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If we've oodles of Alexander statues, we've few surviving images of the people around Alexander unless, like Ptolemy, they went on to become Successor kings of the Hellenistic Era. A number of figures probably meant to be historical persons appear on the Alexander Sarcophagus from Sidon, now in the Istanbul Archaeological Museum, but only Alexander is securely identified.

For reasons of copyright, I can't post images here unless I took them myself. Ergo, I've inserted links to images available elsewhere.


portraits exist from antiquity. If some striking differences exist among them, one can almost always spot an "Alexander." Andrew Stewart's Faces of Power (Berkeley, 1993) not only catalogues and assesses them, but offers commentary on what later political motives affected the variations. He contends that the Azara Herm (in the Louvre) is probably closest to a likeness (as opposed to a portrait, which is different). Obviously, the herm depicts a much older Alexander. The Akropolis head (at left) is the youngest datable portrait we have, made when he was 18-19, but it shows strong Athenian "idealizing" tendencies, merging a recognizable Alexander with the "perfect ephebe," and should be considered akin to the ancient version of Photoshop. If the Azara Herm is the most realistic, I'm quite fond of the lesser-known full-body sculpture of Alexander in the Istanbul museum, near the Pergamum head.

I'm sometimes asked who I'd cast for Alexander in a modern movie, but I've not seen anybody I thought that close.
I do think L.C. Chase did a magnificent job finding a stock model for Alexander on the cover of Book 1: Becoming to match the Akropolis head here. Also, while there have been various attempts to put skin on Alexander statues, Royalty Now recently did one from the Azara Herm that I find the most likely.
Hephaistion dedication

We've only one clearly labeled sculpture of Hephaistion (Thessaloniki Museum, at left), but it was made some years after his death as a votive offering. It might reflect statues of him made during his lifetime, but we can't assume it's a likeness. Several other statues or heads have been identified as him, but none were labeled to allow certain identification, and at least one (the Getty head) is probably a forgery. The central horseman in the battle scene on the long side of the Alexander Sarcophagus (Istanbul Museum) is often identified as Hephaistion, and is the image I use on my educational website about him. Yet, and if it's more commonly identified today as Demetrios Poliorketes (son of Antigonos Monophthalmos), I prefer the Prado Bronze. It has a certain gravitas, and when I was imagining the younger Hephaistion in the novel, it formed the basis. While striking, my Hephaistion never matched the softer, round-faced, bow-mouthed Athenian ideal. The Madrid Bronze has a longer, squarer face with a strong chin, and I see that square jaw and prominent chin in a couple other purported images of Hephaistion. (If you compare my shot of the Thessalonike Hephaistion to the Prado Bronze, you'll find distinct similarities, especially in the lower face.)

When the publisher requested images for the cover artist, after a bit of poking around, I did find someone who might be a (younger) version of the Prado Bronze: Portuguese model Vick Correia -- perfect in virtually every way except a lack of beard. So there's a living Hephaistion for readers.

                                (modern) Methone

We have no certain (labeled) portrait of Philip, but several have been indentified as him, one marble bust from the Glyptotek in Denmark, another in the Vatican, sometimes called Philip and sometimes Alkibiades, a late gold medallion of Philip (the mate to one of Olympias), and the tiny ivory head found in Royal Tomb II at Vergina. The Glyptotek and Vatican heads do strongly resemble each other, as well as the medalion. Regarding the ivory head, we might be more certain of its identity if the tomb's identification were less of a quagmire. Although officially called "Philip's Tomb" by the Greeks, the academic community is far less convinced. Right now, collective opinion leans to the occupants of Tomb II being Philip III Arrhidaios and Hadea Eurydike. As the ivory head came from the same klinē (dining couch) as heads identified as Alexander and Olympias/(Myrtale), identifying it as Philip, even if that isn't Philip's tomb, remains possible. To quote Beth Carney, when Kassandros buried Arrhidaios and Eurydike, as well as Alexander IV, he might have simply cleaned out the "Argead attic," to put a fork in that dynasty. (The statue at left is a modern one, from the town of Methonē, where Philip lost his eye.)


We have even fewer surviving images of Alexander's mother, Myrtale-Olympias. One is the matching gold medallion to the one of Philip mentioned above (see left, Thessaloniki Museum).

Another may be the Gonzaga Cameo (carved sardonyx gem), but the subjects of it are in dispute, with Alexander and Olympias only two possibilities; others include Ptolemy and Arsinoe, Tiberius and Livia, and it was originally thought to be Augustus and Livia. It's modeled on later Ptolemaic portraits of royals.


A few busts of Aristotle survive (left: National Museum, Athens), although most seem to be similar to the Roman marble copy of a bronze made by Lysippos (Alexander's personal sculptor) during Aristotle's lifetime. Another, more Romanized version.

Ptolemy I

As he later became the first Ptolemaic king of Egypt (Ptolemy I Soter), we do have several images of Ptolemy. He was not an attractive man; none of the Ptolemies were, even the famous Kleopatra VII (that Kleopatra,yes). The Louvre bust is perhaps the best known, although its identification owes to coin images. Another coin, showing Ptolemy with his wife Berenike, is a precursor type of the Gonzaga Cameo mentioned above. The coin at right comes from the NYC Metropolitan Museum.

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