Thursday, May 5, 2011


For my summer holidays, I am going to tackle Boethius in Latin. I may post some translations occasionally. As I was considering the reception of his work, I remembered King Alfred did a translation of De Consolatione Philosophiae into Old English. Yeah, yeah, did Alfred actually do the translation? Who cares? This morning, I don't. It looks interesting too. I think I will read the two side by side. Chaucer also did a translation of Boethius. It looks very interesting as well. I think I will read all three.
While reading the introduction to Chaucer's translation, in an 1868 publication with Richard Morris as translator and commentator that the university library has an online link to, I could not help but chuckle at Morris' comments about how noble Boethius was and how terrible Theodoric was to suspect him of treason. Boethius wrote a book supporting the Catholic view on the trinity and condemning Arianism. What did he expect? When your king is an Arian, you are taking your life into your hands in calling him a heretic.(Boethius probably did not attack Theodoric in print but heresy was a serious business) Morris also compared him to Cato the Younger, who took his own life, and was an insufferable prig. He also called Boethius 'the last Roman'. I thought that title belonged to Aetius.
Alfred prefaced his translation with the historical background to the book. I think I shall tackle that first. I expect some bias in his presentation.


Anachronist said...

Lovely, I can't wait!

Tracy said...

Guess we'll never know whether Alfred really did those translations - but he's the one always credited with them, so he has to have the benefit of the doubt unless shown otherwise. It's not implausible.

The Red Witch said...

Absolutely. He was into books. Maybe he dictated it. Who knows?

Tracy said...

You'll be pleased to know that Boethius gets a brief mention in the fiction book I'm currently reading, Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides - it's on p.302:
'The Great Books arrived in ten boxes stamped with their contents. Aristotle, Plato, and Socrates in one; Cicero, Marcus Aurelius, and Virgil in another. As we shelved the books in the built-in stacks on Middlesex, we read the names, many familiar (Shakespeare), others not (Boethius).'

Must be the first time I've ever seen his name referred to in a popular fiction book.

The Red Witch said...

You can't read about the Middle Ages or medieval authors without coming across the name or the wheel. St. Augustine's City of God was equally influential.