Gender politics and sexuality have differed from age to age and culture to culture throughout history. The concept of homosexuality and bisexuality as identities only emerged in the 20th century, prior to that gay and lesbian relationships and activities were commonplace but were thought of more as something one did rather than as part of one's identity. There have been many historic figures who are noted to have preferred their own gender for romance, and here are the stories of five rulers from ancient to modern times who are known to had same-sex love affairs.
Alexander The Great (356 BC – 323 BC)
Alexander was the son of King Philip II of Macedonia, another ancient ruler known to have enjoyed the company of men. As a young man he greatly pleased his father with his strategic intelligence and bravery, the prince was educated by the great philosopher Aristotle. Among the other students educated with him was a young man named Hefistean, Alexander and Hefistean became inseparable and likely had a sexual relationship. their intimate friendship continued on for the rest of their lives, Hefistean was often at Alexander's side in battle. When King Philip went to war with Byzantium, he left his 16-year-old son in charge and a group of tribes rose up in rebellion against the teenage prince, but Alexander attacked and drove them out of their territory, repopulated the area with greeks and renamed it Alexandria. Upon his return, Philip was so impressed that although he had other sons Alexander was the clear favorite to inherit the throne and he did at the age of 20 when his father was assassinated suspiciously. That those who had murdered his father would be coming for him next, Alexander put to death a number of courtiers including a few of family members to ensure his rule would be safe. Recently conquered states including Athens suspected that the young king might be weaker than his father and rose up against him but they were mistaken and were quickly suppressed by Alexander and his army. The young King fell in love with princess Roxana of Bactria and married her. They had one child together, a son named Alexander the King also continued his relationship with Hefistean whom he named commander of the cavalry second.
Only to Alexander himself, their relationship was considered a bit unusual by the Greeks, not because they were both men that were perfectly acceptable but because they were the same age, conventional homosexual relationships at the time were strictly between older and younger men. Alexander and Hefistean once made a pilgrimage to Troy where together they laid flowers on the tombs of Achilles and Patroclus famed gay lovers of antiquity.
Once Alexander had secured control over all of Greece, he turned his view eastward to Asia with his superior military might and strategy Alexander conquered at the Persian Empire. In order to unite the Greek and Persian empires, Alexander took two Persian princesses Stataira and Perycitiy as his second and third wives. one of the defeated Persian leaders offered Alexander the gift of a remarkably beautiful eunuch by the name of “Obiguas” Alexander immediately took the young man as a lover and frequently embraced him in public. This relationship was much more comfortable for the Greeks. When Obiguas set next to Alexander at a feast the army cheered the couple and demanded that they kiss which they did enthusiastically. One courtier did call Obiguas the King's whore and Obiguass used his influence to have the man's life destroyed. Alexander continued to march his army through the Middle East, Egypt and Asia conquering and destroying lands as he went, he often renamed the cities he took in his own honor which is why the area is littered with Alexandria's and Alexandra palaces.
Alexander next turned his sights on the Indian subcontinent where again his army dominated the local population. Alexander had amassed a larger Empire than any ruler before him in history. By this time he hadn't been back to Macedonia in many years but he continued to demand military reinforcements from his home base, the army had grown tired of constant bloodshed and marching ever further from home they wanted to return to Greece and began to rebel against the king. Alexander had a little choice but to turn around and march home but the conquest hungry Alexander took a long way round and continued to beat new lands into submission on the way, on route his longtime love Hefistean died of fever the king was devastated and laid for hours on his friend's corpse. He ordered divine honors and funeral rites for Hefistean and commanded all of his subjects to mourn, Alexander drowned his sorrows in drink and at the age of 32. at the height of his power he died either from binge drinking or perhaps from drinking wine poisoned by his army or one of the countless enemies he had made along the way.
After his death, Alexander's first wife Roxana ordered the murders of his second and third wives Satara and Parity in order to secure her own son Alexander's ascent to the throne. Alexander was buried in Alexandria for the next 200 years, but his tomb was such a popular tourist spot and was so frequently damaged that Roman Emperor Septimius Severus had it moved to a secret location. to this day at the final resting place of Alexander the Great is one of history's great mysteries.
Emperor AI of Han (27 BC – 1 BC)
Ai became Emperor of the Chinese Han Dynasty at the age of 20, people were initially optimistic about his ascension as he was intelligent and well-spoken, but he also behaved impulsively and selfishly. Corruption blossomed in his administration and heavy taxes were levied on the people. Ai was controlled by his grandmother's consort foo and they both became deeply unpopular. Though several Chinese emperors were known to have had homosexual relationships, it was the most exuberant. the Emperor's Ai fell on a minor court official dong Chien, dong rose through the ranks alarmingly fast and the Emperor built a luxurious residence for him and his wife next to the Imperial Palace, the Emperor made dong’s sister a royal consort and member of his harem ranked just below the Empress. the three dongs were with the Emperor nearly constantly the affair of the two men became known as the passion of the cut sleeve because of a story; that after falling asleep in bed together one afternoon the Emperor cut off his sleeve rather than wake his dozing paramour when he had to get up out of bed to attend a royal duty. Dong has created a Marquess and then commander of the army making him one of the three most powerful men in the country under the emperor, many officials baked Ai not to give so much power to his incompetent lover, but all who protested were demoted or banished. The Emperor had tombs built for himself and dong next to each other and named dong his heir but the Emperor died suddenly from illness at the age of 26 and the royal family seized power to cast out and disgraced dong and his wife committed suicide and were buried inside a prison.
Khalif Al-hakam ii (915AD-976)
Al-hakam was the Khalif of cordoba the southern half of modern-day Spain and Portugal. He was a well-respected scholar and was famous throughout the Muslim world for his wisdom in science, mathematics, and statecraft. He had a massive personal library and commissioned the translation of hundreds of works from Latin and Greek into Arabic during his reign. He forged a truce with the Catholic kingdoms to the north and ensured peace and prosperity for his people. Al-hakam commissioned irrigation works to improve agriculture, widen streets, and built markets throughout his kingdom. He was a patron of the female mathematician Luna of Cordoba and physician Abu Al-Qasim Al Suruí.
Al-Hakam was open about his homosexual preferences and kept a male harem by his mid-40s. Hakam had not produced an heir and so married concubine Sueb of Cordoba, who was beautiful, bright, and analytical. She had been a Christian from Navarre named Aurora but through unknown circumstances had ended up as a slave in the Khalifa's harem. Sueb attracted her husband's attention by dressing as a man with cropped hair and trousers, her comb gave her to the male pet named Jafar in the guise of a man. Sueb obtained access to the male-dominated royal court and she was able to amass an unprecedented amount of political power. The couple managed to have a son Hashim, who was also said to prefer the company of men later in life. Hakam suffered a stroke and allowed his wife to take over many of the day-to-day tasks of running the kingdom. Al-Hakam ii died at the age of 61.
King Gongmin of Goryeo (1330 – 1374)
King Gongmin ruled the kingdom of Goryeo which is the modern-day Korean Peninsula. Goryeo had been a vassal Kingdom of the Mongolian Empire, since the conquest of Genghis Khan's descendants a century earlier, as was a tradition for a possible heir to the throne Gongmen spent much of his childhood at the Mongolian Court and married a Mongolian princess who later became known as Queen Nan Goo.
When Gongmin ascended the throne at the age of 21, he was allowed to return to his kingdom to rule with Mongolian oversight, but shortly into his reign the Mongolian Empire began to crumble and the king took back control of his kingdom by pushing out all the Mongolian aristocrats and military officials. The Mongols attempted a coup but were defeated. The king instead allied himself with the Ming dynasty of China, whose power was quickly eclipsing that of the Mongols.
In his spare time, Gongming was a talented artist and calligrapher, Gongming was very close to his wife Queen Nan Goo, but they had not conceived a child together, the King was pressured to take the second wife in order to secure the succession, but he refused because he preferred the company of young men in the court called “Sha Chi”. The names of five of his lovers were recorded “Hong-Yoon”, “Ha-And”, “Cuong-Chien”, “Hong-Wan” and “Sun Queen”.
Queen Nan Goo became pregnant after 15 years of marriage, but she died of complications during the pregnancy. The King was despondent at her death and lost all interest in managing his kingdom. He allowed his adviser Shin-Dong to run the country. A slave girl came forward claiming that her son had been fathered by the king, Gongmin denied that the child was his but was convinced by his advisers to claim the boy named “Hiou” as his heir as he was unlikely to father any other children. freed of political responsibility the King indulged his sexual desires with abandon, he surrounded himself with attractive young bodyguards and slept with them at his pleasure Gongmein took a second wife queen sang Chien but was shocked when she became pregnant, possibly because he knew he couldn't be the father. He discovered that she had been having an affair with one of his bodyguards and he began to plot to have the lover killed but before he could strike the bodyguards stole into the King's bedroom and killed him in his sleep, Gongmin was 44. he was succeeded by his illegitimate son Hiou.
Tsar Ferdinand the first of Bulgaria (1861 – 1948)
Ferdinand was born and raised in the sophisticated Court of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in Vienna, his father was Prince Auguste of Socks a Coburg, cousin to Queen Victoria of Great Britain and her husband Prince Albert and his mother Clementine of OrLeon was the daughter of King Louis Philippe the first of France and a descendant of Philippe the first Duke of Orleans another royal famous for his appreciation of the male form.
As a young man Ferdinand lusted after women and fathered a number of illegitimate children whom he supported financially, he entered into a political marriage with Princess Maria Louise of Bourbon-Parma, the couple had four children. Maria died in childbirth and the prince had no interest in remarrying until his mother died. Ferdinand then remarried primarily to provide his children with the maternal caregiver, his second wife Princess Eleanor Rice of Custards held no attraction for him and he treated her more as a member of the household staff than as a wife. After the prince of Bulgaria Alexander of Battenberg abdicated amid a pro-Russian coup Ferdinand then an Army officer was elected Prince. Queen Victoria said of her cousin's election; “He is totally unfit, delicate, eccentric and effeminate should be stopped at once.” Despite his detractors, Ferdinand was a very good leader.
He declared Bulgaria independent from the Ottoman Empire and made himself Tsar, rumors about the Tsar's tris with soldiers and valets began to circulate and it was said that he preferred blondes. His rendezvous with various young men on the island of Capri was common knowledge among European aristocrats. Capri has a reputation as a destination for gay men dating back to the ancient Roman emperor Tiberius. The German Emperor Wilhelm ii once teased the Tsar about his sexual proclivities and slapped him on the bottom and Ferdinand was so offended that he refused to grant Germany a valuable arms contract. An embittered former Prime Minister caused a scandal when he gave an interview exploiting Ferdinand's homosexual activities to the public, the Tsar was forced to abdicate in favor of his son Boris the third and he spent the rest of his life in exile in Germany enjoying his vast fortune. Tsar Ferdinand, the first of Bulgaria died at the age of 87.
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