The Consolation of Philosophy
Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius
W. V. Cooper
Few works have been more popular, or had more distinguished translators, than Boethius' Consolation of Philosophy.
Boethius (470-526) was a Roman nobleman, courtier to the half-barbarian
Theodoric, the Gothic king of Italy after the fall of Rome. Under
Theodoric's arbritary and tyrannical rule, the court was riven by
enmities between Romans and Goths, and between Arians and Catholics,
and only sycophants could prosper. In such circumstances the downfall
of any honest man was only a matter of time, and Boethius was
imprisoned, tortured, and executed after a life of the most loyal and
upright service to his king and people.
While he was in prison he wrote his masterwork. It is a Socratic
dialogue between Boethius and Philosophy, personified as a woman, who
persuades him that all he has lost -- honour, riches, even physical
freedom -- are of no importance and that true happiness lies in
accepting that all that happens on this earth is the will of God.
Though not Christian specifically, its philosophy was very congenial to
the Church and it was very widely read in later centuries. Its many
translations into English include versions by King Alfred, Geoffrey
Chaucer, and Queen Elizabeth I.