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

Themistocles, an Athenian philosopher, was highly regarded in these times, not only in the art of letters, but also in deeds of valor and in naval warfare. Following his advice, the Athenians defeated Xerxes in a naval battle. Even as a child, by reason of his natural intelligence, he always took note of exceptional matters. Ever seeking to satisfy his zeal for learning, and to comprehend beautiful sayings, he spent no time in play or misbehavior. He was ambitious for honor, and sought to become the ruler of the city. When asked by a certain person whether he should give his daughter in marriage to an accomplished poor man or to a securely rich one, he replied: I prefer a man lacking money to money lacking a man.[Themistocles, the celebrated Athenian, was born about 514 BCE. In youth he was impetuous, but displayed great intellectual powers and a lofty ambition for political distinction. He began his career by setting himself in opposition to those who had most power, among whom Aristides was the chief. The fame which Miltiades acquired by his generalship at Marathon made a deep impression upon him, and he said that the trophy of Miltiades would not let him sleep. In 483, his rival Aristides was ostracized (an event to which Themistocles had contributed). From this time on he was the political leader in Athens. In 481 he was Archon Eponymus. He persuaded the Athenians to employ the silver from the mines of Laurium in building ships instead of distributing it among the citizens. He was sure that it was only by a fleet that Athens could repel the Persians and obtain the supremacy in Greece. Later, as the commander of the Athenian fleet, he defeated Xerxes, and to his courage the Greeks owed their salvation from Persian dominion. This victory established his reputation among the Greeks. He was honored by the Spartans, who gave Eurybiades the palm of bravery, and Themistocles the palm of wisdom and skill, with a crown of olive and the best chariot the Spartans possessed. On his advice the Athenians then fortified Athens and the port of Piraeus. But the reputation of Themistocles suffered under accusations of enriching himself by unfair means, and in 471 he was ostracized from Athens and retired to Argos. Under charges of treasonable correspondence with the enemy, he fled from Argos to Corcyra, and then to Epirus, where he took refuge in the house of Admetus, king of Molossi, who refused to surrender him up. He finally reached the coast of Asia in safety. Xerxes was now dead, and Artaxerxes was on the Persian throne. The new king received Themistocles at his court, and in the hope of using him against the Greeks, gave him a handsome allowance, after the Persian fashion, and made him governor of the Persian province of Magnesia where he spent the rest of his life. He has a star turn in the second half of Herodotus' , and was the subject of one of Plutarch's biographies—the two most important sources for his life.]

Aristides, the Athenian philosopher, a most excellent man, flourished at this time (so Cicero relates in the third book of his On Duties). He was a man of such virtue and righteousness in matters concerning the common good that he acquired the name of the Just. He was so highly regarded by Plato that among all the celebrated men who flourished at Athens he considered Aristides alone worthy of praise. They say that he died so poor that he did not leave enough to pay his burial expenses.[Aristides, an Athenian, surnamed the "Just" was of an ancient aristocratic family. He was the political disciple of Cleisthenes (founder of the Athenian democracy), and partly on that account, partly from personal character, opposed from the first to Themistocles. He fought as the commander of his tribe at Marathon in 490 BCE, and in 489 was made Archon. In 483 he was ostracized, probably in consequence of the triumph of the maritime and democratic policy of his rival. He was still in exile in 480, when the battle of Salamis was fought, but did good service on that occasion by dislodging the enemy with a band of soldiers raised and armed himself from the islet of Psyttaleia. He was recalled from exile in the following year and appointed general, commanding the Athenians at the battle of Plataea. In 477 he and his colleague Cimon obtained for Athens the command of the maritime confederacy. He died after 471, the year of the ostracism of Themistocles, and very likely in 468. He died so poor that he did not leave enough to defray his funeral expenses. Plutarch wrote a biography on Aristides.]

Anaxagoras, the philosopher, was also at this time held in regard in the city of Clazomenae[Clazomenae was an important city of Asia Minor on the north coast of the Ionian peninsula on the gulf of Syrna. It had considerable commerce, was celebrated for its temples, and still more as the birthplace of Anaxagoras. Under the Romans it was a free city.]. He was so zealous for learning that he gave his entire paternal inheritance to his friends, and went to distant lands in search of knowledge. When he returned to his home after a long absence and saw his father's estates lying in waste, he said, I would not be safe if these riches had not been dissipated. When asked whether he was concerned about his fatherland, he replied, I carry no small but great cares about my fatherland; and he pointed his finger to heaven. When asked to what purpose he was created, he replied, To observe the sun, moon, and heaven. To one who informed him of the death of his son, he said, You tell me nothing new, for I knew he was mortal when I begot him. At the age of 72 years he was imprisoned by the Athenians and put to death by a drink of poison, because he called the sun, which they worshipped as a god, a fiery stone.[Anaxagoras, a celebrated Greek philosopher of the Ionian school, was born at Clazomenae in Ionia in 500 BCE. He gave his property to his relatives, in order to devote his life to higher ends. He went to Athens at the age of 20, and there he remained for 30 years. He became the teacher of the most eminent men of the time, including Euripides and Pericles. His doctrines gave offense to the religious feelings of the Athenians, and he was accused of impiety by the enemies of Pericles. It was only through the eloquence of Pericles that his life was spared; but he was sentenced to pay a fine of five talents and to go into exile from Athens. He retired to Lampsacus, where he died in 428, at the age of 72. Anaxagoras was dissatisfied with the philosophic system of his predecessors who had endeavored to explain nature and its various phenomena by regarding matter in its different forms and modifications as the cause of all things; but Anaxagoras, on the other hand, conceived the necessity of seeking a higher cause, independent of matter, and this he considered to be mind, thought or intelligence.]

Empedocles, also an Athenian philosopher, flourished in esteem at this time. He was so accomplished in song that by his sweet singing he calmed down an angry and raging youth (a guest of Empedocles) who was about to pursue another guest who had complained against his father. He taught that in all the manifold forms of nature there are three things: Disdain of affluence; zeal for future salvation, and enlightening of the mind. Of these nothing is more honorable than the first; nothing more real than the second; and for the quick acquisition of both, nothing more necessary than the third. He caused himself to be cremated on the supposition that the soul is immortal.[Empedocles, of Agrigentum in Sicily, flourished about 444 BCE. Although of an ancient and wealthy family, he joined the revolution in which Thrasydaeus, the son and successor of Theron, was expelled. He was magnanimous in the support of the poor, severe in the persecution of the aristocrats, and declined the sovereignty which was offered him. His brilliant oratory, his penetrating knowledge of nature, his reputation for marvelous powers in curing disease, his exertions in removing marshy districts and in averting epidemics, spread a luster around his name. He was called a magician. He traveled in Greece and Italy, and made a stay at Athens. His death is said to have been marvelous, like his life. One tradition has it that he was removed from the earth, like a divine being; another, that he threw himself into the flames of Mount Aetna, that by his sudden disappearance he might be believed to be a god; but it was added that the volcano threw up one of his sandals, and thus revealed the manner of his death. His works were all in verse, the most important being a didactic poem on nature. He believed in the migration of souls. He first established the number of four elements, which he called the roots of all things.]

Sappho (Sapho)[Sappho, surprisingly, has two entries in the . In addition to the one here, Schedel previously devoted a short paragraph to her in the Fourth Age at Folio LXI verso, where she follows Pythagoras. The two entries are quite different (e.g., in the former she is strangely called Sappho Crexea). ], born in the city of Lesbian[Sappho was born on the island of Lesbos. ‘Lesbian' is an adjective describing any citizen or place on that island.] Mytilene (Mitilena), another poetess, lived in high esteem at this time. She was the offspring of honorable and famous parents, and was, therefore, of (such) a noble disposition that, in the bloom of youth and beauty, she was not content only to write in prose but, spurred on by the widening passion of her spirit and by the vivacity of her innate talents, and with a zeal for learning, she ascended the steep slopes of the lofty peak of Parnassus. And with happy daring she joined the welcoming Muses. What more (is there to say)? By that passion of hers it has turned out that all the way up to our day her poetry, very famous in the testimony of the ancients, is (still) shining. She did not hesitate to bring forth lyric melodies. Therefore a bronze statue was erected in her memory. And she herself was counted among the famous poets. Nevertheless, her works were lost through the neglect of our ancestors.

All but the last sentence in the Latin edition of the Chronicle is taken from Boccaccio. The German edition, in fact, removes it, in addition to changing (mostly abridging) some of the Latin text's information on Sappho:

Sappho, a native of Lesbian Mytilene, another poetess, lived in high esteem at this time. She was the offspring of honorable and noble parents, and was therefore of a noble disposition. In the bloom of her youth she was of beautiful stature. In her passion and zeal for learning, she cast herself down from the heights of Mount Parnassus. She left behind many of her lovely poems. Therefore a bronze statue was erected in her memory.

The German entry on Sappho is less florid and more logical than the Latin text. There are no non-sequitur sentences in this version, and the removal of the last line eliminates problems with the claim that Sappho's poetry is still "shining in our (i.e., Boccaccio's or Schedel's) own day" when it didn't really exist in the West before the year 1500 (after that period, especially in the 19th and 20th centuries, many fragments were discovered in Egypt). The German version thus shows clear evidence of a strong editorial hand.

Zeuxis (Zeusis), a great painter, was at this time (as Eusebius states) in great renown. He acquired such great riches that he gave away his paintings, saying that they were priceless and therefore not for sale. As Pliny states in book 35 of his Natural History, he brought the painter's brush to great glory. And he acquired so much wealth that he decided to give away as gifts his own works. And he was saying that they could not be exchanged for a price that was of sufficient worth.

Cf. Schedel's source, Pliny, Natural History 35.36:

Opes quoque tantas adquisivit, ut in ostentatione earum Olympiae aureis litteris in palliorum tesseris intextum nomen suum ostentaret. Postea donare opera sua instituit, quod nullo pretio satis digno permutari posse diceret, sicuti Alcmenam Agragantinis, Pana Archelao.

And he acquired such great wealth that he advertised it at Olympia by displaying his own name embroidered in gold lettering on the checked pattern of his robes. Afterwards he set about giving away his works as presents, saying that it was impossible for them to be sold at any price adequate to their value: for instance he presented his Alcmena to the city of Girgenti and his Pan to Archelaus.

(H. Rackham, Pliny, Vol. IX; Loeb Classical Library, 1957; pp. 307, 309)

This sentence along with the preceding two are not in the German edition of the Chronicle.

Moreover he painted, as the same Pliny says, a child carrying grapes, to which (fruit) the birds flew. And he became angry, and said, I painted the grapes better than the child, for if I had created a child, the birds would have feared it. He is also given credit by Quintilian for having discovered shadows. There also lived at this time a highly celebrated artist named Parrhasius, who entered upon a contest with the aforementioned Zeuxis. For as Zeuxis exhibited his grapes, painted with such skill that the birds flew to them, Parrhasius brought forth a curtain painted with birds, and Zeuxis thought they were in truth birds. But when the curtain was moved away, and it was seen to be a painting, the mistake was understood. So Zeuxis yielded the palm to his rival Parrhasius, for he had deceived him with the birds.[Zeuxis, the celebrated painter, who excelled all his contemporaries except Parrhasius, was a native of Heraclea (probably of the city of that name on the Euxine), and flourished 424-400 BCE. He came to Athens soon after the Peloponnesian War, when he had already achieved a great reputation, although but a young man. He spent some time in Macedonia, at the court of Archelaus, for whom he decorated the royal palace at Pella with paintings, probably soon after 413. He painted a picture of Helen of Troy for the city of Croton in Magna Graecia. He also visited Sicily, where he gave away his paintings to the Agrigentines. Again we find him at Olympia where he made an ostentatious display before the eyes of all Greece, of the wealth which his art had brought him, by appearing in a robe embroidered with his own name in letters of gold. After acquiring a great fortune he adopted the custom of giving away his pictures because no adequate price could be set upon them. The time of his death is unknown. The picture of Helen is his masterpiece, and for this he had as models the five most beautiful virgins of Croton. It was painted for the city's temple to Hera. The art of accurate imitation of still life was carried almost to perfection by Zeuxis and his younger rival Parrhasius. The well-known story of the trial of skill, if not literally true, indicates the opinion which was held in ancient times of their powers of imitation. In this contest Zeuxis entered his painting of a bunch of grapes, so realistic that the birds flew at the picture to eat the fruit. Confident of victory, he called upon his rival no longer to delay to draw aside the curtain to show his picture; but the picture of Parrhasius was the curtain itself, which Zeuxis had mistaken for a real drapery. On discovering his error Zeuxis honorably yielded the palm to Parrhasius, saying that he had himself deceived birds but that Parrhasius had deceived an artist.]


Sappho is represented by a woodcut borrowed from a genealogical vine at Folio XXVI recto, and there entitled "Zephala (Zilpah), handmaid of Rachel." Note the dual branch proceeding from her waist. A different portrait of Sappho is used on Folio LXI verso.


Zeuxis and Parrhasius are portrayed by a single woodcut. Zeuxis is seated at a table, his arms folded. Before him lies a picture, which may or may not be his painting of Helen of Troy, but certainly not of a bunch of grapes. His expression is one of deep thought and disappointment. He may be meditating upon his defeat, and apparently his grapes have turned sour. Yet we may be wrong. Possibly he is just a weary sitter, having his portrait painted; for to the right is another artist busily engaged at his easel, with palette and brush in hand. This must be the triumphant Parrhasius. Surely Parrhasius is not painting his famous curtain, which Zeuxis mistook for a real one; for the canvas is a very small one. And after all, he seems to be painting the sitter behind his easel, a rather awkward position in which to pose a subject.