In his earlier career, King Theodoric showed a benevolent attitude toward intellectual pursuits of his educated subjects and promoted religious toleration. But toward the close of his reign, which was characterized by failures, he became suspicious of his aides. The scholar and official Boethius became a victim of political scheming and was eventually executed by the order of the king.
As Boethius faces his imminent death, he finds consolation in the idea that our world as a fruit of the Highest Good cannot but be good itself. Therefore, everything that has being is good while evil is just a non-being—a lack of the being’s fullness. Evil is nothing because it has no independent being. God cannot create evil because he is all-good.
Though Boethius distinguishes between fate and Divine Providence, he likens their relation to concentric circles. Providence is the immutable Divine center, while the circles that are distanced from it are fates of the things created by God but subjected to time’s influence. Men’s fates are various, but they are fully in agreement with Providence. He concludes:
Since every fortune, welcome and unwelcome alike, has for its object the reward or trial of the good, and the punishing or amending of the bad, every fortune must be good, since it is either just or useful (Book 4, 7)
There is no way that man can escape his fate, but he can be resilient in the face of its twists. The more one is dependent on the temporary and the transient, the more changeable his fate is. The closer he is to a divine life with its immutable eternity ahead, the less he is dependent on time—hence, the less he is subject to vicissitudes of his fate.
It is with these thoughts in mind that Boethius faces the imminence of his fate: the goodness of the world, the nothingness of evil, the goodness of every fortune, and the all-encompassing character of Divine Providence.
Theodoric and Boethius’s collision was more than a personal conflict. It epitomized the struggle of the two worlds: the Roman and the Barbarian. Boethius perished, but his legacy became a productive source of inspiration for medieval thought.
Both men became peculiar icons of the Middle Ages. Boethius personified human sanctity, erudition, and freedom of spirit. Theodoric embodied military bravery and state authority, transforming chaos into order. Boethius's was a purely moral ideal, and it applied to all people regardless of their rank. Theodoric's ideal was much narrower, and it pertained to rank and class. The latter became tarnished with the decline of the Middle Ages. The former remains valid and relevant to this day.