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The Nine Worthies: Are These the Most Chivalrous Men in History?

The Nine Worthies: Are These the Most Chivalrous Men in History?


It may come as a shock to learn that ancient peoples enjoyed making lists of greats as much as we do. Just as websites make Top 10 lists about topical items today, so too did the Hellenistic Greeks make a Top Seven Wonders of the World list in their day (Wonders being all the rage back then). Another example is the list of the top nine most chivalrous men in history. This list, known as the Nine Worthies, was wildly popular during the Middle Ages. The Nine were believed to embody the ideal virtues, especially service to God and country.

Medieval artists and writers had a certain penchant for symmetry. The Nine Worthies include three Jews, three pagans, and three Christians. Each set of three is meant to symbolize the three distinct chapters in chivalry’s development. This highlighted how history was ultimately a broad and still incomplete enactment of God’s divine will.

The Nine Worthies: 14th century sculpture in Cologne's historic town hall.

The Nine Worthies: 14th century sculpture in Cologne's historic town hall. (CC by SA 3.0)

The Three Jewish Worthies

The first three are Joshua, David, and Judas Maccabeus. They represented the Old Law, the law of Jerusalem and the Old Testament. Joshua, the leader of the Jews after Moses, is considered the idealized general who led the Israelites to conquer the Holy land. David was “the anointed king and Messiah of the Hebrew people, who slew Goliath and whose line was forever chosen by God (Yahweh) to lead his people” (By The Gods, 2011).

The final Jewish worthy was Judas of the Maccabees, a priest who led the Maccabees in revolt against the Seleucid Empire. Judas’ restoration of Jewish worship at the Temple of Jerusalem is still celebrated each year with Hanukah. Together, the three Jewish worthies remind the audience “that the Old Testament is the story of God's chosen nation, which was the spiritual vessel of His purpose for mankind, and through whose service of the one true God, the way was made ready for the coming of Christ” (O’Reilly, 2012).

The Three Jewish Worthies: Joshua, David, and Judas Maccabeaus.

The Three Jewish Worthies: Joshua, David, and Judas Maccabeaus. (public domain)

The Three Pagan Worthies

The next three are Hector, Alexander the Great, and Julius Caesar. These three represent the pagan or Roman Law. Prince Hector was the hero of Troy who bravely fought to defend his home.

Alexander the Great conquered much of the known world and spread the wisdom of the Greeks throughout the Mediterranean and Persia. Moreover, he was “a hero of fantastic romance: as "King Alisaunder" he harnessed griffins to his flying chariot, journeyed to the bottom of the sea in a crystal diving bell, met fire-breathing dog-headed men in India, and had many other adventures completely unconnected with the historical Alexander” (Harlansson, 2004).

Julius Caesar was the embodiment of the Roman Empire and the Pax Romana that followed its global conquest. It was this peace that eventually enabled Christianity to take root. “Christ came as the Prince of Peace at that point in time when the Romans had conquered the world and established their peace in it. It was the Roman peace, built on the achievement of pagan chivalry – Trojan, Greek, and Roman – that made possible the journeys of the Apostles, their evangelization of the Gentiles, and the establishment of the Catholic Civilization.” (O’Reilly, 2012)

The Three Pagan Worthies: Hector, Caesar, and Alexander.

The Three Pagan Worthies: Hector, Caesar, and Alexander. (public domain)

The Three Christian Worthies

The final three worthies are King Arthur, Charlemagne, and Godfrey of Bouillon. They represent the New Law of the Catholic civilization in which chivalry was flourishing. The idyllic King Arthur was the quintessential Christian king, ever in the pursuit of justice, honor, and the Holy Grail. He was as beloved in the Middle Ages as he is today.

Charlemagne founded the Holy Roman Empire, which would encompass much of France, Germany, and the Low Countries. In 800, he was crowned the Holy Roman Emperor, the first in three centuries following the collapse of the Western Roman Empire. Charlemagne was the protector of Christianity, especially of the papacy in Rome.

The ninth worthy is the most contemporary addition. Godfrey of Bouillon was a Frankish knight who helped lead the First Crusade to recapture the Holy Land. Godfrey was briefly the ruler of the (Christian) Kingdom of Jerusalem, which lasted from 1099 to 1187. Godfrey only reigned for one year. In 1100, he died - either by being struck by an arrow, by contracting an illness, or by being poisoned with an apple (accounts vary). His inclusion was important to the message and to the allure of the Nine Worthies. “Godfrey was by far the most recent recruit into the circle of the Nine Worthies. He, more effectively than any of the others, symbolized the fact that the story of chivalry's divine mission in the world was still in process, that that mission was an urgent and contemporary one, and that there was no reason why, with the nine, all the ‘sieges’ of the first circle of chivalrous honor should be regarded as occupied.” (O’Reilly, 2012).

The Three Christian Worthies: King Arthur, Charlemagne, and Godfrey of Bouillon.

The Three Christian Worthies: King Arthur, Charlemagne, and Godfrey of Bouillon. (public domain)

The Nine Worthies, so called, is widely attributed to Jacques de Longuyon’s 1312 book Les Voeux du Paon ( The Vows of the Peacock). There had previously been suggestions of the combination of Old Law and Roman Law to make the New Law of Christ, as well as of certain significant historic figures representing the ideals of virtue, but de Longuyon is the first to neatly arrange the concept into three triads. The notion became very popular and can be seen in Medieval paintings, architecture, and tapestries. Given their love of symmetry, artisans often included Nine Worthy Women to accompany the Nine Worthy Men, but the Ladies’ identities were never so well established.

Top image: The Nine Worthies (plus the first two out of the Nine Great Heroines from Antiquity). Giacomino da Ivrea’s frescoes at Marseiller. (Camera Picta)

By Kerry Sullivan


By the Gods. "The Nine Worthies."  By the Gods! By the Gods!, 09 Apr. 2011. Web.

Harlansson, Kali. "All That: The Nine Worthies."  DragonBear History. DragonBear, 24 Nov. 2004. Web.

O’Reilly, Hugh. "The Nine Worthies – A Challenge for the Future."  Tradition in Action. Tradition in Action, Inc, 17 Aug. 2012. Web.



YHWH Allah's picture

"The Nine Worthies: Are These the Most Chivalrous Men in History?" Nay

"Have we moved on I wonder?" Yay 

Mishkan 1.2m below Heel Stone
@ Stonehenge, United Kingdom

Worthy of what exactly ? most of these were warriors, if not warmongers. They may have been thought of as great guys in the past. Have we moved on I wonder ? (shakes head doubtfully)


YHWH Allah's picture

Another superb Article by Kerry Sullivan!

YHWH Allah’s 1st 100 Saints ♥

Saint Muhammad ibn Abdullah (570-632)
Saint Aristocles (428-347 B.C.)
Saint Francois-Marie Arouet (1694-1778)
Saint Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus (121-180)
Saint Sri Aurobindo (1872-1950)
Saint Moses Austin (1761-1821)
Saint Francis Bacon (1561-1626)
Saint Roger Bacon (1214-1294)
Saint Abu Abdullah Muhammad Ibn Battuta (1304-1377)
Saint Isabella Baumfree (1797-1883)
Saint Eric Arthur Blair (1903-1950)
Saint Cesar Estrada Chavez (1927-1993)
Saint Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 B.C.)
Saint Samuel Langhorne Clemens (1835-1910)
Saint Cochise (1805-1874)
Saint Isidore Marie Auguste Francois Xavier Comte (1798-1857)
Saint Confucius (551-479 B.C.)
Saint Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus (272-337)
Saint Crazy Horse (1840-1877)
Saint Charles Curtis (1860-1936)
Saint Alice Brown Davis (1852-1935)
Saint Rene Descartes (1596-1650)
Saint Peter Ferdinand Drucker (1909-2005)
Saint William Edward Burghardt Du Bois (1868-1963)
Saint Max Ehrmann (1872-1945)
Saint Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
Saint Emad El-Din Mohamed Abdel Moneim Fayed (1955-1997)
Saint Richard Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983)
Saint Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (1869-1948)
Saint William Lloyd Garrison (1805-1879)
Saint Siddhartha Gautama (563-483 B.C.)
Saint Geronimo (1829-1909)
Saint Edward Michael Harrington (1928-1989)
Saint Black Hawk (1767-1838)
Saint Hiawatha (1600-1700)
Saint Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. (1841-1935)
Saint John Lee Hooker (1917-2001)
Saint Leslie Townes Hope (1903-2003)
Saint Michael Joseph Jackson (1958-2009)
Saint William James (1842-1910)
Saint Chief Joseph (1840-1904)
Saint Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961)
Saint John Fitzgerald Kennedy (1917-1963)
Saint Robert Francis Kennedy (1925-1968)
Saint Martin Luther King Jr (1929-1968)
Saint Jiddu Krishnamurti (1895-1986)
Saint Lao Tzu (700-600 B.C.)
Saint Roberta Lawson (1878-1940)
Saint John Winston Ono Lennon (1940-1980)
Saint Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)
Saint Malcolm Little (1925-1965)
Saint Patrice Emery Lumumba (1925-1961)
Saint Wilma Pearl Mankiller (1945-2010)
Saint Georgi Ivanov Markov (1929-1978)
Saint John Marshall (1755-1835)
Saint Karl Heinrich Marx (1818-1883)
Saint Meng Tzu (372-289 B.C.)
Saint James Douglas Morrison (1943-1971)
Saint Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi (780-850)
Saint Earl Nightingale (1922-1989)
Saint Origen (185-254)
Saint Osceola (1804-1838)
Saint Robert Owen (1771-1858)
Saint Thomas Paine (1737-1809)
Saint Mestrius Plutarchus (46-127)
Saint Pocahontas (1595-1617)
Saint Marco Polo (1254-1325)
Saint Obwandiyag Pontiac (1720-1769)
Saint Elvis Aaron Presley (1935-1977)
Saint Pythagoras (580-490 B.C.)
Saint Ferenc III Rakoczi (1710-1784)
Saint Ronald Wilson Reagan (1911-2004)
Saint William Penn Adair Rogers (1879-1935)
Saint Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778)
Saint Alexander Graham Russell (1947–1975)
Saint Sacagawea (1788-1812)
Saint Jean-Paul Charles Aymard Sartre (1905-1980)
Saint Sequoyah (1767-1843)
Saint Sitting Bull (1831-1890)
Saint Adam Smith (1723-1790)
Saint Socrates (470-399 B.C.)
Saint Diana Frances Spencer (1961-1997)
Saint Baruch de Spinoza (1632-1677)
Saint Tisquantum Squanto (1580-1622)
Saint Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925)
Saint Sun Tzu (544-496 B.C.)
Saint Jonathan Swift (1667-1745)
Saint Michael Coleman Talbot (1953-1992)
Saint Tecumseh (1768-1813)
Saint David Henry Thoreau (1817-1862)
Saint Jacobus Franciscus Thorpe (1888-1953)
Saint Clarence Leonard Tinker (1887-1942)
Saint Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy (1828-1910)
Saint Immanuel Velikovsky (1895-1979)
Saint Earl Warren (1891-1974)
Saint George Washington (1732-1799)
Saint Maximilian Carl Emil Weber (1864-1920)
Saint Herbert George Wells (1866-1946)
Saint Walter Whitman (1819-1892)
Saint Karol Jozef Wojtyla (1920-2005)

YHWH Allah’s lst 100 Saints ♥

Saint Ampere, Andre-Marie (1775-1836)
Saint Archimedes (287-212 B.C.)
Saint Aristotle (384-322 B.C.)
Saint Avogadro, Lorenzo Romano Amedeo Carlo (1776-1856)
Saint Bardeen, John (1908-1991)
Saint Bernard, Claude (1813-1878)
Saint Bernoulli, Daniel (1700-1782)
Saint Boas, Franz (1858-1942)
Saint Bohr, Niels Henrik David (1885-1962)
Saint Boltzmann, Ludwig Eduard (1844-1906)
Saint Born, Max (1882-1970)
Saint Boyle, Robert (1627-1691)
Saint Brahe, Tyge Ottesen (1546-1601)
Saint Brunhes, Bernard (1867-1910)
Saint Bruno, Giordano (1548-1600)
Saint Cavendish, Henry (1731-1810)
Saint Charles, Jacques Alexandre Cesar (1746-1823)
Saint Comte de Buffon, Georges-Louis Leclerc (1707-1788)
Saint Copernicus, Nicolaus (1473-1543)
Saint Coulomb, Charles Augustin de (1736-1806)
Saint Curie, Pierre (1859-1906)
Saint Darwin, Charles Robert (1809-1882)
Saint da Vinci, Leonardo di ser Piero (1452-1519)
Saint Davy, Humphry (1778-1829)
Saint Dirac, Paul (1902-1984)
Saint Dulong, Pierre Louis (1785-1838)
Saint Edison, Thomas Alva (1847-1931)
Saint Einstein, Albert (1879-1955)
Saint Eddington, Arthur Stanley (1882-1944)
Saint Euclid (333-266 B.C.)
Saint Euler, Leonhard (1707-1783)
Saint Faraday, Michael (1791-1867)
Saint Fermi, Enrico (1901-1954)
Saint Feynman, Richard Phillips (1918-1988)
Saint Fischer, Franz Joseph Emil (1877-1947)
Saint Franklin, Benjamin (1706-1790)
Saint Freud, Sigismund Schlomo (1856-1939)
Saint Galilei, Galileo (1564-1642)
Saint Gauss, Johann Carl Friedrich (1777-1855)
Saint Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von (1749-1832)
Saint Haeckel, Ernst Heinrich Philipp August (1834-1919)
Saint Haldane, John Burdon Sanderson (1892-1964)
Saint Halley, Edmond (1656-1742)
Saint Haller, Albrecht von (1708-1777)
Saint Harvey, William (1578-1657)
Saint Heisenberg, Werner (1901-1976)
Saint Herschel, Frederick William (1738-1822)
Saint Hipparchus (160-125 B.C.)
Saint Hippocrates (460-377 B.C.)
Saint Hooke, Robert (1635-1703)
Saint Hubble, Edwin Powell (1889-1953)
Saint Huxley, Thomas Henry (1825-1895)
Saint Huygens, Christiaan (1629-1693)
Saint Kekule von Stradonitz, Friedrich August (1829-1896)
Saint Kepler, Johannes (1571-1630)
Saint Kirchhoff, Gustav Robert (1824-1887)
Saint Koch, Heinrich Hermann Robert (1843-1910)
Saint Marquis de Laplace, Pierre-Simon (1749-1827)
Saint Laue, Max Theodor Felix von (1879-1960)
Saint Lavoisier, Antoine-Laurent de (1743-1794)
Saint Leakey, Louis Seymour Bazett (1903-1972)
Saint Leeuwenhoek, Antonie Philips van (1632-1723)
Saint Leslie, John (1766-1832)
Saint Liebig, Justus von (1803-1873)
Saint Lorenz, Konrad Zacharias (1903-1989)
Saint Lyell, Charles (1797-1875)
Saint Malpighi, Marcello (1628-1694)
Saint Mariotte, Edme (1620-1684)
Saint Matuyama, Motonori (1884-1958)
Saint Maxwell, James Clerk (1831-1879)
Saint Mendel, Gregor Johann (1822-1884)
Saint Mendeleev, Dmitri Ivanovich (1834-1907)
Saint Michell, John (1724-1793)
Saint Michelson, Albert Abraham (1852-1931)
Saint Neumann, John (1903-1957)
Saint Newton, Isaac (1642-1727)
Saint Oppenheimer, J. Robert (1904-1967)
Saint Pascal, Blaise (1623-1662)
Saint Pasteur, Louis (1822-1895)
Saint Pauling, Linus Carl (1901-1994)
Saint Planck, Max Karl Ernst Ludwig (1858-1947)
Saint Petit, Alexis Therese (1791-1820)
Saint Priestley, Joseph (1733-1804)
Saint Ptolemaeus, Claudius (90-168)
Saint Roentgen, Wilhelm Conrad (1845-1923)
Saint Rutherford, Ernest (1871-1937)
Saint Salk, Jonas Edward (1914-1995)
Saint Schrödinger, Erwin Rudolf Josef Alexander (1887-1961)
Saint Sklodowska-Curie, Maria (1867-1934)
Saint Thomson, Joseph John (1856-1940)
Saint Thomson, William (1824-1907)
Saint Torricelli, Evangelista (1608-1647)
Saint Tyndall, John (1820-1893)
Saint Venturi, Giovanni Battista (1746-1822)
Saint Vesalius, Andreas (1514-1564)
Saint Virchow, Rudolf Ludwig Karl (1821-1902)
Saint Volta, Alessandro Giuseppe Antonio Anastasio (1745-1827)
Saint Watt, James (1736-1819)
Saint Wegener, Alfred Lothar (1880-1930)
Saint Wohler, Friedrich (1800-1882)

YHWH Allah’s 1st & lst Saints ♥

(for this planet only)

Mishkan 1.2m below Heel Stone
@ Stonehenge, United Kingdom

Kerry Sullivan's picture

Kerry Sullivan

Kerry Sullivan has a Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Arts and is currently a freelance writer, completing assignments on historical, religious, and political topics.

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