Boethius (475 – 526) The Consolation of Philosophy
Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius (born: circa 475C.E., died: 526? C.E.) has long been recognized as one of the most important intermediaries between ancient philosophy and the Latin Middle Ages and, through his Consolation of Philosophy, as a talented literary writer, with a gift for making philosophical ideas dramatic and accessible to a wider public. He had previously translated Aristotle’s logical works into Latin, written commentaries on them as well as logical textbooks, and used his logical training to contribute to the theological discussions of the time.
Boethius’s final years are well known to anyone who has read his most popular work, the Consolation of Philosophy. He agreed to become Theoderic’s ‘Master of Offices’, one of the most senior officials, but he quickly fell out with many others at court, probably because he attacked their corruption. Accused of treason and of engaging in magic, he was imprisoned and (probably in 526) executed, but not before he had the chance to write his literary masterpiece.
The Consolation of Philosophy, a prosimetrum (a prose work with verse interludes) which recounts, in polished literary language, an imagined dialogue between the prisoner Boethius and a lady who personifies Philosophy, contrasts with the rest of Boethius’s oeuvre. Besides writing text-books on arithmetic and geometry, closely based on Greek models, Boethius devoted himself to translating Aristotle’s logic and commenting on it