Scythica Vindobonensia

♦  ♦  ♦  Palimpsest  ♦  ♦  ♦

The new historical fragments known as Scythica Vindobonensia or Dexippus Vindobonensis – coming most probably from the Scythica of the 3rd-century AD historian Dexippus of Athens – have survived on four parchment leaves (folios) which originally belonged to a mediaeval (Byzantine) manuscript of the 11th century. Each of the leaves contains text written in a Greek minuscule script on both sides, the recto and the verso. Each page contains a single column of 30 lines of the historical text. Hence, eight manuscript pages of 240 lines in total have been preserved.

In the 13th century, the text was washed off the parchment and the valuable writing material was reused for a new text (a so-called palimpsest). The fragments are hidden underneath the current (upper) text of the last eight pages of the Codex (Vindobonensis) historicus graecus 73 at the Austrian National Library (Österreichische Nationalbibliothek) in Vienna (Department of Manuscripts and Rare Books). In the codex, which has been in the Library since the 16th century, these eight pages are numbered as (fol.) 192r, 192v, 193r, 193v, 194r, 194v, 195r, and 195v.

Being erased and covered by another script, the Scythica Vindobonensia are invisible to the naked eye. Special techniques were needed to make the 11th-century manuscript visible (see “Digital recovery”). However, the visibility of individual characters has ranged from rather obvious to invisible. Many original characters are partly obscured by the upper text. The deciphering of the Scythica Vindobonensia is a very difficult and time-consuming process which relies on an in-depth palaeographical analysis supported by careful philological scrutiny. The easily legible parts of the writing provide information needed to decipher and reconstruct the less visible or partly concealed characters.

See: De Gregorio – Gamillscheg – Grusková – Kresten – Martin – Mondrain – Wilson (2020), 5–13

Images of the Vienna "Dexippus" palimpsest in the Codex Vind. hist. gr. 73:

fol. 192r: upper text / lower text (Scythica Vindobonensia)
fol. 192v: upper text / lower text (Scythica Vindobonensia)
fol. 193r: upper text / lower text (Scythica Vindobonensia)
fol. 193v: upper text / lower text (Scythica Vindobonensia)
fol. 194r: upper text / lower text (Scythica Vindobonensia)
fol. 194v: upper text / lower text (Scythica Vindobonensia)
fol. 195r: upper text / lower text (Scythica Vindobonensia)
fol. 195v: upper text / lower text (Scythica Vindobonensia)

upper text = natural appearance images
lower text = spectral processed pseudo-colour images