In slightly less than a thousand lines, the poem describes the conflict of vices and virtues as a battle in the style of Virgil 's Aeneid. Christian faith is attacked by and defeats pagan idolatry to be cheered by a thousand Christian martyrs. The work was extremely popular, and survives in many medieval manuscripts, 20 of them illustrated. The word may be used more generally for the common theme of the "battle between good and evil", for example in sculpture. The plot consists of the personified virtues of Hope, Sobriety, Chastity, Humility, etc.
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It describes the battle between the vices and virtues for the Christian soul. Prudentius was a 5th-century Roman, Christian poet who lived in the province of Tarraconensis now northern Spain. He worked as an administrator and official, but towards the end of his life he retreated from public service and devoted himself to composing verse.
He wrote several works, but arguably his most influential was the Psychomachia. Prudentius embodies the culture of the late Roman Empire — he made use of a rich classical inheritance and pressed it into the service of Christian, didactic literature.
The Psychomachia comprises lines of dactylic hexameters, the standard verse form of classical Latin literature. The battles between the vices and virtues, therefore, read like the martial battles between the heroes of the great classical epics. The Psychomachia survives in around manuscripts. This version was made in a monastery associated with the Benedictine Reform movement. The manuscript is illustrated with beautiful line drawings which are touched with colour in some places.
The drawings are simple, but the artist has given them depth by depicting the figures protruding over the edges of their frames and into the space of the viewer. Note, in particular, the fluid drapery and the exquisite patterned detail of the foliage.
View a full set of images of the digitised manuscript. Public Domain in most countries other than the UK. David Crystal charts the evolution of Old English through the years during which it was written and spoken.
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Who was Prudentius? What is the Psychomachia like? The manuscript The Psychomachia survives in around manuscripts. This item is featured in: Discovering Literature: Medieval. Explore further Related articles. Saints and sanctity in medieval England Article by: Sarah Salih Theme: Faith and religion Sarah Salih explores how medieval Europeans memorialised the lives of real and fictional Christian saints, transforming them into the superheroes and celebrities of the Middle Ages.
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