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K. Oracle of the Three Letters

K. Oracle of the Three Letters

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Tales revera oportet esse omnes, qui accedunt ad serviendum Deo viventi

magis quam Iovi.

In the Marvels of Virgil it is read that in his time all the priests and attendants in

the temple of Jupiter in Apulia were suddenly removed and appeared nowhere. Therefore all the eldermen of that land assembled and inquired of

Jupiter through Virgil who would be suitable and eligible for serving him; the

oracle replied, by whomever the three letters c, h, and p (when doubled) could

be ascertained. And so Virgil, instructed by the [Holy] Spirit, interpreted this

as follows: by the doubled c he understood chastity of heart [cor] and body

[corpus], by h honesty of character and deeds, by the doubled p patience with

everyone and peace. It is fitting indeed that all be of this sort, who approach to

serve the living God rather than Jupiter. (JZ)

2. Tales of the Carthaginians

(circa 1311)

Virgil’s reputation for interpreting oracles is also evident in an episode found

in the Historiae Carthaginensium [sic] (Tales of the Carthaginians), one of

several texts ascribed to a pseudo-antique author called variously Flacc(i)ensius, Flaccianus, and Flavianus whose name is mentioned from John of Salisbury (see above, II.C.12, III.G.4, V.A.2) on. In this episode, Hannibal seeks

an explanation from Apollo of Delphi for his defeat by the Romans. Not able

to understand the oracle, Hannibal seeks out Virgil, who explicates the oracle

on the basis of tautogrammatic inscriptions on the four gates of Carthage.

(Text and discussion: AO 1014–15. For alternative readings, see P. Lehmann,

Pseudo-Antike Literatur des Mittelalters [Darmstadt, 1964], 26.) (JZ)

Unde Hanibal de tam inopinata victoria admirans, causam ab Apolline Delphico sciscitatus est. Qui respondit ei per hos versus:

Ter triples ternam senam denam decanonam;

Sic cito percipies urbs tua quare ruit.

Quos versus exponens Virgilius Hanibalem duxit ad unam de portis civitatis et iussit erigi in introitu porte unum lapidem latum et ostendit duci hanc

scripturam cum literis aureis:

Caritas, compassio, castitas refrigescunt,

Census, caro, crudelitas invalescunt,

Consilium, concordia, coniugium evanescunt.

Consimili modo in secunda porta invenit hanc scripturam:

Fortes, fideles, faceti regnaverunt,

Ficti, falsi, fatui successerunt,

Fures, pharisei, feminei succreverunt.



In tercia porta invenit:

Lux, laus, lex

Latet, languet, liquet

Sub livore, labore, latore.

Quod sic exponitur:

Lux veritatis latet sub livore,

laus sanctitatis languet sub labore,

lex equitatis liquet sub latore.

In quarta vero porta habebatur:

Uxor, voluptas, usus prevaluerunt,

Virtus, vigor, valor emarcuerunt,

U[n]sura, vath [read ‘‘vates’’?], vanitas insonuerunt.

Et sic patet exposicio versuum, quia in prima porta C que est tercia littera

alphabeti fuit ter [tri]plicata; in secunda porta F que est sexta littera fuit

eciam ter [tri]plicata; in tercia porta L que est decima littera ter triplicabatur;

in quarta porta V que est littera decimanona simili modo [ter] triplicabatur,

ut patet superius per ordinem.

Consequently Hannibal, marveling at such an unexpected victory [by the

Romans over him], asked the Delphic Apollo about its cause. Apollo answered him through the following verses:

Thrice may you triple the third, sixth, tenth, and nineteenth;

In that way, you will quickly understand why your city fell.

Virgil, explaining these verses, led Hannibal to one of the gates of the city,

ordered a broad stone to be raised in the entryway of the gate, and showed the

leader the following inscription with golden letters:

Love, sympathy, purity grow cold,

Wealth, flesh, cruelty grow strong,

Deliberation, harmony, marriage disappear.

Likewise, on the second gate he found this inscription:

Brave, faithful, gentle men ruled,

Dissembling, false, foolish men followed,

Thieves, Pharisees, e√eminate men have increased in succession.

On the third gate he found:

Light, praise, law

Is hidden, is weak, is evident

Under malice, toil, a proposer.

That which is thus explained:

The light of truth is hidden under malice,

The praise of holiness is weak under toil,

The law of justice melts away under its bringer.


V. V I R G I L I A N L E G E N D S

On the fourth gate, however, there was:

Wife, pleasure, expediency have prevailed,

Virtue, vitality, worth have withered away,

Usury, [the bard?], vanity have resounded.

And thus the explanation of the verses is clear, that on the first gate C, which is

the third letter of the alphabet, was tripled thrice; on the second gate F, which

is the sixth letter, was also tripled thrice; on the third gate L, which is the tenth

letter, was tripled thrice; on the fourth gate V, which is the nineteenth letter,

likewise was tripled thrice, as is evident above in order. (JG)


(circa 1311)

The anonymous Old French text that is conventionally entitled Noirons li

Arabis exists in a single manuscript in Turin University Library (Discussion:

VMA [Pasquali], 2:300–301). Noirons plays on the name of the Roman emperor Nero and on the blackness associated with the Moorish Muslims. As a

substantive, noirons can mean ‘‘infidel,’’ which fits with the medieval Christian

notion of dark-skinned Muslims. The poem’s title could be translated as ‘‘Infidel the Arab.’’ To convey the association with Nero and with the blackness

embedded in the English word negro, Noirons is translated here as Neron.

The apparent purpose of the writer was to lead up to the events recounted

in the Roman de Vespasien (Romance of Vespasian), namely, the vengeance of

Vespasian for the death of Jesus. The Virgilian material has little to do with the

romance other than by way of introduction: Noirons li Arabis o√ers a summary

narrative of the Creation, the Old and the New Testament, and the Crucifixion, in which Virgil plays the role of the prophet and defender of Christ, in

accordance with the medieval categorization of Virgil as a pagan prophet of

Christ. Noirons li Arabis provides new legends about Virgil. For instance,

Virgil predicts to Neron that his palace will stand until a virgin bears a child. At

this juncture Virgil and Neron embark upon a test of their wits, which Virgil

wins by recapitulating most of the Old Testament. Upon winning, he decapitates Neron. (Text: EV 5.2, 488–91, no. 332, which reproduces VMA [Pasquali], 2:190–97) (ZS)

[1–33] Neron the Arab was in Rome. . . . [lines 2–12 missing] Neron

made him pay for it . . . [thus] when he put him to death in such a way. But

this is the truth, it can be found in writing that poor payment lies in the

service of a bad man. When the cruel Arab had done this, he caused an

adorned palace to be constructed, such that it was covered in carbuncle in

the manner of small sapphires. Mortar was glazed with fine gold. When the

palace was finished and well polished, it glowed as the sun shines. He calls



his master Virgil and tells him: ‘‘Master,’’ he says to him, ‘‘listen to me. On

account of the great intelligence that God placed in you, I rise to meet you

now, since you know the whole plan of paradise, and I of hell, because I

have friends there. Tell me then, master, be careful that there be no lie, how

long my great adorned palace will last; there is no palace of such beauty

under heaven, nor is there a single person in the world who could buy it.’’

And Virgil says: ‘‘It will last all too little.’’

[34–45] And Virgil says: ‘‘Your palace will last until a virgin bears a

child. Then you will lose it; it will fall into an abyss. And from then on, no

soul will go to hell, until the day when the one who created all things will

pass his judgment on Judgment Day. And still I do not know if anyone will

go there.’’ And Neron says: ‘‘The palace will last a long time. That a virgin

should bear a child, this cannot be, this will never happen.’’ And Virgil says:

‘‘By my faith, she will bear the child, and if that does not happen, that is very

bad news for us.’’

[46–72] Hear now, great and small, and you will hear now a song of the

greatest value that you have ever heard since the time of David. You will

hear how the world was divided into four dominions, how monasteries and

crucifixes were made, holy churches and crosses on the roads, thirty years

after Virgil said this; you will hear that Lord God became incarnate in the

Virgin. The king lost his great adorned palace in such a way that the earth

closed over it. The treacherous Arab was pained by this. He calls his teacher

now and tells him: ‘‘Son of a whore, disloyal, treacherous dog, you well

knew of the coming of Jesus Christ. Know it truly, if you had told me of it, I

would not have completed such great labor at all. Do you want to say then,

do you not think so, that God will now regain his people and his friends

whom we have been sending into hell for almost full five thousand years?

He cannot know that I have taken notice if his body is not put on view for

eyes to see. And if your God was dead or killed in order to redeem his people

and his friends, how could he return to life? If you know it, good scholar, tell

me then; if you do not do it, your head will fly.’’

[73–317] Virgil says this: ‘‘Neron, listen to me now. God will surely have

again what you seized, and all of it by right, as I wish to demonstrate to you.

You know well, in complete truth, when God made Adam, the first man

from whom all of the world started and descended, he could not at all come

or go, hear, feel, see, or speak, until God breathed spirit into his body, and he

held his lips closed tightly, until the virtue of the great power was attached

and fastened to his body. God ordered him to command his body, that he

make it come and go, hear, feel, see, and speak. When he could do this by

virtue of great power, then Adam, our Father from whom we have all issued,


V. V I R G I L I A N L E G E N D S

was called the son of the king of heavens. Further, God can make another

one like that out of himself, the great one in majesty: just as into the body he

thrust Adam, from whom all the people descend and derive, in a virgin he

can make him incarnate and be born into life, blood, and flesh. And he can

come and go on earth, and crush and overcome a man, and then this flesh can

die in order to regain and redeem our souls that you want to lead into hell.

But the Holy Ghost of whom you are hearing me speak can go away from

there up above into paradise with his Father, the great one in majesty, as the

sun draws back its light and as the rivers all enter into sea. He will never be

either murdered or killed, and all will be redeemed completely.’’ And Neron

says: ‘‘You have spoken the truth, for I had thought of it in this manner, and

thus he can come and go, and descend from and climb into the heavens

again, and regain and redeem his friends. But if the tree, by which we were

damned, had had soul and life as you do, never on account of such a thing

would you have been redeemed. The Son of God would have had to stay,

and body and soul all would have had to go to hell, where you all would

have been lost beyond return. Now be quiet, I want to speak to you; by force

of religion I want to duel with you against the other, the enemy: he who is

defeated will have his head cut off.’’ He takes a sword and he planted it in

the meadow. And Virgil says: ‘‘Grant me a delay, until I have spoken to

Hippocrates, and to Fiorent and the good count Ide, and to John, born in

Lateran, and Boniface, my wise uncle, and Musical, my sister with a bright

face, who discovered the sound of big bells.’’ And says Neron: ‘‘Do so with

speed.’’ And says Virgil: ‘‘Sire, soon you will have me again.’’ He mounts a

horse; he went to the city, until Majour [probably from Latin maiorum, ancestors]; he did not wish to stop. Virgil gathered all his kin: ‘‘Lords,’’ he says,

‘‘we have been completely disgraced. The emperor whom we have honored

so much is an enemy; he has shown it to me well. He almost killed me. By

force of religion, I must duel with him, with the enemy. Give me counsel or

else you will not see me again.’’ Hippocrates heard him; he thinks he will

lose his mind. He looked inside his best book: he finds the noble name of

Jesus in majesty and words of his great power and great dignity. He extracts

these and he wrote them down, he comes to Virgil, and he glued them to his

teeth and then said: ‘‘Beautiful son, you are armed. There is nothing in the

world that can harm you; go back to the devil to duel with him. If you

vanquish him, he will have his head cut off. We will then have his child well

guarded by his mother and our kin.’’ And this one answers: ‘‘Father, as you

please.’’ He mounts a horse and he returned. Neron has now entered the

meadow; behold the king who has risen against Virgil. ‘‘Master,’’ he says,

‘‘may ill befall you, for you have brought with you such a thing by which I



will be shamed and dishonored. Now I wish to tell you the pure truth about

how your God labored. It has been sixty thousand years, and many more

that I could not count in a thousand years, and still more years have been

hidden away than there are drops of water in the sea, since your God was,

the king in majesty, in himself and in his dignity and in his force and in his

rule, up there in the heavens in his great majesty, with his angels, whose

names I do not know, who are called cherubs by some and seraphs, this I

know in truth. Before he wanted to create anything, he turned his thoughts

for a moment to this world. He then separated the darkness from the sea,

then came to get rest above Turmia. On a big cliff called the Aieman, which

stands above the sea, he created Michael, a feathered angel, and then Abel,

and then my kin; and after that, in this majesty, he still created many more.

But we were not able to return to the cliff; up above in the heavens he made

them stay with the angels, whose names I do not know. Then your God

returned to the sea, above the ancient cliff, and there he made hell, which

wants to devour everything; he threw into the sea all the snakes and as much

filth as he could find. And then he created fish to swim; he made of his will

the mermaid, sturgeons, and he made many others whose names I do not

know. But when he wanted to enter paradise, Lucibel [Lucifer] wanted to

deny him access. He was a bad angel created in the sea, and he wanted to be

God and rise against him. He got many treacherous angels to agree to this; I

am one of them, and this should weigh greatly upon me. Thus when God

did not want to harm us by force, he wanted to defeat us by judgment:

therefore he made us enter the abyss, and he threw all of us into hell. A full

one thousand years went by that we were there. Then God returned to talk

to us; he sent for me and my kin. In truth we greatly rejoiced in hell because

we thought that we were going to make peace with him and by his grace

enter paradise—but he was quite willing to torment us even more. He ordered us to find the earth, and when we did not want to go for him, because

we could not bear any more ill ever since he had vexed and tied us, he

promised that we would get a beautiful branched-out apple tree after he had

obtained land to his heart’s desire and after he had mixed together the islands with his great grace and power. More than a hundred thousand of us

rushed into the sea, and we made such a great hole in the sea that thirty

counties could have been concealed there. The abyss is called Satania. Thirty

miles long and wide, there was no boat, no dromon [a large transport ship],

no ship, and no iron-plated barge that could traverse it and that would not

be lost without any hope of recovery, for we were of a mind to make the

whole world crumble, to fell and overturn the skies. This we did, when God

made us stop. At that point he grabbed water to be poured out at once, in


V. V I R G I L I A N L E G E N D S

order to have it enter the abyss [we made] with such force as an arrow when

it is discharged from a crossbow. Thus the land appeared in many places in

the sea, so many that no man could count it. And God took to laboring on

earth, and he thus made many a plant and many a tree with branches and

many an animal, and he made many a bird fly. He made the paradise that you

call earthly. The orchard is enclosed by a wall, as tall as one can see, made of

carbuncle that shines more brightly than the sun in the summer. Around the

walls runs a very big ditch called by the name Purgatory. One thousand

years later, when God reflected upon it, he created Adam and Eve alike, from

whom you have all descended and issued, and he had them dwell in the

orchard. Whatever they saw was at their disposal, except for the apple tree

that he gave us. They ate from it, and they were delivered to us. And the

lineage that since issued from them—our mortal enemy, who was recently

incarnated in the Virgin—wants to regain them. And when I saw this to be

completely true, that the whole world was relinquished to us, I departed

from hell, and so did Egarine and another angel, Babil, who is rabidly mad,

and we then started the construction of Babylon, a city across the Red Sea. A

twenty-five-mile-long outer wall surrounds the city, which has twenty entrances and twenty drawbridges. And within, bread, wine, and wheat are

cultivated—all the good people who live inside the city would not starve in

twenty years. And we had a big tower erected, the tower of Babel; you have

heard it spoken about. When one is on the last floor, one could count three

hundred thousand steps, and the shadow of the tower stretches for seven

miles. For we wanted to go to Lord God; we thought we would make war

against him and harm him. But Lord God was not of a mind to suffer any of

it. He tore down the tower one evening at dusk. King Babil thought he could

rebuild it, but your God would not have any of it, for the languages were

thus all changed there. No one has since known how to speak to another:

when they asked for wet mortar or for stones to be cut, food and drink were

brought to them. King Egarine thought then that the workers from India

played a joke on him. He therefore banished all of them from the kingdom

and he put them on ninety boats, made them now take their wives and

children, gave them flour and wheat, a general idea of direction, and men to

guard them and to secure provisions, and furnaces and grinders. They scattered all over the islands in the sea. They are giants, Saracens, and infidels.

Then King Egarine, King Babil, and the other mistreated ones took wives

and had nine sons. Mohammad is the eldest. By Mohammad, who is of our

lineage, three parts of the world have been delivered to us: pagans, Jews,

Saracens, and infidels. Turks and cannibals and Indians from overseas will

all belong to us; this cannot be reversed. Since the king of heavens, who was



recently incarnated in the Virgin, wants to harm us so, and when I saw the

complete truth that all my kin have proven themselves, except for me, I had

Rome founded and constructed, and I had one [big] palace constructed,

entirely lined with carbuncle and fine gold. He took it away from me; it fell

into the abyss. Come and cut my head off without delay; I can no longer

remain on earth, but it befits me to return to hell to keep and guard the doors

against God, for he wants to harm us. I have a son, his name is Florien, I

leave him the king in power.’’ And says Virgil: ‘‘You have told me marvels.

May it not please God that you create the memory that you were killed by

me, unless I can vanquish you by judgment.’’

[318–343] ‘‘Lord Neron,’’ says Virgil emboldened, ‘‘if you were banished

from paradise, it serves you right, I will tell you this here. Know that the

truth that Moses put in writing for us is that one should not let one’s enemy

stay close. When Adam was banished from paradise, from the good kingdom where Lord God had placed him, and he went to Mt. Sinai, do not think

about it twice, he was quite scared. He spent two hundred years without the

gentle Eve; thus he did not deign to return to her, nor to look at her body or

face. And because he erred because of her, he was therefore in pain and sad

and pensive, until the day that God made peace. He promised such an ointment that will heal him and that he will yet be his friend and crowned next

to him up high. He often told him: ‘Do not be dismayed, friend, because of

you I have to suffer many pagan peoples.’ Then Adam lay with her, and so he

engendered seven little children; four were daughters and three sons; one

was Abel, two others were Cain and Seth, who was the most kind.’’

[line 344 missing] [345] When the first children were born . . . [line 346

missing] [347–350] and Mohammad conjured the enemy, who was Neron

who so much loved him. Neron came to him, and then said: ‘‘But what do

you want?’’ And says Mohammad: ‘‘I am mad with rage because of you; you

should have been king, served and honored, and you should have kept

Romania, but instead Virgil cut your head off.’’ (ZS)



The anonymous Old French Renart le contrefait (Renard the Impostor) is the

last medieval installment of the Roman de Renart (Romance of Renard). The

Roman de Renart as a whole was an extraordinarily successful work of literature, so much so that the name of its chief character—Renard the Fox, in

English—became the standard French word for fox (at the expense of goupil).

Renart le contrefait comprises eight ‘‘branches’’ (sections), of which there are

two redactions. The first redaction was composed between 1319 and 1322 in


V. V I R G I L I A N L E G E N D S

approximately 32,000 lines, the second redaction between 1328 and 1342 in

41,150 lines. Both redactions are in octosyllabic couplets, the second with prose

as well. Both seem to have been produced by the same author, the first being a

trial version by a novice writer, with the second a more skilled rewriting.

The author, who seems to have been a cleric of Troyes before being defrocked for having a concubine, says that he chose to disguise himself in the

personage of Renart to launch a virulent critique against the society of his

time. The Virgilian segment appears in the fourth section of the second redaction (lines 29359–462 and 29493–530), as Renart warns his sons to exercise

wisely their judgment when it comes to women, so as not to become their

victims like Virgil. (Text: Le Roman de Renart le Contrefait, ed. G. Raynaud and

H. Lemtre [1914; rept., Geneva, 1975] 2:71–74) (ZS)

1. Virgil’s Wonders and Virgil in the Basket

(lines 29359–462)

[29359–62] Virgil was more knowledgeable, more erudite, wiser, and

more learned than anyone else living in his time, and he made more great

wonders than anyone.

[29363–66] In truth he made great marvels. A natural-born man had

never done anything similar. And still, he who was known to be so wise

was indeed quite deceived.

[29367–71] I will tell you a little bit about his intelligence, and then

afterward I will read to you how he was deceived, without a lie, all because

he failed to interpret well, despite the fact that he was endowed with great


[29372–76] He made pipes of stone, which delivered, underground,

Greek wine from Naples to Rome, in a period of ten days.

[29377–81] He built a bridge over a river, but there was no one so wise at

the time who knew of what material it was made, where its foundations

were, or how the stones were placed onto it.

[29382–86] He made a bronze fly which no fly that existed could approach within the distance of one stone’s throw without dying immediately.

[29387–90] He made a bronze horse. All sick horses, as soon as they saw

it, were cured of this sickness.

[29391–400] In the middle of Rome he made a mirror, and he placed it in

the middle of the city so that all who looked at it could see any human being,

at the distance of one day’s trip, who wanted or cared to damage or cause

trouble for Rome; there they could see and find him. In the mirror could be

seen and discovered either who was coming to Rome or who wanted to

harm Rome.



[29401–56] He dared create many a great thing. But hear now how he

misread a situation. Out of great love, he had given himself over to a lady

who was from these parts. He loved her incredibly much, and he planted his

heart in her. On several occasions he would stay awake thinking about it

until, because of it, he lost his composure. The lady was of a high condition,

and she lived in a tower that was taller than the length of ten lances. Virgil,

whose conduct was guided by his love of her, sent her a lady bearing a

message with a request for her love—that she love him and in fact call him

her lover—and if she wanted wealth, earthly goods, and honors, he would

give her, truth be told, as much of them as she would want to have. She, who

had a treacherous heart and was full of spite, sent him a message, playing a

bad trick on him, that she gladly accepted his love, that she would do his

will and love him well from the heart, but that she could not go to him. But if

he wanted to labor so much and if it did not annoy him too much, as soon as

midnight came, he should come to the foot of the tower; there she would

have made preparations for him. A basket would descend, and Virgil would

climb into it, ‘‘and we will pull you up, if it pleases you, so we will do. We

will pull without fail. Thus commands your lover.’’ He did not think about

it, nor did he interpret the situation; that is how much he was consumed

with the thought of the lady. At night he came to the tower. He remained

there completely still, and he was willing to stay there so long until he saw

the basket coming, and immediately he jumped into it. He was then pulled

upward. When he had been hoisted exactly halfway up the tower, Virgil’s

basket was attached, and then Virgil was stuck fast there. Now if only he

could fly with his hands; instead, he stayed there tied up until bright daylight was everywhere. Everyone came to the tower, and each planted himself there. They were saying: ‘‘Look at the great wonder! Look at Virgil in

the basket!’’

[29457–62] Virgil, who had so much knowledge, was shamed there

greatly. And all of Rome ran up to the tower, and every single person saw

this. And when noon passed, then the cord was lowered. . . . (ZS)

2. Virgil’s Revenge (lines 29493–530)

When Virgil’s basket was lowered, he bemoaned his plight and his shame.

He then held his knowledge in low esteem. And he said that he would

never love himself if he was not able to get his revenge. And then he put

his knowledge at the ready; since the matter concerned him personally, he

thought about it and had it written down. He then made it so that in the

entire city, ten miles all around, there was no fire left. All flames were

extinguished without delay. He then had a servant proclaim that whoever


V. V I R G I L I A N L E G E N D S

wanted to obtain fire should go seek it out from that lady: one would get it

from between her legs, for elsewhere one would not find it. No one knew

where else to find fire. Then you could see the people at work: at once they

tore down the tower, and that great lady was assailed in a rush. She was

placed right in the middle of the city and seated in an elevation. There

everyone held her cunt and everyone took fire from it. They placed their

candles to her cunt and lit them at her cunt. But he who lit his candle could

not help another. He could not help anyone; he was the only one to whom

the flame was useful. There this lady was placed, naked, without a cover, all

day from morning to night, until it got dark. All day they were shoving the

candles, and all day they were lighting them. (ZS)


(fourteenth century)

The wording Cronaca di Partenope (Chronicle of Naples) derives from an

ambiguity in the 1526 printed edition. Although the title has become conventional, it designates an anonymous work of the fourteenth century that in all

extant manuscripts is actually entitled Croniche de la inclita cità de Napule, con li

bagni di Pozzuoli ed Ischia (Chronicle of the Renowned City of Naples, with

the Baths of Pozzuoli and Ischia). The manuscripts unanimously mention the

year 1380 in the discussion of the game of Carbonara (section 27 below).

Unless this date was a mistake by the copyist of the Ur-Cronaca, then it provides the terminus ad quem for the composition of the work: the Cronaca must

have been written after this year. The latest of the other dates or datable

individuals in the Cronaca falls in the period between 1326 and 1343.

The text is a monument to the ancient heritage, including age-old lore, of

Naples. It gathers materials drawn from classical and medieval historians,

mentions of Naples and its leading figures contained in a number of hagiographic writings, and popular traditions connected with both surviving antiquities and place-names. Among the lore, legends associated with Virgil are

central. Chapters 16–33 of the fifty-seven that constitute the first book of the

Cronaca di Partenope are devoted to him, especially in his legendary capacity as

a magician.

The final chapter on the Roman poet and sage in the Cronaca dossier

concludes with a slightly garbled account of a legend about the fate of Virgil’s

books in medieval times. The source for most of the material is Gervase of

Tilbury (see above, V.A.5), misidentified here as ‘‘Saint Gervase, ponti√.’’ But

the author of the Cronaca plays free with Gervase. For instance, in the section

on Virgil’s bones he (or a scribe) distorts the name of Pope Alexander III as

Pope Alexius (compare above, II.C.14). The Italian author may rely on loose



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K. Oracle of the Three Letters

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