The “Collectanea” of Pseudo-Bede

There is a famous prophecy about the Colosseum, given in variable forms such as this:

As long as the Colosseum stands, Rome shall stand.
When the Colosseum falls, Rome will fall.
But when Rome falls, the world will fall.

The source for this is the “Collectanea” of pseudo-Bede.

This is not a text that many will be familiar with.  It is listed in the Clavis Patrum Latinorum as CPL 1129, “Collectanea (Excerptiones Patrum: Flores ex diversis)”, i.e. Miscellaneous (Excerpts from the Fathers, sayings from various).  The incipit is “Dic mihi, quaeso, quae est illa mulier”.  It’s a collection of excerpts of various sorts.

The Latin text is available in PL 94, cols. 539-560.  This, I learn, reprints the Basel edition of 1563, from the Opera Bedae Venerabilis presbyteri Anglosaxonis of Johann Herwagen, 8 vols in 4, vol 3, pp.647-74.  Apparently there is no manuscript, only that solitary edition. This is reprinted in the modern text and translation by Martha Bayless & Michael Lapidge, Collectanea Pseudo-Bedae, Dublin (1998), although this was not accessible to me.[1]

The start of the 1563 edition, our only source for the text.

It is often said that, in the 16th century, printing houses, who received grubby old manuscripts and created nice new clean printed editions, were in the habit of chopping up the now surplus manuscripts in order to use the parchment to bind books.  I don’t know on what that is based.  It was often supposed that this fate befell the sole manuscript of Velleius Paterculus at Basel, until an 18th letter recording the sale of the manuscript two centuries later came to light.  A paper in the Bayless edition apparently offers this as the likely fate of the manuscript.

The Latin text quoted online varies, but here is the 1563 text:

Quamdiu stat Colysaeus, stat & Roma;
Quando cadet Colysaeus, cadet & Roma;
Quando cadet Roma, cadet & mundus.

The CPL tells us that the text is apparently 8th century, because it does not include any source later than that date.  But opinions vary, it seems.

  1. [1]First page of review accessible at

5 thoughts on “The “Collectanea” of Pseudo-Bede

  1. It’s probably thought that they cut up old manuscripts to use in book binding because you find strips of old manuscripts used in 15th and 16th books. They are only discovered in restoration, because they are hidden within the binding. I’ve seen an example with my own eyes in the Special Collection of the University of St Andrews.

  2. Pseudo-Bede apparently was collecting riddles and jokes as well as prophecies. What a fun miscellany!

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