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CHA P. groves of the academy; but he imbibed the spirit, XXXIX. and imitated the method of his dead and living
masters, who attempted to reconcile the strong and subtle sense of Aristotle with the devout contempla. tion and sublime fancy of Plato. After his return to Rome, and his marriage with the daughter of his friend, the patrician Symmachus, Boethius still continued, in a palace of ivory and marble, to prosecute the same studies *. The church was edi. fied by his profound defence of the orthodox creed against the Arian, the Eutychian, and the Nestorian heresies; and the Catholic unity was explained or exposed in a formal treatise by the indifference of three distinct though consubstantial persons. For the benefit of his Latin readers, his genius submitted to teach the first elements of the arts and sciences of Greece. The geometry of Euclid, the music of Pythagoras, the arithmetic of Nicomachus the mechanics of Archimedes, the astronomy of Ptolemy, the theology of Plato, and the logic of Aristotle, with the commentary of Porphyry, were translated and illustrated by the indefatigable pen of the Roman senator. And he alone was esteemed capable of describing the won. ders of art, a sun-dial, a water-clock, or a sphere which represented the motions of the planets. From these abstruse speculations, Boethius stooped, or to speak more truly, he rose to the social duties
* Bibliothecæ comptos ebore ac vitro parietes, &c. (Consol. Phil. 1. i. pros. v. p. 74.). The epistles of Ennodius (vi. 6. vii. 13. viii. 1. 31. 37. 40.) and Cassiodorius (Var. i. 39. iv. 6. ix. 21.) afford many proofs of the high reputation which he enjoyed in his own times. It is true, that the bishop of Pavia wanted to purchase of him an old house at Milan, and praise might be tendered and accepted in part of payment.
public and private life: the indigent were ré. CH A P. lieved by his liberality; and his eloquence, which XXXIX. flattery might compare to the voice of Demosthenes or Cicero, was uniformly exerted in the cause of innocence and humanity. Such conspicuous merit was felt and rewarded by a discerning prince; the dignity of Boethius was adorned with the titles of consul and patrician, and his talents were uses fully employed in the important station of master of the offices. Notwithstanding the equal claims of the East and West, his two sons were created, in their tender youth, the consuls of the same year *. On the memorable day of their inauguration, they proceeded in solemn pomp from their palace to the forum, amidst the applause of the senate and people ; and their joyful father, the true consul of Rome, after pronouncing an oration in the praise of his royal benefactor, distributed a triumphal largess in the games of the circus. Prosperous in his fame and fortunes, in his public honours and private alliances, in the cultivation of science and the consciousness of virtue, Boethius might have been styled happy, if that precarious epithet could be safely applied before the last term of the life of
A philosopher, liberal of his wealth and parsi. His patriota monious of his time, might be insensible to the common allurements of ambition, the thirst of
Pagi, Muratori, &c. are agreed that Boethius himself was consul in the year 510, his two sons in 522, and in 487, per. haps, his father. A desire of ascribing the last of these consulships to the philosopher, had perplexed the chronology of his life. In his honours, alliances, children, he celebrates his own felicity-his past felicity (p. 109, 110.).
CHA P. gold and employment. And some credit may be XXXIX. due to the asseveration of Boethius, that he had
reluctantly obeyed the divine Plato, who enjoins every virtuous citizen to rescue the state from the usurpation of vice and ignorance. For the integrity of his public conduct he appeals to the memory of his country. His authority had restrained the pride and oppression of the royal officers, and his eloquence had delivered Paulianus from the dogs of the palace. He had always pitied, and often relieved, the distress of the provincials, whose fortunes were exhausted by public and private rapine ; and Boethius alone had courage to oppose the tyranny of the Barbarians, elated by conquest, excited by avarice, and, as he complains, encouraged by impunity. In these honourable contests, his spirit soared above the consideration of danger, and perhaps of prudence; and we may learn from the example of Cato, that a character of pure and inflexible virtue is the most apt to be misled by prejudice, to be heated by enthusiasm, and to confound private enmities with public justice. The disciple of Plato might exaggerate the infirmities of nature, and the imperfections of society; and the mildest form of a Gothic kingdom, even the weight of allegiance and gratitude, must be insupportable to the free spirit of a Roman patriot. But the favour and fidelity of Boethius declined in just proportion with the public happiness; and an unworthy colleague was imposed, to divide and control the power of the master of the offices. In the last gloomy season of Theodoric, he indignantly felt that he was a slave; but as his master
had only power over his life, he stood without arms CHA P. and without fear against the face of an angry Bar- XXXIX. barian, who had been provoked to believe that the safety of the senate was incompatible with his
The senator Albinus was accused and He is ac. already convicted on the presumption of hoping, as treason. it was said, the liberty of Rome. " If Albinus
be criminal,” exclaimed the orator, " the senate “ and myself are all guilty of the same crime. " If we are innocent, A-lbinus is equally entitled * to the protection of the laws." These laws might not have punished the simple and barren wish of an unattainable blessing; but they would have shewn less indulgence to the rash confession of Boethius, that, had he known of a conspiracy, the tyrant never should *. The advocate of Albinus was soon involved in the danger and perhaps the guilt of his client; their signature (which they denied as a forgery) was affixed to the original address, inviting the emperor to deliver Italy from the Goths; and three witnesses of honourable rank, perhaps of infamous reputation, attested the treasonable designs of the Roman patrician t. Yet his innocence must be presumed, since he was deprived by Theodoric of the means of justification, and rigorously confined in the tower of Pavia, while the senate, at the distance of five hundred
* Si ego scissem tu nescisses. Boethius adopts this answer (1. i. pros. 4. p. 53.) of Julius Canus, whose philosophic death
. is described by Seneca (De Tranquillitate Animi, c. 14.).
+ The characters of his two delators, Basilius (Var, ii. 10, 11. iv. 22.) and Opilio (v. 41. viii. 16.), are illustrated, not much to their honour, in the Epistles of Cassiodorius, which likewise mention Decoratus (v. 31.), the worthless colleague of Boethius (1. iii. pros. 4. P. 193.).
CHA P. iniles, pronounced a sentence of confiscation and XXXIX. death against the most illustrious of its members.
At the command of the Barbarians, the occult science of a philosopher was stigmatised with the names of sacrilege and magic *. A devout and dutiful attachment to the senate was condemned as criminal by the trembling voices of the senators themselves; and their ingratitude deserved the wish or prediction of Boethius, that, after him, none
should be found guilty of the same offence f. His impri. While Boethius, oppressed with fetters, expected sonment and Death, each moment the sentence or the stroke of death, A. D. 524. he composed in the tower of Pavia the Consolation
of Philosophy ; a golden volume not unworthy of the leisure of Plato or Tully, but which claims incomparable merit from the barbarism of the times and the situation of the author. The celestial guide whom he had so long invoked at Rome and Athens, now condescended to illumine his dungeon, to revive his courage, and to pour into his wounds her salutary balm. She taught him to compare his long prosperity and his recent distress, and to conceive new hopes from the inconstancy of fortune. Reason had informed him of the precarious condi
A severe inquiry was instituted into the crime of magic, (Var. iv. 22, 23. ix. 18.): and it was believed that many necromancers had escaped by making their gaolers mad: for mad, I should read drunk.
+ Boethius had composed his own Apology (p. 53), perhaps more interesting than his Consolation. We must be content with the general view of his honours, principles, persecution, &c. (1. i. pros. iv. p. 42-62.), which may be compared with the short and weighty words of the Valesian Fragment (p: 723.). An annonymous writer (Sinner, Catalog. MSS. Bibliot. Bern. tom. i. p. 287.) charges him home with honourable and patriotic treason.