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‘Senator Boethius is the last of the Romans whom Cato or Tully could have acknowledged as their countryman.’

Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire, Edward Gibbon


Dante and Beatrice saw Boethius –

the sixth century consul, chamberlain,

intellectual and family man –

in Paradise: one of the twelve shining lights

in the sun’s heavenly firmament,

along with Solomon and Aquinas.


Imprisoned in a tower for alleged treason

and under sentence of execution,

he wrote De Consolatione

Philosophiae, a dialogue

between himself and Lady Philosophy,

reflecting – he in prose, she in poetry –

on wealth’s and fame’s transitory nature,

on virtue transcending fortune: almost

glib, smug if it had been written in freedom.

His paragon, Plato, would have inspired him,

and Socrates busy in prison.

Did he act it out in his loneliness?


His assassins – who killed him, according to

conflicting accounts, with axe, sword, club, garrotte –

did not record his last words. He was murdered

on orders of Theodoric, his erstwhile

friend, king of the Goths and Italy.

He was venerated as a catholic

martyr, allegedly walking headless

in death, and a catholic theologian,

his revered writing influencing

Augustine, for instance, as well as Dante,

masters and servants of allegory.

He was without any superstitions

or Christian beliefs, and zealous

for the public good so might have found such

hagiolatry amusing – or merely

a sign of their dark times.




© Copyright David Selzer
3 Responses
  • Hugh Powell
    March 1, 2017

    Sent me off to Wikipedia, once again, where I was amazed to read that the poor chap was carted off for saying that another worthy accused was not guilty of the proposed sedition. Don’t be silly, he said. He’s as guilty as I am. Such was his innocence that he didn’t expect to be taken at his word.

  • Mary Clark
    March 1, 2017

    Things haven’t changed much. I wonder if the killing our civilized leaders inflict is seen in the same clear way as in this story: one civilization trying to annihilate another. I’m glad he found consolation in philosophy. Maybe that’s all there is, except for poetry. Too bleak? Not when both are so beautiful?

  • David Selzer
    March 2, 2017

    Or sophistication Those in power appear never to do irony!

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