|About the Book|
The Persian Boy is a 72 historical novel written by Mary Renault, narrated by Bagoas, a young Persian aristocrat whos captured by his fathers enemies, castrated & sold as a slave to Darius III, who makes him his favorite. Eventually he becomesMoreThe Persian Boy is a 72 historical novel written by Mary Renault, narrated by Bagoas, a young Persian aristocrat whos captured by his fathers enemies, castrated & sold as a slave to Darius III, who makes him his favorite. Eventually he becomes the lover & most faithful servant of Alexander, who overthrew Darius, capturing the Empire. Bagoas narration provides a Persian view of the conquest & an intimate look at the personality of the conqueror.Like much of Renaults fiction, the book provides a sympathetic portrait of homosexual love. Its notable for its depiction of the tradition of pederasty in Greece, where relationships between adult men & adolescent boys were celebrated. Bagoas is aged 15 when he begins his relationship with Alexander, then 26. Renault depicts the attachment as lasting until Alexanders death, when Bagoas was about 22.The book describes the major incidents of Alexanders later career, such as abortive invasions of present-day Afghanistan & India, his marriage to Roxane, his crossing of the Gedrosian Desert, Hephaistions death & his own final illness & death.Bagoas was a historical figure, identified by the Roman Curtius as a eunuch exceptional in beauty & in the very flower of boyhood, with whom Darius was intimate & with whom Alexander would later be intimate. Plutarch described Alexanders troops, seeing their leader sitting with the boy, as clapping their hands & shouting till Alexander put his arms round him & kissed him. From these & a few other fragments, Renault creates an imaginative portrait of a lover & confidant to Alexander. Reviewing The Persian Boy, historian Jeanne Reames wrote: That Alexander may have been attracted to a eunuch is possible enough, & there is certainly testimony that he kept Bagoas with him at least some of the time. But there is no evidence that Bagoas was as important to, much less as influential over, Alexander as Renault paints. She gives to Bagoas a role which history suggests was filled by Hephaistion. She also points out that historical sources name Bagoas, not Hephaistion, as eromenos (beloved) to Alexander. Curtius history presents Bagoas as a vindictive schemer who revenges himself on a Persian noble named Orsines who failed to give him gifts by lying to Alexander about him, eventually succeeding in having him tried & executed. Renault, who accuses Curtius of muddled sensationalism in a note, points to other sources suggesting that Orxines was in fact a murderous character, portraying him as deserving his fate. Curtius claim that Orsines didnt plunder the royal tombs but that they were devoid of riches in the 1st place is an absurd one, as Renault points out, unacceptable in light of whats known of Persian culture.Renault also notes that the incident in which the army clamored for Alexander to kiss Bagoas took place soon after the crossing of the Gedrosian desert, when all present were survivors of the harrowing incident. She argues that Bagoas must have earned the admiration & affection of the army by his courage, fortitude & help to others, during the desert crossing.