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The Persian Boy

(Alexander the Great #2)

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  9,074 ratings  ·  683 reviews
“It takes skill to depict, as Miss Renault has done, this half-man, half Courtesan who is so deeply in love with the warrior.”–The Atlantic Monthly

The Persian Boy traces the last years of Alexander’s life through the eyes of his lover, Bagoas. Abducted and gelded as a boy, Bagoas was sold as a courtesan to King Darius of Persia, but found freedom with Alexander after the M
Paperback, 420 pages
Published February 12th 1988 by Vintage (first published 1972)
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Robert Coleman I just read it and it can definitely be read as a stand alone. I didn't feel like I was missing anything. I just ordered the 1st book and will read th…moreI just read it and it can definitely be read as a stand alone. I didn't feel like I was missing anything. I just ordered the 1st book and will read that next. (less)
Wendelin St Clair Because he was both. He was absolutely a *'macho' (in the non-derogatory sense) figure, as macho as on can get, actually and he did take multiple wive…moreBecause he was both. He was absolutely a *'macho' (in the non-derogatory sense) figure, as macho as on can get, actually and he did take multiple wives. He also probably had a sexual relationship with Bagoas and a romantic one with Hephaistion. Those things would not have been contradictory to him or the people around him. You can't apply modern Western conceptions of sexuality and identity, let alone orientation, to people from another culture thousands of years ago.(less)
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Ahmad Sharabiani
The Persian Boy (Alexander the Great #1), Mary Renault

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 t
Apr 26, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I used to think I despised love stories. I would wonder what was wrong with me; love stories are supposed to move us, I would think. They're supposed to make us feel things other stories cannot. So I thought. But all the "love stories" I saw were the unbelievable kind: The ridiculous caricatures on display in "romantic" comedies, the happily ever afters we were fed in fairy tales. "Where was the pain?", I would ask. Where was the suffering, and the longing. And perhaps above all, do these charac ...more
After thinking about this book more I had to change the rating.

The lack of my perfect Hephaistion ruined the book for me. He was the most important person in Alexander’s life, for goodness' sake! It doesn’t matter if they were actually lovers or not. He was the only person who loved Alexander as a person. And that’s why Alexander valued his opinion the most. Hephaistion never lied to Alexander, if he thought that the king was wrong, he said it. He was a very brave man, capable of doing amazing

LEST ANYONE SHOULD SUPPOSE I am a son of nobody, sold off by some peasant father in a drought year, I may say our line is an old one, though it ends with me.
They say women forget the pain of childbirth. Well, they are in nature’s hand. No hand took mine. I was a body of pain in an earth and sky of darkness. It will take death to make me forget.

This is a story of Alexander’s campaigns in Asia told by his lover Bagoas, a persian boy whose parents were brutally killed before his eyes; a b
The Persian Boy follows on from Fire From Heaven and takes us to the heart of Alexander’s life story; his travels and conquests of the Persian empire as Macedonian king.

The first thing I noted straight away was that The Persian Boy has a different feel from Fire From Heaven. Fire From Heaven is told in traditional third person but mainly from the perspective of the young Alexander, and the story ends just as Alexander becomes king. Before going into this book I expected The Persian Boy to direct
This book is a marvel, the first part especially so. I can’t understand how but it manages to combine the most appalling crimes imaginable (young Bagoas is enslaved, castrated, pimped out, and gradually turned into the king’s sex toy) with a feeling of comfort and tradition. You feel Bagoas’ love for Persia even as he passes through the worst bits of it. By the time Darius falls you feel regret for the ruin of this once-promising king and the ending of a mighty empire. Again, this is the man who ...more
Aug 08, 2014 rated it liked it
I really don’t have a lot to say about this book. It’s the first one by Renault that I’ve been…hmm, not disappointed, but perhaps underwhelmed by. We continue with the story of Alexander the Great from the point at which we left him in Fire from Heaven. Or we sort of do…because this volume is told to us as the first-person memoirs of Bagoas, a Persian noble whose family was killed during internecine fighting for the Persian throne. Bagoas is captured as a young boy by his family’s murderers and ...more
Mel Bossa
Splendid. I savored every page. Bagoas's devotion to his lord and his understanding of the warrior he lay with every night--his deep love for Alexander and respect for this flawed but incredible man, moved and inspired me.

The tale is epic. The journey is unforgettable. The excitement and exotic landscapes are beautifully rendered--the history and romance coming together like Macedonia and Persia.

The last few chapters, from Hephaistion's death and on, are worth the whole sweeping book.

In Hades wo
Every time I pick this book up to read just a passage I find myself getting sucked in again. This is my desert island book, if I could just bring one with me. Every time I read it I could just turn it over and start from the beginning again. It's epic and then again, it's about a boy's first love. There's the sweep of history, and then there's very personal humor and heartbreak. Seriously, Bagoas will rip your heart out. The last line makes me cry.

I will probably never be able to read Funeral G
Dec 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
When I started this book, I was unaware that it was part 2 in a trilogy about the life of Alexander the Great. I just saw it on some "best LGBT literature" list and bought it.

This 1972 book spans the life of Alexander from the age of 26 until his death, and is written from the POV of Bagoas, a eunuch and courtier that really existed. According to wikipedia "Bagoas won a dancing contest after the Macedonian crossing of the Gedrosian Desert. The Macedonian troops, with whom Bagoas was very popula
It is possible - though somewhat distressing - that my love affair with Mary Renault is beginning to draw to a close. It began about eight years ago, when I first read The King Must Die and The Bull from the Sea surrounding a passionate, pilgrimage-like trip to Greece. I was amazed that Renault possessed the same respect, reverence even for the Greeks and the Greek culture that I did. The care and seriousness with which she endowed her historical novels impressed me - here, I thought, is another ...more
I had to sit with this book and digest it for a few days after finishing before I could even start to put together coherent thoughts about it.

The writing style is a lot simpler from the first book, where you chase around Alexander's thoughts in a limited-third-person. This book is a relatively straight forward first-person told by Bagoas, and you spend most of your mental effort on the themes instead of the prose, which is appreciated.

The fundamental theme of the book, to my read, is that of u
Ben Kane
Dec 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I came late to the party, but that doesn't mean I am any less enthusiastic than those who advised me Renault's trilogy about Alexander was historical fiction of the finest quality. I mistakenly read book three after book one, leaving this one to last. In retrospection, I'm glad. It's the best of the trilogy by some margin, and less depressing than the final volume.

The character of Bagoas is one of the deftest I have ever encountered between the pages of a novel. Sharp-minded, blessed with good l
Jun 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lqbtqia-read
I feel drained. Alexander, my beautiful boy, I love you. His characterization was so lovely, in this book and in the first. My only wish is that Hephaistion and Bagoas had loved him together, not apart. Also, I cried so much at the end. I know Alexander and Hephaistion were Achilles and Patroclus, but did Renault really have to do me like that with the grieving scenes... The sobbing, the descent into madness, the sawing off of the hair, the funeral pyre... It hurt so much.


"Without Hephaistion
Basically flawless. They don't write them like this anymore.
Normally when I really love a book, I tear through ravenously, but this one made me linger. I'd often find myself meandering, revisiting an earlier scene in a new light, savouring a paragraph I'd just read, occasionally going all the way back to the beginning or browsing forward so I'd know when to steel myself for heartache (yeah, that one didn't work). It's well worth lingering over. Renault's style is at its best here, subtle, lyrica
Apr 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing
The only historical romance the stole my heart and broke it at the end.....so sad. Bagoas was a young nobleman's son. Through treachery of his father's friend, his own family was killed and him sold into slavery, gelded and sold to a merchant. He was only 12 and he was raped and molested by his master and clients. Later he was sold to the King of Persia and became a dancer and a pleasure slave. When Alexander came, he escaped and was presented to Alexander as a gift. This here begins the romance ...more
Aug 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 5-star-club
Extremely vivid, descriptive historical fiction about the relationship between Alexander the Great and a slave boy named Bagoas, and (I say this as someone with very little interest in romance/love stories) a touchingly beautiful love story. The two characters are so gorgeously human and wonderful, and the selfless, unconditional love Bagoas feels for Alexander is just so moving and real. It’s a sad story, but in my opinion never maudlin, and it inspired so many deep emotions in me that it left ...more
Erik Graff
Jun 06, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literature
This is the second of Mary Renault's Alexander trilogy. The first, Fire from Heaven, deals with his childhood until the death of the king of Macedon, his father. The third deals with events following upon his death. The Persian Boy details his conquests from the perspective of one of his lovers, a eunuch based on an actual historical personage.

It was at about this time, while in the midst of a Mary Renault binge, that I came upon one of her contemporary novels at a bookstore near Columbia Univer
Crystal Starr Light
Bullet Review:


That ending!! Where's the next book?! How can it just end like that?!

Full Review:

Alexander the Great (or, according to my personal historian, as his title should be known, in its native tongue, "o Megas Alexandros") is absolutely an awe-inspiring person. When you put into perspective the time period, the cultures, and then think about the things Alexander did, it's absolutely extraordinary.

This is the story of Alexander's later life, as told through the eyes of his Persian "boy
Lest anyone should suppose I am a son of nobody, sold off by some peasant father in a drought year, I may say our line is an old one, though it ends with me. My father was Artembares, son of Araxis, of the Pasargadai, Kyros's old royal tribe. Three of our family fought for him, when he set the Persians over the Medes. We held our land eight generations, in the hills west above Susa. I was ten years old, and learning a warrior's skills, when I was taken away.
Mary Renault is quite possibly the bes
Aug 01, 2012 rated it liked it
Mary Renault is a master historical novelist. I love the way she showed us Alexander the Great differently than he is often portrayed in the history books and Pressfield novels. I enjoy Pressfield's work as well but to him Alexander was first and foremost a classical Hellenist and warrior. Renault focuses on Alexander the lover how he was viewed by his Persian boy; a eunuch, a slave, but also an influential master of his privy chamber. I was bothered in the beginning by Renault's romanticizing w ...more
Robert Case
Mar 24, 2017 rated it liked it
"The Persian Boy" is the second volume of Mary Renault's biographical recreation of the life and deeds of Alexander the Great. The first volume "Fire From Heaven" chronicled the formative years, from child and youth, into victorious eighteen-year old general. It was the story of a fascinating transformation, expertly told in the third person by an unseen narrator.
The perspective shifts in this second volume. Here, the story is told in the first person, narrated by an adult lover and eunuch, who
Elena Sala
THE PERSIAN BOY (1972) is the second part of Mary Renault's Alexander the Great remarkable trilogy. This part of the story is told from the perspective of Bagoas, a castrated slave boy, Alexander's trusted and faithful lover, as he follows his campaigns across the world from Alexander's defeat of Darius to his early death in Babylon. We see the story through Bagoas' distinctly Persian perspective as Alexander leads his armies through a series of grueling campaigns in Bactria and then in India. T ...more
Nov 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favebooks
Some favorite parts:

"We had our summer. On the hills with the hounds crying, racing the clouds; in the rose garden with its lotus pools; in the high hall whose columns were sheathed with gold and silver, as I did my Dance of the River to the sound of flutes; in the great Bedchamber where I had been shamed and now was cherished, each day and night, I used to say to myself, I will miss nothing; I will never let my eye or my ear or my soul or my senses sleep, never forget to know that I am happy. F
Karen Rós
Aug 27, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: historical, queer
Overall a lovely read. However, and this is where I will sound like a petulant child, this read a bit like Alexander/Hephaistion and Alexander/Bagoas fanfic in which Hephaistion could just as well not have been there, but the pairing was put in the header to justify the fic's posting on an Alexander/Hephaistion community. I LOVE Hephaistion and I love him even more with Alexander, but I get the feeling that Mary Renault didn't like him very much and instead drew Bagoas into the light and went li ...more
Jul 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing
My favorite of all of her's. I don't want to give anything away, so read it. Alexandros III King of Macedon, known as Alexander the Great from age 25 - death, just before his 33rd birthday.

It's beautiful.
Jan 14, 2022 rated it liked it
A somewhat difficult book to read-as a guy-because it starts with Bagoas's family being destroyed during a change in Persian rulers. Bagoas is captured, castrated, sold into slavery and forced to become a male courtesan. Eventually he is sold to the royal household to become Darius's plaything. When Darius is overthrown due to the conquest of Persia by Alexander the Great, Bagoas is gifted to Alexander. Once again a bedroom companion and he helps Alexander understand the Persian point of view. T ...more
rating: 6/5!

I am in love with Bagoas' Alexander!

This second (because it wouldn’t be like me to actually read books in their intended order, now would it?) in Renault’s trilogy about the life of Alexander the Great. This novel is told from the point of view of Bagoas, his lover and servant. Bagoas, Persian king Darius’ eunuch slave, was given to Alexander by a Persian noble to gain favor after they murdered Darius. Alexander sets him free but Bagoas chooses to stay and serve him, and then proceed
Zena Ryder
Jun 04, 2022 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: five-stars
To both maintain and justify Alexander's reputation as a larger-than-life legend and also to show him as a real human being — Renault accomplishes this. She also captures the many subtleties of love between Alexander and the narrator of the story, Bogoas.

In one sense, this is an epic novel (of 400 pages) that takes place over many years and covers the vast territories of Alexander the Great's Empire, but in another sense, it's an intimate novel that focuses on the complexities of one human mind
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Mary Renault was an English writer best known for her historical novels set in Ancient Greece. In addition to vivid fictional portrayals of Theseus, Socrates, Plato and Alexander the Great, she wrote a non-fiction biography of Alexander.

Her historical novels are all set in ancient Greece. They include a pair of novels about the mythological hero Theseus and a trilogy about the career of Alexander

Other books in the series

Alexander the Great (3 books)
  • Fire from Heaven (Alexander the Great, #1)
  • Funeral Games (Alexander the Great, #3)

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