Alexander novel

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Diving bell ( Colimpha ) of Alexander the Great , miniature painting from the Histoire du bon roi Alexandre around 1320; Kupferstichkabinett State Museum of Prussian Cultural Heritage , Berlin

As Alexander Romance , the novelistic be ancient and medieval biographies of Alexander the Great called (356-323. Chr.).


The first literary processing of Alexander's life came about shortly after his death. In addition to the works of the Alexander historians, novel-like stories were soon circulating , which enjoyed great popularity within a very short time. They portrayed Alexander as a conqueror and ruler of the world and were incorrectly attributed to Callisthenes , the court historian of Alexander (who was later executed) (hence the name Pseudo-Callisthenes ). They made little distinction between facts and legends . Initially, they were mostly transmitted orally, but were later also recorded in writing.

There are four ancient versions: They are denoted by the Greek letters α, β, γ and ε. The existence of a fifth, lost version δ is assumed to explain the discrepancies in the Syrian version from the 6th century.

The oldest Latin version is that of Iulius Valerius Polemius from the beginning of the 4th century. It is based on the version α. Another Latin version compiled from Greek sources, which then served as a template for numerous adaptations, was made by Leo of Naples in the 10th century. There is another version λ, which arose after 700 from β through interpolations. There are also some small fragments of papyrus and an inscription on stone, which are used for dating purposes.

In the 12th century, the first vernacular versions were written in Europe. These include above all three French versions that are known in literary history under the title Romans d'Alexandre : The first was that of Albéric de Pisançon , which has only been preserved as a fragment (105 eight-syllable verses) and was probably written around 1120. Around 1130 it was the model for the German song of Alexander by Pfaffen Lamprecht . Another French version (785 ten-syllables ), which has also only survived in fragments , was written by an unknown author around 1150. The third was written by Alexandre de Bernay around 1180 and comprises approx. 16,000 twelve-syllables ( Alexandrians ) the entire vita of the protagonist. It was subsequently expanded by unknown authors and rewritten by others in prose versions, which were read up to around 1500 and were also distributed as printed copies. Around 1285 Ulrich von Etzenbach wrote a German Alexander novel in 30,000 verses at the Prague court of King Wenceslaus II of Bohemia .

In the Middle Ages, the Alexander novel in its various versions was the best-known and most widespread book in Europe alongside the Bible (e.g. also in English, Slavic and Old Norse literature). In the Orient (especially in Syrian literature) the Alexander material spread earlier. It also found an echo in literatures of the Islamic world, including in the Alexander book by the Persian poet Neẓāmī from the 12th century.


The Pfaffe Lamprecht used the Roman d'Alexandre as the basis for the text. The novel begins with a description of the birth of Alexander during a severe storm. The earth shook everywhere and the sun darkened. In the first few years of his life he is already developing faster than children of the same age. At a young age he achieved cleverness, bravery and ability through many teachers who trained him in the arts, sciences, law and martial arts. One of his teachers is Aristotle. At the age of twelve he tamed the cruelest and most impetuous horse in Greece, which earned him first fame. From then on the horse is his loyal companion. At the age of fifteen he strives for greater things and wants to enlarge his empire. He defeats Nicolaus, King of Caesarea, and gives the conquered crown to his father. Lysias, who persuaded Alexander's father to commit adultery with his beloved mother, he knocks out his teeth in an argument.

From then on, Alexander strives for ever greater power and has this proclaimed in all countries through messengers. He calls for the submission of other kingdoms, which angered some. The Tyrians in particular have no respect for the young, as yet unknown Alexander. Then they let Alexander's messenger hang. This in turn angered Alexander so much that he went out to conquer Tire. After considerable losses, he orders the fight to be broken off. However, after even greater losses, he later beats them with the help of Greek fire . A refugee from Tire reports the events to Darius, King of Babylon, whereupon he takes a toll on Alexander. However, Alexander refuses this tribute, whereupon Darius declares war on him and calls on one of his dukes to fight Alexander. A great battle ensues in which Alexander loses in the first duel with Mennes, Duke of Darius, but remains alive. After he recovers, he kills him in a second fight. Then Darius asked more and more peoples to support him in the war against Alexander. 630,000 men rushed to the rescue from all over the world. At this point, Alexander learns of his mother's illness and sets off on his way home. There he is again involved in a battle which he wins. After his mother had recovered, he raised a new army in Greece and returned to Persia. On the way to Darius he fights many great battles and destroys many great cities that were subject to Darius. The battle against the Lacedaemonians ends in a draw and again with the help of the Greek fire he finally wins against them. Thereupon there is a first battle with the troops of the Persian king. Alexander takes his family prisoner.

During a break in the fight, Alexander sneaks to Darius as a messenger, but is recognized, whereupon he has to flee. Then the Greeks go into another battle with the Persians. After a great fight, Darius's troops are defeated. Great despair spreads in his countries. He flees and asks the victorious Alexander for leniency by offering him his lands and treasures. However, Alexander rejects the offer of peace, as this is already within him after winning the battle. Darius then asks King Porus of India for help. He follows the request and sends troops. Meanwhile, Darius is killed by two princes who were once subordinate to him and who hope to gain Alexander's favor. However, Alexander laments the dishonorable murder of Darius and swears vengeance. After the funeral of his dead enemy, Alexander proclaims peace in his new kingdom, discovers the traitors and kills them. Then Alexander takes Darius' daughter as his wife. The dying king had promised him this. On the wedding day, a messenger from King Porus arrives at the ceremony and declares war on Alexander. Alexander rallies his army to fight the Indians in a great battle with huge losses on both sides. Alexander offers Porus a duel in order to protect his army from even greater losses. Alexander quickly kills Porus, who is clearly superior to him physically, in a duel. The battle, however, rekindles more cruelly than before and ultimately Alexander is able to lead his Greeks to victory over the Indians. After Porus' funeral, Alexander moves on. He comes to Occidratis and meets a peaceful indigenous people there. Alexander wants to reward their hospitality. Her only wish, however, is infinite life, whereupon Alexander angrily leaves the people. There follows a difficult path through mountains and swamps and after great exertion he and his followers reach the end of the world. From there he writes a letter to his mother in which he tells of a miraculous journey:

Alexander leads his army to the Caspian gates, where he comes to a river where he tries to quench the thirst of his army. The water, however, tastes bitter like bile. While they are resting in a forest a little later, many terrifying animals and creatures come to attack Alexander's army. Dragons, lions and devils are among them. The forest is inflamed, whereupon a terrifying animal steps out of the forest and finally drives Alexander to continue his journey. They ride on to Accia, where they step into a wonderful forest. Wonderful fruits grow in this forest, trees without leaves and birds that sing so beautifully as they had never heard before. Then the warriors hear a wonderful song that comes from many virgins growing in flowers. After Alexander kills a terrifying man, they come to a magnificent palace made entirely of precious stones. In this palace, Alexander discovers an old man of great beauty, but leaves him again without waking him from his sleep. Alexander moves on with his army to a country called Brasiacus. There he receives gifts and moves to the end of the world again. In this area lies the town of Meroves, where Alexander Candacis, the queen, and her two sons meet. Alexander is treated very well in the kingdom, so he agrees to save the woman, Candaulus, the eldest son. Then there is a big festival in Alexander's honor.

In a miraculous place in the palace, Alexander meets a great man who appears to him as a god. This god tells him that he has founded a magnificent city called Alexandria, where he will be buried.

Alexander ends the letter to his mother by reporting on a trip through many countries, where he experiences many wondrous and terrible things.

Alexander has now developed a haughtiness that drives him to conquer Paradise in order to subjugate hordes of angels to him. On a long journey along the Euphrates, he and a few faithful came to a wall that was magnificent, long and wide, and made of precious stones.

An old man, who steps out of the wall gate, gives Alexander a precious stone, which is supposed to help him to change his mind. Alexander's arrogance is a terrible sin for the man. After Alexander, with the help of a learned Jew, finds out what the stone means, he realizes that the stone is supposed to teach him to put aside his arrogance and arrogance.

Beware of excessive greed, because it causes a lot of "heartache". Alexander realizes that it was unwise to try to fight for Paradise and is an honorable and God-faithful King of Greece for another twelve years.


  1. (α) Βίος ᾿Αλεξάνδρου τοῦ Μακεδόνος ( Bíos Alexándru tu Makedónos ; Life of Alexander of Macedonia ), probably 3rd century BC BC, certainly before 270; Codex Parisinus gr. 1711 (bad text). Translated by F. Pfister, Meisenheim 1978
  2. (β) Καλλισθένης ἱστοριογράφος ὁ τὰ περὶ Ελλήνων συνγραψάμενος οὗτος ἱστορεῖ Αλεξάνδρου πράξεις ( Kallistenes historiográphos ho ta perí Hellenon syngrapsámenos Hűtős historeí Alexandru praxeis ; the historian Callisthenes, who has written about the history of Greece, describing the deeds of Alexander ) between about 300 and 350; Parts in Codex Parisinus suppl. 690 from the 11th century and in Codex Laurentianus 70.37 (possibly from the 13th century) and in Codex Mosquensis 436 (end of the 14th century)
  3. (γ) Διήγησις ἐξαίρετος καὶ ὄντως θαυμασία τοῦ κοσμοκράτορος Αλεξάνδρου τοῦ βασιλέως ( Diegesis exaíretos kai ontos Thaumasia tu kosmokrátoros Alexandru Basileos ; Strange and truly wonderful story of the world ruler King Alexander ), written by (ε). Extended version of (β) with stories of Jewish origin. Handed down in the Codex Hellenic Institute Venice gr. 5 from the 14th century
  4. (ε) Βίος ᾿Αλεξάνδρου τοῦ βασιλέως Μακεδόνων ( Bíos Alexándru tu basiléos Makedónon ; life of Alexander, king of the Macedonians ), about 8th century; a short retelling; handed down in the Codex Bodleianus Barocc. 17 from the 14th century
  5. (λ), including in the Codex Bodleianus Barocc. 23 from the 14th century
  6. Iulius Valerius Alexander Polemius: Res gestae Alexandri Macedonis translatae ex Aesopo Graeco ( deeds of Alexander of Macedonia , translated from the Greek Aesop); Latin translation of (α). Passed down in the Palimpsestus Taurinensis a II. 2 from the 6th century (burned in 1904) and in other manuscripts
  7. Leo of Naples , Nativitas et victoria Alexandri magni regis ( Birth and Victory of King Alexander the Great ) from the 10th century, passed down in the collective manuscript Msc. Hist. 3 , fol. 192v – 219v (old signature: E. III.1 4, around 1000) of the Bamberg State Library ; Digital copy of the manuscript Msc. Hist. 3 in the Kaiser Heinrich Library of the Bamberg State Library; a total of four editorial offices in 19 manuscripts.
  8. An Armenian translation of an (α) manuscript, possibly from the 5th century, under the title History of the great world conqueror Alexander of Macedonia
  9. A Syrian translation of a manuscript related to the (α) manuscript from the 6th century under the title History of Alexander, the son of the Macedonian king Philip

There are some papyrus fragments from the 1st and 2nd centuries.

Text editions and translations

  • Marc Steinmann: Alexander the Great and the "naked sages" of India. The fictional correspondence between Alexander and the Brahmin king Dindimus. Introduction, Latin text, translation and commentary. Frank & Timme, Berlin 2012, ISBN 978-3-86596-461-8 (critical edition)
  • Angelica Rieger: The Alexander novel . Text and picture book with illustrations from the manuscript 78 C 1 Kupferstichkabinett. Berlin / Wiesbaden 2006, ISBN 3-928127-97-7 .
  • L'Ystoire du bon roi Alexandre: the Berlin Alexander novel; Manuscript 78 C 1 of the Kupferstichkabinett Preußischer Kulturbesitz Berlin . Facsimile edition. Stuttgart 2002.
  • Rüdiger Schnell (Ed.): Liber Alexandri Magni. The history of Alexander in the manuscript Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, nal 310. Studies and text edition . Artemis, Munich 1989, ISBN 3-7608-3396-9 .
  • Friedrich Pfister : The Alexander novel with a selection from the related texts . Ed .: Anton Hain (=  contributions to classical philology . Volume 92 ). Meisenheim am Glan 1978, ISBN 3-445-01568-6 .
  • Helmut van Thiel (Ed.): Life and deeds of Alexander of Macedonia. The Greek Alexander Romance by handwriting L . Darmstadt 1974, ISBN 3-534-04721-4 .
  • Wilhelm Kroll (Ed.): Historia Alexandri Magni . Weidmann, Berlin 1926 (2nd edition 1958. Reprint Olms, Hildesheim 1977, ISBN 3-296-13300-3 . Text edition of (α) Pseudo-Kallisthenes).
  • Friedrich Pfister: The Alexander novel by Archipresbyter Leo (=  collection of Middle Latin texts. 6 ). Winter, Heidelberg 1913.
  • Friedrich Pfister: Small texts on the Alexander novel. Commonitorium Palladii, correspondence between Alexander and Dindimus, Alexander's letter on the wonders of India according to the Bamberg manuscript (=  collection of vulgar Latin texts . Issue 4). Winter, Heidelberg 1910.
  • Adolf Ausfeld : The Greek Alexander novel . Ed .: Wilhelm Kroll. Teubner, Leipzig 1907.


  • Willem J. Aerts : Lexicographics from the Byzantine Alexander poem and from Nikon on the Black Mountain. In: Erich Trapp , Sonja Schönauer (eds.): Lexicologica byzantina. Contributions to the colloquium on Byzantine lexicography (Bonn, 13–15 July 2007). (Super Alta Perennis. Studies on the Effects of Classical Antiquity, Volume 4). Bonn University Press, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2008, ISBN 978-3-89971-484-5 , pp. 151–161, (online)
  • Manfred Kern: Alexander . In: Manfred Kern, Alfred Ebenbauer (Hrsg.): Lexicon of ancient figures in the German texts of the Middle Ages . de Gruyter, Berlin 2003, p. 38-54 .
  • Kerstin Börst, Ruth Finckh, Ilja Kuschke, Almut Schneider: Rule, ideology and conception of history in Alexander poems of the Middle Ages . Ed .: Ulrich Mölk . Wallstein, Göttingen 1998, ISBN 3-89244-620-2 (Collaborative Research Center Internationality of National Literatures «Göttingen». Publication from the Göttingen Collaborative Research Center 529 «Internationality of National Literature» Volume 2, Series A, Literature and Cultural Areas in the Middle Ages).
  • Willem J. Aerts: Alexander the Great and Ancient Travel Stories. In: ZRWM von Martel (ed.): Travel fact and travel fiction. Studies on fiction, literary tradition, scholarly discovery, and observation in travel writing. (= Brill's studies in intellectual history. Volume 55). Brill, Leiden 1994, ISBN 90-04-10112-8 , pp. 30-38, (online)
  • Trude Ehlert: German-language Alexander poetry of the Middle Ages. On the relationship between literature and history . Peter Lang, Bern / Frankfurt am Main 1989, ISBN 3-631-42304-7 .
  • Willem J. Aerts, Martin Gosman (eds.): Exemplum et similitudo. Alexander the Great and other heroes as points of reference in medieval literature. (= Mediaevalia Groningana, 8). Egbert Forsten, Groningen 1988.
  • Willem J. Aerts, Edmé R. Smits, Johan B. Voorbij (Eds.): Vincent of Beauvais and Alexander the Great. Studies on the 'Speculum Maius' and its translations into Medieval vernaculars. (= Mediaevalia Groningana, 7). Egbert Forsten, Groningen 1986.
  • J. Gruber, G. Prinzing, F. Svejkovský, M. Wesche, H. Ehrhardt, J. van Ess, J.-H. Niggemeyer: Alexander the Great in Art and Literature. B. Alexander Poetry . In: Lexicon of the Middle Ages (LexMA). Volume 1, Artemis & Winkler, Munich / Zurich 1980, ISBN 3-7608-8901-8 , Sp. 354-366.
  • Ehsan Yarshater: A Persian Medieval Alexander Romance . New York 1978.
  • Willem J. Aerts, Joseph MM Hermans (Ed.): Alexander the Great in the Middle Ages. Ten studies of the last days of Alexander the Great in literary and historical writing. (Mediaevalia Groningana, 1). Nijmegen 1978.
  • Friedrich Pfister: Small writings on the Alexander novel . In: Anton Hain (Hrsg.): Contributions to classical philology . Issue 61. Meisenheim 1976, ISBN 3-445-01296-2 .
  • Reinhold Merkelbach : The sources of the Greek Alexander romance . 2nd Edition. Munich 1977.
  • Herwig Buntz: The German Alexander poetry of the Middle Ages . Metzler, Stuttgart 1973, ISBN 3-476-10123-1 .
  • George Cary: The Medieval Alexander . University Press, Cambridge 1956 (basic representation of the medieval Alexander reception).
  • Friedrich Pfister: Investigations into the Alexander novel by Archipresbyter Leo . Carl Winter, Heidelberg 1912.
  • Adolf Ausfeld: On the criticism of the Greek Alexander novel: Investigations into the inauthentic parts of the oldest tradition . Karlsruhe 1894 ( digitized version )
  • Facsimile of the Paris Alexander novel from around 1420. British Library , London MS Royal 20 B XX. Quaternio Verlag, Lucerne (old French)

Web links

Commons : Alexander romance  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files