Hephaestion (Greek: Ἡφαιστίων, alternative spelling: "Hephaistion"; c. 356 BC – 324 BC), son of Amyntor, was a Macedonian nobleman and a general in the army of Alexander the Great. He was "... by far the dearest of all the king's friends; he had been brought up with Alexander and shared all his secrets. This friendship lasted their whole lives, and was compared, by others as well as themselves, to that of Achilles and Patroclus.
His military career was distinguished. A member of Alexander the Great’s personal bodyguard, he went on to command the Companion cavalry, and was entrusted with many other tasks through Alexander's ten-year campaign in Asia, including diplomatic missions, the bridging of major rivers, sieges, and the foundation of new settlements. Besides being a soldier, engineer and diplomat, he corresponded with the philosophers Aristotle and Xenocrates, and actively supported Alexander in his attempts to integrate Greeks and Persians. Alexander formally made him his second-in-command when he appointed him Chiliarch of the empire, and made him part of the royal family when he gave him as his bride Drypetis, sister to his own second wife, Stateira, both daughters of Darius III of Persia. When he died suddenly at Ecbatana, Alexander was overwhelmed with grief. He petitioned the oracle at Siwa to grant Hephaestion divine status, and Hephaestion was honoured as a Divine Hero. At the time of his own death eight months later, Alexander was still planning lasting monuments to Hephaestion's memory.
Hephaestion’s exact age is not known. No concise biography has ever been written about him, likely stemming from the fact that he died before Alexander and none of the surviving of Alexander's Companions would have had a need to promote someone other than themselves. Many scholars cite Hephaestion’s age as being similar to Alexander’s so it is fair to assume that he was born about 356 BC. He is said to have become a page in 343 BC, a role common to adolescent boys of the aristocratic class in Macedon. Now a member of court life, it is possible that the two future conquerors would have met around this time.
The only surviving anecdote from Hephaestion’s youth comes courtesy of the Alexander Romance. According to this tale, “… one day when Alexander was 15 years old [...] sailing with Hephaestion, his friend, he easily reached Pisa [...] and he went off to stroll with Hephaestion.” That Alexander’s exact age is given provides another clue to Hephaestion’s upbringing because at fifteen Alexander and his companions were at Mieza studying under Aristotle. Hephaestion has never been named among those who attended the lectures at Mieza, but his close friendship with Alexander at that age suggests strongly that he was numbered among them. More telling is Hephaestion’s name being found in a catalogue of Aristotle’s correspondences. The letters themselves no longer exist, but for them to have found their way into an official catalogue, their content must have been of some significance. It implies that Hephaestion received a good education, and shows that Aristotle was impressed enough by his pupil to send letters throughout Alexander's expanding empire to converse with him.
A few years after the lectures at Mieza, Hephaestion’s presence is notably absent when several of Alexander’s close friends were exiled as a result of the Pixodarus affair. Among those exiled by Philip II after Alexander’s failed attempt to offer himself as groom to the Carian princess were Ptolemy, Nearchus, Harpalus, Erigyius, and Laomedon. The reason for Hephaestion’s absence from this list could be due to the fact that all of the exiled men were older friends of Alexander, Erigyius himself roughly 24 years older than the prince. Hephaestion was a contemporary of Alexander and it is likely that his influence might not have been seen as being as much of a threat as these more mature companions. Whatever Hephaestion’s opinion had been on the whole affair, like many of Alexander’s other childhood companions he was not exiled in its aftermath.
While it is true that very little of Hephaestion’s childhood and education can be found, what has remained gives credence to what is known about his later life. His friendship with Alexander was long-lasting, as was his tenure in the court at Pella; he even shared the same education as the future Great King of Greece and Asia. With such a promising start, age and experience would have helped mould Hephaestion Amyntoros into the man who would one day be the second most powerful man in Alexander’s empire; second only to the king himself.
Sharing Alexander's upbringing, Hephaestion would have learned to fight and to ride well from an early age. His first taste of military action was probably the campaign against the Thracians while Alexander was regent, followed by Philip II's Danube campaign (342 BC), and the battle of Chaeronea (338 BC) while he was still in his teens. His name is not mentioned in lists of high-ranking officers during the early battles of Alexander's Danube campaign (335 BC), or the invasion of Persia, and nor are the names of Alexander's other close friends and contemporaries, suggesting that their promotions, when they achieved them, were earned by merit.
Hephaestion's career was never solely a military one. Right from the start, he was also engaged in special missions, sometimes diplomatic, sometimes technical. The first mention of his career in the sources is a diplomatic mission of some importance. After the battle of Issus (333 BC), when Alexander was proceeding south down the Phoenician coast and had received the capitulation of Sidon, Hephaestion was "... authorised to appoint to the throne the Sidonian he considered most deserving of that high office. Hephaestion took local advice, and chose a man distantly related to the royal family, but whose honesty had reduced him to working as a gardener. The man, Abdalonymus, had a successful royal career, fully justifying Hephaestion's choice.
After the siege of Tyre (332 BC), Alexander entrusted his fleet to Hephaestion, who had orders to skirt the coast and head for Gaza, their next objective, while Alexander himself led the army overland. Hephaestion's task was not an easy one, for this was not the Athenian fleet with which Alexander had started, and had earlier disbanded, but a motley collection of semi-reluctant allies of many nationalities, who would need holding together with patience and strength. Furthermore, on arrival at Gaza, the cargo of siege engines had to be unloaded, transported across difficult terrain, and reassembled.
Plutarch, while writing about Alexander's correspondence, reveals an occasion when Hephaestion was away on business, and Alexander wrote to him. The subject matter suggests that this took place while they were in Egypt. What business Hephaestion was attending to we do not know, but Andrew Chugg has suggested that it was concerned either with his command of the fleet or Athenian diplomacy. He quotes sources which suggest that Hephaestion had been approached by Aristion of Athens to effect a reconciliation between Alexander and Demosthenes, and certainly, Athens' inaction during the revolt of the Spartan king, Agis, would seem to support the idea. As Chugg says, "If he did persuade Alexander to reach an accommodation with Demosthenes at this critical juncture, as would seem likely from the circumstances, then he was significantly responsible for saving the situation for Macedon in Greece by preventing the revolt of Agis spreading to Athens and her allies.
It is likely, though not certain, that it was Hephaestion who led the advance army from Egypt to bridge the Euphrates river. Darius of Persia sent Mazaeus to hold the opposite bank while the bridging work was in progress. This Mazaeus was the commander who threw away what looked like certain victory on the Persian right at the battle of Gaugamela (331 BC), and later became Alexander's governor of Babylon. Robin Lane Fox has an interesting suggestion that conversation with Hephaestion may have won Mazaeus over: "It is conceivable that the battle of Gaugamela was partly won on the banks of the Euphrates and that Mazaeus' reinstatement was less a sign of magnanimity than of a prearranged reward.
It is at Gaugamela that mention is first made of Hephaestion's rank. He is called the "... commander of the bodyguards (somatophylakes). This is not the Royal Squadron, whose duties also included guarding the king in battle, and which was at that time commanded by Cleitus—a man of the older generation—but a small group of close companions specifically designated to fight alongside the king. Hephaestion was certainly in the thick of things with Alexander, for Arrian tells us he was wounded, and Curtius specifically mentions that it was a spear wound in the arm.
After Gaugamela, there is the first indication that Alexander intended reconciliation with the Persians, and that Hephaestion supported him in this unpopular policy. One evening in Babylon, Alexander noticed a high-born woman obliged to dance as part of the entertainment. Curtius explains: "The following day, he (Alexander) instructed Hephaestion to have all the prisoners brought to the royal quarters and there he verified the lineage of each of them. Alexander had realised that people from noble families were being treated with little dignity, and wanted to do something about it. That he chose Hephaestion to help him shows that he could rely on Hephaestion's tact and sympathy. Yet Alexander could also rely on Hephaestion for firmness and resolve. When his policies had led to a plot against his life, the possible involvement of a senior officer, Philotas, caused much concern. It was Hephaestion, along with Craterus and Coenus, who insisted on, and actually carried out, the customary torture.
After the execution of Philotas (330 BC), Hephaestion was appointed joint commander—with Cleitus—of the Companion cavalry, Philotas' former position. This dual appointment was a way of satisfying two divergent shades of opinion now hardening throughout the army, one, like Hephaestion, broadly supportive of Alexander's policy of integration, and the other, that of Philip's older veterans in particular, whose implacable resentment of Persian ways was well-represented by Cleitus. The cavalry prospered under this command, showing itself equal to learning new tactics, necessary against Scythian nomads, and to counter-insurgency measures such as those deployed in the spring of 328 BC. The army set out from Balkh in five columns, to spread through the valleys between the Oxus and Tanais rivers, to pacify Sogdiana. Hephaestion commanded one of the columns, and after arriving at Marakanda, he set out again to establish settlements in the region.
In spring 327 BC, the army headed into India, and Alexander divided his forces. He led his section north into the Swat Valley, while Hephaestion and Perdiccas took a sizeable contingent through the Khyber Pass. Hephaestion's orders were to "… take over either by force or agreement all places on their march, and on reaching the Indus to make suitable preparations for crossing. They were in unknown territory, whose political and geographical landscapes were unfamiliar, and Hephaestion would have had to make decisions on the spot, and act accordingly. He reached the Indus with the land behind him conquered, including the successful siege of Peuceolatis, which took thirty days, and proceeded to organise the construction of boats for the crossing.
Alexander often had to divide his forces, and command was given to a variety of senior officers on different occasions. For example, a few weeks before this mission of Hephaestion's, Craterus had been sent with a large force to subdue the last two remaining Bactrian rebels. It seems that Hephaestion was chosen when the objectives were far from clear-cut, and Alexander needed a commander on whom he could rely to do what he would have done himself, without needing instructions.
Hephaestion took part in a notable cavalry charge at the battle of the Hydaspes river (326 BC) and then, when the army began its homeward journey, was again entrusted with half the army, including the elite troops and two hundred elephants, as they travelled south-west along the banks of the Hydaspes. Some of the army, including Alexander himself, travelled in boats, which had been provided by the sponsorship of leading courtiers. Arrian lists Hephaestion first among these "honorary trierarchs", indicating his leading position at this time. On entering hostile territory, Alexander split his forces into three. Hephaestion's section marched "... five days in advance, with the object of intercepting and capturing any native troops which … might be rapidly moving forward". Again, Hephaestion was called upon when initiative was required. After Alexander had taken a detour to subdue a hostile tribe, in which he was seriously injured, Hephaestion took command of the greater part of the army as they travelled down the Indus to the sea. At the coast, he organised the construction of a fortress, and a harbour for the fleet at Pattala.
Hephaestion was in command at Pattala, while Alexander advanced. When he rejoined Alexander at Rhambacia, he established a city there also. Hephaestion crossed the Gedrosian desert with Alexander, sharing the torments of that journey, and when the army was safely back in Susa, he was decorated for bravery. He was to take part in no further fighting; he had only months to live. But, having ended his military career as Alexander's de facto second-in-command, he was also his second in the political sphere. Alexander had made that official by naming him Chiliarch. Photius mentions Perdiccas being appointed "… to command the chiliarchy which Hephaestion had originally held.
Little is known of Hephaestion's personal relationships, beyond his extraordinarily close friendship with Alexander. Alexander the Great was an outgoing, charismatic man, who had many friends, but his dearest and closest friend and confidant was Hephaestion. Theirs was a friendship which had been forged in boyhood. It endured through adolescence, through Alexander's becoming king, through the hardships of campaigning and the flatteries of court life, and their marriages.
Their tutor, Aristotle, described such a friendship as "... one soul abiding in two bodies". That they themselves considered their friendship to be of such a kind is shown by the stories of the morning after the battle of Issus. Diodorus, Arrian and Curtius all describe the scene, when Alexander and Hephaestion went together to visit the captured Persian royal family. Its senior member, the queen Sisygambis, knelt to Hephaestion to plead for their lives, mistaking him for Alexander, because he was the taller, and both young men were wearing similar clothes. When she realised her mistake, she was acutely embarrassed, but Alexander reassured her with the words, "You were not mistaken, Mother; this man too is Alexander. Their love for each other was no secret, as is borne out by their own words. Hephaestion, when replying to a letter to Alexander's mother, Olympias, said "… you know that Alexander means more to us than anything. Arrian says that Alexander, after Hephaestion's death, described him as "... the friend I valued as my own life. Paul Cartledge describes their closeness when he says: "Alexander seems actually to have referred to Hephaestion as his alter ego.
Their friendship was also a working partnership; in all that Alexander undertook, Hephaestion was at his side. They worked well together; it is possible to discern a pattern, when studying Hephaestion's career, of Alexander's constant trust in, and increasing reliance on Hephaestion. By the time of the advance into India, after the deaths of senior generals from the older generation, there had been worrying instances among senior officers of their own generation, of treachery, a lack of sympathy with Alexander's aims of further integration of Persians into the army, and of sheer incompetence. Time after time, when Alexander needed to divide his forces, he entrusted half to Hephaestion, knowing that in him he had a man of unquestionable loyalty, who understood and sympathised with his aims, and above all, who got the job done.
Hephaestion played a full part in Alexander's regular consultations with senior officers, but he was the one to whom Alexander would also talk in private, sharing his thoughts, hopes and plans. Curtius states that Hephaestion was the sharer of all his secrets, and Plutarch describes an occasion when Alexander had a controversial change to impose, and implies that Hephaestion was the one with whom Alexander had discussed it, and who arranged for the change to be implemented. According to the painting done by Aetion, of Alexander's first wedding, Hephaestion was his torch bearer (best man), showing by this not only his friendship, but also his support for Alexander's policies, as Alexander's choice of an Asian bride had not been a popular one. By the time they returned to Persia, Hephaestion was officially, by title, Alexander's second-in-command, as he had long been in practice, and also his brother-in-law. Hammond sums up their public relationship well: "It is not surprising that Alexander was as closely attached to Hephaestion as Achilles was to Patroclus, and "At the time of his death Hephaestion held the highest single command, that of the Companion Cavalry; and had been repeatedly second in command to Alexander in the hierarchy of the Asian court, holding the title of Chiliarch, which had been held by under Darius by Nabarzanes. Thus Alexander honoured Hephaestion both as the closest of his friends and the most distinguished of his Field Marshals.
It has been suggested that as well as being close friends, Alexander and Hephaestion were also lovers. None of the ancient sources states this in so many words. By the time the extant sources were written—some three hundred years later—homosexual affairs were looked upon with less favour than they had been in ancient Greece—Horace speaks of the Greek vice—and so had already begun the process which has continued intermittently ever since, the "airbrushing" of Hephaestion out of history. However, Arrian describes the occasion when Alexander and Hephaestion publicly identified themselves with Achilles and Patroclus, who were acknowledged, by Plato and Aeschylus among others, to have been lovers. It happened right at the beginning of the campaign in Asia, when Alexander led a contingent of the army to visit Troy, scene of the events in his beloved Iliad. He laid a wreath on the tomb of Achilles, and Hephaestion laid a wreath on the tomb of Patroclus, and they ran a race, naked, to honour their dead heroes. Arrian discreetly draws no conclusions from this. However, Robin Lane Fox, writing in 1973, says: "It was a remarkable tribute, uniquely paid, and it is also Hephaestion's first mention in Alexander's career. Already the two were intimate, Patroclus and Achilles even to those around them; the comparison would remain to the end of their days and is proof of their life as lovers, for by Alexander's time, Achilles and Patroclus were agreed to have enjoyed the relationship which Homer himself had never directly mentioned.
Hephaestion and Alexander grew up in a time and place where homosexual affairs were seen as perfectly normal, but the pattern that such affairs followed was not the same in every city-state. Roman and later writers, taking the Athenian pattern as their example, have tended to assume either that their sexual relationship belonged to their adolescence, after which they left it behind, or that one of them was older, the lover (erastes) and the other was the beloved (eromenos).
The former assumption has persisted to the present day, with writers of fiction, such as Mary Renault, and the film director Oliver Stone among its proponents, as well as modern historians such as Paul Cartledge, who says: "Rumour had it—and rumour was for once surely correct—that he [Hephaestion] and Alexander had once been more than just good friends. Aelian takes the latter view when he uses just such an expression when describing the visit to Troy: "Alexander laid a garland on Achilles' tomb and Hephaestion on Patroclus', indicating that he was Alexander's eromenos, as Patroclus was of Achilles.
However, what was the case in Athens was not necessarily the case in Macedon. As Robin Lane Fox says, "... descendants of the Dorians were considered and even expected to be openly homosexual, especially among their ruling class, and the Macedonian kings had long insisted on their pure Dorian ancestry. This was no fashionable affectation; this was something that belonged at the heart of what it was to be Dorian, and therefore Macedonian, and had more in common with the Theban Sacred Band than with Athens. In light of this, it is not surprising that there is evidence that their sexual relationship was indeed lifelong. Lucian, writing in his book On Slips of the Tongue describes an occasion when Hephaestion's conversation one morning implied that he had been in Alexander's tent all night, and Plutarch describes the intimacy between them when he tells how Hephaestion was in the habit of reading Alexander's letters with him, and of a time when he showed that the contents of a letter were to be kept secret by touching his ring to Hephaestion's lips. Diogenes of Sinope, in a letter written to Alexander when he was a grown man, accuses Alexander of being "... ruled by Hephaestion's thighs.
No other circumstance shows better the nature and length of their relationship than Alexander's overwhelming grief at Hephaestion's death. As Andrew Chugg says, "... it is surely incredible that Alexander's reaction to Hephaestion's death could indicate anything other than the closest relationship imaginable. The many and varied ways, both spontaneous and planned, by which Alexander poured out his grief are detailed below. In the context of the nature of their relationship however, one stands out as remarkable. Arrian says that Alexander "... flung himself on the body of his friend and lay there nearly all day long in tears, and refused to be parted from him until he was dragged away by force by his Companions.
Such an all-encompassing love often leaves little room for other affections. Hephaestion's lover was also his best friend, his king, and his commanding officer, so it is not surprising that we hear of no other close friendships or attachments in his life. There is no evidence, however, that he was anything but popular and well-liked among the group of Alexander's close friends and Companions who had grown up together, and worked well together for so many years. It is possible that he was closest to Perdiccas, because it was with Perdiccas that he went on the mission to take Peuceolatis and bridge the Indus, and by that time, as Alexander's effective second-in-command, he could doubtless have chosen any officer he cared to name. They accomplished everything they set out to do with great success, which indicates that the two of them worked well together, and that Hephaestion found the irrepressible Perdiccas a congenial companion. It is notable that their two cavalry regiments in particular were selected by Alexander for the dangerous crossing of the river Hydaspes, before the battle with the Indian king, Porus. On that occasion, superb teamwork would have been of paramount importance.
It would be wrong to imply that Hephaestion was universally liked or admired. Outside the close-knit coterie of the Macedonian high command, he had his enemies. This is clear from Arrian's comment about Alexander's grief: "All writers have agreed that it was great, but personal prejudice, for or against both Hephaestion and Alexander himself, has coloured the accounts of how he expressed it.
However, given the factions and jealousies that arise in any court, and that Hephaestion was supremely close to the greatest monarch the western world had yet seen, it is remarkable how little enmity he inspired. Arrian mentions a quarrel with Alexander's secretary, Eumenes, but because of a missing page in the text, the greater part of the detail is missing, leaving only the conclusion, that something persuaded Hephaestion, though against his will, to make up the quarrel. However, Plutarch, who wrote about Eumenes in his series of Parallel Lives, mentions that it was about lodgings, and a flute-player, so perhaps this was an instance of some deeper antagonism breaking out into a quarrel over a triviality. What that antagonism might have been, it is not possible to know, but someone with the closeness to the king of a secretary might well have felt some jealousy for Hephaestion's even greater closeness.
In only one instance is Hephaestion known to have quarrelled with a fellow-officer, and that was with Craterus. In this instance, it is easier to see that resentment might have been felt on both sides, for Craterus was one of those officers who vehemently disliked Alexander's policy of integrating Greek and Persian, whereas Hephaestion was very much in favour. Plutarch tells the story: "For this reason a feeling of hostility grew and festered between the two and they often came into open conflict. Once on the expedition to India they actually drew their swords and came to blows ...". Alexander, who also valued Craterus highly, as a most competent officer, was forced to intervene, and had stern words for both. It is a measure of how high feelings were running over this contentious issue, that such a thing should have happened, and also an indication of how closely Hephaestion identified Alexander's wishes with his own. Hephaestion gave perhaps the ultimate proof of this in the summer of 324 BC, when he accepted as his wife, Drypetis, daughter of Darius and sister to Alexander's own second wife, Stateira. Up till this time, Hephaestion's name had never been linked with any woman, or indeed any man other than Alexander. Of his short married life, nothing is known, except that at the time of Alexander's own death, eight months after Hephaestion's, Drypetis was still mourning the husband to whom she had been married for only four months.
For Alexander to marry a daughter of Darius made good political sense, allying himself firmly with the Persian ruling class, but for Hephaestion to marry her sister shows the high esteem in which Alexander held him, bringing him into the royal family itself. They became brothers-in-law, and yet there was more to it than that. Alexander, says Arrian "... wanted to be uncle to Hephaestion's children ...". Thus, it is possible to imagine Alexander and Hephaestion hoping that their respective offspring might unite their lines, and that ultimately, the crown of Macedon and Persia might be worn by one who was a descendant of them both.
Piecing the accounts together, it seems as if Hephaestion's fever had run its course for seven days, after which time he was sufficiently recovered for his doctor, and Alexander himself, to feel it was safe to leave him, and for Hephaestion to feel hungry. His meal, however, seems to have caused a relapse that led to his rapid death. Precisely why this should have happened is not known. As Mary Renault says, "This sudden crisis in a young, convalescent man is hard to account for. The explanation that fits most of the facts is that the fever was typhoid, and that solid food perforated the ulcerated intestine that the typhoid would have caused. This would have led to internal bleeding, though it would be unusual in that case for death to follow quite as swiftly as it seems to have done here. For that reason, it is not possible altogether to discount other possible explanations, one of them being poison.
Hephaestion's death is dealt with at greater length by the ancient sources than any of the events of his life, because of its profound effect upon Alexander. Plutarch says "... Alexander's grief was uncontrollable ..." and adds that he ordered many signs of mourning, notably that the manes and tails of all horses should be shorn, the demolition of the battlements of the neighbouring cities, and the banning of flutes and every other kind of music. Arrian relates an account that "... he flung himself on the body of his friend and lay there nearly all day long in tears, and refused to be parted from him until he was dragged away by force by his Companions ..., another that said "... he lay stretched upon the corpse all day and the whole night too ..., and another which told how he had the doctor, Glaucias, executed for his lack of care. Arrian also mentions Alexander ordering the shrine of Asclepios in Ecbatana to be razed to the ground, and that he cut his hair short in mourning, this last a poignant reminder of Achilles' last gift to Patroclus on his funeral pyre: "... he laid the lock of hair in the hands of his beloved companion, and the whole company was moved to tears.
Another hint that Alexander looked to Achilles to help him to express his grief may be found in the campaign which shortly followed these events, against a tribe called the Cossaeans. Plutarch says they were massacred as an offering to the spirit of Hephaestion, and it is quite possible to imagine that to Alexander, this might have followed in spirit Achilles' killing of "... twelve high-born youths ..." beside Patroclus' funeral pyre.
Arrian states that all his sources agree that "… for two whole days after Hephaestion's death Alexander tasted no food and paid no attention in any way to his bodily needs, but lay on his bed now crying lamentably, now in the silence of grief. Alexander ordered a period of mourning throughout the empire, and Arrian tells us that "Many of the Companions, out of respect for Alexander, dedicated themselves and their arms to the dead man ... The army, too, remembered him; Alexander did not appoint anyone to take Hephaestion's place as commander of the Companion cavalry; he "... wished Hephaestion's name to be preserved always in connexion with it, so Hephaestion's Regiment it continued to be called, and Hephaestion's image continued to be carried before it.
Alexander sent messengers to the oracle at Siwa, to ask if Amon would permit Hephaestion to be worshipped as a god. When the reply came, saying he might be worshipped not as a god, but as a divine hero, Alexander was pleased, and "... from that day forward saw that his friend was honoured with a hero's rites. He saw to it that shrines were erected to Hephaestion's memory, and evidence that the cult took hold can be found in a simple votary plaque now in Thessaloniki Archaeological Museum, inscribed, "To the Hero Hephaestion".
Hephaestion was given a magnificent funeral. Its cost is variously given in the sources as 10,000 talents or 12,000 talents. It is difficult to give a modern equivalent for such a huge amount, but we know that in Hephaestion’s time, the daily wage of a skilled worker was two or three drachmas. Today, in western Europe, 2008, that would be between £50 and £100, so the lowest possible value for 1 drachma in modern terms is £25. We know there were 6,000 drachmas in a talent, so even at the most conservative estimate, Hephaestion’s funeral would have cost £150,000,000. Alexander himself drove the funeral carriage part of the way back to Babylon, with some of the driving entrusted to Hephaestion's friend Perdiccas. At Babylon, funeral games were held in Hephaestion's honour. The contests ranged from literature to athletics, and 3,000 competitors took part, the festival eclipsing anything that had gone before, both in cost and in numbers taking part. Plutarch says that Alexander planned to spend ten thousand talents on the funeral and the tomb. He employed Stasicrates, "... as this artist was famous for his innovations, which combined an exceptional degree of magnificence, audacity and ostentation ...", to design the pyre for Hephaestion.
The pyre was sixty metres high, square in shape, and built in stepped levels. The first level was decorated with two hundred and forty ships with golden prows, each of these adorned with armed figures, and with red banners filling the spaces between. On the second level were torches, with snakes at the base, golden wreaths in the middle, and at the top, flames surmounted by eagles. The third level showed a hunting scene, and the fourth a battle of centaurs, all done in gold. On the fifth level, also in gold, were lions and bulls, and on the sixth, the arms of Macedon and Persia. The seventh and final level bore sculptures of sirens, hollowed out to conceal a choir who would sing a lament. It is possible that the pyre was not burnt, but that it was actually intended as a tomb or lasting memorial; if so, it is likely that it was never completed, as there are references to expensive, uncompleted projects at the time of Alexander's own death.
One final tribute remained, and it is compelling in its simplicity and in what it reveals about the high esteem in which Hephaestion was held by Alexander. On the day of the funeral, he gave orders that the sacred flame in the temple should be extinguished. Normally, this was only done on the death of the Great King himself.