Person: Boethius, Anicius Manlius Severinus
Boethius was a Roman mathematician and philosopher who wrote texts on geometry and arithmetic which were used for many centuries during a time when mathematical achievement in Europe was at a remarkable low.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- Boethius was extremely well educated, being fluent in Greek and very familiar with the works of the Greek philosophers.
- Although there is no firm evidence to prove that Boethius ever studied in Athens or Alexandria, many historians believe that this must have been the case for him to have achieved a unique level of scholarship among his countrymen.
- Boethius served a term as consul in 510 while in 522 his two sons held the office of consul simultaneously.
- Education and knowledge were important to Boethius and he used his talents in writing and translating.
- Boethius's Arithmetic was based on the work of Nicomachus and, although this gave it a strange character by the mathematical standards of today, it taught medieval scholars about Pythagorean number theory.
- Boethius was one of the main sources of material for the quadrivium, an educational course introduced into monasteries consisting of four topics: arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and the theory of music.
- On this last topic Boethius wrote on the relation of music to science, suggesting that the pitch of a note one hears is related to the frequency of sound.
- It was a project that Boethius was never to finish, in particular he died before he could translate Plato's work and fulfil his aim of harmonising the two philosophies.
- Russell says that Boethius stands out as a man of great learning and great zeal, free from superstition and fanaticism.
- Boethius became head of all the government and court services under Theodoric, king of Italy and of the Goths.
- Boethius became magister officiorum under Theodoric in about 520.
- It was about this time that Boethius worked to mend relations between the Church in Rome and the Church in Constantinople which may in the end have been the reasons that he fell from favour.
- When the senator Albinus was accused of treason "for having written to the Emperor Justin against the rule of Theodoric" he was defended by Boethius.
- This led to Boethius himself being charged with treason, and other serious charges were also brought such as the practice of magic and of sacrilege.
- Boethius was put in prison and there he wrote his most famous work De consolatione philosophiae.
- This led him to imprison and execute his minister, the senator Boethius.
- Boethius was sentenced to death, the sentence was ratified by the Senate probably against its will, and it was carried out.
- Perhaps aware that his aim in translating Plato was not to be fulfilled, Boethius put into his work a Platonic view of knowledge and reality.
- We give an example of a picture of Boethius in his study which is taken from a translation of De consolatione philosophiae into French.
- There are seven illustrations by the famous artist Jean Colombe, of which "Boethius in his study" appears in the translation of Boethius's original introduction.
Born about 480, in or near Rome, Byzantine Empire (now Italy). Died 524, Pavia, Gothic Empire (now Italy).
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Astronomy, Origin Italy
Thank you to the contributors under CC BY-SA 4.0!
Adapted from other CC BY-SA 4.0 Sources:
- O’Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive