Early Modern Mythological Texts: Troia Britanica, Library

Thomas Heywood.  Troia Britanica (1609)


The books Thomas Heywood used when he wrote Troia Britanica

 Yves Peyré

Caxton’s Recuyell

Heywood’s Ovid

The Metamorphoses

Amatoria, the love poems


Carion’s Chronicle

Ranulf Higden’s Polychronicon

Lanquet and Cooper’s Chronicle

Britain’s pre-cultural past, the Brutus foundation myth, and John Harding’s Chronicle

Giovanni Nanni’s Berosus

Polydore Vergil’s De Rerum Inventoribus

Encyclopaedic knowledge


Natale Conti’s Mythologia

Boccaccio’s Genealogia


Caxton’s Recuyell


Most of the mythological episodes narrated in Troia Britanica are based on William Caxton’s The recuyell of the historyes of Troye, the first incunabulum ever printed in English, produced on the press of Caxton and Colard Mansion in Bruges (1473). William Caxton’s Recuyell is a translation into English of Le Recoeil des hystoires de Troyes written some time around 1464 by Raoul Le Fèvre, chaplain to Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy. The work is divided into three books, the first of which narrates in forty-two chapters Saturn and Titan’s war for Uranus’ throne, Jupiter’s loves and battles, Perseus’ adventures, and several episodes in Hercules’ story, from the hero’s birth to his destroying Troy to take revenge on Laomedon’s breach of promise after the hero had saved his daughter Hesione. The second book completes the Hercules cycle in twenty-nine chapters. The third book, based on Guido delle Colonne’s Historia destructionis Troiae (13th century)—itself based on Benoît de Sainte Maure’s Le Roman de Troie (c. 1160-65)—, treats of the war of Troy and of the city’s final destruction. Le Fèvre’s Recoeil, which enjoyed great success, circulated in numerous manuscripts, of which a good score survive, and went through more than ten different editions between 1480 and 1544. Its translation into English was regularly reprinted between 1473 and 1738. The 1473 editio princeps was followed by an edition which Wynkyn de Worde printed in 1502 and immediately reprinted in 1503. William Copland produced a new edition of Caxton’s text in 1553.


Towards the end of the sixteenth century, however, Caxton’s English was felt by some to be antiquated. In 1597, Thomas Creede and Valentine Simmes printed a new, modernised version, “Newly corrected, and the English much amended, by William Fiston”. To emphasize the break, the editor provided the book with a new title, so that Caxton’s The recuyell of the historyes of Troye (1473), rearranged by Wynkyn de Worde as The recuyles or gaderi[n]ge to gyder of ye  hystoryes of Troye (1502) and reprinted by Copland as The recuile of the histories of Troie, became, in William Fiston’s version The auncient historie, of the destruction of Troy. The corrections William Fiston introduced consisted in modernizing the language, so that old grammatical forms as “tho”, “her”, “hem” became “those”, “their” and “them”, a plural like “goddis” was rewritten “gods”, verbal forms were normalized: “maad” was changed to “made”, “sprad” to “spread” and “sihe” to “saw”. Spelling was similarly amended, “dyvysyon” becoming “division”, “moder” “mother”, and “tonges” “tongues”. William Fiston also anglicized the words William Caxton imported almost unchanged from the French: he replaced “tour” by “tower”, changed “montaygnes” to “mountaines”,  “practique” to “practise”, “royalmes” to “realms”. Not unfrequently, some of Caxton’s words were considered too archaic to be kept. “I forsake not”, translating Le Fèvre’s “je ne ignore pas”, Fiston rewrites “I deny not”. Caxton’s “ensigne and mynistre” becomes Fiston’s “instruct and govern”. Saturn “regna meurement”, according to Le Fèvre, who was using a common French adverb that Cotgrave, as late as 1611, explained as meaning “discreetly, advisedly”. Caxton was content with lending the word an English appearance: in his translation, Saturn “regned meurely”, to which Fiston substituted “reigned wisely”.


Fiston’s modernization is not consistently judicious. Some of his corrections introduce mistakes. In Le Fèvre’s French, Titan would not be powerful enough, his mother tells him, “s’il advenoit que aucun te feist guerre”, which Caxton accurately translates: “yf hit happend that ony man wold make warre”, a sentence Fiston seems to misunderstand when he renders it as “if it happen that one man would make warre”.


Fiston’s rewriting of Caxton, first issued in 1597, was reprinted in 1607 (Thomas Creede), in 1617 (Barnard Alsop), and in 1636 (Barnard Alsop and T. Fawcet). Five more editions came out in 1663, 1670, 1676 and 1680, and still a few more until the eighteenth edition was printed in 1738. These later editions are based on Fiston’s, but, under the excuse of improving and accentuating its modernisation, they tamper so heavily with the text that Caxton becomes unrecognizable.


Since Troia Britanica was published in 1609, Thomas Heywood could possibly have used either Caxton’s Recuyell or its modernization by William Fiston in its 1597 or 1607 editions.  A similar question arises concerning Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida. It has been established that, among other sources, Shakespeare drew on Caxton’s Recuyell when he wrote Troilus and Cressida. Geoffrey Bullough specified that Shakespeare read Caxton “in an early edition, not in the 1596 [1597] modernized version where, for example, the word ‘orgulous’ (found also in Shakespeare’s Prologue) was changed to ‘proud’” [Narrative and Dramatic Sources of Shakespeare, 6: 94]. Bullough’s brief summary, although reliable in its conclusion, is not entirely accurate in its arguments. In Recuyell, Caxton uses five times the adjective “orguyllous”, which Fiston, apart for one single exception, systematically erases, although—pace Bullough—he never changes it to “proud”. Deianira praises Hercules because “the orguyllous and prowde he humelyed and meked” or, according to Fiston, “the insolent and proud he humbled and meeked”. Caxton’s Priam claims that the gods punish “the orguyllous and prowd”, an assertion Agamemnon later echoes when he says that “the goddes resiste and wythstonde the orguyllous and prowde peple”. In Fiston’s version, Priam warns “those that bee insolent and proud” and in Agamemnon’s words, “the gods resist and withstand the insolent and proud people”. The phrase occurs again in Caxton’s description of one of the Greek warriors: “Polydaryus was passing grete fatte and swollen hardy orguyllous and proude”, which Fiston changes to “Polydarius was passing great, fat and swollen, hardy, high-minded and proud”. When the Prologue of Troilus and Cressida announces “Princes Orgillous, their high blood chaf’d”, the phrase, with its Caxtonian adjective placed after the noun as if modelled, in a Caxton-like manner, on a French grammatical structure, has a deliberately archaic flavour and brings over from The Recuyell its pejorative connotations. As Geoffrey Bullough had remarked, the Prologue of Troilus and Cressida plunges its roots in Caxtonian soil—definitely not Fiston’s 1597 modernized version, but Caxton’s genuine, original text, in one of its early editions by Caxton himself, Wynkyn de Worde or Copland.


The same can be said of Heywood’s Troia Britanica. Although Fiston’s 1597 modernized version had long been out by the time Heywood started composing his narrative poem, it can be established that it is Caxton’s original, unmodified, text he used.


In Le Fèvre’s Recoeil, when Pluto caught sight of Proserpina, she was making “un chappelet [a head wreath] de flourettes”, which Caxton translated “a Chapelet of flowers” and Fiston modernized to “a garland of floures”. Faithful to Caxton, but with a concern for clarity, Heywood made his Proserpine gather flowers, “Chaplets to make, or garlands by fine skill” (Troia Britanica, VI, 106). To keep his daughter Danès safe, King Acrisius builds a tower, which Le Fèvre calls “la tour d’arain” [the brazen tower]. Caxton did not understand the French, thought that “d’arain” was the name of the tower, and translated “the tour of darrain”. This “name” roused Fiston’s suspicion, who, assuming it might be a misprint, systematically mentioned “the Tower of Dardan”, thus transporting Danae’s story to Troy. Heywood, who uses Caxton’s own text, unrevised by Fiston, mentions “Darrain’s gate” (Troia Britanica, IV, 91), “Darrain tower” (V, 55), “Darrain’s strength” (V, 56) and “Darrain’s strong tower” (V, 57).


Similarly, Caxton described Chimaera as having the head of a lion, the tail of a serpent, and the womb of a “chievre”, a word imported straight from Raoul Le Fèvre’s French, and that was kept in all editions between 1413 and 1553. In 1597, however, Fiston modernized Caxton’s Chimaera as a composite of lion, serpent, and goat, thus replacing the French word by its English equivalent. In Troia Britanica, Heywood describes a creature with “a terrible huge lion’s head” together with “a chievre’s body and a serpent’s tale” (VI, 59), a portrait that obviously ignores Fiston’s correction and is based on one of the previous editions of Recuyell. In his version of the catalogue of the Greek ships sailing to wage war on Troy, Heywood mentions “Polyxeme”, identical with the “Polyxeme” of the first four editions, in contrast with Fiston’s “Polyxene”. Similarly, in his portrait gallery of Greek captains, he describes “Neptolynus” (X, 40), closer to the “Neptolonyus” of the 1473, 1502, 1503 and 1553 texts than to Fiston’s corrected “Neoptolemus”. In this Neptolynus’ portrait, Heywood notes that “his hairy winbrows meet” (X, 40), a feature borrowed from Caxton, according to whom, in the first four editions, “his winbrows joined”, not from Fiston’s 1597 rewording, which favours Neoptolemus with “eyebrows smooth”.


Converging evidence makes it clear that Heywood did not use Fiston’s 1597 text or its 1607 reprint. It is more difficult to ascertain which of the editions preceding Fiston’s was Heywood’s Caxton, as the texts published in 1473, 1502, 1503, and 1553 constitute a more homogeneous group, with slighter differences between them than between them all and Fiston’s revision. One clue at least may point towards one of them as having possibly been Heywood’s working text. In the catalogue of Greek captains, Benoît de Sainte-Maure’s Theseus (Roman de Troie, 5625) becomes Raoul Le Fèvre’s “comte Theseus”. In the course of transmission, he is transformed into “the erle Thephus” in the 1473, 1502 and 1503 editions of Caxton’s Recuyell, but “the Erle Thebus” in the 1553 edition. Heywood’s “Thebes fell” (X, 24), with “Thebus” in the margin, may suggest that of these four editions, he was using the latest.


It can be ascertained that Heywood did not use Fiston’s 1597 and 1607 revised texts. Until more evidence comes up, it may be provisionally surmised that of the four remaining editions of Caxton’s Recuyell that were accessible to him, he possibly used the latest, printed in 1553 by William Copland.


Caxton’s Recuyell constantly remains open on Heywood’s desk, even when he is drawing on some other book. In canto XVI, for instance, Heywood reproduces the genealogy that leads from Adam to the Trojans from John Harding’s Chronicle, his major source for this passage [see below]. But it is a source that he does not copy blindly for he constantly keeps an eye on Caxton’s Recuyell. Finding there that “After long time, [Dardanus] passed out of this world and died, and left a son of his wife Candame, that was second king of Dardan”, he introduces in turn Dardanus’ wife, Candame, who does not appear in John Harding’s Chronicle. Back to top


Heywood’s Ovid

The Metamorphoses


In his notes to Troia Britanica, Heywood often quotes Ovid’s Metamorphoses in Latin and feeds his commentaries with excerpts from earlier annotators of Ovid’s text. Unless one imagines that he had several editions of the Metamorphoses on his working table, it stands within probability that he used a single edition offering all the various commentaries he needed, handily gathered in a single volume.


In his endnotes to canto III, Heywood comments on Callisto’s transformation into first a bear, then a constellation in Metamorphoses II:


In the 26th stanza, where Callisto is said to be turned into a bear, Phurnutius saith that the lady, hunting, was devoured of a bear, and being seen no more, was thought to be metamorphosed into a bear. There be two bears in the heavens, the greater and the less, into which Ovid saith Archas and his mother were translated; one of them Nauphus first observed, the other Thales Milesius. Homer calls them Helicopes.


Heywood’s note is directly based on Gilbert of Longueil’s commentary, whole phrases of which he faithfully translates:


Phurnutus ait Callisto venatricem ab ursa fuisse devoratam, quam venatores cum ad ursae lustrum vidissent, nec amplius existentem conspexissent, in ursam conversam dixere. Sunt autem ursae geminae in coelo (ut apud Arati interpretem lego) quarum alteram Nauphus, alteram Thales Milesius adinvenit, majorem Helicen appellant, quam Graeci spectantes navigant, unde ab Homero Helicopes vocati sunt.  


This text was accessible to him in P. Ovidii Nasonis Opera Veterum Exemplarium Auxilio ab infinitis mendis emendata, regularly printed in London (John Kingston, 1570; Henry Bynneman, 1572; John Harrison, 1594 and 1602), an edition that provided the commentaries of Heinrich Glarean (Henricus Glareanus) and Gilbert de Longueil (Gilbertus Longolius).  These commentaries were also included in other editions of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, published by Henri Pierre (Henricus Petrus) at Basel in 1523 (reissued in 1538, 1541, 1551) as well as in numerous successive editions (Cologne: Johannes Gymnicus, 1538; Antwerp: Joannes Loëus, 1553; Cologne: Gualtherus Fabricius, 1556; Basel: Henricus Petrus, 1560).


Some of Gilbert of Longueil’s notes—including his explanation of Callisto’s transformation—were integrated by Jakob Moltzer (Jacobus Micyllus) in his commentary on Ovid’s Metamorphoses that first appeared in P. Ovidii Nasonis Metamorphoseos Libri Quindecim, cum commentariis Raphaelis Regii. Adjectis etiam Annotationibus Jacobi Micylli nunc primum in lucem editis [Basel: Joann Herwagen (Hervagius), 1543], p. 50. The same text on Callisto’s metamorphosis appears twice in some editions of Ovid, first as a marginal annotation in Jakob Moltzer’s commentary, then again as an endnote in Gilbert de Longueil’s, when both commentaries are provided, as is the case in P. Ovidii Nasonis Metamorphoseon libri XV, printed in Venice by Johann Greif (Johannes Gryphius) in 1553 and again in 1565 (p. 47 and p. 58).


In the endnotes to canto IV, however, it is neither Gilbert de Longueil nor Jakob Moltzer that Heywood draws upon, but the commentary of Raffaele Regio (Raphael Regius) on Metamorphoses IV, 663, that made Aeolus Jupiter and Acasta’s son and therefore Hippotes’ grandson instead of his son. First published in several 1492 and 1493 Venice editions of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Raffaele Regio’s annotations proved influential; they were included in some ten different editions between 1494 and 1500, and regularly found their way into further successive editions.


There were not that many editions of Ovid’s Metamorphoses that contained both Raffaele Regio’s annotations and Gilbert de Longueil’s commentary, though. Girolamo Scotto (Hieronymus Scotus) printed P. Ovidii Nasonis Metamorphoseon libri XV in Venice in 1545, with the annotations of Raffaele Regio, Jakob Moltzer (Jacobus Micyllus), Jacobus Constantinus (Phanensis), Giovanni Battista Egnazio (Joannes Baptista Egnatius), Glarean and Longueil, together with the “argumenti” of Lactantius Placidus; it was reprinted in 1553, and again in Venice by Joannes Gryphius in 1565.


When they reproduce Longueil’s or Moltzer’s commentaries on Callisto, most editions call “Nauplius” the Argonaut who directed his course on the great bear. Heywood’s “Nauphus”, a less common form, seems to copy the spelling found in P. Ovidii Nasonis Opera Veterum Exemplarium Auxilio ab infinitis mendis emendata (London: John Harrison, 1594), p. 48. If that was the edition he used, he would not have found Raphael Regio’s commentary on Aeolus there. Heywood, however, need not have consulted another edition of the Metamorphoses to find it. It had become so widespread that it ended up feeding current dictionaries. Heywood only needed to open Charles Estienne’s Dictionarium Historicum, Geographicum, Poeticum to find “Aeolus” defined as “Jovis filius et Sergestae (alias Acestae), Hippotae Troiani filiae, à quo dicitur Hippotades”. It does not seem unreasonable to presume that Heywood may have used one of the London editions of the Metamorphoses printed by John Harrison, which he completed, when it proved necessary, by a widespread dictionary. Back to top


Amatoria, the love poems  


Heywood also drew extensively on Ovid’s Heroides and De Arte Amandi, while also occasionally quoting from De Remedio Amoris. Before translating the whole of De Arte Amandi [M. L. Stapleton, ed., Thomas Heywood’s Art of Love: The First Complete English Translation of Ovid’s Ars Amatoria (Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 2000)], Heywood had already inserted translated excerpts into the texture of Troia Britanica, especially in the endnotes to cantos VII, VIII, X, XII and XV. From Ovid’s Heroides, the letters of Paris to Helen and Helen to Paris, translated into English, constitute the bulk of cantos IX and X respectively.


Between the end of the fifteenth and the beginning of the seventeenth centuries, an impressive number of Ovid’s poems was published. The Heroides, De Arte Amandi and De Remedio Amoris were often published together, with Amores and a few shorter poems. Heywood may very well have used one of the editions that conveniently grouped Ovidian poems treating of love. One such, Publii Ovidii Nasonis Heroidum epistolae, prepared by Andrea Navagero, was printed in Venice in 1502 on Aldo Manuzio’s press. It was often reprinted in the course of the sixteenth century, including in London, by Thomas Vautrollier in 1583 and by John Harrison in 1594 and 1602. But Andrea Navagero’s edition was very slightly annotated. Heywood himself, who annotated his translation of Paris’ letter to Helen on two significant occasions at least, would not have found matter for his notes in Navagero’s edition. Another edition, that combined the twofold advantage of gathering Ovidian love poems and affording more substantial notes, was published by Jakob Moltzer (Jacobus Micyllus) under the title of Pub. Ovidii Nasonis Heroidum Epistolae. Una cum aliis eiusdem operibus [Frankfurt: Georg Rab (Georgius Corvinus), Sigmund Feyerabend and the heirs of Weigand Han (Vuigandus Gallus), 1567]. It was reprinted in Frankfurt in 1571, 1579 and 1587, and again in 1599 by Peter Fischer. Micyllus’ annotations—like the notes in Giovanni Battista Egnazio’s popular edition of the Heroides—were mostly based on earlier, sometimes more substantial commentaries, by Antonio Volsco, Ubertino da Crescentino and Aulo Giano Parrhasio, which accompanied most early editions of the Heroides, published between 1492 and 1511.


In Heywood’s version of his letter, Paris reminds Helen of the time when Theseus abducted her,


When thou wert stripped stark naked to the skin,

A sight of force to make the gods to sin,

Such is your country’s guise at seasons when

With naked ladies they mix naked men.


Ovid’s text was both terser and more precise:


More tuae gentis nitida dum nuda palaestra

Ludis et es nudis foemina mixta viris. (XVI, 151-52)


Heywood’s suppression of any mention to the palestra makes it necessary for him to add a marginal note: “A custom in Peloponnesus, the province in which Lacedaemon stands”. This may have been inspired by a note in commented editions of the Heroides; Micyllus’s (Frankfurt: Peter Fischer, 1599) is fairly representative: “Palaestra luctandi certamen dicitur, cujus inventores creduntur Lacedaemonii” (p. 85). Heywood would get from such an annotation the association between the palestra and the Lacedaemonians, but what seems to have interested him more is the geographical situation, which could be found explained in Thomas Cooper’s Thesaurus: “Peloponnesus: In it were the famous kingdoms of Mycenae, of Argos, Lacedaemon, Arcadia, Sicyona, etc.”


Praising his ancestry, Paris claims that his father Priam never was guilty of any crime, nor “Made the Myrtoan sea look red with murder”, which translates Ovid’s remark that Priam does not have among his ancestors “qui Myrtoas crimine signet aquas” (Heroides, XVI, 210). Here Micyllus, like other commentators, added a note: “Pelops Myrtilum aurigam in mare praecipitavit, a quo mare Myrtoum” [Heroidum Epistolae (Frankfurt: Peter Fischer, 1599), p. 87]. Perhaps because he had already narrated it himself in V, 5-6, Heywood did not take the opportunity to remind his reader of the story of Pelops and Mirtylus as told (among others) by Apollodorus (The Library, Epitome, II, 1-9). Instead, he underlined in the margin that “Myrtoan is a part of the sea betwixt the Ionium et Egeum”, a geographical location he most probably owed to Thomas Cooper’s Thesaurus, in which “Myrtoum mare” is defined as “A portion of the sea which is between the sea called Aegeum and Ionium”.


Helen’s allusion to Jason’s desertion of Hypsipyle (Heroides, XVII, 193; Troia Britanica, X), leads Heywood to insert an explanatory note in which he informs the reader that Hypsipyle is “the daughter of Thoas, king of Lemnos, who, when all the women of that island had slain their husbands and kinsmen, she only reserved her father alive, for which they after exiled her”. Jacob Moltzer’s Pub. Ovidii Nasonis Heroidum Epistolae did not provide any explanation for Helen’s allusion to Hypsipyle. If Heywood had used a more fully annotated edition, like for example, Jacob Moltzer’s P. Ovidii Nasonis Poetae Sulmonensis Opera quae vocantur Amatoria (Basel: Herwagen, 1549), he would have found Antonio Volsco’s explanation, “Exemplo inconstantiam probat, Iason Hypsipylen reliquit” (p. 158), which suits the context of a lover’s unfaithfulness in which Helen refers to Hypsipyle. It is not, in contrast, what Heywood does, since his note describes Hypsipyle out of context, not as a deserted lover, but as the only Lemnian woman who did not murder her father. As a matter of fact, Heywood’s note seems to translate the beginning of Charles Estienne’s entry in his Dictionarium Historicum, Geographicum, Poeticum:


Lemni regina, Thoantis filia, quae cum reliquae mulieres eius insulae viros cognatosque omnes, ex communi sententia occidissent, sola patrem servavit. Ob quam pietatem è Lemno ejecta …


(Queen of Lemnos, Thoas’ daughter, who, while the other women on her island unanimously decided to kill all their husbands and male relatives, was the only one to spare her father. For that act of piety, she was exiled from Lemnos …


In brief, until more information crops up, two possibilities can provisionally be contemplated. Either Heywood used some annotated edition of Ovid’s love poems, from which he derived part of his information, while also relying on Cooper’s Thesaurus; or—more probably, perhaps—he used a very slightly annotated edition, like Navagero’s, and had to make up for the lack of information by relying mainly on what Cooper’s Thesaurus or Charles Estienne’s Dictionarium Historicum, Geographicum, Poeticum offered. Back to top



Carion’s Chronicle


In a marginal note of Troia Britanica’s “Proemium”, Heywood summarily refers to “Carion”. Johannes Carion had written in German a history of the world, Chronica durch Magistrum Johan Carion … (Wittenberg: Georg Rhau, 1532), henceforth referred to as Carion’s Chronica. This very successful work went through several reprints and was translated into Latin by Hermann Bonn in 1537. It was also translated into Italian (1543), Spanish (1553), and French (1553). In 1550, Gwalter Lynne’s translation into English, The thre bokes of cronicles whyche Iohn Carion … gathered wyth great diligence of the beste authours that haue written in Hebrue, Greke or Latine, was printed in London by S. Mierdman. It is possible to establish that Heywood used none of these editions, but the Latin text of Philip Melanchthon’s extensive revision of Carion’s Chronica, published under the title of Chronicon Carionis, latine expositum et auctum multis et veteribus et recentibus historiis, in narrationibus rerum Graecarum, Germanicarum et ecclesticiarum (Wittenberg: Georg Rhau, 1558), henceforth referred to as Chronicon Carionis. In his “Proemium” to Troia Britanica, Heywood has a certain number of remarks for which no equivalent can be found in any version of Carion’s original Chronica or in its translation into English by Gwalter Lynne, but which are direct translations of comments in Melanchthon’s Carion. Thus, for example, neither Carion’s Chronica nor its translation into English mention that Japheth’s descendants, before reaching Europe, first moved to “the less Asia towards the West”. Heywood is translating Melanchthon’s Carion, Chronicon Carionis, according to which “Iaphet minorem Asiam versus occidentem tenuit” (p. 21). Heywood’s interpretation of “Hebrews” as “travellers or strangers”, not to be found in Carion’s Chronica, interprets Melanchthon’s explanation in Chronicon Carionis: “Ebraei, id est perigrinatores” (p. 21). A comparison between Heywood’s “Proemium”, Carion’s Chronica and its rewriting by Melanchthon in Chronicon Carionis consistently shows that it is the latter version that Heywood was using. The “Proemium” states that:


“The posterity of Cham was Chus, of whom came the Aethiopians in the farthest coasts of Aphrica, and the Lybians called to this day Chirsitae. The sons of Chus were Saba, of whom the Sabaans, and Evila, of whom the Indians descended. Nemrod first reigned in Babylon; Misraim occupied Egypt, which the Arabians and Turks to this day call Mizri.”


Carion’s Chronica does not give these details in any of its several versions. Gwalter Lynne’s English text, for example, merely says:


“Cham, the second son of Noe, hath obtained that country which goeth toward the south; of Canaan are come the Chananeis; of Mizraim came the Egyptians; of Chus came the Ethiopians; of Saba came the Arabians” (A4v).


This faithfully renders Carion’s German:


Cham, der ander Son Noe, hat eingenomen das Land gegen mittag; denn von Canaan komen die Cananei; von Mizraim die Egypter; von Chus die Moren; von Saba die Araben” (C3r).


Hermann Bonn’s Latin version does not say otherwise:


Cham alter filiorum Noe eam regionem obtinuit, quae ad meridiem tendit. Ex Canaan enim Cananaei sunt, ex Mizraim Aegyptii, ex Chus Aethiopes, ex Saba Arabes” (20v).


Melanchthon’s Chronicon Carionis is more rewarding. It offers more detailed explanations, which correspond word for word to Heywood’s. Thus Melanchthon’s subsection title, “Posteritas Cham”, and the first sentence in the paragraph, “Chus stirps Aethiopum in ultima ora Aphricae” (p. 21), become Heywood’s “The posterity of Cham was Chus, of whom came the Aethiopians in the farthest coasts of Aphrica”. The descendants of Chus and inhabitants of Lybia, called “Chusitae” in Chronicon Carionis, are transformed into “Chirsitae” by a misprint in Troia Britanica. Heywood’s “The sons of Chus were Saba, of whom the Sabaans, and Evila, of whom the Indians descended” translates “Filii Chus sunt Saba et Evila. A Saba sunt Sabaei. Ab Evila pars Indorum” (Chronicon Carionis, p. 21). Nemrod’s reign is given a substantial development in Melanchthon’s Chronicon Carionis (p. 22), of which Heywood only keeps the first words, before noting that “Misraim occupied Egypt, which the Arabians and Turks to this day call Mizri”, a remark translated from Chronicon Carionis, which says that “[Mizraim] occupavit eam regionem quae postea nominata est Aegyptus. Ac nunc quoque Arabes et Turci nominant eam Mizri” (p. 22).


When he wrote his “Proemium” to Troia Britanica, Heywood was following Carion’s Chronica as reworked and expanded by Melanchthon in Chronicon Carionis. The details of his borrowings are mentioned in the annotations of the present online edition.


Melanchthon’s Chronicon Carionis was very influential and went through a great number of editions and reprints. Considering that Heywood tends uncritically to reproduce the misprints (especially in proper names) that he found in his edition, a summary analysis of some of the different misprints in various reprints of Chronicon Carionis may help, if not to identify with certainty the edition he used, to narrow down the possibilities to a small group of editions that may have included Heywood’s.


Among Japheth’s descendants, Heywood mentions “Adodanim”, instead of Dodanim, as the Dodonians’ ancestor. The mistake, which originates in an incorrect reading of Melanchthon’s Latin, “A Dodanim … sunt Dodonaei in Epiro”, can be found in the edition printed by the heirs of Johann Krafft (Johannes Crato) at Wittenberg in 1580 (p. 21), as well as that produced by Pierre de Saint André in Geneva in 1584 (p. 25), and by Jean Le Preux in Bern in 1601 (p. 22). This misreading may have arisen from the edition printed by David Zöpfel (Frankfurt, 1559, p. 68), where the interval between the capital A and the capitals of DODANIM is small enough to be overlooked by a careless reader. A copy held in the University Library of Ghent (Bib. Hist. 005571) bears on its title page the less usual title of Chronicon absolutissimum ab orbe condito usque ad Christum deductum, in quo non Carionis solum opus continetur, verum etiam alia multa eaq; insignia explicantur, adeo ut justae Historiae loco occupatis esse possit. Philippo Melanthone autore; the place and date of publication indicated on the title page are “Basileae MDLIX”—the colophon, however, says “Witerbergae excudebant Haeredes Georgii Rhaw. 1560; in this book (p. 54), “Adodanim” is printed as a single word, as it is too, albeit in capital letters, “ADODANIM”, in the edition printed by the heirs of Georg Rhau under the accepted title of Chronicon Carionis (Wittenberg, 1561, p. 22) and in a later one issued at Lyons in 1564 (printer not mentioned), p. 28r. It is, however, printed correctly “A DODANIM”, with a space between “A” and “DODANIM” in the edition printed by the heirs of George Rhau (Wittenberg, 1560, fol. 21r).


In his survey of Egyptian sovereigns, Melanchthon mentions “Pheronem”, whose name he assimilates with “Pharao”. In many editions, an unfortunate misprint of “Pheronem” as “Theronem” blurs the phonetic proximity of the two names. Repeated again and again, the mistake is to be found in the editions printed by the heirs of Johann Krafft (Johannes Crato) (Wittenberg, 1580, p. 35), by Matthäus Welack (Wittenberg, 1582, p. 34v), by Pierre de Saint André (Geneva, 1584, p. 46, reprinted unchanged: Geneva, 1592, p. 46), by Johann Feyrabendt (Frankfurt, 1594, p. 162) and by Jean Le Preux (Bern, 1601, p. 42). This recurrent misprint might have originated from the edition printed by Hans Krafft (Wittenberg, 1567, p. 41), where the P of Pheronem reads very much like a T, at least to a cursory eye; it does not occur in earlier editions.


It is not improbable that Heywood, whose reading is not over cautious, might have reproduced the misprint uncritically, had it been in his edition of Chronicon Carionis, which would tend to rule out such editions as were printed in Wittenberg (1580), Frankfurt (1581), Wittenberg (1582), Geneva (1584), Geneva (1592), Frankfurt (1594), Bern (1601), all of which read “Theronem”, and favour earlier editions, such as those of Wittenberg (1558), Frankfurt (1559), Basel/Wittenberg (1559/1560), Wittenberg (1561), Lyons (1564), Wittenberg (1567), which all correctly read “Pheronem”.


One may infer that Heywood used one of the editions where the “Adodanim” misprint is to be found, but not the “Theronem” one, which restricts the possibilities to a small group printed between 1561 and 1567. The edition printed by Georg Rhau’s heirs at Wittenberg in 1561, which has both the wrong “Adodanim” and the right “Pheronem”, has been chosen as the reference edition from which quotations are cited in the Notes to Heywood’s “Proemium”. Back to top 


Ranulf Higden’s Polychronicon


In a marginal note to canto I, stanza 22, probably misplaced to face stanza 23 by the printer, Heywood refers to “Policron.” (i. e. Polychronicon), the fourteenth century chronicle written by Ranulph Higden, a Benedictine monk in Saint Werburgh’s abbey, in Chester. This universal history from the beginning of the world to the reign of Edward III was written in Latin and several times translated into English [see Polychronicon Ranulphi Higden Monachi Cestrensis; together with the English translations of John Trevisa and of an unknown writer of the fifteenth century, vol. 1-2 ed. Churchill Babington, vols. 3-9 ed. Joseph Rawson Lumby (London: Longman & Co, 1865-1886)]. Trevisa’s translation was printed by Caxton in 1482 with a continuation up to the advent of Edward IV. It was reprinted by Wynkyn de Worde in 1495 and by Peter Treveris in 1527.


Heywood did not only use Higden’s Polychronicon when he wrote Troia Britanica, but remained faithful to it, as numerous references in Gynaikeion testify. In A True Description of His Majesty’s Royal Ship (London: John Okes 1637), he still counts Polydore Vergil and “Ranulphus Hidgim in his Polycronicon among the most useful chroniclers, “all of them authentic and approved chronologers” (pp. 33-34). Back to top


Lanquet and Cooper’s Chronicle


What remains of the chronicle Eusebius of Caesara, constructed at the end of the third and the beginning of the fourth centuries BC, was translated into Latin and complemented by Jerome at the end of the fourth century. Brought up to date up to 1481 and printed by Erhard Ratdolt in Venice in 1483, it was regularly updated and reedited in the course of the first half of the sixteenth century. Its popularity set a vogue for chronological histories of the world since its legendary creation, chronicles that embraced Greek mythology as well as Egyptian antiquities and biblical legends.


The fourteenth-century Saint Albans Chronicle and Ranulf Higden’s Polychronicon were regularly updated and a few editions were printed at the beginning of the sixteenth century. The first half of the sixteenth century saw the success of Robert Fabyan’s chronicle, which in turn was superseded by Thomas Lanquet’s An Epitome of Chronicles Conteining the whole discourse of the histories, as well of this realme of England as all other countries … (London: Thomas Berthelet, 1549). The title page made it clear that it had been written “first by Thomas Lanquet, from the beginning of the world to the incarnation of Christ, and now finished and continued to the reign of our sovereign lord King Edward the sixth by Thomas Cooper”. Thomas Lanquet had died in 1545, when he was twenty-four; Thomas Cooper then took over, completed the work and saw it through the press. In the first year of Queen Elizabeth’s reign, a second, circumstantial edition was produced by Robert Crowley, who continued the work from where Cooper had left it up to the accession of the new sovereign (London: Thomas Marsh, 1559). This immediately prompted Thomas Cooper to have his own second edition printed, in which he denounced, in “An admonition to the reader”, “certain persons utterly unlearned” who, “for lucre’s sake, contrary to honesty, had caused my chronicle to be printed without my knowledge, altering in my doing what they listed and annexing another man’s additions unto my work”. This new edition he strongly claimed as his work, entitling it Cooper’s Chronicle … in the latter end with the whole sum of those things that Paulus Jovius and Sleiden hath written of late years, that is, from the beginning of King Henry the Eighth’s reign unto the late death of Queen Mary, by me, Thomas Cooper. Lanquet’s part in the work is still announced, however, as “Lanquettes Chronicle” (London: Berthelet, 1560). A last edition was brought up in 1565, Cooper’s Chroniclenow lately overseen and with great diligence corrected and augmented unto the vii. year of the reign of our most gracious Queen Elizabeth that now is (London: s. n., 1565).


Although it is not impossible that Heywood occasionally checked out Eusebius’ Chronicon in Jerome’s translation [see Troia Britanica, VIII, 2, note to “Pindarus”], it is Lanquet and Cooper’s work that provides his main reference for chronology. Lanquet had devised his book so as to situate the events he mentioned according to a double chronology, so that everything he reports is dated so many years after the creation of the world and, simultaneously, so many years before or after the birth of Christ. Thomas Heywood adopts the same system in Troia Britanica as he freely borrows his chronology from Lanquet and Cooper’s Chronicle.


In V, 6, for example, after narrating how Pelops won Hippodamia thanks to Myrtilus’ treachery, Heywood concludes the story with the wedding of Pelops and Hippodamia. In the margin, he notes: “2617/ 1346”. This dates the wedding of Pelops and Hippodamia in 2617 after the creation of the world and in 1346 before the birth of Christ. At these dates, the 1565 edition of Lanquet and Cooper’s Chronicle noted “Pelops took to wife Hippodamia” (fol. 23v). To situate Pelops’ story more precisely still, Heywood adds: “Ehud, of the tribe of Benjamin, slew Eglon, king of Moab”. This is borrowed, again, from Lanquet and Cooper’s Chronicle, in which he found “Ehud, otherwise Aod, of the tribe of Benjamin, judged Israel 80 years. He delivered them from the tyranny of Eglon, king of Moabites” (fol. 23r). This Lanquet and Cooper’s Chronicle dates in 2578 after the creation of the world and 1385 before Christ, that is to say, only roughly contemporary with Pelops’ wedding. Heywood’s method consists not in following Lanquet and Cooper submissively, but in ranging freely within their chronology. More than historical accuracy, what seems to matter here is a parallel between a biblical event and Pelops’ story, which, though it remains a mere landmark for Lanquet and Cooper, is fleshed out in Troia Britanica into a brief narrative summing up a story that was developed at length in Natale Conti’s Mythologia, VII, xvii, “De Pelope”.


In the endnotes to canto I, Heywood mentions that “250 years after the Deluge, Noah paid his due to Nature”. According to Lanquet, Noah, called also Janus, paid his debt to Nature 350 years after the universal deluge”. The discrepancy may be due to Heywood misreading Lanquet, or to the printer of Troia Britanica misreading Heywood’s handwriting, or to a simple misprint. All editions of Lanquet (1549, 1559, 1560 and august 1565) print “350” very clearly except the April 1565 edition, where the number is blurred (fol. 12r) in some copies. It does not necessarily follow that Heywood used one of these copies. However, since this is one of the latest and most complete reprints, it has been used as our reference edition. Back to top 


Britain’s pre-cultural past, the Brutus foundation myth, and John Harding’s Chronicle


In canto XVI, Heywood reaches the mythical beginnings of Great Britain and its foundation by Aeneas’ grandson Brutus, or Brute. Many European countries claimed either Greek or Trojan ancestors; the French liked to think they descended from Hector’s son Francion, the Danes from the Danaans. The British were no exception. As early as the end of the eighth and beginning of the ninth centuries, Nennius’s Historia Brittonum tells the story of Brutus, son of Sylvius, who was himself the son of Aeneas and Lavinia. After accidentally killing his father, Brutus was expelled from Italy and eventually reached a northern island, which he called Great Britain. Throughout the Middle Ages and later, this legend was given authority by Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regum Britanniae, completed in 1136, which provided what was to become one of the major versions of Brutus’ journey. Brutus, who is the son of Sylvius (himself no longer Ascanius’ half-brother, as in Nennius, but his son), becomes, according to this new genealogy, Aeneas’ great-grandson. Exiled from Italy, Brutus frees some of his Trojan ancestors from king Pandrasus, who kept them enslaved in Greece and sails away with 324 ships and Pandrasus’ daughter Ignoge (called Innogen in later chronicles). In the isle of Logice, Diana directs Brutus towards the western isle where he will found a new Troy. On their way, the Trojans escape from the Mermaids’ lures and meet up with fellow Trojans in Spain, descendants of Antenor, led by Corineus. In Aquitaine, they fight and overcome king Goffar and finally reach their goal, an island called Albion, inhabited by giants, whose chief Gogmagog is defeated by Corineus. Brutus thenceforth is free to build the new Troy, to set up the laws of the country, and to bring up his three sons, Locrine, Camber and Albanact, from whom British kings are descended.


Geoffrey of Monmouth’s account of Brutus’ peregrinations and of his settlement in Britain gave rise to innumerable literary and historiographic rewritings, among which Robert Wace’s French Li Romans de Brut (1155), Layamon’s English Brut (c. 1190-1215), and the metrical chronicle of Robert of Gloucester (late 13th  century). It also found its way into the popular Flores Historiarum, started by John of Wallingford (or de Cella), abbot of Saint Albans, and continued by different hands, notably Roger of Wendover and Matthew Paris.


The fourteenth century saw the emergence of an important body of prose versions of the history of Britain, commonly referred to as the Prose Brut; it was analyzed in detail by Lister M. Matheson in The Prose Brut: The Development of a Middle English Chronicle (Tempe, Arizona: Arizona State University, Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies n°180, 1998). The Prose Brut texts are divided into three groups according to the language in which they were written, the Anglo-Norman Brut, the Latin Brut and the Middle English Brut.


In most of these texts, the story of Brutus as popularized by Geoffrey of Monmouth is preceded by a prologue accounting for the presence of giants in Albion before Brutus’ arrival and thus endowing the island with a pre-cultural, archaic past to which the Trojans’ heir was supposed to have substituted a civilized state. There are several versions of this addition. According to one variant, the thirty daughters of an unnamed Greek king, who had unsuccessfully tried to kill their respective husbands, were put to sea on a boat without sail or oar, which drifted to a desert island they called Albion after the eldest of them, named Albine. On that island, after devils had made them pregnant, they gave birth to the race of giants Brutus was later to defeat. According to a minor variant, to be found not in the Prose Brut, but in an independent poem, the anonymous Short English Metrical Chronicle (c. 1307), there were only twenty daughters; the eldest of them, Albine, persuaded the others to murder their husbands, but the youngest sister betrayed their purpose and their plot failed. A major variant in the Prose Brut makes the story start in Syria, where a king, named Dioclesian, had thirty-three daughters, the eldest called Albine, who did succeed in stabbing their husbands to death during their sleep; the rest of the story, from their punishment to their settling in Albion and begetting giants there, is substantially the same in all variants.


The source of the story seems to be found in an anonymous Anglo-Norman poem, Des grantz geanz (probably composed some time between the 1250’s and 1333-34), two different manuscripts of which have been edited by Georgina Elizabeth Brereton under the auspices of the Society for the Study of Mediaeval Languages and Literature (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1937). There, according to Brereton, “The thirty daughters of the roi de Grece seem to have been suggested by the fifty of Danaus. Like them, but on their own initiative and not on that of their father, they plot to murder their husbands. The youngest daughter plays Hypermnestra’s part; by her timely revelation of the conspiracy, she saves not only her husband’s life (as in the classical myth) but those of her brothers-in-law as well” (p. xxxiii). No origin has been traced for that story, which the narrator claims to have heard “de un sage home / Qi bien saveit les escriptures / Des auncienes aventures” (10-12), although he later contradictorily refers to “la geste” (236). The story starts in 3970 after the creation of the world: “Aprés le comensement / Del mound, treis mil e nef cent / E sessante e diz anz, / En Grece estoit un roy pussanz” (13-16). That king’s daughters decide to kill their husbands because, fiercely independent, “Nule ne voleit aver mestre” (58). Once they are stranded in England, which, as no human being had ever set foot there, was as yet unnamed, the eldest daughter decides: “Albine est mon proper noun, / Dunt serra nomé Albion” (347-48). As the land is rich in fruit and game, the sisters live there prosperously and “La chaline de nature / Les somount a desmesure / Par desir de lecherie / D’avoir humeine cumpanie” (401-04), a situation on which “incubi” knew how to take advantage. From then on, sons engendered children on their mothers and brothers on their sisters, each generation being stronger and taller than the preceding one, until those giants were destroyed when Brut arrived “avant qe Dieu fu nee … / Mil cent aunz e trente sis” (481-83). Two Latin prose versions translated from the French derived from an abridged version of the story told in Des grantz geanz, and a third one too, which acts as a prologue to the Latin prose translation of the Brute Chronicle (Brereton, p. xxxvi). According to another variant, Albine and her sisters, the daughters of Diodicias King of Syria and his wife Labana, are exiled after murdering their husbands. No younger sister is mentioned. The most important of these versions is the French prologue found in most manuscripts of the longer version of the Brut Chronicle. From this were derived the English versions, notably that which accompanies Caxton’s Chronicle (Brereton, pp. xxxvi-xxxvii).


The Prose Brut was given wide circulation as from 1480, when William Caxton printed his version under the title of The Cronicles of Englond, of which Lister M. Matheson counted thirteen editions between 1480 and 1528. At the same period, Ranulf Higden’s Polychronicon, completed in Latin in 1342—translated into English by John Trevisa in 1387 and again by an anonymous author in the fifteenth century—was printed by Caxton in 1482 and again at least twice until 1527. This popular history also contributed to spread the Albine story. The early years of printing in England also saw the publication of Thomas Walsingham’s fourteenth-century chronicle, known as the Saint Albans Chronicle (London: Wynkyn de Worde, 1515), which also started with the Albine prologue (sigs. b2v-b3r).


Heywood, however, used none of these works when he retraced the story of the foundation of Britain in canto XVI of Troia Britanica. He starts with the lineage that makes the Trojans descendants of Adam: “… from Noah came / Japheth; then Cichem, who was Japheth’s son; / Cichem got Cipre; Cipre, Creete, and so / Creete, Saturn, from whose branch great Jove doth grow” (XVI, 1). He then unfolds a genealogy leading in direct line from Jupiter, to Dardanus, who “by Candame got Erichthonius”, and finally to Tros, the founder of Troy. This is borrowed from John Harding’s Chronicle in its 1543 edition, printed in London by Richard Grafton. There, Heywood found that “Noe [gat] Japhet, who gat Cichym then / That Cipre gat, after whom Cipres [Cyprus] hatte [was named]. / Cipre gat Crete, that the isle of Crete began, / A famous and a right notable man / And Crete gat a son hight Cely, / Who gat Saturn, a wise man and a witty” (sig. b2v-b3r). There follows the list of Saturn’s heirs, “Jubiter”, Dardanus, “Erictonus”, “who gat a son that first Troy edified”. Apart from introducing Dardanus’ wife Candame (whom he found in Caxton’s Recuyell) and attributing the foundation of Troy to Tros (as in Caxton), not to Troilus (as in Harding), Heywood faithfully follows the genealogy proposed by Harding’s Chronicle.


When Brutus reaches the coasts of Great Britain, Heywood tells the Albine story, in a version that conflates it with that of the Danaides:


Egyptian Danaus’ daughters landed here

After long search, who, for they had of late

Their nine and forty husbands by th’austere

Injunction of their sire, brought to sad fate,

Were in a mastless ship to exile thrown,

And landing here, called this isle Albion. (XVI, 7)


In the first chapter of his Chronicle, John Harding tells the story of king Dioclesian, who reigns in Greece and governs Syria (here called “Surray”), and whose thirty daughters, led by the eldest, Albyne, kill their husbands (fol. 6r). In the third chapter, however, Harding opens a new vista:


Note that Hugh de Genesis, a Roman historiographer, declareth in his chronicle all the kingdoms of the world, and all the names of such kings as ruled in them, from Noe’s flood unto the birth of Christ. In which chronicle the foresaid Hugh writeth that Danays, king of the Greeks, had 50 daughters and that Egistus his brother, king of Egypt, had as many sons that married together, which daughters killed their own husbands, and for that cause were banished, and sailing on the sea, were driven unto a certain isle, which Albina, being the eldest sister of them, named, according to her name, Albion, and Brute after that called it, according to his name, Britain (fol. 7r) 


Harding also narrates the sisters’ installation on the island “as Hugh Genesis writeth in his Dialogue” (fol. 8r); tells how, when they had begot sons, incest became the rule, “as Hugh Genesis reporteth in his chronicles” (fol. 9r); and specifies that Brutus’ arms, when he entered the island, were of gules, according to “Genesis the Italian chronicler” (fol. 10r). In Troia Britanica, Thomas Heywood follows suit, indicating in a marginal note opposite the conflated Albine-Danaides story, “Hugh Genesis and Harding” (XVI, 7) and presenting Hugh Genesis, after Harding, as a “Roman chronicler” (Heywood’s endnotes to canto XVI).


John Harding doubted the authenticity of the Albine story as told in the Prose Brut, because there never was, to his knowledge, any king of Syria named Dioclesian that had reigned before Brutus’ time. “But of Arginos [Argives] the king of full high fame / Had daughters fifty, whose name was Danau [Danaus]; / The king of Egypt, his brother Egisto [Egyptus] / Had sons also fifty together wed / In chronicles of old as I have read” (fol. 7v). It is therefore the fifty Danaides, not king Dioclesian’s thirty or thirty-three daughters, who discovered Albion, according to Harding’s Chronicle, upon the alleged authority of Hugh Genesis.


The identity of Hugh Genesis, an Italian chronicler and Roman historiographer according to Harding, has never been ascertained. John Harding completed the first version of his Chronicle in 1437 and was still working on the second, longer version when he died in 1465. It is not impossible that he had access to a manuscript in which the Albina and Danaides stories were conflated. Antonia Gransden [Historical Writing in England: vol. 2, c.1307 to the Early Sixteenth Century (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1982)] thought that Hugh Genesis is a mere product of Harding’s invention. Lisa M. Ruch [“A Possible Identity for Hugh of Genesis in John Hardyng’s Chronicle”, Notes & Queries, 53 (2006), pp. 150-51] has suggested that the name might be a scribal deformation of Hyginus, who did write about the Danaides (Fab. 168, 170), but cannot be described as either chronicler or historiographer and still less as having listed “all the kingdoms of the world and all the names of such kings as ruled in them from Noe’s flood until the birth of Christ”, as Harding claims that Hugh Genesis did. Referring to that disputed identity in her review of Antonia Gransden’s book, Beryl Smalley sensibly concluded that “some puzzles remain and are wisely sidestepped” [The English Historical Review, vol. 98, n° 389 (Oct. 1983), pp. 808-09].


Yet, whoever Hugh Genesis may have been, and wherever the Albine-Danaides conflation might have originated, it was to intrigue historians and feed intellectual debates in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. All the more so as, some forty years after John Harding, John Rous developed the connections between the two stories. In his Historia Regum Angliae, written some time around 1486-1491, John Rous tells the story of Dioclesian’s daughters, which he admits to borrowing from Ranulf Higden’s Polychronicon, and adds:


Aliam considerationem hujusmodi processus habet David Pencair, orator conspicuous et manu scriptoria diebus suis vir excellentissimus. Hic in Chronica quam edidit hanc materiam tangit sub hac forma, allegans pro se Ovidium in libro Epistolarum, sive Heroïdum, epistola xiiii.

[Joannis Rossi Antiquarii Warwicensis Historia Regum Angliae E Codice MS. In Bibliotheca Bodlejana, ed. Thomas Hearn (Oxford: Fletcher and Pote, 1745), p. 12]


Not content with drawing a clear, accurate parallel between the legend of the Syrian daughters and what is known of the Danaides from Ovid’s Heroides, XIV, John Rous goes on to justify the assimilation, arguing, against John Harding (but without mentioning him), that “De provincia ortus earum non est multum curandum” (p. 13), because several regions in the world are called Syria, one of which was Danaus’ country. The sisters’ fathers, Dioclesianus and Danaus, are one and the same man: “Utrumque nomen incipit cum D litera, et sic, ut credo, prima opinio erat ex vicio scriptoris” (p. 13). No more than Harding’s Hugh Genesis, can Rous’s avowed authority, David Pencair, be identified.


While John of Fordun, in his Scotichronicon (c. 1380), follows Geoffrey of Monmouth and never mentions Albine and while Androw of Wyntoun (Andrew Winton)’s The orygynal cronykil of Scotland (c. 1420), a work steeped in classical mythology, tells the story of the Danaides, but for its own sake, never in relation with Brutus and even less with Albine, who is not mentioned, Hector Boece, in his Scotorum Historiae a Prima Gentis Origine (Paris: Jodocius Ascensius, 1526), knows the Danaides-Albine conflation, which he may have found in a manuscript of the yet unprinted Chronicle of John Harding or of John Rous, or in an unknown text which might constitute a common source of these several works:


Alii vero ab Albinae quondam, haud absimilem fabulam, quam poetae de Danai argivorum Regis filiabus confixere narrantes, dictam volunt; quippe quae dux cum quinquaginta sororibus omnium interfectis maritis classe delata per fretum Herculeum ac totam circumvecta Hispaniam et in insulam hanc tandem appulsa sedes illic suas nullo prohibente posuit. (fol. III v)


In John Bellenden’s translation into Scottish, published under the title of History and Croniklis of Scotland (Edinburgh: Thomas Davidson, 1540?), Boece’s remark on the Danaides did not disappear:


Utheris allegis it wes callit Albion fra ane lady namit Albyne. Quhilk history is nocht unlik the fabulis that ar writin of the .l. douchteris of Danaus kyng of Argives. This Albyne (as is allegit) with hir .l. sisteris (eftir that thay had slane al thair husbandis) pullit up salis and come out of Grece throw the seis of Hercules to Spanye. And fra Spanye come throw ye Franche and Almane seis but ony impediment to ye said Ile” (sig. B1r)


Written at the end of the fifteenth and the beginning of the sixteenth centuries, Robert Fabyan’s Concordance of Histories went through four posthumous editions, all printed in London. The first three editions, The Newe cronycles of Englande and of Fraunce (Richard Pynson, 1516), Fabyans cronycle (William Rastell, 1533), and The chronicle of Fabyan (Robert Grafton for William Bonham, 1542), although different in their terminus ad quem, do not tamper with Fabyan’s text concerning the origin of Albion’s name, a clear refutation, similar to Harding’s, of the Prose Brut tradition of king Dioclesian’s daughters, but with no mention whatever of the Danaides. In the fourth edition however, The chronicle of Fabian (John Kingston, 1559), facing the paragraph which discards Dioclesian’s daughters, the printer added a marginal note, “See Harding of Danaus’ daughters” (p. 7). Although totally neutral, the editorial addition is a testimony of the impact of the printed edition of John Harding’s Chronicle, which Richard Grafton had issued in 1543. A further clue is given by Thomas Cooper’s determined attack on the legend in the “Albion” entry of the Dictionarium Historicum et Poeticum annexed to his Thesaurus (1565); rehearsing different opinions on the origin of the name, he notes that


one [of these opinions] late reigned by him which first printed the English Chronicle, wherein is neither similitude of troth, reason nor honesty: I mean the fable of the fifty daughters of one Dioclesian, king of Syria, where never any other history maketh mention of a king of Syria so named. Also, that name is Greek, and no part of the language of Syria. Moreover, the coming of them from Syria in a ship or boat without any mariners thorow the sea called Mediterraneum into the Ocean and so finally to find this isle and to inhabit it and have generation by devils is both impossible and much reproach for this noble Realm, to ascribe her first name and habitation to such inventors.


When he refers to “the English Chronicle”, Cooper probably means Caxton’s printed version of the Prose Brut, issued in 1480 under the title of The Cronicles of Englond, which opened with a fully detailed Albine prologue; his rejection of it is in line with John Harding’s refutation of Dioclesian’s daughters, to which he adds arguments of his own. But while Harding favoured the Danaides story instead, which, in his eyes, was given authority by the authors of classical antiquity, Cooper blends the two stories, as the thirty (or thirty-three) Syrian sisters seem to have merged in his mind with the fifty daughters of Danaus, and all were uncompromisingly brushed off.


Thomas Cooper’s position did not pass unnoticed. In A chronicle at large (London: Henry Denham, 1569), Richard Grafton brought the author of the Thesaurus a warm tribute of praise. After dutifully rehearsing the opinions “of the writer of the English Chronicle, and of Polychronicon, Fabyan, and others” on the origin of the name of Albion, Grafton immediately adds:


But for as much as in these our days and time a learned, wise, and famous man whose name is Thomas Cooper, now vice-chancellor of the University of Oxford, hath with great industry and travail searched the original names and the first inhabitation of this Realm, and hath also showed many evident and great reasons and arguments for the proof thereof, as well to condemn the fond conjectures of such as slanderously have written of the same, as also to confirm a truth and to declare that which is most likely and probable, I thought it therefore very meet in this place to insert his sayings in his last Dictionary, which he nameth Thesaurus linguae Latinae, upon these two vocables, “Albion” and “Britannia”. (p. 32)


Grafton then proceeds to quote Cooper’s entries in extenso. Concerning the origins of Albion, Grafton, however, had already expressed his own opinion in the preceding chapter:


I thought it best to pass over the vain and fond story written by the writer of the English Historie, who sayth that this Realm was first named Albion of Albine, the daughter of Dioclesian, king of Syria, who had .xxxii. daughters and were married unto .xxxii. kings, and in one night they did cut all their husbands’ throats.


which story, as it is most fabulous and foolish, so is it also false and slanderous, to show that this noble Realm should have so lewd a beginning. (p. 30)


In his Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland (London: John Hunne, 1577), Raphael Holinshed warns the reader against all fabulous stories about the origins of Britain, while recording them with full details. He cannot but mention “the Ladies, which some of our chronicles ignorantly write to be the daughters of Dioclesian, the king of Assyria, whereas indeed they have been deceived in taking the word Danaus to be short written for Dioclesianus”, referring to “Hugh the Italian, John Harding, and John Rouse of Warwick, and others, specially by the help of David Pencair, a British Historian” (“The Historie of England”, pp. 6-7). Proceeding to tell the Danaides’ story at length from the classical authors and continuing it with their arrival in Britain, an episode for which he refers again to Harding and “John Rous out of David Pencair”, he ends up referring to Hyginus’ list of the Danaides’ names to point out wryly that no Albine is ever mentioned there (ibid., p. 8). The same argument, borrowed from Holinshed, is summarily repeated in Anthony Munday’s The Triumphes of re-united Britannia (London, W. Jaggard, 1605):


Concerning the coming hither of Danaus’ 50 daughters, and that one of them should be called Albina, and so the land to be named by her: first, not any one of them was so named, neither do I think the story so authentical. (sigs. A2v-A3r)


More bluntly than Holinshed, George Buchanan considers that historians of Great Britain start with “a most impudent lie” (“ab impudentissimo … mendacio”), as they interpolate the fable of the Danaides (interpolata Danaïdum Fabula”), and invent the fictive daughters of King Dioclesian (Rerum Scoticarum Historia, Edinburgh: Alexander Arbuthnot, 1582, liber 2, fol. 15r). In his first Latin editions of Britanna (Radulph Newbery, 1586, p. 20; Newbery, 1587, p. 22; Georg Bishop, 1590, p. 25); Georg Bishop, 1594, p. 23; Georg Bishop, 1600, p. 27), William Camden does not mention Albine and her sisters, when he analyses the origins of Albion; by 1607, however, after James’ arrival in London, Camden seems to have become aware of  Buchanan’s work. In the new edition of Britanna (Bishop and Norton, 1607), a paragraph is inserted to dismiss the story:


Fabellam illam, quod Albion sit dicta ab Albina, una e triginta filiabus Dioclesiani Regis Syriae, quae in ipsis nuptiis maritos occiderunt, et nave sine remige huc delatae, insulam primum occuparunt, daemonumque compressu prolem Giganteam propagarunt, ut improbi hominis impudentissimum mendacium sine stomacho quis audiat? (p. 18)


This contemptuous rejection echoes not only Buchanan’s intellectual attitude, but his very words when he condemns the fable as “impuditenssimum mendacium”, “a most impudent lie”. The “ridiculous opinion” of a “most impudent lier”, John Steed recriminates in English, reverberating Buchanan’s and Camden’s Latin (The History of Great Britain, London: William Hall and John Beale, 1611, p. 158). Drayton too, adopts the historians’ sceptical line in Poly-Olbion (1612):


From Albina, daughter to Dioclesian, king of Syria, some fetch the name: others from a lady of that name, one of the Danaides, affirming their arrival here, copulation with spirits and bringing forth Giants, and all this .CC. years before Brute. But neither was there any such king in Syria, nor had Danaus—that can be found—any such daughters, nor travelled they for adventures, but by their father were newly married after slaughter of their husbands. Briefly, nothing can be written more impudently fabulous. (p. 19) 


Drayton took it from Holinshed that the Danaides were married again (The Historie of England, I, iii). In marginal notes, Drayton refers to his sources for the two stories, “Chronic. S. Albani” (Walsingham’s Saint Albans Chronicle, probably in the 1515 Wynkyn de Worde edition) for Dioclesian’s daughters; and “Hugo de Genes. ap. Harding cap. 3” for the Danaides (John Harding’s reference to Hugh Genesis).


When Heywood wote Troia Britanica, the historians had been regularly dismissing, for about half a century, both the stories of Dioclesian’s and of Danaus’ daughters, and Drayton shared their point of view. Heywood clearly stands apart. Following John Harding, he chooses between the two and adopts the Danaides story, not as the likelier, for his is not a historian’s point of view, but as the more poetically engaging. Heywood’s literary choice, however, was not to remain an exception. In 1621, William Slatyer published a bilingual (Latin-English) verse Historie of Great Britanie, in which he dwelt at length on Britain’s fabulous origins, taking care to specify that “not Dioclesian / His daughters, nor the fair Assyrian, / Albina, brought our Albion’s name, / Since likelier these Nymphs [the Danaides] hither came, / Haled by winds, waves, and Nereus’ force, / To Neptune son’s on Albion’s shores” (p. 65). It was the poet’s and the classicist’s answer to Thomas Cooper’s snub that “the coming of them from Syria in a ship or boat without any mariners thorow the sea called Mediterraneum into the Ocean and so finally to find this isle … is … impossible”. Back to top


Giovanni Nanni’s “Berosus”


In 1498, the Dominican friar Giovanni Nanni published, under the name of Johannes Annius of Viterbo, a series of commentaries upon various spurious texts allegedly written in Antiquity and newly discovered, Commentaria fratris Joannis Annii Viterbiensis super opera diversorum auctorum de antiquitatibus loquentium (Rome: Eucharius Silber). The texts themselves, without the commentaries, were almost simultaneously published on the Venetian press of Bernardino Vitale under the title of Auctores vetustissimi nuper in lucem editi. This corpus, with or without Giovanni Nanni’s commentaries, was made up of fakes, mainly attributed to Berosus the Chaldean, along with several other authors including Myrsilos, Archilochus, Metasthenes, Xenophon, or Manetho. Very early on, the deception was suspected and doubts about the authenticity of Giovanni Nanni’s “exhumations” were expressed by Pietro Crinito in 1504 and by Jacques Lefèvre d’Étaples in 1506 [E. N. Tigerstedt, “Ioannes Annius and Graecia Mendax”, Classical, Medieval and Renaissance Studies in Honor of Berthold Louis Ullman, ed. Charles Henderson, Jr., vol. 2 (Rome: Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura, 1964), pp. 293-310 (296-97)].  In his edition of Augustine’s De Civitate Dei (Basel: Froben, 1522), Juan Luis Vives ironically remarked (VII, iv, p. 200): “Libellus circunfertur nomine Berosi Babylonici, qui Ianum dicit fuisse Noam; eum libellum ego mera somnia narrare puto, digna profecto commentis Anianis” (“A book is circulated under the name of Berosus the Babylonian, which says that Noah was Janus; I think that book tells mere dreams, assuredly worthy of Annius’s commentaries”). Further on (XVIII, i, p. 550), he took care to specify that his only sources about Assyria were Eusebius and Diodorus Siculus:


Erat quidem ad manum libellus, quem Berosi nomine vendunt bibliopolae, erant alia quaedam Ioannis Annii, quae non dubito quin admiranda fuissent visa, si attulissem, nempe portentosa, et vel solo auditu horrenda, sed ab illis prorsum abstinui, ne de fece, quod aiunt, viderer haurire, hoc est è libellis frivolis, et incertorum autorum, quos ad stupefaciendos imperitos lectores Graecia lusit ociosa; non quod si Berosi sciissem esse, non essem per quem libenter usus, sed quod mihi foeturam subolebant Graeci hominis, ut etiam Xenophontis aequivoca, et alia multa, quae illorum non sunt, quorum titulos prae se ostentant.


(“I did have at hand a book that is sold in bookshops under the name of Berosus and I had other writings by Joannes Annius, which, if I reported them, would doubtless be considered bewildering, indeed prodigious, and even terrifying only to hear them, but I totally omitted them lest I appeared as drinking the dregs or as drawing from frivolous books by uncertain authors—the tricks of idle Greece to stupefy ignorant readers; if I had known this book to be by Berosus, I would have willingly used it, but I suspected it to be the offspring of some Greek, as is also the case with Xenophon’s Aequivoca and many others, whose authors are not those who are advertised in their titles”). 


A formal refutation was published by Gaspar Barreiros (Varrerius), first in Portuguese (Coimbra: Joao Alvares, 1561), then in Latin, Censura in quendam auctorem qui sub falsa inscriptione Berosi Chaldaei circunfertur (Rome: s. n., 1565), an indictment that was confirmed by Joseph Justus Scaliger’s Opus novum de emendatione temporum (Paris: Mamert Patisson, 1583).


In spite of repeated criticism, several editions were printed and reprinted in the course of the sixteenth century and well into the seventeenth century under various titles—often focussing on Berosus—and with a varying number of texts. Such were Berosus Babillonicus de antiquitatibus seu defloratio Berosi (Paris: Jean de Gourmont, 1509); Berosus Babilonicus de his quae praecesserunt inundationem terrarum (Paris: Geoffroy de Marnef, 1510); Antiquitatum variarum volumina XVII (Paris: Jean Petit and Josse Bade, 1512, 1515); an edition by Antonio de Nebrija (Burgos: Friedrich Biel, 1512), advertising its contents as a title; Fragmenta vetustissimorum auctorum (Basel: Johann Bebel, 1530); Berosi sacerdotis Chaldaici antiquitatum libri quinque cum commentariis Joannis Annii Viterbensis sacrae Theologiae professoris (Antwerp: Joannes Steelsius, 1545), reprinted as Berosi sacerdotis Chaldaici antiquitatum Italiae ac totius orbis libri quinque (Antwerp: Joannes Steelsius, 1552); an edition in two volumes published at Lyons by Jean Temporal (1554-1555), followed, a few years later, by Antiquitatum variarum autores (Lyons: Sebastian Gryphius’s heirs, 1560); Historia antiqua (s. l. [Heidelberg?]: Bibliopolius Commelinianus, 1599) appended Barreiros’s refutation to Nanni’s text; this scientific gesture symbolically reverses what happened when pseudo-Berosus was included in an edition of Flavius Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews (Cologne: Hirzhorn (Cervicornus), 1534)­—a companionship that seemed to guarantee its seriousness. An Italian version by Pietro Lauro, I cinque libri de la Antichita de Beroso con lo Commento di Giovanni Annio, was printed by Baldassare Constantini at Venice in 1550 and a second translation into Italian, by Francesco Sansovino, followed before the end of the century (Venice: Altobello Salicato, 1583).


The book’s success did not only rest on early modern fascination for Antiquity and the humanist thrill at the recovery of lost texts; its account of how Noah and his descendants repopulated the world after the Flood was in consonance with early modern syncretism that sought to reconcile Biblical traditions, Egyptian lore and classical mythology. Walter Stephens noted that “as a Christian, Annius feared that the finite ‘revealed’ chronology of the Hebrew Bible was being undercut by fifteenth-century Latin translations of hitherto unknown works by Herodotus, Diodorus Siculus, and ‘Hermes Trismegistus’, defining Egyptian history as many times more ancient” [“From Berossos to Berosus Chaldaeus: The Forgeries of Annius of Viterbo and their Fortune”, The World of Berossos, ed. Johannes Haubold, Giovanni B. Lanfranchi, Robert Rollinger, John Steele (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2013), pp. 277-89, p. 278]. Nanni’s genealogies, moreover, provided precious material on which to base dynastic claims and mythical roots for illustrious ancestors. Pope Alexander VI (Rodrigo Borgia) fancied himself as a descendant of Egyptian Osiris—a claim Giovanni Nanni’s Berosus seemed to legitimate. In the first book of Les Illustrations de Gaule et Singularitez de Troyes (Lyons: Jacques Maillet, 1511), Jean Lemaire de Belges drew liberally upon “la cronicque de Berosus de Caldee, lequel s’accorde merveilleusement a la saincte escripture du viel testament escripte par Moyse” (“the chronicle of Berosus the Chaldean, that is marvellously coherent with the Holy Scripture of the Old Testament written by Moses”). His purpose was to establish that the Gauls descended from Noah and that Francus, Hector’s son, was the founder of France. Beyond the particular case of Jean Lemaire de Belges, the pervasive influence of pseudo-Berosus in early modern France was studied by R. E. Asher in National Myths in Renaissance France: Francus, Samothes, and the Druids (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1993).


In England, Arthur Kelton used Giovanni Nanni’s forgeries in his vindication of the antiquity of the Tudors’ lineage, A Chronycle with a Genealogie declaring that the Brittons and Welshemen are Lineallye Dyscended from Brute (London: Richard Grafton, 1547) [William A. Ringler, Jr., “Arthur Kelton’s Contributions to Early British History”, Huntington Library Quarterly, 40 (1977), pp. 353-56]. Two years later, Thomas Lanquet published his Epitome of Chronicles (London: Berthelet, 1549), with an account of Noah and his successors based on Giovanni Nanni. Owing to Thomas Cooper’s diligence, numerous editions of Lanquet’s Chronicle until 1565 ensured its popularity; in A Chronicle at large (London: Henry Denham, 1569), Richard Grafton contented himself with repeating Lanquet in his account of Noah and of the Flood.


Also influential were John Bale’s Illustrium majoris Britanniae scriptorum … catalogus (Gippeswici in Anglia [Wesel]: [D. van der Straten for] John Overton, 1548, reedited in 1557) and John Caius’s De Antiquitate Cantabrigiensis Academiae (London: Henry Bynneman, 1568), whose authors had found pseudo-Berosus useful to buttress their religious and intellectual positions [Glyn Parry, “Berosus and the Protestants: Reconstructing Protestant Myth”, Huntington Library Quarterly, 64 (2001), pp. 1-21].


Raphael Holinshed relied on the authority of Bale and Caius when he adopted Giovanni Nanni’s genealogies in the 1577 edition of his Chronicles, the preface of which, William Harrison’s “Description of Britain”, also drew on pseudo-Berosus. In the 1587 edition, Holinshed did not delete passages based on Nanni, but he inserted, as Laura Ashe has shown, a cautionary sentence: “Nevertheless, I think good to advertise the reader that these stories of Samothes, Magus, Sarron, Druis, and Bardus, do rely only upon the authority of Berosus, whom most diligent antiquaries do reject as a fabulous and counterfeit author” (Book I, p. 6) [Laura Ashe, “Holinshed and Mythical History” in Paulina Kewes, Ian W. Archer and Felicity Heal, The Oxford Handbook of Holinshed’s Chronicles” (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), pp. 158-64]. Holinshed’s revision seems to have been prompted by John Stow’s firm declaration at the beginning of his Chronicles of England (London: Henry Bynneman for Ralph Newberry, 1580), in “Of the first habitation of this Island: A short note to the reader” (p. 15):


Where it is recorded by the sacred and most ancient History that after the universal Flood, the isles of the Gentiles were divided by the posterity of Japheth the son of Noah, we doubt not but this isle of Britain was also then peopled by his progeny, the history of whom, as it is to be wished and appertinent to this purpose, so sith it is irrecoverable, not only to us, but also to other nations, I think it better to say nothing therein, than to set down here Samothes, Magus, Sarron, Druys and Bardus for his successors, which are upholden and bolstered only by the credit and authority of a new small pamphlet falsely forged and thrust into the world under the title of the ancient historian Berosus. For that is the censure of all the best learned, as concerning our common Berosus, which at his first appearing, about one hundred years since, was partly suspect by Lodovicus Vives, afterward convinced to be fabulous by the learned Gas. Varrerius [Gaspar Barreiros], in a several treatise and now universally rejected of all skilful Antiquaries as a mere fable unworthy the name of Berosus.


Although thus clearly disproved, Giovanni Nanni’s forgeries did not immediately vanish out of the literary and intellectual landscapes. The Babylonian Saturn and his son “Jove Belus” found their way into William Warner’s Albion’s England, first published in 1586 and frequently reprinted into the seventeenth century. In a book dedicated to James I, A Restitution of Decayed Intelligence in Antiquities Concerning the most Noble and Renowned English Nation (Antwerp: Robert Bruney 1605), Richard Verstegan set out to establish the King’s lineage from the first Saxons. In a first chapter devoted to the origin of nations, he barely mentions pseudo-Berosus, almost apologetically, referring, rather cautiously, to “Berosus, if he of some so called be the same and so be capable of credit” (p. 11). Such circumspection was not shared, however by Richard Linche who, after publishing a shortened English version of Vincenzo Cartari’s Imagini (The Fountain of Ancient Fiction, 1599), produced, two years later, a volume directly inspired by Giovanni Nanni’s Berosus, A Historical Treatise of the Travels of Noah into Europe (London: Adam Islip, 1601), reprinted in 1602, in which he claims to follow “the chronicle of that authentic writer, Berosus the Chaldean, who indeed of all others most accordeth with the writings and holy works of Moses in the Old Testament” (sig. A4r), and also draws on the other texts of the collection produced by “Friar John Annius of Viterbe, the expositor of our author Berosus” (sig. B3v).


Nothing indicates that Thomas Heywood used Richard Linche’s Travels of Noah. But he refers to “Berosus” in the endnotes to canto II of Troia Britanica, and assimilates Canaan (not Noah) to Janus in the endnotes to canto I; the conflation of Janus and Canaan instead of Noah seems to be Heywood’s invention, as well as the identification of both with Uranus—as if Heywood had integrated Giovanni Nanni’s syncretic method, while keeping a poet’s freedom of invention. In the same note, however, the list of other names by which Canaan/Janus is also supposed to be called derives from Giovanni Nanni’s Berosus and is directly borrowed from Thomas Lanquet’s Chronicle. In his “Proemium” to Troia Britanica, Heywood quotes Metasthenes Persa, another author from Giovanni Nanni’s collection: in this case, he is merely repeating a reference in Melanchthon’s Chronicon Carionis (fol. 68v). Similarly, in Gynaikeion (London: Adam Islip, 1624), Heywood quotes Berosus in the conclusion of a paragraph on Semiramis: “Thus far Justin out of the History of Trogus Pompeius; Berosus affirms as much. These be his words: Nemo unquam huic femina a comparandus est virorum, tanta in eius vita scribuntur cum ad vituperationem, tum maxime ad laudem, i. e. No man was ever to be compared with this woman, such great things have been written of her, partly to her disgrace, but chiefly to her praise” (IV, p. 167); the quotation, however is inaccurate, since all Latin editions of Giovanni Nanni end the sentence with “tum maxime ad collaudationem magnifica” (Antiquitatum variarum volumina XVII (Paris: Jean Petit and Josse Bade, 1515, fol. 125r). In fact, Heywood’s “tum maxime ad laudem” is copied word for word from a slightly incorrect quotation of pseudo-Berosus in a commentary on Justin’s Epitome of Trogus Pompeius, Justini ex Trogi Pompei Historia Libri XLIIII (Antwerp: Ioannes Steelsius, 1552), p. 20. Similarly, when Heywood writes that “Annius upon Berosus, and Calderinus upon Statius, nominate Caphyrna or Calphurnia, the daughter of Oceanus, to have been the nurse of Neptune” (Gynaikeion, IX, p. 425), he borrows his information from Ravisius Textor’s Officina, augmented by Conrad Lycosthenes (Basel: Bryling, 1552, col. 368) or from one of its numerous reprints.


It is therefore clear that Heywood had no direct knowledge of Giovanni Nanni’s Berosus, which he always quotes from another source. It does not mean, however, that he relied only on Lanquet’s borrowings from Berosus in his notes on Troia Britanica. His mention that “Cham was also called Saturn in Italy, who came thither to dwell, in the time that Comerus the Scythian usurped there, a neighbour to old Janus that dwelt in Laurentum” has no equivalent in Lanquet and Cooper’s Chronicle, which first notes that “Comerus Gallus, in the .33.. year after the first arrival of Janus in Italy and the .1414. year before the building of Rome, brought inhabitants into the realm, called after Italy, and was made first king thereof. He named the country after his own name and taught them both laws and justice” (fol. 7v); then: “Comerus, after the manner of the Scythians, from whence he came, taught his Italians to make towns with chariots and wagons” (fol. 9r). Heywood sends back to the year of the world 1898 in Lanquet, when “Cham came into Italy, and there, not finding Comerus, began to rule the people and with his wickedness and vices corrupted them.” (fol. 9r). Nowhere in Lanquet did Heywood find that Comerus was a usurper. Back to top


Polydore Vergil’s De Rerum Inventoribus


In the first canto of Troia Britanica, Heywood enumerates Saturn’s inventions, which he borrows from Caxton, whose Recuyell mentions agriculture, the arts of navigation and archery, and mainly emphasizes the exploitation of gold in the description of the magnificence of a dazzlingly literal “age of gold”: “dyuerce men saye that Saturne was the fyrst man that fonde the maner to melte metall and to affine gold and made hys vessell and utensilles of his hows of dyuerce metal”. In Troia Britanica, “[Saturn] minerals first found, and from the mold, / To deck his palace, brought refinèd gold” (I, 9). The emphasis no longer lies, as in Caxton, on “ryche thynges of gold ioyous unto the eye”, but on who first invented the use of all types of metal. On the discovery of gold, Heywood adds: “Yet some great Saturn’s glory would deface, / And say that Cadmus first this metal found / In high Pangeus, a huge hill in Thrace” (I, 10). There follows, over three stanzas, a list of the discoverers of silver, iron, brass and lead, as well as of the inventors of the different methods and tools for working metal.


Heywood borrows this information from Polydore Vergil’s treatise on major inventions, De Rerum Inventoribus. Partly based on Pliny’s chapter on inventors in the Natural History (VII) Polydore Vergil’s treatise was first printed by Christophorus de Pensis at Venice in 1499. This edition, which was printed again at Venice in 1503 and at Strasburg (1509, 1512), was composed of three books. It was expanded to eight books in the next edition, which was printed by Frobenius at Basel in 1521 and went through a considerable number of reprints throughout the sixteenth and into the seventeenth centuries. Chapter 19 in the second book is devoted to the inventors of metals, “Qui primitus invenerint aurum, argentum, ferrum …”. Polydore Virgil’s De Rerum Inventoribus was translated into English by Thomas Langley under the title An Abridgement of the Notable Work of Polidore Vergile, conteygnyng the devisers and first finders out aswell of artes, ministeries, feactes [and] civill ordinaunces, as of rites [and] ceremonies, commonly used in the churche: and the originall beginnyng of the same  (London, Richard Grafton, 1546). This translation, based on the Basel complete text of 1521, was reprinted by Richard Grafton in 1551 and by John Tisdale in 1560.


Although Heywood read Latin competently, as appears from his quotations from Melanchthon’s, and Natale Conti’s texts, it can be established that he used Polydore Vergil not in the Latin original, but in Langley’s translation into English, where the section on “Who found out metals, smithes toles, fyre, candels, and belowes” corresponds to chapter 12 in the second book. In Troia Britanica, Heywood’s spelling of “Idei Dactili” (I, 11), who found iron in Crete, faithfully reproduces Langley’s “Idei Dactili” (fol. 58r), not the Latin original’s “Idaei Dactyli”  (Basel, 1521, fol. 23v). The discoverers of brass are “Pannonians” in Heywood (I, 11) and Langley (fol. 58r), “Pannones” in the Latin version (fol. 24r). Polydore Vergil’s “Aerariam fabricam alii Calybas, alii Cyclopas invenisse volunt” (fol. 24r) becomes, in Langley’s English translation, “The smithes forge some think the Calibians found, and some suppose it were the Ciclopes” (fol 58v), which inspired Heywood’s poetic version, “The first Smiths-forge, the blacke Calibians made, / And after taught the Ciclopes their grade” (I, 11). Polydore Vergil’s “Calybas” are the same as “the naked Chalybes” who are said to produce iron in Virgil’s Georgics, I, 58 (“Chalybes nudi ferrum”). Whether aware or not of that classical origin, Heywood reproduces the spelling “Calibians”, which he found in Langley. According to Polydore Vergil, “Ignem è silice Pyrodes Cilicis filius invenit, at eundem servare in ferula Prometheus docuit” (fol. 24 r); Langley translates: “Pyrodes fyrst stroke fyre out of flinte, Prometheus taught fyrst to kepe in matches” (fol. 59r), which Heywood, keeping the same vocabulary, versifies as “Pyrodes was the first from flint stroke fire, / Which how to keep in matches longer while / Prometheus taught” (I, 13).


Langley’s “abridgement” often cuts into Polydore Vergil’s Latin text, suppressing a wealth of details, none of which find their way into Heywood’s poetry, which, it is safe to assume, is based on Langley’s translation.


The examination of Heywood’s borrowings from Polydore Vergil in canto VIII leads to the same conclusions. When he mentions Daphnis’ “elegiac verse” (VIII, 4), Heywood follows Langley’s English, “the number of feet as hexameter and pentameter, which is also called elegiacal, the shepherd’s song”, rather than Polydore Vergil’s Latin, “Bucolicum carmen” (fol. 7r); in the chapter on tragedy, Heywood could find a reference to Jerome’s translation of Eusebius’ Chronicon, not in Polydore Vergil’s text, which refers to Josephus’ Antiquities (fol. 6v), but in Langley’s translation, which states that “as Saint Jerome saith, the Psalter of David goes in as good number of measures as either the Greek Planudes or the Latin Horatius” (fol. 16r-v). Back to top


Encyclopaedic knowledge



In his endnotes to Canto I, Heywood almost systematically uses Robert Estienne’s Dictionarium Historicum, Geographicum, Poeticum to complement the information he had drawn from Langley’s Abridgement of Polydore Vergil, in his usual way of never relying on a single source. Back to top


Natale Conti’s Mythologia


Heywood certainly resorted frequently to current dictionaries. Thomas Cooper’s Thesaurus linguae Romanae et Britannicae … (London: Berthelet, 1565) was reprinted several times in London by Henry Denham (1573, 1578, 1584). It was usefully completed by Charles Estienne’s Dictionarium Historicum, Geographicum, Poeticum. Hermann van Beeck (Torrentinus) had published a dictionary of proper names, Elucidarius Carminum et Historiarum (Deventer: Richard Pafraet, 1492), which ran through some twenty to thirty editions and reprints until Robert Estienne reprinted it in Paris in 1530, 1535, 1541 and 1550 as Dictionarium Poeticum, quod vulgo inscribitur Elucidarius Carminum. It is a reworking and enlarging of Torrentinus’ book that Charles Estienne issued on the same Parisian press in 1553 under the title of Dictionarium Historicum ac Poeticum; Charles Estienne’s work soon acquired the new title of Dictionarium Historicum, Geographicum, Poeticum and went through twenty reprints before Heywood published Troia Britanica.


Indispensable tools as they may have proved to be, especially for quick reference, these dictionaries did not provide enough in-depth information on mythological matters. Like many of his contemporaries, Heywood resorted to Natale Conti’s Mythologiae, sive Explicationum Fabularum Libri Decem, henceforth referred to under the short title of Mythologia. Attested by Marston’s quip in Satire 2, “Quedam sunt, et non videntur” [ed. Arnold Davenport (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1961), p. 72], the popularity of this reference book in England no longer needs to be proved. Franck L. Schoell’s pioneering study, Études sur l’humanisme continental en Angleterre à la fin de la Renaissance (Paris: Honoré Champion, 1926) drew attention to the influence of Italian mythographers on English early modern authors. The first translators of Natale Conti’s Mythologia into English, John Mulryan and Stephen Brown (Tempe, Arizona: Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 2006), have provided a general chart of Conti’s “Influence and popularity” in England (vol. 1, pp. xxxvi-xliii). Heywood’s use of Natale Conti, however, seems to have been generally ignored. Yet, in the same way as some of the marginal references in Ben Jonson’s masques are drawn from Giraldi’s De Deis Gentium and Conti’s Mythologia, Heywood’s marginalia and endnotes in Troia Britanica frequently derive from the latter work.


One example will suffice. In his endnotes to canto VI, Heywood writes:


The Gorgons were called by other names, Pemphrado, Erito, and Dino, to whom was added a third, Iaeno.


A marginal note facing the text alludes to “Apollodorus Atheniensis, liber 2” and “Melanthes liber De Mysteriis”. Heywood’s note derives from Conti’s chapter “De Gorgonibus” in his Mythologia, VI, xii:


Has tamen Atheniensis Apollodorus libro secundo non iisdem nominibus apellavit, sed Pemphrado, Erito, Dino. Melanthes in libro de mysteriis Iaeno addidit iis, quae numerantur ab Aeschylo et Hesiodo.


This is a typical example of Heywood’s numerous borrowings from Conti’s Mythologia, which are signalled in the notes to each canto, in this edition.


Between 1567 and 1609, when Troia Britanica was published, Conti’s Mythologia went through fourteen editions. In the present state of our knowledge, it is only possible to establish that Heywood did not use Comin da Trino’s 1567 edition or its 1568 reprint. In his endnotes to canto VIII, Heywood translates a long passage from Conti’s chapter “De Pallade” in Mythologia, IV, v, including a paragraph on the need for the Greeks to discover Hercules’ arrows, as well as his ashes, before they could take Troy, and how Philoctetes showed them their location. This paragraph, which Heywood translates in extenso, was not in Comin da Trino’s 1567 Venice edition (fol. 96r), reprinted unchanged in 1568. It was first introduced in Comin da Trino’s 1581 Venice edition (p. 202) and Andrea Wechel’s 1581 Frankfurt edition (p. 307), and repeated in later editions; Heywood’s edition of Conti’s Mythologia was necessarily one of those published as from 1581, a terminus ad quem being constituted by the 1605 editions.


Although Natale Conti’s Mythologia was one of Heywood’s favourite reference books when he composed Troia Britanica, his mythological narratives often reflect Boccacio’s rationalizations in his Genealogia Deorum Gentilium, which Heywood, however did not need to use, although an excellent annotated edition had been procured by Jakob Moltzer (Micyllus), printed in Basel by Joann Herwagen (Hervagius) in 1532. Heywood’s debt to Boccaccio is indirect: one of the main sources of Raoul Le Fèvre’s Le Recoeil des hystoires de Troyes, Boccaccio’s Genealogia Deorum Gentilium, reached Heywood through Caxton’s Recuyell. That is how the mythological stories in Troia Britanica interlace influences from two major Italian mythographies, a modern one, Conti’s Mythologia—one of Heywood’s reference books—and a seemingly outdated one, Boccaccio’s Genealogia, that inspired Le Fèvre’s Recoeil, itself made popular by Caxton’s translation and still influential at the beginning of the seventeenth century.


In the endnotes to canto IV, Heywood has “Eurotes”, a misprint for “Europes”, in a quotation from an epigram in the Greek Anthology which he copies from Natale Conti’s Mythologia. This might be a misprint in copying “Europes” from Comin da Trino’s edition (Venice, 1581), p. 64. Andrea Wechel’s edition (Frankfurt, 1581) does not give “Europes” but the more correct “Europa” (p. 96), which is also to be found in successive reprints and further reeditions. If Heywood copied “Europes”—with a further misprint leading to “Eurotes”, it is not implausible that he was using Comin da Trino’s 1581 Venice edition of Conti’s MythologiaBack to top


Boccaccio’s Genealogia

Although Natale Conti’s Mythologia was one of Heywood’s favourite reference books when he composed Troia Britanica, his mythological narratives often reflect Boccaccio’s rationalizations in his Genealogia Deorum Gentilium, which Heywood, however did not use often, although an excellent annotated edition had been provided by Jakob Moltzer (Micyllus), printed in Basel by Joann Herwagen (Hervagius) in 1532.


Heywood’s debt to Boccaccio is mostly indirect: one of the main sources of Raoul Le Fèvre’s Le Recoeil des hystoires de Troyes, Boccaccio’s Genealogia Deorum Gentilium, reached Heywood through Caxton’s Recuyell. That is how the mythological stories in Troia Britanica interlace influences from two major Italian mythographies, a fashionable one, Conti’s Mythologia—one of Heywood’s reference books—and a seemingly less modern one, Boccaccio’s Genealogia, that inspired Le Fèvre’s Recoeil, itself made popular by Caxton’s translation and still influential at the beginning of the seventeenth century. Occasionally, though, Heywood seems to have turned to Boccaccio’s Genealogia.


In the endnotes to canto I, when he remarks that “Bochas [Boccaccio] writes Hyperion to be Titan’s son, and not a name solely attributed to the sun”, Heywood, for once, does not quote Natale Conti but seems to refer directly to the chapter on Titan in Genealogia, IV, i, “De Titano Celi filio VIII° qui genuit filios multos … Quorum primus Yperion” (“Of Titan, eighth son of Coelus, who engendered several sons … Of whom the eldest was Hyperion”). Similarly, a reference to Boccaccio in canto VI, stanza 84, probably refers to Genealogia, XII, xxvii: “De Electrione Gorgophonis filio, qui genuit Alcmenam” (“On Electryon, Gorgophone’s son, who engendered Alcmena”).


Conti’s Mythologia does not mention Glauca, Saturn’s first daughter. Heywood does not borrow her blindly from Caxton’s Recuyell, where she is called “Glanta” (I, 4). The fact that he restores her proper name, Glauca, suggests that he also knew her from Boccaccio’s Genealogia. Nor did Heywood learn from Caxton that Glauca is mentioned by Lactantius, as he indicates in the endnotes to canto I. This reference he most probably derived from Boccaccio’s Genealogia, IV, i, “De Titano”, where Lactantius’ corresponding passage (Divine Institutes, I, xiv, 2-10) is quoted at length. Back to top


(27 December 2013; latest update 20 December 2014)

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