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Folk Narrative Techniques in the Alexander Romance *)

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Abstract A structurally-oriented analysis of the Alexander Romance demonstrates that the work is not a mere random conglomeration drawn from various sources. The author is attempting to create a work possessing unity and cohesion and to this end he employs basic motifs associated with the hero, such as the motif of world-conqueror, of the φρενήρης (‘intelligent’) and the link with Heracles and Dionysus, which run through the totality of the work and ensure its cohesion. An additional interesting technique employed by the author is that of the redeployment of a motif. For example, the archetypal folk hero figure of Nektanebo, who is presented in the introduction of the Romance as Alexander’s father, is characterized by three features: magic, disguise and deception. These elements are used in a variety of ways in the description of the adventures of Alexander. In addition the triadic schema and antithesis are also employed. Considering that such figures are characteristic of folk tales as well, one acquires an idea of how skillfully the author has reworked his material, in order to create, by means of ‘popular’ tools, his own folk hero.

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48. FN0 * )A version of this paper was given at the 15th Congress of the International Society of Folk Narrative Research on Narratives across Space and Time: Transmissions and Adaptations in Athens (June 21-27, 2009). I am grateful to I.M. Konstantakos for his helpful suggestions and to I. Manolessou and S. Papaioannou for their skillful corrections of my English.
49. FN1 1)On the author see Merkelbach 1977, 88-92. The work has previously erroneously been attributed, on the grounds of a Byzantine ms., to Kallisthenes, a contemporary of Alexander, and for this reason the author is sometimes referred to as Pseudo-Kallisthenes. On the composition date of the Alexander Romance see also Stoneman 1991, 8-17.
50. FN2 2)Zacher 1867; Rhode 1960, 197-8; Nöldeke 1890; Ausfeld 1907; Pfister 1946, 29-60.
51. FN3 3)Kroll 1919, 1713-20; Deimann 1914; Merkelbach 1977; van Thiel 1983, xiii-xxix; Stoneman 1991, 8-17. For an overview of these theories see Koulakiotis 2006, 190-4.
52. FN4 4)Cf. Stoneman 1994, 119.
53. FN5 5)See van Thiel 1983, xxix-xxxii; Stoneman 1991, 8-17; Stoneman 2009.
54. FN6 6)Bounoure and Serret 1992, xiv-xxiii; Centanni 1988, xvi-xxv; Jouanno 2002, 29-34; Koulakiotis 2006, 194-6.
55. FN7 7)Baynham 1995, 4.
56. FN8 8)Merkelbach (1977, 92) attributes the success of the work to the change in aesthetic values at the end of antiquity and during the Middle Ages, and especially to the mythical elements of the work.
57. FN9 9)Konstan 1998; Franco 1999, 50-4; Karla 2009, 26-7.
58. FN10 10)The passages quoted are from the old edition of Kroll (1926) since Stoneman’s new edition (2007) is not yet complete. Quotations are by page number and line. The English translation is that of Haight (1955). I should make it clear here that, when I refer to the ‘author’ in this paper, I do not mean the author of the first Alexander Romance, but the creator of version α.
59. FN11 11)In the view of Merkelbach (1977, 112), the author of the Alexander Romanceis to be credited with the creation of the motif of Alexander as ruler of the world.
60. FN12 12)In the garden of his palace, Philip sees a small snake emerging from an egg. The snake makes a small circle around the egg, re-enters it and dies. The augur Antiphon interprets the omen as follows: υἱός σοι ἔσται, ὃς βασιλεύσει καὶ περιελεύσεται τὸν ὅλον κόσµον, τῇ ἰδίᾳ δυνάµει πάντας ὑποτάσσων . . . ὁ γὰρ δράκων βασιλικόν ἐστι ζῷον, τὸ δὲ ὠὸν παραπλήσιον κόσµῳ . . . (11.15-8).
61. FN13 13)The position of the stars at the time of Alexander’s birth is such that Αἰγύπτιον ἄνθρωπον κοσµοκράτορα βασιλέα ἀποκαθιστᾷ (13.9). On the connection of the birth of Alexander with the Egyptian propaganda, see Huss 1994, 129-33.
62. FN14 14)Aristotle expresses his satisfaction over a clever reply from his young pupil by exclaiming: χαίροις κοσµοκράτωρ· σὺ γὰρ εἶ βασιλεὺς µέγιστος (17.13-4).
63. FN15 15)When the young Alexander manages to tame Bucephalus, Philip is reminded of the prophecy given him by the Delphic oracle, according to which ὅστις τὸν Βουκέφαλον ἵππον διὰ µέσης <τῆς> Πέλλης ἁλλόµενος ὁδεύσει (16.27-8) and says to him: Ἀλέξανδρε κοσµοκράτωρ, χαίροις µοι (18.6-7).
64. FN16 16)Just before Philip dies, slain by Pausanias, he utters these prophetic words to the young Alexander: τέκνον Ἀλέξανδρε, σὲ δέδοκται κοσµοκράτορα εἶναι . . . (24.25-6).
65. FN17 17)Alexander’s ‘yearning’ to see and learn new things and to surpass human boundaries constitutes perhaps yet another leitmotivof the Romance, apparent mostly in recension λ, in manuscript L and in byzantine version γ, where the narration is enriched with even more wondrous events, such as the journeys through the skies and into the deeps of the sea. See Stoneman 1992, 97-8; Stoneman 1994, 125.
66. FN18 18)For more details concerning the equation of Alexander the Great with Sesostris or Sesonchosis, see Pfister 1964, 61.
67. FN19 19)See Merkelbach 1977, 40; Pfister 1964, 60-4; Payne 1991, 169; Jouanno 2002, 198; Koulakiotis 2006, 214-7 with bibliography on this issue.
68. FN20 20)On this motif see Kroll 1919, 1711-2; Pfister 1964, 66-8; Stoneman 1994, 123-4; Jouanno 2002, 206-8.
69. FN21 21)ὑπὸ πάντων µὲν οὖν ὁ Ἀλέξανδρος ἐφιλεῖτο ὡς φρενήρης καὶ πολεµιστής . . . (17.14-5).
70. FN22 22)Πανταχοῦ φρενήρης γενάµενος οὐδεµίαν δύνασαι ἀφορµὴν εὑρεῖν φρενῶν, ὅπως µὴ διὰ σὲ πολεµήσωσί µου τὰ τέκνα; (122.15-7).
71. FN23 23)The scene at Philip’s table during his wedding to Cleopatra is reminiscent of the slaughter of the Suitors (µνηστηροφονία). On the adventures in foreign lands, the deception of Polyphemus (cf. the visit to Darius), the problematic relationship with companions who wish to return home and entrapment by powerful women (Circe and Candace respectively), see Centanni 1988, xxviii; Franco 1999, 68; Jouanno 2002, 208-9; Koulakiotis 2006, 207.
72. FN24 24)On Alexander as a trickster, see Centanni 1988, xx and on the connection with Aesop in this respect, see Jouanno 2009, 42-7. On Alexander as a ‘picaresque hero’, see Stoneman 1994, 126-7.
73. FN25 25)ὁ γὰρ θεὸς οὗτος ἐρχόµενος πρὸς σὲ γίνεται πρῶτον δράκων ἐπὶ γῆς ἕρπων συρισµὸν πέµπων, εἶτα ἀλλάσσεται εἰς κεραὸν Ἄµµωνα, εἶτα εἰς ἄλκιµον Ἡρακλέα, εἶτα εἰς θυρσοκόµον Διόνυσον (7.7-9), γίνεται οὖν τὸ τοιοῦτον σύνηθες, λοιπόν, ἡδέως αὐτῆς ἐχούσης ὡς ὑπὸ δράκοντος, Ἄµµωνος, Ἡρακλέους, Διονύσου πανθέου περιλαµβανοµένης (8.2-4). On this issue, see Jouanno 1998.
74. FN26 26)In his will, Alexander mentions Heracles as his ancestor (138.20) and stipulates that a shrine be built in Illyria, containing statues of Ammon, Heracles, Athena, Olympias and Philip (144.4-7).
75. FN27 27)Baynham 1995, 9, in particular n. 39.
76. FN28 28)On this tale and the analogies with Vita Aesopi, see Konstantakos 2009, 105-13.
77. FN29 29)Perry 1966; Stoneman 1992, 110-1; Jasnow 1997, 100-3; Lloyd 1982, 46-50. There were many narratives involving Nektanebo. See on this matter, Konstantakos 2009, 114-22 with bibliography.
78. FN30 30)On the disguise motif of Nektanebo in the Alexander Romance, see Stoneman 2008, 13-21; Konstantakos 2009, 129-31 with bibliography.
79. FN31 31)On Nektanebo as a magician in the in Alexander Romance, see Aufrère 2000, 105-18; Ruiz-Montero 2007, 44-54.
80. FN32 32)In fact, at the time of the birth of Alexander, the ruler of the world, the magical elements emanate from both the person who controls the cosmogonic powers and determines the moment of the miraculous birth, and from the newly-born Alexander. On this issue, see García Gual 1988, 135-6; Koulakiotis 2006, 199, particularly n. 860; Stoneman 2008, 21-4.
81. FN33 33)For Alexander’s powers of persuasion, see Jouanno 2002, 206.
82. FN34 34)For the magical dimension of the Romance’shero, see Koulakiotis 2006, 219.
83. FN35 35). . . τῶν µάντεων, Ἀρίστανδρος δέ, ἀνὴρ Τελµισσεύς, µάντις, θαρρεῖν ἐκέλευσεν Ἀλέξανδρον• δηλοῦσθαι γάρ, ὅτι ποιηταῖς ἐπῶν τε καὶ µελῶν καὶ ὅσοι ἀµφὶ ᾠδὴν ἔχουσι πολὺς πόνος ἔσται ποιεῖν τε καὶ ᾄδειν Ἀλέξανδρον καὶ τὰ Ἀλεξάνδρου ἔργα (Arr. An.1.11.2); πάντων τὸ σηµεῖον, Ἀρίστανδρος ἐκέλευε θαρρεῖν, ὡς ἀοιδίµους καὶ περιβοήτους κατεργασόµενον πράξεις, αἳ πολὺν ἱδρῶτα καὶ πόνον ὑµνοῦσι ποιηταῖς καὶ µουσικοῖς παρέξουσι (Plu. Alex. 14.9).
84. FN36 36)On Melampous, see Wolff 1894-7; Pley 1931; Simon 1992; Konstantakos 2008, 211-9.
85. FN37 37)Papathomas 2000. Cf. Trumpf 2006, who tries to show that the papyrus fragment ( Pap. Berl.21266) comes not from the historiographical tradition, but from the Romance. This assumption is perhaps more appropriate to the usus scribendiof the author, who sometimes changes the historiographical tradition in order to create his narrative technique.
86. FN38 38)Jouanno (2002, 198) attributes this distortion to the author’s desire to connect Alexander with Heracles, since ponos(‘toil’) was a characteristic feature of the latter.
87. FN39 39)On this passage, see Koulakiotis 2006, 210. On the affinity of Alexander and Hermes, see Koulakiotis 2006, 227-32.
88. FN40 40)Merkelbach (1977, 127) emphasizes that “diese Erzählung ist eigenes Fabrikat des Verfassers des Alexanderromans” and tries to find the patterns of this distortion. See also Jouanno 2002, 159. Furthermore, this scene displays yet another similarity, to Odys seus, who, according to myth, disguised himself to enter Troy and steal the Palladium, just as Alexander here dons a disguise to enter the enemy camp (Konstantakos, oral communication).
89. FN41 41)Candace is compared in form to Alexander’s mother Olympias. Ausfeld (1907, 187) considers the Candace episode as an interpolation. For arguments against this view, cf. Merkelbach 1977, 147; Stoneman 1994, 123. The structural analysis proposed here also supports the view that the episode is ‘genuine’.
90. FN42 42)The formalization of Propp (1971; in particular the functions of the dramatis personae) is also used in the approach of Cizek (1978).
91. FN43 43)For the symbolism of the crossing of water boundaries see Koulakiotis 2006, 220 with bibliography on this issue.
92. FN44 44)Here I pass over the deception motif, which appears repeatedly in sections two and three and always features Alexander as the central hero/agent of deception, since I have already mentioned the main examples of the intelligent Alexander above.
93. FN45 45)Merkelbach (1977, 21) suggests that this episode is an invention of the author, inspired by the following passage from Plutarch: . . . ἀλλὰ καὶ τῶν περὶ αὐτὸν ἀποπειρωµένων, εἰ βούλοιτ’ ἂν Ὀλυµπίασιν ἀγωνίσασθαι στάδιον, ἦν γὰρ ποδώκης, “εἴ γε,” ἔφη, “βασιλεῖς ἔµελλον ἕξειν ἀνταγωνιστάς” (Plu. Alex.4.10).
94. FN46 46)‘Then Nikolaos, raging and despising Alexander’s youth, for he had not learned the greatness of the spirit, spat at him. . . .’
95. FN47 47)Jouanno (2002, 148-9) considers the choice of the name ‘Nikolaos’ intentional, as implied by the prophetic pun at the end of the story: Ἀλέξανδρε, ὡς Νικόλαον ἐνίκησας, οὕτω καὶ πολλοὺς πολεµίους νικήσεις (20.15-6). The same scholar ( Jouanno 2002, 200) suggests that Alexander’s victory over Nikolaos at the Olympic games prefigures his victories over his future adversaries Darius and Poros. See also Bounoure and Serret 1992, 233. For the intertextual relationship of this fight with the Iliadsee Koulakiotis 2006, 208, who also connects this scene with the duel between Alexander and Poros.
96. FN48 48)Cf. for example the use of the words ῥοπή and τύχη. For the connection of these notions with Aeschylus’ Persians, see Ieranò 1996, 229.
97. FN49 49)For the author’s distortion of historical sources in the description of this episode, see Merkelbach 1977, 21-2; Van Thiel 1983, xvii-xviii; Jouanno 2002, 164
98. FN50 50)Merkelbach 1977, 89; Bounoure and Serret 1992, 252; Baynham 1995, 10-2.
99. FN51 51)See, for example, the same motif in folk songs (Digenes Akrites) and chivalric romances.
100. FN52 52)See for example Olrik 1992.
101. FN53 53)Cf. also how Alexander is exposed to danger three times or that he receives three oracles of his imminent death.
102. FN54 54)On this issue, see Merkelbach 1977, 50; Jouanno 2002, 193-4.

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Affiliations: 1: National & Kapodistrian University of Athens, Department of Philology, Division of Classical Philology Panepistimiopoli Zografou, 15784 Athens Greece


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