E. K. Rand (essay date 1938)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: “The New Cassiodorus,” in Speculum, Vol. 13, No. 4, October 1938, pp. 433-47.

[In the following essay, Rand examines textual issues related to Cassiodorus's Institutiones, focusing on the work's title; the “archetype” of the various extant manuscripts and the categories into which the manuscripts may be placed; and the history of the earliest manuscript, as well as that of the codices.]

The significance of Cassiodorus in the history of the transmission of Classical and patristic texts and thus in the history of mediaeval education has long been duly acclaimed. It is he who made sound learning and the copying of books a part of monastic...

(The entire section is 8965 words.)

Jacob Hammer (essay date 1944)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: “Cassiodorus, the Savior of Western Civilization,” in Bulletin of the Polish Institute of Arts and Sciences in America, Vol. 3, No. 1, October, 1944, pp. 369-84.

[In the essay below, Hammer reviews Cassiodorus's literary achievements, praising him for rejuvenating Western intellectual life when it was in “utter decay.”]

Everybody is familiar with the phrase “forgotten man.” I shall speak to-day of a forgotten man, forgotten even by some classicists, a man whose absence is singularly noticeable in Holbrook Jackson's “Anatomy of Bibliomania.” And there certainly he ought to have found a place of honor. My forgotten man is Flavius Magnus...

(The entire section is 6191 words.)

Leslie Webber Jones (essay date 1945)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: “Notes on the Style and Vocabulary of Cassiodorus's Institutiones,” in Classical Philology, Vol. XL, No. 1, January, 1945, pp. 24-31.

[In the following essay, Jones reviews the content and aims of Cassiodorus's Institutiones and comments that the style of the work is elaborate and characterized by Cassiodorus's desire for balance. Jones then analyzes specific examples of the type of vocabulary used in the work.]

Though many Latin scholars are aware of the unusual importance of Cassiodorus' Institutiones divinarum et humanarum lectionum,1 the difficulties of its style and vocabulary (and even of its syntax) often prevent...

(The entire section is 4772 words.)

Leslie W. Jones (essay date 1945)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Influence of Cassiodorus on Mediaeval Culture,” in Speculum, Vol. 20, No. 4, October, 1945, pp. 433-42.

[In the following essay, Jones surveys the literary and cultural impact of Cassiodorus from the years following his death through the end of the thirteenth century, observing that he systematized the process of producing multiple copies of the Scriptures and that he helped to transform the monastery into a theological school.]

That Flavius Magnus Aurelius Cassiodorus Senator was indeed a remarkable man I hope to make clear in the introduction and notes of my forthcoming translation of his Institutiones. [The translation is now in the hands of...

(The entire section is 4977 words.)

Leslie W. Jones (essay date 1947)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: “Further Notes Concerning Cassiodorus's Influence on Mediaeval Culture,” in Speculum, Vol. 22, No. 4, April, 1947, pp. 254-56.

[In this essay, Jones lists a number of corrections and emendations to his previous essay (see above).]

That the appearance of my recent article, ‘The Influence of Cassiodorus on Mediaeval Culture,’ Speculum, xx (1945), 433-442, has prompted several friends to send me a few suggestions for its correction and improvement, and many for its amplification is not surprising. One who has the hardihood to attempt to cover a broad field is bound to fall into occasional error. I desire to express here not only my gratitude for the...

(The entire section is 1105 words.)

M. L. W. Laistner (essay date 1948)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Value and Influence of Cassiodorus's Ecclesiastical History,” in Harvard Theological Review, Vol. XLI, No. 1, January, 1948, pp. 51-67.

[In the essay below, Laistner analyzes the ecclesiastical history edited by and translated under the direction of Cassiodorus, praising his critical skill in selecting the material to be included in the Historia Tripartita.]

Most students of history or literature have had at some time the experience of encountering statements or generalizations made by a writer of an earlier generation and then finding them repeated without question by his successors working in the same field of inquiry. What is more, if...

(The entire section is 4847 words.)

Arnaldo Momigliano (lecture date 1955)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: “Cassiodorus and Italian Culture of His Time,” in Proceedings of the British Academy, Vol. 41, 1955, pp. 207-45.

[In the essay below, originally delivered as a lecture, Momigliano studies the political atmosphere in Italy during Cassiodorus's career and demonstrates the ways in which the relationship between the Romans and the Goths influenced Cassiodorus's writings. Momigliano observes that in works such as the Gothic History, Cassiodorus intended to support the peaceful coexistence of Goths and Romans.]


When I want to understand Italian history I catch a train and go to Ravenna. There, between the tomb of Theodoric and...

(The entire section is 13073 words.)

James J. O'Donnell (essay date 1979)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Variae,” in Cassiodorus, University of California Press, 1979, pp. 55-102.

[In the following essay, O'Donnell analyzes the compilation, content, and character of Cassiodorus's Variae, arguing that while Cassiodorus extols the virtues of Gothic rule, the work was not intended as a polemical treatise.]

The collapse of Ostrogothic Italy in the face of Byzantine reconquest casts a shadow over the most important literary product of Cassiodorus' public career. That career, dated according to the documents in the Variae, did not last beyond 537 or 538; his appointment as praetorian prefect had originally been made in 533 in the name of...

(The entire section is 18201 words.)

S. J. B. Barnish (essay date 1984)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Genesis and Completion of Cassiodorus's Gothic History,” in Latomus: Revue D'Etudes Latines, Vol. XLIII, No. 2, April-June, 1984, pp. 336-61.

[In the following essay, Barnish studies Cassiodorus's aims in writing his Gothic History, analyzes the circumstances surrounding the work's composition, and discusses how Jordanes came to write his summary of the work.]

The history which Cassiodorus, one of the leading statesmen and literary figures of sixth century Rome, composed to celebrate the race, lineage, and achievements of his Gothic masters, is now known only through the illiterate epitome made and supplemented by Jordanes. Yet, even the...

(The entire section is 10560 words.)

S. J. B. Barnish (essay date 1989)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Work of Cassiodorus after His Conversion,” in Latomus: Revue D'Etudes Latines, Vol. XLVIII, No. 1, January-March, 1989, pp. 157-87.

[In the essay that follows, Barnish argues that many of Cassiodorus's writings, particularly those composed after he retired to his monastery, were designed to influence both the lay and clerical public in matters of politics, religion, and culture.]

About the end of the year 537, Cassiodorus, former consul, Roman aristocrat, and elder statesman of that Gothic realm on which the mantle of the western empire had fallen, laid down his last office, the praetorian prefecture of Italy. His time was then being devoted to a...

(The entire section is 15424 words.)

Robin Macpherson (essay date 1989)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: “Zeitgeist,” in Rome in Involution: Cassiodorus's “Variae” in Their Literary and Historical Setting, Poznan, 1989, pp. 151–63.

[In the essay below, Macpherson comments on the historical accuracy of the Variae and analyzes the language and style of the work, stating that its tone suited the tastes of the upper classes.]


In the Variae Cassiodorus depicts the exemplary character of the brother-courtiers Cyprian and Opilio: they appear with a symmetric perfection which reflects their moral perfection:

He, Opilio, allied and joined himself to his brother's...

(The entire section is 5064 words.)

S. J. B. Barnish (essay date 1992)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: An introduction to The “Variae” of Magnus Aurelius Cassiodorus Senator, translated by S. J. B. Barnish, Liverpool University Press, 1992, pp. ix-xxxv.

[In the excerpt below, Barnish offers an overview of the Variae, discussing its style, its reliability as a source of historical information, and various manuscript issues.]



Our most important documents for the history of Gothic rule in Italy are the Variae of Cassiodorus: twelve books, comprising 468 letters, edicts and model letters (formulae), which the author drafted, between...

(The entire section is 7281 words.)