Around the year 327 BCE, while Alexander the Great was campaigning around Sogdiana, the conquering king decided to take a break from war to enjoy some recreational hunting. With his usual entourage in tow, and accompanied by a further contingent of royal pages to assist in the day’s activities, Alexander set off to track his prey. Alexander, rather than choosing to seek out a docile and safe target, instead decided to hunt an animal that was infamous for maiming and killing careless nobles during hunts—the boar. With this choice, Alexander obviously was looking for a challenge and also likely wanted to bask in the glory that came with successfully overcoming a dangerous beast. One of the royal pages, however, did not get this message and misread Alexander’s state of mind. The mistaken man’s name was Hermolaus and he enraged Alexander the Great by rushing ahead of the king to attack a boar that was charging at Alexander. This peculiar incident, and Alexander’s wrathful backlash, was mentioned by the historian Arrian (c. 90-173 +), who wrote, “the story is that during a hunt Alexander was charged by a boar and before he could strike, was forestalled by Hermolaus, who himself struck the boar and killed it. Alexander was furious at missing his chance, and ordered Hermolaus to be whipped in front of the other boys, and then took his horse from him” (Arrian, Anabasis of Alexander, 4.13). Hermolaus, of course, was extremely bitter after his public punishment, and Alexander the Great may not have known just how disturbed and angry certain members of the royal pages became after witnessing the whipping. As a result of this incident, Hermolaus started a plot to assassinate Alexander the Great, and he brought other disgruntled royal pages into the conspiracy. Hermolaus and his fellow conspirators, Sostratus, Antipater, Anticles, Philotas, Nicostratus, Asclepiodorus and Elaptonius, were eventually given up by a hesitant man named Epimenes, who had also been recruited into the conspiracy. For coming forward with news of the plot, Epimenes’ life was reportedly spared—the other conspirators, however, were all said to have been tortured and executed.
Written by C. Keith Hansley
Picture Attribution: (Hunt of the Calydonian Boar, by Pinturicchio (c. 16th century), [Public Domain] via Creative Commons and the MET).
- The Campaigns of Alexander by Arrian, translated by Aubrey de Sélincourt. New York: Penguin Classics, 1971.
- The History of Alexander by Curtius Rufus, translated by John Yardley. New York: Penguin Classics, 1984, 2001, 2004.