Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius

480-525 AD

Boethius was a Roman statesman, a philosopher, and a rhetorician. He was made consul to Theodoric the Great (d. 526), the king of Italy, performing both civic and military duties. But Boethius and Theodoric had a falling out. Boethius defended a senator whom Theodoric accused of treason because he criticized Theodoric to the Byzantine Emperor, Justin, a religious competitor to Theodoric. Boethius was accused of treason by Theodoric both for his outspoken support for the dissenting senator and for his having practiced mathematics and astrology, which Theodoric considered sacrilegious.

Boethius's wrote a number of academic treatises. His large body of work drew much from Greek sources especially that of Aristotle. His writings spanned many subjects, including works on arithmetic, geometry, logic, philosophy, music, astronomy and theology.

The best known of his philosophical works was the De Consolatione Philosophiae (Consolation of philosophy) a book which he wrote in prison while awaiting his execution. Part of the book is written as a dialogue between characters of Philosophy and Boethius. In the book Boethius argues importance in the world is transitory and that conceptual representations of things surpasses their earthly forms. In his book the character Philosophy instructs an ailing prisoner (Boethius) on various topics including the nature of fortune and happiness, good and evil, fate and free will. This instruction restores the health to the prisoner.

Boethius also wrote a book called Overview of the structure of rhetoric. In it he drew from Aristotle's trivium of rhetoric, grammar, and logic. He also translated a number of Aristotle's works on logic and wrote a commentary on Cicero's Topica. His translations were very influential in medieval times.

Boethius was executed in Pavia in 525 AD.

Selected writings by Boethius

Boethius Overview of the Structure of Rhetoric

Boethius The consolation of philosophy. Project Gutenberg Retrieved on April 4, 2010.

Writings about Boethius

Astell, A. (1994). Job, Boethius, and Epic Truth

Barrett, Helen Marjorie (1940/1965). Boethius: Some aspects of his times and work. NY: Russell and Russell.

Chadwich, H. (1981). Boethius: The Consolations of Music, Logic, Theology and Philosophy.

Courcelle, P. (1969). Late Latin Writers and Their Greek Sources.

Durr, K. (1951). The propositional logic of Boethius. Translated by Norman M. Martin. Amsterdam: North Holland Publishing Co.

Gibson, M. (Ed.). (1981). Boethius: His Life, Thought and Influence.

Hoenen, M. & Nauta, L. (Ed.). (1997). Boethius in the Middle Ages.

Lagerlund, H. & Yrjönsuuri, M. (Ed.) (2002); Emotions and choice from Boethius to Descartes.

Lewis, C. S. (1964). The discarded image. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Marenbon, J. (2003) Boethius.

Marenbon, J. (editor) ( 2009). The Cambridge companion to Boethius. Cambridge University Press.

Masi, M. (1981). Boethius and the Liberal Arts: A Collection of Essays

McNabb, R. (1998) Remapping medieval rhetoric: Reading Boethius from a Grassian perspective. Rhetoric Society Quarterly, 28, 3, 75-90.

Minnis, A. J. (Ed.). (1987). The Medieval Boethius: Studies in the Vernacular Translations of De Consolatione Philosophiae.

Nash-Marshall, S. (2000). Participation and the good: A study in Boethian Metaphysics.

O'Daly, G. J. P. (1991). The Poetry of Boethius

Patch, H. R. (1935). The tradition of Boethius: A study of his importance in Medieval culture. NY: Oxford.

Patch, H. (1947). The beginnings of the legend of Boethius. Speculum, 22, 443-445.

Pemberton, C. (Ed.). (1989). Elizabeth, Queen of England: Queen Elizabeth's Englishings of Boethius.

Stewart, H. F. (1891). Boethius—An essay. Edinburgh/London.

Sutherland, R. (1974). Boethius's Conception of Theology and His Method in the Tractates.

Zalewski, E. S. (1969). Boethius' commentary on categories.