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Alexander's Character

Was he a left-handed epileptic cat-hater? | Gay? Straight? Neither? | Alcoholic? | Was he even "Great?" | Alexander and religion | Psychology | Other | Anecdotes

Was he a left-handed epileptic cat-hater?

Internet Alexander Myths and Trivia. Wonderful debunking of all the Web myths (epilepsy, panic attacks, his "true love" Melissa, etc.) by Nick Wellman. Top 5%

Gay? Straight? Neither? Alexander's Sexuality by Jeanne Reames-Zimmerman, adapted from her dissertation. This is an excellent introduction to the topic, and Greek sexuality in general—topics that receive a lot of attention online, but that are almost universally understood through 21c. eyes. Top 5%

Hephaistion - Philalexandros. Jeanne Reames-Zimmerman's deep exploration of Alexander's companion (and probable lover) Hephaestion. Includes a good examination of " Was he really Alexander's Lover....? " Reames-Zimmerman is also known for the Beyond Renault . Top 5%

Blog discussion of Fox's "Riding with Alexander" by Chip Gibbons. Gibbons dislikes Fox's denial of a "one-way" homosexuality, and argues that any homosexual sex makes one a homosexual, at worst a "straight-acting" homosexual. I can see why bisexuals sometimes get ticked-off by homosexuals. Blech! These discussions are so impoverished.[1]'s Alexander. Includes "How do we know Alexander was gay?" section.

One gay, but closeted, high-school student's description of the humilities prompted by a classroom discussion of Alexander's homosexuality (Nov. 1997)

"Ambiguity and the image of the king" by R. T. Mack (History of Art, UC Berkeley). Detailed abstract of article in J Homosex 1984.

The Loves of Alexander III of Macedon from the "World History of Male Love." A recent update has moved this from historical fiction to something like history. The Renault-inspired fantasy has been removed, and source citations added. Note however that the "Letter of Diogenes" is a later schoolboy exercise, not a contemporary source.

Alexander is Gay. Ann Landers has spoken.

soc.religion.bahai: Help for Gay Baha'is with references to Alexander. Ah, the Internet! (see Religious Pages:Baha'i for discussion prompted by this message.)

Web Archive: Alexander comes in second in the "The Gay Top Ten" (behind Saint Paul, an extremely dubious gay).

Web Archive: Competent biography with Alexander-was-gay bent (Chris Barber, QX web magazine).

A very big list of famous gays compiled by excellent Paul Halsall, with—excellent—a discussion the methodology and limits of such list-making.

Famous Greek Homosexuals. Queer prosopography.

Web Archive: Sexual speculations on Alexander. Hephaistion had an odd body and author is "quite certain" Achilles would have liked a "threesome" with Alexander and Hephaistion. From World Famous Lovers, Whores and Other Strangers.

Iolaus: An anthology of Friendship by Edward Carpenter (1908), with passage from Aelian, VA on Alexander's reaction to Hephaestion's death.

Fan fiction Um. Um. (Gulp)


Amazon. Alexander the Great : The Invisible Enemy by John Maxwell O'Brien. Controversial book explores Alexander's psychology, particularly as relates to his drinking.

Review by Waldemar Heckel for the Bryn Mawr Classical Review:
"In short, my own objections to the book reflect a fundamental difference in approach. I found O'Brien's biography highly readable and, as a piece of literature, enjoyable. But those who claim that the truth about Alexander the man is irrecoverable will not change their minds after reading this book."

Word doc: "The Role of Alcohol in the Life of Alexander the Great" by Allison Weintraub (from Michael Arnush's course Alexander the Great). This is not a good paper, starting with an error[2] and substantially misrepresenting O'Brien's The Invisible Enemy.

Was he even "Great?"

"How 'Great' Was Alexander?" by Ian Worthington, The Ancient History Bulletin (1999). Thought-provoking article saved (let's hope with permission) from the smoking ruins that was the online AHB[3]. [Also here.] Worthington elevates the popular (and generally ignorant) "Alexander was a terrorist" argument to scholarly credibility.

"The aims of this paper are to trace some reasons for questioning the greatness of Alexander as is reflected in his epithet, and to add potential evidence dealing with the attitude of the Macedonians, Alexander's own people, in their king's absence."
Please note Frank Holt's reply is NOT online. So it may seem unfair to include Worthington's reply to the reply: "Alexander and 'the Interests of Historical Accuracy': A Reply" by Worthington, AHB 1999.

"MU Historian Questions Alexander's 'Greatness'" University of Missouri press release coinciding with Worthington's article questioning Alexander's greatness.

Alexander and religion Alexander at Siwah and "divinity" generally, by Nick Wellman. In it's conclusions this is a minimalist interpretation. I have other quibbles.[4]

Wikipedia: Proskynesis. Usual Wikipedia caveats apply.

Slideshow report on the Divinity of Alexander by undergrad Sara Free, from William Murray's 2004 Age of Alexander course. For "Did Alexander really believe himself to be a god?" I'm not satisfied by "I'm not satisfied by "Ultimately, we just don't know."

Web Archive: "The Oracle at Siwa: Cult and Ritual" by Eric D. Moore (Tulane term paper). History of the oracle. The final section deals with Alexander's visit.

"Alexander The Great: Who Did He Say He Was?" by Lynda Airriess. Student article. Poorly written.

Psychology Summary of Alexander's "pothos" by Irina Frasin.

"A psychoanalytic study of Alexander the Great" by K. R. Thomas (Wisconsin at Madison). Detailed abstract of article in Psychoanal. Rev. (1995). Alexander "analyzed from a Freudian psychoanalytic perspective." Pothos.


Web Archive: Source-critical problems. (By Greg Stipek and Shane Hankins). Was he a drunk? (The beer graphic's a nice touch) Was he a uniter? Was he ruthless?


The Man Who Gave Away 500 Tons of Gold in One Day "But he was always the idealist... and though he conquered and gleaned more war booty... with his new found gold he created jobs..."

"Four Stories of Prince Al" Jumbled but entertaining page from

Web Archive: Alexander The Great Encounters Celts. Attractive retelling.


  1. The choices are not (a) Alexander was heterosexual (b) Alexander was homosexual or—surprise— (c) Alexander was bisexual. Alexander was not a 21c. American. Alexander's culture conceived of the matter differently than we do today, and whatever underlying "realities" there are—and I am inclined to think there are some—culture is a powerful factor in sexual expression and even sexual identity. Antiquity was not, in fact, a sexual free-for-all. But the "rules" were different. According to the most popular theory of ancient sexuality, Alexander drew sniggers not for having a gay lover, but having one his age. The implication was that, with Hephaestion, he would both "give," which was manly, and "receive," which was not. Today, sexuality is defined not by "what you do" but by "who you do it to." (back)
  2. There is no evidence Alexander was a member of the cult of Dionysus (back)
  3. Rant: It was a dark day when this went offline. And why? It's not like it's cheaper for anyone involved. And is anyone reading it now? To be blunt, it wasn't exactly the most respected classics journal before, but it was certainly among the most read, even among scholars. (back)
  4. As often on Pothos, I admire the effort, but—forgive me for being direct—what use is a lengthy, controversial web article without academic back-up? I'm not being snobbish. Good work can be done without Greek and Latin. And, where the ancient sources are quoted directly, more scholarly sourcing isn't required (although it would be nice). The lack of Strabo/Callisthenes, or an attempt to get to the bottom of the source-critical issues is more troubling. Most of all, I object to the lack of interaction with the extensive academic literature. Wellman knows a lot and is to be praised for popularizing the subject. But on a contentious issue, we need more than his ipse dixit. (back)
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