Vatican Vergil

Date: ca. 400
Location or Findspot (Modern-Day Country): Italy
Medium: Parchment
Description: The Vatican Vergil is named after the institution that currently owns it (the Vatican Library) and the contents of the manuscript: fragments of the Aeneid and Georgics written by Vergil, a Roman epic poet (70 BCE–19 BCE). This collection is the oldest illustrated codex of classical literature. Seventy-five of its original leaves have survived, including fifty illustrations (out of what may once have been some 280 illustrations). The artists and scribe likely had a set of scrolls serving as their models. Although the Vatican Vergil was produced in Rome, it was at the monastery of Saint-Martin in Tours by the ninth century, where Carolingian painters studied its images and adapted some of its features into their own illustrations.

In the Vatican Vergil's first surviving illustration from the Aeneid, the protagonist, Aeneas, and his companion Achates climb a hill and discover Carthage under construction. This is a rare image of the effort and the materials that went into the construction of a city: the quarry from which the materials are extracted, the ladders and pulleys required to hoist the heavy materials, and the hand tools with which the workers carved into the stone.

Relevant Primary Sources
Relevant Textbook Chapter(s): 2

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Vatican City, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, MS Vat. lat. 3225, fol. 39v, Dido watches Aeneas sail away Vatican City, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, MS Vat. lat. 3225, fol. 72v, siege of the Trojan camp Vatican City, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, MS Vat. Lat.3225, fol. 45v, Aeneas and Achates visit the sibyl