A number of manuscripts contain an image for September. But here again it is the Vatican Barberini manuscript that gives us the 4-line poem, the tetrastich:
Turgentes acinos, varias et praesecat uvas
September, sub quo mitia poma iacent.
Captivam filo gaudens religasse lacertam
Quae suspensa manu mobile ludit opus.
The swelling berries and the different coloured grapes,
September cuts them down; beneath him lie the ripe fruit.
Delighted to have tied up the captive lizard with a string;
Which from a raised hand plays an active game.
September 5 is Vindemia, the start of the grape harvest. The lizard can be a pest (Pliny, Natural History 30, 89), but on a thread in a container it produces medicine (NH 30, 52).
The 2-line verse (distich) is as follows:
Tempora maturis September vincta racemis
Velate e numero nosceris ipse tuo.
The season of September, covered September, temples girded with ripe grapes; Blindfolded Concealed, you will be recognised by your number.
I made these translations months ago, and I cannot remember if I revised them, so I apologise for any errors.
The 17th century R1 manuscript, Vatican Barberini lat.2154B (online here), fol. 20r, gives us the most accurate version of the drawing, complete with the tetrastich in the right margin, and the first line of the distich at the bottom:
The redrawn16th century Vienna manuscript 3416 (V), folio 10v (online here):
Divjak and Wischmeyer give us an image from the important (but offline) Brussels manuscript 7543-49, fol. 201r.
They also give an image from the Berlin manuscript, f.234:
From Divjak and Wischmeyer, I learn that the depiction is of the wine harvest. The cluster of grapes, the figs on a tray at the top left, and the two large amphoras / jars, set in the ground, to hold the new wine, seem clear enough. The lizard on a thread is of uncertain meaning, as is the basket with skewers on top.
Finally! At last we have more than one manuscript containing an image for August, the first month where this is so since March.
Here is the 4-line poem (tetrastich):
Fontanos latices et lucida pocula vitro
cerne, ut demerso torridus ore bibat.
Aeterno regni signatus nomine mensis
Latona genitam quo perhibent Hecaten.
Look for spring waters and transparent cups in glass,**
So that a thirsty man may drink with submerged mouth.
By the immortal name of a reign is the month designated,
In which, they maintain, that Hecate was born from Latona.
“vitro” is ablative singular, so I am not sure how that fits with the rest of the first line. The reign mentioned in line 3 is that of Augustus. On line 4, the Roman goddess Diana in one of her aspects took on the role of the Greek Hecate as goddess of the underworld. Her birthday was celebrated at Nemi on August 13th.
The 2-line verse (distich) is as follows:
Tu quoque Sextilis venerabilis omnibus annis
Numinis Augusti nomen †in anno venis†.
You also, venerable Sextilis, in every year,
(Under) the** name of the divinity of Augustus †in the year you come†.
The last words are those in the manuscripts, but Divjak and Wischmeyer suggest that they are corrupt; apparently the editions give various suggested emendations. I don’t see how the nominative “nomen” should be understood – “under” is a guess.
The 16th century Vienna manuscript 3416, folio 29 (online here), gives us this clearly redrawn image:
The rather more authentic 17th century R1 manuscript, Vat. Barb.lat.2154B (online here) gives us this, including the tetrastich and the first line of the distich (the other is on the facing page):
The Brussels 7543-49 manuscript, f.201r, gives us this image:
From the Berlin copy, Berol. lat. 61, f.233 (formerly f.228) we get this:
Divjak and Wischmeyer explain all this, so I shall summarise what they tell us.
All these images represent the heat of August, unsurprisingly, and ways to cool off. The image shows a naked man, thirsty from the summer heat, drinking from a bowl. The chin is visible through the bowl, so this is a glass bowl, as the first two lines of the tetrastich indicate. Around the man are three melons; a large vessel with a flame coming out of it; a flabellum (ceremonial fan) with peacock feathers atop a spiral pole; and a jacket with elaborate decoration, including fringes at the cuffs, perhaps associated with the . In the Vienna manuscript the vessel has a coat of arms with “ZO” on it; the others show “ZLS”. The Vienna manuscript omits the jacket. The R1 manuscript shows the (surely original) frame.
The jacket is perhaps associated with the Vulcanalia of August 23, a festival when fires were lit. At this time garments were hanged up in the sunlight, according to a poem by ps.Paulinus:
nunc omnis credula turba / suspendunt soli per Vulcanalia vestes
They add that the ZO/ZLS means “ΖΗΣ(ΗΣ) / ZES(es), a formula that is very often found in connection with precious drinking vessels such as gold glasses.”
The image for July is preserved once again only in a single manuscript of the Chronography, MS Vienna 3146, which never contains the text of the poems, only the pictures. So for the text of the poems, once again we are reliant on other, unillustrated, manuscripts, or the indirect tradition.
Here is the 4-line poem (tetrastich), with the draft translation that I made earlier in the year. Comments are always welcome!
Ecce coloratos ostentat Julius artus
crines cui rutilos spicea serta ligat.
Morus sanguineos praebet gravidata racemos,
Quae medio cancri sidere laeta viret.
Look! July shows off his tanned limbs,
Whose reddish hair a garland of corn ties. His reddish hair, to which he ties a garland of corn.
The glad mulberry, loaded down with fruit, offers blood-red berries, It flourishes with joy to hang down in the middle of the summer heat.
It is green in the middle star of Cancer.
I.e. in the heat of summer.
The 2-line verse (distich) is as follows:
Quam bene, Quintilis, mutasti nomen! honori
Caesareo, Juli, te pia causa dedit.
How rightly, Quintilis, you changed your name!
A pious motive assigned you to the honour of Caesar. The honour of Caesar, O July, gives you a pious motive.
I can’t work out the syntax for the second line: honori is dative, of course, not nominative. The sense is that the motive for the change of name is to honour Caesar.
Again the image is only preserved in the 16th century Vienna manuscript 3416, folio 27 (online here):
As usual with this manuscript, the image is in the style of the renaissance, not antiquity. But probably the layout is much the same as the original. From Divjak and Wischmeyer, I learn that the depiction shows a naked young man – an image of summer, holding a bag in his right hand with extra long tassels. In his left hand he holds a flat round basket containing three bunches of fruit with leaves, perhaps mulberries. By his right foot is some kind of vessel – a money bag? – filled with coins marked with crosses and other symbols. Two conical vessels stand by his left foot. The whole picture is of a good harvest with the resulting wealth.
Once again only a single manuscript of the Chronography contains an image for this month. This is MS Vienna 3146, which never contains the text of the poems, only the pictures. So for the poems, once again we are reliant on other, unillustrated, manuscripts, or the indirect tradition.
June unclad then views the sundial’s time,
And shows that the sun is changing its course. Phoebus reveals that its path is changing.
The Lamp-festival marks Ceres’ ripe ears of corn,
And the scattered lily-petals show the fading of the flower.
“Phoebus” here means the sun. The reference to “Lampas”, a festival with torches on the solstice is also attested in the ps.Chrysostom, De solstitiis et aequinoctibus (translated elsewhere on this site), the “dies lampadarum” or “day of torches”, or, more briefly, “lampas”, “the torch”.
The 2-line verse (distich) is as follows:
Iunius ipse sui causam tibi nominis edit
praegravida attollens fertilitate sata.
June itself gives you the reason for its name,
Extolling having brought forth abundant fruitfulness.
Again the image is only preserved in the 16th century Vienna manuscript 3416, folio 25 (online here):
From Divjak and Wischmeyer, I learn that the depiction is of a naked youth carrying a torch, symbolising the solstice, a sundial on a pillar, and – indicating the harvest – a sickle, a basket of fruit, and a plant.
As with April, only a single manuscript of the Chronography contains an image for the month of May. This is MS Vienna 3146, which never contains the poems. So again we are reliant on other unillustrated manuscripts, or the indirect tradition, for the poems.
Here is the 4-line poem (tetrastich):
Cunctas veris opes et picta rosaria gemmis liniger in calathis, aspice, Maius habet. Mensis Atlantigenae dictus cognomine Maiae quem merito multum diligit Uranie.
All the treasures of spring, and the roses coloured like gems,
Behold! May has them, wrapped in linen in a basket.
The month is named after Maia, the daughter of Atlas,
Which Urania rightly loves most.
The 2-line verse (distich) is as follows:
Hos sequitur laetus toto iam corpore Maius …Mercurio et Maia quem tribuisse Jovem.
Blessed May in now follows these (months) with all its strength,
Which (it is said) Jove has assigned to Mercury, son of Maia.
Housman noted that the second line was clearly corrupt and suggested that Mercurio is a gloss. To me the obvious accusative and infinitive Jovem … tribuisse indicate reported speech, and therefore that the missing text must have a sense something like “it is said”. Divjak and Wischmeyer thought the same in their German version.
Again the image is only preserved in the 16th century Vienna manuscript 3416, folio 23 (online here):
The depiction is of a figure holding something to his nose, together with a peacock and flowers in a kalathos. From the first two lines of the tetrastich, the vessel is perhaps full of roses; and the figure is holding a rose in his right hand.
Only a single manuscript of the Chronography contains an image for the month of April. This is MS Vienna 3146, which never contains the poems. (I am told that the same image reappears in the Leiden MS Voss.Lat.Q 79, a manuscript of the Aratea! But this I have not seen) So we are reliant on other unillustrated manuscripts, or the indirect tradition, for the poems. Here is the 4-line poem (tetrastich):
Contectam myrto Venerem veneratur Aprilis, lumen veris habet, quo nitet alma Thetis cereus et dextra flammas diffundit odoras; balsama nec desunt, quis redolet Paphie.
April worships a Venus robed with myrtle,
He has the light of spring, in which nurturing Thetis blooms,
And the waxen candle on the right diffuses the scents of flame;
Nor is balsam wanting, of which the Paphian (Venus) is redolent.
The 2-line verse (distich), preserved in the St Gall unillustrated manuscript, is as follows:
Caesareae Veneris mensis, quo floribus arva prompta virent, avibus quo sonat omne nemus.
This is the month of Caesar’s Venus, in which the fields are green,
resplendent with flowers, in which every wood resounds with birdsong.
Divjak and Wischmeyer add an interesting comment, that the tetrastich verse is about the relationship of Venus to April. The picture shows an older man dancing with castanets in front of a male cult statue. The man is perhaps a Gallus named “April”, dancing before a statue of Attis, the “Venus” of the Magna Mater cult.
The 16th century Vienna manuscript 3416 (online here) gives us the image:
The figure is treating on what look like a set of pipes, perhaps belonging to an organ.
A number of manuscripts contain an image for March. But here again it is the Vatican Barberini manuscript that gives us the 4-line poem, the tetrastich:
Cinctum pelle lupae promptum est cognoscere mensem Mars olli nomen, Mars dedit exuvias. Tempus vernum haedus petulans et garrula hirundo indicat et sinus lactis et herba virens.
Know the month clothed with the wolf’s pelt;
Its name is Mars, and Mars gave us the skins.
The springtime brings the unruly kid, and the chattering swallow,
And the pail of milk, and the greening grass.
These items are depicted in the image, as we shall see.
The 2-line poem (= distich) is also present, one line under the left-hand page, one under the right:
Condita Mavortis magno sub nomine Roma non habet errorem: Romulus auctor erit.
Rome was founded under the great name of Mars
There is no mistake. Romulus will be the founder.
The images show a consistency for once: a figure dressed in skins, holding a goat, standing on greenery, with pails of milk and a swallow, with characteristic forked tail. A butter churn is to the left, and above it metal tools that perhaps relate to cheese-making (or so I am told!)
The 16th century Vienna manuscript 3416 (online here) gives us this, clearly redrawn, image:
The 17th century R1 manuscript, Vat. Barb.lat.2154B (online here) gives us this, with the tetrastich and the first line of the distich:
As before, the offline Brussels MS. , f.201, gives us an image mid-way between the two:
The month of February has a number of illustrations. In the Vatican Barberini manuscript, the 4-line poem (tetrastich) appears written down the side. Here it is:
At quem caeruleus nodo constringit amictus, quique paludicolam prendere gaudet avem, daedala quem iactu pluvio circumvenit Iris: Romuleo ritu februa mensis habet.
And he whom the cerulean cloak wraps (ties up) with a knot,
And who delights to chase the marsh-dwelling fowl,
He whom the skilful Iris/Rainbow pelts with a rain shower;
This month by the Romulean ritual has the feast of purification.
The 2-line poem (= distich) is also present. Each distich consists of a hexameter at the foot of the left-hand page, and a pentameter at the foot of the right-hand page. Here it is:
Umbrarum est alter quo mense putatur honore
pervia terra dato manibus esse vagis.
The second is of the ghosts, in which month it is believed,
That, after sacrifice has been made, earth is accessible to wandering spirits
The images show a figure, hunting with an eagle, while a vessel pours down water onto an Ibis.
The 16th century Vienna manuscript 3416 (online here) gives us this, evidently redrawn, image:
The 17th century R1 manuscript, Vat. Barb.lat.2154B (online here) gives us this, with the tetrastich and the first line of the distich, so I’ve made the picture somewhat larger:
Divjak and Wischmeyer give us an image from the important (but offline) Brussels manuscript 7543-49:
The gender of the figure must have been somewhat hard to determine in the original – Vienna has treated it as female, Rome as male, while the Brussels manuscript shows one that could be either. The kantharos vessel pours down upon the crane, or possibly an ibis. A fish and some squids appear to the right. The figure holds an eagle.
Each month in the Chronography of 354 consists of a two-page spread. On the left there is an illustration of the month, on the right a calendar of days and festivals and anniversaries.
For the month of January the 4-line poem (= tetrastich) is preserved only in manuscripts of the Anthologia Latina. Here it is:
Hic Iani mensis sacer est, en aspice ut aris Tura micent, sumant ut pia tura Lares. Annorum saeclique caput, natalis honorum Purpureis fastis qui numerat proceres.
This month is sacred to Janus; Lo! See on the altars
How the incense glitters, how the Lares accept the pious incense.
It is the start of years and time, the birthday of the offices
Which the nobles enumerate in their purpled calendars.
The 2-line poem (= distich) is present, thankfully. Each distich consists of a hexameter at the foot of the left-hand page, and a pentameter at the foot of the right-hand page. Here it is:
Primus, Iane, tibi sacratur ut omnia mensis Undique cui semper cuncta videre licet.
The first month is sacred to you, Janus, like everything;
From both sides it is possible for him always to see everything.
But there is a twist here: the first line is different in two of the manuscripts, R1 and R2. Instead the first line reads:
Ianus adest bifrons primusque ingreditur annum…
Two-faced Janus is here, and first begins the year…
It seems to be taken for granted in the literature that the illustration and the hexameter in R1 and R2 are not genuine; but renaissance compositions.
The 16th century Vienna manuscript 3416 (online here) is the only one that has twelve images in it. But these have clearly been redrawn by someone who fancied himself as an artist. Here is the one for January (f.2v, image 15):
The 17th century R1 manuscript, Vat. Barb.lat.2154B (online here) image, f.16, seems more authentic in style, and is within the original border.
The only month illustration in R2 (available online in a scanned microfilm here) is as follows:
R1 and R2 are the same image, copied at the same time.
The figures in V and R1 are both making a sacrifice with incense, but there the similarity ends.
I’m going to do a little series of twelve posts, one per month, on the poems in an ancient text, the Chronography of 354. Let me first say something about that book.
In 354 AD, perhaps as a gift for New Year’s Day, an otherwise unknown Roman nobleman named Valentinus received a very splendid present. It was a luxury book, containing a series of useful official-type documents: lists of consuls, months, a calendar, lists of church festivals and much more. It is known today as the Chronography of 354.
These were all useful, but what made it special was the full-page illustrations that filled it. These were made by a famous artist named Furius Dionysius Filocalus. They included portraits of “our emperors” – a sour-looking Constantius dropping coins from his hand, and his nephew, the luckless Gallus, executed later that year. Each month of the calendar had a facing picture depicting some aspect of the month or the seasonal activities.
The book itself seems to have survived to around 800 AD, when copies were made. A mass of partial copies of these copies have reached us, all more or less unsatisfactory. Some contain some of the images. Some are text only. Modern editions are all rather unsatisfactory too. It is a hard text to edit, in fairness. It is curious that, even today, the only publication that gives the newcomer an idea of the work as a whole, in order, is the version that I compiled for my own website (here) in 2006.
Part VI of the work, the calendar, may be found here. For each month, on facing pages, there is an illustration, within an ornate frame – and then opposite, the various days and events of the month. Here is the picture for February, from a renaissance manuscript, printed in the 19th century:
There are two elements to this picture that I did not engage with back in 2006, since they are most likely not original. To the right, drawn clumsily down the side, is a four-line poem, a tetrastich. Underneath, in majuscule, is half of a two line poem or distich – the second line appears underneath the facing page.
I intend to do a short series of posts here, dealing with the tetrastichs and distichs. It would be nice to deal with them month by month, just as they appear in the manuscripts of the Chronography.
Now for a bit of bibliography.
Since 2006 an excellent study has appeared by Richard Burgess, “The Chronograph of 354: Its manuscripts, contents and history”, Journal of Late Antiquity 5 (2013), 345-396. This includes a convincing discussion of the tetrastichs and distichs.
The following year there appeared a mighty two-volume attempt at a modern edition and commentary: J. Divjak & W. Wischmeyer, Das Kalenderhandbuch von 354: Der Chronograph des Filocalus, Vienna: Holzhausen (2014). Generously, the publishers have since made it available for free download: vol.1, and vol. 2. This is no small blessing.
The new book was reviewed harshly by Burgess, and it seems as if the task of handling so much data perhaps overwhelmed the editors, as much as it overwhelms the reader. But they edit the tetrastichs and distichs and even – very wisely – provide them with German translations. So I intend to make use of their efforts.
Since 2006 a bunch of the manuscripts have come online and are accessible, particularly at the Vatican. This also is a blessing, and I hope to use some of this material.
There is a mass of scholarly literature on every aspect of the Chronography, but most of it I have not read. My purpose here is to make these texts better known.
Let’s talk a bit about how these texts actually come to us.
The distichs were edited by A. E. Housman, as a poem of twenty-four lines, who pronounced it to be pure “Augustan” in style. The verses are perhaps 1st century.
The tetrastichs are said to be fifth-century, but I’m not sure on what basis. But, although they are transmitted to us with the Chronography, they also circulated independently and have reached us in that way also, as part of the Latin Anthology. The content of the poems seems to describe pictures in a calendar, but not always the pictures that we have.
The manuscript tradition of all this material is rather tangled, but a few details (from Burgess) may explain why the tetrastichs and distichs are thought to be later.
All but one of the extant manuscripts of the Chronography derive from a now lost Luxemburg manuscript of the 9-10th century which comes to light in 1560. This is given the siglum “L”. It was copied from Valentinus’ original book (siglum “O”). The Luxemberg manuscript clearly had the tetrastichs and distichs, at least by the time that renaissance copies were made from it.
But the Luxemburg manuscript was not the only copy made from “O”. It seems that St Gall 878 (= “S”), which contains only text from various parts of the work, was also copied directly from “O” in the 830s. The copyist of “S” included the distichs, but he did not copy the tetrastichs. This suggests that the tetrastichs were not present in “O”.
Neither the tetrastichs nor the distichs fit into the ornate graphic design of the framework of the ancient original. They are tacked on the side and the bottom of the page. This suggests again that neither is original. The distichs are present in a clear rustic capitals, and were probably added in antiquity. They do not relate to the text in any way, however. The tetrastichs were added in a sloppy way, which might even be as late as the renaissance. But they do relate in some ways to the illustrations.
I think that’s more than enough detail for now. One problem with writing about the Chronography is that you always feel the urge to add more detail. And then more. Almost nobody who has written about this has resisted this temptation, with the result that the publications are very dense and unreadable. Divjak and Wischmeyer almost drowned in the mass of data! I shall try to do better, but those wanting more information must refer to the sources above.
I will post this and the first two months, since we’re a bit late with starting this. I hope to post the other months at the start of each month. For each month I will give the tetrastich and the distich. Since the tetrastich often refers to the ancient image for the month, I will include this also.