Chronography of 354

Chronography of 354

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The Chronography of 354, also known as the Calendar of 354, was a 4th century illuminated manuscript
Illuminated manuscript
An illuminated manuscript is a manuscript in which the text is supplemented by the addition of decoration, such as decorated initials, borders and miniature illustrations...

, which was produced in 354 AD for a wealthy Roman Christian named Valentinus. It is the earliest dated codex
Codex
A codex is a book in the format used for modern books, with multiple quires or gatherings typically bound together and given a cover.Developed by the Romans from wooden writing tablets, its gradual replacement...

 to have full page illustrations. None of the original has survived. The term Calendar of Filocalus is sometimes used to describe the whole collection, and sometimes just the sixth part, which is the Calendar itself. Other versions of the names ("Philocalus", "Codex-Calendar of 354") are occasionally used. The text and illustrations are available online. Amongst other historically significant information, the work contains the earliest reference to the celebration of Christmas
Christmas
Christmas or Christmas Day is an annual holiday generally celebrated on December 25 by billions of people around the world. It is a Christian feast that commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ, liturgically closing the Advent season and initiating the season of Christmastide, which lasts twelve days...

 as a holiday or feast.

Transmission from antiquity


The original volume has not survived, but it is thought that it still existed in Carolingian
Carolingian
The Carolingian dynasty was a Frankish noble family with origins in the Arnulfing and Pippinid clans of the 7th century AD. The name "Carolingian", Medieval Latin karolingi, an altered form of an unattested Old High German *karling, kerling The Carolingian dynasty (known variously as the...

 times, by the 7th-8th centuries. A number of copies were made at that time, with and without illustrations, which in turn were copied at the Renaissance.

The most complete and faithful copies of the illustrations are the pen drawings in a 17th century manuscript
Manuscript
A manuscript or handwrite is written information that has been manually created by someone or some people, such as a hand-written letter, as opposed to being printed or reproduced some other way...

 from the Barberini
Barberini
The Barberini are a family of the Italian nobility that rose to prominence in 17th century Rome. Their influence peaked with the election of Cardinal Maffeo Barberini to the papal throne in 1623, as Pope Urban VIII...

 collection (Vatican Library
Vatican Library
The Vatican Library is the library of the Holy See, currently located in Vatican City. It is one of the oldest libraries in the world and contains one of the most significant collections of historical texts. Formally established in 1475, though in fact much older, it has 75,000 codices from...

, cod. Barberini lat. 2154. This was carefully copied, under the supervision of the great antiquary Nicholas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc, from a Carolingian
Carolingian
The Carolingian dynasty was a Frankish noble family with origins in the Arnulfing and Pippinid clans of the 7th century AD. The name "Carolingian", Medieval Latin karolingi, an altered form of an unattested Old High German *karling, kerling The Carolingian dynasty (known variously as the...

 copy, a Codex Luxemburgensis, which was itself lost in the 17th century. These drawings, although they are twice removed from the originals, show the variety of sources that the earliest illuminators used as models for manuscript illustration, including metalwork, frescoes, and floor mosaics. The Roman originals were probably fully painted miniatures.

Various partial copies or adaptations survive from the Carolingian renaissance
Carolingian Renaissance
In the history of ideas the Carolingian Renaissance stands out as a period of intellectual and cultural revival in Europe occurring from the late eighth century, in the generation of Alcuin, to the 9th century, and the generation of Heiric of Auxerre, with the peak of the activities coordinated...

 and Renaissance periods. Botticelli adapted a figure of the city of Treberis (Trier
Trier
Trier, historically called in English Treves is a city in Germany on the banks of the Moselle. It is the oldest city in Germany, founded in or before 16 BC....

) who grasps a bound barbarian by the hair for his painting, traditionally called Pallas and the Centaur.

The Vatican Barberini manuscript, made in 1620 for Peiresc, who had the Carolingian Codex Luxemburgensis on long-term loan, is clearly the most faithful. After Peiresc's death in 1637 the manuscript disappeared. However some folios had already been lost from the Codex Luxemburgensis before Peiresc received it, and other copies have some of these. The suggestion of Carl Nordenfalk that the Codex Luxemburgensis copied by Peiresc was actually the Roman original has not been accepted. Peiresc himself thought the manuscript was seven or eight hundred years old when he had it, and, though Mabillon
Jean Mabillon
Jean Mabillon was a French Benedictine monk and scholar, considered the founder of palaeography and diplomatics.-Early career:...

 had not yet published his De re diplomatica (1681), the first systematic work of paleography, most scholars, following Schapiro, believe Peiresc would have been able to make a correct judgement on its age. For a full list of manuscripts with copies after the originals, see the external link.

Contents


Furius Dionysius Filocalus was the leading scribe or calligrapher of the period, and possibly also executed the original miniatures. His name is on the dedication page. He was also a Christian, living in a moment that lay on the cusp between a pagan and a Christian Roman Empire.

The Chronography, like all Roman calendars, is as much an almanac
Almanac
An almanac is an annual publication that includes information such as weather forecasts, farmers' planting dates, and tide tables, containing tabular information in a particular field or fields often arranged according to the calendar etc...

 as a calendar; it includes various texts and lists, including elegant allegorical depictions
Allegory
Allegory is a demonstrative form of representation explaining meaning other than the words that are spoken. Allegory communicates its message by means of symbolic figures, actions or symbolic representation...

 of the months. It also includes the important Liberian Catalogue
Liberian Catalogue
In compiling the history of the Early Christian Church, the Liberian Catalogue , which was part of the illuminated manuscript known as the Chronography of 354, is an essential document, for it consists of a list of the popes, designated bishops of Rome, ending with Pope Liberius , hence its name...

, a list of Popes, and the Calendar of Filocalus or Philocalus, also known as the Philocalian Calendar, from which copies of eleven miniatures survive. Among other information, it contains the earliest reference to Christmas
Christmas
Christmas or Christmas Day is an annual holiday generally celebrated on December 25 by billions of people around the world. It is a Christian feast that commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ, liturgically closing the Advent season and initiating the season of Christmastide, which lasts twelve days...

 (see Part 12 below) and the dates of Roman Games, with their number of chariot-races
Chariot racing
Chariot racing was one of the most popular ancient Greek, Roman and Byzantine sports. Chariot racing was often dangerous to both driver and horse as they frequently suffered serious injury and even death, but generated strong spectator enthusiasm...

.

The contents are as follows (from the Barberini Ms. unless stated). All surviving miniatures are full-page, often combined with some text in various ways:

  • Part 1: title page and dedication - 1 miniature
  • Part 2: images of the personifications of the cities of Rome, Alexandria, Constantinople and Trier - 4 miniatures
  • Part 3: images of the emperors and the birthdays of the Caesars - 2 miniatures
  • Part 4: images of the seven planets with a calendar of the hours - 5 surviving miniatures. Copies of the emblemmatic drawings appear in a Carolingian text that portrays Mercury and Venus in heliocentric orbit
    Heliocentric orbit
    A heliocentric orbit is an orbit around the Sun. All planets, comets, and asteroids in our Solar System are in such orbits, as are many artificial probes and pieces of debris. The moons of planets in the Solar System, by contrast, are not in heliocentric orbits as they orbit their respective planet...

    s.
  • Part 5: the signs of the Zodiac - no miniatures surviving in this manuscript; four in other copies
  • Part 6: the Filocalian calendar - seven miniatures of personifications of the Months in this MS; the full set appears in other copies (on December 25 "N·INVICTI·CM·XXX" - "Birthday of the unconquered, games ordered, thirty races" - is the oldest literary reference to the pagan feast of Sol Invictus
    Sol Invictus
    Sol Invictus was the official sun god of the later Roman empire. In 274 Aurelian made it an official cult alongside the traditional Roman cults. Scholars disagree whether the new deity was a refoundation of the ancient Latin cult of Sol, a revival of the cult of Elagabalus or completely new...

    . Also "VIII kal. ian. natus Christus in Betleem Iudeæ" "Birth of Christ in Bethlehem, Judea." is the oldest reference to Jesus birth as being on the December 25 feast day.)
  • Part 7: consular portraits of the emperors - 2 miniatures (the last in the MS)
  • Part 8: list (fasti) of the consuls to 354 AD
  • Part 9: the dates of Easter from 312 AD to 411 AD
  • Part 10: list of the prefects of the city of Rome from 254 to 354 AD
  • Part 11: commemoration dates of past popes from 255 to 352 AD
  • Part 12: commemoration dates of the martyrs, which begins with "VIII kal. Ian. natus Christus in Betleem Iudeae" ("Eighth day before the kalends of January [December 25], Birth of Christ in Bethlehem Judea")
  • Part 13: bishops of Rome, the Liberian Catalogue
  • Part 14: The 14 regions of the City
  • Part 15: ...
  • Part 16: Chronicle of the City of Rome (a list of rulers with short comments)

Links