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inaccurately quoted by Gibbon (" Atheniensium suholas [not Athenas] longe positws [not positas] introisti") as a proof of his visit to Athens, is really a statement of the reverse, being a rhetorical assertion of the fact, that though living at Rome, he was well acquainted with the philosophy of Greece. Compare the similar expressions in the same letter : " Plato . . . Aristoteles . . . Qitirinali voce disceptant."
2. The three consulships sometimes ascribed to him are made up from that of his father in 487, and that of his sons in 522.
3. Besides his wife, Rusticiana, later and especially Sicilian writers have supposed, that he was previously the husband of a Sicilian lady, El pis, authoress of two hymns used in the Breviary ("• Decora lux," and " Beate Pastor," or according to others, " Aurea luce," and " Felix per (mines'"), and by her to have had two sons, Patricius and Hypatius, Greek consuls in A. d. 500. But this has no ground in history : the expression " socer-in Consul. Phil. ii. 3, refers not to two
fathers-in-law, but to the parents of Rusticiana; and the epitaph of Elpis, which is the only authentic record of her life, contradicts the story altogether, by implying that she followed her husband (who is not named) into exile, which would of course leave no time for his second marriage and children. (See Tiraboschi, vol. iii. lib. i. c. 4.)
connected his death with the embassy of pope John I. to Constantinople for the protection of the Catholics, in which he is alleged to have been implicated. But this stoiy, not being alluded to in the earlier accounts, appears to have arisen, like the last-mentioned one, from the desire to connect his name more distinctly with Christianity, which leads to the last and most signal variation in his history.
5. He was long considered as a Catholic saint and martyr, and in later times stories were current of his having been a friend of St. Benedict, and having supped at Monte Cassino (Trithemius, ap. Fabric. Bibl. Lot. iii. 15), and again of miracles at his death, as carrying his head in his hand (Life of him by Martianus, ap. Baron. Annal. A. d. 526, No. 17, 18), which last indeed probably arose from the fact of this being the symbolical representation of martyrdom by decapitation ; as the particular day of his death (Oct. 23) was probably fixed by its being the day of two other saints of the same name of Severinus.
Whatever may be thought of these details, the question of his Christianity itself is beset with difficulties in whichever way it may be determined. On the one hand, if the works on dogmatical theology ascribed to him be really his, the question is settled in the affirmative. But, in that case, the total omission of all mention of Christianity in the " Consolatio Philosophiae," in passages and under circumstances where its mention seemed to be imperatively demanded, becomes so great a perplexity that various expedients have been adopted to solve it. Bertius conjectured, that there was to have been a sixth book, which was interrupted by his death. Glareanus, though partly on other grounds, with the independent judgment for which he is commended by Niebuhr, rejected the work itself as spurious. Finally, Professor Hand, in Ersch and Gruber's Encyclop'ddie) has with much ingenuity maintained
the opposite hypothesis, viz. that Boethius was not a Christian at all, and that the theological works ascribed to him were written by another Boethius, who was afterwards confounded with him ; and hence the origin or confirmation of the mistake. In favour of this theory may be mentioned, over and above the general argument arising from the Consolatio Philosophiae, (1.) The number of persons of the name of Boethius in or about that time. See Fabric. Bibl. Lut. iii. 15. (2.) The tendency of that age to confound persons of inferior note with their more famous namesakes, as well as to publish anonymous works under celebrated names ; as, for example, the ascription to St. Athanasius of the hymn " Quicunque vult," or to St. Dionysius the Areopagite, of the works which go under his name. (3.) The evidently fabulous character of all the events in his life alleged to prove his Christianity. (4.) The tendency which appears increasingly onwards through the middle ages to Christianize eminent heathens ; as, for example,, the embodiment of such traditions with regard to Trajan. Virgil, and Statius, in the Divina Comedia of Dante. Still sufficient difficulties remain to prevent an implicit acquiescence in this hypothesis. Though no author quotes the theological works of Boethius before Hincmar (a. d. 850), yet there is no trace of any doubt as to their genuineness ; and also, though the general tone of the Consolatio is heathen, a few phrases seem to savour of a belief in Christianity, e. g. angelica
virtute(\v. 5),patriam for "heaven" (v. 1, iv. 1), veri praevia luminis (iv. 1).
After all, however the critical question be settled, the character of Boethius is not much affected by it. For as it must be determined almost entirely from the " Consolatio," in which he speaks with his whole hep.rt, and not from the abstract statements of doctrine in the theological treatises, which, even if genuine, are chiefly compiled with hardly an expression of personal feeling, from the works of St. Augustin, on the one hand the general silence on the subject of Christianity in such a book at such a period of his life, proves that, if he was a Christian, its doctrines could hardly have been a part of his living belief; on the other hand, the incidental phrases above quoted, the strong religious theism which pervades the .whole work, the real belief which it indicates in prayer and Providence, and the unusually high tone of his public life, prove that, if a heathen, his general character must have been deeply tinged by the contemporaneous influence of Christianity.
He would thus seem to have been one of a probably large class of men, such as will always be found in epochs between the fall of one system of belief and the rise of another, and who by hovering on the confines of each can hardly be assigned exclusively to either,—one who, like Epictetus and the Antonines, and, nearer his own time, the poet Claudian and the historian Zosimus, was by his deep attachment to the institutions and literature of Greece and Rome led to look for practical support to a heathen or half-heathen philosophy ; whilst like them, but in a greater degree, his religious and moral views received an elevation from their contact with the now established faith of Christianity.
The middle position which he thus occupied by his personal character and belief, he also occupies in the general history and literature of the world..