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The ‘Accursed’ And The ‘Adventurer’: Alexander The Great In Iranian Tradition

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Chapter Summary


Egyptian literary traditions concerning Alexander have come down to us in pieces. A Coptic version of the Alexander romance survives in a unique codex from the White Monastery at Sohaj, now divided between Paris, London, Moscow, and Berlin. The evidence for whether Alexander III of Macedon was actually crowned pharaoh is ambiguous. Pagan religious survivals into Coptic Christianity are sufficiently numerous and detailed to make it clear that this material remained alive to educated readers of Late Antiquity. The Macedonian basileus was not traditionally a monarch, but ruled as primus inter pares, a politics, reflected elsewhere in the Coptic romance that dove tails with the collaborative spirit of Alexander's scientific interests in precisely such things as bottomless black holes. Overcoming chaos, cheating death, pacifying the world, and uniting the sum of man kind, Alexander comes as a figure for the Messiah, cast into the future.

Keywords:coptic Alexander romance; Macedonian basileus; Messiah


Of all non-Jewish material that entered Jewish tradition, the story of Alexander the Great more than any other found its way into Hebrew literature. This chapter contributes traditions representing Alexander as a Greek philosopher. It presents translations of the Greek Alexander romance and it is distinguished into four different types of translations. The first is represented by three manuscripts of an Alexander romance based on different recensions of the Greek Pseudo-Callisthenes (PC) and its medieval Latin or Arabic translations. A second version was written by Immanuel ben Jacob Bonfils in France. The third medieval Hebrew Alexander romance concentrates on the fantastic and legendary aspects of the story and is transmitted in the large collection of Hebrew narratives called Sefer ha-Zikhronot compiled by Eleazar ben Asher ha-Levi and in two more manuscripts. The fourth version is only transmitted in two fragments that were recycled as book bindings.

Keywords:Alexander; fragments; manuscripts; medieval Hebrew traditions




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