Ancient Greece and Rome figure largely in the collection with a wealth of objects, sculptures, papyri, medieval manuscripts and incunabula, remarkable tokens of the era. Epic poetry passed from Homer to Virgil, and the Middle Ages prized in succession the three great masters of Latin verse, Horace, Virgil, and Ovid. The Age of Print favored Cicero first and foremost; Florence and Venice (Aldus Manutius) brought out the first editions of Homer, Aristotle, and Euripides. Plato and Aristotle became the two poles of philosophy, with the former raised above all others in the quattrocento while the latter, transmitted to Europe by Arab scholars, stamped medieval scholasticism with the tradition of reason. History is also present, from Herodotus to Thucydides, Livy to the Romuleon. And finally, there are fables with Aesop, and medicine with the Hippocrates’ treatises.
The son of a freedman and protégé of Maecenas, Horace is, after his contemporary and friend Virgil, the most famous of Rome’s poets. His collection of verse called the Odes, a masterpiece of Roman lyrical poetry, is seen as a model of the virtues of balance and restraint. Horace himself compared it to the pyramids of Egypt. The harmony of the overall architecture serves a subtlety of versification and verbal virtuosity that gives voice to loves and politics, mythology and contemporary current events, Greek tradition and the Latin world. The famous saying “Carpe diem,” so often appropriated, is taken from the first of these poems (Odes 1.11). Copied in the 10th or 11th centuries, probably in a French scriptorium, the Codex Bodmer 88 is especially noteworthy for its interlineal and marginal annotations.