The Consolation of Philosophy

{Frontispiece: The Wheel of Fortune}

The Consolation of Philosophy
by
Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius

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.

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