Laporte, Roland, 1675-1704, a leader of the Camisards, known as Roland. He was noted for his fearlessness, his knowledge of military tactics, and his ability at organizing guerrilla warfare. Unlike his colleague Jean Cavalier, Roland refused (1704) to deal with Marshal Villars unless the Edict of Nantes (see Nantes, Edict of) was restored. Shortly afterward he was betrayed and died defending himself.
Barthes, Roland, 1915-80, French critic. Barthes was one of the founding figures in the theoretical movement centered around the journal Tel Quel. In his earlier works, such as Writing Degree Zero (tr. 1953) and Mythologies (1957, tr. 1972), he argued that literature, like all forms of communication, is essentially a system of signs. As such, he argued that it encodes various ideologies or "myths," to be decoded in terms of its own organizing principles or internal structures. He was strongly influenced by the linguist Ferdinand de Saussure, and his ideas, as expressed in works such as S/Z (1970, tr. 1974) and Empire of Signs (1970, tr. 1982), became more eclectic. Barthes has had an enormous influence on American literary theory.

See studies by J. Culler (1983), P. Lombardo (1989), and M. B. Wiseman (1989).

Hayes, Roland, 1887-1976, American tenor, b. Curryville, Ga. The son of a former slave, Hayes studied at Fisk Univ. and with private teachers in Boston and in Europe. As one of the foremost interpreters of modern French songs, German lieder, and spirituals, Hayes was the first African-American singer to achieve enormous international recognition.

See M. Helm, Angel Mo' and Her Son, Roland Hayes (1942).

Roland, the great French hero of the medieval Charlemagne cycle of chansons de geste, immortalized in the Chanson de Roland (11th or 12th cent.). Existence of an early Roland poem is indicated by the historian Wace's statement that Taillefer sang of Roland's deeds to inflame the men before the Battle of Hastings (1066). Historically Roland was Charlemagne's commander on the Breton border; he was killed in a pass in the Pyrenees when Basques cut off the rear guard of the Frankish army returning from its invasion of Spain in 778. Legend makes Roland one of Charlemagne's 12 peers and his nephew, changes the Basques into Saracens, and locates the pass at Roncesvalles. The poem is marked by its unified conception, its vivid and direct narrative, and its predominantly warlike spirit. Through the treason of Roland's stepfather, Ganelon, count of Mayence and a vassal of Charlemagne, Roland is left in command of Charlemagne's retreating rear guard, with his friend Oliver and with Bishop Turpin. Instigated by Ganelon, the Saracens attack, but Roland is too proud to blow his horn to summon aid. In the ensuing battle the valiant Franks are greatly outnumbered and, though Roland finally blows his horn, all are killed. The last to die, Roland attempts to break his sword, Durandal; before he dies he hears too late that Charlemagne is returning. Charlemagne disperses the pagans and defeats the reinforcing hosts of the emir Baligant, and Ganelon is tried and put to death. The poem is cast in the heroic mold. The contrast of character in the two heroic friends is famous—Oliver was prudent, Roland rash. The Roland epopee was long a favorite with French, Spanish, and Italian poets, and Roland was eventually transformed beyond recognition into the Orlando of the Italian Renaissance epics of Boiardo and Ariosto. Translations of the Song of Roland include those by Merriam Sherwood (1938) and Dorothy L. Sayers (1957).
Petit, Roland, 1924-, French dancer and choreographer, b. Villemoble. Petit joined the Paris Opéra company at 15 and in 1948 founded Les Ballets de Paris de Roland Petit. His best-known work, Carmen (1949), set to music from Georges Bizet's opera, was created for his company, with Renée (Zizi) Jeanmaire, who later (1954) became his wife, in the title role. Other well-known early works include Le Jeune homme et la mort (1946) and Ballabile (1950). Petit later turned to less classical forms, such as choreographing films, e.g., Hans Christian Andersen (1952) and Daddy Long Legs (1955), and music hall revues (1956-61). He returned to ballet in the 1960s when commissioned to present the Festivals populaires de ballet at the Chaillot theater in France. In 1972 he founded the Ballet de Marseilles, which he directed until 1997. Among his later dances are Symphonie Fantastique (1975), The Blue Angel (1985), and Clavigo (1999). Petit's chic and theatrical style have made him an extremely popular figure in French dance.

Roland (Italian: Orlando or Rolando, Frankish: Hruodland, Dutch: Roeland, Spanish: Roldán or Rolando, Basque: Errolan, Portuguese: Roldão or Rolando, Catalan: Rotllan or Rotllà) is a character in medieval and Renaissance literature, the chief paladin of Charlemagne and a central figure in the Matter of France. It is thought that the title character of the early 12th century Song of Roland, which recounts his final stand against the Vascones during the Battle of Roncevaux Pass, is based on a real person who died in that battle, but the authors of most later chansons de geste and the Renaissance epics Orlando innamorato and Orlando furioso made little attempt to establish historical accuracy. Roland is traditionally associated with his sword Durendal and his horse Veillantif.


There exists only one historical mention of a French Roland, found in the section of Vita Karoli Magni on Roncevaux Pass, written by Charlemagne's courtier and biographer Einhard. Here is the relevant passage, in the 9th of 33 chapters (plus a lengthy postscript):

Dutton, Paul Edward, ed. and trans. Charlemagne's Courtier: The Complete Einhard, pp. 21-22. Peterborough, Ontario, Canada: Broadview Press, 1998.)

The original Latin text refers to "Hruodlandus Brittannici limitis praefectus". The battle took place on 15 August, AD 778.

Roland was the first official appointed to direct Frankish policy in Breton affairs, as local Franks under the Merovingian dynasty did not pursue any specific relationship beforehand, more passive-aggressive than anything. What is now divided between Normandy and Brittany, their frontier castle districts (e.g. Vitré, Ille-et-Vilaine) south of Mont Saint-Michel, was the source of present-day Gallo language and culture that emerged in the likeness of those such as Roland. Roland's successor in Brittania Nova was Guy of the Breton March, who like Roland, was unable to exert French expansion over Brittany and merely sustained a Breton presence in the Carolingian-era Holy Roman Empire.


Roland was a popular legendary figure in medieval Europe. Over the next several centuries, Roland became a "pop icon" in medieval minstrel culture. According to many legends, he was a nephew of Charlemagne (whether or not this was true we do not know), turned his life into an epic tale of the noble Christian killed by Islamic forces, which forms part of the medieval Matter of France.

The tale of Roland's death is retold in the eleventh century poem The Song of Roland, where he is equipped with the Olifant (a signalling horn) and an unbreakable sword, enchanted by various Christian relics, named Durendal. The Song of Roland was adapted and modified throughout the Middle Ages, including an influential latin prose version Historia Caroli Magni (sometimes known as the Pseudo-Turpin Chronicle), which also includes Roland's battle with a Saracen giant named Ferracutus who is only vulnerable at his navel (the story was later adapted in the anonymous Franco-Venetian epic L'Entrée d'Espagne (c.1320) and in the 14th century Italian epic La Spagna (attributed to the Florentine Sostegno di Zanobi and likely composed between 1350-1360).

Roland's friendship with Olivier and his engagement with Olivier's sister Aude are told in Girart de Vienne by Bertrand de Bar-sur-Aube. Roland's youth and the acquisition of his horse Veillantif) and sword are described in Aspremont. Roland also appears in Quatre Fils Aymon where he is contrasted with Renaud de Montauban against whom he occasionally fights.

In Norway, the tales of Roland are part of the 13th century Karlamagnús saga.

In Italy, Roland, as Orlando, is the hero of Orlando Innamorato by Matteo Maria Boiardo. After Boiardo's death, the epic was continued as Orlando furioso by Ludovico Ariosto (See below for his later history in Italian verse). In the Divine Comedy Dante sees Roland's spirit in the Heaven of Mars together with others who fought for the faith.

In Germany, Roland gradually became a symbol of the independence of the growing cities from the local nobility. In the late Middle Ages many cities sported the display of a defiant Roland statue on their marketplace. The Roland in Wedel was erected in 1450 as symbol of market justice, and the Roland statue in front of the town hall of Bremen (1404) is listed together with the town hall on the List of World Heritage Site from the UNESCO since 2004.

In Catalonia Roland (or Rotllà, as it is rendered in Catalan) became a legendary giant. Numerous places in Catalonia (both North and South) have a name related to Rotllà. In step with the trace left by the character in the whole Pyrenean area, Basque Errolan turns up in numerous legends and place-names associated with a mighty giant, usually a heathen, capable of launching huge stones. Interestingly, Basque word erraldoi ('giant') stems from Errolan.

More recently Roland's tale has been exploited by historians exploring the development of the early-modern Christian understanding of Islamic culture. In 1972 P. M. Holt used Roland's words to begins an essay about Henry Stubbe: Paien ont tort e crestiien ont dreit - 'Pagans are wrong and Christians are right.'


Orlando is the Italian equivalent of the French Roland (but also the variation Rolando does exist). The name Orlando/Roland goes back to a Germanic origin, and is said to mean "One who is famous throughout the land". It is also said to be derived from hroth, meaning glory and nantha, meaning audacity.

Italian Renaissance romances

He appeared as a central character in a sequence of verse romances from the fifteenth century onwards, including Morgante by Luigi Pulci, Orlando Innamorato by Matteo Maria Boiardo, and Orlando furioso by Ludovico Ariosto. The Orlandino of Pietro Aretino then waxed satirical about the 'cult of personality' of Orlando the hero.

The Orlando narrative inspired several composers, amongst whom were Claudio Monteverdi, Jean-Baptiste Lully, Antonio Vivaldi and George Frideric Handel, who composed an Italian opera with Orlando in the title role, see: Orlando.

Later works

Orlando: A Biography was written in 1928 by Virginia Woolf, and could at first sight be seen as adding yet some more episodes to the adventures of the (by now imaginary) Orlando character, but Woolf's story takes a completely different turn, and is set in a time different from that of the Renaissance Orlandos.

In the Michael Moorcock work, Roland is one of the incarnations of the Eternal Champion and meets Elric of Melniboné in the novel Stormbringer.


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