Happy birthday, Hercule-Savinien de Cyrano de Bergerac! Bet you didn’t know he was a real person, did you? I sure didn’t. But he was, and he was born on March 6, 1619.

The real Cyrano de Bergerac was a poet, soldier, and dramatist. His romance with Charles Coypeau d’Assoucy, a  fellow writer, went sour in 1653 and resulted in a war of words between the two men; their satirical texts can still be read to this day. De Bergerac died in 1655, a year after being injured by a falling beam at the home of his patron, the Duc D’Arpajon. His works, many of which depict him flying to the moon, are considered classics of early modern science fiction.

In 1897, a French poet named Edmond Rostand stumbled upon the story of Cyrano’s life and wrote the play, Cyrano de Bergerac. The play takes lots of liberties with the real de Bergerac’s life (such as having him hopelessly in love with the beautiful Roxanne, who was modeled on de Bergerac’s cousin) but it nevertheless brought de Bergerac before a larger audience that may otherwise have forgotten him. The play was a hit, and it remains a popular piece for both stage and screen to this day.

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