The Love Life of Alexander the Ambiguous: Eleanor Herman talks Alexander the Great and EMPIRE OF DUST


empire of dust eleanor hermanRumors have circulated throughout history about Alexander the Great’s love life. Was he bisexual? Asexual? 100% hetero? In Empire of Dust, the second book of the Blood of Gods and Royals series — releasing on June 28 from HarlequinTEEN — I had an opportunity to address the myths behind the boy who conquered most of the known world by the age of twenty. So what did he do — and who did he kiss — in his spare time?

Let’s discuss the girls first:

  • Kallixena: This ravishing young courtesan was brought to Alexander by unexpected wingmen—his parents! Concerned that he showed no interest in women, they thought this was the right approach to getting grandchildren. (To this day, we have no idea if they got their money’s worth out of Kallixena.)
  • King Darius’ Harem: 365 ladies, one Alexander the Great. Sounds like the perfect reality TV show, right? But history is divided on whether Alexander had his way with the captured women of the Persian king’s court, with some sources depicting him with all the women parading in front of him, deciding which one to pick and others saying he never touched them.
  • The Wives: Roxana, Stateira, and Parysatis. Most of Alexander’s love affairs are rumors and gossip written down long after he died, but everyone agrees he did marry these three girls. In 327 BC, he fell in love at first sight with Roxana of Bactria, known as the most beautiful woman of all Asia (lucky girl) and she bore him a son named Alexander. In 324 BC he married two Persian princesses—cousins Stateira and Parysatis–on the same day.

In our modern era, we have most recently been obsessed with labels for sexuality–straight, gay, bi, and everything in between. Not so for the ancient Greeks: back then, all sexual orientations and gender presentations existed in harmony with one another. So if Alexander wasn’t that into girls, what about the men in his life?

  • The Gorgeous Boy: When one of his top officers, Philoxenus, offered to send him the most beautiful boy in the world, Alexander reportedly replied, “You are the most hideous and malign of all men. Have you ever seen me involved in such dirty sexual work that you found the urge to flatter me with such hedonistic business?”
  • Hephaestion: A lot of people think Alexander and his best friend since childhood were romantically involved. Whatever the case sexually, Alexander was so close to Hephaestion he considered him to be his other self. When a captured queen went up to the two young men waiting to receive her and bowed down before Hephaestion, everyone burst out laughing, causing the queen to turn bright red. But Alexander reassured her, “You were not mistaken…this man, too, is Alexander.”
  • The Eunuch: When Alexander captured King Darius’s palace, he kept all the servants, including a gorgeous young eunuch named Bagoas, who had been the king’s lover. When Bagoas won a dance contest, Alexander hugged and kissed him—unseemly behavior for a king at a public event—which could have been either evidence of a relationship or just a drunken congratulatory gesture.

Ambiguous Alexander refuses to accept any modern label we try to give him. I hope you’ll pick up Empire of Dust and see how Alexander’s sexuality exists on a spectrum, and that while he certainly fit the stereotype of the conquering warrior, there were other aspects of his identity that could never be defined.

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About Author

Eleanor Herman

Eleanor Herman is the New York Times bestselling author of several highly-acclaimed works of nonfiction, including Sex with Kings—a history of royal mistresses—as well as Sex with the Queen, Mistress of the Vatican, and King Peggy. Called “enlightening” by The New York Times Book Review, with prose that “sparkles” according to The Boston Globe, Eleanor’s historical nonfiction has received worldwide critical praise and was described by The Washington Post as “a lot more fun than Danielle Steel or Dan Brown.” Eleanor is also a frequent commentator in the media about royal scandals, and has hosted episodes for The History Channel’s show, Lost Worlds. Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Eleanor graduated with a degree in journalism from Towson University, studied languages in Europe, and for thirteen years worked for NATO’S Nations & Partners for Peace magazine. Fascinated since childhood by the ancient world, she has visited most of the well-known sacred sites, palaces, and arenas still in existence, from Homer's Troy to the great temples of the oracles. She lives in McLean, Virginia with her husband and four very dignified cats. Legacy of Kings is her first novel, and marks the beginning of the Blood of Gods and Royals series.

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