22 JULY 1995, Page 23

Royal abstinence

Sir: R.V. Jones (Letters, 24 June) says he cannot find any reference to Alexander the Great's homosexuality in Plutarch's life of him and asks for the evidence of it. In Chapter 67 (Penguin Classics translation) Plutarch recounted an occasion when

He [Alexander] went to watch some contests in dancing and singing and ... his favourite Bagoas won the prize; thereupon the young man came across the theatre ... and seated himself beside the king. At the sight the Macedonians applauded loudly and shouted to Alexander to kiss the winner, until at last the king put his arms around him and kissed him.

Bagoas's introduction to Alexander six years earlier is mentioned by Curtius Rufus (History of Alexander, Book 10, Chapter 1), who described him as 'a eunuch of remark- able beauty and in the very flower of boy- hood, who had been loved by Darius, and was afterwards to be loved by Alexander'. If Mr Jones would read the section in Plutarch immediately preceding the one he quotes, he would find an account of Alexander's similar refusal to succumb to temptation with beautiful female captives. Far from suggesting that Alexander was not attracted to boys, Plutarch's stories of his refusing the procured ones were given only as further examples of how he 'thought it more worthy of a king to subdue his own Passions than to conquer his enemies'. Nevertheless, it is surely misleading to describe as a homosexual one who simply, like most men in his society, liked both women and boys. For some reason, the Greeks did not find it necessary to cate- gorise themselves according to their sexual preferences.

Jeremy Merton

Le Pinier, 09100 Les Issards, France