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The educational treatises by Boethius


INTRO. Arithmetic in Martianus, for instance, occupies but 47 pages; DUCTION.

that of Boethius, in two books, nearly a hundred, and though to a great extent founded on that of the Greek writer Nicomachus, is far from a mere translation, being accompanied by numerous and useful additions'. A yet greater disparity is observable in their respective treatises on Music. The treatment by Boethius is not only far more comprehensive,

but gives to the whole curriculum a dignity and coherence politicsHue altogether wanting in the works of the other compilers. The herrietal somewhat transcendental method which he adopts is, indeed,

perhaps the true explanation of the preference accorded to other writers on these subjects during the Middle Ages. A passion for mysticism, in an exposition of the exact sciences, only tended still further to shroud such learning from the gaze of the neophyte, nor will the modern mathematician find much to repay his curiosity in the discussion of the harmony of numbers, the generation of the perfect · number, and numbers proportional and the division of magnitudes; nor in the similar method of treatment to be found in the five books on Music. The translation of Euclid, however,—that is to say of the first four books, together with their figures, and a few additional propositions on the properties of the rhombus,-is of a more practical character.

The results of modern criticism would seem to have established the fact that Boethius cannot be ranked among the adherents of early Christianity? The theological treatises once attributed to him afford satisfactory evidence that they are by a different hand. In fact, his efforts to familiarise his

Boethius not a Christian writer.

i Cassiodorus (in the two pages in
which he dismisses the same subject)
lears witness to its merits :--.quam
(arithmeticam) apud Græcos Nico-
machus diligenter exposuit. Hunc
primum Madaurensis Apuleius, de-
inde magnificus vir Boetius Latino
sermone translatum Romanis contu-
lit lectitandum.' De Artibus Liber,
Migne, LXX 1207. Other followers
of Boethius were Bede, Gerbert, and
John of Salisbury. For a succinct
account of the progress of the science
up to the time of Bocthius see C. F.

Weber's Preface to Pragmentum
A. M. T. S. Boethii de Arithmetica.
Cassellis, 1817.

2 Boethium a Christi doctrina alie. num fuisse multis ex rebus efficitur, is the dictum of a recent editor. See De Consol. Phil. ed. Obbarius, 1813. The supposition that Boethius encountered his fate as a martyr in the cause of orthodoxy against the Arians, though sanctioned by Baehr and Heyne, has been completely refuted by Hand; see Ersch and Grub. Encyk'opaedie, xi 233.


countrymen with the writings of Aristotle and Porphyry, and to reconcile Aristotle with Plato, would at once suggest, to those who bore in mind the character of his age, that his sympathies were nothing more than those of enlightened paganism. The student of the history of the Aristotelian Vicissitudes philosophy will be aware how frequently its predominant Aristotelian aspect has varied with the requirements, the tendencies, and the fashion of the age. It has been the fortune of the Stagirite successively to represent the final authority in the arena of metaphysics, of morality, and of natural philosophy; but it was under none of these aspects that his influence was preserved to Europe by Boethius.

The Aristotle of western Europe, from the sixth to the Cnly the thirteenth century, was simply Aristotle the logician; and Aristotle even as a logician he was but imperfectly known. The Europe from whole of the Organon had, indeed, been translated by Boethius, in and this but even of this the greater part was unknown to Europe prior to the twelfth century? The Categories and the De Interpretatione, together with the Isagoge of Porphyry, were in use, but the Prior and Posterior Analytics, the Topica, and the Elenchi Sophistici are never quoted. Such are the important limitations with which it is consequently necessary to regard the study of Aristotle as existing during this lengthened period; his logical method survived, but in imperfect fashion; while his mental and moral philosophy remained altogether unknown, their resuscitation forming, as we shall subsequently see, a separate and very important chapter in the history of European thought.

The prejudices and suspicions to which, towards the close of his reign, Theodoric surrendered his judgement, proved fatal to Boethius, but a distinguished colleague of the patriotic statesman, who, like him, had filled under the Gothic monarch some of the highest offices of the state, managed to retain the royal confidence unimpaired; and at length, when nearly

1 Die boethianische Uebersetzung der Hauptschriften des Organons, d. h. der beiden Analytiken und der Topik nebst Soph. El., vor dem 12.

Jahrhunderte gänzlich unbekannt gewesen war. Prantl, Geschichte der Logik, III 3.

b. 468.
d. 568.

De Artibus.

INTRO: seventy years of age, Cassiodorus effected his retreat to the DUCTION.

monastery which he had founded at Scylacium, to enjoy, far beyond the ordinary term of life, its tranquil solitudes and studious repose. The Gothic History by this writer has survived only in the abridgement of Jornandes; but his Epistles, a series of state documents prepared under the direction of Theodoric and Justinian, that may be compared to the Capitularies of Charlemagne, are a valuable illustration

of these times. His manual of education, however, with His treatise which we are here chiefly concerned,—the De Artibus ac

Disciplinis Liberalium Literarum,-is the most meagre of all the text books of the Middle Ages. The four subjects of the Quadrivium, for instance, are each dismissed in two pages ; the object of the writer being apparently rather to give a general notion of the subject than definite instruction therein. In his general arrangement he observes the same traditional division that Martianus and Boethius follow ; and the example of the latter, whose genius Cassiodorus warmly admired, is to be discerned in the adoption of Aristotle and Porphyry as the chief guides in the book on Dialectics,-the only portion of the work that presents what can be held to constitute a real study of the subject. As the production, then, of an aged monk, but of one who until long past his manhood's prime had mingled much with the world, borne bigh office in the state, and held intercourse with the foremost spirits of the age, this work sufficiently shews how the traditions of pagan culture were dwindling before the combined influences of a narrow theology and barbaric rule'.

The wave of the Lombard invasion spent itself on the north of Italy, and while Gregory was predicting from the sufferings of his own nation the speedy dissolution of all things, a contemporary ecclesiastic, in the neighbouring

1. His Dialectic contains a brief analysis of the Isagoge of Porphyry and the Organon of Aristotle, with additions, a considerable portion being borrowed from Apuleius and Boethius. His analysis of the Organon does not include the Sophistic Refutations, but contains a separate

chapter De Paralogismis, which treats of purely logical fallacies. The arrangement of the work is by no means methodical, and extraneous matters are introduced which properly belong to Rhetoric.' Dean Mansel, Introd. to Artis Logicæ Rudimenta,

p. xxix,


d. 636.

peninsula of Spain, was engaged in the compilation of one of INTROthe most remarkable educational treatises that belong to the Middle Ages. Though at various times a full participant in the sufferings of the empire, Spain had enjoyed since the establishment of the kingdom of the Visigoths comparative immunity from invasion, and Isidorus could survey with Isidorus. a calmer eye than Gregory the portents of the time. Descended from Theodoric the Great, son of a governor of Cartagena, and himself bishop of an important see, he appears to have passed a life of honourable activity in freedom from political disquiet like that which agitated the country of the pontificate. Considering the period at which he wrote, the twenty books of the Origines, a kind of Encyclopædia of Ilis Origines. sacred and profane learning, must undoubtedly be regarded as a remarkable achievement, a laborious collection of such fragments of knowledge as were still discoverable amid the gloom hastening to yet more intense darkness. The traditional classification of the subjects is retained, but the treatment shews no advance on that of preceding writers. Verbal explanations of scientific terms still mock with the affectation of clearness and precision the enquirer after real knowledge. “How completely,' observes Mr Lewes, the magnificent labours of Hipparchus and Ptolemy had vanished from the scene, how utterly their results and methods had passed away, may be estimated on finding Isidore, in his chapter on the size of the sun and the moon, unable to give more precise information than that the sun is larger than the earth, and the moon less than the sun". Even the spark which had illumined the dark page of Martianus appears to have expired.

In one respect the Origines present a novel and noticeable Norel feature,—the incorporation of the remains of pagan learning this treatise. with the new theology. Of the twenty books into which they are divided, only the first three are devoted to the subjects treated by those preceding compilers whose treatises have occupied our attention; the remaining seventeen being

element in

1 Lewes (G. H.), Hist. of Philosophy, 11 08.


intro. composed of an extraordinary medley of medicine, theology,

natural philosophy and natural history, political history,
architecture, mineralogy, and husbandry. The good bishop
would seem, as though prescient of the future, to have sought
to gather and link together whatever still remained of
knowledge and learning before it should be irretrievably
lost. Of the numerous historical and theological tractates of
Isidorus, ---many of them mere reproductions in an abridged
form of his larger works we cannot here stop to speak; but
whoever will examine them for himself will have forcibly
brought home to him, in the barbarisms, the solecisms and
the poverty of thought whereby they are characterised, the
actual state of learning in times when such productions could
suffice to obtain for their author the reputation of being the
most accomplished and erudite man of his age.

The more elaborate researches of later writers have tended
somewhat to qualify the representations of Robertson, Hallam,
and others who have slightly exaggerated and severely criti-
cised the ignorance of these times; but there still remains

sufficient evidence amply to warrant two general conclusions : with respect -1, that the literature of the seventh, eighth, ninth, and of the Dark tenth centuries was scanty in the extreme; 2, that whatever

learning existed was almost exclusively possessed by the
clergy. Nor is there any good reason for believing that
these conclusions would be materially modified even if we
could restore to light the whole literature to which these
centuries gave birth; it would rather seem, that in what
remains we have enough to illustrate the real value and

direction of what intellectual activity existed, and are enabled The tradition to discern, with but little difficulty, the torch of learning

passing in succession from the hand of each solitary runner
who maintained the race in that darksome night. In the
authors who have just occupied our attention we can trace,
for instance, with tolerable distinctness, the transmission of
the literary spirit. Orosius appears reproducing, under the

teaching of Augustine, the theological interpretation of / history; Martianus, as sustaining the traditions of pagan

culture; Boethius, as imitating the allegorical treatment

General conclusion


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