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Boethius, (Anicius Manlius Severinus)   (480-524 AD)

an image    Roman philosopher and statesman, Ancius Manlius Severinus Boethius was born about 480 C.E. of the prestigious patrician Roman family of the Ancii.
    Studying at Athens, he gained a profound knowledge of Greek, particularly of Platonic philosophy, thereby enabling him to produce the translations of Aristotle and Porphyry which later became the standard textbooks on logic in medieval Europe.
    Quickly rising to the top of the Roman political establishment, he became a wildly successful politician, as was his father. Becoming consul in 510 during the Gothic occupation of Rome, and later chief minister to the ruler Theodoric, who had invaded Rome in 489 and assumed the title of emperor in 493.
    However, Boethius became caught in a conflict concerning the unification of the Roman and the Eastern churches. He was, from all we know, acting in perfectly good faith regarding the attempts to negotiate with the Eastern Church. Yet, in the year 523 he was accused, tried and convicted of treason and sacrilege by Emperor Theoderic. Tortured mercilessly for months, after a year in prison at Pavia, he was executed in the cruelest possible manner.
    It was in the months before his death, his body torn from daily tortures, that Boethius began to deeply question his Christian faith in both religious and intellectual terms. From this he produced the famous short treatise De consolatione philosophiae (Consolation of Philosophy), in which the personification of Philosophy solaces the author by explaining the mutability of all earthly fortune.
    The concept of the work is that while Boethius is languishing in prison, awaiting his execution by comforting himself with poetry and lamenting the general state of chaos in the world, a figure then appears to him, Lady Philosophy, who undertakes to open his eyes and teach him the order of the universe. After knowing of this, he will then be able to understand why God permits evil to exist in the world. For there are two perspectives on the world: the human and the divine. The former perspective gives us the idea of "fortune," the latter the idea of "Providence." Neither of which are pre-ordained.
    The Consolation of Philosophy, perhaps the most important legacy Boethius bequeaths to us, became one of the most important books in Western Civilization. Defining a world view for the medievals, and early Renaissance Christianity, it was probably the most widely read book after the Bible for the next millennium.

article compiled by Brodir    

Latin Epigram

English Translation

Si tacuisses, philosophus manisses.

If you had kept silent, you would have remained a philosopher.


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