In Focus

Narrative for Alexander and the Family of Darius

The encounter between Alexander the Great and the relatives of his defeated foe was described in detail by the first century historian, Quintus Curtius. According to Curtius, after Alexander's triumph over the Persian Emperor Darius II at the Battle of Issus, the emperor's wife, mother, and daughters were held captive. When the fighting ceased, Alexander visited the women's tent accompanied by his closest friend Hephaestion. The stature and appearance of Hephaestion misled the regal prisoners to confuse which of the men was their captor. When the women knelt and payed homage to Hephaestion, he and several servants pointed to Alexander to correct the women's mistake. In Francesco Fontebasso's rendition of this story, Darius's young wife is moved by the sight of her husband's great enemy and is wiping her tears while her two daughters and son look more interested than frightened. Curtius's account praised Alexander for treating his enemy's family members with honor and kindness. Alexander's response to the mistaken identity was to comment that he and Hephaestion's friendship was so close that his comrade was an equal representative.

Adapted from

  • P.F.R., DMA research essay, n.d., Education files.

  • Anne Bromberg, "European Collection at the Dallas Museum of Art," DMA research essay, 1987, Education files.

  • "Reformation to the Enlightenment," DMA research document, n.d., Education files.

Web Resources

Quintus Curtius Rufus, History of Alexander
Read John C. Rolfe's English translation of this book, published by Harvard University Press in 1946 and available through Hathi Trust Digital Library.