Psychomachia (early fifth century C.E.)


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Psychomachia represented on a Romanesque capital at the Monastery of Sant Cugat, Catalonia

The Psychomachia (Battle of spirits) by the Late Antique Latin poet Prudentius, during the early fifth century A.D. (C.E.), is probably the first and most influential “pure” medieval allegory, the first in a long tradition of works as diverse as the Romance of the Rose, Everyman, and Piers Plowman.

In slightly less than a thousand lines, the poem describes the conflict of vices and virtues as a battle in the style of Virgil‘s Aeneid. Christian faith is attacked by and defeats pagan idolatry to be cheered by a thousand Christian martyrs.


  • Chastity is assaulted by Lust, but cuts down her enemy with a sword.
  • Anger attacks Patience, is unable to defeat her and destroys herself instead.
  • Greed is portrayed against Love, but is unable to obtain what it cannot coexist with.
  • In a similar manner, various vices fight corresponding virtues and are always defeated. Biblical figures that exemplify these virtues also appear (e.g.Job as an example of patience).

Despite the fact that seven virtues defeat seven vices, these are not the canonical seven deadly sins, nor the three theological and four cardinal virtues.

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