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Monstrous Races
During the Middle Ages, travelers in Africa and Asia reported that "monstrous races" thrived beyond the boundaries of the known world.

The depiction of the "other" as monstrous has existed since the first recorded descriptions of the Monstrous races, dating from the 4th century BC. At this time, Ktesias of Knidos and Megasthenes describe the inhabitants of India as having strange forms which seem to be derived from a mixture of myth and misperception. These Monstrous Races, based on descriptions of people encountered by such travellers as Alexander the Great, were believed to exist until well into the Middle Ages. They were recorded in many different texts and drawings. The Monstrous Races inhabited places beyond the edge of the known world. Although this was generally the known world of the Greeks and Romans, there are also many similar creatures in Indian mythology. The projection of fears and anxieties onto unknown or unfamiliar territories, whether these be geographical or human, physical or psychological, is universal. It is in these territories, at the borders of the known world, that monsters reside, policing the boundaries between "us" and "them."

For me, one of the most interesting things about the Monstrous Races is their literal embodiment of the perception of the "other" who is "like us" and yet distinctly "not like us." These "others," of which there are many different kinds with both physical and behavioural oddities, were widely believed to exist with the physical form and strange attributes such as those depicted here. Examples are the dog-headed men who lived in caves in India, as well as the Blemmaye who lived in the deserts of Libya and who have no head but a face in their chest. The Blemmaye have a long history and were even mentioned by Shakespeare as "men whose heads do grow beneath their shoulders." From a contemporary perspective, the Monstrous Races are clearly a result of the overlaying of misunderstandings, fears and prejudices onto perceptions of the physical form of real people. However, although our materialistic, scientific means of explaining the world is relatively recent, it is difficult to un-think this and to understand that before the 17th century, myth and physical, or perceptual fact were of equal significance, and considered equally valid as means of explaining the world. Truth was not simply concerned with the perceived surface of things, but incorporated magical, or symbolic explanations. If we accept that, even in the contemporary context, all bodies are social and symbolic as well as physical, the Monstrous Races offer an illustration of the processes we all go through in one way or another in perceiving all others, and also in perceiving ourselves as other.
The condition of cynocephaly, having the head of a dog — or of a jackal— is a widely attested mythical phenomenon existing in many different forms and contexts.


Cynocephaly is taken from the Latin word cynocephalus, meaning "dog-head", which derives from Greek: κῠνοκέφᾰλοι. The prefix "cyno-" comes from the combining form of Greek: κύων meaning "dog". This prefix forms compound words having "the sense of dog". The suffix "-cephalic" comes from the Latin word cephalicus, meaning "head". This word finds its roots in Greek: κεφαλικός (kephalikos) meaning "capital" from Greek: κεφαλή (kephalē) meaning "head". The suffix "-cephaly", specifically, means "a specific condition or disease of the head". This together forms "a dog-like condition or disease of the head". The phrase cynocephaly also gave birth to the term cynomorph which means "dog-like". This phrase is used primarily as Cynomorpha, a sub-group of the family Cercopithecidae. This family of primates are known as "dog-like apes" and contain many species of macaques and baboons.
Ancient Greece and Egypt

Cynocephaly was familiar to the Ancient Greeks from representations of the Egyptian gods Hapi (the son of Horus) and Anubis (the Egyptian god of the dead). The Greek word (Greek: κῠνοκέφᾰλοι) "dog-head" also identified a sacred Egyptian baboon with the face of a dog.[1]

Reports of dog-headed races can also be traced back to Greek antiquity. In the fifth century BC, the Greek physician Ctesias wrote a detailed report on the existence of cynocephali in India.[2] Similarly, the Greek traveller Megasthenes claimed to know about dog-headed people in India who lived in the mountains, communicated through barking, wore the skins of wild animals and lived by hunting.[3]
Late Antiquity

The "cynocephali" offered such an evocative image of the magic and brutality deemed characteristic of bizarre people of distant places, that it kept returning in medieval literature. Augustine of Hippo mentioned the Cynocephali in City of God, Book XVI, Chapter 8, in the context of discussing whether such beings were descendants of Adam; he considered the possibility that they might not exist at all, or might not be human (which Augustine defines as being a mortal and rational animal: homo, id est animal rationale mortale), but insisted that if they were human they were indeed descendants of Adam.
Medieval East

Cynocephali also figure in medieval Christian world-views. A legend that placed St. Andrew and St. Bartholomew among the Parthians presented the case of "Abominable", the citizen of the "city of cannibals... whose face was like unto that of a dog." After receiving baptism, however, he was released from his doggish aspect.[4]
Cynocephalus St. Christopher
Saint Christopher

In the Eastern Orthodox Church, certain icons covertly identify Saint Christopher with the head of a dog. The background to the dog-headed Christopher is laid in the reign of the Emperor Diocletian, when a man named Reprebus, Rebrebus or Reprobus (the "reprobate" or "scoundrel") was captured in combat against tribes dwelling to the west of Egypt in Cyrenaica. To the unit of soldiers, according to the hagiographic narrative, was assigned the name numerus Marmaritarum or "Unit of the Marmaritae", which suggests an otherwise-unidentified "Marmaritae" (perhaps the same as the Marmaricae Berber tribe of Cyrenaica). He was reported to be of enormous size, with the head of a dog instead of a man, apparently a characteristic of the Marmaritae. This Byzantine depiction of St. Christopher as dog-headed resulted from their misinterpretation of the Latin term Cananeus to read canineus, that is, "canine."[5]

The German bishop and poet Walter of Speyer portrayed St. Christopher as a giant of a cynocephalic species in the land of the Chananeans (the "canines" of Canaan in the New Testament) who ate human flesh and barked. Eventually, Christopher met the Christ child, regretted his former behavior, and received baptism. He, too, was rewarded with a human appearance, whereupon he devoted his life to Christian service and became an athlete of God, one of the soldier-saints.[6]
Cynocephali illustrated in the Kievan psalter, 1397
Medieval West

Paul the Deacon mentions cynocephali in his Historia gentis Langobardorum: "They pretend that they have in their camps Cynocephali, that is, men with dogs' heads. They spread the rumor among the enemy that these men wage war obstinately, drink human blood and quaff their own gore if they cannot reach the foe."[7] At the court of Charlemagne the Norse were given this attribution, implying un-Christian and less-than-human qualities: "I am greatly saddened" said the King of the Franks, in Notker's Life, "that I have not been thought worthy to let my Christian hand sport with these dog-heads."[8] The ninth-century Frankish theologian Ratramnus wrote a letter, the Epistola de Cynocephalis, on whether the Cynocephali should be considered human.[9] Quoting St. Jerome, Thomas of Cantimpré corroborated the existence of Cynocephali in his Liber de Monstruosis Hominibus Orientis, xiv, ("Book of Monstrous men of the Orient"). The thirteenth-century encyclopedist Vincent of Beauvais acquainted his patron Saint Louis IX of France with "an animal with the head of the dog but with all other members of human appearance… Though he behaves like a man… and, when peaceful, he is tender like a man, when furious, he becomes cruel and retaliates on humankind".[10]

In Anglo-Saxon England, the Old English word wulfes heafod ("wolf's head") was a technical term for an outlaw, who could be killed as if he were a wolf. The so-called Leges Edwardi Confessoris, written around 1140, however, offered a somewhat literal interpretation: “[6.2a] For from the day of his outlawry he bears a wolf's head, which is called wluesheued by the English. [6.2b] And this sentence is the same for all outlaws.”[11] Cynocephali appear in the Old Welsh poem Pa Gur? as cinbin (dogheads). Here they are enemies of King Arthur's retinue; Arthur's men fight them in the mountains of Eidyn (Edinburgh), and hundreds of them fall at the hand of Arthur's warrior Bedwyr (later known as Bedivere).[12] The next lines of the poem also mention a fight with a character named Garwlwyd (Rough-Gray); a Gwrgi Garwlwyd (Man-Dog Rough-Gray) appears in one of the Welsh Triads, where he is described in such a way that scholars have discussed him as a werewolf.[13][14]
High and late medieval travel literature

Medieval travellers Giovanni da Pian del Carpine and Marco Polo both mention cynocephali. Giovanni writes of the armies of Ogedei Khan who encounter a race of dogheads who live north of the Dalai-Nor (Northern Ocean), or Lake Baikal.[15] Polo's Travels mentions the dog-headed barbarians on the island of Angamanain, or the Andaman Islands. For Polo, although these people grow spices, they are nonetheless cruel and "are all just like big mastiff dogs".[16]

According to Henri Cordier, the source of all the fables of the dog-headed barbarians, whether European, Arabic, or Chinese, can be found in the Alexander Romance.[17]
T&O map
A T and O map or O-T or T-O map (orbis terrarum, orb or circle of the lands; with the letter T inside an O), is a type of medieval world map, sometimes also called a Beatine map or a Beatus map because one of the earliest known representations of this sort is attributed to Beatus of Liébana, an 8th-century Spanish monk. The map appeared in the prologue to his twelve books of commentaries on the Apocalypse.

1 History and description
2 Gallery
3 See also
4 References
5 Further reading

History and description

The T-O map represents the physical world as first described by the 7th-century scholar Isidore of Seville in his Etymologiae (chapter 14, de terra et partibus):

Latin: Orbis a rotunditate circuli dictus, quia sicut rota est [...] Undique enim Oceanus circumfluens eius in circulo ambit fines. Divisus est autem trifarie: e quibus una pars Asia, altera Europa, tertia Africa nuncupatur.

English: The [inhabited] mass of solid land is called round after the roundness of a circle, because it is like a wheel [...] Because of this, the Ocean flowing around it is contained in a circular limit, and it is divided in three parts, one part being called Asia, the second Europe, and the third Africa. [1]

Although Isidore taught in the Etymologiae that the Earth was "round", his meaning was ambiguous and some writers think he referred to a disc-shaped Earth. However, other writings by Isidore make it clear that he considered the Earth to be globular.[2] Indeed, the theory of a spherical earth had always been the prevailing assumption among the learned since at least Aristotle, who had divided the spherical earth into zones of climate, with a frigid clime at the poles, a deadly torrid clime near the equator, and a mild and habitable temperate clime between the two.

The T and O map is representing only the top-half of the spherical Earth.[3] It was presumably tacitly considered a convenient projection of the inhabited parts, the northern temperate half of the globe. Since the southern temperate clime was considered uninhabited, or unattainable, there was no need to depict them on a world map. It was then believed that no one could cross the torrid equatorial clime and reach the unknown lands on the other half of the globe. These imagined lands were called antipodes.[3][4]

The T is the Mediterranean, the Nile, and the Don (formerly called the Tanais) dividing the three continents, Asia, Europe and Africa, and the O is the encircling ocean. Jerusalem was generally represented in the center of the map. Asia was typically the size of the other two continents combined. Because the sun rose in the east, Paradise (the Garden of Eden) was generally depicted as being in Asia, and Asia was situated at the top portion of the map.
Ideal reconstruction of medieval world maps (from Meyers Konversationslexikon, 1895) (Asia shown on the right)
A "T-O" map made with modern cartography

This qualitative and conceptual type of medieval cartography could yield extremely detailed maps in addition to simple representations. The earliest maps had only a few cities and the most important bodies of water noted. The four sacred rivers of the Holy Land were always present. More useful tools for the traveler were the itinerary, which listed in order the names of towns between two points, and the periplus that did the same for harbors and landmarks along a seacoast. Later maps of this same conceptual format featured many rivers and cities of Eastern as well as Western Europe, and other features encountered during the Crusades. Decorative illustrations were also added in addition to the new geographic features. The most important cities would be represented by distinct fortifications and towers in addition to their names, and the empty spaces would be filled with mythical creatures.
Mappa mundi (Latin [ˈmappa ˈmʊndiː]; plural = mappae mundi) is a general term used to describe medieval European maps of the world. These maps range in size and complexity from simple schematic maps an inch or less across to elaborate wall maps, the largest of which was 11 ft. (3.5 m.) in diameter. The term derives from the Medieval Latin words mappa (cloth or chart) and mundi (of the world).

Approximately 1,100 mappae mundi are known to have survived from the Middle Ages. Of these some 900 are found illustrating manuscripts and the remainder exist as stand-alone documents.[1]

Extant mappae mundi come in several distinct varieties, including:

Zonal or Macrobian maps
Tripartite or "T-O" maps
Quadripartite maps (including the Beatus maps)
complex maps

Medieval world maps which share some characteristics of traditional mappae mundi but contain elements from other sources, including Portolan charts and Ptolemy's Geography are sometimes considered a fifth type, called "transitional mappae mundi".
Zonal maps

Zonal maps are pictures of the East Hemisphere. Their purpose was to illustrate the concept that the world is a sphere with 5 climate zones:

The northern frigid zone
the northern temperate zone
the equatorial tropical zone
the southern temperate zone
the southern frigid zone

Of these, only the two temperate zones were believed to be inhabitable, and the known world was contained entirely within the northern temperate zone's Eastern Hemisphere. Because most surviving Zonal maps are found illustrating Macrobius' Commentary on Cicero's Dream of Scipio (an excerpt of Cicero's De Re Publica), this type of map is sometimes called "Macrobian". In their simplest and most common form, Zonal mappae mundi are merely circles divided into five parallel zones, but several larger Zonal maps with much more detail have survived.
Tripartite or T-O maps
Main article: T and O map

T-O maps, unlike zonal maps, illustrate only the habitable portion of the world known in Roman and medieval times. The landmass was illustrated as a circle (an "O") divided into three portions by a "T". These three divisions were the continents of Asia, Africa and Europe. The vast majority of T-O maps place east at the top, hence the term "orienting" a map from the Latin word oriens for "east". The assertion that T-O maps depict a "flat earth", while common, is unwarranted. The "circle of the lands" in a T-O can just as easily be fit onto the sphere of the Earth as onto a flat, disk-shaped Earth[original research?]. The popularity of the Macrobian maps and the combination of T-O style continents on some of the larger Macrobian spheres illustrate that Earth's sphericity continued to be understood among scholars during the Middle Ages.
Quadripartite or Beatus maps

Quadripartite maps represent a sort of amalgam of the Zonal and T-O maps by illustrating the three known continents separated by an equatorial ocean from a fourth unknown land, often called Antipodes. Fourteen large quadripartite maps are found illustrating different manuscripts of Beatus of Liébana's popular Commentary on the Apocalypse of St John. These "Beatus maps" are believed to derive from a single (now lost) original which was used to illustrate the missions of the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ.[2]
Complex maps

The "complex" or "great" world maps are the most famous mappae mundi. Although most employ a modified T-O scheme, they are considerably more detailed than their smaller T-O cousins. These maps show coastal details, mountains, rivers, cities, towns and provinces. Some include figures and stories from history, the Bible and classical mythology. Also shown on some maps are exotic plants, beasts and races known to Medieval scholars only through Roman and Greek texts. Prior to its destruction in World War II, the Ebstorf map at 3.5 metres (11 ft) across was the largest surviving mappa mundi. Today that honor is held by the Hereford map which is 1.5 metres (4.9 ft) across.[citation needed] Other important maps in this group are the Cotton or Anglo-Saxon map, the Psalter map and the Henry of Mainz map. The somewhat later mappae mundi that accompany the popular Polychronicon of Ranulf Higden should probably be viewed as degenerate form of the earlier complex maps.
A troubadour (English /ˈtruːbədʊər/, French: [tʁubaduʁ]; Occitan: trobador, IPA: [tɾuβaˈður], archaically: [tɾuβaˈðor]) was a composer and performer of Old Occitan lyric poetry during the High Middle Ages (1100–1350). Since the word "troubadour" is etymologically masculine, a female troubadour is usually called a trobairitz.

The troubadour school or tradition began in the 11th century in Occitania[citation needed], but it subsequently spread into Italy, Spain, and even Greece. Under the influence of the troubadours, related movements sprang up throughout Europe: the Minnesang in Germany, trovadorismo in Galicia and Portugal, and that of the trouvères in northern France. Dante Alighieri in his De vulgari eloquentia defined the troubadour lyric as fictio rethorica musicaque poita: rhetorical, musical, and poetical fiction. After the "classical" period around the turn of the 13th century and a mid-century resurgence, the art of the troubadours declined in the 14th century and eventually died out around the time of the Black Death (1348).

The texts of troubadour songs deal mainly with themes of chivalry and courtly love. Most were metaphysical, intellectual, and formulaic. Many were humorous or vulgar satires. Works can be grouped into three styles: the trobar leu (light), trobar ric (rich), and trobar clus (closed). Likewise there were many genres, the most popular being the canso, but sirventes and tensos were especially popular in the post-classical period, in Italy and among the female troubadours, the trobairitz.

Early period

The earliest troubadour whose work survives is Guilhèm de Peitieus, better known as Duke William IX of Aquitaine (1071–1126). Peter Dronke, author of The Medieval Lyric, however, believes that "[his] songs represent not the beginnings of a tradition but summits of achievement in that tradition."[25] His name has been preserved because he was the Duke of Aquitaine, but his work plays with already established structures; Eble II of Ventadorn is often credited as a predecessor, though none of his work survives. Orderic Vitalis referred to William composing songs about his experiences on his return from the Crusade of 1101 (c. 1102). This may be the earliest reference to troubadour lyrics. Orderic also provides us (1135) with what may be the first description of a troubadour performance: an eyewitness account of William of Aquitaine.

Picauensis uero dux ... miserias captiuitatis suae ... coram regibus et magnatis atque Christianis coetibus multotiens retulit rythmicis uersibus cum facetis modulationibus. (X.21)

Then the Poitevin duke ... the miseries of his captivity ... before kings, magnates, and Christian assemblies many times related with rhythmic verses and witty measures.[26]

Spread (rayonnement)
Trobadours, 14th century

The first half of the 12th century saw relatively few recorded troubadours. Only in the last decades of the century did troubadour activity explode. Almost half of all troubadour works that survive are from the period 1180–1220.[27] In total, moreover, there are over 2,500 troubadour lyrics available to be studied as lingusitic artifacts (Akehurst, 23). The troubadour tradition seems to have begun in western Aquitaine (Poitou and Saintonge) and Gascony, from there spreading over into eastern Aquitaine (Limousin and Auvergne) and Provence. At its height it had become popular in Languedoc and the regions of Rouergue, Toulouse, and Quercy (c. 1200). Finally, in the early 13th century it began to spread into first Italy and then Catalonia, whence to the rest of Spain. This development has been called the rayonnement des troubadours (pronounced: [ʁɛjɔnmɑ̃ dɛ tʁubaduːʁ]).[28]
Woodcut—occasionally known as xylography—is a relief printing artistic technique in printmaking in which an image is carved into the surface of a block of wood, with the printing parts remaining level with the surface while the non-printing parts are removed, typically with gouges. The areas to show 'white' are cut away with a knife or chisel, leaving the characters or image to show in 'black' at the original surface level. The block is cut along the grain of the wood (unlike wood engraving where the block is cut in the end-grain). In Europe beechwood was most commonly used[citation needed]; in Japan, a special type of cherry wood was used[citation needed].

The surface is covered with ink by rolling over the surface with an ink-covered roller (brayer), leaving ink upon the flat surface but not in the non-printing areas.

Multiple colors can be printed by keying the paper to a frame around the woodblocks (where a different block is used for each color). The art of carving the woodcut can be called "xylography", but this is rarely used in English for images alone, although that and "xylographic" are used in connection with blockbooks, which are small books containing text and images in the same block. Single-leaf woodcut is a term for a woodcut presented as a single image or print, as opposed to a book illustration.
A pilgrimage is a journey or search of moral or spiritual significance. Typically, it is a journey to a shrine or other location of importance to a person's beliefs and faith, although sometimes it can be a metaphorical journey in to someone's own beliefs. Many religions attach spiritual importance to particular places: the place of birth or death of founders or saints, or to the place of their "calling" or spiritual awakening, or of their connection (visual or verbal) with the divine, or to locations where miracles were performed or witnessed, or locations where a deity is said to live or be "housed," or any site that is seen to have special spiritual powers. Such sites may be commemorated with shrines or temples that devotees are encouraged to visit for their own spiritual benefit: to be healed or have questions answered or to achieve some other spiritual benefit. A person who makes such a journey is called a pilgrim. In America, the term pilgrim is typically associated with an early colonial Protestant sect known for their strict rules of discipline.

The Holy Land acts as a focal point for the pilgrimages of the Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. According to a Stockholm University study in 2011, these pilgrims visit the Holy Land to touch and see physical manifestations of their faith, confirm their beliefs in the holy context with collective excitation, and connect personally to the Holy Land.[1]

In the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, the visitation of certain ancient cult-centers was repressed in the 7th century BCE, when worship was restricted to the YHWH at the Temple in Jerusalem. In Syria, the shrine of Astarte at the headwater spring of the river Adonis survived until it was destroyed by order of Emperor Constantine in the 4th century.[citation needed]

In mainland Greece, a stream of individuals made their way to Delphi or the oracle of Zeus at Dodona, and once every four years, at the period of the Olympic games, the temple of Zeus at Olympia formed the goal of swarms of pilgrims from every part of the Hellenic world. When Alexander the Great reached Egypt, he put his whole vast enterprise on hold, while he made his way with a small band deep into the Libyan desert, to consult the oracle of Ammun. During the imperium of his Ptolemaic heirs, the shrine of Isis at Philae received many votive inscriptions from Greeks on behalf of their kindred far away at home.

As a common human experience, pilgrimage has been proposed as a Jungian archetype by Wallace Clift and Jean Dalby Clift.[2]
Alfonso IX, ‘el Sabio’
Alfonso IX (15 August 1171 – 23 or 24 September 1230) was king of León and Galicia from the death of his father Ferdinand II in 1188 until his own death. According to Ibn Khaldun (1332–1406), he is said to have been called the Baboso or Slobberer because he was subject to fits of rage during which he foamed at the mouth.


Alfonso was born in Zamora, the only son of King Ferdinand II of León and Urraca of Portugal.[1] He took a part in the work of the reconquest, conquering the whole of Extremadura (including the cities of Cáceres and Badajoz).

He took steps towards modernizing and democratizing his dominion, founding the University of Salamanca in 1212. And in 1188 summoning the first parliament reflecting full representation of the citizenry ever seen in Western Europe, the Cortes of León.[2]

The convening of the Cortes de León in the cloisters of the Basilica of San Isidoro would be one of the most important events of Alfonso's reign. The difficult economic situation at the beginning of his reign compelled Alfonso to raise taxes on the underprivileged classes, leading to protests and a few towns revolts. In response the king summoned the Cortes, an assembly of nobles, clergy and representatives of cities, and subsequently faced demands for compensatory spending and greater external control and oversight of royal expenditures. Alfonso's convening of the Cortes is considered by many historians, including Australia's John Keane,[3] to be instrumental to the formation democratic parliaments across Europe.

The Cortes' 1188 session predates the first session of the Parliament of England, which occurred in in the thirteenth century.

In spite of the democratic precedent represented by the Cortes and the founding of the University of Salamanca, Alfonso is often chiefly remembered for the difficulties his successive marriages caused between him with Pope Celestine III. He was first married in 1191 to his cousin, Teresa of Portugal,[2] who bore him two daughters, and a son who died young. The marriage was declared null by the papal legate Cardinal Gregory.

After Alfonso VIII of Castile was defeated at the Battle of Alarcos, Alfonso IX invaded Castile with the aid of Muslim troops.[2] He was summarily excommunicated by Pope Celestine III. In 1197, Alfonso IX married his second cousin, Berengaria of Castile, to cement peace between León and Castile. For this act of consanguinity, the king and the kingdom were placed under interdict by Celestine.[4]

The Pope was, however, compelled to modify his measures by the threat that, if the people could not obtain the services of religion, they would not support the clergy, and that heresy would spread. The king was left under interdict personally, but to that he showed himself indifferent, and he had the support of his clergy. Berengaria left him after the birth of five children, and the king then returned to Theresa, to whose daughters he left his kingdom in his will.
La Convivencia ("the Coexistence") is a term used to describe a postulated situation in Spanish history when Jews, Muslims, and Catholics in Spain lived in relative peace together within the different kingdoms. It lasted from the Muslim Umayyad conquest of Hispania in 711 until 1492, concurrent with the Reconquista ("Reconquest"). The phrase often refers to the interplay of cultural ideas between the three groups, and ideas of religious tolerance. This postulation is at odds with historical evidence of various massacres carried out on the Jewish population by Muslims such as the 1011 massacre in Cordoba and the 1066 Granada massacre.

James Carroll invokes this concept and indicates that it played an important role in bringing the classics of Greek philosophy to Europe, with translations from Greek to Arabic to Hebrew and Latin.[1]

Toledo is considered to have been a centre of la Convivencia.[citation needed]
Great Khan
Khagan or Kha Khan or qagan (Old Turkic: Old Turkic letter N1.svgOld Turkic letter G1.svgOld Turkic letter Q.svg, kaγan;[1][2] Mongolian: хаган, xagan, Middle Mongolian: ᠬᠠᠭᠠᠨ, qaγan; Chinese: 可汗; pinyin: kè hán or Chinese: 大汗; pinyin: dà hán; Persian: خاقان‎, khāqān), alternatively spelled kağan, kagan, khaghan, qaghan, or chagan, is a title of imperial rank in the Mongolian and Turkic languages equal to the status of emperor and someone who rules a khaganate (empire). The words "khagan" and "khan" are distinct today, though historically they were the same.

It may also be translated as Khan of Khans, equivalent to King of Kings. In modern Mongolian, the title became Khaan with the 'g' sound becoming almost silent or non-existent (i.e., a very light voiceless velar fricative); the ğ in modern Turkish Kağan is also silent. Since the civil war of the Mongol Empire, Emperors of the Yuan Dynasty held the title of Khagan and their successors in Mongolia continued to have the title. Kağan is a common Turkish name in Turkey

The common western rendering as Great Khan (or Grand Khan), notably in the case of the Mongol Empire, is translation of Yekhe Khagan (Great Emperor or Их Хаан).


The title was first seen in a speech between 283 and 289, when the Xianbei chief Murong Tuyuhun tried to escape from his younger stepbrother Murong Hui, and began his route from Liaodong to the areas of Ordos Desert. In the speech one of the Murong's general named Yinalou addressed him as kehan (可寒, later as 可汗), some sources suggests that Tuyuhun might also have used the title after settling at Koko Nor (Qinghai) in the 3rd century.[3]

The Rourans were the first people who used the titles Khagan and Khan for their emperors, replacing the Chanyu of the Xiongnu, whom Grousset and others assume to be Turkic.[4] However, many scholars believe the Rouran were proto-Mongols.[5][6][7]

The Avars, who may have included Juan Juan elements after the Göktürks crushed the Juan Juan who ruled Mongolia, also used this title. The Avars invaded Europe, and for over a century ruled the Carpathian region. Westerners Latinized the title "Khagan" into "Gaganus" or Cagan et Iugurro principibus Hunorum.

Mongol Khagans
Main article: List of Mongol Khans
8 of 15 Khagans of the Mongol Empire.

The Secret History of the Mongols, written for that very dynasty, clearly distinguishes Khagan and Khan: only Genghis and his ruling descendants are called Khagan, while other rulers are referred to as Khan. The g sound in "Khagan" later weakened and disappeared, becoming Khaan in modern Mongolian. Khagan or Khaan refers Emperor or King in Mongolian language, however, Yekhe Khagan means Great Khagan or Grand Emperor.

The Mongol Empire began to politically split with the succession war in 1260-1264 and the death of Kublai Khan in 1294, but the term Ikh Khagan (Great Khan, or Emperor) was still used by the Genghisid rulers of the Yuan Dynasty (1271–1368), who assumed the role of Chinese emperors, and after the fall of the Yuan Dynasty in China (1368) it continued to be used in Mongolia (Northern Yuan).[8] Thus, the Yuan is sometimes referred to as the Empire of the Great Khan, coexisting with the de facto independent Mongol khanates in the west, including the Chagatai Khanate and Golden Horde. Only the Ilkhanate truly recognized the Yuan's overlordship as allies (though it was effectively autonomous). Because Kublai founded the Yuan Dynasty, the members of the other branches of the Borjigin could take part in the election of a new Khagan as the supporters of one or other of the contestants, but they could not enter the contest as candidates themselves.[9] Later Yuan emperors[10] made peace with the three western khanates of the Mongol Empire and were considered as their nominal suzerain.[11] The nominal supremacy, while based on nothing like the same foundations as that of the earlier Khagans (such as the continued border clashes among them), did last for a few decades, until the Yuan Dynasty fell in China (1368).[12]

After the breakdown of Mongol Empire and the fall of the Yuan Dynasty in the 14th century, the Mongols turned into a political turmoil. Dayan Khan (1464-1517/1543) once revived Emperor's authority and recovered its reputation in Mongolia, but with the distribution of his empire among his sons and relatives as fiefs it again caused decentralized rule. The last Khagan Ligdan of Chahar died in 1634 while fighting the Qing Dynasty founded by the Manchus. In contemporary Mongolian language the word "Khaan" and "Khan" have different meanings, while English language usually does not differentiate between them.

The early Khagans of the Mongol Empire were:

Genghis Khan (1206-1227)
Ögedei Khan (1229-1241)
Güyük Khan (1246-1248)
Möngke Khan (1251-1259)

With the establishment of the Yuan Dynasty, the Kublaids became emperors of the Yuan Dynasty, who were considered Khagan for the Mongols and Huangdi (or Chinese emperor) for native Chinese. For the history of late Monarchs please see List of Mongolian monarchs.
Alexander the Great
Alexander III of Macedon (20/21 July 356 – 10/11 June 323 BC), commonly known as Alexander the Great (Greek: Ἀλέξανδρος ὁ Μέγας, Aléxandros ho Mégasiii[›] from the Greek αλέξω alexo "to defend, help" + ανήρ aner "man"), was a Greek king of Macedon, a state in northern ancient Greece. Born in Pella in 356 BC, Alexander was tutored by Aristotle until the age of 16. By the age of thirty, he had created one of the largest empires of the ancient world, stretching from the Ionian Sea to the Himalayas. He was undefeated in battle and is considered one of history's most successful commanders.[1]

Alexander succeeded his father, Philip II of Macedon, to the throne in 336 BC after Philip was assassinated. Upon Philip's death, Alexander inherited a strong kingdom and an experienced army. He was awarded the generalship of Greece and used this authority to launch his father's military expansion plans. In 334 BC, he invaded Persian-ruled Asia Minor and began a series of campaigns that lasted ten years. Alexander broke the power of Persia in a series of decisive battles, most notably the battles of Issus and Gaugamela. He subsequently overthrew the Persian King Darius III and conquered the entirety of the Persian Empire.i[›] At that point, his empire stretched from the Adriatic Sea to the Indus River.

Seeking to reach the "ends of the world and the Great Outer Sea", he invaded India in 326 BC, but was eventually forced to turn back at the demand of his troops. Alexander died in Babylon in 323 BC, without executing a series of planned campaigns that would have begun with an invasion of Arabia. In the years following his death, a series of civil wars tore his empire apart, resulting in several states ruled by the Diadochi, Alexander's surviving generals and heirs.

Alexander's legacy includes the cultural diffusion his conquests engendered. He founded some twenty cities that bore his name, most notably Alexandria in Egypt. Alexander's settlement of Greek colonists and the resulting spread of Greek culture in the east resulted in a new Hellenistic civilization, aspects of which were still evident in the traditions of the Byzantine Empire in the mid-15th century. Alexander became legendary as a classical hero in the mold of Achilles, and he features prominently in the history and myth of Greek and non-Greek cultures. He became the measure against which military leaders compared themselves, and military academies throughout the world still teach his tactics.[2]ii[›]

The Kingdom of Macedon in 336 BC.

In 336 BC, while at Aegae attending the wedding of his daughter Cleopatra to Olympias's brother, Alexander I of Epirus, Philip was assassinated by the captain of his bodyguards,[›] As Pausanias tried to escape, he tripped over a vine and was killed by his pursuers, including two of Alexander's companions, Perdiccas and Leonnatus. Alexander was proclaimed king by the nobles and army at the age of 20.[45][46][47]
Consolidation of power

Alexander began his reign by eliminating potential rivals to the throne. He had his cousin, the former Amyntas IV, executed.[48] He also had two Macedonian princes from the region of Lyncestis killed, but spared a third, Alexander Lyncestes. Olympias had Cleopatra Eurydice and Europa, her daughter by Philip, burned alive. When Alexander learned about this, he was furious. Alexander also ordered the murder of Attalus,[48] who was in command of the advance guard of the army in Asia Minor and Cleopatra's uncle.[49]

Attalus was at that time corresponding with Demosthenes, regarding the possibility of defecting to Athens. Attalus also had severely insulted Alexander, and following Cleopatra's murder, Alexander may have considered him too dangerous to leave alive.[50] Alexander spared Arrhidaeus, who was by all accounts mentally disabled, possibly as a result of poisoning by Olympias.[45][51][52]

News of Philip's death roused many states into revolt, including Thebes, Athens, Thessaly, and the Thracian tribes north of Macedon. When news of the revolts reached Alexander, he responded quickly. Though advised to use diplomacy, Alexander mustered the Macedonian cavalry of 3,000 and rode south towards Thessaly. He found the Thessalian army occupying the pass between Mount Olympus and Mount Ossa, and ordered his men to ride over Mount Ossa. When the Thessalians awoke the next day, they found Alexander in their rear and promptly surrendered, adding their cavalry to Alexander's force. He then continued south towards the Peloponnese.[53][54][55][56]

Alexander stopped at Thermopylae, where he was recognized as the leader of the Amphictyonic League before heading south to Corinth. Athens sued for peace and Alexander pardoned the rebels. The famous encounter between Alexander and Diogenes the Cynic occurred during Alexander's stay in Corinth. When Alexander asked Diogenes what he could do for him, the philosopher disdainfully asked Alexander to stand a little to the side, as he was blocking the sunlight.[57] This reply apparently delighted Alexander, who is reported to have said "But verily, if I were not Alexander, I would like to be Diogenes."[58] At Corinth Alexander took the title of Hegemon ("leader"), and like Philip, was appointed commander for the coming war against Persia. He also received news of a Thracian uprising.[54][59]
Charlemagne (play /ˈʃɑrlɨmeɪn/ or /ˈʃɑrləmeɪn/; French pronunciation: [ʃaʁ.lə.maɲ]; c. 742 – 28 January 814), also known as Charles the Great (Latin: Carolus Magnus or Karolus Magnus), was King of the Franks from 768 and Emperor of the Romans (Imperator Romanorum) from 800 to his death in 814. He expanded the Frankish kingdom into an empire that incorporated much of Western and Central Europe. During his reign, he conquered Italy and was crowned Imperator Augustus by Pope Leo III on 25 December 800 in Rome.

His rule is also associated with the Carolingian Renaissance, a revival of art, religion, and culture through the medium of the Catholic Church. Through his foreign conquests and internal reforms, Charlemagne helped define both Western Europe and the European Middle Ages. He is numbered as Charles I in the regnal lists of Germany, the Holy Roman Empire, and France.

The son of King Pepin the Short and Bertrada of Laon, a Frankish queen, he succeeded his father in 768 and was initially co-ruler with his brother Carloman I. It has often been suggested that the relationship between Charlemagne and Carloman was not good, but it has also been argued that tensions were exaggerated by Carolingian chroniclers.[2]

Nevertheless further conflict was prevented by the sudden death of Carloman in 771, in unexplained circumstances. Charlemagne continued the policy of his father towards the papacy and became its protector, removing the Lombards from power in Italy, and leading an incursion into Muslim Spain, to which he was invited by the Muslim governor of Barcelona. Charlemagne was promised several Iberian cities in return for giving military aid to the governor; however, the deal was withdrawn.

Subsequently, Charlemagne's retreating army experienced its worst defeat at the hands of the Basques, at the Battle of Roncesvalles (778) (memorialised, although heavily fictionalised, in the Song of Roland). He also campaigned against the peoples to his east, especially the Saxons, and after a protracted war subjected them to his rule. By forcibly Christianizing the Saxons and banning on penalty of death their native Germanic paganism, he integrated them into his realm and thus paved the way for the later Ottonian dynasty.

The French and German monarchies descending from the empire ruled by Charlemagne as Holy Roman Emperor cover most of Europe. In his acceptance speech of the Charlemagne Prize Pope John Paul II referred to him as the Pater Europae ("father of Europe"):[3] his empire united most of Western Europe for the first time since the Romans, and the Carolingian renaissance encouraged the formation of a common European identity.[4]

Political background

By the 6th century, the West Germanic Franks had been Christianised and Francia, ruled by the Merovingians, was the most powerful of the kingdoms that succeeded the Western Roman Empire. But following the Battle of Tertry, the Merovingians declined into a state of powerlessness, for which they have been dubbed the do-nothing kings (rois fainéants). Almost all government powers of any consequence were exercised by their chief officer, the mayor of the palace or major domus.

In 687, Pippin of Herstal (or Heristal), mayor of the palace of Austrasia, ended the strife between various kings and their mayors with his victory at Tertry and became the sole governor of the entire Frankish kingdom. Pippin himself was the grandson of two of the most important figures of the Austrasian Kingdom, Saint Arnulf of Metz and Pippin of Landen. Pippin the Middle was eventually succeeded by his illegitimate son Charles, later known as Charles Martel (the Hammer).

After 737, Charles governed the Franks without a king on the throne but declined to call himself "king". Charles was succeeded in 741 by his sons Carloman and Pepin the Short, the father of Charlemagne. To curb separatism in the periphery of the realm, in 743 the brothers placed on the throne Childeric III, who was to be the last Merovingian king.

After Carloman resigned office in 746 to enter the church by preference as a monk, Pepin brought the question of the kingship before Pope Zachary, asking whether it was logical for a king to have no royal power. The pope handed down his decision in 749. He decreed (mandavit) that it was better for Pepin, who had the powers of high office as Mayor, to be called king, so as not to confuse the hierarchy (ordo). He therefore ordered him (iussit) to become "true king."

In 750, Pepin was elected by an assembly of the Franks, anointed by the archbishop and then raised (elevatus) to the office of king. Branding Childeric III as "the false king," the Pope ordered him into a monastery. Thus was the Merovingian dynasty replaced by the Carolingian dynasty, named after Pepin's father, Charles Martel.

In 753 Pope Stephen II fled from Italy to Francia appealing for assistance pro iustitiis sancti Petri ("for the rights of St. Peter") to Pepin. He was supported in this appeal by Carloman, Charles' brother. In return the pope could only provide legitimacy, which he did by again anointing and confirming Pepin, this time adding his young sons, Carolus and Carloman, to the royal patrimony, now heirs to the great realm that already covered most of western and central Europe. In 754 Pepin accepted the Pope's invitation to visit Italy on behalf of St. Peter's rights, dealing successfully with the Lombards.[5]

Under the Carolingians, the Frankish kingdom spread to encompass an area including most of Western Europe. The division of that kingdom formed France and Germany;[6] and the religious, political, and artistic evolutions originating from a centrally positioned Francia made a defining imprint on the whole of Europe.
Roland (Frankish: Hruodland) (died 14 August 778) was a Frankish military leader under Charlemagne who became one of the principal figures in the literary cycle known as the Matter of France. Historically, Roland was military governor of the Breton March, with responsibility for defending the frontier of Francia against the Bretons. His only historical attestation is in Einhard's Vita Karoli Magni, which describes him as Hruodlandus Brittannici limitis praefectus ("Roland, prefect of the limits of Brittany") when narrating his death at the Battle of Roncesvalles, when the rearguard, under his command, and the baggage train of a Frankish army was beset by rebellious Basques.[1]

Roland's death during retreat from the Battle of Roncevaux Pass in Iberia was transmogrified in later medieval and Renaissance literature. He became the chief paladin of the emperor Charlemagne and a central figure in the legendary material surrounding him, collectively known as the Matter of France. The first and most famous of these epic treatments was the Old French Chanson de Roland of the eleventh century. Two masterpieces of Italian Renaissance poetry, the Orlando innamorato and Orlando furioso, are even further detached from history than the earlier Chansons. Roland is poetically associated with his sword Durendal, his horse Veillantif, and his horn Oliphaunt.

1 History
2 Legend
3 In popular culture
4 Notes
5 References


There exists only one historical mention of a Frankish Roland, found in the section of Vita Karoli Magni on the Battle of Roncevaux Pass, written by Charlemagne's courtier and biographer Einhard. The passage, which appears in Chapter 9, mentions that Hroudlandus (a Latinization of the Frankish Hroudland) was among those killed in the battle:

While he was vigorously pursuing the Saxon war, almost without a break, and after he had placed garrisons at selected points along the border, [Charles] marched into Spain [in 778] with as large a force as he could mount. His army passed through the Pyrenees and [Charles] received the surrender of all the towns and fortified places he encountered. He was returning [to Francia] with his army safe and intact, but high in the Pyrenees on that return trip he briefly experienced the Basques. That place is so thoroughly covered with thick forest that it is the perfect spot for an ambush. [Charles's] army was forced by the narrow terrain to proceed in a long line and [it was at that spot], high on the mountain, that the Basques set their ambush. [...] The Basques had the advantage in this skirmish because of the lightness of their weapons and the nature of the terrain, whereas the Franks were disadvantaged by the heaviness of their arms and the unevenness of the land. Eggihard, the overseer of the king's table, Anselm, the count of the palace, and Roland, the lord of the Breton March, along with many others died in that skirmish. But this deed could not be avenged at that time, because the enemy had so dispersed after the attack that there was no indication as to where they could be found.[2]

Roland was evidently the first official appointed to direct Frankish policy in Breton affairs, as local Franks under the Merovingian dynasty had not previously pursued any specific relationship with the Bretons. Their frontier castle districts such as Vitré, Ille-et-Vilaine) south of Mont Saint-Michel are now divided between Normandy and Brittany. The distinctive culture of this region preserves the present-day Gallo language and legends of local heroes such as Roland. Roland's successor in Brittania Nova was Guy of Nantes, who like Roland, was unable to exert Frankish expansion over Brittany and merely sustained a Breton presence in the Carolingian Empire.

According to legend, Roland was laid to rest in the basilica at Blaye, near Bordeaux, on the site of the citadel.
First page of the Chanson de Roland in the Oxford Manuscript

Roland was a popular legendary figure in medieval Europe. Over the next several centuries, Roland became a "pop icon" in medieval minstrel culture. According to many legends, he was a nephew of Charlemagne (whether or not this was true is unknown), and turned his life into an epic tale of the noble Christian killed by Islamic forces, which forms part of the medieval Matter of France.

The tale of Roland's death is retold in the eleventh century poem The Song of Roland, where he is equipped with the Olifant (a signalling horn) and an unbreakable sword, enchanted by various Christian relics, named Durendal. The Song contains a highly romanticized and embellished account of the Battle of Roncevaux Pass and Roland's death, setting the tone for later fantastical depiction of Charlemagne's court. It was adapted and modified throughout the Middle Ages, including an influential Latin prose version Historia Caroli Magni (also known as the Pseudo-Turpin Chronicle), which also includes Roland's battle with a Saracen giant named Ferracutus who is only vulnerable at his navel (the story was later adapted in the anonymous Franco-Venetian epic L'Entrée d'Espagne (c.1320) and in the 14th century Italian epic La Spagna (attributed to the Florentine Sostegno di Zanobi and likely composed between 1350–1360).

Other texts give further legendary accounts of Roland's life. His friendship with Olivier and his engagement with Olivier's sister Aude are told in Girart de Vienne by Bertrand de Bar-sur-Aube. Roland's youth and the acquisition of his horse Veillantif and sword are described in Aspremont. Roland also appears in Quatre Fils Aymon where he is contrasted with Renaud de Montauban against whom he occasionally fights.
Statue of Roland, facade detail of the railway station, Metz, France

In Norway, the tales of Roland are part of the 13th century Karlamagnús saga. In Italy, Roland, as Orlando, is the hero of Orlando Innamorato by Matteo Maria Boiardo. After Boiardo's death, the epic was continued as Orlando Furioso by Ludovico Ariosto (See below for his later history in Italian verse). In the Divine Comedy Dante sees Roland's spirit in the Heaven of Mars together with others who fought for the faith.

In Germany, Roland gradually became a symbol of the independence of the growing cities from the local nobility. In the late Middle Ages many cities sported the display of a defiant Roland statue on their marketplace. The Roland in Wedel was erected in 1450 as symbol of market justice, and the Roland statue in front of the town hall of Bremen (1404) is listed together with the town hall on the List of World Heritage Site from the UNESCO since 2004.

In Aragón there are several placenames related to Roldán (o Rolando): la Breca de Roldán (in Spanish la Brecha de Roldán, in French La Brèche de Roland) and Salto d´o Roldán (in Spanish El Salto de Roldán).

In Catalonia Roland (or Rotllà, as it is rendered in Catalan) became a legendary giant. Numerous places in Catalonia (both North and South) have a name related to Rotllà. In step with the trace left by the character in the whole Pyrenean area, Basque Errolan turns up in numerous legends and place-names associated with a mighty giant, usually a heathen, capable of launching huge stones. Interestingly, Basque word erraldoi ("giant") stems from Errolan.[citation needed]

In the Faroe Islands Roland appears in the ballad of "Runtsivalstríðið" (Battle of Roncevaux)

More recently Roland's tale has been exploited by historians exploring the development of the early-modern Christian understanding of Islamic culture. In 1972 P. M. Holt used Roland's words to begin an essay about Henry Stubbe: "Paien ont tort e crestiien ont dreit" — "Pagans are wrong and Christians are right."

He appeared as a central character in a sequence of verse romances from the fifteenth century onwards, including Morgante by Luigi Pulci, Orlando Innamorato by Matteo Maria Boiardo, and Orlando furioso by Ludovico Ariosto. The Orlandino of Pietro Aretino then waxed satirical about the "cult of personality" of Orlando the hero.

The Orlando narrative inspired several composers, amongst whom were Claudio Monteverdi, Jean-Baptiste Lully, Antonio Vivaldi and George Frideric Handel, who composed an Italian-language opera with Orlando.

The English expression, "to give a Roland for an Oliver", meaning either to offer a quid pro quo or to give as good as one gets, recalls the Chanson de Roland, and Roland's companion Oliver.[3]
Bestiary, Elephant & Dragon; England; 1230-1240
Lion covering his tracks
(Bestiary); France; 13th-14th century
Pelican Feeding Young
(Bestiary); France; c. 1450
Pearl (Lapidary); France; c. 1250 – 1260
Firestones (Lapidary); England; 13th–15th century
Hellebore Opening (Herbal); Italy; 16th century
Hereford Mappamundi; England; c. 1300
Mandragora, Hereford
Mappamundi; England; c. 1300
Map of Jerusalem, Psalter; France; c. 1200
Icon of St. Christopher; Byzantine; 17th century
Pearl Divers, Marco Polo; England; c.1400
Marvels of India, Marco Polo; England; c. 1400
Death of Roland, Karl der
Grosse; Germany; c. 1300
Carole of the Eagle, Roman
d’Alexandre; France; 1338-1344
Ascent of Alexander, Roman
d’Alexandre; S. Netherlands; Early 14
th century
Cantigas de Santa Maria, 74; Spain; 13th century
Book of Chess and Games; Spain; c. 1283
Durer, St. Michael and the
Dragon; Germany; 1498
Durer, Samson rending the
lion; Germany; 1497-1498
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