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










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