History of Byzantium
This Greek manuscript on parchment dating from the 12th to the 13th centuries is one of the most valuable codices in the National Library of Spain, treasured for the richness of its illumination. The work, by Ioannes Scylitza (flourished 1081), is a history of the Byzantine emperors from 811 to 1057, covering events from the proclamation of Michael I Rangabe in 811 to the reign of Michael VI in 1056–57. The manuscript contains 577 miniatures by different artists. Most of the scenes are accompanied by a caption that explains their meaning. The miniatures illustrate the passages in the text, and include views of fortresses, war scenes, scenes of life at court, depictions of corporal punishments, and other more refined and delicate scenes of a religious nature, such as baptisms and the ordination of patriarchs. The first illuminations, in clear tones, are distinguished by their simplicity and the realism of the figures. These are followed by complex scenes drawn with rough lines, sometimes with grotesque traits of naturalism, followed by larger compositions of vigorous and vivacious design, with simple costumes, well-modeled bodies, and realism in the popular types. The manuscript was probably written in Palermo, Sicily. It belonged to the monastery of San Salvador de Faro de Messina until the end of the 16th century, when it passed to the cathedral at Messina. In 1690, it became the property of the dukes of Uceda, until Philip V confiscated the rich ducal library, after which it came into the custody of the National Library in Madrid.
Title in Original Language
Type of Item
234 folios : parchment
Last updated: February 12, 2013