The manuscript Marcianus Graecus Z. 454 (= 822), known to Homeric scholars as the Venetus A, is the oldest complete text of the Iliad in existence. It was acquired by the Greek Cardinal Basileus Bessarion in the 15th century CE and donated together with his entire collection of Greek manuscripts to the Republic of Venice, thereby forming the Marciana library’s initial collection. It is vellum, and was constructed at the end of the 10th century CE. Its size is 39.5cm by 28.5/29cm, with 327 leaves. Several items have been added to the manuscript by later hands, including some short glosses in the exterior margins and between the lines of the poem. A typical folio in the Venetus A contain 25 lines of Homeric text, surrounded on all sides by up to five distinct sets of scholia (marginal, intermarginal, interior, exterior, and interlinear). Main scholia are coordinated with the text via lemmata (short quotations of the relevant text), while the other scholia are linked primarily by relative placement. Other texts of the Venetus A include: excerpts from Proclus’ Chrestomathy (the “Life of Homer” and summaries of all of the poems of the now lost Epic Cycle except the Cypria) and Aristonicus’ work On the signs of Aristarchus. Painted around this text and in one case over it are illuminations from the twelfth century CE. These illuminations depict mythological scenes from the Judgment of Paris up to the fighting of the Trojan War. The text also notably includes critical signs, which are associated with the edition and commentary of Aristarchus.
- Dué, C. and M. Ebbott. An introduction to the Homer Multitext edition of the Venetus A manuscript of the Iliad. The Homer Multitext, first published 2014.
Venetus A images
- Imaging the Iliad: A Digital Renaissance: a documentary about the process of photographing the Venetus A manuscript.
Related publications and scholarship
- Iliad 10 and the Poetics of Ambush by Casey Dué and Mary Ebbott. This book includes both a textual commentary on the Venetus A text of Iliad 10 and a poetic commentary on its action and language.
- Dué, Casey, ed. Recapturing a Homeric Legacy: Images and Insights from the Venetus A Manuscript of the Iliad. Center for Hellenic Studies, 2009. (Pdf available here.)
- Articles on the Venetus A from the Homer Multitext blog