Virgil wrote the Aeneid more than 2,000 years ago and today, thanks to an astoundingly ambitious project, one of the oldest manuscripts of this classic Latin text can be read online.
The Apostolic Vatican Library recently announced that it had completed the digitization of a manuscript about 1600 years old, which contains fragments of the epic text that was commissioned by the Emperor Augustus in the first century BC, in which the story of the flight from Troy to Italy of the mythical hero Aeneas is told. The digitized manuscript also includes portions of the Virgil’s second great poem, the Georgics, as explained by Carey Dunne in her post for Hyperallergic.
Virgil originally wrote both poems between the years 29 and 19 BC. The manuscript in the Vatican Library, which was written several centuries later, once probably contained all the canonical works of Virgil. It is known that this was the manuscript Raphael Sanzio personally used to study the classics, and was later donated to the Apostolic Vatican Library in 1602.
The digitization of the manuscript is part of a years-long effort that seeks to create electronic versions of the texts that have been preserved for centuries by the Vatican Library. In total, it includes some 80,000 manuscripts which should be converted into about 45 quadrillion bytes, according to Digita Vaticana, a nonprofit organization affiliated with the library. This manuscript, Vergilius Vaticanus, is in fact one of the oldest documents that have gone through the digitization process so far.