n Acta Classica : Proceedings of the Classical Association of South Africa - The fate of African material in the Greek and Byzantine tradition of the

Supplement 5
  • ISSN : 0065-1141
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A survey of the oldest version of the , the so-called α recension, shows the importance of African material in this fabulous story of Alexander's adventures - a fact not very surprising in a text written (or compiled) in the Egyptian city of Alexandria. A first set of materials is indeed Egyptian: it is to be found in the novella of Nectanebo (Alexander's natural father in the ) and in the episode of Alexander's sojourn in Egypt, mostly in the passage devoted to the foundation of Alexandria. To this Egyptian set can perhaps also be added the short notice, inserted in 2.9, about the flow of the Nile (and its supposed influence on the flow of the rivers Tigris and Euphrates). A second set of materials is connected with black Africa and features in the story of Candace, queen of the Ethiopian kingdom of Meroe, who in this first version of the is clearly presented as a dark-skinned person, as is her son Candaule. The α recension also contains scattered references to North Africa (ancient Libya) and to Erythraea, the border-land between Africa and Asia. The author speaks of Alexander's encounter with the inhabitants of Carthage, and in Alexander's fantastical letters to Aristotle and Olympias in 3.17, and to Olympias in 3.28, some of the strange peoples Alexander meets during his travels on the margins of the world appear to be peoples in ancient geographical writings usually connected with Africa: that is the case for the Ichthyophagi and the Troglodytes. Moreover, in the letter to Olympias, Alexander says he extended his exploration as far as the Atlas river, in the extreme west of Libya, a country which in antiquity was reputed to be the place of all kinds of marvels.

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