The Second Punic War is the central theme of this epic poem, in which it is depicted the greatness of the Romans, underlining the heroic virtues of the Roman chiefs, and the power of a Rome that, submitted and defeated by the enemy at first, in the end came out the victor of a struggle which was one of the most epic and deadly of its history.
A codex of Silio Italico’s text appeared in the library of Pope Nicholas V (Pontificate: 1447-1455), whose books were the original core of the Vatican Library. In an inventory of the luxurious library of this knowledgeable humanist this codex is described as “prestigious”.
That manuscript, of great beauty and richness, was identified as the actual codex Lat. XII, 68 - 4519-) of the Marciana Library of Venice. It is probable that the codex left the Roman collection during the reign of Paul II (Pontificate: 1462-1471).
At the end of the XV Century it was possible to find it in Venice, in the Dominican Monastery of Saints John and Paul. The beautiful Dominican library in Venice was one of the firsts monastic collection that were transferred in the library of the Serenissima. The deposit was made for security purposes, because in the middle of the XVIII Century there were episodes of robbery and the dispersion became alarming.
Because of the exuberant beauty of the illustrations of the famous Silio Italico, this codex was robbed of its illuminated pages, which were torn in a merciless manner to be sold and acquired quickly by members of the Russian court.
Nowadays, exist seven images, kept in Venice and in Saint Petersburg.
The miniatures are made by one of the most famous artists of the Florentine XV Century: Francesco Di Stefano, known also as the Pesellino. In his work it is possible to appreciate the influences of Filippo Lippi and of Fra Angelico, and despite his short career due to his early death, his works are preserved in the best museums, such as the National Gallery in London, the Metropolitan Museum in New York, the Gardner Museum in Boston, and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.