Epigrams in the picture: World Animal Day

Posted on 04/10/2020

Today is World Animal Day, an international day of action for animal rights and welfare, which aims to mobilize us to make the world a better place for all animals. 🌍 🐯

The animal world has always sparked admiration and interest among us humans and many zoological works have seen the light. One of the most important works in this field from the Byzantine period is a zoological handbook compiled around the year 950, attributed to emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogenitos. It includes excerpts from, among others, Aristotle, Timotheus of Gaza and Aelian, following the structure of Aristophanes of Byzantium’s Epitome. Only two of the four books have been preserved, the first of which can be found in the 14th century manuscript Par. suppl. gr. 495, preceded by the following epigram:


✒️ Ζῴων ἔθη νομάς τε καὶ φύσεις ἅμα
τῶν γηγενῶν πτηνῶν τε καὶ θαλαττίων
ἄναξ ὁ πιστὸς καὶ σοφὸς Κωνσταντῖνος
συνῆξε λεπταῖς ὧδε τοῦ νοῦ φροντίσιν.


📖 I costumi, le specie e le nature
degli animali di terra, di cielo e di mare,
il pio e saggio principe Costantino
raccolse qui con fine discernimento.

🌐 https://www.dbbe.ugent.be/types/5719


DBBE also features many manuscripts with depictions of all sorts of animals (e.g. birds 🐦, fishes 🐠, lions 🦁, horses 🐎, wolves 🐺 and roe deers 🦌), some of which adorn a book epigram or are accompanied by one. Browse the photo collection below, marvel at the manifold animal illuminations and discover the book epigrams they contain (through the link behind each picture). 🔍

Patmos, Mone tou Hagiou Ioannou tou Theologou 33 (f. 2r)
Patmos, Mone tou Hagiou Ioannou tou Theologou 33 (f. 2v)
London, British Library, Add. 19352 (f. 189v)















New York, Pierpont Morgan Library M.397 (f. 6r)
Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, gr. 2244 (f. 74v)