Cassiodorus Analysis


(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)

Born to a noble Roman family when Italy was ruled by the invading Ostrogoths, Cassiodorus (kas-ee-uh-DOHR-uhs) quickly rose to high office serving Theoderic the Great and successive Ostrogothic kings. His twelve books of Variae (c. 537 c.e.; selected English translation, 1886), intended as models of style, provide examples of letters and documents he composed during his public career. After retiring in his fifties, he pursued religious studies at Constantinople, then returned to found a monastery near his birthplace. He wrote Institutiones divinarum et saecularium litterarum (n.d.; Fundamentals of Divine and Secular Learning, 1946) for the instruction of the monks. The first book of Fundamentals of Divine and Secular Learning guides the study of scripture, and the second outlines the seven liberal arts—grammar, rhetoric, dialectic, arithmetic, music, geometry, and astronomy. He also wrote a history of humankind, a Gothic history, and theological and grammatical works. He died at the monastery he founded.


(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)

Cassiodorus succeeded in his mission to pass on the documents and culture of classical civilization, first by guiding his semiliterate Ostrogothic masters and later by directing his monks to collect and copy ancient manuscripts. His works were principal encyclopedic sources of ancient learning throughout the Middle Ages.


(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)

Burns, Thomas S. A History of the Ostrogoths. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1984. To understand the historical importance of Cassiodorus, one needs to have a knowledge of the Ostrogoths he served. This book portrays their culture and values as well as their history. It describes the synthesis of two cultures: Germanic and Roman.

Daniel-Rops, Henry. The Church in the Dark Ages. Translated by Andrey Butler. London: J. M. Dent and Sons, 1959. In the conflicts involving the Germanic tribes and the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the institution that provided stability and social cohesion was the Church. This book describes in detail that troublesome period and its meaning for later days. The involvement of the Byzantine Empire in the West and its complicated system of government are also considered. One of the most intriguing elements is the conversion of the “barbarian hordes” to Christianity.

Guatkin, H. M., and J. P. Whitney, eds. The Cambridge Medieval History. Vol. 1, The Christian Roman Empire and the Foundation of the Teutonic Kingdom. New York: Macmillan, 1911. This history is still the standard work on the period. Volume 1 gives the cultural and historical setting in exhaustive detail. Noted for its accuracy and careful attention to detail.

Latourette, Kenneth Scott. A History of Christianity. New York: Harper and Row, Publishers, 1953. A standard and lengthy church...

(The entire section is 410 words.)