Alexander the Great in Medieval Romance / by Chris Hall

Alexander the Great conquers the Sea in an early submarine in this French manuscript dated c 1445.

Alexander the Great conquers the Sea in an early submarine in this French manuscript dated c 1445.

When Alexander saw the breadth of his domain, he wept for there were no more worlds to conquer.  Uknown

The life of Alexander the Great is a fascinating story.  He was born in Macedonia in July of 356 BC, son of Olympias and King Philip II (or Zeus in the form of a snake, if you want to buy into myths).  He was tutored by none other than the great Aristotle.  At twenty, Alexander succeeded his father and he began a campaign of military conquest that would extend his empire south to Egypt and then northwest to India, taking all of the Persian empire in between.  Although he never lost a battle, his men grew tired of fighting and forced Alexander to return home.  Alexander died exhausted shortly thereafter in Babylon, at the age of 32.  On his deathbed Alexander’s generals asked to whom he would give his kingdom.  Alexander replied, “To the strongest.”

In Medieval times the adventures of Alexander the Great were collected in series of romances and recorded in illuminated books.  It seems the authors of these tales had a great imagination and tended to embellish the history a bit with some colorful mythology of their own.  

In these illustrations Alexander the Great meets a hairy Wildman carrying a club.  Their friendship must have gone afoul when the Wildman attacks a lady.  The ever chivalrous Alexander burns the Wildman in a fire.

According to these illustrations, Alexander wasn't content with conquering the land, he also made attempts at conquering the sky in a vehicle powered by griffins.  Alexander is also recorded as having created an early version of the submarine, which he uses to conquer the bottom of the sea.  For some strange reason this illustration shows Alexander accompanied by a cat and a chicken.

Alexander continues to meet strange people and animals on his path of conquest.  Here he is greeted by the Blemmyae, a people without heads on their shoulders, but who have one giant eye in the center of their chest.  He also is recorded as having to battle an army of giant rats and bats, who are inexplicably led by some kind of three horned dragon-deer hybrid creature.