Alexander the Great – Anti-gay Icon

I am endlessly fascinated by the ways that people shape and appropriate historical memory. One common thread, as common in the 13th century as now, is to assume that historical examples support one’s own agenda, regardless of the facts.

Here’s a doozy (originally from Talking Points Memo).

A New Mexico lawmaker took to his blog to defend marriage via history. Let’s look at my favorite part of his argument.

Humanities very foundation of ‘being’ is rooted with the bond between man and woman.

Why is it so hard to get possessives and plurals right? Wait, no, that’s not my favorite part of the blog. And it’s not Pocahontas, or Confucius, it’s …

Alexander the Great as a defender of marriage (Image: Alexander and his “friend” Hephaestion, from the Getty). The lawmaker writes:

Alexander the Great (356-323 BC) married a Bactrian woman – modern day
Afghanistan.  Alexander may have engaged in homosexual activity, but he married a woman.

He directed his officers to stop “whoring” around and find a local woman to marry.



is only through blood relations that hatred and war will end”.  In
other words, Alexander the Great thought that marriage was about
creating and raising the next generation.  

Leaving aside whether Alexander is someone whose actions ought to fuel our decision-making (note to people seeking war with Iran – No!), this is crazy. First, he’s advocating for homosexually-active men to enter fake marriages. This is defending marriage? But even better, let’s take a quick look at Alexander’s marriage policies, from Arrian.

Then he also celebrated weddings at Susa,
both his own and those of his Companions. He himself married Barsine
[1], the eldest of Darius’ daughters, and, according
to Aristobulus,
another girl as well, Parysatis, the youngest of the daughters of Ochus
[2]. He had already married previously Roxane,
the daughter of Oxyartes of Bactria.

One could say much about the ways that Alexander tried to use marriage as part of his “Persian Policies.” The weddings at Susa are a particularly important moment for Alexander’s attempts at empire building, I’ve always thought.

But through the lens of this lawmaker – I wonder if he noticed that Alexander respected marriage so much that he married three women at the same time.

At any rate, congrats to Mike and Gary, my friends in New Mexico who just got married. 

2 Replies to “Alexander the Great – Anti-gay Icon”

  1. Nauplion says:

    So the NM guy is saying it is OK to be gay if you marry someone & have children? Do you suppose he knows what happened to Alex's children?

    1. David Perry says:

      I actually think he's read a history book or two in his day, I just think the lens with which he reads them is so skewed that he only sees what he wants to see. Which is fascinating to me.

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