Ancient Greek passions: Controversy and complexity of Alexander the Great’s love life

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Alexander’s bisexuality in Netflix’s series has Pan-Macedonian organisations tied up in a Gordian Knot.

In the new Netflix series “Alexander: The Making of a God”, Alexander the Great shares a kiss with his general and lifelong friend and, according to experts, lover, Hephaestion. Yet, the kiss has aroused the ire of Pan-Macedonian associations and right-wing conservatives in Greece.

Alexander was born in 356 BC in Macedonia, in northeastern Greece and became king at age 19 after the assassination of his father, Philip II.

Over the next few years, Alexander and his armies defeated the mighty Persian Empire. They extended Macedonia’s holdings as far as India. He died of disease in 323 BC in what is now Iraq.

President of Greek far-right political party Niki, Dimitris Natsiou, speaking to The Guardian, denounced the series, calling it “deplorable, unacceptable and unhistorical” and claiming that it aimed to “subliminally convey the notion that homosexuality was acceptable in ancient times, an element that has no basis”.

Controversy surrounding Alexander’s sexuality

A letter by the Pan-Macedonian Federation of Australia, President George Kosmidis, to Netflix CEO Ted Sarandon, complaining about the depiction of the Macedonian king as bisexual, was also sent to Neos Kosmos. The letter was co-signed by Canadian, German, South African and Greek Pan-Macedonian associations.

Kosmidis writes that the presentation of Alexander the Great as “either bisexual or homosexual, and the editorialisation by the chosen historian(s) cements this for the audience without confessing that this is a subject that has divided historical opinion or even mentioning the nuances.”

“Consequently, the scene where he passionately kisses his closest friend and general, Hephaestion, is presented as a historical fact despite it actually being fiction.”

The letter goes on to say that the authors “don’t oppose homosexuality or the advancement of LGBTQ+ issues.”

“On the contrary. We are primarily interested in historical accuracy, especially when it comes to historical documentaries that act as teaching tools.”

It adds that “the goal of your series is to promote diversity, respect, and acceptance, but this is not achieved by spreading historical inaccuracies and half-truths.”

The letter also seeks to pick out what the authors call other “historical inaccuracies”.

The letter’s signatories attack Netflix over what they call “Hollywoodian-like liberties” taken by the director.

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