Wednesday, August 30, 2023

M/M: The Funeral of Hephaestion: Aelian, Var. Hist. 7.8

De luctu Alexandri, quem ex Hephaestionis morte cepit.

Quum Hephaestion diem suum obiisset, Alexander iniectis in pyram armis, auro & argento, simul ea cum mortuo igni tradidit, itemque vestem magni precii apud Persas. Rasit etiam ones bellicosos et fortes atque seipsum, rem faciens Homericam, imitans Achillem Homericum. Sed hic illo violentius & vehementius fecit, quum circumradens everteret muros Ecbatanorum arcis: Usque ad suos igitur capillos, videtur mihi plane Graeco ingenio fecisse:at quum muros dirueret, tum vero barbarico more luxit & stolam quoque permutavit, dolori, amori & lacrymis omnia permittens.

Hephaestio mortuus est ad Ecbatana. Fama autem emenavit, haec (quae diximus) facta, fuisse in gratiam quidem Hephaestionis mortui, sed Alexandrum vita defunctum iis usum esse. non enim a luctu ob iuvenem suscepto prius destitisse Alexandrum, quam ipsum quoque mors abstulerit.

ὅτε Ἡφαιστίων ἀπέθανεν, Ἀλέξανδρος ὅπλα αὐτῷ ἐς τὴν πυρὰν ἐνέβαλε, καὶ χρυσὸν καὶ ἄργυρον τῷ νεκρῷ συνέτηξε καὶ ἐσθῆτα τὴν μέγα τιμίαν ἐν Πέρσαις. ἀπέκειρε δὲ καὶ τοὺς πλοκαμοὺς τοὺς ἑαυτοῦ, Ὁμηρικὸν πάθος δρῶν καὶ μιμούμενος τὸν Ἀχιλλέα τὸν ἐκείνου. βιαιότερον δὲ καὶ θερμότερον ἐκείνου ἔδρασεν οὗτος, τὴν τῶν Ἐκβατάνων ἀκρόπολιν περικείρας. μέχρι μὲν οὖν τῆς κόμης τῆς ἑαυτοῦ Ἑλληνικὰ ἐδόκει μοι δρᾶν: ἐπιχειρήσας δὲ τοῖς τείχεσιν, ἀλλ᾽ ἐνταῦθα ἐπένθει βαρβαρικῶς Ἀλέξανδρος ἤδη, καὶ τὰ κατὰ τὴν στολὴν ἤμειψε, θυμῷ καὶ ἔρωτι ἐπιτρέπων πάντα καὶ δακρύοις. ὅτι Ἡφαιστίων ἐς Ἐκβάτανα ἀπέθανε. διαρρεῖ δὲ λόγος Ἡφαιστίωνι μὲν ταῦτα εὐτρεπισθῆναι νεκρῷ, Ἀλέξανδρον δὲ αὐτοῖς ἀποθανόντα χρήσασθαι: μὴ γὰρ φθάσαι τὸ ἐπὶ τῷ μειρακίῳ τελεσθὲν πένθος, ἐπιλαβεῖν δὲ τὸν τοῦ Ἀλέξάνδρου θάνατον.

--Aelian, Hist. Var. 7.8; Translated into Latin by Justus Vulteius (1731)

When Hephaestion died, Alexander threw his own armor upon the pyre, as well as gold and silver and rich Persian garb. He ordered his warriors to shave their heads, just like Achilles did in the works of Homer. But he acted more out-of-control and rash, and tore down the walls of the citadel of Ecbatana*. In my opinion, the head-shaving was a Greek way of mourning, but the utter destruction of the city walls was barbaric, as well as his change of mourning garb, and allowing himself to succumb to tears, his love, and his over-the-top behavior.

Hephestion died in Ecbatana. The story goes that the preparations Alexander made for Hephestion ended up being used for his own death, for Alexander died before the mourning period was over.


* In the Iliad, Achilles dragged Hector’s corpse around the city of Troy as a form of psychological warfare










Saturday, August 26, 2023

Telesilla's Prophecy: Herodotus, Histories 6.77

Herodotus records the following prophecy in his account of the story of Telesilla's defense of Argos:

θήλεια τὸν ἄρσενα νικήσασα

ἐξελάσῃ καὶ κῦδος ἐν Ἀργείοισιν ἄρηται,

πολλὰς Ἀργείων ἀμφιδρυφέας τότε θήσει.

ὧς ποτέ τις ἐρέει καὶ ἐπεσσομένων ἀνθρώπων

δεινὸς ὄφις τριέλικτος ἀπώλετο δουρὶ δαμασθείς.


Verum, quando marem praevertet foemina victrix,

inter et Argivos referet praelustris honorem;

tunc Argivarum reddet plerasque gementes,

ut venturorum aiat quis quandoque virorum:

telo saevus obiit nuoso corpore servens.

--Herodotus Histories 6.77Translated into Latin by Johannes Schweighaeuser (1814)


When a woman conquers a man,

And drives him off,

She will raise up glory among the Argives,

She will bring tears upon the cheeks of many Argive women.

One day, someone in the future will say

“The triple-coiled dragon, now tamed by the spear, is dead.”




Name: Herodotus  

Date:  484 – 425 BCE

Works:  Histories



Region 1: Peninsular Italy; Region 2: Western Europe; Region 3: Western Coast of Africa; Region 4: Egypt and Eastern Mediterranean; Region 5: Greece and the Balkans



 Herodotus was an Anatolian-born Greek author who lived during the 5th century BCE. He was born into nobility, and used his privilege to travel the Mediterranean extensively. His magnum opus, Histories, details wars between the Greeks and the Persian Empire, as well as important cultural information for these and Egyptian culture. He is often called the “Father of Greek History,” since his work is the earliest attempt within Greek literature to collect research and primary accounts of historical events.


ARCHAIC: (through 6th c. BCE); GOLDEN AGE: (5th - 4th c. BCE); HELLENISTIC: (4th c. BCE - 1st c. BCE); ROMAN: (1st c. BCE - 4th c. CE); POST CONSTANTINOPLE: (4th c. CE - 8th c. CE); BYZANTINE: (post 8th c CE)



Sunday, August 20, 2023

Were They Or Weren't They? Patrochilles and 5th century Athens

Gender and sexuality are constructs defined by the society that created them, and there are considerable differences between what ancient Greeks (and later, Romans) believed was queer identity in comparison to our modern ones. It is important to be careful when assigning a modern label or orientation to a person from an ancient culture, and in many cases, it can be dangerous to do so, as it can warp our understanding of the person in question. For example, whereas it is universally known that Sappho transcended heteronormative identity and behavior patterns, people often argue whether Sappho was a lesbian or bisexual, when the reality is that she was simultaneously neither and both, and would not have easily fit into any modern term.

This conflict of identification also existed in ancient times. One of the most obvious examples of this is “Patrochilles,” the relationship between Trojan War veterans Achilles and Patroclus. In Athens during the 5th century BCE, the prevalent model of same sex relationships was one with an imbalance of power, not of equality. Because they did not understand that Homeric culture would have different concept of the spectrum of gender and sexuality, many Athenians were baffled by the Achilles / Patroclus relationship. This couple did not easily fit into the Athenian model; Patroclus was older of the two, but politically inferior, while Achilles was top-tier socially, but younger than Patroclus. An entire section of Plato’s Symposium was dedicated to the discussion on which of the two was the dominant lover (180a).  Plato’s contemporary, the orator Aeschines, however, argued the opposite. Since the couple did not fit the contemporary model, their relationship must not be romantic, but merely a friendship (In Timarchum 1.142:[Homerus] cum multis locis Patrocli & Achillis meminerit: amorem & Cognomentum amicitiae illorum dissimulat cum insignem illam benevolentiam eruditis auditoribus esse conspicuam existimet, translated into Latin by Jerome Oporinus, 1553). It is clear from this and other contemporary treatments of the Achilles / Patroclus relationship that ancient Athenians struggled with understanding how interpersonal relationships were influenced by the culture they exist in.

One of the ways that LGBT Meets SPQR tries to counteract this difficulty is by using overlapping labels. The blog readily acknowledges that one ancient person or myth might simultaneously fit into multiple conflicting modern identities. Modern labels are provided in the tag section to help sort material into topics of interest, but it is important to remember that ancient people would use their own spectrum and not ours.

Friday, August 18, 2023

Sore Loser: Pindar loses against Corinna, Aelian, H.V. 13.25

Content Warning: misogyny 

De Pindaro in certamine superato a Corinna.

quum* in imperitos incidisset auditores, superatus est a Corinna quinquies. Redarguens vero ruditatem ipsorum Pindarus, suem vocavit Corinnam. 

Πίνδαρος ὁ ποιητὴς ἀγωνιζόμενος ἐν Θήβαις ἀμαθέσι περιπεσὼν ἀκροαταῖς ἡττήθη Κορίννης πεντάκις. ἐλέγχων δὲ τὴν ἀμουσίαν αὐτῶν ὁ Πίνδαρος σῦν ἐκάλει τὴν Κόρινναν.

--Aelian, Hist. Var. 13.25; Translated into Latin by Justus Vulteius (1731)

Regarding Pindar’s Defeat by Corinna

When the poet Pindar competed in Thebes, he was defeated by Corinna five times because the audience was ignorant and unlearned. Pindar called them out for their stupidity, and called Corinna a pig.


 * Early publishers of Latin texts differentiated the preposition cum ("with") with the conjunction cum ("when / since / although") by spelling the conjunction quum



Thursday, August 10, 2023

M/M: Alexander the Great at the Tomb of Achilles, Aelian Var. Hist. 12.7

 De Alexandro & Hephaestione

Alexander Achillis sepulchrum coronavit & Hephaestion Patrocli, significans, ita etiam se amari ab Alexandro, ut Patroclus fuerat ab Achille.

ὅτι Ἀλέξανδρος τὸν Ἀχιλλέως τάφον ἐστεφάνωσε καὶ Ἡφαιστίων τὸν τοῦ Πατρόκλου, αἰνιττόμενος ὅτι καὶ αὐτὸς ἦν ἐρώμενος τοῦ Ἀλεξάνδρου, ὥσπερ Ἀχιλλέως ὁ Πάτροκλος.


--Aelian, Varia Historia, translated into Latin by Justus Vulteius (1731) 12.7


Alexander placed a crown upon the tomb of Achilles, and Hephaestion did the same for Patroclus’ tomb. This show that Hephaestion was the lover of Achilles, just like Patroclus was the lover of Achilles.

Friday, August 4, 2023

Women Saving their City: Polyaenus, Strat. 8.33


Cleomenes Spartiatarum rex, interfectis in prelio Argivis viris ad septem millia septingentos, septuaginta septem, inter Argos direxit, ut per vim urbem caperet. Telesilla musica Argivas armatas ad pugnam eduxit: quae armatae in propugnaculis stantes, circumcirca muros tuentes, Cleomenem repulerunt. Demaratum vero alterum regem etiam expulerunt, urbemque a periculo vindicarunt. Et hoc mulierum stratagema usque in hodiernum diem Argivi celebrant numenia cuiusque mensis, mulieres virilibus tunicis & Chlamydibus, viros autem peplis muliebribus amicientes.

 --Polyaenus, Strategematon 8.33, Translated into Latin by Justus Vulteio (1691)


After killing 7,777 Argive men in battle, the Spartan King Cleomenes headed for the city of Argos to take it by force. The musician Telesilla led the Argive women in battle; these women stood armed at the ramparts, overlooking the walls around the city, and they fended off Cleomenes. They also fended off the other Spartan King Demaratus’ attack, and saved their city from danger. Even today, the Argives still celebrate the women’s strategy; during this holiday, women wear men’s tunics and men wear women’s dresses.