Boethius’s “Commentaries on Cicero's ‘Topics’” and Other Astronomical Treatises


This miscellany contains the following works: Commentarii in Ciceronis Topica (Commentaries on Cicero's “Topics”), by Boethius; the famous Somnium Scipionis (ex libris VI De re publica) (The dream of Scipio, book six from “The Republic”), by Cicero; Commentarii in Ciceronis Somnium Scipionis (Commentaries on Cicero’s “The Dream of Scipio”), by Macrobius; Naturalis historia, ex libris II (excerpta Eboracensia) (Natural history, Book two with York excerpts), by Pliny the Elder; and Epistola de ratione horologii (Letter on time reckoning). In the Middle Ages, the commentary by Macrobius, a late-Roman philosopher and grammarian, was often illustrated with what are called zonal maps. Folio 74 recto of this codex contains a beautiful example of this type of map, based on the description of the world by the Greek grammarian and philosopher Crates of Mallus (active second century BC). Crates divided the world into five zones. The middle zone could not be inhabited because of excessive heat; the two outer zones also were uninhabitable because of extreme cold. Only the two temperate zones between the outer zones were considered inhabitable, especially the northern zone, which constituted the then-known world (Oikumene). As shown on this map, the world consists of four isolated continents: “Europa,” “Africa,” and "Arabia", as well as “Terra incognita” or the unknown, hitherto unexplored world. The zonal map in this volume is unusually detailed: it contains topographic details such as the names of a few countries, seas, and cities. Next to the city of Rome is a drawing of a building which can be identified as Castel Sant'Angelo.

Subject Date


Title in Original Language

Commentarii in Ciceronis Topica/Boethuis. Somnium Scipionis, ex lib. VI De re publica/M. Tullius Cicero. Commentarii in Ciceronis Somnium Scipionis/Macrobius. Naturalis historia, ex lib. II (excerpta Eboracensia)/C. Plinius Secundus. Epistola de ratione horologii

Type of Item

Physical Description

85 folios : parchment ; 28 x 20.5 centimeters


  • BSB shelfmark: Clm 6362

Last updated: April 23, 2015