Roberta Morosini: ABSTRACT: “Alexander the traveler in Medieval and Renaissance Italian tradition : when a conquest is a quest”
In a systematic study for a Companion to the legends of Alexander for Brill publisher, I examined the legends of Alexander the Great in Medieval and Renaissance Italy, from Arci-Bishop Leo (X Century) to Manta’ castle in the region of Piemonte (1430) and Domenico Falugio’s Triompho magno in the XVI Century. According to the major specialists of Alexander legends, R. Stoneman and G. Cary, the general Medieval secular approach to Alexander was represented in Italy in the late Middle Ages only by dry Alexander-books as drier references to his conquest. However, my aim is to show that the Alexander-books in Medieval Italy were not dry and flat stories with dry references to his conquest, rather proposing a courtly Alexander, a hero in his quest. In the Italian tradition of Alexander-books, we find an Alexander who is curious for world, the other and the unknown, as proved by the approaches in the accounts of his legendary ‘trips’ to the heaven and in the abyss of the sea. The Italian tradition of Alexander-books is influenced by courtly tradition and tales of traveleres from Middle Eastern countries. Alexander is the hero of a quest, a search for himself and a better understanding of the world, among a spectacle of mirabilia where it is hard to distinguish an animal from a human being. This approach did not disappear, and, in the end, it continued throughout the Renaissance, inspiring the secular portrait of Alexander in a more nostalgic note. Here the quest of the courtly hero encounter the philosophical meditation of the humanist. Finally, at the end of XVI Century, we move from the nostalgic revival of Manta’s verses and images to the malicious and satirical smile of Falugio who in his Triompho magno celebrates himself and his art of writing, which was worth a prize from pope Leo X. While it is obvious that in the Triompho magno is all about Alexander’s triumph, this Alexander, however, has little curiosity for the unknown and no love for anybody like in the contemporary manuscript 1751 (BN Rome), proving a decline of the epic and the courtly tradition transmitted by the Italian Alexander-books thus making the reader almost nostalgic for the Alexander among lyophants, snakes wearing diamonds, deers, basilisks, underwater trips and celestial flights.