Pelagonii Ars veterinaria, ed. K.-D. Fischer, Leipzig 1980
Pelagonius’ Ars veterinaria is a treatise on veterinary science that was probably written between 350 and 400 AD. There are numerous reasons for dating the work to this period: on the one hand, it was known to Vegetius, author of a Digesta artis mulomedicinae, whose floruit is presumed to have been between 383 and 450 AD; on the other hand, it seems not to have been known to the author of the Mulomedicina Chironis, which was composed around 400 AD.
The text is transmitted by three manuscripts. Of these, the chief one is Riccardianus 1179 (R). This codex, which is currently held by the Biblioteca Riccardiana in Florence, is a copy of an original that Poliziano discovered and had transcribed in 1485; besides the work of Pelagonius, it contains the elder Seneca’s Suasoriae and Controversiae and the Declamationes attributed to Quintilian. Second is the Codex rescriptus Neapolitanus Latinus 2 (6th c., olim Bobiensis) (Bo), known as Vindobonensis 16; it lacks one part of Pelagonius’ text. Lastly is Einsidlensis Stiftsbibl. 304 (8th-9th c.), which contains chapters 12-33; this manuscript was discovered by Corsetti, and was unknown to Fischer when he composed the main critical edition of the text (Leipzig 1980).
The Ars veterinaria is an epistolary handbook dedicated to caring for horses. It opens with a prefatory letter that first announces the author’s choice of the epistolary genre (unusual for a technical-scientific work), then briefly sets forth its theoretical program. Its addressee is a certain friend of Pelagonius named Arzygius, to whom the work is dedicated and for whom it is intended as a gift. This is followed by an index that lists the treatise’s 35 chapters. Next is another letter, this one dedicated to a certain Festianus, in which Pelagonius describes horses in terms of their appearance and character. After this, the treatise itself finally begins. This, as it turns out, comprises just thirty chapters and a few fragments in Greek. Reconstructions of the work are plagued by many uncertainties. Indeed, Zaffogno has identified numerous elements that support his conclusion that the transmitted text is not the original, e.g. discrepancies between the index and the work’s actual contents, the presence of the final sections written in Greek, and the fact that some chapters do not employ the epistolary form. The interests of the work’s author appear to be more hedonistic than practical - a characteristic of the handbook that Vegetius faulted. Although the Ars veterinaria also includes numerous magical formulae, this feature is not unusual in technical-scientific treatises from late antiquity. The driving force of the work is Pelagonius’ love of horses, which links him together with his addressee. His chief sources are Columella and Celsus. [V. Rinaldi; tr. C. L. Caterine].