‘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.