(Anicius Manlius Severinus) (480-524 AD)
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
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.
compiled by Brodir
Si tacuisses, philosophus manisses.
If you had kept silent, you would have remained a
This is the recognized web site for the Shire of College of Boethius,
located within the Kingdom
of Caid of the Society for
Creative Anachronism, Inc. and is maintained by . This site may contain electronic versions of the group's governing
documents. Any discrepancies between the electronic version of any information
on this site and the printed version that is available from the originating office
will be decided in favor of the printed version. For information on using
photographs, articles, or artwork from this web site, please contact the
Webminister at . He or she will assist you in
contacting the original creator of the piece. Please respect the legal rights of our
Copyright © 2010 College of Boethius. The original contributors retain the copyright of certain portions of this site.