The Persian Boy (book)

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The Persian Boy is a 1972 historical novel written by Mary Renault and narrated by Bagoas, a young Persian from an aristocratic family who is captured by his father's enemies, castrated, and sold as a slave to the king Darius III, who makes him his favorite. Eventually he becomes the lover and most faithful servant of Alexander the Great, who overthrew Darius and captured the Persian Empire. Bagoas' narration provides both a Persian view of the conquest and an intimate look at the personality of the conqueror. In Renault's view, Alexander's love for Bagoas influenced his desire to unite the Greek and Persian peoples. Renault also posits the notion that Alexander's relentless drive to conquer the world stemmed in part from his troubled relationship with his domineering mother, and his desire to "escape" from her influence by leading his army ever eastward.

Plot introduction

Like much of Renault's fiction, the book, published in 1972, provides a sympathetic portrait of homosexual love. The Persian Boy is notable for its depiction of the tradition of pederasty in ancient Greece, where relationships between adult men and adolescent boys were celebrated. In the novel, Bagoas is 15 years old when he begins his relationship with Alexander (then about 26). Renault depicts the attachment as lasting until Alexander's death, when Bagoas would have been about 22. She movingly explores the tensions in the triangular relationship between Alexander and his two lovers, Hephaistion and Bagoas, and suggests that Alexander went mad with grief over Hephaistion's untimely death.

See also