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.