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9-Worthies-art - 11/19/13


"The Nine Worthies" by Kurios Halfdan "Two Bears" Ôzurrson.


NOTE: See also the files: 9-Mirors-Rmce-art, Feudalism-art, Folk-Tales-MM-art, Love-in-th-MA-art, Holy-Grail-art, Rules-of-Love-art, Chivalry-art.






This article was submitted to me by the author for inclusion in this set of files, called Stefan's Florilegium.


These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


Copyright to the contents of this file remains with the author or translator.


While the author will likely give permission for this work to be reprinted in SCA type publications, please check with the author first or check for any permissions granted at the end of this file.


Thank you,

Mark S. Harris...AKA:..Stefan li Rous

stefan at florilegium.org




The Nine Worthies

by Kurios Halfdan "Two Bears" Ôzurrson


PART I: Introduction


Established in the Middle Ages, the list of the Nine Worthies was first penned by Jacques de Longuyon in his book Voeux du Paon; a literary work translated as "The Vows of the Peacock."  The Vows of the Peacock was considered to be a very popular romance novel in the 14th century.  In his book, de Longuyon describes, amongst other things, nine virtues that he associated with the concept of romantic chivalry.


De Longuyon's list of The Nine is separated into three distinct groups, each with three people in it.  The list of The Nine starts with the three good Pagans; famous names from Rome and Greece--Hector, Alexander the Great, and Julius Caesar form this list.  The second list is comprised of the three good Jews; Joshua, David, and the little known Judas Maccabeus.  The last and final section--reserved for the three good Christians--the exalted names of King Arthur, Charlemagne, and Godfrey of Bouillon are recorded.


All of the Worthies, with the exception of two, were conquering heroes--and all of them were noted for their prowess in arms and the honor that they brought to their respective nations.  As such, each one of the Nine Worthies are seen as examples of chivalry, and--while the named individuals may have embodied more than one virtue, it was de Longuyon that codified the chivalric virtues and named the singular most influential virtue in each of the Worthies.


Why should we strive to understand the concepts of Chivalry that de Longuyon has ascribed to these nine worthy historical figures?  You may be thinking to yourself, "I'm not a knight so I don't really need to read this."  However, the Ideals of Chivalry is an important part of our Society; a concept that is meant for all of us and not those of just one Peerage.


Chivalry is one of the many things that brings us together in the Society for Creative Anachronism.  However, we often attribute chivalry as being exclusive to those of the Order of Chivalry; those Knights of the Realm who have shown their prowess on the field and exude the essence of chivalry.  We often fail to remember that we are all considered Lords and Ladies in the Society and that we too should strive to show chivalry in our dealings with others; no matter what color our belt may be or how long we have been participating.


PART II: The Three Good Pagans


Continuing on with our topic, we take a moment to look at each member of the triads of the Nine Worthies.  The Three Good Pagans; Hector, Alexander the Great, and Julius Caesar, are well known names of the ancient past.  These three men were considered by many to be accomplished fighters and men of great honor.  However, de Longuyon specifically chooses a single chivalric virtue that each of these men represents in his book, "The Vows of the Peacock."


The Three Good Pagans


Hector was the Champion of Troy; a Prince of the mighty city, and a man who fell honorably to Achilles.  Hector was known for his great love, and thus, sometimes represents love in the chivalric virtues.  However, Hector can also be seen as the embodiment of noble and courtly behavior.  When Hector was slain, he perished in a manner that was befitting one of his nature.  Hector fell honorably to Achilles; he didn't resort to trickery or cowardice even when he knew that he would be slain in battle.  Instead, Hector went into his final battle with nobility, even though the gods had already determined his fate.



Hector could be seen as the actual Epic Hero of Homer's Iliad.  A Hero can be described as one that abhors deliberate acts of cruelty, defamation, and injustice.  While Achilles was the conqueror, Hector showed great noble and courtly behavior when he faced his foes.  For example, in Hector's duel with Ajax that ends in a stalemate, Hector commends Ajax for his courage and skill.  The two exchange gifts and end up making a short truce between the two armies in which they take time to bury the dead.


Alexander the Great is well known for his conquering of many lands including Persia, Egypt, and the militaristic incursion into India.  Medieval scholars saw him as the main figure who spread the knowledge of the Greeks into these dark areas of the ancient world.  In Alexander; the virtue of generosity is seen.  Through his many victories, Alexander amassed great fortunes.  With the money that he received he not only paid his army very well, but he also founded at least ten cities with the fortunes he reaped from conquered empires.


However, this was not the only extent of Alexander's generosity.  A story is told where a beggar met Alexander on the road.  The beggar, in great need, asked for alms from the mighty conquer.  Even though the beggar had no right to ask Alexander for money, Alexander threw him several gold coins.  When asked why he gave the beggar gold instead of copper, Alexander replied "copper coins would adequately suite the beggars need, but gold coins suit Alexander's giving."


Julius Caesar is considered by many to be the father of the Roman Empire; the Empire which would later become the cradle of the Christian religion.  While some documents hail Julius Caesar as the defender of women, research into the historical Caesar shows little evidence to support this idea.  It is, perhaps, through classical literature accessible during the writing of The Vows that de Longuyon came to his conclusion that Caesar personified the chivalric notion of protecting women.


What can be identified clearly, however, is that Julius Caesar can be seen as the embodiment of prowess.  It is through his militaristic and political prowess that Caesar reached the highest station in Rome and acquired the love of the common man.  Caesar had been born into a lower governmental position and  progressed through Roman society quickly through his overall prowess and determination.  This historical fact quickly points to the notion that Caesar is connected with the Chivalric notion of prowess.


Putting it Together


Understanding who these historical figures are and what place they held in the Medieval mindset are important to us in the Society. What can we learn from these three examples of chivalry and how can we incorporate them into our groups?  One obvious place that these virtues can be witnessed and expressed is on the field of battle; fighters should take a moment to show the examples of Hector, Alexander, and Caesar no matter if they are a knight or not.  The virtues that these three men represent; courage, generosity, and prowess, are prime examples of battlefield virtues.  Having courage to face your opponent, bestowing them with generosity after the battle, and continually working on martial prowess are all ways that fighters can emulate the Three Good Pagans.


However, for those of us who do not fight, we can take the example that the Three Good Pagans show us and incorporate them into our Society life.  Having the courage of Hector to introduce yourself to the new person who just arrived at the event is definitely a good start. Showing the generosity of Alexander by inviting somebody into your encampment out of harsh weather is another good example.  The prowess of Caesar can be exemplified in excelling in what you do; be it crafts, holding an officer position, or even setting up your encampment.


PART III: The Three Good Jews


De Longuyon took a great risk in adding Jewish people to his book, "The Vows of the Peacock."  Considering the amount of anti-Semitism in the Middle Ages, his use of three Jewish men as figures to be admired could have come at a considerable risk to his person.  However, the term that De Longuyon uses extensively, "heroes of The Old Law," helps to incorporate these three individuals into the Christian traditions; and thus, approved by the general reader.


Of the three Triads, the Jewish heroes are a group that is discussed by de Longuyon in the least detail.  However, understanding that the history of the Jewish people was little known by the Medieval man, even highly learned ones, it comes to no surprise why de Longuyon detailed so little of this group of the Nine Worthies—he may not have known himself.


Joshua, from the tribe of Nun, was the leader of the Israelites after the death of Moses.  He led his people into the Promised Land and conquered the nations that were already dwelling there; eventually carving out the kingdom of Israel. However, it is before this time when Joshua was sent as one of the Twelve Observers that Joshua is attributed the chivalric virtue of truth.



In the Book of Numbers we see the story take place.  Twelve men are sent into the Promised Land to scout out the enemy.  After forty days of gathering information, they come back and make the report to Moses.  Ten of the Observers were frightened of the enemy and gave false reports while Joshua and Caleb, two of the observers who were not afraid of their enemies, gave a truthful account of what awaited across the Jordan River.


David, the biblical hero and king of Israel, is-or-was representative of the virtue of purity.  At first glance, David appears anything but the symbol of Chivalric purity, and in some cases it is true.  However, the type of purity that is being referenced is that of purity of the heart; which includes purity in our morals, motives, and methods.



Throughout the story of David in the Bible, we can see this purity of the heart take place; especially in his decision not to slay King Saul in the cave; even when it would have been advantageous of him to do so; and once again when he finds King Saul asleep in the tent.  Additionally, the story of the later years of David's life where he takes mercy upon the last of Saul's line is another fine example of the purity of David's heart.


Judas Maccabeus was a Jewish hero who stood up against Antiochus IV, a Seleucid king who had forcibly conquered the Kingdom of Israel and all but outlawed the nation's religion.  It is from his loyalty to his cause and his ability to inspire it in others that he personifies the chivalric virtue of loyalty.



It was Judas who led a rebellion and fought against the enemy using guerilla warfare; considering how woefully outnumbered his forces were; tactically it was his only option.  Eventually, Judas amassed a large army and the external war against Antiochus was won  for a short time.


Eventually, the Seleucid Empire, now under the command of Antiochus V, retaliated and sent a large army against Judas Maccabeus.  Seeing the large numbers of the enemy forces before them, most of the Jewish rebellion army deserted, leaving Judas with a small number of loyal men to face their fates in the Battle of Elasa where Judas and his men perished.


Putting it Together


Incorporating the virtues of the Three Good Jews takes a more personal note than the other two triads of Worthies.  Their virtues push us to look deep within and are more difficult to express in our everyday outward appearances.  However, these virtues are evident on the battlefield and are often shown by those who take up the sword.  Having Joshua's truth means that a fighter calls shots that are good, no matter what he expects to gain in the tourney.  The purity of David is fighting for a good cause; such as for the honor of your loved one or for the sheer enjoyment of the match.  Judas' loyalty is seen when a fighter is loyal to his master and his honor.


For those of us who do not fight, we can look at the examples of the Three Good Jews and express them ourselves.  Exemplifying Joshua's truth can be as simple as speaking the truth to those who ask for honest opinions.  The purity of David is having clear morals and motives when dealing with others, no matter what station or degree.  Judas Maccabeus' loyalty is the loyalty we give to those of our household, our friends, and those we serve under.


PART IV: The Three Good Christians


The final triad that de Longuyon discusses in his book, "The Vows of the Peacock," focus on the Three Good Christians; King Arthur, Charlemagne, and Godfrey of Bouillon.  While most of the heroic tales of these individuals were fictionalized after the actual events, de Longuyon utilized these stories when he codified the chivalric attributes to the Nine Worthies.  However, even though some of the tales were disproportionate to the actual person, the list of the Christian Worthies still sheds light on aspects of historical chivalry.


King Arthur, the heroic and tragic figure that straddles both myth and history, is often titled the "Once and Future King of England."  Arthur is well known for his enchanted sword--Excalibur, his Knights of the Round Table, and his quest for the Holy Grail.  Although there are many heroic tales of King Arthur, it is one of his more human moments that helps solidify the aspect that he represents; humility.



When Arthur's wife, Guinevere, was to be burned at the stake for her adultery with Lancelot; we see the human side of Arthur.  At first he cannot bear to see the woman he loves killed; but Mordred is right beside him; confronting him.  Arthur had a choice to kill the queen or kill the law; both of which Arthur didn't want to do.  Instead, Arthur shows great humility in accepting that he is, in fact, just a man, and relinquishes his kingship to protect both his love and the law.


Charlemagne was King of the Franks and later Emperor of the Romans until his death in 814 A.D.  His leadership brought forth a new renaissance of ideas, a revival of art and culture, and helped to solidify the control of the Catholic Church. Through a series of military campaigns and various programs that he instituted, Charlemagne labored to bring order to a chaotic Europe.



Charlemagne is noted for his many chivalric virtues, but most especially his sense of justice.  It is written that the Emperor of the Romans felt sympathy to the common man of his realm; many of which who were repressed by the local government officials.  Charlemagne's belief was that government should benefit those who are governed, and as such, he sent investigators to all corners of his kingdom to administer justice, to inspect the existing government, and promote and revitalize both civil and religious duties within his empire.


Godfrey of Bouillon was the Duke of Lower Lorraine who, at the summons of the Pope, helped lead the French Knights to the wall of Jerusalem.  After successfully capturing the city, Godfrey was elected the ruler of Jerusalem; but his religious piety prompted him to accept the title of Defender of the Holy Sepulcher instead, stating that the title King of Jerusalem belonged to God.  Although he died a year later, Godfrey had extended the reaches of the Kingdom of Jerusalem and helped to establish the foundations of that kingdom.



Godfrey is attributed the chivalric virtue of faith.  His faith is articulated especially in his refusing the title of King of Jerusalem. While Godfrey's virtue of faith shows in other examples; most of them are developed and added upon in the later years when the sagas of Godfrey were written.  However, according to most accounts, he was known as a gentle and pious man who journeyed to the Holy Land to liberate Jerusalem for the Christians.


Putting it Together


Again, it seems that the fighters have it easy when demonstrating the virtues of these three Worthies.  A good fighter doesn't have to always comment about his ability on the battlefield, instead he just needs to employ the humility of Arthur and let his actions speak for him. Additionally, displaying the justice of Charlemagne would mean that a fighter should always seek the right path; even if it is the path is difficult and arduous.  The faith of Godfrey doesn't necessarily mean that the fighter should take up a religion, simply that the fighter should have faith in his ability and his beliefs.


For those who do not fight, the virtues the Three Good Christians represent can be a little trickier to express in the Society. However, Arthur's humility can be conveyed by being humble at events; to know when to step back and not have to be in control or to have the last word.  The justice of Charlemagne can be seen when we work with other people; to do what is right instead of what is popular or easiest.  Finally, the faith of Godfrey is having faith in ourselves, our beliefs, our family or clan, our Peers, and faith in the royalty to do what is right.


PART V: Final Thoughts


As I have mentioned before, the concept of chivalry and how we act towards one another is an important part of the Society for Creative Anachronism.  It doesn't matter if you wear the white belt or not; chivalry is for all members of our group.  It is what binds us together; a part of what is termed "the Dream", and as such, merits at least a basic understanding.


There are several versions of the Knightly Virtues that can be found; ranging from simple lists to extravagant reams of information, and some people may choose one list over the other.  By understanding where these concepts derived from, namely the words written long ago by de Longuyon in his "Vows of the Peacock," we can begin to understand the basics of what chivalry is from a historical aspect and focus on incorporating these values in our lives in the Society for Creative Anachronism and our mundane lives as well.


Author's Note to Chroniclers:  Clipart was provided by Erik Roth via the Shadowed Realm Medieval History Resources website. http://www.shadowedrealm.com/medieval-forum/gallery/image/164-the-nine-worthies-of-the-world/


Copyright 2013 by Travis Abe-Thomas, PO Box 2254, Palmer, AK  99645. Thomassorngrym at yahoo.com. Permission is granted for republication in SCA-related publications, provided the author is credited. Addresses change, but a reasonable attempt should be made to ensure that the author is notified of the publication and if possible receives a copy.


If this article is reprinted in a publication, please place a notice in the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.


<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org