The First Decade of “Ab Urbe Condita” (From the Foundation of Rome)


Titus Livius (circa 59 BC‒17 AD), commonly known in English as Livy, was the most important Roman historian before Tacitus. He made no lasting impact on the European Middle Ages, but he became one of the favorite authors of the Renaissance humanists, who paid tribute to him in the form of a multitude of splendid manuscripts. The parchment manuscript presented here, consisting of 216 leaves, is the first of three volumes and is a typical product of the Florentine Renaissance. Each of its volumes contains one of the surviving “decades” of Livy's major work, the monumental history of Ancient Rome commonly referred to as Ab Urbe Condita (From the foundation of Rome), about a quarter of which survives. The work is structured in ten books (called decades). The first decade, presented here, covers the period from the legendary founding of Rome, involving Aeneas, Romulus, and Remus, to the third Samnite war, circa 290 BC. Piero Strozzi wrote the text in his elegant hand; the decoration originates from an unknown workshop. This manuscript of Livy is also living proof of the Italian-inspired flowering of Hungarian humanism in the time of the Hunyadi king Matthias Corvinus (reigned 1458‒90), whose former tutor, János Vitéz, archbishop of Esztergom (1408‒72), commissioned the manuscript. His successor, who became archbishop of Salzburg in 1476, took it with him to Salzburg. In 1801 it was removed to Paris by the French as war booty. In 1815, at the conclusion of the Napoleonic wars, the manuscript had to be handed over to Bavaria, to which Salzburg at that time belonged.

Last updated: December 20, 2017