The Roman senator and philosopher, Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius, was born in Italy in 476. He was an acclaimed author of works on arithmetic and music, but was executed for treason in the mid-520s by Theodoric, king of the Ostrogoths (454–526).
While in prison before his death, Boethius focused on fate, chance and death by penning De consolatione philosophiae (‘The Consolation of Philosophy’), an imaginary dialogue with the figure of Philosophy herself, essentially questioning the point of the life of the mind in a body doomed to die.
Surviving manuscripts indicate that the text was intensively scrutinised in medieval Europe. More than 90% of the De consolatione manuscripts from before c. 1100 carry glosses.
As a member of the Roman elite, Boethius was educated in Greek scholarship and pagan philosophy that could be unfamiliar to his later readers. The complexities of his work demanded explanation, and this need was met by the commentaries which circulated alongside the text.
This high-status manuscript was probably made in Canterbury. The page is ruled to accommodate a commentary, in this instance in the tradition of the Carolingian scholar, Remigius of Auxerre (died 908).
- Article by:
- Becky Lawton
What was it like to be a student in early medieval England? We go on a journey from the Anglo-Saxon church to the classroom, and also encounter some riddles on the way.