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The younger Bagoas was a favourite male concubine of Darius III, emperor of Persia. When Darius was murdered by his generals during Alexander's invasion of Persia in 330 BCE, one of the conspirators, Nabarzanes, gave Bagoas to Alexander as a gift. The historian Quintus Curtius Rufus, who wrote a biography of Alexander in the 1st or 2nd Century CE, says that it was Bagoas' pleas that saved Nabarzanes from being killed by Alexander as a regicide.
Curtius relates that Alexander took on "Bagoas, an eunuch exceptional in beauty and in the very flower of boyhood, with whom Darius was intimate and with whom Alexander would later be intimate." (VI.5.23). Bagoas is called Alexander's eromenos ("beloved", a term for a younger male lover) by Curtius – the only person so described.
Their relationship seems to have been well-known and approved among Alexander's troops, as Plutarch recounts an episode (also mentioned by Dicaearchus) during some festivities on the way back from India in which his men clamor for him to openly kiss the eunuch, who had just won a song and dance contest: "Bagoas...sat down close by him, which so pleased the Macedonians, that they made loud acclamations for him to kiss Bagoas, and never stopped clapping their hands and shouting till Alexander put his arms round him and kissed him." Template:Rf
Bagoas is the narrator and title character of The Persian Boy, the historical novel by Mary Renault, which portrays him sympathetically. He reappears in a smaller but still significant role in the sequel Funeral Games. He makes an even briefer appearance in Les Conquêtes d'Alexandre by Roger Peyrefitte. Peyrefitte, unlike Renault, has Bagoas riding to battle by the side of Darius. Played by Francisco Bosch, he also appears in the Oliver Stone film Alexander, which is based in part on Renault's writings.
Renault's defense of BagoasEdit
Renault points out that the occasion of the famous kiss (Greek katefilesen, implying an intense passionate kiss) was soon after the crossing of the Gedrossian Desert, and all the soldiers present were survivors of that harrowing episode, together with Alexander and Bagoas. Bagoas, she argues, must have earned his popularity with the troops by his courage and fortitude, and his help to others, while crossing that deadly desert.
Renault also questions Curtius' contention that Orsines did not plunder the royal tombs of Persepolis, but that those tombs were sparsely furnished in a Spartan fashion to begin with. She also rejects Curtius' claim that a Great King having a male lover was an innovation, noting that Bagoas had been a concubine of Darius III before he was the beloved of Alexander. Renault concludes that Curtius' account was distorted based on his homophobia and his ignorance of Persian culture and customs.
In addition to the novels listed above, Renault also writes about Bagoas in her nonfiction biography The Nature of Alexander. In one significant respect, Renault changed her mind about Bagoas. In The Persian Boy, Bagoas pleads for Nabarzanes in spite of the latter's complicity in the slaying of Darius. After more study and reflection, Renault concluded Nabarzanes was innocent, and this viewpoint is presented in both The Nature of Alexander and Funeral Games.
- "Bagoas Pleads on Behalf of Nabarzanes," illuminated parchment by the Master of the Jardin de vertueuse consolation, in the collection of the J. Paul Getty Museum