Prester John

John the Elder
Presbyter John, Preter John

A legendary Asian or African ruler, bastion of Christianity in Heathendom.

He is first mentioned by the chronicler Otto of Freising who says he attacked Ecbatana and defeated the Medes and Persians, whose capital it was. A spurious letter of Prester John, describing the wonders of his kingdom, appeared in Europe (perhaps in 1185) and became vastly popular. Marco Polo identified him with an Asiatic ruler, but Jordanus de Sévérac (fourteenth century) placed him in Ethiopia. His legend was so strong in the Middle Ages that successions of popes attempted to communicate with him for centuries.

He is mentioned in a number of Arthurian tales. In Wolfram, he was the son of Feirefiz and the Grail Maiden Repanse de Schoye, and therefore a nephew of Percivale and a cousin of Arthur.

In the Dutch Lancelot he is the son of Percivale. In Tom a’Lincoln he was the father of Anglitora, with whom Arthur’s son, Tom a’Lincoln, eloped, and they had a son named the Black Knight.

See also
Aksum | The Legend of King Arthur

Tom a Lincolne | Richard Johnson, 1599–1607