Prudentius' Psychomachia
'Conflict Of The Soul'

British Library, MS Cotton Cleopatra C VIII, c.1000
Long-Suffering walks with Job through the battle-lines
folio 12 verso, lower register

Prudentius (born in 348 in northern Spain, died after 405) spent most of his life following worldly pursuits, but later turned to writing, in which he aimed to glorify God and atone for his earlier sins. One of his most popular works is a poem called Psychomachia (Conflict of the Soul), which describes the battles between female personifications of human virtues and vices. Instead of being a dry theological treatise, the poem has the qualities of an exciting narrative filled with high drama, with lots of bloodshed and violence. The descriptions of the women, including their clothes, armour, and details of their conflicts, lend themselves to illustration. This copy was apparently written by a scribe of Christ Church, Canterbury.


Referenced on pp. 312-313 Scenes and Characters of the Middle Ages by Edward Lewes Cutts
In the group of four foot soldiers in our first wood-cut, it will be observed that the men wear tunics, hose, and shoes; the multiplicity of folds and fluttering ends in the drapery is a characteristic of Saxon art, but the spirit and elegance of the heads is very unusual and very admirable.

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