Birth of Alexander the Great (Paris, BnF, fr. 257, f. 1r)

Illuminated Manuscript. Alexander the Great. BnF, français 257. Quinte Curse. Vasco de Lucena. Life of Alexander.

“Comment es hystoire d’Alexandre puet apparoir que les royaumes croissent par vertu et diligence, et déclinent par vicieuse lascheté et illec se preuve que Alexandre a este & conquist tout Orient.”


Starting from the 14th century, the need for historical truth and accuracy gradually started to replace the taste for legends and fables. Alexander becomes to medieval readers what he was to the classical hero: the archetypal conqueror. That’s how he’s depicted by Guillaume de Machaut and Eustache Deschamps when they rank him among the Nine Worthies. His legendary adventures start to matter less than his actual accomplishments. Finally, at the end of the 15th century, Vasco de Lucena translated Quintus Curtius Rufus’ biography of Alexander the Great for Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, and refutes previous legendary stories to restore a knowledge of the past based on facts.

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