Boethius was the son-in-law of the consul Symmachus
. He himself became a senator
at the age of only 30, and sole consul
in 510. The height of his good fortune was to see his two sons as consuls together in 522. But then he and others including Symmachus were accused of plotting against Theodoric
, the Ostrogothic
king of Italy, and he was executed after long imprisonment at Pavia
, where he wrote the De Consolatione Philosophiae
This work was enormously influential throughout the Middle Ages. It was translated into Old English by King Alfred, into Middle English by Chaucer, and into early modern English by Queen Elizabeth I. It was translated into Old High German by Notker the Stammerer, the monk of St Gallen who also wrote a biography of Charlemagne; and into Middle French by Jean de Meun, author of the second part of the Roman de la Rose.
The author is in prison, bewailing his sorrows, being consoled a little by the sweet singing of the Muses. In stalks Philosophy, a giant of a woman in wondrous garb, who is uncharacteristically bitchy in showing the Nine the door. In fact, to quote Chaucer,
sche was a litil amoeved, and glowede with cruel eighen. "Who," quod sche, "hath suffred aprochen to this sike man thise comune strompettis of swich a place that mean clepen the theatre; the which not oonly ne asswagen noght his sorwes with none remedies, but thei wolden fedyn and noryssen hym with sweete venym."
In earlier times his importance rested on his translations and digest
s of Aristotle
. Boethius was the last great scholar
in the Roman West to understand Greek, so in his Latin survived much of the learning of antiquity
. This lasted until Arabic
manuscripts, direct translations, began to be circulated in the West in the 1100s.