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Anicius Manlius Severinus BoŽthius

Anicius Manlius Severinus BoŽthius (AD 480 - 524 or 525) was a Christian philosopher of the 6th century. He was born at Rome of an important family - many of his ancestors had been consuls, including his father Fl. Manlius Boethius in 487 - but he served as an official for the kingdom of the Ostrogoths. He was executed by King Theodoric the Great on suspicion of having conspired with the Byzantine Empire. He lived, however, to see his two sons also become consuls in 522.

BoŽthius's most recognized work was the Consolation Of Philosophy, which he wrote in prison in Pavia waiting to be executed. Boethius also translated some of Aristotle's works on logic from Greek into Latin, and until the 12th century they were the only significant portions of Aristotle available in that language.

BoŽthius also wrote a commentary on the Isagoge by Porphyry, in which he discusses the nature of the species: whether they are subsistent entities which would exist whether anyone thought of them, or whether they exist as ideas alone. This work started one of the most vocal controversies in medieval philosophy. Taken more generally the question of the ontological nature of universal ideas became known as the problem of universals.

BoŽthius was indeed a polymath, composing treatises on mathematics and music as well as the works named above. He is also credited with some theological treatises, although the true extent of his Christian belief is in doubt. He has been called the last of the Romans and the first of the scholastic philosophers. His final work, the Consolation of Philosophy, is the one that assured his posterity to the Middle Ages and beyond. It was translated into Anglo-Saxon by King Alfred, and into later English by Chaucer and Queen Elizabeth; many manuscripts survive and it was extensively edited, translated and printed throughout Europe from the late 15th century onwards. Many commentaries on it were compiled and it has been one of the most influential books in European culture. No complete bibliography has ever been assembled but it would run into thousands of items.

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