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De Viris Illustribus
Transcript of De Viris Illustribus
This manuscript is an
: meaning that it is the equivalent of a modern book (with a cover and elaborate binding) that was printed - not written by hand - on paper prior to the year 1500 A.D.
This manuscript was printed with ink, (made from the carbon powder found in ash) in a
The humanistic script as adopted in a period following the Italian Renaissance - characterized by the spaces it includes between words, as well as the more seldom occurrence of
Abbreviations were commonly used in ancient manuscripts due to the expensiveness of the material that was used as an alternative to paper in hand-written codices (vellum, a material made of animal skin) in order to save space, as well as to manipulate the space taken up by the text to make it look aesthetically pleasing. Common abbreviations include the use of a macron (Ā,ā) to symbolize an accusative ending, or - as seen in this text - the abbreviations of relative pronouns starting in qu- (the q with two lines going through it).
De Viris Illustribus, meaning "On Illustrious Men", is a collection of short biographies of notable/famous people of the age - including poets, historians, rhetoricians, and other individuals of high social status. Almost like an ancient gossip magazine!
Let's Translate Some!
"Proca, rex Albanoru
Numitorem filios habuit: q
annis uicibus habendum reliquit: ut alternis imperarent. Sed Amulius fratri imperium no
Proca, king of the Albans, had sons (called) Amulius and Numitor, to whom he left the kindgom, (to be) posessed by altering years: so that they, mutual, may rule. But Amulius did not give power to his brother.
This specific passage tells the story of Romulus and Remus, the main characters in the myth of Rome's foundation. According to legend, Romulus and Remus were twin brothers, illicitly born from Mars to Rhea Silva - the niece of King Amulius
of Alba Longa, who was trying to secure the reign of his own bloodline. When Amulius discovered the twins, he cast them into the Tiberian river for them to die. However, by a miracle, they were safely brought to land and nursed by a she-wolf (as shown above). Once the twins matured, they discovered their true origins and de-throned their power-obsessed uncle. However, the brothers decided to establish a new city rather than inherit their father's kingdom. From a quarrel concerning the location of this new city, Remus is killed - allowing Romulus to found Rome.
On this page...
Close inspection of this codex reveals many historical, chronological, and geographical mistakes made by Cornelius Nepos, revealing that it was written with haste - and most likely for a relatively uneducated audience that would not notice these mistakes.
Thomas G. McCarthy, The Classical World, Volume 67 No.6, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1974
The illuminations decorating the page were usually made from colorful minerals, (gathered from bugs and plants) and gold leaflets. An illuminator would decorate the book once it was written or - in this case - printed.
Cornelius Nepos (110-25 B.C.) was born near Verona, and was an accomplished historian in Roman society. He was a friend of Catullus, who dedicated poems to him. Although most of his works are lost, what remains is notoriously used as sight-testing material for modern Latin students, due to his simplistic style of writing.