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).
- The Latin original of the poem
- Several medieval illustrations of the battle scenes described
- Psychomachia (translated to English)
- Psycomachia Vices folio 200v of manuscript Hortus Deliciarum ca. 1170 CE, Strasbourg (online catalog Oberlin College)
- Psycomachia Virtues folio 201r of manuscript Hortus Deliciarum ca. 1170 CE, Strasbourg (online catalog Oberlin College)