Alexander the Great

Alexander the Great
(356–323 B.C.E.)
   The historical Alexander the Great, Macedonian king and world conqueror, was clearly not a medieval figure. However, the character of Alexander became the central figure of a number of medieval ROMANCES, comparable to though less numerous than the cycles of legends surrounding the figures of CHARLEMAGNE and KING ARTHUR.
   Historically, Alexander was the son of Philip II, king ofMacedon, and in his youth was educated by the great philosopher Aristotle.He became king of Macedonia at the age of 20 upon his father’s assassination. In 334 B.C.E., he crossed the Hellespont with 35,000 men to invade the Persian Empire. He conquered Egypt and founded the city of Alexandria. He captured the family of the Persian emperor Darius, then crushed the Persians at the Battle of Arbela in 331. He captured the city of Babylon and the Persian capital of Persepolis, which he burned to the ground in retaliation for the Persian burning of Athens in 480 B.C.E. He married Roxana, daughter of the Bactrian prince Oxytares, and took a second wife, Barsine, the daughter of Darius. Alexander then advanced into India, where he defeated the northern Indian prince Porus in 326 B.C.E. That same year, he contracted a fever and died at the age of 32, having conquered virtually the entire world as he knew it. The medieval versions of the Alexander legend derive ultimately from a third-century Greek account purported to be by a certain Callisthenes. Latin versions of Callisthenes’ story were circulating by the early Middle Ages, and these ultimately were the source of the great 12th-century French Roman d’Alexandre. This poem, attributed to Lambert le Tort and Alexandre de Bernay, is a text of some 20,000 12-syllable lines of verse. As the first known poem to use the 12-syllable line, the Roman has given its name to that verse form—12-syllable lines are now known as alexandrines. The poem is a fanciful blend of myth and history. Alexander is presented as a king with a retinue of knights and vassals, as if he were Charlemagne, and he visits fantastic lands and enchanted castles, like an Arthurian knight.
   Other 12th-century Alexander poems include a Provençal version by Alberic de Pisonçon and the famous German ALEXANDERLIED. An Anglo-Norman Roman de toute chevalrie was apparently the source of the best-known English version of the legend, the early 14th-century King Alisaunder. King Alisaunder is an anonymous romance of 8,032 verses in octosyllabic (eight-syllable) couplets. Written in MIDDLE ENGLISH in the dialect of London and apparently intended for oral delivery, the poem narrates Alisaunder’s mythologized history from his magical conception to his death. In this version, Alexander is not the son of Philip but rather of the Egyptian king Nectanabus, who through magic is able to deceive Philip’s wife into sleeping with him. (The scene recalls the legendary events surrounding the conception of King Arthur in the liaison between Uther Pendragon and Igraine, brought about through Merlin’s magic.) The first half of the poem relates Alisaunder’s youth, succession to the throne, conquest of Carthage, and his Persian war and defeat of Darius. The second half of the poem, focused on Alisaunder in the eastern lands, contains a number of fanciful geographical descriptions and relations of the wonders of those far-off lands. It also tells of Alisaunder’s visit with and seduction by Candace, queen of Meroe (historically Ethiopia), and ultimately of Alisaunder’s death by poison.
   Texts and fragments of other treatments of the Alexander legend survive in Middle English in both verse and prose from the 14th century on. One of these, called the Alexander Buik, is a Scottish version once thought to be the work of John BARBOUR. The popularity of Alexander as a romance hero was widespread throughout Europe in the later Middle Ages, and it is not surprising that he, like Arthur and Charlemagne, is consistently represented in late medieval art and literature as among the NINEWORTHIES of the world.
   ■ Aertsen,Henk, and Alasdair A.MacDonald. Companion to Middle English Romance. Amsterdam: VU University Press, 1990.
   ■ Barbour, John. The Buik of Alexander, or, The Buik of the most noble and valiant conquerour Alexander the Grit. Edited with introductions, and notes by R. L. Graeme Ritchie. Scottish Text Society New Series 17, 12, 21, 25. 4 vols. Edinburgh: Printed for the Scottish Text Society by W. Blackwood and Sons, 1921–1929.
   ■ Kyng Alisaunder. Edited by G. V. Smithers. Early English Text Society 227, 237. 2 vols. London: Published for the Early English Text Society by Oxford University Press, 1952–1957.
   Albrecht Classen

Encyclopedia of medieval literature. 2013.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Alexander the Great — This article is about the ancient king of Macedon. For other uses, see Alexander the Great (disambiguation). Alexander the Great Basileus of Macedon …   Wikipedia

  • Alexander the Great — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Alexandre le Grand (homonymie). Alexander the Great est un téléfilm américain réalisé par Phil Karlson, diffusé en 1968. Le titre fait référence à Alexandre le Grand (quatrième siècle avant Jésus Christ Sommaire… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Alexander the Great in the Qur'an — Alexander in the Qur an is a theory that holds that the character of Dhul Qarnayn, mentioned in the Qur an, is in fact Alexander the Great. The name Alexander itself is never mentioned in the Qur an. Dhul Qarnayn (in Arabic ذو القرنين) is a… …   Wikipedia

  • Alexander the Great's personal relationships — Alexander the Great s lifelong companion was Hephaestion, the son of a Macedonian noble. Hephaistion was Alexander s closest friend, and held the position of second in command of Alexander s forces until his death, which devastated Alexander.… …   Wikipedia

  • Alexander the Great (disambiguation) — Alexander the Great, an ancient Greek king of Macedon (336 323 BC)Alexander the Great may also refer to: * Alexander (film), 2004 movie * Alexander I of Georgia, King of Georgia (1412 1442) * Alexander the Great (board game), 1971 board game *… …   Wikipedia

  • Alexander the Great Airport — may refer to:*Kavala International Airport, also known as Kavala International Airport Megas Alexandros , in Kavala, Macedonia, Greece *Skopje Airport, also known as Skopje Alexander the Great Airport, in Skopje, Republic of Macedonia …   Wikipedia

  • Alexander the Great (song) — Infobox Song Name = Alexander the Great Artist = Iron Maiden Album = Somewhere in Time Released = 29 September 1986 track no = 8 Recorded = 1986 Genre = Heavy metal Length = 8:37 Writer = Steve Harris Composer = Steve Harris Label = EMI (UK)… …   Wikipedia

  • Alexander the Great (board game) — Infobox Game subject name=Alexander the Great image link= image caption = Alexander the Great box cover players=2 ages=12+ setup time=15 minutes playing time=2 hours complexity=Medium strategy=High random chance=low skills=Tactics, Strategy… …   Wikipedia

  • Alexander the Great (film) — Infobox Film name = Alexander The Great caption = Original film poster director = Robert Rossen producer = Executive producer: Gordon Griffith Producer: Robert Rossen writer = Robert Rossen narrator = starring = Richard Burton Claire Bloom… …   Wikipedia

  • Cultural depictions of Alexander the Great — Alexander the Great s accomplishments and legacy have been preserved and depicted in many ways. Alexander has figured in works of both high and popular culture from his own era to the modern day. Contents 1 Ancient and Medieval Literature 1.1 In… …   Wikipedia

  • Alexander the Paphlagonian — Alexander the Paphlagonian, a celebrated impostor and worker of false oracles, was born at Aboniteichos in Paphlagonia in the early part of the 2nd century.cite encyclopedia | last = Jowett | first = Benjamin | authorlink = Benjamin Jowett |… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.