Introduction

This most Orthodox and noble Grand Prince Aleksandr Iaroslavich, greatly adorned by God, and worthy of praise; who was in the eighth generation from the sovereign Tsar and Grand Prince, Vladimir Sviatoslavich, Equal to the Apostles, that had enlightened the land of Rus by holy baptism, and in the eleventh generation from Riurik; did earn by his virtues high and honorable praise not only from men but even from God himself. Early in life, as a child of tender years, he was trained in all that is good by his pious father, the sovereign Prince Iarostav Vsevolodovich of godly wisdom, and by his saintly mother, the God-loving Princess Feodos'ia, named Efrosin'ia as she took her vows. And he was also taught by them to follow all good precepts. And so the fear of God was lodged in his heart together with the yearning to respect God's commandments and keep them in everything, and he held in great esteem both priests and monks.

Throughout the years of his youth, he wholeheartedly maintained lowly wisdom, practicing abstinence, keeping himself clean in soul and body, courting meekness, and shunning vanity. And he took much care to avoid gluttony, knowing that satiety of belly will destroy chastity, slacken vigilance, and hinder all other virtues. And he constantly had in his mouth the divine words that were sweeter to him than mead and honey; having read and absorbed them with eagerness, he was zealous to realize these precepts in his actions. And his family, seeing him exert himself in these virtues, strove hard to do good, and sought to please God in everything, as he pleased God in all manner of ways. And he, burning with a desire for things divine and heavenly, set at nought all that men value and esteem honourable. Yet never would he reveal the treasures of his soul before men's eyes; but in his great humility would use all possible means to conceal his manifold perfections.

Though invested by God with the dignity of an earthly ruler, and having a wife, and being father of children, he nevertheless achieved greater lowly wisdom than any man. And he was very tall of stature, and his face was as beautiful to look at as that of Joseph the Fair. And his strength was such as if the strength of Samson had passed on to him. And his voice could be heard in the assembly like a trumpet.

And his valor was equal to that of the Roman king Vespasian, son of Nero, who captured the whole land of Judaea, and arrayed his troops and commanded them to begin an assault on the town of Antipata; and the citizens, making a sally, destroyed his trbops; but he came forth, and single-handed drove their force back to the city gate and said to his men, laughing: "Wherefore did you leave me alone?" So, too, this Grand Prince Aleksander Iaroslavich; always a victor, and himself never defeated.

And he did many acts of mercy, like his father Iaroslav, in whose steps he did follow most faithfully, sending much gold and silver to the Horde for King Batu, as ransom for the men of Russia who had been led into captivity by godless Tatars, and delivering them from cruel slavery, and many evils and hardships.

But he himself was always preserved by God, and kept safe from every foe, wherever he might go. And the Lord bestowed His favor on him, and he was famed as terrible and formidable to his adversaries, and everywhere they trembled at the sound of his name. And he had from God the wisdom and keen mind of Solomon. But above all he loved justice; and he would often teach his nobles to be just, quoting passages from the Holy Scripture; that they first and foremost pray to God for wisdom, and abstain from drunkenness, and humble themselves before God; that they fail not to judge righteously, showing no partiality to the great, nor seeking unjust gain; that they oppress no one, but deliver the oppressed out of the hands of their oppressors; and accept nothing over and above their due, but content themselves with their proper wages. And thus he would talk to them time and again, sometimes threatening them with the dread of his power, and sometimes reminding them of the eternal retribution which will come when, on the Day of Judgement, Christ will render to each according to his deeds. And his nobles and all the common people, seeing the wisdom which had been given him by God, could give, him no other answer than to promise to do as he commanded them. And thus, with God's help, did he wield the power which God had given him, firmly and righteously.

And his glory having spread to distant lands, many had a desire to see him.

And word then also spread everywhere that the godless King Batu, by God's will, was doing much evil to the great Russian land. But to Novgorod the Great, where this blessed Aleksandr and his father Iaroslav ruled at that time, these pagans were prevented from coming by some divine power which forbade them to approach not only the borders of Novgorod the Great, but likewise the other lands in which the Novgorodians might happen to sojourn while waging war against their foes and adversaries, the Lithuanians and Germans. And nowhere, by the will of God, did those cruel Tatars attack them.


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