The British Library

The making of a myth

Was Alexander the Great a hero, villain, philosopher or magician? This debate, about one of the ancient world’s most famous figures, has been going on for two millennia – and now it’s being explored in a major exhibition at the British Library in London’s Kings Cross.

‘Alexander the Great: The Making of a Myth’ is the first exhibition ever to focus exclusively on the myths and legends surrounding the ancient Macedonian king. We’ve supported the exhibition, which ran between October 2022 and February 2023, with a grant of £100,000.

  • The British Library’s exhibition displays up 140 items relating to the myths and legends of Alexander the Great – the first of its kind and scale.
  • It reflects more than 2,000 years of storytelling from 25 countries in 22 languages from across the world.
  • The exhibition aims to attract up to 35,000 visitors in person – and reach many more people through the catalogue and digital content.

Turning legacy into legend

At the core of The Making of a Myth is an exclusive selection of original material from 25 countries in 22 languages. Astrological clay tablets, medieval manuscripts and artworks from Europe and Asia sit side-by-side with Hollywood and Bollywood movies, popular fiction and cutting-edge videogames depicting modern versions of the legends. The diverse exhibition highlights the lasting impact of this controversial figure.

An accompanying exhibition book features nine essays from an international team of world-renowned scholars on various themes of Alexander the Great’s legends. The British Library has also developed a suite of digital content, including animations and videos, ensuring the exhibition reaches a broad audience of all ages. ​

“Alexander: The Making of a Myth is a remarkable opportunity for the British Library to open up the unparalleled riches of its treasures to a very wide public. The audience, both in person and online, is invited to join us on an exceptional journey following the footsteps of Alexander as he travels through the world, time and eventually cultures and traditions. Instead of celebrating a conqueror, the exhibition will reveal a deeply human fate, constantly reaching and pressing its limits to face with the fragility of life ended too early but continued in a continuous retelling and reshaping of its stories.”

Peter Toth, Curator of Ancient and Medieval Manuscripts, and exhibition co-curator

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