TV + Movies

Nobody Made Alexander The Great Gay, Except Hephaestion’s Thighs.

To call him gay might be a stretch as labels such as gay, lesbian or bisexual are all part of modern linguistics to describe sexuality. In ancient Greece it was not like that. Sexuality was more fluid, and in fact it had almost nothing to do with gender but more to do with power.

Almost a month ago, Netflix released its 6 part docuseries ‘Alexander: The Making of a God’. The show is an in-depth analysis of Alexander the Great’s empire and all that he conquered in his conquests. But, the biggest takeaway from watching it remains learning of the protagonist’s sexuality or should I say ‘forced sexuality’.

So did Netflix make Alexander the great gay? If @EndWokeness on Twitter is to be believed then yes, they did so 8 minutes into the docuseries.

Just like them, many other like-minded, anti-woke people took to social media to share their frustration about the docuseries and the current socio-political culture. They claim that wokeness works overtime to push an unnecessary amount of queerness into all narratives. The truth is far from this though.

Netflix did not make Alexander the Great gay but rather took a scholarly approach to showcase the presence of queerness in Ancient Greece. Although Netflix has acknowledged that the documentary, which includes dramatization,”speculates on intimate details of Alexander’s private lives” it in no way forcibly adds queerness to his story. In fact historians, both involved in the show and unaffiliated with it, have shared that sexuality was fluid in ancient Greece and it is very likely that Alexander had relationships with men.

To call him gay might be a stretch as labels such as gay, lesbian or bisexual are all part of modern linguistics to describe sexuality. In ancient Greece it was not like that. Sexuality was more fluid, and in fact it had almost nothing to do with gender but more to do with power.  Historian and scholar Jeanne Reames, who consulted on the production of the show says, “It’s not who you do, it’s what you do.”

Philip Freeman, the author of “Alexander the Great” says “In the ancient Greek world – and especially in Macedonia – such same-sex relationships were so normal that they wouldn’t have seemed odd to anyone.”

So again, no Netflix did not make him gay. But the fact that so many people thought so speaks to a larger erasure of queer history. “For me, the response to Netflix’s series about Alexander the Great sums up why we need LGBT+ History Month,” says Matt Cain in the Guardian.

On Friday Greece legalised same sex marriage, almost 2500 years after its greatest leader, Alexander the Great, the man no one could defeat, was defeated by Hephaestion’s thighs. It seems almost unbelievable to think that one of the oldest civilisations in the world and one with same sex couples entangled in its mythology like no other took this long to embrace their queerness.

Also read: Greece says Yes to Gay Marriage, but what about the Rest of Us

Queerness has been part of Greek history for as long as Greece has existed. And even though classical civilisations of ancient Greece did not cast the same condemnation on same sex relationships the way their Christian descendants later would, the stories of these queer romances survived homophobic revisionists and still stand as celebrations of the original Greek love.

Like that of Apollo, who was the god of the sun and was said to have had the first same-sex relationship in Greek history with the Thracian singer, Thamyris. He went on to be the lover of the prince of Macedonia, Prince Hyakinthos. In the world of the Greek gods, he married the Greek god of marriage, Hymen, in a same-sex union.

And what of his twin sister Artemis, the goddess of the hunt. She was not the lifelong celibate most believed her to be (something most closeted wlw are perceived as) but was a lesbian with several nymph and goddess lovers. Ancient gay and lesbian Greeks worshiped her as Artemis Orthia, a symbol of the LGBTQ+ community.

But also the most famous of them all Aphrodite, she was the goddess of love and beauty. While most famous for maintaining a relationship with Ares, the god of war, she also had several erotic relationships with women. Many considered her to be one of the greatest allies to lesbians and homosexuals due to her message of love and beauty in all of its forms. The phrase “love is love” could have originated with her.

And the least known of them all Hercules who is said to have had several male companions that helped him along his many adventures, such as Lolaus who helped him defeat Hydra, the nine headed snake monster. This relationship was enshrined in Thebes, where ancient Greek male couples would exchange vows and pledges with their same-sex partner.

The most recent example of this erasure of queer history was seen just last year when the North Hertfordshire Museum finally agreed to refer to 3rd century C.E. transgender Roman Emperor Elagabalus by the correct pronouns of she/her.

It is clear as day to anyone who reads this that ancient Greece was never the heterosexual paradise it is now seen as, so in a way Greece’s passing of the same sex marriage bill is a return to their roots rather than a bold step into the future. 

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