In the 14th century, the nine worthies were a list of nine men who were identified as paragons of chivalrous behavior, which included courage and honor in battle. The nine worthies consisted of a triad divided along faith lines: three Pagans, three Jews, and three Christians. Later, lists were created of nine worthy women. The nine worthy women were not as standardized as their male counterparts and were not always divided along the same Pagan-Jewish-Christian rubric either, but they generally represented what was considered virtuous for a woman in the Medieval worldview.
Nine Worthy Men
The Three Good Pagans: Hector, Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, from the woodcut series by Hans Burgkmair, 1519. (Public Domain)
The nine worthies first appeared in a heroic song written by Jacques De Longuyon called Les Voeux du paon in 1312. The song mentioned three Pagans, three Jews, and three Christians who were drawn from history, scripture, and legend that were believed to represent a paragon of the Medieval idea of chivalry. The Pagans were Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, and Hector of Troy. The Jews were David, Joshua, and Judas Maccabeus, and the Christians were King Arthur, Charlemagne, and Godfrey of Bouillon – who had been made the first king of Jerusalem after the city was captured by the crusaders.
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