Alexander marries Roxane

Sodoma's Wedding of Alexander and Roxane

In 327, Alexander the Great married the daughter of the Bactrian nobleman Oxyartes, Roxane. No source describes the marriage, but a contemporary painter named Aetion made a painting of it, and this painting is described by the Greek author Lucian of Samosata.note Roxane would bear her husband a son, Alexander IV.

In the sixteenth century, his description was used by the painter Sodoma, who made his own reconstruction of the painting. Today, this famous piece of Renaissance art can be seen in the Farnesina villa in Rome. Sodoma's reconstruction may be quite accurate.

Lucian's words were translated by K. Kilburn.

The wedding of Alexander and Roxane

[7.1] The picture is in Italy; I have seen it myself and can describe it to you. The scene is a very beautiful chamber, and in it there is a bridal couch with Roxane, a very lovely maiden, sitting upon it, her eyes cast down in modesty, for Alexander is standing there. There are smiling Cupids: one is standing behind her removing the veil from her head and showing Roxane to her husband; another like a true servant is taking the sandal off her foot, already preparing her for bed; a third Cupid has hold of Alexander's cloak and is pulling him with all his might towards Roxane. The king himself is holding out a garland to the maiden and their best man and helper, Hephaestion, is there with a blazing torch in his hand, leaning on a very handsome youth I think he is Hymenaeus (his name is not inscribed).

[7.2] On the other side of the picture are more Cupids playing among Alexander's armor; two of them are carrying his spear, pretending to be laborers burdened under a beam; two others are dragging a third, their king no doubt, on the shield, holding it by the handgrips; another has gone inside the corslet, which is lying breast-up on the ground– he seems to be lying in ambush to frighten the others when they drag the shield past him.

[7.3] All this is not needless triviality and a waste of labor. Aetion is calling attention to Alexander’s other love – War – implying that in his love of Roxane he did not forget his armor.