The Consolation of Philosophy is one of the key works in the rich tradition of Western philosophy, partly because of the circumstances in which it was written.
Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius (c480-c524) was of aristocratic Roman birth and became consul and then master of offices at Ravenna, one of the highest posts under the Ostrogothic Roman ruler Theodoric. But Boethius was unjustly charged with treason in 524, and this led to house arrest, then torture and execution.
It was while he was imprisoned and anticipating his fate that he wrote The Consolation of Philosophy, a remarkably personal document in which, through alternating passages of poetry and prose, he considers the lot of humankind.
He draws on classical Greek and Roman philosophy, emphasising the fragility of worldly position and that true happiness can only come from within. As a practising Christian, he placed this within a Christian perspective. The work is all the more effective because it is presented as a dialogue between the despairing Boethius and a figure known as Lady Philosophy, who constantly questions, guides and supports the former statesman, leading him to a place of understanding and equilibrium.
The work has proved a continuing influence through the ages, having been translated by figures as disparate as Alfred the Great, Chaucer, Elizabeth I and many others. The translation by H. R. James has been revised and modernised for this recording.
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Wonderful insights from a 6th century philosopher whose problems make those of the rest of us seem very small by comparison. If wisdom can help him, can't it help all of us. Timely and beautifully read by David Rintoul.
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