Alexanderlied


Alexanderlied
   Lamprecht (ca. 1130–1150)
   ALEXANDER THE GREAT (356–323 B.C.E.) was one of the most important mythical figures throughout the entire Middle Ages and far beyond. One of the many poets who dealt with Alexander was the Trier priest Lamprecht who composed his Alexanderlied sometime between 1130 and 1150 on the basis of a Provençal Alexander poem by Alberic de Pisançon. Lamprecht’s Middle High German text survived in three manuscripts, the Vorau ms. (fragmentary, but most authentic), the Strasbourg ms. (burned in 1870), and the Basel ms. (abridgement; 15th century).
   Basically this epic poem of 7,267 verses retells the story of Alexander’s conquest of the Persian Empire and is particularly interesting for us because of the narrative variations and adaptation of the original Hellenistic account by the third-century writer pseudo-Callisthenes. The German version enriches the original chronicle report with many anecdotes about Alexander’s youth, his relationship with his father,King Philip, and then his grandiose conquest of the Persian Empire, defeating the mighty ruler Darius. The narrator emphasizes Alexander’s intelligence, strategic brilliance, and inventiveness in the battles against his enemies, and embellishes his account with reports about monstrous creatures and also about wondrous flower girls. Alexander and his men spend a long time with them and experience an erotic utopia, but eventually the girls wither away and die as all flowers do. The encounter with the Amazons, on the other hand, represents a major difficulty for Alexander. Their queen reminds him in a letter that his possible victory over the Amazons would be publicly regarded as shameful, insofar as an army of men would have fought young maidens, whereas his defeat at their own hands would result in the complete loss of his honor.Consequently Alexander leaves the Amazons alone and marches further east, until he reaches the wall of Paradise, where he is rejected again. An old man gives him a stone that, as an old Jew reveals to him once he has returned home, teaches him humility and reason. Lamprecht’s Alexanderlied proves to be entertaining, detailed, and witty in its adaptation of the Graeco-Hellenistic and Provençal sources for his 12th-century German audience.
   Bibliography
   ■ Classen, Albrecht. “The Amazing East and the Curious Reader: Twelfth-Century World Explorations through a Writer’s Mind: Lamprecht’s Alexander,” Orbis Litterarum 55, no. 5 (2000): 317–339.
   ■ Ruttmann, Irene, ed. Das Alexanderlied des Pfaffen Lamprecht (Strassburger Alexander). Text, Nacherzählung,Worterklärung. Darmstadt, Germany: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1974.

Encyclopedia of medieval literature. 2013.

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