Alexander and his Companions
The Primary Record
Ancient sources do not analyse the nature of Alexander’s Court, they just tell stories (which may or may not be true) about what happened there.
Their descriptions reveal a Court which was drunken, bitchy, violent and openly homosexual – the scurrilous Greek writer Theopompus, having visited Philip II’s Court, suggested that his Companions (hetairoi) would be better named prostitutes (hetairai).
The Secondary Historiogrophy
Opening his study of Alexander the Great: King, Commander and Statesman (1981), the academic historian NGL Hammond drew attention to the nature of the king’s Court. In Macedon, the king ruled from a Court which was a group of relatives, friends and powerful nobles – his ‘Companions’.
‘These acted as officers, envoys, governors, generals, treasurers, estate-managers … they attended him in public, fought at his side in war, protected him in the hunt, escorted him on ceremonial parades, and enjoyed his confidence and affection… A king’s success depended much upon his personal relations with his friends, and he lived most of the time in their company, feasting and drinking in epic manner.’
The historian Ernst Badian (2000) showed how such a community – so close
and yet also so ‘closed’ to contact with the ‘real world’ – inevitably became a hotbed of intrigue, conspiracy and paranoia … in which Alexander as often as not was an
Continuity or Change?
‘Alexander was successful in organising the composition of his inner circle in a way that furthered his goals and supported
By contrast, Tony Spawforth (2007) sees an ‘evolving role’ to the Court. He suggests that Alexander saw ‘holding court’ as the critical element to his monarchy – his Court was not just the place where he ruled, but the place whence he
reigned – and in this he was a ‘master of self-representation’.
This document contains the relevant section of the set
On a large sheet of paper, write the title: 'Alexander and his companions':
Alexander's Court was essentially about his
relationships with individual Companions. Go through the EVENTS of
Alexander's life, and the SOURCES, selecting key illustrative moments in his
Make notes on the events of the key conspiracies of Alexander's reign,
Revisit your list of EVENTS and SOURCES of Alexander's life,
categorising them into those which suggest that Alexander's Court stayed the
same during his lifetime, and those which suggest that he tried to change
the nature of his Court.
In your opinion, was Alexander successful in his relationship with his Companions and the running of his Court?