Illustration of underwater fighting scene

Dublin Core


Illustration of underwater fighting scene


From the same 1511 manuscript credited to Flavius Vegetius Renatus, this is another of the many outlandish and whimsical illustrations that appear in the last section of the large compilation.This image depicts a warrior fighting underwater, surrounded by fish (some incredibly strange-looking) and sea plants. The creature also looks almost amphibian-like, with what is perhaps the tip of a sword at his hip almost resembling a tail. While our protagonist warrior is entirely submerged, his opponent is struggling to stay above water. The opponent is not wearing a headpiece, but instead has almost mermaid-like legs which he is using to keep himself afloat.

Like the preceding illustration, this image is incredibly fantastical and likely intended for the entertainment of a wide audience. This image is particularly interesting as it is one of the few that is not depicting a piece of outlandish, advanced military weapon, but a completely whimsical new setting for a fight. This has the effect of romanticizing further the fighting hero – so powerful and resilient that he is able to last underwater while his opponent struggles at the surface. It may also have been seen by medieval audiences as a humorous depiction because of its outlandishness, and might have been more funny than heroic. Nevertheless, this illustration is undoubtedly an incredibly interesting find among the manuscript collection at the Kislak Center.


Mei-Li Thompson


The Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts, University of Pennsylvania






Mei-Li Thompson, “Illustration of underwater fighting scene,” War & Conquest in Medieval Europe, accessed April 2, 2020,