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

Three suns arose in the East on the second day after the death of Julius Caesar. From time to time these drew together into one body, indicating that the rule of Lucius Antonius, Mark Antony, and Augustus were about to be consolidated into a single sovereignty, or, which is more likely, that the future acknowledgement of the Trinity and of the one God of the entire world was imminent. At this time in a suburb of Rome an ox spoke to a ploughman, and told him that he labored in vain and to no purpose for shortly there would be fewer people than crops.

In Egypt the most celebrated library of any city on earth, containing 40,000 books, was destroyed by fire. There were the labors of the ancients in the collection of highly esteemed works. For Aristotle had left his library and the Academy to Theophrastus; and according to Strabo he was the first collector of books, and had taught the kings of Egypt the ordering of a library. Afterwards Theophrastus turned the library over to Neleus, who carried it to Scepsis, by whom it was turned over to unconcerned and ignorant people who kept it locked up. Ptolemy Philadelphus also collected a great number of books; and, as Seneca hands down: 40,000 volumes were burned at Alexandria, a very beautiful monument of royal opulence. So too Livy, who said that it was a work of elegant concern and of eminent kings. That was not elegant or a concern, but learned luxury. On the contrary, it was not learned luxury at all since they collected books not for study but for show. Just as many people, ignorant even of the texts of slaves, collect books not as tools for study but as ornaments of the dining room.

Under the care of the Ptolemies, Alexandria, as the capital of the great kingdom of Egypt and of the most fertile country on earth, and commanding by its position all the commerce of Europe with the East, became the most wealthy and splendid city of the known world. Greeks, Jews and other foreigners flocked to it, and its population probably amounted to three quarters of a million. But a still greater distinction was conferred upon it through the foundation by the first two Ptolemies of the Museum, an establishment in which men devoted to literature were maintained at the public cost, and of the Library which contained 90,000 distinct works and 400,000 volumes, and the increase of which made it necessary to establish another library in the Serapeum (Temple of Serapis) which reached 40,000 volumes, but which was destroyed by the bishop Theophilus at the time of the general overthrow of the pagan temples under Theodosius in 389 CE. The Great Library suffered severely by fire when Julius Caesar was besieged at Alexandria and was finally destroyed by Amrou, the lieutenant of the Caliph Omar in 651 CE. These institutions made Alexandria the chief center of literary activity.

Neleus of Scepsis was a disciple of Aristotle and Theophrastus, the latter of whom bequeathed to him his library and appointed him one of his executors. According to a story current in antiquity, Aristotle bequeathed his library and manuscripts to Theophrastus, his successor in the Academy. On the death of Theophrastus, the libraries and manuscripts are said to have come into the hands of his relative and disciple Neleus of Scepsis. Neleus sold both libraries to Ptolemy II, king of Egypt, for the Alexandrian library; but he retained for himself as an heirloom the original manuscripts of the works of these two philosophers. The descendants of Neleus, who were subjects of the king of Pergamum, knew of no other way of securing them from the search of the Attali, who wished to rival the Ptolemies in forming a large library, than concealing them in a cellar, where for a couple of centuries they were exposed to the ravages of damp and worms. Not until the beginning of the first century BCE did a wealthy book collector, the Athenian Apellicon of Teos, discover these valuable texts, bought them from the ignorant heirs, and prepared from them a new edition of Aristotle's works. After the capture of Athens, Sulla conveyed Apellicon's library to Rome in 64 BCE.

The last third of this paragraph, from ‘So too Livy,….' to the end, are not in the German edition of the Chronicle. They are a slightly abridged version of Seneca, De Tranquillitate Animi (‘On the Tranquility of the Mind') 9.5:

Quadraginta milia librorum Alexandriae arserunt; pulcherrimum regiae opulentiae monimentum alius laudaverit, sicut T. Livius, qui elegantiae regum curaeque egregium id opus ait fuisse. Non fuit elegantia illud aut cura, sed studiosa luxuria, immo ne studiosa quidem, quoniam non in studium sed in spectaculum comparaverant, sicut plerisque ignaris etiam puerilium litterarum libri non studiorum instrumenta sed cenationum ornamenta sunt.
Forty thousand books were burned at Alexandria; let someone else praise this library as the most noble monument to the wealth of kings, as did Titus Livius, who says that it was the most distinguished achievement of the good taste and solicitude of kings. There was no 'good taste' or 'solicitude' about it, but only learned luxury -- nay, not even 'learned,' since they had collected the books, not for the sake of learning, but to make a show, just as many who lack even a child's knowledge of letters use books, not as the tools of learning, but as decorations for the dining-room.

(J. W. Basore, Seneca: Moral Essays, Vol. II; Loeb Classical Library, 1928-1935)

Sallust (Sallustius), a Roman historian and philosopher, an imitator of Cicero, was famous at Rome; and in the nobility of truth he was a distinguished historian. He wrote celebrated books on on the Catilinarian War and also on the Jugurthine War. He also wrote some letters.[Sallust (Sallustius Crispus, or Salustius), the Roman historian, was born in 86 BCE, at Amiternum, in the country of the Sabines. He held several public offices. In the year 50, Sallust was expelled from the senate by the censors, probably because he belonged to Caesar's party, though some give another reason. In the civil war he followed Caesar's fortune. In 47 we find him praetor elect, by obtaining which dignity he was restored to his rank. He accompanied Caesar in the African War, and was left by Caesar as the governor of Numidia, in which capacity it is said, he oppressed the people and enriched himself by unjust means. He retired to private life after his return from Africa, and passed quietly through the troublesome period of Caesar's death. He died in 34, about four years before the battle of Actium. It was probably not until his return from Africa that he wrote his historical works. His or is a history of the conspiracy of Catiline, during the consulship of Cicero, 63. The or contains the history of the war of the Romans against Jugurtha, king of Numidia. Sallust was a decided partisan of Caesar from the first, and it was to him that he owed such political advancement as he attained. His account of the Catiline conspiracy and of the Jugurthine War have come down to us complete, together with fragments of his larger and most important work (), a history of Rome from 78-67, intended as a continuation of the work of L. Cornelius Sisenna. In the Catiline conspiracy he adopts the usually accepted view of Catiline, describing him as the deliberate foe of law, order and morality. Catiline, it must be remembered, had supported the party of Sulla, to which Sallust was opposed. He is careful to clear Caesar of complicity and on the whole he is not unfair towards Cicero. His , though interesting, is not satisfactory, -- too much moralizing about the feebleness of the senate and aristocracy. As a military history it is unsatisfactory in geographical and chronological details, though vivid in the depicting of character and scenery.]

Marcus Varro, a native of Atace in the province of Narbonensis, was held in great esteem at Rome; for he was a highly educated man of keen intellect and experience in all the ways of the world. At the age of 35 he studied Greek with great industry. He was a very learned man and wrote so much that we would hardly think it possible to read all he wrote. As Isidorus states, he wrote innumerable books of which 413 were venerated among the ancients, and which he divided into divine and human topics[This last phrase is not in the German edition of the .]. In addition, he wrote a book about the Latin language, and a book about morality[The first two clauses of this sentence are replaced in the German edition of the with the phrase "and he also wrote many other books."], from which we find this thought: The friends of the rich are the chaff among the grain. He said, If you wish to test a friend, become utterly miserable. He also wrote a book about the veneration of the gods.[This sentence is not in the German edition of the .] He lived 90 years.[Varro was a celebrated writer, whose vast and varied erudition in almost every breath of literature, earned him the title of the "most learned of the Romans." He was born in 116 BCE. He held a high naval command in the wars against the pirates and Mithridates, and later served as the legatus of Pompey in Spain in the civil war, but was compelled to surrender his forces to Caesar. He then passed over into Greece and shared the fortunes of the Pompeian party till after the battle of Pharsalia, when he sued for and obtained the forgiveness of Caesar, who employed him in superintending the collection and arrangement of the great library designed for the public use. For some years Varro remained in literary seclusion, passing his time chiefly at his country seats in study and in composition. Upon the formation of the second triumvirate, his name appeared upon the list of the proscribed, but he managed to make his escape, and after a period of concealment, obtained the protection of Octavian. He spent the remainder of his days in tranquility, pursuing his favorite studies, although his magnificent library had been destroyed, a loss to him irreparable. He died in 28, at the age of 89. Varro was not only the most learned, but also the most prolific of Roman writers. He composed no less than 490 books, of which only two have come down to us.]

Virgilius (Virgil) Maro, a prince of poets, a Mantuan by birth, was born of humble parents on the 15th day of October, under Cn. Pompeius Magnus, and M. Licinius Crassus, the Roman consuls, in a village called Andes (Pietola), which is not far from Mantua. His mother Maia dreamed that she bore a laurel branch, an absolutely clear expectation of a happy birth. He spent his younger days at Cremona. When he became of age he journeyed to Milan, and not long after that he went to Naples. After having seriously and industriously applied himself to the study of Greek and Latin, he eagerly studied medicine and mathematics. When he had become more knowledgable and experienced in these matters than others, he journeyed to the city (i.e., Rome). There he was received by the emperor Augustus and recommended to Pollio.

C. Asinius Pollio was a distinguished orator, poet and historian of the Augustan age. On the breaking out of the civil war he joined Caesar, and in 49 accompanied Curio to Africa. After the latter's defeat and death, he crossed over to Greece, and fought on Caesar's side at Pharsalia in 48. He accompanied Caesar on his campaigns against the Pompeian party in Africa and Spain. He returned with Caesar to Rome, but was shortly afterward sent back to Spain to prosecute the war against Sex. Pompey. He was there at the time of Caesar's death. He took no part in the war between Antony and the senate; but when Antony was joined by Lepidus and Octavian in 43, Pollio espoused their cause, and persuaded L. Plancus in Gaul to follow his example. In the division of the provinces among the triumvirs, Antony received the Gauls. The administration, of Transpadane Gaul was committed to Pollio by Antony. It was on this occasion that he saved the property of the poet Virgil at Mantua from confiscation, when he took him under his protection through his love of literature. In the year 40, Pollio took an active part in effecting a reconciliation between Antony and Octavian. After further military campaigns he withdrew from political life and devoted himself to literature. He died at his Tusculan villa in 4 CE, at the age of 80.

Pollio deserves a very distinguished place in the history of Roman literature, not so much on account of his works, which were marred by an affected archaism, as because of the encouragement and incentive that he gave to literature. He was not only a patron of Virgil, Horace, and other great writers and poets, but he has the honor of being the first person to establish a public library at Rome. He wrote tragedies which Virgil declared to be worthy of Sophocles, and a prose history of the civil wars of his time from the first triumvirate to the death of Caesar.

In body and stature he was large. He was of dark complexion and plain appearance, and of variable health, for he suffered much from stomach pains and throat pains and head pains.[The last clause of this sentence ("for he suffered much from stomach pains and throat pains and head pains") is not in the German edition of the .] Augustus granted him whatever he asked. For many years he sent liberal amounts of gold to his parents for their support. When he was grown up he lost them.[This last sentence is not in the German edition of the .] He wrote many things: the Priapea, the Culex, and the Moretum; then the Bucolics; afterwards, the Georgics in honor of Maecenas (Mecenatis); and lastly, the Aeneid.[In place of this long list of specific works written by Virgil, the German edition of the simply states that "He wrote many works of poetry."] At the age of 52 he died at Brundusium. His remains were taken to Naples and buried there on the Via Puteolana under a stone on which is inscribed: Mantua gave birth to me, Calabria took me away (i.e., killed me). Now Parthenope holds me. I have sung of shepherds, fields, and leaders.

Virgil (Virgilius, or Maro P. Virgilius), the Roman poet, was born October 15th 70 BCE at Andes (Pietola) a small village near Mantua in Cisalpine Gaul. His father had a small estate that he cultivated; his mother's name was Maia. Virgil was educated at Cremona and Milan. It is said he later studied at Naples and learned Greek; also at Rome. His writings showed learning. His health was always feeble, and there is no evidence of an attempt to rise by those means through which a Roman gained distinction—public office and the military. Having completed his education he retired to his paternal farm.

He worked on his Aeneid for a long time, and it was still unfinished at the time of his death in the year 19; for which reason, in his last illness he wished to burn his manuscript, but his friends would not permit him to do so. He had been enriched by the liberality of his patrons, used his wealth liberally, and made his excellent library easy of access. He sent liberal sums to his parents every year. In his fortune and his friends Virgil was a happy man, and his learned poems gave employment to many commentators and critics; for Virgil is one of the most difficult of Latin authors, not so much because of his style, but from the great variety of knowledge required to attain his meaning in all its fullness.

The last sentence of this paragraph, which cites the inscription purportedly found on Virgil's gravestone, is not in the German edition of the Chronicle. Instead, that translation simply reads: "and his grave was marked by a monument."

The entire paragraph on Virgil is, to a large extent, a very significant abridgment of Suetonius' Life of Virgil, a work attributed to Suetonius and found in Donatus' commentary.

Horace (Horacius), a very much-praised poet, was born at Venusia, of a father who was a freedman. He was a person of short stature, and learned in the liberal arts. Afterwards he became the most esteemed man in Athens. He attained the friendship of Marcus Brutus, who slew Caesar, and who made him a military tribune against M. Antony and Augustus; but when Brutus was defeated in battle, he fled from the disaster. Augustus later pardoned him at the instance of Maecenas. Having been freed, he then devoted himself to poetry, of which he wrote the Odes, the Ars Poetica (The Art of Poetry), and the Epistles.[The German edition of the does not list specific works by Horace, but simply states: "He wrote many works of poetry." ] After acquiring great wealth by his hightest learning he died at Rome, making Augustus his heir. And he died at the age of 63, and was buried with Maecenas.[Horace (Q. Horatio Flaccus), the poet, was born December 8th, 65 BCE, at Venusia, in Apulia. His father was a libertinus ('freedman'). He had received his manumission before the birth of the poet. When twelve years of age his father took him to Rome to receive the usual education of a knight's or senator's son, which he could not attain at home. He frequented the best schools in the capital and was instructed in Greek and Latin. At 18 he continued his studies at Athens, and when Brutus came there after the death of Caesar, Horace was given the rank of military tribune and command of a legion. He was present at the battle of Philippi, and shared in the flight of the republican army. Thereafter he devoted himself to more peaceful pursuits, and having been pardoned, he returned to Rome. His paternal estate had been swept away in the general forfeiture, but he was able to purchase a clerkship on the profits of which he was able to live in frugality. Meanwhile, however, some of his poems attracted Varius and Maecenas, and the friendship thus formed soon ripened into intimacy. In 34 Maecenas bestowed on Horace a Sabine farm, sufficient to maintain him in ease and contentment the rest of his life. Even Augustus favored him as a poet. Horace died November 17th, 8 BCE, at the age of 57. His death was so sudden that he had no time to make a will, but he left the administration of his affairs to Augustus, whom he made his heir. According to his own description, Horace was short of stature, eyes dark, hair dark but ringed with gray. In his youth he was tolerably robust, but suffered from an ailment of the eyes. In advanced years he became fat and Augustus teased him for his proturbent belly. He was rather careless in dress, frugal even after he became rich, though he seems to have indulged in conviviality.]


The three suns, which appeared after the death of Julius Caesar, are shown in one woodcut, side by side, each blazing forth to portend the dire events to follow.


The desruction of the Library at Alexandria is represented by a bonfire of venerable tomes heaped up promiscuously.