c. 1100 CE
likely Turold, Norman poet
La Chanson de Roland, English The Song of Roland, Old French epic poem that is probably the earliest (c. 1100) chanson de geste and is considered the masterpiece of the genre.
The poem takes the historical Battle of Roncesvalles (Roncevaux) in 778 as its subject. Though this encounter was actually an insignificant skirmish between Charlemagne’s army and Basque forces, the poem transforms Roncesvalles into a battle against Saracens and magnifies it to the heroic stature of the Greek defense of Thermopylae against the Persians in the 5th century BC.
The poem opens as Charlemagne, having conquered all of Spain except Saragossa, receives overtures from the Saracen king and sends the knight Ganelon, Roland’s stepfather, to negotiate peace terms. Angry because Roland proposed him for the dangerous task, Ganelon plots with the Saracens to achieve his stepson’s destruction and, on his return, ensures that Roland will command the rear guard of the army when it withdraws from Spain. As the army crosses the Pyrenees, the rear guard is surrounded at the pass of Roncesvalles by an overwhelming Saracen force. Trapped against crushing odds, the headstrong hero Roland is the paragon of the unyielding warrior victorious in defeat.
the poem takes the historical battle of roncesvalles (Roncevaux)
How far back?
2020 | Present