into Hephaistion’s mouth. He swallowed it all, and kept him in his mouth, sucking softly.

Alexander finally pulled him off and up until they were face to face, tangled in each other’s arms, kissing like there was no need for air. Alexander wrapped his legs around Hephaistion’s thigh and pushed up until Hephaistion’s cock, achingly hard, rode up the cleft of Alexander’s ass.
“Please,” begged Alexander. “Please Hephaistion, please . . .” His voice got quiet, as if he was afraid, which was ridiculous because Hephaistion knew that the prince felt no fear.

“What, my love?” he asked.

“Please fuck me,” said Alexander.

Hephaistion felt as if he could have done anything in that moment. He could have defeated the Corinthian League and the Sacred Band of Thebes.[v] He could have stormed the entirety of the Persian army alone. He could have taken the gates of Hades.

“How do you want it?” he asked.

“I want to see your face.”

Hephaistion cupped Alexander’s cheek and kissed him desperately. Alexander surged to meet him, chest to chest, a brutal duet. Hephaistion opened his mouth as wide as possible, allowing Alexander to curl his tongue up behind his teeth.

When the kiss ended, Hephaistion fumbled for the small lamp that stood near the pallet. Try as he could, he could not pour out enough oil to coat his fingers.

“Just break it, break it apart,” insisted Alexander.

Hephaistion could not deny his prince anything. He smashed the terracotta vessel against the plaster wall. The crash sounded like war cymbals, high and brassy, and when the sherds hit the dirt, they sounded like rain. The oil ran down Hephaistion’s fingers and collected in his palm.

“It still may not be enough,” warned Hephaistion.

The reply was fierce and sure, “I do not care.”

Hephaistion slicked himself. He groaned and gripped himself tightly, holding back his orgasm.

“This may be quicker than you anticipated,” he confessed.

Alexander held Hephaistion’s eyes, his melting gaze cutting through the darkness. “Just take me, as hard as you can.”

Hephaistion could not refuse such an order.

He pressed his first finger, fragrant with the green olive smell, between Alexander’s legs.

Alexander bit back a cry and clenched against the intrusion. He was so tight around Hephaistion’s finger, so tight and so hot. Hephaistion paused there, letting Alexander breathe deeply and grow accustomed to the feeling of being filled.

Finally, Alexander nodded and his legs spread apart again, relaxing. Hephaistion added another finger, working it in with short, smooth thrusts. When he finished, he began to stretch and scissor his fingers, twisting and curling them until, there!

Alexander spasmed, shocked, silent.

Hephaistion crooked his fingers again, sending waves of pleasure through the prince’s body. This time, Alexander moaned, head thrust back, eyes screwed shut. He planted his heels on either side of Hephaistion’s thighs and rocked himself up and down, fucking himself on his beloved’s fingers.

Hephaistion added a final finger and pushed back into Alexander’s desperate rhythm. Hephaistion was transfixed by the wanton glory of the prince, his brow glistening in sweat, his lips slightly parted to let desperate breaths escape.

He slipped his fingers out of Alexander’s ass, heart clenching at Alexander’s whimpered protest. He lined his aching cock up and, with one sure thrust, he entered the prince.

“Zeus,” he swore. The heat around his fingers was nothing compared to the feeling of Alexander, tight and hot around his cock. He began to rock, trying to find the place within Alexander that had given him such pleasure. After several deep thrusts, Alexander lifted his legs and wrapped them around Hephaistion’s waist once more, urging every thrust by digging his crossed heels into his lover’s back.

They found a rhythm together, deep thrusts alternating with shallow ones, eyes locked on each other, breaths mingling. Soon, too soon, Hephaistion found himself at the edge of orgasm.

He knelt up and pulled Alexander towards him. Roughly, he grabbed Alexander’s ankles and placed one on his shoulder and spread the other out as far as he could. Alexander offered no protest and no resistance, submitting completely to the manhandling. He could no longer find purchase to match Hephaistion’s motions, but was forced to simply take. Hephaistion pounded into him, pulling out as far as his cock would allow and slamming himself back, burying himself to the hilt in his friend’s body.

Orgasm came quickly, rising in him like a storm and his release was heralded with a wordless shout.

Spent, he collapsed over Alexander. The prince’s arms came up around him, encircling him tightly.

After a few moments, they parted. Side by side they lay, staring at each other.

Alexander stroked Hephaistion’s face. “My Patroklos,” he whispered.

Fondly, Hephaistion replied, “My Achilles.”

 

 

II. Thapsakos on the Euphrates, West Bank, 331 B.C.

 

The ships lay in the sun like bleached carcasses. Stripped of all rigging and fittings, the hemioliae[vi] looked more like dead whales than warships. Slowly, an outfit of men dragged one of the ships towards the west bank of the river. Some of the men put fresh-cut tree trunks below the keel as rollers, while others heaved themselves against the ropes trussed around the hull. The ship traveled along flat ground, lowered and leveled by both the work of engineers and the constant passage of similar vessels over the past weeks. Other outfits of men, soldiers and workmen and overseers, swarmed around the remaining hemioliae, preparing for their imminent journeys along the same well-worn path.

Everything was coated in a fine dust; the ships, the men, the horses, and the encampment where they had been living. Across the river, just beyond the eastern bank, there were rows of tents, finer and larger than those on the west, but similarly dusty. Only the river was dust free; the blue waters sparkling in the midsummer heat.

A month previous, both the sun and the dust had been less heavy, but the river had been a white-capped force, still swollen from the spring rains and dangerous even to experienced crossers. Now, though it still ran quickly, it flowed smoothly. The current slid under the double series of ships and boats that stretched across the river. The workers had stripped each of everything but the hull, the frame, and the decks. Lashed together, and anchored thoroughly, these vessels formed two flexible, but increasingly sturdy bridges over the shining river.[vii]

Hephaistion looked out over the construction to the far bank. One of his aides, a Macedonian named Kleandros,[viii] shook his head in wonderment. “And so the king conquers even the legendary Euphrates.”

The commander frowned and touched a small ring that he wore on a string around his wrist, “He does not conquer the river. The Euphrates invites him to cross, and so he does.”

Kleandros shrugged off the disapproval, “Whatever the river’s feelings, the bridges are near completion. These last warships will be sufficient to reach the east bank, and then Thapsakos will be our stepping stone into Mesopotamia.”

Hephaistion shook his head, “Except that Mazaeus and his army have not moved.” He rubbed his hands in the short curls of his beard; he had not shaved since leaving Tyre.

Kleandros peered across the Euphrates to the Persian general’s camp. “Mazaeus must know that he cannot hold out against the king.”

“He does not need to,” Hephaistion explained. “He was sent here just to delay us from reaching the east bank.”

“And to spy,” added Kleandros.

Hephaistion headed back down to the path of the rolling warship, picking his way along the rocky bank.

Kleandros followed.

As the commander approached the hulk, the one of the engineers broke away from the work. He hustled over to Hephaistion and Kleandros.

“Progress report, sir,” he offered.

“Proceed,” answered Hephaistion.

“These last ships will complete the bridges, except for the anchoring rafts. The secondary engineers have been driving the pilings since the morning. Once we can get these hulks to the slipway, we will float them to their moorings and lash them into place.

“What about the rafts?” asked Hephaistion. “Once the king arrives, we will need them in place on the east bank.”

The engineer nodded, “their construction is almost complete. We’ve finished the braces and the crossbeams, and most of the decks have been planked.”

“The chains?”

“Prepared, but not placed.”

Hephaistion nodded in approval. “Well done. Complete the hemioliae, and finish up the work on the rafts. The king arrives in three days.”

Even in the July sun, the engineer visibly paled, “Three days?”

Hephaistion grinned, “Alexander moves quickly, when there are battles to win.”

 

 

III. Troia, 334 B.C.

 

Beads of sweat flew off of his body. His bare feet pounded the earth. His breath rasped, his heart raced, and his mind trained on the track in front of him. Swiftly, swiftly, Hephaistion ran.

But try as he might, he could never quite catch up to the man in front of him. It was no use, Alexander was fleeter of foot than any of the Companions. White heels kicking up clouds of dust, red hair shining in the sun, the young king flew across the plains of windy Troy.

Far behind, back at the necropolis, the rest of their group waited, drinking and eating, cheering and jeering at the two men. The wind caught their voices and dragged them out of intelligible hearing.

Alexander raised his arms out, olive limbs shining in the sun, and he whirled like an eagle around the marker. He passed Hephaistion on his way back, smiling through his panting breath, stopping for nothing.

Hephaistion threw his head back and put on another burst of speed. He ran for joy, for luck, for love, for promises fulfilled. For the feeling of freedom, the warm sun on his bare limbs.

He arrived at the graves, where Alexander was already crowned with a quickly woven victorious olive wreath. “Him too,” he commanded, pointing at the defeated Hephaistion.

Everyone laughed together; some of the men were very drunk.

“You cannot crown the loser, Alexander!” exclaimed Krateros.[ix]

Alexander was drunk on the contest, “Hephaistion needs a crown!”

Somehow, someone broke off some branches from the same tree that crowned Alexander. Soon, Alexander and Hephaistion wore matching wreaths.

Alexander took his hand. “Now we can go,” he insisted, pulling him towards the grave monuments.

“Alexander,” pleaded Hephaistion, “we cannot go like this.” He gestured to their naked bodies.

“We are clothed in the fruits of honorable struggle! How else should we approach the heroes?”

Hephaistion relented. Together, hand in hand, they walked towards the graves of Achilles and Patroklos.

Before the marble monuments, they paused. Alexander gazed at the tomb of Achilles reverently. He reached out and touched it lightly. “Father,” he whispered. He took the olive wreath from his head and laid it at the foot of his heroic ancestor.

Hephaistion turned to the second tomb. He laid his own wreath on the marble. Silently, he offered up a prayer to the youth, cut down by the gods in battle. Please, he asked, please let me stay by his side. Please do not take him before me. Without him, I am truly alone.

He closed his eyes.

“Beloved?” 

Hephaistion looked up. Alexander’s eyes were worried, “Why do you cry?”

“I’m not crying,” answered Hephaistion, but even as he spoke he felt the wetness run down his cheeks.

Wordless, Alexander wiped Hephaistion’s face.[x]

 

 

IV. Thapsakos on the Euphrates, West Bank, 331 B.C.

 

That night, Hephaistion stood over the preliminary maps in his tent.  Oil lamps burned at each corner, throwing double, triple, quadruple shadows over the walls. Kleandros snored softly, it was far too late and he had fallen asleep while Hephaistion stared at his compiled reports.

The scouts that had crossed the river under the cover of night had returned, each brought news about the land and armies in their way. Once over the Euphrates, there were two routes that could be followed into Persia. One route ran to the south, to Babylon, through the famous battlefield of Cunaxa where Cyrus the Younger made his last stand.[xi] The second ran east, then north, through Assyria.

The second route troubled Hephaistion. Between the scouting reports and Xenophon, Hephaistion knew how to advise Alexander on the march through the Babylonian lowlands. There would be water and food for the troops, even if the summer sun was hot. But Darius’s armies were nowhere to be seen around Babylon.

Hephaistion rubbed his eyes. It made no sense, he thought. Darius’s infantry corps had been destroyed at his defeat at Issos on the Pinarus river. He had lost all of his lands west of the Euphrates, had even admitted as much in that deplorable joke of a conditional surrender.[xii] The strength of his army now lay in his cavalry. He could not stand at the Tigris, he would need flat ground.

No matter where Darius decided to stand and fight, it would not matter. The Greeks were marching blind.

Sitting down on a stool, Hephaistion worried at the twist of thread holding the seal ring to his wrist. “All-seeing Zeus, wise Athena, clever Hermes,” he prayed. “I don’t know what to do.”

He buried his head in his hands.

Just then, he heard a scuffle outside his tent. There was a shout, and then one of his guards began to blow a short trumpet, raising a general alarm. Kleandros woke and jumped to his feet.

Hephaistion grabbed his sword and rushed out of the tent.  Outside, people were pouring out of their tents, holding weapons and torches aloft. Not 20 steps from his tent, was a circle of hypaspists, shields and javelins at the ready[xiii]. In the center of the circle stood a soldier. He was unknown to Hephaistion, and he wore long pants under his cuirass. A mercenary’s garb. His hands he held outstretched, empty of weapons.

When he spoke, he spoke in Greek.

“Commander Hephaistion,” he called out. “My name is Pausanias, son of Agathon of Miletos. I bring you a message from General Mazaeus.”

The whole camp waited for Hephaistion’s reply.

When he spoke, it was not to the mercenary. “Who found this . . . man?” he asked.

The leader of the hypaspists, a broad shouldered, wide-eyed Macedonian, answered, “I discovered him, creeping on his knees to your tent.”

Hephaistion looked at the hypaspist. “Seleukos, son of Antiochos, correct?”

The man nodded.[xiv]

“You have a reputation as a fair and noble man.” Hephaistion spoke so that every man there could hear him. “Did you search this Pausanias?”

“Yes sir,” responded Seleukos. “I found no weapon on him, just this.” He held out a small letter in his hand, sealed with wax.

Kleandros jumped forward and took the message. He studied the seal. “It looks authentic,” he said and handed it to Hephaistion. “I think he’s telling the truth.”

Hephaistion nodded. “Bring him,” he barked. “And search the rest of the camp, he may be a decoy.”

He headed back to the tent, followed by Kleandros and the mercenary, escorted by Seleukos. Once in the steady lamplight, he opened the sealed letter and read the writing.

To the Honored Commander Hephaistion, son of Amyntor, it said in careful Greek, I have sent this man, a loyal and brave soldier, to extend a peaceful invitation to you and one of your men. I wish to see the face of the man who commands the camp across the river. If you wish to meet, send this man back before dawn, unmolested, and give the hour that you would like to meet. All will be prepared. You need not fear a trap or a betrayal. I swear on the light of Mithras, on the waters of the river Styx, and on the life of my family that neither you nor your man will be harmed.

Mazaeus, General of Most High Darius, King of Kings

The mercenary shifted his weight from foot to foot. Hephaistion could see that Seleukos’s grip was bruising the man’s arm. He gave the letter to Kleandros.

He spoke first to the mercenary, “Tell your general I will cross the river when the sun is highest.” The mercenary bowed his head.

“Seleukos,” he ordered. “Escort this man to the edge of the river.”

“Yes, commander,” answered Seleukos, and he began to drag the mercenary through the tent door.

“Gently.” Hephaistion added.

When the mercenary was gone and the camp searched, Kleandros returned.

“All is well in the camp, sir.”

Hephaistion nodded. “And the men?”

“Alert, but calm.”

Kleandros packed up the maps and plans. When he was finished he asked, “Will you require anything else tonight, commander?

“Only that you get some rest,” said Hephaistion. “You will accompany me to visit Mazaeus tomorrow.”

“Me?” Kleandros sounded shocked.

“Yes,” said Hephaistion. “And that hypaspist, Seleukos. When you leave here tell him to be prepared tomorrow at noon.”

Kleandros furrowed his brow, “Didn’t the letter specify that you could bring one man?”

“The letter said that Mazaeus wanted to see myself, and one other man,” Hephaistion explained. “It said nothing about the man that I would leave the on the shore to guard the boat.”

“Oh.”

Hephaistion turned to his sleeping pallet.

“Commander?” asked Kleandros.

“Yes?”

“Do you think it is safe to go into the Persian camp tomorrow?”

Hephaistion turned back to face his aide. “Are you frightened, Kleandros?”

“Of course not!” blustered Kleandros. But then the bravado drained from his voice, “Even the Persians know that you are  . . .”

Hephaistion raised an eyebrow.

Kleandros forged ahead, “They know that you are important to the king. Mazaeus may try to capture you and hold you for ransom, or worse.”

Hephaistion nodded. “That’s the risk. But if I do not go, the men will think I am afraid.”

“Better a dead hero than a living coward?” asked Kleandros.

“Yes,” confirmed Hephaistion. “And one more thing.” He gestured at the maps in Kleandros's arms. “We need more information. Alexander cannot cross the river with what we have now, lest our armies end up like the 10,000, stranded in a foreign land after the disaster at Cunaxa.”

“Do you really think that Mazaeus will give us information?”

“He may,” Hephaistion postulated. “More likely, he will let something slip, or we will see something that he does not realize is important.”

“We are to be spies, then?”

“We are to be diplomats,” corrected Hephaistion. “We must always know the nature of the places where we march. Be it the shape of the land, the customs of the people, or the character of the leaders, we must always know more.”

Kleandros nodded, “I’ll be ready tomorrow. And I’ll make sure that Seleukos is too.” He saluted and left the tent.

Hephaistion prepared to sleep.

“Dearest gods above,” he whispered. “Is this the answer to my prayer?”

Closing his eyes, he let his thoughts drift back to Macedonia, to his youth, to Alexander.

 

V. Somewhere in Central Macedonia, 337 B.C.

 

The horse panted beneath him, flanks speckled with sweaty froth. Hephaistion could feel the horse’s heartbeat pounding faster and faster and knew that he had to let up on the beast or it would die, but he could not bring himself to slow.  Somewhere, out in the dark, was Alexander, furiously and resolutely riding west, without him.

Eventually, Hephaistion knew, the prince and his mother would arrive in Molossia, where his mother’s brother ruled.[xv]  But first he had to leave the marshy plains that surrounded Pella and pass over the Pindos mountains to the west. Alexander may have made for the north, to cross at well-watered Edessa. Hephaistion shook his head at the thought. Alexander would not detour his flight into exile for ease of travel. He would take the most direct route. He would follow the path of the Aliakmonos river out of Macedonia and into Epirus. And so would Hephaistion.

It was just before dawn when he saw Alexander’s party, a dozen horses and three wagons, camped by the side of the roaring Aliakmonos.  Hephaistion entered the camp and, barely managing to rein in his horse, flung himself from the saddle. A bleary-eyed servant took the trembling horse in hand, but Hephaistion had no eye for him just then.  Alexander would not be sleeping, he knew. He would not be cowering in a tent, he would be planning, running, fuming, he would be –

There!

Hephaistion let out a cry and raced towards the bank of the river, where a slim figure knelt. Even before the sun’s rays touched the edges of the world, Alexander’s red-gold hair shone.

The prince had looked up at the cry and saw his friend.

Hephaistion ran into him, bodily lifting Alexander and bearing the both of them down to the ground. Alexander grunted under the weight of Hephaistion’s body. He tried to push Hephaistion off of him, but the taller man kept them both pinned to the ground. Alexander gave up trying to shift his friend, simply lying underneath him, holding him in his arms.

Hephaistion buried his nose in Alexander’s hair, breathing in the sweet smell unique to the prince.[xvi] Satisfied that Alexander was all right, he finally let him up. They sat on the bank together.

“What are you doing here?” asked Alexander, brushing the dirt from his clothes.

Hephaistion was still wired from the chase. “What are YOU doing here?!”

Alexander cocked his head. “I am offering a sacrifice of wine to the river. Old Alkiamonos is unusually furious, and is preventing my crossing.”

Hysterical laughter bubbled up out of Hephaistion’s throat. He buried his face in his hands.

Alexander was incredulous. “I am the one escaping into exile, and YOU are the one in the grip of insanity?”

Hephaistion tried to calm himself. He took a deep breath and waved at the river. “That, that’s my fault. When I heard you were gone, I knew that you would follow the river, so I sacrificed to Alkiamonos to delay you – and let me find you.”

Alexander grinned. “I should punish you.”

“You did,” said Hephaistion. His breathing was even, his heart had stopped pounding, but his hurt was still there. “You left without me.”

Alexander looked sharply at him. “They called me a bastard. Me. They insulted my mother, they challenged my power, and they called me a bastard.”

“I was there, Alexander, “ said Hephaistion. “I know. I remember.”

“Then you remember that my father did nothing!”

Hephaistion looked down at his hands.

“No,” continued Alexander, his voice cracking with righteous indignation. “He did not do nothing. He raised a weapon to me. A bare weapon,” he exclaimed, “to his SON! To his HEIR!!.”[xvii]

The fury rose in Alexander, his hair shook with the tremors of his body.

“He was drunk,” offered Hephaistion.

“Yes, he was drunk,” agreed Alexander. “But yesterday he was sober, and he still told me to leave.”

Hephaistion knew not to touch Alexander when he was so wrathful. But he wished that he could hold him, stroke his hair, and tell him that everything would be fine in the end.

The anger subsided. When Alexander spoke again, his voice was more measured. “My father knows he cannot invade Persia without me, but he cannot have me outstrip him.” He looked at Hephaistion, “everyone knows that I am the true heir, my victories in battle prove it, if nothing else.”[xviii]

“Yes,” assured Hephaistion.

“He simply wants to ensure my humility,” continued Alexander. “He will recall me when it is convenient for him, when he thinks I have learned my lesson. Perhaps when that new wife of his is pregnant.”

Hephaistion reached out to his prince. Barely had his hand settled on his shoulder when Alexander grabbed it and pulled it into his body, bringing Hephaistion face’s right up to his own.

“You have to go back to Pella,” he whispered.

Hephaistion shook his head, “I want to be with you.”

Alexander kissed his open mouth. He curled his hand around Hephaistion’s and placed it over his heart.

“I want you by my side, every day and every night,” Alexander said. “I want to hear your laugh and see your smile. I want to feel you over me, under me, around me, within me. I want to be stretched under your beautiful thighs, and I want your sweet breath on the back of my neck every morning. I want your counsel and your companionship, and when I do not have it, it is like a piece of my body is missing.”

Hephaistion could hardly breathe for fear that he would miss a word.

Alexander continued, “I want you, Hephaistion, here beside me always. But I need you in Pella. I need your ears and eyes near my father and his generals. I need someone I can trust, someone who will work for me, someone who will defend me. Can you do that?”

Hephaistion nodded. “Should I talk to the king?”

“No,” said Alexander. “But someone should. Find them,” he ordered.[xix]

“Yes, my love,” said Hephaistion.

“Here.” Alexander reached into his cloak and took out a small ring. He held it out to Hephaistion. “Take this.”

Hephaistion took it and turned it over in his hand. It was a seal ring; it bore the sign of a many-rayed star around the letter alpha. “This is your seal.”

“My mother gave it to me when I was young,” Alexander explained. “So that I could write her letters and she would know that they were truly from me.”

“Don’t you need it?”

“I need you to have it now,” said the prince. “I need to be able to still have your counsel. Mark all your letters to me with it.”

Hephaistion nodded. “I will.”

“Keep it on your person always,” Alexander insisted. “Wear it around your neck or your wrist.”

“Of course,” agreed Hephaistion.

They both stood up. Alexander took Hephaistion’s hands in his. “This is not forever, beloved,” he assured. “I don’t want to send you away, but I need someone with an eye for the territory. When I come back, and I will come back,” he vowed, “I cannot march blindly. I trust you.”

Hephaistion stilled the tears rising to his eyes. “Can I advise you now?” he asked.

Alexander leaned forward, expectant.

“Don’t stay in Molossia,” said Hephaistion. “Go somewhere else, Paeonia, Illyria, just do not stay in Epirus.”

“Why?” asked Alexander.

“Your mother is part of the problem,” said Hephaistion. “If you stay with her, it looks like you support her over your father.”

“He insulted her too,” reminded the prince.

“I know. But if you want the throne, you both need your father’s blessing.”

Alexander sighed. “You are right. I will escort her to her brother’s palace, but I will not stay.” He grimaced, “She will not be pleased, but I will not stay.”

Hephaistion looked back at the river. The wind was dying and the river began to calm. “Aliakmonos is no longer so furious,” he observed. “You should cross this morning. When you’re over, I’ll return to Pella.”

Alexander kissed the knuckles of his hand.

 

VI. Thapsakos on the Euphrates, East Bank, 331 B.C.

 

The end of the pontoon bridge was half border and half battle line.

His engineers could not complete the bridge while Mazaeus held the east bank, so a short span of water stretched between the last hemiolia, lashed to its piling, and the shore. Soldiers stood on both sides, alternating between staring each other down and shouting threats and obscenities at each other.

As Hephaistion crossed the river, accompanied by Kleandros and the hypaspist Seleukos, the hypaspists stationed in intervals along the bridges saluted and called out encouragements.

“Steady on there, Commander!”

“Make sure he doesn’t have anything up his sleeves!”

“If the Bearded Lady tries anything, just show him what real Greeks do to men like him!”[xx]

“We’ve got your back, Commander!”

“The man are in high spirits today,” remarked Kleandros.

Seleukos agreed, “They like it when things change. Standing guard over boats is pretty boring and uncomfortable, especially in the noon sun during midsummer.”

“They do know that they’re serving an important purpose, right?” asked Hephaistion.

“Oh, of course,” Seleukos answered quickly. “But whatever else Mazaeus is, he’s not a fool. He’s heard about what happened at Tyre. Burning a couple of bridges is certainly not going to slow our King.”

“Nevertheless,” said Hephaistion, “they should feel appreciated.” He stood up in the prow of the boat and took off his helmet. He waved to each man as they passed, hailing each by name.

When the boat reached the east bank, all three men leapt out to drag it up the bank where a coterie of men stood waiting. Among them was the mercenary Pausanias.

“The General bids you welcome, Commander,” he said. “And welcome to your aide.”

Kleandros inclined his head in response.

“Unfortunately,” continued Pausanias, “I cannot offer the same welcome to the third man in your party.”

Hephaistion nodded his head, “I understand your reluctance. But please understand that I only bring him here to stand guard over the boat while we enjoy the company of the esteemed general.”

Pausanias looked at Seleukos, who smiled and waved. Kleandros snorted.

Hephaistion decided to press the issue. “I’m sure that General Mazaeus would not like to be kept waiting.”

Pausanias’s lips thinned and his nostrils flared. Apparently, Seleukos had not been as gentle as he should have last night.

“He stays here,” he finally agreed.

And just like that, Hephaistion was being escorted up the east bank of the Euphrates, through the Persian camp, straight to the largest tent at the center. Outside the tent flap, a man with a bald head and a wax tablet was waiting for them.

When they approached, he bowed to Hephaistion. The tent flap was drawn back – he has at least one other man in there, thought Hephaistion – and the company walked it.

In front of him, the bald man announced, “Commander Hephaistion, son of Amyntor the Macedonian and Kleandros, son of Hippolytos.”

Inside the tent, everything was cool and clean. The ground was covered with carpets and a brazier released a fragrant smoke into the air. Hephaistion saw three servants, one who had pulled back the tent flap, and two that held cups and stood on either side of Mazaeus, who was seated in the center of the tent

The general was impressive, Hephaistion acknowledged. Even seated, he could tell that he was tall. His black hair was streaked with grey, but his beard was full, long, and curled. His clothes were finer than any Hephaistion had ever seen, even on Alexander himself. But what drew the gaze were the man’s eyes. His eyes were narrow, heavy-lidded, and surrounded by crow’s feet, but they sparkled. Somehow, they seemed to strip away all pretenses, all façade, and see down to the very germ of one’s being.[xxi] Hephaistion felt his confidence melt away under Mazaeus’s gaze. Half-consciously, he reached for the seal at his wrist.  At the touch, Alexander’s face blazed in his mind’s eye. He breathed. He could do this.

Mazaeus smiled and spoke in Persian. The bald man, clearly his aide, translated into heavily accented Greek.

“Welcome Commander, and welcome to your men as well. Thank you for agreeing to meet with me.”

Hephaistion inclined his head in respect. “Thank you for your hospitality, General,” he answered, in well-ordered Persian. “I, too, have longed to see you face to face.”

Every person in the tent looked at him. The bald man actually gaped, and Hephaistion did not need to see Kleandros's face to know the shock that was written there. Mazaeus, however, smiled and stood.

“It is a pleasure,” he said, “to hear a foreigner speak my language so beautifully.”

“It is a pleasurable language to speak,” responded Hephaistion.

Mazaeus came forward and, removing his hands from his sleeves, embraced Hephaistion. They exchanged kisses. When they broke apart, Mazaeus gestured to an empty chair seated next to his own. “Please, Commander, join me.”

“Thank you, General.”

When Hephaistion and Mazaeus were seated, the servants were called over. “I must apologize for the poverty of my accommodations,” said Mazaeus, “but still, you must take something to drink. I am afraid I have little to offer you for refreshment. Will you take water? Juice? Or perhaps a draught of spiced wine?”

Typical Persian false humility, thought Hephaistion. Three of his tents would fit into Mazaeus’s, never mind the soft carpets or spiced wine.

“A little wine would be wonderful,” he said, “if it is not too much trouble.”

“And your man?” asked Mazaeus.

Kleandros was standing guard by the entrance. Hephaistion waved him over and began to speak, but the Persian general beat him to it.

“I have just offered your commander refreshment,” explained Mazaeus in Greek. “Would you care for some wine?"

Now it was Hephaistion’s turn to be shocked, but he schooled his face well and, hopefully, allowed no surprise to show.

Kleandros agreed to wine, and a servant brought out three cups for the company.

“You speak Greek well,” commented Hephaistion, when the first round of toasts had passed.

“It is necessary when one commands Greek mercenaries,” said Mazaeus. “But I must admit that I first took up the language for the pleasure of reading poetry.”

Hephaistion smiled, “I am glad that it brings you enjoyment.”

“I am surprised at your mastery of the Persian tongue,” complimented Mazaeus. “I find that most Greeks do not care to learn other languages.”

“Even those mercenaries?” asked Hephaistion.

Mazaeus laughed. “Especially the mercenaries. They travel like they are their own city, and treat orders as if they were suggestions. They are loyal only to their leaders and their paymasters.”

Hephaistion swirled his cup in his hand, watching the pips rise to the surface, and then sink. “They could be loyal to something greater,” he said.

“What could be greater than wealth for a mercenary?” asked Mazaeus

“A mercenary is ultimately a soldier. And what soldiers want more than money, wealth, or even victory, is glory.” Hephaistion looked squarely at Mazaeus. “They will obey the man who pays them in money, but they will love the man who lets them win glory.”

Mazaeus stroked his beard thoughtfully. “Perhaps this is true. You may have the right of it, Commander.” He took a sip of wine. “You still have not answered my question,” he reminded Hephaistion. “How did you come to learn Persian so well?”

“It is no secret,” explained Hephaistion. “I studied under Aristotle with Alexander. After discovering that I was quick with languages, he had me study with the Persian diplomats and informants that came to Pella. And,” he added, “I have had a lot of practice recently.”

 

 

VII. Mieza, 341 B.C.

 

The hills of Mieza offered plenty for young men and old. The Macedonian youth who studied there learned forest craft and hunting skills in the glades and thickets, and the older trainers and tutors reveled peacefully in the sun-dappled spaces where they instructed their charges. Music and poetry were as common as light and water, and everywhere men spoke intellectually, philosophically.[xxii]

It was in every way a paradise.[xxiii] And at the center of it all was the Daskalos, Aristotle. He did not stick to a regimen of memorization or rhetorical exercises, but instead spent time every day asking questions and answering them.

One day Alexander and Hephaistion and several others of the royal pages were following the tracks of a fox by a small creek and they came upon the Daskalos, seated under the shade of an oak tree. Abandoning their hunt, they sat in a circle around him.

Aristotle peered at each of them in silence before asking, “How many of you know some words in Persian?”

The boys looked at each other. This was not the typical question asked of them. Eventually, two boys raised their hands, Alexander and Hephaistion.

Aristotle gesture for them to stand. “Speak,” he ordered.

Alexander went first, as usual. “Aspa is their word for horse. Daevas means the gods, but their main god is Ahura Mazda, which means light and wisdom.”

“Very good,” complimented Aristotle. “And Hephaistion?”

“A common greeting is dorood and the parting is bedrood,” began Hephaistion. “The place where you are from is called bumi, a man is a martya, a brother is a bratar, and above all, they prize arta and asha, truth and righteousness. Ahura Mazda is not their only god, he has a son named Mithras, and an enemy named Ahriman.[xxiv] The Persians also worship Aphrodite, but they call her Anahita.[xxv] The Great King is called the Shahanshah.”[xxvi]

“I am impressed,” said Aristotle. “We must find you a Persian tutor, so you can master the language.”

Hephaistion grinned and added, “I also know a word of Median.”

“Yes?” asked Aristotle.

Spaka!”[xxvii]

All the young men laughed, Alexander hardest of all.

Aristotle was not amused.

Eventually, however, he took Hephaistion aside and spoke to him privately. “I was serious when I said that you must learn Persian,” he told the youth. “The King has made no secret of his desire to bring war to the barbarians, to enact vengeance, and it is more than likely that fate will bring you to Persia. Alexander will need a friend who can speak the Persian tongue.”

“Why can’t we simply hire local men to translate?” asked Hephaistion.

Aristotle frowned. “You must be certain that you are not being lied to.”

“But the Persians treasure arta, truth. Surely they will not lie.”

Aristotle placed his hand on Hephaistion’s shoulder. “That is precisely why you must learn Persian. When you speak to them, you must be very careful to listen to every word they say. They will not lie, you have seen that, but this makes them the most skilled deceivers among all the races. They have learned how to speak so that men deceive themselves.”[xxviii]

 

VIII. Thapsakos on the Euphrates, East Bank, 331 B.C.

 

Hephaistion took another drink of his wine. He murmured appreciatively, “This is excellent wine. Mendean, I believe?”

“Is it?” asked Mazaeus.

“I believe it is,” he said. What are you playing at, he thought, serving Greek wine to Greeks? As if you would not know what wine you serve and where it was from. Out loud, he postulated, “Perhaps one of the mercenary regiments brought it with their stores.”

The bald man scoffed, “This is the army of the Great King. The soldiers here don’t need to bring their own wine.”

Mazaeus coughed. He looked at his aide.

Here we go, thought Hephaistion. “Well, I am not surprised. The fields of Mesopotamia are famous for feeding its cities and armies.”

Mazaeus put down his cup, “While it is true that armies do not starve in Mesopotamia, even in the northern plains of Assyria, how does a Greek know this?”

Assyria? Hephaistion knew that Mazaeus would not give up the position of Darius’s army within the first five minutes of a conversation. What was going on?

“Greeks have served as mercenaries here,” Hephaistion explained, “and when they come home, they tell stories about the land, the people, the kings.”

“Any interesting ones in particular?” asked Mazaeus. He leant back in his chair, but his gaze was forward, sharp with some sort of interest or malice.

The whole tent was looking at him. Hephaistion allowed himself to brush Alexander’s seal as he spoke. “For example, the 10,000 Greek mercenaries who marched inland with Cyrus the Younger –“

“The usurper,” corrected Mazaeus.

“Yes, the usurper.” Hephaistion continued, “when they reached Greece, one of them, a man named Xenophon, wrote an account of the battle at Cunaxa, the death of the usurper, and the forced march back to the sea.”

“I believe that I have read this account,” Mazaeus commented. “The cavalry of Artaxerxes II was victorious that day.”

So were the 10,000 hoplites, thought Hephaistion. And the Persian Applebearers.[xxix]

“The scythed chariots were particularly ferocious,” Mazaeus continued. “But they do need level ground to be effective.”

What? Hephaistion was puzzled. The scythed chariots had failed miserably at Cunaxa, the 10,000 had defeated them through simple maneuvering. He glanced over at Kleandros, who was silently shaking his head in confusion.

Outwardly, he agreed. “If I am not mistaken, the battle field was close to where we are now. The usurper crossed the Euphrates right here, at Thapsakos, and then marched towards Babylon.”

Mazaeus nodded, “Babylon is close, yes, and so is Cunaxa.” He sighed. “So close, and yet so far.”

Hephaistion filed that remark away. So close and yet so far? Did that mean that Mazaeus would not go to Babylon when he rejoined Darius’s army?

Mazaeus took another sip of his wine.  Tell me commander,” he ordered,  “is it unusual for an officer to enter an enemy’s tent and share his food and drink, unmolested?”

Hephaistion smiled at his host and answered. “It is not common, this is true, but it is not unheard of. The king of Troy, Priam himself, once entered the tent of the Achaean hero Achilles, the killer of his son, and was not harmed.”

Mazaeus’s nodded. “If I am not mistaken, Commander, Priam went to kiss the fingers of the man who killed his son, in order to regain his body for burial.”

“So you have read Homer,” Hephaistion said, “I’m impressed.”

“The poem may be in Greek,” said Mazaeus, “but the story is as important to my people as it is to yours.”

“Very true.”

“I have heard,” Mazaeus said, “that Alexander has a copy of the Iliad that he takes with him everywhere. Is that true?”[xxx]

 

 

IX. Troia, 331 B.C.

 

The night after they visited the tombs of the heroes, Hephaistion told Alexander to meet him away from the camp, by the river. Hephaistion went out and walked by the Scamander.  The river was slow there, but broad. Hephaistion could imagine the great Achilles, striding through the riverbank, changing its course with the strength of his wrath.

He looked up at the sky. When he turned back to the river, Alexander stood beside him.

“By Zeus,” he swore, shocked.

Alexander smiled, “That’s how I’ll take Darius and his Applebearers.”

“Creeping around in the night?” asked Hephaistion.

“Of course not,” said Alexander. “But they will be as surprised as you. They think I am the bastard son of an upstart king. They do not know who I am.” His voice filled with cold iron.

Hephaistion broke the silence, “I have a gift for you.” Hephaistion held out a gilded box; it gleamed in the starlight.

Alexander took it carefully. He undid the clasp and opened the lid.  Within lay a series of scrolls, newly made, neatly rolled. Alexander undid the tie of the first and opened it. The light from the camp and the stars let them both make out the words.

“Daskalos and I ordered them for you when you were crowned, complete with his notations, but they took a long time to complete. And then I could not find the time to give them to you. Until today.”

Alexander gaped at the box.

Hephaistion leaned over and kissed him gently, “For my Achilles.”

Alexander spoke, his voice cracked with emotion, “I left my copy back in Pella. I knew I should not take frivolities on the campaign, but I have missed it so much.”

He tied the scroll, and placed it back in the box. As he shut the lid, he looked up at Hephaistion and asked, “Where is my Homer? Where is the man who will sing my name everlasting?”

Hephaistion smiled, “You will outstrip Achilles, my king. One man alone will not be able to sing your name everlasting. The entire world will.”

Alexander gripped Hephaistion’s hands in his. “Come with me to bed, my Patroklos.”

Hephaistion’s eyes widened. They did this rarely now. Between the preparations for war, and the campaign, there was no time and place anymore. Further, they were both grown men, supposedly beyond boyish pleasures.[xxxi]

Alexander ducked his head, “Do you no longer find me beautiful, Hephaistion?” His voice was rough, full of pain. He sounded like he did when they were young.

Hephaistion felt his heart break in that moment. “You are more beautiful to me than anything,” he assured. “You are my love, my prince, all I want is to stand in your presence. I will always find you beautiful,” he promised. “And I will always, always want to go to bed with you.”

Alexander reached out and clutched Hephaistion’s shoulder. “I do not treat you well enough, my friend. Everything is just happening so fast and I need to be faster.”

It was too much. Hephaistion needed to stop Alexander from talking. He pushed Alexander’s hand aside and pulled him into his arms. Without asking for permission, he simply crushed Alexander’s mouth with his. Alexander tipped his head back, wordlessly allowing himself to be explored, devoured, kissed. They pressed closer and closer together until there was no space between their bodies, nothing except the Iliad.

 

 

X. Thapsakos on the Euphrates, East Bank 331 B.C.

 

“Yes,” answered Hephaistion. “He has a copy annotated by Aristotle, that he keeps with him always.”

Hephaistion glanced around Mazaeus’s tent. Out of the corner of his eye, he caught sight of a flat board. Abandoning protocol, he stood up and walked over to it. The board was made out of wood, but it was inlaid with ebony and ivory. Groups of black and white tiles were piled on either side.

“You play narde-shir?” Mazaeus asked.

Hephaistion turned to him and smiled, “I play what we Greeks call tilia, the game of tiles. The board is the same as this, but we have many variants.”[xxxii]

“So do we,” said Mazaeus. “Sometimes one may trap, sometimes one may send in cast out blocks, or tiles, but in the end, the goal is the same. Do you wish to play?” he asked.

“My men seem to play it constantly,” Hephaistion noted, “but I can’t seem to find the time.”

“You have time now!” Mazaeus clapped his hands and the cupbearers brought the board and a small table between the two chairs and set up the game, with tiles and dice.

“As my guest, please pick your side,” offered Mazaeus.

Hephaistion immediately picked up the black tile. The bald man hissed. Mazaeus raised his eyebrows.

“Have I offended?” asked Hephaistion.

“It is customary among our people to always play white if offered the first choice,” explained Mazaeus. “The black invites bad luck, it is the color of the enemy.”

“I apologize, general,” said Hephaistion, “but I am used to playing with King Alexander, who will only play white, so I am resigned to playing black.”

“The Great King Darius is the same way,” noted Mazaeus. “He will not play black, even if he is the challenger. A King’s prerogative, I guess.”

Hephaistion laughed, “He’ll have to play black if he ever wishes to play Alexander.”

Mazaeus chuckled. “What shall we wager?” he asked.

“I had not thought of that.” Hephaistion frowned, “I brought no money with me.”

“How about questions?” offered Mazaeus.

Hephaistion raised his brow. “I’m not gambling with military secrets.”

“No military secrets,” Mazaeus promised. “Just simple questions.”

Hephaistion agreed.

The two men turned to the game. Hephaistion won the first dice roll and began to speed his tiles down the board.

“Ah,” exclaimed Mazaeus. “Like many young men, you favor a fast game.”

They played quickly, until all of a sudden, the general cackled, ‘Commander, you prefer to race. I prefer to trap.” And he moved his tiles.

Hephaistion watched as his two front running tiles were knocked from the board. He shook his head. “I shall have to be more careful in the future,” he said.

The game was over quickly after that. Hephaistion had not built up his homeboard and soon Mazaeus had born off all of his tiles.

“I lose,” admitted Hephaistion. “Ask your question.”

Mazaeus stroked his beard for a few moments. Finally he asked, “What was Alexander like as a child?”

Hephaistion shrugged. “I do not know.”

“What?”

“I did not meet him until we were both 14,” he confessed. “I know what most people know, that he was energetic, commanding, ambitious – he was a prince.”

He began to reset the game, “Shall we play again?”

“Do not think to cheat me out of my prize through slippery Greek logic,” warned Mazaeus. “Tell me about the nature of Alexander.”[xxxiii]

Hephaistion sighed and put down the tiles. “Alexander is passionate. He loves action and despises stillness. He rises earlier than any of his officers and joins his men in formation drills. He can run faster and longer than any man I have ever known. And there is no one who can beat him on a horse.”

“That is a good thing in a commander,” said Mazaeus. “But what about his mind?”

“His mind is sharp. He knows many poems and speeches by heart, and he can recite them too, as well as sing. He thinks very quickly, and always takes charge, whether it is in a game, or on the battlefield, or even during a philosophical discussion,” explained Hephaistion.

“So he is impatient, then?” asked Mazaeus.

“He has a king’s impatience,” answered Hephaistion. “He does not care if his dinner is late or if someone has overslept.[xxxiv] But when it comes to his rule, he knows that he must act quickly. He is very disciplined, and he guards against excess.”

“Does he hate?” asked Mazaeus.

Hephaistion was confused. “Of course, he doesn’t like certain people, but I don’t know if he hates them. Why?”

Mazaeus frowned. “When Alexander first began to wage war, we heard reports that Alexander was most cruel to the Greek mercenaries who fight against him. Sometimes I think that my mercenaries fear Alexander more than the Persian soldiers do.”

“It has nothing to do with hate. They have betrayed their blood, as Greeks, “ explained Hephaistion. “They must pay.”

“And does he hate Persians?” asked Mazaeus.

“No,” answered Hephaistion confidently. “He hates that under the Persian rulers, Greeks have been forced to live without autonomy, as if they were slaves. But he does not hate the Persians. Aristotle did,” he continued, “but Alexander never could. He has great respect for your people.”

Mazaeus looked as if he did not believe the young commander.

Hephaistion offered an example, “He has treated the family of Darius very well, these past two years. After he won at the Issos, many assumed that he would hold them for ransom or harm them, but he did not want to hurt the women. He visits them often, and brings them gifts.He does not allow anyone to harm them, and he has given them freedom over their own lives. He makes sure that their needs are met and when the wife of Darius died, he had her buried with honor. ”

Mazaeus smiled at this. “It is good to know that,” he said. “Shall we play again?”

Hephaistion offered Mazaeus the dice.

This time the game was longer. Hephaistion switched his approach to a defensive game, building an anchor in Mazaeus’s home board. Mazaeus also built an anchor, and the two men continued in a stand-off until Mazaeus rolled large doubles and broke the game into a race. Hephaistion once again could not keep up, and lost.

“Luck was not mine,” he said sorrowfully.

Mazaeus smiled, “You are learning. You have built walls, but like Cyrus the Great at Babylon, I have brought them down. I claim the luck and the victory.”

“Very well,” said Hephaistion. “Ask your question.” Babylon had no walls, this everyone knew. He wondered why Mazaeus had mentioned Babylon again.

“How did Alexander win at the Pinarus?” asked Mazaeus.[xxxv]

“The same way he learned to hunt and kill a boar,” answered Hephaistion. “With timing and placement.”

Mazaeus asked him to explain.

Hephaistion shrugged. “Darius thought he was taking the better ground, but Alexander placed his troops better. He had Parmenio hold the coastline while he used the hills to scatter Darius’s cavalry. And when it was time, he brought the horsemen down together and routed the foot soldiers. Like a boar trapped in a forest, your Great King’s army was trapped between the sea, the river, and Alexander.”

As Hephaistion spoke, Mazaeus folded his arms in his sleeves and looked down, lost in thought. The tent was quiet. Hephaistion knew that Mazaeus had been at Issos that day, and had seen his king abandon his soldiers and run.

“Alexander likes to hunt?” asked Mazaeus, changing the subject.

“We all do,” said Hephaistion. “Once, Alexander and I abandoned out classes with Aristotle to ride out after boar. We killed a huge male together, two boys holding one large spear, and instead of punishing us, our teachers praised us in lyric verse.”[xxxvi]

“Have you ever hunted lions?” asked Mazaeus.

Hephaistion shook his head.

Mazaeus began to reset the board. “You should, someday.”

And with that pronouncement, the third match began. It would be the last match, Hephaistion knew, and it would be the last chance to find out what Mazaeus wanted, or perhaps what Darius wanted.  It was time to show Mazaeus what he was willing to do.

The game slowed. Mazaeus played carefully, but skillfully.  Hephaistion guarded his movements. Instead of focusing on early points or hits, Hephaistion decided to play his favorite strategy – the back game. Slowly but surely, he built up anchors in Mazaeus’s homeboard, and primed his own.

Mazaeus looked at the board, and then at Hephaistion. This was a more subtle game than he had played twice before. Without missing a beat, Hephaistion squandered his prime and let his anchors melt away, destroying the advantage that he had created, letting Mazaeus win for the third and final time.

When Mazaeus bore his final tile off, he laughed.

“Please don’t laugh at my lack of skill,” said Hephaistion. “Even I can see that I appear to have lost.”

“You do,” said Mazaeus. “You appear to have lost, even though your skill is not what is lacking.”

Hephaistion shrugged, “My luck, then, is lacking. Ask your question.”

“Do you love him?” asked Mazaeus.

“Of course,” answered Hephaistion, almost without thought.

 

 

XI. Issos, 333 B.C.

 

Hephaistion traced the curve of Alexander’s leg. The firelight played over the muscles as the king flexed his thighs. Hephaistion palmed Alexander’s ass, spreading him, steadying him on his cock.

Alexander’s breath was ragged. Hephaistion could hardly stop himself from thrusting up. He wanted to wait until Alexander was comfortable, but the tight, hot clenching around his cock was driving him insane.

Alexander put one calloused hand on Hephaistion’s chest. Slowly, he raised himself up, and, even more slowly, he brought himself back down. Again he did it, and again, faster and faster until he was riding Hephaistion like a jockey on a horse.

Every time Alexander fucked himself on his cock, Hephaistion whimpered. His fingers flexed as he gripped the globes of Alexander’s ass, and his hips stuttered upwards.

Their eyes never left each other.

When they had finished, Alexander took Hephaistion in his arms.

“Tomorrow -,” began Hephaistion.

Alexander cut him off. “Tomorrow I face Darius.” He sighed. “I know.” He tightened his arms around Hephaistion, holding his close.

They lay there in silence until morning, neither sleeping, simply matching each other, breath to breath.[xxxvii]

 

 

XII. Thapsakos on the Euphrates, East Bank, 331 B.C.

 

“He is my king,” he amended.

Mazaeus nodded. “And who does Alexander love?”

Hephaistion paused for a moment. “As Alexander,” he began, “as the man Alexander, he loves his friends. He loves his teachers. He loves his parents.” His voice grew louder until it filled the tent, “But as a King, Alexander has one love, and that is for his people. Greeks, Illyrians, Cilicians, Egyptians, and, yes, even Persians, once they are his people, even if they were once his enemy, the King will love them.”

Mazaeus sat in silence. The day was wearing on and the light outside the tent had lowered into late afternoon glow. Seconds went by, minutes, even, but Hephaistion felt suspended in the moment.

Finally, the silence was broken. “I will treat you,” announced Mazaeus, “as Alexander treats his foes.”

“And how is that?” asked Hephaistion.

Mazaeus called over a servant, who went to the back of the tent and returned quickly with a box. The servant knelt and opened it to Mazaeus. Picking through the vessel, the general soon found what he was looking for.

He held out his palm to Hephaistion, who took what was in it.

It was a small cylinder of white quartzite. On it, were several raised shapes and lines.

“I give you a gift,” explained Mazaeus. “It is a seal, an old one. It has been in my family for years. Some of the wise men of my house believe that it comes from a time when words were not written on paper, but clay.”

Hephaistion rotated the seal, peering, trying to decipher the image. “Is it a man?”

“A hero,” Mazaeus said. “He defeats a lion in each hand, and the ancient sun god blesses him.”[xxxviii]

Hephaistion looked at the general, “This belongs to your family. I cannot accept this.”

Mazaeus waved off the protest, “It is actually useless. Nothing more than a pretty trinket, but you or your king may find it interesting.”

“Then thank you for being a generous victor,” said Hephaistion and he rose and bowed deeply.

Mazaeus rose and bowed in return. “I am afraid that I must ask you to leave,” he said, and he did sound sorry. “The evening is coming on and I need to offer prayers, and make preparations for our camp’s departure.”

“You are leaving?” asked Hephaistion, surprised at Mazaeus’s lack of discretion.

“My scouts tell me that your Alexander rides towards us even now,” Mazaeus answered. “I have orders not to engage him, but simply to delay the crossing. And that is over now, and now I must ride to join my king.”

He and Hephaistion embraced. Bowing once more, Hephaistion made his good-byes, imitated by Kleandros, and they left the tent.

 

 

XIII. Thapsakos on the Euphrates, 331 B.C.

 

It was afternoon, and the Euphrates shone in front of him. Pausanias escorted them back to the bank, where Seleukos still stood guard over the small boat.

Hephaistion thanked the mercenary. Pausanias raised his hand in parting.

The men who guarded the bridges greeted them as they returned, and Hephaistion called out to each of them. When they landed on the west bank, Hephaistion summoned the quartermaster and ordered him to give the men an extra ration of wine that night.

He then summoned the lead engineer and told him that the Persians were leaving tomorrow, so they could finish the bridge the day after that. He told him to make sure that the rafts were ready.

Back in his own tent, he turned to Kleandros and Seleukos. “Thank you for coming with me today. You were both perfect.”

“Did you get what you wanted?” asked Kleandros.

“Maybe,” said Hephaistion. “I know for certain that Darius is in Assyria, along the Tigris river, and I know that there will be food and water there for our soldiers.”

“Is that all?” said Seleukos.

Hephaistion shrugged, “Babylon is undefended, rebellious, and its shrines are in ruin, but we knew that already.”

“Really, Babylon is undefended?” asked Seleukos. “Then why is Mazaeus’s family there?”

Hephaistion and Kleandros looked at the hypaspist.

“What?” asked Seleukos.

“His family is in Babylon? How do you know?”

Seleukos shrugged. “I was talking to one of the Greek soldiers – nice man, terrible at dice – and he told me that they had marched up from Babylon where Mazaeus’s wife and sons were.”

“Why would a general put his family in an undefended city? Especially an unstable one?” mused Kleandros.

Hephaistion began to pace. “No general would do that,” he began. “They should be in Susa or Persepolis, not a city without walls . . .” He trailed off into silence.

Only one thing could have convinced Mazaeus to place his family there, Darius.

Hephaistion took out the seal and looked at it.

“Kleandros,” he asked. “Do you remember what the general got wrong about the battle of Cunaxa?”

“He said that the scythed chariots and cavalry were crucial to the victory of Artaxerxes,” the aide answered.

“Don’t you see?” said Hephaistion excitedly, “He didn’t get it wrong! He was trying to tell us that Darius is going to mount a massive cavalry attack somewhere in the north, a place where he has room to maneuver scythed chariots. He’s putting everything on this one battle.”

Kleandros and Seleukos stared at him.

“Look,” he continued, “Darius has forced Mazaeus to leave his family in Babylon. If the Great King loses, everyone knows that Babylon will rebel and may even join Alexander. This is how Darius has ensured that Mazaeus will fight to the death for him. Because if Mazaeus doesn’t, his family will be captured or slaughtered.”

Hephaistion held out the seal. “For the Persians,” he explained. “The king is the incarnation of Ahura Mazda. He is victorious in battle, but generous and merciful to his subjects. He is the hero who holds back the hungry lion, lights the evil darkness, and destroys the enemy chaos.”

“Darius has already lost twice to Alexander,” said Kleandros. “His own family has been made captive.”

“And now,” continued Hephaistion, “Darius uses Mazaeus’s family against him.”

The men stared at each other in silence.

Finally, Hephaistion ordered them out. “Go,” he said. “And say nothing to anyone about this, not a friend, not a lover, not a shield mate.”

They left.

 

 

XIV. Thapsakos on the Euphrates, East Bank, 331 B.C.

 

Two days later, Hephaistion stood on the east bank of the Euphrates, watching the sun set over the river. Two long columns of men and horses were crossing the river over his bridges. At the head of one of them, rode a familiar figure.

Hephaistion raised his hand in greeting.

The figure raised his back and hurried to cross the bridge. When he had, he spurred his horse up the bank, vaulted from the saddle, and approached his friend.

The two men embraced. When they broke apart, Alexander smiled at his commander. “Hephaistion, you have given me the Euphrates.”

Hephaistion grinned, “No, my lord.” He reached out to the conqueror and held out his hand. In his palm, the quartzite seal glittered in the last rays of the sunset. “I have given you Persia.”

 

 

XV. The End

 

The rest of the story is well known.

Alexander did not take the southern route to Babylon through the fields of Cunaxa. Instead he went north, through the plains of Assyria. He forded the Tigris in September, when the river was at its lowest. Under the shadow of the Kurdish mountains, Alexander’s army marched forth until they reached the plain of Gaugamela. There, they found the plain flattened and smooth. Darius had this done in order to position his army, bolstered after the defeat at Issus with the a new cavalry force, including Bactrians, Sogdinians, and the Saca, the finest horsemen of the ancient world.[xxxix]

The battle of Gaugamela was one of the fiercest and most famous battles of military history.[xl] From the beginning, Alexander drew out the Persian cavalry, forcing them to weaken their ranks. Using his knowledge of Persian cavalry tactics, Alexander skillfully avoided the feared scythed chariots. Alexander, leading his Companion Cavalry and his personal bodyguard of friends, led by Hephaistion, formed a wedge and broke the Persian line, cutting the generals off from the King, sending them all into a flight.

Mazaeus was in command of one of the Persian flanks, and though he fought valiantly for his king, when Darius and Bessus had both fled, he did not fight to the death. He removed himself and his men to Babylon, where his wife and sons lived. Three weeks after the battle of Gaugamela, it was Mazaeus who opened the gates of Babylon, the first of the Persian capitals to fall to Alexander. The king did not punish the Persian forces, or any of their allies. Instead, Alexander made Mazaeus governor of Babylon, and allowed his men to live.[xli] One by one, the Persian cities gave themselves over to Alexander with little protest.

The ancient writers have written about Alexander’s journey. How Alexander caught up with the fleeing Darius, only to find him slain by Bessus, his general and cousin. How Alexander had Bessus punished, and avenged the murder of the Great King. How Alexander pushed further and further into the edges of the known world, burning the old capital of Pasargadae, crossing the Hindu Kush, climbing the Sogdinian rock, sailing down the Indus river, returning to Persia through the desert, through starvation, through mutiny, through madness.[xlii]

The world knows how he found new peoples and slew old friends. They know that he tried to unite the Persian and the Greek nobility into one force, marrying Stateira, the daughter of Darius, and giving Persian wives to his officers. To Hephaistion, he gave Drypetis, the sister of Stateira, so that their children would share the same blood.[xliii]

When Mazaeus died, Alexander commissioned a beautiful marble sarcophagus of Pentelic marble. On one side was carved the Battle of Gaugamela, on the other, a lion hunt.[xliv] When Hephaistion died at Ecbatana, Alexander fell on his body and mourned him for four days. He raised a funeral pyre unlike any ever seen before, and had Hephaistion worshipped as a hero.[xlv] Eight months later, Alexander died at Susa. Devolved into true megalomania, he left no grown heir and appointed no successor.

The world knows that Alexander’s empire fractured after his death. Greece, Anatolia, Persia, they broke apart in the Wars of the Successors. Alexander’s funeral march home to Aigai, where he would have been buried with his father and his father’s fathers, was hijacked by Ptolemy and brought to Alexandria. His tomb has never been found.

 

But somewhere, perhaps . . .

 

A man stands by a river. There is no sky, no wind, no light. The river flows swift and dark and deep. 

Out of the gloom comes a raft. It is large and slow. The man poling it hides his face.

On the bank, the man watches the river. He stands as close as possible, but he cannot let it touch even the corner of his cloak. He does not know how long he watches. There is no time, and no measure. Even his breath is gone.

He watches the river, and he does not let his gaze wander.

Suddenly, something changes. A shorter man stands next to him. The man has red-gold hair and blue eyes.

This is the first color the man has seen in a long time. It makes him happy.

“I have something for you,” he announces.

The red-haired man reaches out his hand. The taller man reaches out at the same time. In the palm of his hand, something glitters. When their fingers touch, the glittering gleams and glows and grows.

It lights the darkness.

Alexander smiles. “I told you it was a true dream, beloved.”

Hephaistion looks down at their joined hands. “Where do we go now, my love?”

“Wherever we want.”

 


[i] I have blatantly lifted the opening from Plato’s Protagoras.

[ii] He also used to make sure that no one was giving Alexander any cookies. What a dick. Plutarch Alexander 22.

[iii] The song is called Εταιρε. It is a famous song and dance from Pontos, an area along the southern shores of the Black Sea that had been settled by Greeks since the 8th century B.C. The name Εταιρε means lover, or it could mean companion, and Alexander’s Companions were known in Greek as οι Εταιροι. Here is a link to the song and dance: http://youtu.be/dLH8tOR_SDs

[iv] The Cynical Philosopher Diogenes of Sinope was said to have claimed that Alexander was ruled by Hephaistion’s thighs.

[v] Wait for 338 B.C.!

[vi] Light warships, such as the type favored by the Illyrians. For more information on ships in the 4th century B.C., see John Morrison’s 1996 work Greek and Roman Oared Warships and all the works of Lionel Casson.

[vii] Bridges made of boats lashed together, known as pontoon bridges, were what Alexander’s armies used to cross rivers too deep to ford, from the Nile to the Indus. Although the commander in charge of the pontoon bridge over the Euphrates is never specified, later on, Arrian singles out Hephaistion as the general in charge of the pontoon bridge built over the Indus River. Arrian Anabasis IV.23.

[viii] Original character alert!

[ix] One of Alexander’s most trusted generals.

[x] That Alexander and Hephaistion laid wreaths on the graves of Achilles and Patroklos come to us from Plutarch. Plutarch Alexander 15. A later philosopher, Aelian, comments on this, and draws an explicit connection between the heroic companions of the Iliad and the Conqueror and his friend. Aelian Varia Historia 12.7

[xi] As described in Xenophon’s Anabasis, known in English as ‘The March Upcountry’ or ‘The March of the 10,000’. It told the story of 10,000 Greek mercenaries caught in Persian after their leader, Cyrus the Younger, lost his life and his claim to the Persian throne, at the battle of Cunaxa. The Greek soldiers had to elect new leaders, evade capture by the Persians, navigate an unknown landscape, and try to reach home.  This source that was invaluable for Alexander’s invasion of Persia. He apparently even referenced in when he spoke to his armies before the Battle of Issus. Arrian Anabasis II. 7.

[xii] After the conquest of Egypt, Darius sent Alexander a peace treaty and a series of concessions. He ceded all lands west of the Euphrates to Alexander, and offered 10,000 talents for prisoner ransom, AND the hand of his daughter in marriage. Alexander rejected it. Arrian contains a supposed copy of Alexander’s letter to Darius. It’s pretty amazing. The last section goes something like this: And in the future, let any communication you wish to make with me be addressed to the Lord of all Asia. Do not write to me as an equal. Everything you possess is now mine; so, if you should want anything, let me know in the proper terms, or I shall take steps to deal with you as a criminal. If, on the other hand, you wish to dispute your throne, stand and fight for it, and do not run away. Wherever you hide yourself, I will hunt you down. Arrian Anabasis  II. 14.

[xiii] Hypaspists were elite infantry soldiers who used a shield and a javelin. After the Battle of Gaugamela, Alexander’s hypaspists took the name ‘The Silvershields.’

[xiv] This is, of course, Seleukos I, a Macedonian nobleman who rises up from the ranks and becomes one of Alexander’s main military leaders. After the death of Alexander, during the Wars of the Successors (Διαδοχοι), he became the satrap of Babylon, conquered Persia and Media and established the Seleucid Empire in Central Asia. I have no idea if he was at the bridging of the Euphrates, but I like him and want to include him.

[xv] Alexander’s mother Olympias, was always very proud of his heritage as a lady of Epirus. She traced her line back to Achilles, and she probably is the root of Alexander’s obsession with the epic hero. Plutarch Alexander 2.

[xvi] Apparently, Alexander smelled amazingly sweet. Plutarch Alexander 4.

[xvii] At Philip’s wedding to a pure-blooded Macedonian girl named Cleopatra, some of the bride’s relatives raised a toast to the arrival of a legitimate heir. Alexander took offense and started a drunken brawl. Philip actually tried to attack his son, but he was so drunk that he tripped. Alexander mocked him, saying “Here is the man who wishes to cross from Europe to Asia, but he cannot even cross from couch to couch.” Plutarch Alexander 9.

[xviii] By the time he was 16 he had ruled as his father’s regent, led men into battle, and founded a city in his own name.

[xix] Demaratus of Corinth, a pro-Macedonian politician, ended up shaming Philip into recalling his son. Alexander rewarded Demaratus handsomely; he made him part of his Companions, Demaratus fought at the battle of the Granikos, and accompanied Alexander on his triumphal march into Susa. Plutarch Alexander 9, 37.

[xx] http://www.mkg-hamburg.de/mkg.php/en/sammlungen/antike/~P7/

[xxi] A little bit like Mandy Patinkin.

[xxii] Among the Macedonian court, it was common practice to invite the young noble boys to court and train them as Royal Pages. For Alexander, however, Philip decided to set up a proper school at Mieza, modern Naoussa, a region known for its fruit and pastoral landscape. Alexander studied there along with the flower of Macedonian nobility, many of whom ended up as Alexander’s Companion Cavalry and generals in the Conquest of Persia. To teach them, Philip hired the philosopher Aristotle, a student of Plato’s Academy, who had previously founded his own school, the Lykeion. His fee? Philip rebuilt Stagira, Aristotle’s hometown in Chalcidice that had been destroyed when Philip conquered the area. Aristotle trained Alexander in philosophy, political science, and statecraft, as well as biology, history, geography, poetry, and rhetoric. Plutarch Alexander 7-8.

[xxiii] Paradise is, of course, a word that exists in both Greek παράδεισος and Old Persian pairi.daêza-.

[xxiv] The Achaemenids definitely worshipped these gods, references to them appear in Persian art and literature, including the Behistun inscription. The influence of the teachings of the philosopher and religious figure Zoroaster on the Achaemenid kings, however, is not well understood.

[xxv] Not really, but that is how a Greek would have seen it.

[xxvi] Literally, the King of Kings.

[xxvii] ‘Bitch.’ Hephaistion, and all his friends, learned that one from Herodotus’s Histories, 1.110.1

[xxviii] Oh Aristotle and your cultural essentialism.

[xxix] The Applebearers was the Greek name for the Persian Immortals, the elite core of the Persian army. Apparently, the butts of their spears were shaped like apples. Arrian Anabasis III. 11.

[xxx] Yes. Plutarch Alexander 8, 26.

[xxxi] This is not the place to go into the variety of opinions on Greek homosexuality and the various social structures that the practice was linked to. What must be remembered, however, is that Alexander and Hephaistion do not fall into the typical pattern seen in elite Athenian society of an older lover and a younger beloved. Because they were educated by Aristotle, it is highly likely that they were exposed to the ideas behind this practice, and they made had appropriated some of the language, but the Achilles/Patroklos relationship is a far more appropriate template for two young male warriors with a deep emotional attachment. This type of relationship could have survived beyond adolescence and would have been bolstered through the shared military experience.

[xxxii] The game has survived to the modern day as backgammon. There are several table top games that existed in the ancient world (Egypt-enthusiasts will think of zn.t n.t ḥˁb, Romanophiles will think of tabulae). But it does seem that the game we know as backgammon originated in ancient Mesopotamia and was played all over Central Asia and the Mediterranean. Narde-shir is the medieval Persian name for the game, meaning Block-lion. Tilia is the ancient Greek word for a board game found in gambling establishments.

[xxxiii] The Nature of Alexander is a semi-historical book by Mary Renault. It’s pretty entertaining, and a welcome respite from male homophobic historians who hide behind Arrian’s dryness in order to never have to discuss the possibility that Alexander had sex with men. Just don’t use it in a school paper.

[xxxiv] According to the historians, Alexander overslept only once in his life: the morning of the battle of Gaugamela. Plutarch Alexander 32.

[xxxv] The battle of Issos took place near the Pinarus river. For an account of the battle, see Plutarch Alexander 19-21 and Arrian Anabasis II. 7-12. There, Alexander’s armies faced the Persian armies led by Darius. Darius fled when defeated, leaving behind his family, who were then captured by Alexander. An incredible mosaic discovered at Pompeii is thought to depict the battle. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Mosaic

[xxxvi] Hunting was an important part of Macedonian elite culture and the transition to manhood. There are several mosaics at Pella that depict hunts of various kinds:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Pella_Lion_Hunt_Mosaic.jpg

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Deer_hunt_mosaic_from_Pella.jpg

[xxxvii]  One of my favorite indications that Alexander and Hephaistion continued the physical aspect of their relationship into adulthood is Lucian’s bizarre treatise on Slips of the Tongue in Greeting (Pro Lapsu inter salutandum or Ὑπὲρ τοῦ ἐν τῇ Προσαγορεύσει Πταίσματος), where he describes an encounter before the battle of Issos that proves that Hephaistion spent the night in Alexander’s tent. (Luc. Laps. 8)

[xxxviii] For depictions of cylinder seals used by Persians see Mark B. Garrison and Margaret Cool Root’s monograph Seals on the Persepolis Fortification Tablets published in 2001 by the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute as part of the Persepolis Seal Project.

[xxxix] Arrian and Plutarch both describe the battle of Gaugamela, see note xli. Among modern historians, there are a variety of opinions about the battle. Peter Green, 1991, pp. 289-296, Robin Lane Fox, 1973, pp. 233-243, N.G.L Hammond, 1997, pp. 103-11, and A. B. Bosworth, 1988, pp. 74-85, all have differing opinions on the true nature of the battle. Some think Alexander was lucky to win, others portray it as a total domination. One of the most controversial elements is the role of Mazaeus on the Persian right flank, and if he capitulated too early or put up a dangerously effective fight.

[xl] Plutarch Alexander 31-33; Arrian Anabasis III. 10-16.

[xli] Arrian Anabasis III. 16.

[xlii] Say it with me folks, Plutarch and Arrian!

[xliii] Plutarch Alexander 70, Arrian Anabasis VII.4-5.

[xliv] The Alexander Sarcophagus, currently in the Istanbul Museum in Turkey. It’s occupant is up for debate, Mazaeus is one of the more popular theories at the moment, but the depiction of Alexander and several of his companions (perhaps including Hephaistion)  fighting in battle and hunting in the paradise gardens of Persia with Persian noblemen gives up one of the more contemporary portraits of Alexander, albeit in a classicizing style. It is magnificent.

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Alexander_sarcophagus_in_the_Istanbul_Archaeological_Museums

[xlv] Arrian Anabasis VII.14-15, Plutarch Alexander 72.