Hercule-Savinien de Cyrano de Bergerac (6 March 1619 – 28 July 1655) was a French dramatist and duelist. In fictional works about his life he is featured with an overly large nose, which people would travel from miles around to see. Portraits suggest that he did have a big nose, though not nearly as large as described in works about him. Cyrano's work furnished models and ideas for subsequent writers.
He was the son of Abel de Cyrano, lord of Mauvières and Bergerac, and Espérance Bellanger. He received his first education from a country priest, and had for a fellow pupil his friend and future biographer, Henri Lebret. He then proceeded to Paris, and the heart of the Latin Quarter, to the college de Dormans-Beauvais, where he had as master Jean Grangier, whom he afterwards ridiculed in his comedy Le Pédant joué (The Pedant Tricked) of 1654. At the age of nineteen, he entered a corps of the guards, serving in the campaigns of 1639 and 1640.
Ishbel Addyman claims that he was not a Gascogne aristocrat, but a descendant of Sardinian fishmonger, that the Bergerac appellation stemmed from a small estate near Paris where he was born, and not in Gascogne, that he suffered tertiary syphilis, and that around 1640 he became the lover of Charles Coypeau d'Assoucy, a writer and musician, until around 1653, when they became engaged in a bitter rivalry. This led to Bergerac sending d'Assoucy death threats that compelled him to leave Paris. The quarrel extended to a series of satirical texts by both men. Bergerac wrote Contre Soucidas (an anagram of his enemy's name) and Contre un ingrat ("Against an Ingrate"), while D’Assoucy counterattacked with Le Combat de Cyrano de Bergerac avec le singe de Brioché, au bout du Pont-Neuf.
He is said to have left the military and returned to Paris to pursue literature, producing tragedies cast in the orthodox classical mode.
The model for the Roxane character of the Rostand play was Bergerac's cousin, who lived with his sister, Catherine de Cyrano, at the Convent of the Daughter of the Cross. Аccording to Addyman she may have had an affair with Cyrano. As in the play, Bergerac did fight at the siege of Arras (1640), a battle of the Thirty Years' War between French and Spanish forces in France (though this was not the more famous final Battle of Arras, fought fourteen years later). One of his confreres in the battle was the Baron Christian of Neuvillette, who married Cyrano's cousin. However, the plotline of the play, Cyrano de Bergerac, involving Roxane and Christian is entirely fictional.
Cyrano was a freethinker and a pupil of Pierre Gassendi, a canon of the Catholic Church who tried to reconcile Epicurean atomism with Christianity.
Cyrano de Bergerac's works L'Autre Monde: ou les États et Empires de la Lune (The Other World: or the States and Empires of the Moon) (published posthumously, 1657) and Les États et Empires du Soleil (The States and Empires of the Sun) (1662) are classics of early modern science fiction. In the former, Cyrano travels to the moon using rockets powered by firecrackers and meets the inhabitants. The moon-men have four legs, musical voices, and firearms that shoot game and cook it.
His mixture of science and romance in the last two works furnished a model for many subsequent writers, among them Jonathan Swift, Edgar Allan Poe and probably Voltaire. Corneille and Molière freely borrowed ideas from Le Pédant joué.