The story and character of the Persian Emperor Alexander the Great, known as Iskandar or Sikandar, has undergone great changes in poetic and prose texts over the course of over 1,000 years. Among the various works written for different audiences, the most striking is the protagonist’s increasingly imaginative itinerary, especially regarding his relationships with the women he meets in various places.
Alexander’s earliest known treatment of poetry is the Persian epic of Firdawsi, Shanama (Books of Kings), completed around 1010 CE, Iskandar represents the lineage of ancient Iranian kings. Although not a translation of Greek romance, the main women in Iskandar’s life are the same, but with a few additions.
The story of Caidapha, ruler of Andalusia, is similar to Candace, ruler of Meroë in Greek romance. She at first refused to submit to the conqueror, and when Iskandar appeared before her in disguise as her messenger, she recognized him because she had seen his portrait beforehand. She makes a pact with him. Qaidafa is not in the Amazon, nor does she live in a city populated exclusively by women. The story of the Amazons is a short interlude, shortly after Iskandar is honored by the women of Harum, a city inhabited only by women.
In the Indian section, in a version unique to Firdawsi, we learn about a doctor who treated Iskandar for his overly sexual temperament, causing him to become debilitated and suffer from insomnia. When Iskandar began to sleep alone, he regained his health. This picture of him as Lothario contrasts with the academic Iskandar of later Persian poets.
The authors of later court romances were undoubtedly familiar with Firdoshi’s work, but took artistic liberties to develop Iskandar’s character.Nizami’s Iskandar Nama (1202 CE) is a mixture of epic and romance, and in this work, Nushava, the avatar of Caidafar and Candice, is a composite character, the Queen of the Amazons. Nushava’s name itself means water of life and is associated with Iskandar’s quest for immortality. The setting of this episode was changed from Andalusia to Barda in the poet’s hometown, the winter capital of two royal women, Mahin Banu and her niece Shirin, associated with characters in Nizami’s early romances. did. Khosrow and Sirin.
Nizami describes Barda as a virtual paradise on earth, linking it to Harum, the land of the Amazons, in Firdoshi’s text. Iskandar hears about the hedonistic lifestyle of these women: the whole land looks like an idol temple (Sanam Kana) full of beautiful and chaste women. Iskandar camps near the city where Nushava sends him daily gifts. This only piques his curiosity, and he wishes to discover the secrets behind such mythical women and places. You enter a splendid court, but are unable to properly fulfill your role as king. Nushaba has no trouble recognizing him, not only by his demeanor, but also by the portraits her artists have painted of Iskandar for the rogue gallery of the rulers of her time.
Iskandar continues to claim to be a messenger and vehemently denies being a king. Nushaba shows him a portrait declaring: / Fighting female and male lions? This is both a reminder of her position and ability, and also a warning against ignoring gender, as she only considers herself as a beautiful woman. , he’s open to learning from her. She orders a feast for him. When Iskandar is puzzled by this, Nushava laughs and asks why he can’t eat what he pursues his whole life! Iskandar experiences a great revelation and praises her, “A thousand blessings upon the wise woman / Who will be my guide manly”. Have a feast – with real food. Such a sensual setting does not lead to sexual intercourse, and Nushava remains one woman whom Iskandar does not conquer. // One is because he was abstinent. / Second, because you can’t hunt in the sanctuary. ”
Later in the story, Nushaba reappears. Kidnapped by her Ruth, Iskandar vows to rescue her. On the way, Iskandar passes the Kipchak tribes of Turkey. His army is weary and estranged from women, but when he sees the beautiful unveiled Kipchak women, he fears the king and dares not act. He complained about his identity being revealed. They reply that it is their custom and say, “Those who hide their eyes with veils/those who see neither the moon nor the sun”.
Iskandar consulted one of the wise counselors and ingeniously managed to establish the custom of wearing the veil among the Kipchak women. As Farzaneh Milani explains, “perhaps because of its symbolic potency, the veil becomes a vessel for both the anxiety and the exhilaration of love and creativity.” launches a powerful expedition, eventually rescuing Nushaba and returning the kingdom to her. But to his surprise, he married her to Davari, king of Abkhaz, and sent her off with his blessing. Thus, the Amazon Queen transforms into a fine married woman.
in Amir Khosrow Aina y Iskandari (1299 CE), Kanif was first introduced in disguise as a male warrior fighting on the Chinese side against Iskandar’s army. of her identity is revealed to him. In fact, Kanif is the only person Iskandar has an affair with in this work. Her marriage to Raushanak is also not included in Amir Khosrow. Kanif is ready to be his slave and they feast in his tent, but their love is not consummated until later when he takes her back as part of his booty. is when he returned from China.
12th century in Tarsusi Darabnama An epic poem in prose containing several of Iskandar’s exploits, including his relationship with Burandukht (Rawshanak).Another work is anonymous prose Iskandar Nama Dating from the 12th to 14th centuries, this work survives in a single manuscript in a private collection, and its author presents an image of the lustful Iskandar. Appearing to have an inexhaustible sexual appetite, he boasts, “God gave me the strength to enter his 90 rooms in one night.” There are many episodes in which women, including his aging aunt, attempt to thwart or murder him, and the poet describes their cunning and inherently evil nature. In the end, most perish or are forced to marry conquerors. From Kashmir, Iskandar marries Mahafarin, the daughter of a pagan king, and travels briefly to Ceylon, then to Mecca, Yemen, Egypt, Andalusia, and China. In this text he is a holy warrior and his love includes proselytizing. The second half of the work Dastan More amazing adventures with descriptions of mythical creatures and wonders. A large part of the story is taken up by Iskandar’s clash and subsequent marriage with Arakit, Queen of Peris.
Later prose romances date back to the 19th century, but their origins are believed to date back to the Safavid period. In all seven volumes, Iskandarnamah-yi haft-jildi, attributed to Manuchihr Khan Hakim, and although the text is considerably different, it exists in several Qajar period illustrated lithographic editions. It also includes historical and epic events mixed in and involving demons and fairies.In the many places he and his companions visit, they meet beautiful women, and romantic quarrels usually end with the hero taking drugs or being captured by his enemies. Dastan genre, However, its context has been updated. In one of his reconstructed modern texts, Iskandar roams from Europe to India and even reaches Calcutta.
in a range of texts, including poetry and prose Iskandar NamaWhether he was a hypersexual young man or a philosopher and scientist with little interest in women, the Persian Iskandar was not portrayed in same-sex relationships. literature.
This article was first published on the British Library’s Asian and African Studies blog.