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Western Medieval Manuscripts : Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War

Western Medieval Manuscripts

<p style='text-align: justify;'>This paper manuscript dating from the 15th century comprises a copy of <i>Thucydides, <i>History of the Peloponnesian War</i></i> and three prefixed pieces concerning the work and life of the Athenian historian. The text of the History ends with an anonymous epigram in elegiac verses taken from the Palatine Anthology.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The scribe of the manuscript has been identified as Demetrios Angelos, a Byzantine humanist and physician in the hospital of the Xenon of the Kral, in Constantinople. Angelos was among those scholars who chose to remain in the city following its capture by the Turks in May 1453 and thus did not take part in the important waves of migration to Italy. He is known to have purchased, gathered or copied numerous manuscripts and is thought to have been active from the second quarter of the 15th century as a pupil of Johannes Argyropulus (1416-1486) until 1476.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The approximately thirty works he copied not only cover medicine and philosophy, but also history, in which he showed a profound interest. He left annotations in other manuscripts of Thucydides such as <a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href=''>Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, grec 1636</a> and is suspected by some scholars to have owned and studied <a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href=''>Vatican City, Bibliotheca Apostolica Vaticana, Ottobonianus gr. 211</a>, which is, textually speaking, very closely related to Kk.5.19.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Another manuscript of Thucydides, <a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href=''> Florence, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Plut. 69.16</a> was also copied by Demetrios Angelos. It actually sheds some light on several aspects of the Cambridge manuscript: on the first leaf of the Florentine one, Angelos left a note in which he confesses that he finds Thucydides’ work difficult to understand. That detail may explain why, in the Cambridge manuscript, he felt the need to add in the lower margin two sketches depicting descriptive passages of the text which he might have found hard to picture (ff. <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(120);return false;'>57v</a>, <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(159);return false;'>77r</a>).</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The first sketch in the Cambridge manuscript, on f. 57v, representing the Phaleric Walls, which used to join the city of Athens and the harbour of Phalerum, has a counterpart on f. 57r of the Florence manuscript. The second sketch however, illustrating the fortifications of the city of Plataea, is only present in the Cambridge manuscript (f. 77r).</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>This manuscript also counts among the several witnesses of our copyist’s taste for one specific epigram of the Palatine Anthology about Thucydides (<i>Anthologia Palatina</i> ix, 583). Although he is not the only one to have made use of that epigram as a refined way to conclude the work of the Athenian historian, it seems to occupy a great importance in his copies. Indeed, he not only inscribed the poem in red-ink letters in our manuscript, but also copied it five times successively at the end of the Florence manuscript. He even added his own corrections to the epigram in the aforementioned BnF grec 1636, and, in some of his own copies of Galen’s works, he transformed the content, regardless of the metre, in order to adapt the epigram to the famous physician and the subject of medicine (see: <a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href=''> Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, grec 2154</a> and <a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href=''> Vatican City, Bibliotheca Apostolica Vaticana, Urbinas gr. 67</a>).</p>

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