or Sowdan. A corruption of sultan, meaning in mediæval romance the Saracen king; but, with the usual inaccuracy of these writers, we have the Soldan of Egypt, the Soudan of Persia, the Sowdan of Babylon, etc., all represented as accomplished by grim Saracens to torment Christians.
The Soldan, meant for Felipe of Spain, who used all his power to bribe and seduce the subjects of Elizabeth. Queen Mercilla sent to negotiate a peace, but the ambassador sent was treated like a dog, referring to Felipe's detention of the deputies sent by the States of Holland. Sir Artegal demands of the soldan the release of the damsel “held as wrongful prisoner,” and the soldan “swearing and banning most blasphemously,” mounts his “high chariot,” and prepares to maintain his cause. Prince Arthur encounters him “on the green,” and after a severe combat unconvers his shield, at sight of which the soldan and all his followers take to flight. The “swearing and banning” refer to the excommunications thundered out against Elizabeth; the “high chariot” is the Spanish Armada; the “green” is the sea; the “uncovering of the shield” indicates that the Armada was put to flight, not by man's might, but by the power of God. Flavit Jehovah et dissipati sunt (God blew, and they were scattered). (Spenser Faërie Queene, v. 8.)
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894