Being random topics on Alexander which the casual reader will find rather boring. If you're a scholar, read on.


The lion at Chaironeia is most often identified as the grave monument of the The Theban Sacred Band when that famous undefeated cadre fell at the hand of young Alexander at the Battle of Chaironeia in 338 BCE.

That is the sexiest theory, but not the only one.

When Pausanias (fl. 160 CE) identifies the lion as belonging to the Sacred Band, he also argues against it being Philip's trophy on the battlefield.

Since Pausanias takes pains to argue against the lion being Philip's, that can only mean there was competing tradition which attributed the lion to Philip, the victor that fateful day in 338 BCE.

Polyainos (fl. same time as Pausanias, some 400 years after the battle) says that Philip erected a trophy on the battlefield.

Pausanias says the Macedonians did not erect trophies.

Polyainos' parents were Macedonian.

So whose lion?

It's an east/west pass through Chaironeia. Philip and Alexander came out of the West, with the Parnassos massif behind them, the morning sun in their eyes, Boukephalos' shadow behind him.

Philip commanded the infantry on the Macedonian right, for the right side, spear side, is the side of honor.

The eighteen year old general Alexander commanded the Macedonian left, shield side, with the Companion Cavalry, facing the Theban Sacred Band who were stationed on the defenders' side of honor.

When it was all over, Philip was master of all Hellas. The Theban Sacred Band lay on the field, dead to a man.

The Thebans were buried on the field. So were the Macedonians -- in two separate grave mounds, one for the officers, one for the common soldiers.

The traditional number for the Sacred Band is 300. There were 254 skeletons buried within the lion's grave wall. It's an even number and pretty darn close to 300. Could be the Thebans.

There is no inscription on the monument, which Pausanias speculates is because the Thebans lost and and it wouldn't be appropriate.

Still it doesn't seem entirely appropriate to erect a monument of leonine proportions while Philip owns the field and is putting your hometown under a Macedonian garrison, even if Philip did respect the Sacred Band. Would Philip have let them?

And if Philip erected a trophy, as Polyainos says he did, the lion sure as hell qualifies.

The 254 could be Philip's officers.

And while one can imagine the Thebans carrying their dead 2 miles across the width of the Chaironeia pass from the right side of the field, where they fell, to the left side so they could erect this arrogant monument smack on the roadside where no traveller can help but see it; it is also the perfect place for the victor's trophy -- on Philip's side of the field.

Does the lion say: "Philip was here"

or does it say "In your face, Philip!"

The Macedonians came out of the east, but they live in the north. The lion faces north.

Does the lion face home?

At this point I would say the evidence favors the Thebans. Except for the matter of the second lion. . .

You may have noticed that all these pictures are of two different lions.
The second lion was found in Amphipolis, monument to Alexander's general Laomedon ("Lion Ruler").

I imagine Alexander's then-young friend Laomedon marching through Chaironeia on their third journey that way, the one on which they razed Thebes to the ground, passing that lion on the roadside and saying: "I gotta have me one of those."

The similarity of these two lions would probably settle the matter of the Chaironeia lion's identity once and for all --

If not for the third lion. . .

The third lion is actually the first lion. I don't have a picture of it, and I'm starting to wonder if it even exists.

(The two pictures above are of Chaironeia's theatre, cut into the base of the acropolis)

The village of Thespiai (in the Theban plain) was excavated by the French School in the 1880's. Among the finds was a lion colossus guarding a 5th Century BCE polyandrion. I've read that the lion at Chaironeia is a replica of the lion at Thespiai, but I've never seen it; Pausanias doesn't mention it in his travels; and I don't know where it is now.

But if this lion of Thespiai is really as close to the lion of Chaironeia as it's cracked up to be, that would settle the Chaironeia matter right quick.

Anyone got a photo of the lion of the Thespiai? Write me at





Copyright 2004 by R.M.Meluch


Alexander's eunuch Bagoas was a little known figure before Mary Renault's powefully romantic novel The Persian Boy hit the bestseller list.

References to this particular Bagoas in the ancient accounts are few. In fact there are only three references, and they are confined to the writings of two colorful Romans, Quintus Curtius and Plutarch. Their accounts do not add up to a lifelong love affair.

Here's what we have:

Bagoas first appears in Curtius' narrative when Nabarzanes comes to Alexander in Hyrcania bearing many lavish gifts,

"Among those gifts was Bagoas, a eunuch of singular quality in the flower of youth to whom Darius accustomed himself* and soon Alexander accustomed himself. It was mostly by his entreaties that Alexander pardoned Nabarzanes."(C.Q.6.5.23)

* (The Latin word here is adsuetus, perf. part. pass. masc. nom. sing. of assuesco, meaning to addict oneself to, to accustom oneself to, to habituate, to make familiar with. Pick the translation you like. It's a euphemism anyway for saying Darius had sex with him, then Alexander did too.)

So according to Curtius, Nabarzanes first turns himself in, then one of the gifts Nabarzanes brought wins Alexander's pardon for him. A tad backwards but there it is.

Arrian's account places Nabarzanes' surrender a little earlier and in the company of the governor of Hyrcania and several other high ranking Persians(Arr.III.23.4). Alexander forgives all of them without entreaties from anyone else.

Curtius' very next paragraphs go on to tell of Alexander's meeting with the Queen of the Amazons and spending thirteen days sexually servicing her because she wants to bear his child. (C.Q. 6.5.24ff)

And immediately following the Amazon story Curtius, still running with the sex theme, tells of the royal quarters being stocked with 365 concubines and hordes of eunuchs practised at playing the woman's role.

By the time Alexander is ready to move into the mountains, his army is so loaded down with loot and luxuries that it can barely move. Curtius and Plutarch both tell that Alexander ballasts everything except necessities. He sets fire to the baggage wagons. (C.Q. 6.6.14) (Plut.Alex.62.1). He didn't burn the people so I'm assuming he left the 365 concubines and the hordes of eunuchs behind in Hyrcania.

Did he park the eunuch Bagoas in Hyrcania?


But wait. Bagoas appears again five years later in Carmenia at the end of Alexander's catastrophic desert crossing. That means Bagoas must have come along with Alexander's army.

Not really.

Bagoas' second appearance coincides with the arrival of bountiful supplies sent by the governor of Hyrcania to meet Alexander's famished army at the end of the desert.

Bagoas, fresh from the royal palace at Hyrcania, would have been a sight for very sore eyes.

This second mention of Bagoas in the ancient sources comes from Plutarch (Alex.67.8). "It is said that while drunk he watched the choral dance contest in which his lover* Bagoas danced and, having been declared to win, came back through the theatre to sit with him. Seeing this the Makedonians clapped and shouted calling for a kiss, until he, throwing his arms around him kissed him amorously."

*(A scholarly translation coyly gives this word as "favorite" but the Greek word is eromenon, the root word there is eros, as in erotic."Lover" is the proper translation).

This dance competition was part of a huge Bacchanalian celebration at the end of that hideous desert crossing. In fact it's a week long drunk. Curtius recounts this Bacchanal too without mentioning Bagoas.

Arrian acknowledges that he has read of the drunken procession but rejects its truth because Arrian's firsthand sources (which we don't have) did not mention it in their writings.

Arrian's firsthand sources tend to leave out the juicy stuff.

If you toss a report simply for being salacious, then you could throw Bagoas out with the Amazon Queen and say he is a complete fiction.

But just because something is scandalous doesn't necessarily mean it's false. (I didn't believe Monica Lewinski until that stain on her dress came to light.)

And the two appearances of Bagoas are connected by a coherent thread--First he was given as a gift to Alexander in Hyrcania then he shows up again with the arrival of the wealth of supplies from Hyrcania upon Alexander's return to civilization.

Between the two references we have 62 words worth of historical text on Bagoas.

The last and longest Bagoas reference is in Curtius following the Bacchanal. I'm not translating the whole passage but here is the nutshell version of QC 10.1.25-37:

Upon Alexander's arrival back at the Persian capital, the satrap Orsines gives Alexander and all Alexander's friends gifts greater than they could have asked for. "To Bagoas the eunuch who bound Alexander to himself by submitting his body, no honor he paid."(QC 10.1.26). Snubbed, Bagoas is offended. Orsines calls Bagoas a whore. Bagoas uses his influence to recruit false witnesses against Orsines, who is a good and innocent nobleman.

Bagoas whispers falsehoods into Alexander's ear while they're having sex and no one else can hear. [Obvious question here of where Curtius got this information].

Bagoas is at Alexander's side when Alexander lays a golden crown on the tomb of Cyrus the Great. There Bagoas expresses no surprise that Cyrus's tomb is so poor when Orsines has so much loot to spread around. Coincidence? Bagoas doesn't think so.

Alexander listens to all the false accusations. He orders Orsines' arrest.

Bagoas hits Orsines (manum iniecit) as Orsines is led away to his execution. Orsines insults him back. The end.

And there is the sum total of all references we have for this particular Bagoas.

There are several persons named Bagoas in the ancient historical records, most of them eunuchs. At least one is in the Bible. The Persian root word of the Hellenized name "Bagoas" is "Bakh," sometimes written as "Bagh." The kh is transliterated to the Greek gamma. Bakham means gift, which this Bagoas was. His birth name would have been something else. The notorious eunuch Vizier Bagoas the kingmaker(whom Darius made drink poison) owned the house in Babylon.

Curtius' tale of the demise of noble innocent Orsines is in direct conflict with Arrian's (Arr.VI.28.2ff) in which "Orxines" has been posing as King of the Persians and Medes in Alexander's absence. For this treason and for inciting revolt and for pillaging of Cyrus' tomb and for putting many Persians to death, Alexander orders Orxines hanged.

So if you toss Curtius' second reference as incredible (as Mary Renault did) but still accept Curtius' first reference and Plutarch's story what are we left with?

Sixty-two words.

Assuming that those 62 words are true, then Bagoas was given to Alexander in Hyrcania with a bunch of other gifts; he got a drunken kiss in public from Alexander during the Bacchanal after the desert crossing; he used to have sex with Darius and he had sex with Alexander.

Anything more is fiction.

Copyright 2008 by R.M.Meluch