Brant: Mezentius and Aeneas Duel on Horseback

In the top half of the image, Aeneas has injured Mezentius in the groin and Mezentius has fallen (783-95). Lausus, son of Mezentius, fearing that Aeneas will kill his father, challenges Aeneas himself (796-802). Aeneas prepares to drive his sword into the youth's abdomen (810-20). In the lower half of the image, Mezentius challenges Aeneas to a duel on horseback (873). Aeneas first weakens Mezentius with repeated spear wounds (874-87), and then throws his spear at Mezentius's horse, Rhoebus (888-94).

Woodcut illustration from the “Strasbourg Vergil,” edited by Sebastian Brant: Publii Virgilii Maronis Opera cum quinque vulgatis commentariis expolitissimisque figuris atque imaginibus nuper per Sebastianum Brant superadditis (Strasbourg: Johannis Grieninger, 1502), fol. 366r, executed by an anonymous engraver under the direction of Brant.


Sebastian Brant (1458-1521) was a humanist scholar of many competencies. Trained in classics and law at the University of Basel, Brant later lectured in jurisprudence there and practiced law in his native city of Strasbourg. While his satirical poem Das Narrenschiff won him considerable standing as a writer, his role in the transmission of Virgil to the Renaissance was at least as important. In 1502 he and Strasbourg printer Johannes Grüninger produced a major edition of Virgil’s works, along with Donatus’ Life and the commentaries of Servius, Landino, and Calderini, with more than two hundred woodcut illustrations. (Annabel Patterson)

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