Review of the Consolation of Philosophy

I have finished the Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius. Boethius was an Gothic philosopher who lived during the fall of Rome and the rise of the Ostrogothic Kingdom in the Italian peninsula. He served as a trused advisor to King Theodoric until a turn of events resulted with Boethius on death row. There he wrote the Consolation, and trust me the story behing how the book was written is far more interesting than the book itself. The entire book consists of one giant dialogue between him and Sophia, the feminine personofication of God’s wisdom, on the nature of reason, fate, providence, neccesity, time, fortune, and a bunch of other things that would have been quite interesting if there was some form of narrative. While it is one of the most influential books ever written, I found it to be mindnumbingly dull and only finished it because it was required reading. Unofortunately, it is foundational to Medieval and Renaissance thought; meaning I may be at a deficit for my later study of those eras. One thing that was rather interesting was the concept of the “Wheel of Fortune” (not the show) where the King sits at the top, the poor on the the bottom, and commoners hanging on the sides of the Wheel. That went on to become a very common theme in illuminated manuscripts, and for centuries the Consolation was one of the most copied books other than the Bible.

philosophy wheel Boethius

Other than that allegory, I didn’t get much from the Consolation. Queen Elizabeth I is said to have spent 27 straight hours translating it from Latin to English, so it is pretty obvious that some people have a LOT out of it. Perhaps I would have been able to enjoy it if it weren’t for the fact that I have like two or three other books I need to juggle reading at any given time. Whatever the case, I did not enjoy The Consolation of Philosophy and wouldn’t recommend reading it unless you have to.

Now we are on Dante’s Inferno, I’m only two cantos in and I already find it infinately more interesting than the Consolation.

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