Alexander the Great: Legacy and Legend (CLAM058)

StaffRichard Stoneman - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15.00
NQF Level7
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks; Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

This module explores the persistence in legend and imagination of the figure of Alexander. It will be concerned with the ways in which Alexander's deeds affected the world he left behind, but even more with memory: how people in the Greek and Roman worlds used him as a tool for thinking with; how legends grow up that achieve more currency than historical fact; how different literary traditions and forms come together to create a story that transcends history. It operates at the intersection of the history, literature and philosophy of the ancient world, and also follows paths into the literatures and legends of later cultures.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. On completing this module students should be able to demonstrate a knowledge not only of the impact of Alexander on Greek and later cultures, but of the ways in which legends are formed and narratives modified in transmission from one literature to another.
  • 2. Handling the different literatures, both eastern and western, will represent a particular challenge, though all texts can be approached through English translations.
  • 3. The results should illuminate the nature of cultural interactions in history with some implications for modern multi-culturalism.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. On completing this module students should be able to collate, compare and analyse texts by Greek, Roman, and other antique authors.
  • 5. To trace distinctive cultural attitudes in different treatments of similar material.
  • 6. Also to understand how ancient authors used historical figures for philosophical purposes.
  • 7. Ability to see and analyse the Greek and Roman roots in later, especially medieval, texts and works of art, which form a thread of the 'classical tradition'.
  • 8. To reflect critically on the implications of a single individual bearing so many meanings.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 9. On completing this module students should be able to demonstrate the ability to work independently on initially unfamiliar material and to absorb and discriminate within a substantial body of written material (in the early stages)
  • 10. To make clear and persuasive presentations on substantial topics to a class, and to discuss ideas and suggestions both at a broad and a detailed level
  • 11. To develop bibliographic skills, research potential and an analytic framework.

Syllabus plan

1. Introduction: the objectives of the course 2. The Greek Alexander Romance: history or novel? 3. The Greek Alexander Romance: formation of a legend 4. Hellenism: the impact of Alexander 5. The philosophical Alexander: Brahmans, Cynics and Stoics 6. The Roman Alexander 7. The late antique Alexander 8. The tomb of Alexander 9. Alexander and women: Olympias, Candace and the Amazons 10. The Persian Versions I: Firdausi 11. The Persian versions II: artistic representations and popular traditions 12. Alexander and the Jews: from Josephus to Yosippon 13. Alexander in the Qur'an and other Arabic literature 14. The western tradition: Leo and the Historia de Proeliis 15. The chivalric Alexander: medieval romance 16. Walter of Chatillon and the Curtian tradition 17. Alexander in medieval art case studies 18. The medieval Alexander: world-ruler and sage 19. The Elizabethan Alexander 20. The Modern Alexander: theatre, fiction, film Revision

 Two-hour whole group sessions. Most of the sessions will be student led, based on substantial presentations by class members, working either individually or in small teams. Essays returned individually with tutorial guidance. Video, visual and musical material can be introduced where appropriate.

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching activities44seminars
Guided independent study256private study

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
two essay assignments 804,000 word each1-11marks & written comments
Oral presentations 201-11marks & written comments

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Primary sources (all in English translation) :

The Greek Alexander Romance (tr. Stoneman) Penguin 1991

The Armenian Alexander Romance (tr. Wolohojian) Columbia UP 1969

Firdausi, Shahnameh (portions) Penguin 2007

Nizami, Iskandarnameh (select) Tr H Wilberforce Clarke New Delhi 1979 (But Original Edition was London 1881)

Qur'an, Sura 18 The Syriac Alexander Romance (tr. Budge) Cambridge UP 1889

 The Historia de Proeliis (tr. Telfryn Pritchard) Pontifical Institute, Toronto 1992

 Walter of Chatillon (parts) Tr D. Townsend; Broadview Editions 2007

The Prose Life of Alexander from the Thornton MS ed J.S. Westlake. Early English Text Society 143, 1913, Kegan Paul and Oxford UP Gilbert Hay, Buik of King Alexander, ed. J. Cartwright, Scottish Text Society, Aberdeen UP 1990

Klaus Mana, Alexander: a romance of Utopia (1929: English Translation Hesperus, 2007). Minoo S. Southgate, Iskandarnamah (Columbia UP 1978)

R. Stoneman, Legends of Alexander the Great (Everyman 1994)

Modern Scholarship: A. Bosworth, Conquest and Empire (for reference)

Cambridge UP. 1988 Diana Spencer, The Roman Alexander, Exeter UP 2002

G. Cary, The Medieval Alexander, Cambridge UP 1956

D.J.A. Ross, Illustrated Medieval Alexander Books, Modern Humanities Research Association, Cambridge 1971

Victor Schmidt, A Legend and its Image: Alexander's Aerial Flight, Egbert Forsten, Groningen 1995

Richard Stoneman, Alexander the Great: a life in legend (2008: see also some of Stoneman's articles) Andrew Chugg, The Lost Tomb of Alexander the Great, Richmond Editions 2004/5 [sic] Nicholas Saunders, Alexander's Tomb, Basic Books, New York 2006

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Available as distance learning?