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Pairing: Alexander the Great/Hephaistion
Alternative name(s):
Gender category: m/m, slash
Fandom: Historical RPF, The Alexander Trilogy, Alexander (film), etc.
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The pairing of Alexander the Great and his close friend, the Macedonian nobleman Hephaistion, is first and foremost Historical RPF. However, in exploring the relationship, fans often draw upon fictional adaptations as much as history. They may portray it as an epic friendship (à la Gilgamesh/Enkidu), or as a pre-slash devoted friendship, or as a sexual m/m pairing.

The Star Trek and Mary Renault Connection

In the first authorized biography of William Shatner, Shatner: Where No Man... by Sondra Marshak and Myrna Culbreath, one chapter is devoted to an interview with Gene Roddenberry. The authors compared Kirk's friendship with Spock to the bond between Alexander the Great and his friend Hephaistion. In context, a series of historical novels about Alexander's life by Mary Renault were appearing at the time this book was being prepared, and Roddenberry had read them. Shatner had played Alexander in a 1968 TV-movie, and both he and Roddenberry described themselves as fans of the historical Alexander.

Roddenberry was interviewed the week after the announcement of Star Trek: Phase II, the originally planned television series. Marshak and Culbreath began by asking him a series of questions about the Kirk-Spock friendship, particularly in the context of Mary Renault's novels about Alexander the Great. Asked if he saw the Kirk-Spock friendship as "two halves which come together to make a whole", Gene replied:

Oh, yes. As I've said, I definitely designed it as a love relationship. I think that's what we're all about -- love, the effort to reach out to each other. I think that's a lovely thing. Also, dramatically, I designed Kirk and Spock to complete each other, and in fact the Kirk, Spock, McCoy triad to be the dramatic embodiment of the parts of one person: logic, emotion, and the balance between them. You cannot have an internal monologue on screen, so that is a way of personifying it, getting it out where it can be seen -- that internal debate which we all have within And I designed Kirk and Spock, as I told you, as dream images of myself, the two halves. But in terms of the characters, yes. That closeness. Absolutely.

Roddenberry further revealed that he had cast Shatner as Kirk partly on the basis of his performance as Alexander.

Marshak and Culbreath: "There's a great deal of writing in the Star Trek movement now which compares the relationship between Alexander and Hephaistion to the relationship between Kirk and Spock -- focusing on the closeness of the friendship, the feeling that they would die for one another --"

Roddenberry: "Yes, there's certainly some of that, certainly with love overtones. Deep love. The only difference being, the Greek ideal... we never suggested in the series... physical love between the two. But it's the... we certainly had the feeling that the affection was sufficient for that, if that were the particular style of the 23rd century." (He looks thoughtful.) "That's very interesting. I never thought of that before."[1][note 1]

Portrayed in Star Trek

This pairing is often used and referenced in Kirk and Spock fiction and art, both m/m and gen. From a 1976 letter by Beverly C in The Halkan Council #22:

True, Kirk insists on the dominant part in everything, friendship and love as well as career; this is not unprecedented, nor is it impossible for such a man to find a lasting relationship. Take the case of Alexander, which is an excellent parallel. Alexander the Great was also a dynamic leader, who settled for nothing less than the top position, yet he managed to maintain for nearly twenty years a love relationship - with Hephaistion, one of his chief generals. The parallel is so good because the similarity between Spock and Kirk is so apparent, Spock is a man content to remain in his present position, Hephaistion was also a capable, intelligent man who preferred to remain subordinate to Alexander - as long as he could be near Alexander. Yet he was not passive or "feminine" any more than Spock is. As Gerry points out, Spock is as masculine and strong as Kirk is; it is reflected in different ways, part temperamental, part cultural.[2]

In 1990, a Robin of Sherwood fan attempted to explain slash to other RoS fans:

Slash began when a Trek writer tried very lyrically to apply the 'Greek ideal of male love' to Kirk and Spock (in terms of Alexander and Hephaistion); and other people read a lot more into it. Whoosh! Slash as soft porn has invaded almost any fandom that's based on a concept with two, or more, male friends. It is, for me, just totally unbelievable, in terms of the various characters it's applied to; and... quite dull.
Just what do you think Alex and Hephaistion were doing in that tent on a cool evening? I'd certainly read a lot into a story comparing Kirk and Spock to Alexander and Hephaiston, or Achilles and Patroclos, or any other fandom pair I don't feel like thinking about right now... The Greek ideal of male love wasn't, well, exactly platonic. [3]

Some Star Trek Fanwork Examples

Portrayed in Mary Renault's Books

Some Renault Fanwork Examples

Mailing List


  1. ^ In the same book, Nimoy affirms that Kirk and Spock are close friends, but doesn't agree with the "die for each other," "I can't live without you" business: "I don't really see Kirk as needing -- in a functional sense -- as needing Spock. In other words, I don't think Kirk is incomplete without Spock. . . I think Spock needs an environment within which to function, to make himself useful. Kirk is an initiator of action. And therefore, if there's a need either way, I would say that Spock needs to have the initiator in order to be useful in the project that the initiator initiates. I think that Kirk needs a science officer, but not necessarily Spock. He needs a good science officer, to run the ship."


  1. ^ Page 148. Who is "we"?
  2. ^ Beverly C., quoted in The Halkan Council 22, September 1976.
  3. ^ from Herne's Stepchildren #5