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Greek minister blasts Netflix’s Alexander the Great series for depicting same-sex relationship

Scene from the trailer of Alexander: The Making of a God
Scene from the trailer of Alexander: The Making of a God Photo: Screenshot

Alexander: The Making of a God, Netflix’s new docu-drama about Alexander the Great, is causing controversy in Greece, where some commentators and far-right leaders have slammed its depiction of the ancient Macedonian king’s same-sex relationship with one of his generals.

As The Guardian notes, one recent editorial in the Greek daily newspaper Eleftheros Typos described the six-part series, which combines commentary from historians with dramatic reenactments, as “a distortion of the truth,” and cited director Oliver Stone’s 2004 film Alexander for starting “a propaganda campaign about Alexander’s homosexuality.”

Dimitri Natsios, founder and leader of the far-right, anti-LGBTQ+ Niki party, went so far as to question Greece’s Minister of Culture, Lina Mendoni, about the series in Parliament. Natsios said the series aims to “subliminally convey the notion that homosexuality was acceptable in ancient times, an element that has no basis” and described it as “deplorable, unacceptable and unhistorical.”

In fact, the ancients would have had no concept of homosexuality as an identity category. But same-sex relationships were tolerated and even encouraged in certain contexts, notably in the “Sacred Band of Thebes,” a troop of elite soldiers consisting of 150 pairs of male lovers. While sexual relationships between adult men were likely frowned upon in many ancient Greek cities, some modern scholars like Thomas Hubbard have suggested that the Macedonian court may have been more tolerant.

Mendoni, though, seemed to agree with Natsios’s assessment, describing the Netflix series as “replete with historical inaccuracies” that demonstrate “the director’s sloppiness and poverty of scenario.”

She went on to address the show’s depiction of Alexander’s life-long relationship with Hephaestion, a childhood friend who went on to become a general in his army and his personal bodyguard.

“There is no mention in the sources that it goes beyond the limits of friendship, as defined by Aristotle,” Mendoni said. “But you will know that the concept of love in antiquity is broad and multidimensional. We cannot interpret either practices or persons who acted 2,300 years ago by our own measures, our own norms and assumptions. Alexander the Great, for 2,300 years, has never needed, nor does he need now, the intervention of any unsolicited protector of his historical memory or, even more, of his personality and moral standing.”

Mendoni may be right in her assertion that there are no known descriptions of Alexander and Hephaestion’s relationship as explicitly sexual by their contemporaries, but many modern historians believe they were more than just friends. They were frequently compared to Patroclus and Achilles, who were also believed to be lovers, and historians like Robin Lane Fox believe their sexual relationship may have continued into adulthood. While Alexander did marry and produce an heir later in his life, historian Peter Green argues in his 2007 book Alexander the Great and the Hellenistic Age that there is little evidence that he had much interest in women.

This is not the first time a pop culture depiction of Alexander the Great has caused an uproar in Greece. In 2004, a coalition of Greek lawyers claimed that Stone’s depiction of Alexander as bisexual in his 2004 film starring Colin Firth was defamatory and threatened to sue the director and Warner Bros.

In the U.S., Alexander: The Making of a God has already sparked outrage from the usual anti-LGBTQ+ trolls on social media. Earlier this month, influential rightwing X account End Wokeness posted that Netflix had “turned [Alexander] gay.”

The February 5 post drew widespread ridicule, with X users blasting the account’s apparent ignorance of history.

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