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The Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius

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The Consolation of Philosophy

by

Boethius

{Frontispiece: The Wheel of Fortune}

Bibliographical note

The text of this edition is taken from the translation by W.V. Cooper,

published by J.M. Dent and Co. Aldine House, London 1902. The

"Editorial Note", actually an introduction, has been moved from the

end of the book to the beginning.

{Title Page}

EDITORIAL NOTE

THE incompatibility of the sufferings of good men, the impunity

and success of bad men, with the government of the world by a good

God, has been a subject of thought among men ever since religion and

abstract questions have occupied the thoughts of mankind. The poetical

books of the Bible are full of it, particularly, of course the book of

Job, which is a dramatic poem entirely devoted to the subject. The New

Testament contains much teaching on the same question. Among the

Greeks the tragedians and later philosophers delighted in working out

its problems. But from the sixth to the seventeenth centuries of our

era the De Consolatione of Boethius, in its original Latin and in many

translations, was in the hands of almost all the educated people of

the world. The author's personal history was well known. He was a man

whose fortunes had risen to the highest pitch possible under the Roman

Empire; who had himself experienced the utter collapse of those

fortunes, and was known to have sustained himself through imprisonment

and even to torture and an unjust death by the thoughts which he left

to mankind in this book.

It is a work which appealed to Pagan and Christian alike. There

is no Christian doctrine relied upon throughout the work, but there is

also nothing which could be in conflict with Christianity. Even the

personification of Philosophy, though after the form of a pagan

goddess, is precisely like the 'Wisdom' of Solomon in the Apocrypha;

and the same habit of thought led the Jews to personify the 'Word' of

God, and use it as identical with God Himself; and the same led to

that identifying of the 'Word' with Christ, which we find in the first

chapter of St. John's Gospel. So, if there is nothing distinctly or

dogmatically Christian in the work, there is also nothing which can be

condemned as pagan, in spite of the strong influence of pagan

philosophy, with which Boethius was intimate.

For though some have held that the Christianity of Boethius was

foisted upon him, with his canonisation as St. Severinus, after his

death by those who thought he must have been too good a man to have

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