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

The Tiburtine Sibyl (Sibilla Tiburtina), the foremost seeress, also called Albunea, flourished in Italy and prophesied many things. She was revered as a goddess in the city of Tibur (Tiburre), on the banks of the river Anio (Amonis), and was therefore called Tiburtina. In the whirlpool of the same river was found her image with a book in her hand. Augustus Octavian (whom the Romans accorded divine honors) asked this sibyl for advice; and after she had fasted for three days, she spoke of the sign of judgment, and of the moistening of the earth with sweat, and of how the future king would come from heaven; and there are 27 verses, of which the last is: a downpour of fire and sulphur would fall from the sky. The capital letters of this verse express (by that same testimony) the meaning: Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior. When she thus spoke in the presence of Augustus the heavens opened, and a great light fell upon him; and he saw in the heavens a most beautiful virgin standing on an altar, and carrying a little child; and at the same time he heard a voice saying: This altar is that of the Son of God. And as Augustus saw and heard all this in his bedchamber, he fell upon the earth and prayed to God. Therefore Augustus refused to permit himself to be called a god afterwards. In commemoration of this event a temple was erected at this place, under the name of the Holy Virgin Mary in Aracoeli (Ara Celi); and there the Brothers of the Order of the Blessed Francis now live. Others describe her (Mary) as not old, and as wearing a red dress, a rough pelt upon her shoulders, with flowing tresses, and holding this script in her hand: Christ will be born at Bethlehem, and will be proclaimed in Nazareth, while Thaurus, the founder of peace reigns. O happy is the mother whose breasts will nurse him.[Tibur (Tiburs, pl. Tiburtes, Tiburtinus), now Tivoli, is one of the most ancient towns in Latium, 16 miles northeast of Rome. It is situated on the slope of a hill (and so called by Horace supinum Tiber), on the left bank of the Anio, which here forms a magnificent waterfall. It was said to have been originally built by the Siculi, and to have afterwards passed into the possession of the Aborigines and Pelasgi. According to tradition, it derived its name from Tiburtus, son of Catillus, who emigrated from Greece with Evander. It was afterwards one of the chief towns of the Latin league, and became subject to Rome with the other Latin cities on the final subjugation of Latium in 338 BCE. Under the Romans Tibur continued to be a large and flourishing town, since the salubrity and beautiful scenery of the place led many of the most distinguished Roman nobles to build their magnificent villas here. Of these the most splendid was that of Hadrian. Horace had a country house in the neighborhood of Tibur. In the vicinity was also a grove with the fountain and temple of the Sibyl Albunea, whose oracles were consulted from the most ancient times. This fountain was the largest of the Albulae aquae, sulphurous springs, which flow into the Anio. Near it was the oracle of Faunus Fatidicus. The temple is still extant at Tivoli. ]

Miraculous signs occurred at the birth of Christ. A fountain of oil (as Eutropius and others testify) from a reputable tavern at Rome in the Trestevere (Transtiberina) quarter flowed forth for an entire day, announcing the mercy of Christ given to all peoples. Also on that day a golden circle appeared about the sun; and the statue of Romulus and the temple of peace fell.

Publius Ovidius Naso (Ovid), from Sulmo, a highly renowned poet, flourished at Rome during this period, and he wrote many works. He was a native of Sulmo, a town of the Bruttii (Bruciorum), as he himself reports: Sulmo is my fatherland, so rich in icy rivers, 90 miles from the city.[Ovid, 4.10.3-4. This sentence is not in the German edition of the .] At Athens he first studied extremely well the field of poetry and then the field of philosophy. Coming to Rome he was very much valued by Augustus Caesar for his life and his poetry. But long afterwards, in his 50th year, by this same Augustus he was banished to the island of Pontus to dwell among the Samartians. Concerning this he says in his book On the Pontus: Master Naso, without much prudence, while he was passing on the art of loving, now has the prize for his sad teaching.[Ovid, 2.10.15. This sentence is not in the German edition of the .] His character was as good-natured as his poems. He died at the age of 54 in the 5th year of the emperor Tiberius Caesar.[Ovid (P. Ovidius Naso), the Roman poet, was born at Sulmo, in the country of the Peligni, on March 20th, 43 BCE. He was descended from an ancient equestrian family of only moderate wealth. He was destined to be a lawyer, and was carefully educated for that purpose. But the hours which should have been spent in the study of law were devoted to poetry. He completed his education at Athens, thoroughly mastering Greek. He married twice in early life at the desire of his parents, but speedily divorced each wife in turn. By a third wife a daughter was born to him, who grew up and was married at the time of his banishment. Until his 50th year Ovid resided at Rome. He not only enjoyed the friendship of a large circle of distinguished men, but was regarded with favor by Augustus and the imperial family. But in 9 CE Ovid was suddenly banished by an imperial edict to transport himself to Tomi on the Euxine (Black Sea), on the very border of the empire. He had no trial, and the sole reason given in the edict was his having published his poem on the and for his committing an error (‘mistake' or ‘error'); but the first reason must have been a mere pretext as the poem had appeared ten years before. According to some the real cause was his intrigue with Julia, the accomplished but sexually free daughter of Augustus. Yet this is refuted by the fact that she had been in exile since 2 BCE. Others supposed his offense to have been with the younger Julia, granddaughter of Augustus, who was banished in the same year with Ovid. Speaking of his exile, Ovid draws an affecting picture. He complains of the inhospitable soil, the severity of the climate, the perils to which he was exposed when barbarians plundered the surrounding country and assaulted the very walls of Tomi. Here he died in 18 CE at the age of 60.]

Titus Livius (Livy) of Padua, a great prince of the Greek and Latin historians, was famous at Rome in the 16th year before the coming of Christ. Of him Saint Jerome, quoting the words of Pliny, writes: We read that certain noble persons came from the furthest ends of Spain and of Gaul to Titus Livius (whose eloquence was) flowing like a fountain of milk, and that Rome did not attract them to look upon itself, but the fame of one man led them there. That age had something unheard of to all other ages, something that was a very famous miracle: that people who had come to so great a city were looking for something that wasn't the city.[The citation from Jerome is taken from his (‘Letter of Saint Jerome to Paulinus the Bishop') 1.2-4.] This man was honored with honors and with rich possessions by Augustus. A most diligent investigator of history, he wrote 110 books of history. The greatest part of his works (by the evil of the times) was lost. He lived 80 years, and died at Padua in the fourth year of the reign of Tiberius and was buried there. And his grave is still to be seen in the divine vestibule of Saint Justina the Virgin, and is adorned with these titles: Ti. Livius. Ti. fi. quartae legionis Aliis Concordialis Patavi sibi et suis omnibus.

The titles given in the Chronicle text are an abbreviated and nearly indecipherable mess of what we know the inscription actually says (but which took many years for scholars to understand). Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology (vol. 2, pp. 790-1) has many fascinating things to say on this matter:

The memoirs of most men terminate with their death; but this is by no means the case with our historian, since some circumstances closely connected with what may be fairly termed his personal history, excited no small commotion in his native city many centuries after his decease. About the year 1360 a tablet was dug up at Padua, within the monastery of St. Justina, which occupied the site of an ancient temple of Jupiter, or of Juno, or of Concordia, according to the conflicting hypotheses of local antiquaries. The stone bore the following inscription, V. F. T. LIVIUS. LIVIAE. T. F. QUARTAE. L. HALYS. CONCORDIALIS . PATAVI. SIBI. ET. SUIS. OMNIBUS, which was at first interpreted to mean Vivus fecit Titus Livius Liviae Titi filiae quartae, (sc. uxori) Lucii Halys Concordialis Patavi sibi et suis omnibus. Some imagined that QUARTAE. L. HALYS denoted Quartae legionis Halys, but this opinion was overthrown without difficulty, because even at that time it was well known that L. is seldom if ever used in inscriptions as an abbreviation of legio, and secondly because the fourth legion was entitled Scythica and not Halys. It was then decided that quartae must indicate the fourth daughter of Livius, and that L. Halys must be the name of her husband; and ingenious persons endeavoured to show that in all probability he was identical with the L. Magius mentioned by Seneca. They also persuaded themselves that Livy, upon his return home, had been installed by his countrymen in the dignified office of priest of the goddess Concord, and had erected this monument within the walls of her sanctuary, marking the place of sepulture of himself and his family. At all events, whatever difficulties might seem to embarrass the explanation of some of the words and abbreviations in the inscription, no doubt seems for a moment to have been entertained that it was a genuine memorial of the historian. Accordingly, the Benedictine fathers of the monastery transported the tablet to the vestibule of their chapel, and caused a portrait of Livy to be painted beside it. In 1413, about fifty years after the discovery just described, in digging the foundations for the erection of new buildings in connection with the monastery, the workmen reached an ancient pavement composed of square bricks cemented with lime. This having been broken through, a leaden coffin became visible, which was found to contain human bones. An old monk declared that this was the very spot above which the tablet had been found, when immediately the cry rose that the remains of Livy had been brought to light, a report which filled the whole city with extravagant joy. The newfound treasure was deposited in the town hall, and to the ancient tablet a modern epitaph was affixed. At a subsequent period a costly monument was added as a further tribute to his memory. Here, it might have been supposed, these weary bones would at length have been permitted to rest in peace. But in 1451, Alphonso of Arragon preferred a request to the Paduans, that they would be pleased to bestow upon him the bone of Livy's right arm, in order that he might possess the limb by which the immortal narrative had been actually penned. This petition was at last complied with; but just as the valuable relic reached Naples, Alphonso died, and the Sicilian fell heir to the prize. Eventually it passed into the hands of Joannes Joviantis Pontanus, by whom it was enshrined with an appropriate legend. So far all was well. In the lapse of time, however, it was perceived upon comparing the tablet dug up in the monastery of St. Justina with others of a similar description, that the contractions had been erroneously explained, and consequently the whole tenor of the words misunderstood. It was clearly proved that L. did not stand for Lucius but for libertus, and that the principal person named was Titus Livius Halys, freedman of Livia, the fourth daughter of a Titus Livius, that he had in accordance with the usual custom adopted the designation of his former master, that he had been a priest of Concord at Padua, an office which it appeared from other records had often been filled by persons in his station, and that he had set up this stone to mark the burying-ground of himself and his kindred. Now since the supposition that the skeleton in the leaden coffin was that of the historian rested solely upon the authority of the inscription, when this support was withdrawn, the whole fabric of conjecture fell to the ground, and it became evident the relics were those of ah obscure freedman.

The German edition of the Chronicle does not cite the inscription.

And afterwards when his remains had been found, the Venetians, who had rebuilt the city's town hall that had been burned down, place them in the gable of it so as to be visible to all.[Livy (Titus Livius), Roman historian, was born at Patavium (Padua), Italy, in 59 BCE. The greater part of his life was spent in Rome, although he returned to his native city before his death, which occurred at the age of 76 in the fourth year of Tiberius, 17 CE. His literary talents secured the patronage and friendship of Augustus, and he became a person of consideration at court. His reputation rose so high that a Spaniard traveled from Cadiz to Rome just to behold him; and having gratified his curiosity, immediately returned home. The great and only extant work of Livy is a , which he calls (43.13), extending from the foundation of the city to the death of Drusus in 69 BCE, comprising 142 books. Of these only 35 have come down to us, but of the whole, with the exception of 2, we possess , drawn up by one who must have been well acquainted with the subject. The style of Livy is indeed like that of ‘thick milk', for the narrative flows on strongly but calmly; rich, but not heavy, simple but not tame.]

Valerius Maximus, a Roman natural philosopher and very distinguished orator, was famous at Rome in the 15th year before the coming of Christ, and was very dear to the emperor Augustus. Among other things he wrote nine books in a very clear and brilliant style consisting of memorable sayings and deeds of men that were esteemed among the Greeks and Romans, adding also his own thoughts pertaining to the commendation of the virtues and the condemnation of vices. From these we excerpt this memorable thought: Divine anger proceeds with a slow step to avenge itself, but it makes up for its tardiness by the severity of the punishment.[Valerius Maximus is known to us as the compiler of a large collection of historical anecdotes, (‘Nine Books of Memorable Deeds and Sayings'), arranged under different headings. And again, under each heading the sayings and doings of celebrated Romans are kept distinct from those of foreigners. He lived in the reign of Tiberius, to whom he dedicated his work, which was very popular in the Middle Ages.]

We gather from his books that Solinus flourished as a historian and very distinguished orator of that time; for he himself wrote a very good book of things he had brought together, and which he dedicated to Augustus Caesar at Rome. In it he maps out the world, gives the distances of cities, and measures many places. And he called that book The Collection, that is, On the Wonders of the World.[C. Julius Solinus, author of a geographical compendium, divided into 57 chapters, must have lived after the reign of Alexander Severus, and before that of Constantine. He may perhaps be placed about 238 CE. His compendium contains a brief sketch of the world as known to the ancients, diversified by historical notices, remarks on the origin, habits, religious rites and social condition of various nations enumerated. The arrangement, and frequently the very words, are derived from the of Pliny; but little knowledge, care, or judgment are displayed in the selection.]


This woodcut tells the legend of the Tiburtine Sibyl (Sibilla Thiburana) and Caesar Augustus (Octavianus). The prophetess holds the center of the stage, and behind her stands a lady, apparently her attendant or maid. The Sibyl has just made the pronouncement and conjured forth for the benefit of the emperor a vision of the Virgin Mary with the Christ-child in her arms, the mother and child being surrounded by a brilliant blaze, in the face of which Augustus (also accompanied by an attendant) has sunk to his knees in an attitude of adoration, and having removed his crown has set it on the ground before him. The miracle occurs in a hilly country and apparently beside a stream, which we may imagine to be the Anio on the left bank of which the city of Tibur was located.