Vergilius Romanus

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Codex Romanus, Vatican City, FOT, latinus 3867, folio 14 recto: Virgil (portrait of the poet)

The Vergilius Romanus is an illuminated manuscript written in Capitalis rustica from the 5th / 6th centuries. Century with texts by the poet Virgil . The scribe repeatedly uses contraction abbreviations in the style of the Christian noun sacra . According to a property entry (fol. 4r: Iste lib [er] est b [eat] i dyon [ysii]) from the 13th century, it once belonged to the library of the Abbey of St-Denis . The parchment codex came from the possession of the humanist Gianpietro Valeriano (called Pierius) to the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana , where it is now kept under the signature Vatican City, BAV, Vaticanus latinus 3867 . The text preserved on 309 of originally approx. 385 sheets includes the Aeneid , the Georgica and some of the Eclogae des Virgil: Fol. 1r-18v: Eclogae seu Bucolica (fragmentary). Fol.18v-73v: Georgica cum argumentis. Fol.75r-309v: Aeneis cum argumentis.

The manuscript is of particular importance due to the 19 preserved miniatures , which are considered to be the main works of late antique book illumination and are used to investigate the connection between the art of antiquity and medieval book illumination . The illustrations by Vergilius Romanus still show stylistic features of the ancient painting tradition, as they are e.g. B. can already be seen in the illustrated manuscript of Vergilius Vaticanus from around 400 ; However, the Vergilius Romanus indicates the departure from this classical canon of forms. In comparison, the two works with illustrations of Virgil can show the further development of a book illustration from antiquity, represented by Vergilius Vaticanus , into medieval illumination.

The page layout with a page height of approx. 33.2 cm and a width of approx. 32.3 cm, an almost square type area with only 18 verses per page, wide margins corresponds to the monumental effect of the carefully executed Capitalis rustica.

The place of origin of the manuscript is disputed, it is probably in the east of the Roman Empire .

There are a number of other famous Virgil manuscripts from late antiquity .


  • Vergilius Romanus. Codice vaticano latino 3867, conservato nella Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (= Codices e Vaticanis selecti. Volume 66) Jaca Book, Milan / Belser, Zurich 1985–86 (facsimile and commentary).


  • Johannes Götte (Ed.): Virgil. Aeneid. Heimeran, Munich 1958, pp. 609-613.
    • Reviews: Christoph Eggenberger, In: Byzantinische Zeitschrift 69, 1976, pp. 123–128; Henri Stern : In: The Art Bulletin 56, 1974, pp. 596-598.
  • Christoff Eggenberger: The miniatures of Vergilius Romanus, Codex Vat. Lat. 3867 . In: Byzantinische Zeitschrift 70, 1977, pp. 58-90.
  • Erwin Rosenthal : The Illuminations of the Vergilius Romanus (Cod. Vat. Lat. 3867). A Stylistic and Iconographic Analysis . Zurich 1972.
  • Florentine Mütherich : The illustrated Virgil manuscripts of late antiquity. In: Würzburg Yearbooks for Classical Studies. NF 8, 1982, pp. 205-221 + 6 panels.
  • Richard Seider : Contributions to the history and palaeography of the ancient Virgil manuscripts. In: Herwig Görgemanns , Ernst A. Schmidt (Ed.): Studies on the ancient epic (= contributions to classical philology. 72). Hain, Meisenheim am Glan 1976, pp. 129-172.
  • Kurt Weitzmann : Late Antiquity and Early Christian Illumination. Prestel, Munich 1977, pp. 52-59.
  • Antonie Wlosok : Illustrated Vergil Manuscripts. In: Classical Journal 93 (1998) 355-382.
  • David H. Wright : Codicological notes on the Vergilius Romanus (Vat. Lat. 3867). Città del Vaticano 1992.
  • David H. Wright: The Vergilius Romanus and the emergence of medieval book illumination. Belser, Stuttgart 2000.

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