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Anicius Manlius Severinus Boëthius
Boethius initial consolation philosophy.jpg
Boethius teaching his students
(initial in a 1385 Italian manuscript of the Consolation of Philosophy.)
Bornc. AD 477 [1]
Died524 (aged about 44)
Notable work
The Consolation of Philosophy
Era Medieval philosophy
Region Western philosophy
School Neoplatonism
Main interests
problem of universals, theology, music
Notable ideas
The Wheel of Fortune
Saint Severinus Boethius
Born Rome, Kingdom of Odoacer
Died Pavia, Ostrogothic Kingdom
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church
Eastern Orthodox Church
Major shrine San Pietro in Ciel d'Oro, Pavia, Italy
Feast 23 October
Influences Augustine of Hippo
Influenced Thomas Aquinas

Anicius Manlius Severinus Boëthius, [lower-alpha 1] commonly called Boethius [lower-alpha 2] ( /bˈθiəs/ ; also Boetius /-ʃəs/ ; c. 477–524 AD), was a Roman senator, consul, magister officiorum , and philosopher of the early 6th century. He was born about a year after Odoacer deposed the last Roman Emperor and declared himself King of Italy. Boethius entered public service under Ostrogothic King Theodoric the Great, who later imprisoned and executed him in 524 on charges of conspiracy to overthrow him. [4] While jailed, Boethius composed his Consolation of Philosophy , a philosophical treatise on fortune, death, and other issues, which became one of the most popular and influential works of the Middle Ages. As the author of numerous handbooks and translator of Aristotle, he became the main intermediary between Classical antiquity and following centuries.

Roman Senate A political institution in ancient Rome

The Roman Senate was a political institution in ancient Rome. It was one of the most enduring institutions in Roman history, being established in the first days of the city of Rome,. It survived the overthrow of the kings in 509 BC, the fall of the Roman Republic in the 1st century BC, the division of the Roman Empire in 395 AD, the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 AD, and the barbarian rule of Rome in the 5th, 6th, and 7th centuries.

A consul held the highest elected political office of the Roman Republic, and ancient Romans considered the consulship the highest level of the cursus honorum.

The magister officiorum was one of the most senior administrative officials in the late Roman Empire and the early centuries of the Byzantine Empire. In Byzantium, the office was eventually transformed into a senior honorary rank, simply called magistros (μάγιστρος), until it disappeared in the 12th century.


Early life and rise to power

Boethius was born in Rome to a patrician family around 480, [5] but his exact birth date is unknown. [3] His family, the Anicii, included emperors Petronius Maximus and Olybrius and many consuls. [3] His grandfather, a senator by the same name, was appointed as Praetorian Prefect of Italy. He died in 454, during the palace plot against magister militum Flavius Aetius [6] . Boethius' father, Manlius Boethius, who was appointed consul in 487, died while Boethius was young. Another patrician, Quintus Aurelius Memmius Symmachus, adopted and raised Boethius, instilling in him a love for literature and philosophy. [7]

The patricians were originally a group of ruling class families in ancient Rome. The distinction was highly significant in the Roman Kingdom, and the early Republic, but its relevance waned after the Conflict of the Orders, and by the time of the late Republic and Empire, membership in the patriciate was of only nominal significance.

In ancient Rome, a gens, plural gentes, was a family consisting of all those individuals who shared the same nomen and who claimed descent from a common ancestor. A branch of a gens was called a stirps. The gens was an important social structure at Rome and throughout Italia during the period of the Roman Republic. Much of individuals' social standing depended on the gens to which they belonged. Certain gentes were classified as patrician, others as plebeian; some had both patrician and plebeian branches. The importance of membership in a gens declined considerably in imperial times.

The gens Anicia was a plebeian family at Rome, mentioned first towards the end of the fourth century BC. The first of the Anicii to achieve prominence under the Republic was Lucius Anicius Gallus, who conducted the war against the Illyrii during the Third Macedonian War, in 168 BC.

Both Memmius Symmachus and Boethius were fluent in Greek, an increasingly rare skill at the time in the Western Empire; for this reason, some scholars believe that Boethius was educated in the East. According to John Moorhead, the traditional view is that Boethius studied in Athens, based on Cassiodorus' rhetoric describing Boethius' learning in one of his letters, though this does appear to be a misreading of the text for Boethius' simple facility with the works of Greek philosophers. [8]

Greek language Language spoken in Greece, Cyprus and Southern Albania

Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages, native to Greece, Cyprus and other parts of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea. It has the longest documented history of any living Indo-European language, spanning more than 3000 years of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the major part of its history; other systems, such as Linear B and the Cypriot syllabary, were used previously. The alphabet arose from the Phoenician script and was in turn the basis of the Latin, Cyrillic, Armenian, Coptic, Gothic, and many other writing systems.

Athens Capital and largest city of Greece

Athens is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, with its recorded history spanning over 3,400 years and its earliest human presence started somewhere between the 11th and 7th millennium BC.

Cassiodorus consul of the Roman Empire

Flavius Magnus Aurelius Cassiodorus Senator, commonly known as Cassiodorus, was a Roman statesman, renowned scholar of antiquity, and writer serving in the administration of Theoderic the Great, king of the Ostrogoths. Senator was part of his surname, not his rank. He also founded a monastery, Vivarium, where he spent the last years of his life.

Pierre Courcelle has argued that Boethius studied at Alexandria with the Neo-Platonist philosopher Ammonius Hermiae. However, Moorhead observes that the evidence supporting Boethius having studied in Alexandria "is not as strong as it may appear", and adds that Boethius may have been able to acquire his formidable learning without travelling. [9]

Alexandria Metropolis in Egypt

Alexandria is the second-largest city in Egypt and a major economic centre, extending about 32 km (20 mi) along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in the north central part of the country. Its low elevation on the Nile delta makes it highly vulnerable to rising sea levels. Alexandria is an important industrial center because of its natural gas and oil pipelines from Suez. Alexandria is also a popular tourist destination.

Ammonius Hermiae was a Greek philosopher, and the son of the Neoplatonist philosophers Hermias and Aedesia. He was a pupil of Proclus in Athens, and taught at Alexandria for most of his life, writing commentaries on Plato, Aristotle, and other philosophers.

On account of his erudition, Boethius entered the service of Theodoric the Great at a young age and was already a senator by the age of 25. [10] His earliest documented acts on behalf of the Ostrogothic ruler were to investigate allegations that the paymaster of Theodoric's bodyguards had debased the coins of their pay; to produce a waterclock for Theodoric to give to king Gundobad of the Burgunds; and to recruit a lyre-player to perform for Clovis, king of the Franks. [11]

Theodoric the Great King of the Germanic Ostrogoths and ruler of Italy

Theodoric the Great, also spelled Theoderic or called Theodoric the Amal, was king of the Ostrogoths (471–526), and ruler of the independent Ostrogothic Kingdom of Italy between 493–526, regent of the Visigoths (511–526), and a patrician of the Roman Empire. As ruler of the combined Gothic realms, Theodoric controlled an empire stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Adriatic Sea. He kept good relations between Ostrogoths and Romans, maintained a Roman legal administration and oversaw a flourishing scholarly culture as well as overseeing a significant building program across Italy.

Gundobad King of the Burgundians

Gundobad was King of the Burgundians, succeeding his father Gundioc of Burgundy. Previous to this, he had been a Patrician of the moribund Western Roman Empire in 472 – 473, three years before its collapse, succeeding his uncle Ricimer. He is perhaps best known today as the probable issuer of the Lex Burgundionum legal codes, which synthesized Roman law with ancient Germanic customs. He was the husband of Caretene.

Clovis I First king of the Franks (c. 466–511)

Clovis was the first king of the Franks to unite all of the Frankish tribes under one ruler, changing the form of leadership from a group of royal chieftains to rule by a single king and ensuring that the kingship was passed down to his heirs. He is considered to have been the founder of the Merovingian dynasty, which ruled the Frankish kingdom for the next two centuries.

Boethius married his foster-father's daughter, Rusticiana; their children included two boys, Symmachus and Boethius.

Flavius Symmachus was a Roman politician during the Ostrogothic kingdom in Italy.

Flavius Boethius was a Roman politician during the Ostrogothic kingdom in Italy.

During Theodoric's reign, Boethius held many important offices, including the consulship in the year 510, but Boethius confesses in his De consolatione philosophiae that his greatest achievement was to have both his sons made co-consuls for the same year (522), [12] one representing the east and the other the west, and finding himself sitting "between the two consuls and as if it were a military triumph [letting his] largesse fulfill the wildest expectations of the people packed in their seats around [him]". [13]

In 522, the same year his two sons were appointed joint consuls, Boethius accepted the appointment to the position of magister officiorum , the head of all the government and court services. [14]

Fall and death

Boethius imprisoned, from a 1385 manuscript of the Consolation. Boethius imprisoned Consolation of philosophy 1385.jpg
Boethius imprisoned, from a 1385 manuscript of the Consolation.

In 520 Boethius was working to revitalize the relationship between the Roman See and the Constantinopolitan See; though still both a part of the same Church, disagreements had begun to emerge between them. This may have set in place a course of events that would lead to loss of royal favour. [14] Five hundred years later, this continuing disagreement led to the East–West Schism in 1054, in which communion between the Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox Church was broken.

In 523 Boethius fell from power. After a period of imprisonment in Pavia for what was deemed a treasonable offence, he was executed in 524. [5] [15] The primary sources are in general agreement over the facts of what happened. At a meeting of the Royal Council in Verona, the referendarius Cyprianus accused the ex-consul Caecina Decius Faustus Albinus of treasonous correspondence with Justin I. Boethius leapt to his defense, crying, "The charge of Cyprianus is false, but if Albinus did that, so also have I and the whole senate with one accord done it; it is false, my Lord King." [16]

Cyprianus then also accused Boethius of the same crime and produced three men who claimed they had witnessed the crime. Boethius and Basilius were arrested. First the pair were detained in the baptistery of a church, then Boethius was exiled to the Ager Calventianus, a distant country estate, where he was put to death. Not long afterwards Theodoric had Boethius' father-in-law Symmachus put to death, according to Procopius, on the grounds that he and Boethius together were planning a revolution, and confiscated their property. [17]

"The basic facts in the case are not in dispute," writes Jeffrey Richards. "What is disputed about this sequence of events is the interpretation that should be put on them." [18] Boethius claims his crime was seeking "the safety of the Senate". He describes the three witnesses against him as dishonorable: Basilius had been dismissed from Royal service for his debts, while Venantius Opilio and Gaudentius had been exiled for fraud. [19] However, other sources depict these men in a far more positive light. For example, Cassiodorus describes Cyprianus and Opilio as "utterly scrupulous, just and loyal" and mentions they are brothers and grandsons of the consul Opilio. [20]

Theodoric was feeling threatened by international events. The Acacian Schism had been resolved, and the Nicene Christian aristocrats of his kingdom were seeking to renew their ties with Constantinople. The Catholic Hilderic had become king of the Vandals and had put Theodoric's sister Amalafrida to death, [21] and Arians in the East were being persecuted. [22] Then there was the matter that with his previous ties to Theodahad, Boethius apparently found himself on the wrong side in the succession dispute following the untimely death of Eutharic, Theodoric's announced heir.

The method of Boethius' execution varies in the sources. Perhaps he was killed with an axe or a sword, or possibly he was clubbed to death, or possibly hanged. [23] According to another version a rope was attached round his head and tightened till his eyes bulged out; then his skull was cracked. In any case, his remains were entombed in the church of San Pietro in Ciel d'Oro in Pavia, also the resting place of Augustine of Hippo. In Dante's The Divine Comedy , Paradise, Canto X, lines 121–29, the spirit of Boethius is pointed out by Saint Thomas Aquinas:

Now if thy mental eye conducted be
From light to light, as I resound their frame,
The eighth well worth attention thou wilt see.
The soul who pointed out the world's dark ways,
To all who listen, its deceits unfolding.
Beneath in Cieldauro lies the frame
Whence it was driven; -from woe and exile, to
This fair abode of peace and bliss it came.

Past Classical and Medieval historians have had a hard time accepting a sincere Christian who was also a serious Hellenist. [24] Arnaldo Momigliano argues that "many people have turned to Christianity for consolation. Boethius turned to paganism. His Christianity collapsed—it collapsed so thoroughly that perhaps he did not even notice its disappearance." However, this view does not reflect the majority of current scholarship on the matter. [25] The community that he was part of valued both classical and Christian culture. [26]


Narius Manilas Boethius, the father of Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius. Boethius father.jpg
Narius Manilas Boethius, the father of Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius.

Dates of composition [27]

Mathematical works
Logical Works
A) Translations
B) Commentaries
Original Treatises

De consolatione philosophiae

Lady Philosophy and Boethius from the Consolation, (Ghent, 1485) Boethius.consolation.philosophy.jpg
Lady Philosophy and Boethius from the Consolation, (Ghent, 1485)

Boethius's best known work is the Consolation of Philosophy (De consolatione philosophiae), which he wrote most likely while in exile under house arrest or in prison while awaiting his execution. [29] This work represented an imaginary dialogue between himself and philosophy, with philosophy personified as a woman. [29] The book argues that despite the apparent inequality of the world, there is, in Platonic fashion, a higher power and everything else is secondary to that divine Providence. [4]

Several manuscripts survived and these were widely edited, translated and printed throughout the late 15th century and later in Europe. [29] Beyond Consolation of Philosophy, his lifelong project was a deliberate attempt to preserve ancient classical knowledge, particularly philosophy. Boethius intended to translate all the works of Aristotle and Plato from the original Greek into Latin. [30] [31] [32]

De topicis differentiis

His completed translations of Aristotle's works on logic were the only significant portions of Aristotle available in Latin Christendom from the sixth century until the 12th century. However, some of his translations (such as his treatment of the topoi in The Topics ) were mixed with his own commentary, which reflected both Aristotelian and Platonic concepts. [29]

Unfortunately, the commentaries themselves have been lost. [33] In addition to his commentary on the Topics, Boethius composed two treatises on Topical argumentation, In Ciceronis Topica and De topicis differentiis. The first work has six books, and is largely a response to Cicero's Topica. [34] The first book of In Ciceronis Topica begins with a dedication to Patricius. It includes distinctions and assertions important to Boethius's overall philosophy, such as his view of the role of philosophy as "establish[ing] our judgment concerning the governing of life", [35] and definitions of logic from Plato, Aristotle and Cicero. He breaks logic into three parts: that which defines, that which divides, and that which deduces. [35]

He asserts that there are three types of arguments: those of necessity, of ready believability, and sophistry. [36] He follows Aristotle in defining one sort of Topic as the maximal proposition, a proposition which is somehow shown to be universal or readily believable. [37] The other sort of Topic, the differentiae, are "Topics that contain and include the maximal propositions"; means of categorizing the Topics which Boethius credits to Cicero. [38]

Book II covers two kinds of topics: those from related things and those from extrinsic topics. Book III discusses the relationship among things studied through Topics, Topics themselves, and the nature of definition. Book IV analyzes partition, designation and relationships between things (such as pairing, numbering, genus, and species, etc.). After a review of his terms, Boethius spends Book V discussing Stoic logic and Aristotelian causation. Book VI relates the nature of the Topic to causes.

In Topicis Differentiis has four books; Book I discusses the nature of rhetorical and dialectical Topics together, Boethius's overall purpose being "to show what the Topics are, what their differentiae are, and which are suited for what syllogisms." [39] He distinguishes between argument (that which constitutes belief) and argumentation (that which demonstrates belief). Propositions are divided into three parts: those that are universal, those that are particular, and those that are somewhere in between. [40] These distinctions, and others, are applicable to both types of Topical argument, rhetorical and dialectical. Books II and III are primarily focused on Topics of dialectic (syllogisms), while Book IV concentrates on the unit of the rhetorical Topic, the enthymeme. Topical argumentation is at the core of Boethius's conception of dialectic, which "have categorical rather than conditional conclusions, and he conceives of the discovery of an argument as the discovery of a middle term capable of linking the two terms of the desired conclusion." [41]

Not only are these texts of paramount importance to the study of Boethius, they are also crucial to the history of topical lore. It is largely due to Boethius that the Topics of Aristotle and Cicero were revived, and the Boethian tradition of topical argumentation spans its influence throughout the Middle Ages and into the early Renaissance: "In the works of Ockham, Buridan, Albert of Saxony, and the Pseudo-Scotus, for instance, many of the rules of consequence bear a strong resemblance to or are simply identical with certain Boethian Topics ... Boethius's influence, direct and indirect, on this tradition is enormous." [42]

It was also in De Topicis Differentiis that Boethius made a unique contribution to the discourse on dialectic and rhetoric. Topical argumentation for Boethius is dependent upon a new category for the topics discussed by Aristotle and Cicero, and "[u]nlike Aristotle, Boethius recognizes two different types of Topics. First, he says, a Topic is a maximal proposition (maxima propositio), or principle; but there is a second kind of Topic, which he calls the differentia of a maximal proposition ..." [43] Maximal propositions are "propositions [that are] known per se, and no proof can be found for these." [44]

This is the basis for the idea that demonstration (or the construction of arguments) is dependent ultimately upon ideas or proofs that are known so well and are so fundamental to human understanding of logic that no other proofs come before it. They must hold true in and of themselves. According to Stump, "the role of maximal propositions in argumentation is to ensure the truth of a conclusion by ensuring the truth of its premises either directly or indirectly." [45] These propositions would be used in constructing arguments through the Differentia, which is the second part of Boethius' theory. This is "the genus of the intermediate in the argument." [46] So maximal propositions allow room for an argument to be founded in some sense of logic while differentia are critical for the demonstration and construction of arguments.

Boethius' definition of "differentiae" is that they are "the Topics of arguments ... The Topics which are the Differentiae of [maximal] propositions are more universal than those propositions, just as rationality is more universal than man." [47] This is the second part of Boethius' unique contribution to the field of rhetoric. Differentia operate under maximal propositions to "be of use in finding maximal propositions as well as intermediate terms," or the premises that follow maximal propositions. [48]

Though Boethius is drawing from Aristotle's Topics, Differentiae are not the same as Topics in some ways. Boethius arranges differentiae through statements, instead of generalized groups as Aristotle does. Stump articulates the difference. They are "expressed as words or phrases whose expansion into appropriate propositions is neither intended nor readily conceivable", unlike Aristotle's clearly defined four groups of Topics. Aristotle had hundreds of topics organized into those four groups, whereas Boethius has twenty-eight "Topics" that are "highly ordered among themselves." [49] This distinction is necessary to understand Boethius as separate from past rhetorical theories.

Maximal propositions and Differentiae belong not only to rhetoric, but also to dialectic. Boethius defines dialectic through an analysis of "thesis" and hypothetical propositions. He claims that "[t]here are two kinds of questions. One is that called, 'thesis' by the [Greek] dialecticians. This is the kind of question which asks about and discusses things stripped of relation to other circumstances; it is the sort of question dialecticians most frequently dispute about—for example, 'Is pleasure the greatest good?' [or] 'Should one marry?'." [50] Dialectic has "dialectical topics" as well as "dialectical-rhetorical topics", all of which are still discussed in De Topicis Differentiis. [43] Dialectic, especially in Book I, comprises a major component of Boethius' discussion on Topics.

Boethius planned to completely translate Plato's Dialogues, but there is no known surviving translation, if it was actually ever begun. [51]

De arithmetica

Boethius chose to pass on the great Greco-Roman culture to future generations by writing manuals on music, astronomy, geometry and arithmetic. [10]

Several of Boethius' writings, which were hugely influential during the Middle Ages, drew on the thinking of Porphyry and Iamblichus. [52] Boethius wrote a commentary on the Isagoge by Porphyry, [53] which highlighted the existence of the problem of universals: whether these concepts are subsistent entities which would exist whether anyone thought of them, or whether they only exist as ideas. This topic concerning the ontological nature of universal ideas was one of the most vocal controversies in medieval philosophy.

Besides these advanced philosophical works, Boethius is also reported to have translated important Greek texts on the topics of the quadrivium [51] His loose translation of Nicomachus's treatise on arithmetic (De institutione arithmetica libri duo) and his textbook on music (De institutione musica libri quinque, unfinished) contributed to medieval education. [53] De arithmetica begins with modular arithmetic, such as even and odd, evenly even, evenly odd, and oddly even. He then turns to unpredicted complexity by categorizing numbers and parts of numbers. [54] His translations of Euclid on geometry and Ptolemy on astronomy, [55] if they were completed, no longer survive. Boethius made Latin translations of Aristotle's De interpretatione and Categories with commentaries. [14] In his article The Ancient Classics in the Mediaeval Libraries, James Stuart Beddie cites Boethius as the reason Aristotle's works were popular in the Middle Ages, as Boethius preserved many of the philosopher's works. [56]

De institutione musica

Boethius' De institutione musica was one of the first musical works to be printed in Venice between the years of 1491 and 1492. It was written toward the beginning of the sixth century and helped medieval authors during the ninth century understand Greek music. [57] Like his Greek predecessors, Boethius believed that arithmetic and music were intertwined, and helped to mutually reinforce the understanding of each, and together exemplified the fundamental principles of order and harmony in the understanding of the universe as it was known during his time. [58]

In "De Musica", Boethius introduced the threefold classification of music: [59]

Boethius, Arithmetica Geometrica Musica (1492 first printed edition, from Hans Adler Collection) HA incunabula boetius.jpg
Boethius, Arithmetica Geometrica Musica (1492 first printed edition, from Hans Adler Collection)

In De musica I.2, Boethius describes 'musica instrumentis' as music produced by something under tension (e.g., strings), by wind (e.g., aulos), by water, or by percussion (e.g., cymbals). Boethius himself doesn't use the term 'instrumentalis', which was used by Adalbold II of Utrecht (9751026) in his Epistola cum tractatu.[ full citation needed ] The term is much more common in the 13th century and later.[ citation needed ] It is also in these later texts that musica instrumentalis is firmly associated with audible music in general, including vocal music. Scholars have traditionally assumed that Boethius also made this connection, possibly under the header of wind instruments ("administratur ... aut spiritu ut tibiis" [lower-alpha 3] [60] ), but Boethius himself never writes about "instrumentalis" as separate from "instrumentis" explicitly in his very brief description.

In one of his works within De institutione musica, Boethius said that "music is so naturally united with us that we cannot be free from it even if we so desired." [61]

During the Middle Ages, Boethius was connected to several texts that were used to teach liberal arts. Although he did not address the subject of trivium, he did write many treatises explaining the principles of rhetoric, grammar, and logic. During the Middle Ages, his works of these disciplines were commonly used when studying the three elementary arts. [55] The historian R. W. Southern called Boethius "the schoolmaster of medieval Europe." [62]

An 1872 German translation of "De Musica" was the magnum opus of Oscar Paul. [63]

Opuscula sacra

Boethius also wrote Christian theological treatises, which supported Catholicism and condemned Arianism and other heterodox forms of Christianity. [64]

Five theological works are known: [65]

His theological works played an important part during the Middle Ages in philosophical thought, including the fields of logic, ontology, and metaphysics. [67]

History of reception

Lorenzo Valla described Boethius as the last of the Romans and the first of the scholastic philosophers. [12] Despite the use of his mathematical texts in the early universities, it is his final work, the Consolation of Philosophy , that assured his legacy in the Middle Ages and beyond. This work is cast as a dialogue between Boethius himself, at first bitter and despairing over his imprisonment, and the spirit of philosophy, depicted as a woman of wisdom and compassion. "Alternately composed in prose and verse, [52] the Consolation teaches acceptance of hardship in a spirit of philosophical detachment from misfortune". [68]

Parts of the work are reminiscent of the Socratic method of Plato's dialogues, as the spirit of philosophy questions Boethius and challenges his emotional reactions to adversity. The work was translated into Old English by King Alfred, although Alfred's authorship of this Old English translation has recently been questioned,[ citation needed ] and into later English by Chaucer and Queen Elizabeth. [64] Many manuscripts survive and it was extensively edited, translated and printed throughout Europe from the 14th century onwards. [69] Many commentaries on it were compiled, and it has been one of the most influential books in European culture. No complete bibliography has ever been assembled, but it would run into thousands of items. [68] [ failed verification ]

"The Boethian Wheel" is a model for Boethius' belief that history is a wheel, [70] a metaphor that Boethius uses frequently in the Consolation; it remained very popular throughout the Middle Ages, and is still often seen today. As the wheel turns, those who have power and wealth will turn to dust; men may rise from poverty and hunger to greatness, while those who are great may fall with the turn of the wheel. It was represented in the Middle Ages in many relics of art depicting the rise and fall of man. Descriptions of "The Boethian Wheel" can be found in the literature of the Middle Ages from the Romance of the Rose to Chaucer. [71]


The Tomb of Boethius in San Pietro in Ciel d'Oro, Pavia. 0372 - Pavia - S. Pietro - Cripta - Tomba Boezio - Foto Giovanni Dall'Orto, Oct 17 2009.jpg
The Tomb of Boethius in San Pietro in Ciel d'Oro, Pavia.

Boethius is recognized as a martyr for the Catholic faith by the Roman Martyrology, though to Watkins "his status as martyr is dubious". [72] His cult is held in Pavia, where Boethius's status as a saint was confirmed in 1883, and in the Church of Santa Maria in Portico in Rome. His feast day is 23 October. [73] [72] [74] Pope Benedict XVI explained the relevance of Boethius to modern day Christians by linking his teachings to an understanding of Providence. [10] He is also venerated in the Eastern Orthodox Church. [75]

In the novel A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole, Boethius is the favorite philosopher of main character Ignatius J. Reilly. "The Boethian Wheel" is a theme throughout the book, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1981. [76]

Peter Glassgold translated Boethius's poems on the consolation of philosophy "out of the original Latin into a diverse historical Englishings diligently collaged," (Sun and Moon Press, 1994). [77]

C.S. Lewis references Boethius in chapter 27 of the Screwtape Letters. [78]

See also


  1. The name Anicius demonstrated his connection with a noble family of the Lower Empire, while Manlius claims lineage from the Manlii Torquati of the Republic. The name Severinus was given to him in honour of Severinus of Noricum. [3]
  2. In English, the o and e in Boethius are pronounced separately: /bˈθiəs/ . It is hence traditionally written with a diæresis, viz. "Boëthius", a spelling which has been disappearing due to the limitations of typewriters.
  3. "Haec vero administratur aut intentione ut nervis, aut spiritu ut tibiis, vel his, quae ad aquam moventur, aut percussione quadam, ut in his, quae in concava quaedam aerea feriuntur, atque inde diversi efficiuntur soni." Translated: "This, however, is operated by the motion of a string, or the wind of a pipe, or to those, which are moved by the water, or the beat of time, as in the following, which is striking a kind of brass hollow, and in the other are made of a corresponding sound."

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The Organon is the standard collection of Aristotle's six works on logic. The name Organon was given by Aristotle's followers, the Peripatetics. They are as follows:

Jacques Lefèvre dÉtaples French theologian and humanist

Jacques Lefèvre d'Étaples or Jacobus Faber Stapulensis was a French theologian and humanist. He was a precursor of the Protestant movement in France. The "d'Étaples" was not part of his name as such, but used to distinguish him from Jacques Lefèvre of Deventer, a less significant contemporary, a friend and correspondent of Erasmus. Both are also sometimes called by the German version of their name, Jacob/Jakob Faber. He himself had a sometimes tense relationship with Erasmus, whose work on Biblical translation and in theology closely paralleled his own.

<i>Topics</i> (Aristotle) work by Aristotle

The Topics is the name given to one of Aristotle's six works on logic collectively known as the Organon. The treatise presents the art of dialectic — the invention and discovery of arguments in which the propositions rest upon commonly held opinions or endoxa. Topoi (τόποι) are "places" from which such arguments can be discovered or invented.

Quintus Aurelius Memmius Symmachus 6th century Roman historian and politician

Quintus Aurelius Memmius Symmachus was a 6th-century Roman aristocrat, an historian and a supporter of Nicene Orthodoxy. He was a patron of secular learning, and became the consul for the year 485. He supported Pope Symmachus in the schism over the Popes' election, and was executed with his son-in-law Boethius after being charged with treason.

Boetius de Dacia, OP was a 13th-century Danish philosopher.

Radulphus Brito was an influential grammarian and philosopher, based in Paris. He is usually identified as Raoul le Breton, though this is disputed by some. Besides works of grammatical speculation — he was one of the Modistae — he wrote on Aristotle, Boethius and Priscian.

In the history of logic, the term logica nova refers to a subdivision of the logical tradition of Western Europe, as it existed around the middle of the thirteenth century. According to the availability at the time of the logical works of Aristotle in Latin translation, there was a logica vetus and the logica nova.

Transmission of the Greek Classics

The transmission of the Greek Classics to Latin Western Europe during the Middle Ages was a key factor in the development of intellectual life in Western Europe. Interest in Greek texts and their availability was scarce in the Latin West during the earlier Middle Ages, but as traffic to the East increased so did Western scholarship.

Topical logic is the logic of topical argument, a branch of rhetoric developed in the Late Antique period from earlier works, such as Aristotle's Topics and Cicero's Topica. It consists of heuristics for developing arguments, which are in the first place plausible rather than rigorous, from commonplaces. In other words, therefore, it consists of standardized ways of thinking up debating techniques from existing, thought-through positions. The actual practice of topical argument was much developed by Roman lawyers. Cicero took the theory of Aristotle to be an aspect of rhetoric. As such it belongs to inventio in the classic fivefold division of rhetoric.

Medieval philosophy

Medieval philosophy is the philosophy that existed through the Middle Ages, the period roughly extending from the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century to the Renaissance in the 15th century. Medieval philosophy, understood as a project of independent philosophical inquiry, began in Baghdad, in the middle of the 8th century, and in France, in the itinerant court of Charlemagne, in the last quarter of the 8th century. It is defined partly by the process of rediscovering the ancient culture developed in Greece and Rome during the Classical period, and partly by the need to address theological problems and to integrate sacred doctrine with secular learning.

1st millennium BC in music – 1st millennium in music – 11th century in music

Peter of Kastl was a Benedictine monk who very probably composed a translation of Boethius's Consolation of Philosophy.

Oscar Paul musicologist

Oscar Paul was a German musicologist and a music writer, critic, and teacher.

Eleonore Stump is the Robert J. Henle Professor of Philosophy at Saint Louis University, where she has taught since 1992.


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Works available online

Dialectica, 1547 Inter latinos aristotelis interpretes et aetate primi, et doctrina praecipui dialectica.tif
Dialectica, 1547



On Boethius' life and works

On Boethius' logic and philosophy

Preceded by
Flavius Inportunus
Consul of the Roman Empire
Succeeded by
Arcadius Placidus Magnus Felix,
Flavius Secundinus