The Chronography of 354
, also known as the Calendar of 354
, was a 4th century illuminated manuscript
, which was produced in 354 AD for a wealthy Roman Christian named Valentius. It is the earliest dated codex
to have full page illustrations. None of the original has survived. The term Calendar of Filocalus
is sometimes used to describe the whole collection, and sometimes just the sixth part, which is the Calendar itself. Other versions of the names ("Philocalus", "Codex-Calendar of 354") may be used. The text and illustrations are available online. Amongst other historically significant information, the work contains the earliest reference to the celebration of Christmas
as a holiday or feast.
Transmission from antiquity
The text and illustrations are known only through copies, mostly copies of copies. The most complete and faithful of these are pen drawings in a 17th century manuscript
from the Barberini
collection (Vatican Library
, cod. Barberini lat. 2154) which were carefully copied from a Carolingian
copy, which was itself lost in the 17th century, under the supervision of the great antiquary Nicholas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc
. These drawings, although they are twice removed from the originals, show the variety of sources that the earliest illuminators used as models for manuscript illustration, including metalwork, frescoes, and floor mosaics. The Roman originals were probably fully painted miniatures.
Various partial copies or adaptations survive from the Carolingian renaissance and Renaissance periods. Botticelli adapted a figure of the city of Treberis (Trier) who grasps a bound barbarian by the hair for his small panel, traditionally called Pallas and the Centaur.
The Vatican Barberini manuscript, made in 1620 for Peiresc, who had the manuscript on long-term loan, is clearly the most faithful. After Peiresc's death, the Carolingian manuscript (a Codex Luxemburgensis) disappeared. However some folios had already been lost from the Codex Luxemburgensis before Peiresc received it, and other copies have some of these. The suggestion of Carl Nordenfalk that the Codex Luxemburgensis copied by Peiresc was actually the Roman original has not been accepted. Peiresc himself thought the manuscript was seven or eight hundred years old when he had it, and, though Mabillon had not yet published his De re diplomatica (1681), the first systematic work of paleography, most scholars, following Schapiro, believe Peiresc would have been able to make a correct judgement on its age. For a full list of manuscripts with copies after the originals, see the external link.
Furius Dionysius Filocalus was the leading scribe or calligrapher of the period, and possibly also executed the original miniatures. His name is on the dedication page. He was also a Christian, living in a moment that lay on the cusp between a pagan and a Christian Roman Empire.
The Chronography, like all Roman calendars, is as much an almanac as a calendar; it includes various texts and lists, including elegant allegorical depictions of the months. It also includes the important Liberian Catalogue, a list of Popes, and the Calendar of Filocalus or Philocalus, also known as the Philocalian Calendar, from which copies of eleven miniatures survive. Among other information, it contains the earliest reference to Christmas (see Part 12 below) and the dates of Roman Games, with their number of chariot-races.
The contents are as follows (from the Barberini Ms. unless stated). All surviving miniatures are full-page, often combined with some text in various ways:
- Part 1: title page and dedication - 1 miniature
- Part 2: images of the personifications of the cities of Rome, Alexandria, Constantinople and Trier - 4 miniatures
- Part 3: images of the emperors and the birthdays of the Caesars - 2 miniatures
- Part 4: images of the seven planets with a calendar of the hours - 5 surviving miniatures. Copies of the emblemmatic drawings appear in a Carolingian text that portrays Mercury and Venus in heliocentric orbits.
- Part 5: the signs of the Zodiac - no miniatures surviving in this manuscript; four in other copies
- Part 6: the Filocalian calendar - seven miniatures of personifications of the Months in this MS; the full set appears in other copies (on December 25th "N·INVICTI·CM·XXX" - "Birthday of the unconquered, games ordered, thirty races" - is the oldest literary reference to the pagan feast of Sol Invictus)
- Part 7: consular portraits of the emperors - 2 miniatures (the last in the MS)
- Part 8: list (fasti) of the consuls to 354 AD
- Part 9: the dates of Easter from 312 AD to 411 AD
- Part 10: list of the prefects of the city of Rome from 254 to 354 AD
- Part 11: commemoration dates of past popes from 255 to 352 AD
- Part 12: commemoration dates of the martyrs, which begins with "VIII kal. Ian. natus Christus in Betleem Iudeae" ("Eighth day before the kalends of January [December 25], Birth of Christ in Bethlehem Judea")
- Part 13: bishops of Rome, the Liberian Catalogue
- Part 14: The 14 regions of the City
- Part 15: ...
- Part 16: Chronicle of the City of Rome (a list of rulers with short comments)
- Weitzmann, Kurt. Late Antique and Early Christian Book Illumination. New York: George Braziller, 1977.
- Salzman, Michele Renee. On Roman Time : The Codex-Calendar of 354 and the Rhythms of Urban Life in Late Antiquity (The Transformation of the Classical Heritage 17). Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991.