Jerome: the Manuscripts of the "Chronicon"

About the Chronicon

This is the Latin translation of the Chronological Canons volume of Eusebius of Caesarea's Chronicon.  This work is usually considered to have two books; the Chronography (extant only in Armenian translation) and the Chronological Canons (extant in Armenian and Latin).  Jerome translated the second portion.  He also continued it to his own time; thereby setting a precedent, as many of the manuscripts show further extensions still by a variety of authors.  Jerome also augmented Eusebius' list of events with additional material about events in Rome.

Mosshammer comments that, "From the time of its composition in the early fourth century A.D. until the Reformation period, the Chronicle of Eusebius was the standard text for world chronology from the birth of Abraham (2016 B.C.) to the Vicennalia of Constantine (A.D. 325)."  Jerome extended it to the death of Valens in 379 AD, and in this form it became definitive for the Western World.  The translation was probably done around 380.

The work was composed by Eusebius using the modern type of book, the codex.  He drew a table on each page.  Each column corresponding to a kingdom.   Each row was a year; except that he placed the 4-yearly olympiads on a fresh line, so that events for which he knew only the olympiad number, but not the year within it, could be recorded on that line.  The columns contained numbers from 1 to n -- the regnal years of the king in that kingdom --, so that it was clear by looking across the page who was king in what kingdom, and in what year of his reign any given event took place.  The columns were also colour coded.  Finally in the middle of each page, a space was left in which events might be entered.

The left-most column was always that of the dominant empire; starting with the Assyrians, moving on to the Persians, and eventually Romans.  The right-most column was always the Egyptians, so long as they lasted.  At times there were up to 9 columns.  Eusebius handled this by using a double-page spread for the first part of the work, down to the second year of Darius the Persian.  Thereafter there were fewer columns, and he reverted to a single-page layout.  At the end, the only column displayed is the Roman emperors. 

The content was derived from existing Greek chronographies, which contained lists of kings and how long they ruled, a few events by king-year, and occasional synchronisms between the different king-lists.  The second year of Darius (520BC) is also the year of the completion of the second temple in Jerusalem, for instance, which allowed Eusebius to tie together his Jewish and Persian lists of dates and events.  It is also the start of the 65th olympiad, which allowed him to tie in Greek events dated by this dating system.  The new format made any errors exceedingly visible; Eusebius struggled to reconcile the mass of inconsistent data which had come to him, and did not always succeed.  Kings do not rule for exact numbers of years; there was no absolute chronology in general use; each city would start the year at a different time, and would have different months and lengths of the year.  But Eusebius' work meant that at last a universal chronology could be attempted.

The innovation was a work of genius by Eusebius, and Jerome recognised it as such.  Once it existed, the invention of AD and BC could only be a matter of time.  

However it was and is very time-consuming to reproduce exactly the earlier portion of the Chronicle on the page, although attempted simplifications invariably involved error.  The manuscript tradition shows signs of attempts by scribes to make their task easier, despite the warnings Jerome gave in his preface.  

As well as the Armenian version of Eusebius, a Syriac version of Eusebius exists in Codex Vaticanus Syr. 162.  An edition of the latter with Latin translation was published in 1884 by Siegfried and Gelzer.

Families of manuscripts

It was Joseph Justus Scaliger (1540-1609) who first worked on the chronology of antiquity and so came up against the primary witness, Jerome's version of Eusebius.  In his work De emendation temporum (1583) he split the mss into two families.

Also present in the manuscripts of Jerome are a set of king-lists (the Series Regum) and an Exordium.  In 1750 the Veronese scholar Girolamo Da Prato published a treatise, De Chronicis libris duo ab Eusebio scriptis et editis.  In this he established the late date of these two items.  These are published in Schoene (below).

One MS of the 5th century survives almost complete; of another, enough fragments survive to identify two apographs which enable it to be reconstructed in its entirety.  There are several MSS of the 7th and 8th centuries.  These early witnesses attest securely not only the text of Jerome's version, but equally important, its arrangement of the columns of numbers and of the entries on each page of the original (T.D.Barnes, p.112).

So old are the manuscripts, that we can see some of Jerome's working practises.  S and its descendants reflect Jerome's final version.  O was based on a somewhat earlier copy which had a few readings which Jerome corrected against his copy of Eusebius, but has the same format.  However the copyist of O has chosen to save parchment by condensing the text into 30 lines per page, rather than the original 26.  B also derives from a pre-revision copy.  Schoene referred to the revised edition as the Editio Romana of the Chronicle, on the theory that Jerome made it to present to the Roman synod of 382. (RP: I have been unable to find any actual evidence in any of the works listed below for this).

There is no uniformity in the manuscripts in the division of lines and pages in the prefaces.  All the older manuscripts have a single column format for the preface; some later ones have two columns.




Shelfmark & Notes

Date /

O Oxford, Bodleian Library Codex Oxoniensis Bodleianus Lat. auct. T II 26.  Uncial. 30 lines a page.  It contains the Chronicle of Jerome (to f. 144), followed by a chronological summary on 1 leaf, followed by the Chronicle of Marcellinus.  A posteriores Ms.

Ff. 1-32 years, are in a late (s.XV?) hand in the priores format.  The remainder (A. Abr. 555-2394) is in a fifth century hand, the last leaf is missing, and the one-leaf summary is either by the same or a contemporary hand.  There are marginalia dating from around 1400.

The manuscript was acquired from an unknown source by Jean de Tillet, Bishop of Meaux, who died in 1570. Du Tillet had obtained authority from Francis I to collect Mss from French libraries; there are reasons to suppose that the Ms. was in the South of France ca. 1400. Pontacus borrowed it from him and cites it by the name of the Meldensis (M).  Sirmond, in his edition of Marcellinus (1619, 1696) refers to it as being in Tillet's library.  It then passed to the Jesuit College of Clermont at Paris.  This library was sold in 1764, when it was acquired by Meerman.  On the sale of his library in 1824, it was bought by Gaisford for the Bodleian.  There are full details in Fotheringham's facsimile.

MADAN, Summary Catalogue..., IV (1897), p.441.

S Leiden, Paris & Vatican Codex Floriacensis fragm.  Dismembered pages of this MS.  Paris. Lat. 6400 B (14 pages: the 7th quaternion of the Ms plus the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 6th, 7th and 8th gatherings of the 8th quaternion); Leiden, Voss. Lat. Q. 110 A (6 pages at the end of P); Vatican Reginensis 1709 (2 pages).  Uncial.  The Paris fragment has a note in a 9th century hand "Codex beati Benedicti Floriac.", indicating it belonged to the abbey at Fleury at that date.  This was sacked by the Hugenots in 1562.  Written in Italy.  26 lines per page.  The division of the pages is the same as in A,N,P.  N and P must have been copied from S, so similar are they in form and text.   A posteriores Ms.  

The Ms must have devoted one more leaf to the title and prefaces than M N and P and must have originally contained 167 leaves.  A photographic facsimile was published as Supplement I in the Leiden series of Codices Graeci et Latini.

B Berne, Stadtbibliothek. Codex Bernensis 219 (once Bongarsianus, in Scaliger; Aurelianensis or A in Pontacus). Written in uncial, probably at the Abbey of St. Benedict at Fleury, to which it belonged according to a notice in the Ms.  Later belonged to Peter Daniel Aurelianensis (d. 1603), then to Jacques Bongars, when Scaliger mentions it by that name.  A manuscript not related to S. A posteriores Ms.

Contains only the Chronicle of Jerome.  From dates given in the Ms it would appear to have been written between 627 and 699 AD, as there is a large notice on fol. 1 referring to the 5th year of Childebert king of the Franks and given various dates of this (697 AD), and on the last page another notice referring to 17th year of Heraclius as the 627th Dionysian year of Christ (I.e. A.D., after Dionysius Exiguus who devised it).  There are 76 leaves.  The pages are much larger than AOS and the number of lines per page varies from 34 to 40.  This manuscript generally compresses the two-page spread into one, making a division down the middle of the page instead.  It is a very careless piece of work and the scribe has not troubled to keep the columns in line.  However the right years correspond at the start of each page, so it seems that the scribe retained the division of pages in his archetype.  The constant misplacement of olympiads is a sign of the carelessness of the scribe.  Unfortunately Schoene used this as the basis of his edition.

A Valenciennes, Bibliothèque de la Ville. Codex Valentianus 495 (once Amandinus).   From St. Amand, now in the public library in Valenciennes.  Uncial, 26 lines per page.   Transcribed from S.  Contains only the Chronicle of Jerome.  The foliation suggests that the manuscript should contain 167 leaves; one is devoted to the title, while two leaves are missing after f.125, and one leaf has been accidentally omitted in the foliation after f. 105 (the error may be counteracted elsewhere).  The pages are the same size as NOPS.  It corresponds very nearly page for page and line for line with NPS and the first part of M, but devoted more space to the preface than MNP do. There are frequent blank lines, suggesting that some notices took up fewer lines in this Ms. than in the archetype, and that the scribe has resorted to this device to keep the layout the same.  A posteriores Ms.   7
P Leiden Codex Leidensis Lat. Voss. Q 110 (once Petavianus).  In the 9th century, according to a statement in the Ms itself, it was written in the Abbey of St. Mesmin in Orleans by a monk Elias in the time of Abbot Peter (ca. 840 AD). Transcribed from S.  Contains only Jerome's Chronicle.  Close correspondance with N, and almost as close to S.  166 leaves, including 2 devoted to the title.  A posteriores Ms. ca. 840 AD.
N Berlin, Staatsbibliothek Codex Turonensis Berolin. Phillips. 1872.  From the collection of Sir Thomas Phillips at Middlehill.  The manuscript came originally from Tours.  It contains only Jerome's Chronicle, on 166 leaves.  Minuscules are used for all entries in black ink and uncials for everything in red.  There are 26 lines per page and the division of pages corresponds to that in APS.  It seems to be a copy of S.  It has interesting marginalia derived from the other families. A posteriores Ms.  9 or 10
M Berlin Codex Middlehillensis Berolin. Phillips. 1829.  Written at Trier in the time of Charlemagne.  Minuscule all through.  26 lines per page.  A descendant of either S or O.  A posteriores Ms.

This Ms. came originally from Treves (see Mommsen, Chronica Minora I, p.78).  It contains the Chronicle of Jerome, the Liber Generationis and Hydatius.  Jerome occupies ff.1-153 and the first line of f.154.  In the first part of the chronicle the page division corresponds exactly to ANPST; in the latter part the division is different to any other Ms.  The hand changes at the start of f.73a.  A full collation appears in Schoene, but is not reliable.

F Leiden, Bibliotheek der Universiteit Codex Leidensis Scaliger 14 (once Freherianus in Scaliger and Pontacus; although the latter sometimes confused this Ms (Fre.) with the Codex Fabritianus (Fab.)).  Written in red, green, black and purple ink, and belongs to the early part of the 9th century.  It descends from the manuscript of Bonifatius.  It is written on 190 leaves and contains Jerome, the Exordium, the Chronicon consulare of Prosper, and a dedicatory epistle and Carmen votivum of Bonifatius.  Jerome occupies ff. 2a-176a; f58b and f59a are blank, however, so the total is174 leaves.  The pages contain 25 lines each, and do not exactly correspond to any other manuscript.  A posteriores Ms. 9
L London, British Library Ms. Additional 16974. Related to T.  Contains the title 'Liber monasterii sancti Trudonis', so belong to the monastery of St. Tron in Belgium.  It contains Jerome's Commentary on Matthew, the Chronicon of Jerome, the Chronicon Imperiale of Prosper, and the Chronicle of Marius of Aventicum.  Jerome's Chronicle is ff. 57a-190a.  The pages are much larger than most mss, containing 42 (sometimes 40 or 41) lines.  This is the oldest of the priores.  The scribe was careless.  A displacement of a portion of the preface shows that the archetype had around 31 lines per page. 9/10
Lucca, Chapter library Codex Lucensis bibl. capit. 490.  Written in a small minuscule. AD 787
Lem. 1 Limoges Codex Lemovicensis bibl. publ. 1 12
D Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale Francais. Codex Parisinus Latinus 4860 (once Colbertinus).  Written in Mainz.  10
T Oxford, Merton College Codex Oxon. Merton 315.  Related to SAPN. Written in red, green and black ink.  It is written on 156 leaves, and contains Jerome's Chronicle.  However it inserts after the preface of Eusebius two short treatises, Interpretatio sancti Hieronymi de nominibus gentium and De mensuratio provinciarum.  After the Chronicle come four chronological summaries.  There are some German verses in a late, perhaps 14th century hand, on ff.9a, 156a/b, so the Ms perhaps was in Germany some time.  The division of pages is almost identical with that in AMNPS for the first part (to A.Abr. 1496) but with occasional deviations.  The latter portion is divided up differently to any other manuscript.  There are 26 lines per page, except in the prefaces and summaries at the end, where there are 28.  In the omission of headings in the Chronicle, the Ms. agrees with B.

Online complete at

C Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale Francais. Codex Parisinus Latinus 4859 (Colbertinus).  Related to T. 9/10
L London, British Library Ms. Additional 16974. Related to T. 9/10
Q Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale Francais. Codex Parisinus Latinus 4858.  Uncial and minuscule. 9
U Udine, Biblioteca Arcivescovile Biblioteca Arcivescovile ot° 14.  These partially supply the lost pages at the start of O.  Images in Fotheringam, Bodleian.
W Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale Francais. Codex Parisinus Latinus 4870.  These partially supply the lost pages at the start of O. Images in Fotheringam, Bodleian.  Contains the words common to other Mss descended from O: "A Valente VI et Valentiniano iuniore usque in consulatum Eudoxii colliguntur LXIIII, ac per hoc a XV Tiberi anno, quo dominus predicare incepit, in consulatum Eudoxii et Dioscori fuint anni CCCCXI." (442 AD).
V Oxford, Bodleian Library Canonici script. eccl. 96.
R Montpellier, Bibliothèque Universitaire, Section de Médecine Codex Montepessulanus H. 32.

This is not a complete list: there are said to be a hundred or so.


Alfred SCHOENE, Eusebi Chronicorum Libri.  2 vols. Berlin: Weidmann (1875) Checked.
J. K. FOTHERINGHAM, The Bodleian Manuscript of Jerome's Version of the Chronicle of Eusebius Reproduced in Collotype.  Oxford: Clarendon (1905) Checked. Facsimile, but very hard to photocopy!
J. K. FOTHERINGHAM, Eusebii Pamphili Chronici canones. London: Humphrey Milford (1923).  Checked.
R. HELM, Eusebius Werke 7: Die Chronik des Hieronymus, Griechischen Christlichen Schriftsteller 47 (1956).  Checked.
Alden A. MOSSHAMMER, The Chronicle of Eusebius and Greek Chronographic tradition.  Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press/London:Associated University Presses (1979) ISBN 0-8387-1939-2. Checked.

Constructive feedback is welcomed to Roger Pearse.

This page has been online since 24th August 2002

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