Boethius the Hellenist

James Shiel describes how, as one of those writers who forged a link between classical antiquity and medieval Christendom, Boethius was executed in 524 at the command of the barbarian king he served.

Clio’s message, dictated in the present century to Arnold Toynbee, is that, although civilizations die, there may be an organic passing of life from one to another. Graeco-Roman civilization was the parent of our own; and, if we ask where the transmission of life occurred, memory calls up a few individual names—men whose work had the stuff of life, while that of all their fellows lapsed into oblivion. The tangible links between antiquity and medieval Christendom were forged by a few writers like Ambrose, Augustine, Jerome, Boethius, Cassiodorus.

Of these, all Christians, yet all products of the ancient Empire, Boethius retains most evidently the spirit of the pagan world, so much so that scholars have at times doubted if he was really a Christian. From his work we may see what an individual did when confronted with the knowledge that classical civilization was collapsing. What was his reaction, what was his hope for the society of mankind?

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