The Sultan of Babylon

Bibliographic Information


Medieval Title: 

The Sowdone of Babylone 






Late fourteenth to early fifteenth century; East Midland dialect



Textual Information

Brief Summary:

The Sultan of Babylon, part of the Charlemagne Romance tradition, tells the story of the conversion of the children of the Sultan Laban: Ferumbras and Floripas. The poem begins with the successful Saracen attack on Rome led by Laban, after which the city is sacked and several relics  are taken away to Agremare, where the Saracens celebrate with Pagan rituals. Charlemagne and his Twelve Peers arrive to find Rome burning. Laban orders Charlemagne, Oliver, and Roland to be captured so that he can force them to convert. Ferumbras fights against Oliver, vowing to convert to Christianity if he loses the fight. Charlemagne prays to God. Ferumbras is injured, admitting defeat.

Oliver and Roland are both captured by Laban’s army, while Ferumbras returns to the Christian camp with Charlemagne. After six days, Floripas frees them by killing their jailer and convincing her father to leave the men in her care. The remaining Peers are sent to recover both their comrades as well as the stolen relics, but they too are captured and placed into Floripas’s keeping. She admits that she is in love with Guy, Duke of Burgundy, who agrees to marry Floripas, at the insistence of the other Peers. Floripas agrees to convert to Christianity. She arms the Peers and helps them overtake her father’s castle, though Laban is able to escape before they can kill or capture him.

Charlemagne’s army is ultimately successful, the stolen relics are returned to Charlemagne, and Laban is captured. When the Sultan refuses to convert he is executed. Floripas is baptized and married to Guy. They remain in Spain to rule with Ferumbras. Charlemagne distributes the relics to churches in France: Saint Denys is given the Crown, Our Lady of Peace is given the Cross, and the three Nails are given to Boulogne.


Relics Appearing in Text:

The Crown
True Cross
Crucifixion Nails


Manuscripts, Editions, and Translations


Princeton University,  Robert Garrett Collection of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts, MS 140. (Composed mid-fifteenth century)


List of Editions of the Medieval Text: 

The Romance of the Sowdone of Babylone and of Ferumbras His Sone Who Conquered Rome. Edited by Emil Hausknecht. EETS e.s. 38. London: Oxford University Press, 1881. Reprinted in 1969.

Available online:

The Sultan of Babylon in Three Middle English Charlemagne Romances. Edited by Alan Lupack. 1-95 TEAMS. Kalamazoo: Medieval Institute Publications, 1990.

Available online:



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