First English edition of the Nuremberg chronicle: being the Liber chronicarum of Dr. Hartmann Schedel…

Semiramis, wife of Ninus the Great, king of Assyria, assumed the throne upon the death of her husband in the 12th year of Abraham. She reigned 42 years. When Ninus died he left him surviving Semiramis, still a young woman, and their only son, Ninyas, who was still a child. She did not consider it wise that so young a son should rule over so great a kingdom. Although reluctant to entrust the kingdom to a minor, yet, being a woman, she did not herself dare to rule over so large a people, who were hardly obedient to a man. So, being a magnanimous woman, able and cunning, she held herself out as the son, and the son as herself; for both were persons of medium stature and of tender voice, and resembled one another in other respects. Covering her arms, limbs and head, she stepped forward according to the custom of men. In order that she might not attract too much attention in her new garb, she commanded her people to assume the same manner of dress. And so, by the disguise of her sex and through the childlike confidence of her son, she attained to royal majesty. And thereafter she accomplished great things, and feared not to disclose her practiced concealment to anyone; and everyone wondered how a woman was able to function as such and yet excel in strength as a man. But when at last she tried to tempt her son to cohabit with her, he killed her.[See earlier note on Semiramis and Ninus under Trier, Folio XXIII recto.]

Ninyas, son of Ninus the Great and Semiramis, his wife, was the fourth king of Assyria. He began his reign after that of Semiramis, his mother, in the 53rd year of Abraham; and he reigned 38 years. He silenced the wars that had wearied the kingdom during the reign of his parents. And likewise, as he had exchanged his appearance with his mother and was seldom seen by men, so he aged amidst a multitude of women.

Arius, the fifth Assyrian king, began his reign in the 21st year of Isaac, and he ruled 30 years. During this period Ishmael was born to Abraham in his 86th year, by Hagar, the Egyptian, who was his and Sarah’s maid; and from him came the race of Ishmaelites, who were thereafter called Hagarians, and finally Saracens. As Sarah, Abraham’s wife, was without children (as the Holy Scriptures say), she spoke to Abraham and said, Go in to my maid Hagar, for you may bear children by her. And as this happened, she soon conceived and thereafter bore Ishmael. At first Sarah lived him as her own son and heir of the principality. But her love waned as soon as her Isaac was born. Therefore, by her advice Ishmael and his mother were sent to another region. And when his mother provided him an Egyptian wife, he bore twelve regal sons who occupied all the earth from the Euphrates to the Red Sea.

The succeeding kings of the Assyrians gave replies to their people by messengers, in the manner of their forbears. The Assyrians, afterward called Syrians, had the kingdom 1300 years. Their last king was Sardanapalus, a man debased by effeminacy.[See earlier note on Sardanapalus, Folio XXIV verso.]

Sol was the first son of Jupiter and a brother of Minerva. As Tullius says, he was an eminent and brilliant person of dignified disposition, and the pagans, by reason of his great powers, gave him a name indicating light. For the ancients, misled by Nimrod, believed that fire was the first element of creation. Therefore they gave him the name Sol, which is translated ‘sun.’ By reason of his mysterious and ingenious ways, they considered him a celestial being, or a lord who had come down from heaven.[Helios, called Sol by the Romans, was the god of the sun. He was the son of Hyperion and Thea, and a brother of Selene and Eos. From his father he is frequently called Hyperianides, or Hyperion. Homer describes Helios as giving light both to gods and men. He rises in the East from Oceanus, traverses the heaven, and descends in the evening in the darkness of the West and Oceanus. The manner in which Helios during the night passes from the western into the eastern ocean is not mentioned by Homer, but later poets make him sail in a golden boat, round one half of the earth, and thus arrive in the East at the point from which he has to rise again. The island of Thrinacia (Sicily) was sacred to Helios, and there he had flocks of sheep and oxen, which were tended by his daughters. Temples of Helios existed in Greece in very early times. The worship of Sol was introduced at Rome, especially after the Romans had become acquainted with the East, though traces of the worship of the sun and moon occur at an early period.]

Diana, the first sister of Sol and the daughter of the first Jupiter, was held in esteem at this time. Tullius frequently mentions her in his book on the nature of the gods. But they say that she is not the one to whom the poets attribute eternal virginity. [Diana is an ancient Italian divinity, whom the Romans identified with the Greek Artemis. Her worship is said to have been introduced at Rome by Servius Tullius, who dedicated a temple to her on the Arentine; and she appears to have been originally worshipped only by the plebeians. At Rome Diana was the goddess of light, and her name contains the same root as the word dies. As Dianus (Janus), or the god of light, represented the sun, so Diana, the goddess of light, represented the moon. The attributes of the Greek Artemis were afterward ascribed to her.]

Ceres was in vogue among the Sicilians, and she was a confidant of their king. She was of such ingenuity that she was the first to introduce husbandry among the Sicilians, tamed the oxen and plowed the earth into furrows, sowed it with seed, separated the grain from the ears, ground it with millstones, and taught the making of bread. Before that time the people subsisted on acorns and wood apples. And so they called her Ceres, the Goddess of Grain. [Ceres, under the name of Demeter, one of the great divinities of the Greeks, was the goddess of the earth, and her name probably signified ‘Mother-Earth.’ She was the protectress of agriculture and of all the fruits of the earth. She was the daughter of Cronus and Rhea, and sister of Zeus, by whom she became the mother of Persephone (Prosperina). Zeus, without the knowledge of Demeter, had promised Persephone to Aïdoneus (Hades). Demeter having learned of the abduction, which had taken place with the consent of Zeus, in her anger avoided Olympus, and dwelt upon earth among men, conferring blessing wherever she was kindly received, and severely punishing those who repulsed her. As the goddess continued to be angry, and did not allow the earth to produce any fruits, Zeus first sent Iris and then all the gods to persuade Demeter to return to Olympus. But she refused to return and to restore fertility to the earth until she had seen her daughter again. Zeus accordingly sent Hermes into Erebus to bring back Persephone. Aïdoneus consented, but gave Persephone part of a pomegranate to eat. Hermes then took her to her mother at Eleusis, who received her with great joy. The earth now brought forth fruit again. The meaning of the legend seems to be aetiological. Persephone, who was carried off to the lower world, is the seed-corn that remains concealed in the ground part of the year; Persephone, who returns to her mother, is the corn that rises from the ground and nourishes men and animals. The seats of the worship of Demeter and Persephone were Attica, Arcadia, and Sicily. The Athenians pretended that agriculture was first practiced in their country, and that Triptolemus of Eleusis, the favorite of Demeter, was the first who invented the plow, and sowed corn. The Romans received from Sicily the worship of Demeter, to whom they gave the name of Ceres. Her worship acquired considerable political importance at Rome. The property of traitors against the republic was often made over to her temple. The decrees of the senate were deposited there for the inspection of the tribunes of the people.]


The illustrations on this page may be divided into two classes: (1) Three individual portraits, each approximately two inches square arranged in a column at the left; and (2) a composite 2¼" x 14" consisting of six portraits representing a portion of the lineage of the kings of Assyria.

(1) The series to the left is devoted to three mythological gods of ancient Greece: Sol, the sun, or king of light; Diana, the goddess of the hunt, and Ceres, the goddess of grain. All three are pictured as medieval characters, and none carry the symbols of their divinity.

(2) The Assyrian royal lineage began at Folio XVII recto, with portraits of Nimrod, Belus I, and Ninus, respectively the first, second and third kings, and is here continued in a panel of six sovereigns—Semiramis, Ninyas (Ninia), Arius, Mamylas, Sparetus and Amytitas. The queen, in order to show her war-like disposition, holds a formidable sword in her right hand, and a silhouetted object resembling an ornamental ‘D’ in her left. This symbol is a mystery. Possibly the woodcut was used or to be used elsewhere as an initial letter. Semiramis is spoken of at length in the text opposite the illustrations, as well as in other parts of the Chronicle. Ninyas and Arius are given brief mention. Mamylas, Sparetus and Amytitas are not referred to in the text at all. The kings all carry orb and scepter and are crowned. There is nothing special to be said about any of these portraits, except that oddly enough the beard of Arius is braided.

The Assyrian royal lineage is continued further on in the Chronicle, and most of the portraits here shown are repeated to represent other rulers.