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8 - Alexander the Great and the Crusades

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  13 January 2022

Richard Stoneman
University of Exeter
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This chapter addresses how the Crusades spurred a renewed appropriation of Alexander in historiography, literature, images and cartography in late medieval Europe. Alexander’s legend was particularly relevant because it reflected the era’s geopolitical and epistemological complexity. The chapter focuses first on the ancient Alexander legend’s adaptation in Crusade-era texts including Crusade chronicles, epics, antique romances and encyclopedias. These works compare Alexander to Crusaders, present Alexander as a precursor of the Crusaders who fights Asian tyranny, interpolate Alexander into the stories of Crusaders through ekphrasis, and frequently cite the legend of Alexander’s enclosure of Gog and Magog. The chapter’s second part focuses on how manuscripts present Alexander as a proto-Crusader even if texts do not overtly describe him as such. Particular attention is paid to compilations that join Alexander and holy warriors (Judas Maccabeus, Godfrey of Bouillon), and to images that Christianise Alexander or demonise his foes. The final section examines the influence of Alexander’s legend on the apocalyptic geography of late medieval maps, which often depict Gog and Magog and other elements (toponyms, sites, monstrous peoples) of the Alexander tradition.

Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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