The digitized editions of Pelagonius in the BIU Santé

Presentation by Valérie Gitton-Ripoll
Toulouse 2 University

 Liste des ouvrages numérisés

Pelagonius’s Ars ueterinaria, a Latin treatise on hippiatrics (horse medicine), was published in the middle of the 4th century AD, probably under Emperor Julian (1). Written as a series of letters, it addressed the owners of the horses that were used in chariot races (equi generosi) and suggested treatments that could be implemented in the uilla (i.e. that implied little or no surgery). The treatise is a collection of texts from older Latin and Greek authors such as Celsius, Columella, Apsyrtus and others on whom we know next to nothing today. It was widely used by Vegetius in his Mulomedicina, then fell into oblivion during the Middle Ages, but it reappeared in the 15th century, when it was cited by Léon Baptista Alberti (Le cheval vivant [The Living Horse], around 1445); Politian then read and studied it, and had a manuscript of it collated in 1485 – a copy we still have today.

It is only in the 19th century though that interest for this particular author was rekindled. The princeps edition was made by Guiseppe Sarchiani in 1826 (2); it reproduces Politian’s manuscript, which is kept in the library of Florence (Codex Riccardianus 1179, labeled R). It is a very good manuscript, with a subscriptio by the famous humanist, who declares he had it copied "from a fairly old original text," apparently a medieval manuscript deemed to date back to the very early Middle Ages; it features three quarters of the text we have today. This very carefully produced copy is to this day the longest and best manuscript we have, and most of the recent editions are based on it. Sarchiani proposes an integral edition of this text, without any corrections (we would call it today a "diplomatic" edition); a few footnotes rectify the most blatant mistakes and explain the abbreviations. The edition is followed with a translation into Italian, which happens to be the only Italian version of this text to be available today (3). Sarchiani was frequently unable to translate the names of the ingredients (plants and minerals), on which few studies had been made at the time, and he left them in Latin or mentioned them in footnotes.

A second manuscript was discovered and edited by Joseph von Eichenfeld in 1824 under the title "Fragmente lateinischer Hippiatrika" (4); apparently, Sarchiani was unaware of this publication. This palimpsest manuscript comes from the monastery in Bobbio (labeled Bo) and is now kept in Naples National Library (Neapolitanus latinus 2). The ars ueterinaria was written in uncial letters in the first half of the 6th century, and then covered by works from Jerome and Augustine. This manuscript therefore contains only a few pages from the whole treatise. As is the case for all palimpsests, it is difficult to read, and the upper and lower parts of the pages are missing.

We owe the first Teubner edition to Maximilien Ihm in 1892 (Leipzig) (5). This is the first modern scientific edition, along with apparatus criticus, introduction and notes. It takes into account the two manuscripts Bo and R, and presents a unified, classicized text (with normalized spelling), with numerous corrections. The Latin text is followed with fragments from the Greek Hippiatrica, which is a bit disconcerting at first. The Hippiatrica gather together all that is left of Greek hippiatrics, which must have been represented, just as Latin hippiatrics, by various authors whose names have come to us – Eumelus, Theomnestos, Apsyrtus, Hierocles, etc – but whose original texts have been lost. They were indeed collated during the Byzantine period, as excerpts, in a collection that regrouped them by topics (i.e. by diseases), and not by author anymore (6). Pelagonius is the only Latin author whose texts were translated and included among those of Greek authors, which led some to believe that he had initially written his treatise in Greek. This Greek translation presents the advantage of featuring passages by Pelagonius whose Latin original version has been lost. This is why Ihm, as well as all the editors after him, included it at the end of his edition.

A new Teubner edition was published in 1980, elaborated by Klaus-Dietrich Fischer, who used Ihm’s edition, but changed the spelling to be closer to that of the manuscripts. K.-D. Fischer enlarged the commentary and the list of Greek fragments, which led him to change the numbering; he added in the apparatus a list of loci similes, a very precious feature in this field in which numerous texts come from compilations. When he saw the serious differences between the text given by R and that of Bo, he chose not to give one single interpretation, but to edit separately the two versions (following in that respect the example of Oder and Hoppe, who gave separately the texts of the main manuscripts when they edited the CHG).

Two other manuscripts have been discovered after the publication of the two Teubners: the manuscript of Einsiedeln (Einsidlensis 304) (7) and the manuscript of Verona (Veronensis 658) (8). Both will be integrated in the next CUF edition.


1 Valérie Gitton-Ripoll, « Contribution de la prosopographie à une possible datation de l’Ars veterinaria de Pélagonius » [A Contribution of prosopography to a tentative datation of Pelagonius’s Ars Veterinaria], Revue de Philologie LXXIX, 1, p. 69-93.
2 Pelagonii veterinaria ex Richardiano codice excripta et a mendis purgata ab Josepho Sarchianio nunc primum edita, Florence, 1826.
3 Karl Wilberg used Ihm’s edition to translate Pelagonius into German for his dissertation on veterinary medicine: Die Pferdeheilkunde des Pelagonius, Berlin, 1943.
4 Joseph von Eichenfeld, « Fragmente lateinischer Hippiatrika », Jahrbücher der Literatur, Vienna, 26, 1824, p. 25-34.
5 Pelagonii artis veterinariae quae extant. Recensuit praefatus commentatus est Maximilianus Ihm, Leipzig, 1892.
6 The modern edition is the Corpus Hippiatricorum Graecorum, ed. Eugen Oder and Karl Hoppe, Leipzig, 1924 (volume I) and 1927 (volume II).
7 A diplomatic edition of this manuscript was made by Pierre-Paul Corsetti in 1989: « Un nouveau témoin de l’Ars veterinaria de Pélagonius » [New evidence concerning Pelagonius’s Ars Veterinaria], Revue d’Histoire des Textes, XIX, p. 31-57; and a commented edition was made by Valérie Gitton-Ripoll, Pélagonius, Ars veterinaria, PhD dissertation, volume I, Lyon, 1999.
8 Vincenzo Ortoleva, « Un nuovo testimone frammentario di Pelagonio e alcune considerazioni sulla tradizione manoscritta e sul testo dell’Ars veterinaria », Res Publica Litterarum 21, 1998, p. 13-44.