Alexander and Dindimus (Alexander Fragment B)

General Information

(N)IMEV: 4262
Form: Alliterative lines
Date of Composition: c. 1350
Place of Composition: West Midlands
Keywords: Conquest, Monster, The Orient, Travel

Plot Summary

Plot summary image

On their rapid march of conquest through India, Alexander and his army come to the land of the Oxydracae, or Gymnosophists, a proud people who go naked and live in caves. Apprehensive, their king writes to Alexander, saying it would be useless to attack them, since the Gymnosophists own nothing, and would refuse to fight. Intrigued, Alexander promises by return message to come in peace. Although the men flee to their caves when Alexander appears, the women stay to tell him about their way of life. In return Alexander offers them a gift, but when they request eternal life he has to admit that he is only mortal himself. Why then does he make constant war, they ask. Alexander replies that to conquer is his destiny, and a gift from the gods, who created kings to distinguish men from beasts.

Proceeding on, the army passes a beautiful but deadly orchard, and eventually comes to the banks of the Phison, a river out of Paradise, which is also called the Ganges. Halted at its banks by floods and the dangerous creatures which live in it, Alexander calls for a messenger from the people who live on the other side, the Brahmins, once more seeking to learn about the customs of those he encounters. Alexander sends letters to the king, Dindimus, contrasting the worth and manner of their life with his, and encourages an exchange of letters. The reply of King Dindimus acknowledges Alexander’s search for wisdom, but finds it impossible to believe that Alexander could tolerate the poverty and simplicity of a way of life so foreign to his, or would be willing to take the time from his incessant warring to learn from them. The Brahmins eschew all arts, crafts, sciences, learning, play or mirth, although they do listen to romances, that is, stories of their ancestors’ noble deeds, and enjoy the pleasures of the natural world.

Having described at length their virtuous and rational life of moderation, dedicated to the true god, without distinctions of rank, or any need for mercy, since they never sin, Dindimus goes on to denounce Alexander and his people for their greed, violence, lust, and worship of false gods (primarily the Roman pantheon), predicting that they will end in eternal torment.

Angered by this self-righteous polemic, Alexander replies that Dindimus and his people are like wolves, lacking the means to improve their lives or the wisdom that comes from study. Their chastity is not a choice but a consequence of their weakness, since they are too feeble to sin. They dishonour the gifts of the creator, unlike Alexander and his people. Dindimus in turn repeats his condemnations, and after a further exchange of letters, Alexander has a pillar erected at the spot, and rides on.


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Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Bodley 264 (folio: 209r-217v)

Mid fifteenth-century. West Midlands. Unique copy. Fragmentary. 1139 lines.

Modern Editions

F.P. Magoun, ed., The Gests of King Alexander of Macedon. Two Middle English Alliterative Fragments, Alexander A and Alexander B. Edited with the Latin Sources Parallel (Cambridge, Mass., 1929)Pp. 171-216. Edited from MS Bodley 264.
Joseph Stevenson, ed., The Alliterative Romance of Alexander. From the Unique Manuscript in the Ashmolean Museum (London: William Nichol for the Roxburghe Club, 1849)MS Bodley 264 edited in an appendix, pp. 197-236.
W.W. Skeat, ed., Alexander and Dindimus: or, The Letters of Alexander to Dindimus, King of the Brahmans, with the Replies of Dindimus, EETS o.s. 36 (London: N. Trübner & Co., 1878)Edited from MS Bodley 264.


Pseudo-Callisthenes, Historia de Preliis, J2 recenscion