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Alexander, Gog & Magog

Alexander & the Unclean Peoples

Some manuscripts of the Alexander Romance (Late Antiquity and Middle Ages) contain a passage about Alexander and the Unclean Peoples. It is highly unlikely that the original version of the Romance, believed to have been composed in Alexandria (Egypt) around 300 BC, already contained this remarkable episode. It is generally thought to be a Late Antiquity addition and it generally runs like this.

This short synopsis is based on a Dutch translation by Belgian scholar Patrick De Rynck of a fragment of the Late Antiquity Romance (published in Amsterdam, 2000, ISBN 9025346766). De Rynck argues that the origin of this fragment must me dated back to 500 AD.

Alexander reigned for nineteen years from Alexandria, then he defeated Darius, marched around the globe and ended up at the seacoast of Sunland. Sunland was where the Unclean Peoples lived: they sustained themselves by eating human foetusses, decaying corpses and still-born infants - as well as dogs, flies and cats. Alexander drove those Unclean Peoples to the north and he sealed the entrance to the north by building bronze gates between the two mountains commonly known as Ubera Aquilonis - 'Breasts of the North'. Alexander strengthened his gates with asiceton, some supernatural form of metal. He also forced the Unclean Peoples to abandon all uses of witchcraft, so that they would never be able to destroy the 'Gates of the North'. However, at the day of the apocalypse these Unclean Peoples - Gog and Magog being their foremost - will scale Alexander's barricade and will turn against the 'Israelites'.


The content of this fragment was considered to have been part of the apocaliptic revelations of the Christian saint Methodius. Methodius was bishop of Patara in Lycia (south-west modern Turkey). He was born in 260 AD and he died a martyr's death under Roman emperor Maximian in 311 or 312 AD. However, most modern scholars tend towards the interpretation that the text was an invention by Pseudo-Methodius, who was a Christian bishop somewhere in Syria around 680 AD and whose real name is quite uncertain. The Muslim Koran however includes a passage very similar to this Pseudo-Methodius prophecy. The origins of the Koran can not be dated later than 632 AD, the very year that Mohammed the Prophet died. (This might even lead to the hypothesis that both the Koran text and the Pseudo-Methodius relied on a common source.)

In any case the legend of the Unclean Peoples became incorporated in the Alexander Romance from some religious origin during Late Antiquity or during the early Middle Ages. Gog and Magog - the most prominent names amongst the Unclean Peoples - are first mentioned in the Old Testament book of Ezechiel (38-39). Ezechiel wrote around 600 BC. In later texts the names of Gog and Magog appear to have been used ad lib to describe the various violent, hostile tribes from the north-eastern fringes of the known world: Scythians, Huns, even Mongols.

I have found that further exploration of this subject might lead one only towards questionable and unreliable sources from the darker vaults of history. In any case: Alexander the Great is always portrayed as the savior and protector of mankind who exiled the Unclean Peoples from the civilised world.

You might want to check: Religion - Holy Koran or Legends (Marco Polo).

Written by nick