Friday, May 22, 2009

I was the Seventh Lover of Alexander the Great.

I flew through the non-space of the techno-mind and brought up before my inner-gaze the Earth of ancient Greece, three hundred years before the so-called Common Era. I landed, feet firmly placed on hallowed ground where philosophy had grown and flowered with the perennial inquiry as to what the Universe was made of and what a human’s worth and purpose was on this wondrous planet. Was there a soul in each person’s breast, was it eternal, did it cause them to truly love, and how was it possible for the multifarious multitudes to live in harmony with each individual’s needs met? These are BIG questions but I was mainly concerned with the influence of sexuality on history, and so I sought out the man-god of my obsessions, someone I’d chase through all of time just to be his friend.

I stepped into history in the city of Memphis, Egypt, choosing as my avatar a perfect specimen of male beauty from the rough-and-tumble mountains of the north of Greece, Leonnatus, son of Onasus, with the blood of old Macedonian warrior-stock running like molten gold in my veins. I felt confident to shape-shift to the person who best fit my intentions, a boyhood friend of the future king, Alexander. Leonnatus was a shy, uneducated lad who had always been kept on the outer circle of Alexander’s admirers, as an unremarkable country bumpkin he was rarely noticed and so I could slip into his persona without anyone questioning any strange behavior I might embue him with. I awoke to the glorious day when my cherished ambition was realized for I was chosen from the ordinary army regiments to join the exclusive company of Alexander’s personal bodyguard, the Seven Royal Companions. They had watched me from a distance and now I was brought close.

In that illustrious band of special Companions I replaced Arrybas, who had died valiently in battle with the Persians, the very battle where my King had taken note of my valor and prowess, for he admires no one more than a courageous fighting man. Yet it was my diplomacy with the captured Queen of the Persian King, Darius, that commended me above others, for Alexander esteemed above all others those with intelligence and kindness of heart as well as bravery in war, and he desired to have around him only the best of men. I had climbed up through the ranks by impressing my commanders with ingenious tactics and daring exploits, but my blonde good looks may have helped my cause as well, enticing the King to look my way and notice my actions. All of the seven bodyguards are extremely beautiful, brave and intelligent and are more like loyal friends than subjects of Alexander and I am truly honoured to be included in their number.

In Memphis the Great King had himself crowned Pharoah of all Egypt and son of the God Ammon. The oracle of Ammon had reassured him of his divinity at the Oasis of Siwah in Libya; he had always secretly believed the God Zeus had touched his Mother the night of his conception while she was performing her ecstatic role as Snake Priestess. I could readily believe in his godhood as Alexander had a bright presence as well as great personal beauty, and he could inspire legions of men to follow him, even to death. Not that I believed in the gods, but as man made god in his image Alexander fit the bill perfectly and he was such a remarkable character who achieved such incredible feats he definately had some extraordinary spark powering him.

And the whole universe was a party to his endeavours, such as the eagles that attended the outset of his every campaign, and the two hissing snakes that led him and his lost army across the desert to the Oasis of Siwah, where he was told he would indeed conquer the world. Some say he used divinity to magnify his importance in the eyes of his subjects, to appeal directly to their hearts rather than be feared like the harsh, arrogant Macedonian kings of yore. But I think he believed in his god-given mission, as if he had some kind of divine madness.

I think he truly is special, with his keen intellect, super-human endurance and uncanny instinct for the right move, his fearlessness in battle and nobility to those he defeats, all mark him out as a superior human being and can only be explained by him having some type of divine essence. He has been daring in all his pursuits and habits, with his own inimitable style, being the first to shave and bathe daily like an Athenian democrat, unlike his fellow uncouth Macedonians, and was copied by all the Companions such was the high regard they had for him. With his golden hair, piercing blue eyes and shining bronze armour, he looked part-god to me and I was determined to follow him to the ends of the earth if needs be.

At last I was near to the one whom I had adored from afar and worked so hard to reach. I tasted of his food for him and stood guard by his bedroom door, and I prayed to the Gods that there would come a night when he would welcome me to his bed. I dreamed he would take me as a partner to protect his back in the maelstrom of battle and I’d have gladly died by his side, like the ultra-masculine lover-warriors of the Sacred Band of Thebes.

But since childhood Alexander had the devotion of a best mate whom nobody could surpass in his affections, number one in the shining seven, Hephaestion; still I could live and hope that my turn might come some blessed day. Alexander was enchanted by the great heroes of Greek literature, particularly from Homer, and he tried to emulate and better the hero’s feats, repeating the tasks of Hercules, dancing further over the horizon than Dionyssus, achieving greater fame in war than Achilles. My fondest wish was that I could have played Patroclus to his Achilles but that role was assigned to Hephaestion and I could only look on and wonder at what such intense male love could be.

It was at Zariaspa, after the success of the Bactrian campaign, that I nearly lost the friendship I had barely begun with the great Alexander. I had been somewhat swayed by the speech given by Callisthenes protesting the debasing act of prostration Alexander was encouraging in the court, forgetting the lessons in democracy he received from the great thinker Aristotle. I had lately come to question my view of Alexander as a divine incarnation for he revealed in his attitudes and mannerisms an all too human nature.

He could be brutal and vengeful, not only to those who stood against him in war but even old friends were unsafe from his murderous tempers, as in the case of his killing one of his Royal Companions, Cleitus, in a drunken argument. He broached no insult and suffered criticism badly, and was prone to flattery by the court sycophants, something that got on my nerves as well as Cleitus. When he conquered all Persia he seemed to forget he was a Macedonian King, surrounding himself with the pomp and decadence of an Asian satrap and to the scandal of many, dressing in Median fashion. He swapped the tunic for trousers and he donned the pointed bonnet instead of the crested helmet worn by Macedonians since time immemorial.

Worst of all was Alexander had come to expect and enjoy the humiliation of prostration from the vanquished Persians. He had contemplated aloud that it would be a good thing if we Macedonians copied this foolishness as a mark of respect to his evident godhood. Even I, Leonnatus, devoted companion of the King, baulked at such a ridiculous, dehumanizing act, for the ways of Macedonia have held true for countless generations and I could not see why we had to adopt such foreign, barbaric ways just because we conquered their country. I was already infamous for boorish fights, for being kept at arms length by Alexander had me drinking too much and taking it out on whoever crossed my path, the whole Persian influence had made me more cantankerous, especially the adoption of eunuchs into the court, their effeminate carrying-on such an insult to the manliness of the Royal Companions.

One little catamite named Bagoas particularly got my goat as he caught Alexander’s attention with his doe-like eyes and lithe body, and he became a beloved favourite, taking up much of the great one’s free time, leaving little for anyone else. Hephaestion himself was relegated to the sidelines for awhile and I rarely got a look-in, and I hated that little Persian sodomite with a vengeance.

My seething jealousy and hysteria came to a head one night at a court function for all the Persian overlords whom Alexander had chosen to rule the conquered territories in his name. Many of the Royal Companions were present and resentful of the amount of power Alexander was entrusting to these vanquished enemies. While the Macedonians refused to prostrate themselves in front of Alexander up on his throne, the chief diplomat of the Persian contingency flung himself upon the floor. He groveled in such a silly manner that I could not help but burst out laughing, quite raucously, garnering the attention of everybody in the room. The Persians were highly embarrassed and Alexander was furiously angry with me for disrupting the sanctity of the occasion and what he felt was having a dig at his pomposity.

He wouldn’t even look at me for weeks and I was relegated to the back tents on slops duty, until I achieved further valorous deeds and looked sufficiently humble enough to be in his sublime presence again. And all the while his little bugger-boy, Bagoas, gave me smug looks and cryptic smiles so that I wanted to strangle the catamite, only that would’ve finished off my relationship with Alexander for good. It was better to let time pass, Alexander would surely tire of the girlish Persian eunuch given the fabulous masculinity of the warriors around him.

I got myself into his good graces again by fighting harder and thinking smarter than our foe in the following clean-up operations till Alexander was compelled to admire me. He convinced me that his adoption of Persian ways was a political move to appease and win the hearts of the vanquished masses and make the ruling of them less fraught with misunderstandings. Alexander is such a brilliant tactician in all things military and wise in the ways of governance that I came to trust his judgment implicitly as he constantly proved his genius in every one of the campaigns. While he was a butcher to those who scorned his supremacy, he was in the main a benign ruler, replacing despots where ever he found them with humane leaders who would provide just, compassionate governance to the masses, and for this I truly loved him. He was the epitome of the masculine ideal, athletic frame, beautiful face, sharp mind and courageous heart, a living representative of the male supremacy lying at the centre of our ancient Greek system of values. Like Narcissus, I got lost looking for my own reflection in his glorious being.

After he took the impregnable Rock of Sogdiana, Alexander felt exultantly invincible and so he marched his army quickly to the more formidable Rock of Choriennes, confident of somehow conquering its sheer twelve thousand feet height. It was here I excelled in my duty and commended my diligence to my King, who smiled brightly at me again after our estrangement. The Rock was seven miles in circumference and surrounded by a deep ravine with only one narrow path winding up to the fortress at its summit and thus easy to defend and difficult to conquer. Alexander was dauntless and, on viewing eagles flying above the Rock, he was inspired that it augured victory.

He ordered his men to fell the pine forests near the Rock and make ladders of them to climb down to the deepest part of the ravine and there drive in stakes, to have layers of woven wattle placed atop them. Then a layer of soil was put down and thus the ravine was gradually filled to enable his army to climb the rock. We worked day and night, with protective screens built over us to block the bombardments from above, and I was put in charge of the night shift, making a great accomplishment of the job. King Choriennes himself had taken refuge in the fortress and, seeing the relentless success of the Macedonian army in broaching his Rock, was persuaded to surrender, trusting in Alexander’s magnanimous character to treat him honourably. And this Alexander did, believing in the sincerity of Chorienne’s submission, treating him with the utmost consideration, even reinvesting him with control of the Rock and its surrounding territories.

Alexander continued his infatuation with the Persian eunuch, Bagoas, much to the disgruntlement of the Royal Companions. I had other reasons to be jealous as after the Sogdian campaign Alec took a fancy to the Bactrian Princess, Roxanne, and married her. I thought we had lost him to the allure of womanhood but he rarely visited her, keeping her in a tent down the back with all the other Companion’s concubines. I believe the whole affair was a political act to appease the Bactrians, for she was the daughter of their recalcitrant King Oxyartes and Alexander wanted to bind his loyalty to him more surely. He performed his conjugal duties then left her much to herself, preferring the company of Hephaestion or other of the Companions or that little whore, Bagoas. Alexander was a real man’s man and I gushed with pleasure on the days he sought out my presence, whether for a hunting expedition, a military tactics session or a wild carouse with good Macedonian wine.

After all his victories he gave animal sacrifices to the Gods in thanksgiving and he held literary competitions and athletic games in celebration. Everyone vied for the top honours and while I excelled at the physical sports, it was my readings from classic Greek literature that had Alexander swooning and he would look at me tenderly, eyes bright with tears. He loved to hear of Hercules and swore that the blood of the hero ran in his veins. The God he made obeisance to most often after a victory was Dionyssus, patron of the arts and culture, and of ecstatic revelry in wonder of being alive and master of the natural environment. Dionyssus was reputed to have danced all the way to India and Alexander was determined to follow in his footsteps, even to go one better and conquer all India and thus bring the whole world under his domain.

Dionyssus is my own personal patron God and so I wholeheartedly agreed with the grand march to the vast, unknown subcontinent of India though it took me ever further from that land of great thinkers, Greece. We all believed the Universe got involved with men’s fates, especially that of the bright and powerful, and all the world’s manifestations did seem to foretell of Alexander’s greatness, the very animals of the land and air promised him success, and I could only go with the flow.

Alexander did indeed reach India, crossing the Indian Caucasus Mountains where he received the homage and support of King Taxilas of the country below the caravan town of Kabul. Unfit soldiers and friendly natives garrisoned the town of Taxila while Alexander moved on towards the Indus River, conquering all the tribes along the way.

These Indian warriors were the most courageous and ferocious of fighters that Alexander’s men had encountered in all the long campaigns and, in taking the first town we came to in the Aspasian’s territory, Alexander was wounded slightly in the chest by an arrow. The Macedonians slaughtered the whole town and put it to the torch in revenge for the harm done to their king. I myself was wounded and was honoured to spill blood alongside my lord and master. Past the town of Arregaeum we were confronted by an army twice as large as ours and I was given charge of one third of the soldiers and in three sections we attacked the Indians charging from their fortified hilltop. My troops were able to vanquish a superior force allowing the other sections to batter and defeat the rest of the diehard natives. Forty thousand prisoners were sold into slavery and 230,000 oxen captured, of uncommon size and beauty, the best of which Alexander had his pick to send back to Macedonia.

The town of Massaga proved very difficult to take, the siege and attacks spread out over four days. The defenders only asked for a truce once their chief was killed by a missile and Alexander admired their fierce courage so much he asked them to join his army as mercenaries. They agreed but planned to sneak away in the night, as they didn’t have the heart to kill their fellow Indians. Alexander got wind of their desertion and he surrounded their camp, caught them in their escape and had them slaughtered to a man. We went on to conquer the Rock of Aornas, something that fabled Hercules himself could not achieve and thus Alexander continued to outshine the great heros of yore. In all this vicious fighting I proved myself the most valorous and proficient of leaders and Alexander chose me more often as the one to stand guard over him while he slept. And there I stood, deep into the night, thirstily drinking in his precious exhalations.

We were marching ever closer to the Indus River and once across, the whole of India would lie ready for his possession. The legions of Macedonians who had accompanied him the full distance were now tired from the long trek, weary of war and homesick for their own country, aggravated by the harsh Indian environment and with no wish to discover any more new worlds. Alexander had an overwhelming lust to explore and conquer; he had to discover what lay beyond every horizon and could not relax until he had done so. He had been promised the whole world and he felt conquering all India was a necessary part of fulfilling his destiny. But many of his followers did not feel the same and they kept up a continuous grumble about their painful frustrations.

I myself loved the Indian experience and like Alexander was highly desirous of pressing on. Finally arrived the night when I stood guard over his sleeping chamber and we were discussing our mutual love of the mysterious Indian landscape and he invited me to sit on his bed. I couldn’t help myself, before long I veritably fell towards him and kissed him gently on the lips. At first he passively allowed me to make chaste love to his divine figure, kissing his delicious throat, muscular arms, the curves of his chest, his erect nipples. It was deliriously splendid to hold him in my arms and kiss his lips, for a moment I felt like I had melded with divinity and my every fiber was lightning-struck.

For a long while he seemed only half there, enjoying the comfort and affection but his eyes seeming to gaze into infinity. Then of a sudden he came alive and arched his back and moaned so that I held him close and felt his erection throbbing up against my abdomen. He pulled my head up and kissed me with total abandon as I lay between his legs. Gradually he raised his legs and as he bit me on the lip I fell into him, I entered his body and felt his flesh close around me. We rocked to and fro in a delirium of pleasure, a bonfire ignited in my head, a timeless Void engulfed us and we fused like two stars in the black heavens, one radiant sun bursting between us. I recovered consciousness some hours later and found myself alone in the bed and I lay there contemplating my love, stunned by the knowledge that I had fucked Alexander the Great.

For a short while I allowed myself to forget that he was committed to Hephaestion heart and soul, and I prayed that we might grow into discovering a great love. But that little Persian poof, Bagoas, got any left-over lust, I never got looked at in that way again. In a blue moon he chose one of the Companions or outstanding captives as his bedmate, though rarely for more than one night. His greatest, over-ruling lust was for battle, victory, power and knowledge, it was these that drove him ever onward, and myself with him. He never mentioned what had passed between us, never made an intimate gesture and never asked me to his bed again though I groveled at his every beck and call, my nerves tingling in memory of our tryst. I out-achieved the most valiant of warriors in the hope that I could replace Hephaestion as his eternal, one true love but I was wasting my energies. Yet we all live in hope.

At a town called Nysa Alexander was met by a delegation of the locals who gave submission but begged freedom of governance, as this was the very town founded by Dionysus when he came to India and the god himself had given them their freedom. They praised Alexander at having penetrated the subcontinent further than their revered god Dionysus and this appealed to his hubris, having bested his patron God. He acquiesced to their wishes and left them alone to run their own affairs as he wished the same thing for the cities of Alexandria that he had founded all over the world. It is easy to believe that Dionysus had indeed come this way, spreading his ecstatic practices, for the Indians are inordinately fond of singing and dancing and lose their inhibitions in festivities at any given opportunity.

Alexander fervently wished to visit the sacred spot of Mount Merus as it is the only place in all of India where the Ivy plant, dedicated to Dionysus, is to be found. The priests of the shrine prepared a sacred potion from the juices of the vine, mushroom and poppy and Alexander drank of it with deep reverence, along with his Companions and chief officer’s. Once the ivy crown was placed on all the Macedonian heads, we seemed possessed by the god himself, shouting ‘Euoi, Euoi”, dancing wildly and losing our wits in true Bacchic frenzy. Alexander laughed and danced in total abandonment and claimed he could see Mount Olympus in the clouds and that all the gods were streaming from the gates to bestow their blessings upon him. I only had eyes for the King himself, who radiated sublime light like some exquisite treasure.

It was in the battle for the principal town of the Mallians that we nearly lost our magnificent King and leader and where I won the greatest commendation of my military career. As always, he insisted on leading the charge over the walls, being the first over and down into the fray. In battle he went berserk, as if in ecstasy, and gave not a thought to his personal safety. He didn’t notice that the rest of his army was having a hard time scaling the walls, their ladders breaking beneath them, and he was virtually alone in fighting off the hordes of the enemy. A couple of us leapt down with him and helped beat off the ferocious onslaught, for Alexander’s famous huge, white crested helmet informed the attackers of his identity and so they threw themselves at him with murderous eagerness. We slashed and hacked as if possessed by the furies yet the blows rained down upon us so heavily that Alexander received many grievous wounds and collapsed helpless upon the ground.

Peucastas, who had been given the duty of carrying the Shield of Achilles alongside Alexander in battle, held the Shield over him for protection, while I fought like a maniac to keep the enemy at bay. On hearing of Alexander’s danger, his army went berserk, tearing the walls down with their bare hands to rush to his rescue. Thus the town was eventually taken and all its inhabitants put to the sword for the dire act of endangering the King.

Alexander lay very ill for several weeks and we feared he indeed might die, the army wailing at his door day and night. As well as logic and ethics, Alexander had learnt much medicine from his old mentor, Aristotle, and was able to guide his attendants to give him an effective healing regime. I myself nursed him throughout the ordeal, cleaning and stitching his wounds and applying herbal poultices to them, and I gave thanks to the Gods when he eventually recovered.
A captive prince of the defeated Mallions had been kept in chains awaiting Alexander’s verdict once he survived his heinous injuries. This Indian Prince was of uncommon beauty, with skin the colour of dark honey and huge, limpid black eyes shining proudly from his manly face. He was reported to be the bravest, most fearless of warriors and was captured only with the greatest of difficulty.

Yet he had a very sweet disposition and keen intellect and recognizing Alexander’s superiority he lay humbly at his feet, accepting of the King’s will, honoured to be dealt with by the best of men. Alexander took a great liking to the fellow and kept him by his bed like some kind of exotic pet. I myself witnessed their first night, cold and chilly at that time, when the proud prince offered his body as a foot warmer to the shivering King. This endeared the fellow further to Alexander and he laughed and pulled the husky devil up onto the bed with him where they lay most of the night hugging and caressing. They talked at great length on philosophy, fighting styles and the proper governance of Kings and Alexander seemed to take deep consideration of this barbarian’s ideas. I was furiously jealous for it was I who had saved his life and I should have been the one to receive his ardour. On hearing of their intimacy many of the Royal Companions thought it scandalous, for only pure blooded Macedonian warriors were deserving of the honour of sharing the King’s bed.

After so many weeks he gave the Indian prince his freedom and the governance of a large territory, such was his great affection and trust for the fellow. Hephaestion had been sent off ahead with some battalions to prepare the ground and I hoped I would have Alexander for myself at last. Then, because of his act of bravery at the town of Mallian in protecting his life, Alexander elevated Peucastas to the company of Royal Bodyguard Companions, bringing their number to eight and breaking the sacred number of seven, which really irked me. He favoured Peucastas in all things, keeping him constantly by his side and rarely giving me any private moments of intimacy, as if he was avoiding that side of me, though he continuously praised my part in his rescue. My jealousy and disappointment increased till I thought I might go mad from it and tear the whole world asunder.

Yet I followed my King faithfully, entrusting my destiny with his, and we crossed the mighty Indus River and moved on into India proper, conquering all the tribes that stood in our way. The Indians are such magnificent fighters that we were tested to our utmost strength, and only Alexander’s military genius and inspiring leadership got us through. The Indian terrain and climate made it extremely hard going and the Macedonian veterans’ complaints and grudges increased till they became quite unruly. They felt they had finished with conquering Asia and it was time to turn back towards home.

They massed at Alexander’s tent and demanded a hearing. After patiently listening to their grievances, Alexander launched into an impassioned speech, reminding them that his father, King Phillip, had changed them from swineherds and hill brigands to be citizen warriors inferior to none and that he himself had made them everything they were, commanders of a world-wide power. Did he not lead them in battle, march with them, thirst with them, eat with them and undertake their hardships with them? Had he not won them much glory and treasure? Why should they give up now when more treasure than they could dream of lay waiting for the taking in India? He then declared he disowned them and would carry on with the more loyal, foreign mercenaries. His oratory appealed to the soldier’s deepest ideals and shamed their pride, and so they wept and begged his forgiveness and even stoned the ringleaders of the quasi-mutiny to get back into Alexander’s favour. He soon relented and offered all the army a pay increase according to length of service and so things settled down for awhile.

I stood by my king throughout the entire debacle and he grew to trust me entirely, giving me much of his army to command while he went off exploring far into the Indian hinterland. He took a fancy to hunting and capturing wild elephants and adding them to his battle ranks. I had to move the troops down to the town of Pattala on the Indus Delta and wait there while Alexander sailed off into the Indian Ocean to see what lay off the coast. I had come to love the country dearly, the amazing vegetation and wildlife, the beauty and hospitality of the friendly natives, and their simple, satisfying, blissful lifestyle, seemingly in tune with the world and at peace within themselves. They worshiped different gods than us but still had the same reverence for life and love and I for one was disappointed at all the talk of turning back.

Alexander had inexorably returned to his first true love, Hephaestion, and no one else could get close, they shared all duties and sports, continuously had their heads together whispering, and had eyes only for each other. Even the Persian boy, Bagoas, was dropped from favour, Alexander too wrapped up in exotic India and his final campaign to find the boy of interest, and he rarely called him to his tent. The poor lad was devastated, moping about the camp, making sad cow eyes at the King whenever he passed, doing any menial task that the King’s household needed, he was like some devoted, neglected lap-dog.

One night the little catamite gave me such seductive looks that I must admit I was aroused for I had been celibate for long, keeping chaste for Alexander alone. I was tired after a long march and had been drinking and the little devil kept plying me with strong wine. Somehow we ended up in bed together and I sodomised the devious creature and he acted as if he was some divine houri in my arms, able to convince me of anything. Relaxed and off my guard he started plying me with questions about Alexander and Hephaestion, would they ever tire of each other? And, if Hephaestion should disappear, could we both get back into his heart? I was so drunk I’m afraid I contributed to the slander of my King, calling Hephaestion his whore and a witch for enchanting Alexander so, and wishing the gods would strike him dead or some brave soul get rid of him. I blathered on about Alexander being my one true love, I lived and fought only for him, I hoped to die next to him, on and on, cursing and moaning. All the while Bagoas sat smiling cryptically, eyes narrowed as he contemplated some nefarious scheme, but I was so inebriated I passed out and virtually forgot my stupid outburst until much later in the game.

The exploration of the Indus Delta was as far as the men would go, they were fatigued, diseased, lost and estranged and they just couldn’t go on, and Alexander had to take mercy on them, either leave them there to die or take them back home to Macedonia. Alexander realized the odds were against him and with a heavy heart he surrendered to their wishes and set off with his army on the long, arduous return journey. At the town of Oreitae I was left in command of half of his army to await the arrival of the fleet off the coast. I was also to tend to the new settlement, helping to introduce such order and discipline among the Oreitae as to induce them to be more obedient to their governor. Alexander marched off into the Gedrosian Desert with the rest of his force and so uninhabitable was the region that I constantly fretted over Alexander’s safety. I was resigned to being always left behind to complete the dog’s body of the work, for me it was yet a grand honour to serve him to my best, though I sorely missed being in his company.

Though warned of the terrors of the desert, Alexander blundered on regardless, possessed of the idea that he could overcome any obstacle and even outperform the Gods and thus at times had lead his men to disaster trying to better the previous accomplishments of explorers and conquerors before him. Such was the case with the Gedrosian Desert for when he finally straggled through to the other side to meet up with my contingent and the fleet of ships he had lost three quarters of his men. I suppose I should’ve been grateful I missed out on that catastrophe but the truth is I would’ve shared any hardship or danger just to be near him, for though fallible, I’m sure Alexander’s name will live forever as one of the greatest of men. And perhaps my own name will live alongside his.

During his Indian sojourn Alexander met with many of the country’s wise sages and he was much impressed by their peace of mind. He tried to convince the best of them to accompany him back to Macedonia but they spurned his invitation, telling him he had nothing they wanted. One old seer by the name of Calanis, deviating from his tribe, did agree to the journey out of admiration for the brightness of Alexander and sheer curiosity about the world. Alexander had him always squatting in a corner of his tent and took intense pleasure in having philosophical discussions with him, often applauding his advice but rarely acting upon it, being the contrary leader he was since childhood. Calanis was a wonderful old man and I felt at peace just sitting near him while he did his extraordinary contortions and meditations.

He seemed to endure the march across South Asia well though on reaching Persia he fell ill and declared his days were over. He demanded a funeral pyre built and against the protestations of Alexander and his retinue, all of whom were extremely fond of the old sage, he walked steadfastly into the flames. He then calmly lay down in the conflagration and, chanting his prayers, disintegrated into ash without blinking an eyelid or twitching a muscle. It left all of us in awe and I have come to believe some men are so knowledgeable they are capable of overcoming earthly restrictions. Perhaps Alexander is one of these sublime men.

At Susa, near Babylon, Alexander held a huge wedding festival, marrying off many of his army to Asiatic brides. His officers and Royal companions were given Persian princesses yet still they grumbled, for Persian ways were not theirs and they preferred the good women of Macedonia. To Alexander it was a political ploy as it would bind all the important vassal families to him and make the territory easier to govern. He even took a wife himself, Barsine, daughter of the assassinated King Darius of Persia, even though he already had a wife in Roxanne. All this Persian claptrap riled up the Macedonian’s conservative angst for they were too narrow-minded to see the political expediency in the mass wedding ceremony. I myself asked for a captive Indian Prince as my companion for only men could arouse my ardour, I had no wish to be weighed down with feminine needs, and I had taking a liking to the Indian’s caramel skin, doe-like eyes and lascivious nature.

It was at Susa that I also received my most impressive symbol of honour, a gold crown, placed upon my head by Alexander’s own hands in a marvelous ceremony to acclaim my achievements in all the campaigns, especially the saving of my King’s life in the battle with the Mallians. Peucastus also received a gold crown for his valiant part in that rescue and he was made Governor of all Persia, adopting their mannerisms and fitting in so well he became a superb and honourable administrator for many years. To Hephaestion, Alexander gave Drypetis, another of King Darius’s daughters, and all this Persian elitism made the Macedonians even more resentful, criticizing the King and his favourites for demeaning themselves with the barbaric customs of the country. Alexander, yet again, had to give them a good dressing down but honeyed his sharp words with bonuses for everyone, especially those who would settle in Persia and help rule it in his name.

Then the big calamity occurred and it resulted in the ruination of our whole life’s purpose. At Ecbatana Hephaestion fell ill and, after seven days of fever, died. Alexander was inconsolable, lying upon the body of his friend for a full day, weeping uncontrollably for several days after that and cursing the gods for his bereavement. He had the Shrine to Asclepius, the patron of medicine, raised to the ground, as no doctors could save the soul and love of his life. He held the most elaborate funeral rites the world has ever seen, spending ten thousand talents on the pyre and forcing the whole nation to make obeisance. He tried to have the god Ammon declare Hephaestion a demigod, the oracles refusing to comply, and so Alexander made do with the building of a giant funeral cortege, like a towering temple to the glory of his friend. He had it dragged right across Asia and Greece on a colossal cart to finally rest in honour at the city of Alexandria in Egypt. In all this extravagant mourning he revealed his ever ongoing obsession of out-performing the heroes of classic Greece, his grief for Hephaestion being deeper than the grief Achilles felt for his dead lover, Patroclus.

Rumours abounded of foul play; that Hephaestion might have been poisoned, for there were many who were jealous of his secure relationship with Alexander and of his marvelous achievements. I felt guilt at my own antagonistic thoughts towards the man though I would never have dreamed of harming him, as his was such a decent soul. I thought back to my querulous outburst of murderous nonsense to that little bugger Bagoas, and I wondered if he was capable of such a heinous deed. He had knowledge of poisons and for some time had worn a look of sheer loathing whenever he crossed paths with Hephaestion, so that I wouldn’t put it past the dirty little bastard. I watched him closely for weeks and he did indeed seem to slink around with a stricken face, averting his eyes, avoiding conversation, not even a greeting. I felt horror to the bottom of my heart for if it were true then I was an unthinking party to the murder and would bear the guilt to the end of my days. For the death of Hephaestion also meant the eventual death of the great Alexander, and this defeated all the machinations of the jealous murderer, for the object of his obsession was irretrievably lost in such a stupid act. Everybody was left with nothing to cling to but a ghost with a famous name.

Alexander was never the same after the death of his soul-mate, he seemed to waste away and was not as enthusiastic as of yore, though he still continued to carry out campaigns and subdue rebellious tribes. Despite the fact that he was warned by several soothsayers not to go to Babylon for it would be the end of him, unusual for him, he ignored their warning and carried on into the ancient city, defying fate and perhaps indulging in a death wish. All was well, Babylon rejoiced at his entry and the omens seemed mistaken. On an expedition down the Euphrates River he suddenly caught a fever, perhaps he picked up some exotic disease when he swam in the miasmic water, or, I dread the thought, perhaps his enemies poisoned him like they poisoned Hephaestion.

I, personally, think it was a broken heart over the loss of his one love that debilitated him so, for he gave up the ghost without his usual struggle, dying after seven days of painful infirmity. At the very last he still had the strength to call his good friends, officers and loyal Companions to his bedside to bid them farewell, thank them for their endeavours on his behalf and commend them for their immense valour. The whole army wept, howled and tore its breasts, for their great leader was gone and they were inconsolably lost without him.

Alexander, for all his detractors would naysay it, was the greatest leader the world had yet seen. Brave and adventurous, hungry for fame, temperate in the pleasures of the body with a passion for glory only, he was intelligent in his deductions of observed facts and wary of cheats. His word was inviolable, he was generous and compassionate to those who deserved it; he was the best of men and rulers. He was accused of taking on the pomp and arrogance of Asiatic Kings, cruel and barbaric, but I knew him to be noble of heart and sincerely sorry for his mistakes, giving pardon to many of those who had stood against him. He displaced incompetent and despotic rulers wherever he found them and tried to instil a society of peace, prosperity and justice in all the territories he subdued.

He was a man ahead of his times, with an eye for sensible innovations and rational consistencies. Yet he was also perfect for his times, for the whole world lay ready for the grasping for such a man as he, of great will, strength, intelligence and courage. He was the King of Kings and no one could replace him, his vast kingdoms falling to ruin and anarchy not too many years after his demise. Only Alexandria of Egypt lived on in history to bear his name forever.

I was nothing and heartbroken without him and I will never regret my great love for him, as such love has long been revered in Greece as a necessary part of our warrior’s social fabric. In Alexander’s private circle were renowned homosexual lovers such as Hermalaus and Sastratus, whose affection was so great they dared to plot against their King for a slight he gave one of them and they died together as a consequence. Then there was Alexander and Hephaestion themselves, and one could only wish to emulate their mutual devotion. Yet I am resolved never to go home to North Macedonia due to my inner shame that somehow I wished the whole tragedy into existence. I feel I must somehow pay recompense, do penance by living cut-off from everything I have ever known, abiding in an alien country, cursed by the gods unto the seventh generation, half the man I was under Alexander.

I'm afraid one only gets one great love in this life, he was my mentor and my shining light and I will never love another man again like him. I am returning with my Indian friend to the land of his birth as there he declares I will be treated like a god and life will be blissful. I did so much love India that I do not mind too badly my self-imposed exile to that far off land, for if there is any site in the world where I might rediscover some peace of soul and awe of life, that place could be there.

I had lived out the life of a warrior in the time of Alexander the Great, even had him as a lover for a few fleeting ecstatic moments, all my dreams come true. Somewhere deep in the jungles of India my avatar must fade into the mists, as all souls must do in this entropic universe, but there are many more worlds and times for me to explore and I can only marvel at where my soul’s desire may lead me next. And so adieu, beautiful, sad, unfulfilled Leonnatus, son of Onasus, it was glorious to be you and stand next to the divine Alexander.

If you enjoyed this story please go to the WEB address above and consider buying my book of tales about growing up anarcho-queer, rock and roll punter and mystic adventurer in Australia and India of the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s.