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Microcosm, In Macrobius's Commentary on Cicero's 'Dream of Scipio'

Microcosm, In Macrobius's Commentary on Cicero's  'Dream of Scipio'

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1125

Shelfmark: Cotton MS Faustina C I

Item number: f.89r

Length: 29.2

Width: 18.5

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Illuminated manuscript

Should a politician act upon practical necessity or be guided by theory? Cicero (1st century BCE) has several philosophers debate this question in ?On Public Affairs? (?De re publica?), ending with the ?Dream of Scipio?, a vision of heavenly glories awaiting selfless politicians. Macrobius (5th century CE) commented on the 'Dream? through the lens of contemporary philosophy which argued a superior transcendent reality. The commentary?s mysticism and its views of geography (proposing a round earth) appealed to medieval theologians. This manuscript?s handwriting style and inclusion of verses by Rhygyfarch (Ricemarch), poet of St David?s, link it with Wales. In ancient and medieval views, the universe had a geometric, symmetrical structure based on numbers. The number four was especially important, as shown in this diagram combining the four elements (fire, earth, air, water), ages of man, and bodily humours. Human character and health were a microcosm--of a piece with the universe.

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