Boethius Analysis


There is not much reliable information on the life of Boethius (boh-EE-thee-uhs). His classical education was solid, and he spoke both Latin and Greek. He intended to translate the complete works of Plato and Aristotle into Latin but did not live long enough to complete this project. He may have served as the Roman consul around 510 c.e., and it is certain that he worked for the Ostrogothic king Theoderic the Great, who had invaded and occupied Rome. For reasons that are not clear, Theoderic condemned Boethius to death, and Boethius was executed in 524 c.e. Before his death, in his prison cell, Boethius wrote his extremely eloquent book De consolatione philosophiae (523; The Consolation of Philosophy, late ninth century). In this very influential work, he explained that pagan philosophy as reinterpreted by Christian theologians can help the unjustly accused to prepare themselves for a holy death.


Throughout the Middle Ages, The Consolation of Philosophy remained one of the most admired works from the early Christian era because it showed how Christian belief was perfectly compatible with the moral teachings of pagan philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle.


Astell, Ann W. Job, Boethius, and Epic Truth. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1994.

Barrett, Helen M. Boethius: Some Aspects of His Times and Work. 1940. Reprint. New York: Russell and Russell, 1965. This book, one of the older works on Boethius, provides a solid historical survey, sets Boethius firmly in this context, and interprets the scanty details of his life in a balanced and sensible way.

Chadwick, Henry. Boethius: The Consolations of Music, Logic, Theology, and Philosophy. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1981. Unlike other writers, who have tended to concentrate on the Christian, the poet, the philosopher, or the educational theorist, Chadwick aims to show Boethius’s career as a unified whole. He has succeeded in writing the most comprehensive book about Boethius’s life and work.

Gibson, Margaret, ed. Boethius: His Life, Thought, and Influence. Oxford, England: Basil Blackwell, 1981. This book contains a variety of material, including two valuable biographical essays. John Matthews studies Boethius as a Roman affirming ancient traditions and offices against the Ostrogothic king. Helen Kirkby stresses Boethius’s determination to continue the Roman habit of enriching Latin culture with Greek philosophical and educational thought.

Hoenen, Maarten J., and Lodi Nauta, eds. Boethius in the Middle Ages: Latin and Vernacular Traditions of the Consolatio...

(The entire section is 447 words.)