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Cover of the first edition of Judita
Author Marko Marulić
Country Republic of Venice
Language Croatian
Subject(s) Story of Biblical Judith
Publisher Guglielmo da Fontaneto
Publication date 13th August 1521

Judita ("Judith") is one of the most important Croatian literary works, an epic poem written by the "father of Croatian literature" Marko Marulić in 1501.



The work was finished on the April 22nd 1501[1], and has been published for three times during Marulić's lifetime. The first edition was arranged by Petar Srićić of Split and was printed in Venice by Guglielmo da Fontaneto on August 13 1521, i.e. 20 years after it was actually written. One extant copy of the first edition is held in the Franciscan library of Mala braća in Dubrovnik, and the other in the library of Zadar family Paravia, which is today a part of the Scientific Library of Zadar.

The second edition was edited by Zadar librarian Jerolim Mirković on May 30 1522, and that edition is decorated in nine woodcuts depicting war scenes. The ninth woodcut is signed with the letter 'M', so it was assumed that Marulić himself was the author of the woodcuts. One copy of Mirković's edition has been given to the University Library by Ivan Kukuljević, and the other copy, still a part of the Collection of Manuscripts and Old Books of the University Library, originates from the Kukuljević's legacy.

The third editions has been printed on the January 29th 1522, as it has been indicated in impressube, for Dubrovnik librarian Jacomo di Negri. Trasnferring the aforementioned date of Venetian calendar to modern system, we arrive at the date of 29 January 1523[2]. The only surviving copy of that edition is held at the Bavarian State Library in Munich.

Theme and influence

The frequency of printing indicates that the text found its readership not only in Split, which had at most 200 literate citizens at the time, but in other Dalmatian centres. The poem contains 2126 doubly rhymed dodecasyllables with ceasure after the sixth syllable, composed in 6 books (libars). The language basis of the book is Split Čakavian speech and Štokavian lexis, and the Glagolitic original of the legend, and this way the work foreshadows the unity of Croatian language. Thematically it deals with the story of old Biblical widow Judith which by her heroic act—alleged treason, seduction and the murder of Assyrian general Holofernes—saves the city of Bethulia. The act of choosing a subject that simultaneously deals with the act of heroism and a crime shows that Marulić chiefly had in mind literary features (the plot, drama) of the material, and only then their moralistic overhead. A special kind of modernity, with the Humanism-suited treatment of the poem, author demonstrates Petrarchan descriptions of Judith's beauty.

Marulić's Judith has no decorative epithets profused in folk epics. Even if Judith presents no literary enjoyment, it is interesting as a cultural monument, even more for the way it was composed. For it was no accident that Marulić chose the story of Biblical Judith to treat it as a literary piece. His work resulted from noble idea of giving something to read "even those, who understand no scholarly books"[3], and the plot has be chosen looking at the bad state of its homeland, invaded by foreigners. He shows to the common people the exemplary model of Judith, for it to see what can the yield the confidence to God and eternal justice. That is the chief notion pervading the Marko's poem. That makes the Marulić the first Croatian poet to sing for the people, to encourage it in arduous battles with "eastern dragon"—the Ottoman Turks.

The plot


The first book

The first book describes Babylonian ruler Nebuchadnezzar II (which conquered Syria and Palestine), the way he kills Arpachshad, and his desire to rule the world. Nebuchadnezzar sends his general Holofernes to conquer as much land as he can, terrorizing the inhabitants.

The second book

Holofernes' military campaign, ranging across many lands, finally brings him to Israel. The people, in their horror, pray to God for salvation.

The third book

Holofernes lays siege to Bethulia, cutting off the town's water supply. After much hardship, the leaders of the town decide to surrender, but Duke Ozias begs the Jews to be patient for five more days to await God's salvation.

The fourth book

Judith, widow of Menasses, prays to the Lord and, along with Abra her slave, flees the city that same night. God bestows upon her the gift of extraordinary beauty, which she will use to seduce Holofernes.

The fifth book

Holofernes invites Judith to dinner in his tent. On the fourth day of a festival, drunken Holofernes falls asleep. Judith cuts off his head and mounts it on the city gates in view of his men. They run in horror and fear at the sight, and those who remain are easily driven off by the citizens.

The sixth book

The sixth book describes events in the Jerusalem after the departure of Holofernes' army. High Priest Eliakim arrives with his priests to see Judith. She departs for Jerusalem and returns after three months. She never remarries, and there is peace in the land as long as she lives. After her death she is mourned by the citizens for seven days.


  1. ^ Judita:Posveta: "Od rojen'ja Isukarstova u puti godišće parvo nako(n) tisuća i pet sat, na dvadeset i dva dni miseca aprila. U Splitu gradu."
  2. ^ According to the Venetian calendar, the New Year starts on the first of March, just as in old Roman calendar used prior to the 153 BCE.
  3. ^ "i onima, koji đačke knjige ne razumiju"


  • Dunja Fališevac, Krešimir Nemec, Darko Novaković (2000). Leksikon hrvatskih pisaca. Zagreb: Školska knjiga d.d. ISBN 953-0-61107-2.  

External links


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary


Czech Wikipedia has an article on:

Wikipedia cs

Proper noun

Judita f.

  1. A female given name, cognate to Judith.


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