Friday, May 6, 2011

Alfred's introduction to Boethius

I expected bias and found it. I'll put a few comments in brackets in my text but, I have to say, if Boethius sent a letter like that to the Byzantine emperor then he was nuts to do so. I try to keep my translation as close to the author's words as possible.

At that time, the Goths of Scythia, kindred to the Romans, won the Roman kingdom, having risen up and with their kings, called Raedegota and Alaric, stormed the city of Rome. (Radagaisius was dead by 406, having been defeated by Stilicho. Alaric took Rome in 410 dying that same year.) They subjugated all of the Italian kingdom that lies between the mountains and Sicily; and then after them, the aforementioned King Theodoric seized that same kingdom. (as you may see from my timeline at right, Theodoric was not born until about 45 years later. He took the kingdom almost 85 years after Alaric) This Theodoric was an Amelung. He was Christian, although he persisted in the Arian heresy. He vowed his friendship to the Romans so they might be in possession of all their old rights and he performed that vow with great evil and ended very wroth with many a crime.
That was in addition to other countless evil, he slew John, then named pope. There was a certain consul, what we call a commander, who was named Boethius. He was into book-craft (scholarship) and on worldly custom he was the wisest. He then perceived the manifold evil that King Theodoric did with that Christendom and with Roman torments. He then remembered their ease and their old rights that they had under their Caesars (under Nero? Caligula? Tiberius?) their old lords. Then he began to think and to learn for himself how they might take that kingdom from the wicked king and to bring the ruler to the orthodox and righteousness. (Boethius denied sending a letter. ) He secretly sent a letter to the Caesar in Constantinople. (Zeno had given the kingdom to Theodoric, who although king of the Ostrogoths never called himself anything but Patrician over the Western Roman Empire) There is the chief city of the Greeks and their throne because the Caesar was their lord from ancient times.
He asked him (Justin I) to help him to their Christianity and to their old rights. When the bloodthirsty king Theodoric perceived this, he commanded that Boethius be brought to jail and locked therein. Then it befell that the mercy-worthy man came to greater distress. Then he was much more troubled in his mind as his mind was much more accustomed to worldly prosperity. And he remembered no solace within that prison, and he fell prostrate down on the floor, and stretched himself out, very despondent, and sad, he began to weep for himself and thus singing he quoth,"

from here it moves into the Lay of Boethius which includes some lines that are not in the Latin version. In spite of being the slayer of a pope and of Boethius, Theodoric was immortalized in heroic verse as Dietrich von Berne. In the Nibelungenlied, he, Attila and Hildebrand are the sole survivors of the massacre at Etzelburg. It is he who tackles Hagen and ties him up for Kriemhild.

Almost forgot to add, I took this text in the OE from A Guide to Old English, seventh edition, Bruce Mitchell and Fred. C. Robinson.

1 comment:

Anachronist said...

Definitely sending such a letter was high treason and really any ruler wouldn't think twice and executed the traitor.