Cassiodorus | Wikipedia audio article


Flavius Magnus Aurelius Cassiodorus Senator
(c. 485 – c. 585), commonly known as Cassiodorus (), was a Roman statesman, renowned scholar
of antiquity, and writer serving in the administration of Theoderic the Great, king of the Ostrogoths. Senator was part of his surname, not his rank. He also founded a monastery, Vivarium, where
he spent the last years of his life.==Life==
Cassiodorus was born at Scylletium, near Catanzaro in Calabria, Italy. His ancestry included some of the most prominent
ministers of the state extending back several generations. His great-grandfather held a command in the
defense of the coasts of southern Italy from Vandal sea-raiders in the middle of the fifth
century; his grandfather appears in a Roman embassy to Attila the Hun, and his father
served as Count of the sacred largesses and count of the private estates to Odovacer before
transferring his allegiance to Theoderic. Under the latter, Cassiodorus’ father (who
bore the same name), rose to an even higher position, achieving the office of Praetorian
Prefect, which held, under the Gothic kings, the same influence that it had previously
in the court of Rome. Cassiodorus began his career under the auspices
of his father, about in his twentieth year, when the latter made him his consiliarius
upon his own appointment to the Praetorian Prefecture. In the judicial capacity of the prefect, he
held absolute right of appeal over any magistrate in the empire (or Gothic kingdom, later) and
the consiliarius served as a sort of legal advisor in cases of greater complexity. Evidently, therefore, Cassiodorus had received
some education in the law. During his working life he worked as quaestor
sacri palatii c. 507–511, as a consul in 514, then as magister officiorum under Theoderic,
and later under the regency for Theoderic’s young successor, Athalaric. Cassiodorus kept copious records and letterbooks
concerning public affairs. At the Gothic court his literary skill, which
seems mannered and rhetorical to modern readers, was so esteemed that when in Ravenna he was
often entrusted with drafting significant public documents. His culminating appointment was as praetorian
prefect for Italy, effectively the prime ministership of the Ostrogothic civil government and a
high honor to finish any career. Cassiodorus also collaborated with Pope Agapetus
I in establishing a library of Greek and Latin texts which were intended to support a Christian
school in Rome. James O’Donnell notes: [I]t is almost indisputable that he accepted
advancement in 523 as the immediate successor of Boethius, who was then falling from grace
after less than a year as magister officiorum, and who was sent to prison and later executed. In addition, Boethius’ father-in-law (and
step-father) Symmachus, by this time a distinguished elder statesman, followed Boethius to the
block within a year. All this was a result of the worsening split
between the ancient senatorial aristocracy centered in Rome and the adherents of Gothic
rule at Ravenna. But to read Cassiodorus’ Variae one would
never suspect such goings-on. There is no mention in Cassiodorus’ selection
of official correspondence of the death of Boethius. Athalaric died in early 534, and the remainder
of Cassiodorus’ public career was dominated by the Byzantine reconquest and dynastic intrigue
among the Ostrogoths. His last letters were drafted in the name
of Vitiges. Around 537–38, he left Italy for Constantinople,
from where his successor was appointed, where he remained for almost two decades, concentrating
on religious questions. He notably met Junillus, the quaestor of Justinian
I there. His Constantinopolitan journey contributed
to the improvement of his religious knowledge. Cassiodorus spent his career trying to bridge
the 6th-century cultural divides: between East and West, Greek culture and Latin, Roman
and Goth, and between an Orthodox people and their Arian rulers. He speaks fondly in his Institutiones of Dionysius
Exiguus, the calculator of the Anno Domini era. In his retirement, he founded the monastery
of Vivarium on his family estates on the shores of the Ionian Sea, and his writings turned
to religion.==Monastery at Vivarium==Cassiodorus’ Vivarium “monastery school” was
composed of two main buildings: a coenobitic monastery and a retreat, for those who desired
a more solitary life. Both were located on the site of the modern
Santa Maria de Vetere near Squillace. The twin structure of Vivarium was to permit
coenobitic monks and hermits to coexist. The Vivarium appears not to have been governed
by a strict monastic rule, such as that of the Benedictine Order. Rather Cassiodorus’ work Institutiones was
written to guide the monks’ studies. To this end, the Institutiones focus largely
on texts assumed to have been available in Vivarium’s library. The Institutiones seem to have been composed
over a lengthy period of time, from the 530s into the 550s, with redactions up to the time
of Cassiodorus’ death. Cassiodorus composed the Institutiones as
a guide for introductory learning of both “divine” and “secular” writings, in place
of his formerly planned Christian school in Rome:I was moved by divine love to devise
for you, with God’s help, these introductory books to take the place of a teacher. Through them I believe that both the textual
sequence of Holy Scripture and also a compact account of secular letters may, with God’s
grace, be revealed. The first section of the Institutiones deals
with Christian texts, and was intended to be used in combination with the Expositio
Psalmorum. The order of subjects in the second book of
the Institutiones reflected what would become the Trivium and Quadrivium of medieval liberal
arts: grammar, rhetoric, dialectic, arithmetic, music, geometry, and astronomy. While he encouraged study of secular subjects,
Cassiodorus clearly considered them useful primarily as aids to the study of divinity,
much in the same manner as St. Augustine. Cassiodorus’ Institutiones thus attempted
to provide what Cassiodorus saw as a well-rounded education necessary for a learned Christian,
all in uno corpore, as Cassiodorus put it.The library at Vivarium was still active c. 630,
when the monks brought the relics of Saint Agathius from Constantinople, dedicating to
him a spring-fed fountain shrine that still exists. However, its books were later dispersed, the
Codex Grandior of the Bible being purchased by the Anglo-Saxon Ceolfrith when he was in
Italy in 679–80, and taken by him to Wearmouth Jarrow, where it served as the source for
the copying of the Codex Amiatinus, which was then brought back to Italy by the now
aged Ceolfrith. Despite the demise of the Vivarium, Cassiodorus’
work in compiling classical sources and presenting a sort of bibliography of resources would
prove extremely influential in Late Antique Western Europe.==Educational philosophy==
Cassiodorus devoted much of his life to supporting education within the Christian community at
large. When his proposed theological university in
Rome was denied, he was forced to re-examine his entire approach to how material was learned
and interpreted. His Variae show that, like Augustine of Hippo,
Cassiodorus viewed reading as a transformative act for the reader. It is with this in mind that he designed and
mandated the course of studies at the Vivarium, which demanded an intense regimen of reading
and meditation. By assigning a specific order of texts to
be read, Cassiodorus hoped to create the discipline necessary within the reader to become a successful
monk. The first work in this succession of texts
would be the Psalms, with which the untrained reader would need to begin because of its
appeal to emotion and temporal goods. By examining the rate at which copies of his
Psalmic commentaries were issued, it is fair to assess that, as the first work in his series,
Cassiodorus’s educational agenda had been implemented to some degree of success.Beyond
demanding the pursuit of discipline among his students, Cassiodorus encouraged the study
of the liberal arts. He believed these arts were part of the content
of the Bible, and some mastery of them—especially grammar and rhetoric—necessary for a complete
understanding of it. These arts were divided into trivium (which
included rhetoric, idioms, vocabulary and etymology) and quadrivium: arithmetic, geometry,
music, and astronomy.==Classical connections==
Cassiodorus is rivalled only by Boethius in his drive to preserve and explore classical
literature during the 6th century AD. He found the writings of the Greeks and Romans
valuable for their expression of higher truths where other arts failed. Though he saw these texts as vastly inferior
to the perfect word of Scripture, the truths presented in them played to Cassiodorus’ educational
principles. Thus he is unafraid to cite Cicero alongside
sacred text, and acknowledge the classical ideal of good being part of the practice of
rhetoric.His love for classical thought also influenced his administration of Vivarium. Cassiodorus connected deeply with Christian
neoplatonism, which saw beauty as concomitant with the Good. This inspired him to adjust his educational
program to support the aesthetic enhancement of manuscripts within the monastery, something
which had been practiced before, but not in the universality that he suggests.Classical
learning would by no means replace the role of scripture within the monastery; it was
intended to augment the education already under way. It is also worth noting that all Greek and
Roman works were heavily screened to ensure only proper exposure to text, fitting with
the rest of the structured learning.==Lasting impact==
Cassiodorus’ legacy is quietly profound. Before the founding of Vivarium, the copying
of manuscripts had been a task reserved for either inexperienced or physically infirm
devotees, and was performed at the whim of literate monks. Through the influence of Cassiodorus, the
monastic system adopted a more vigorous, widespread, and regular approach to reproducing documents
within the monastery. This approach to the development of the monastic
lifestyle was perpetuated especially through German religious institutions.This change
in daily life also became associated with a higher purpose: the process was not merely
associated with disciplinary habit, but also with the preservation of history. During Cassiodorus’ lifetime, theological
study was on the decline and classical writings were disappearing. Even as the victorious Ostrogoth armies remained
in the countryside, they continued to pillage and destroy religious relics in Italy. Cassiodorus’ programme helped ensure that
both classical and sacred literature were preserved through the Middle Ages. Despite his contributions to monastic order,
literature, and education, Cassiodorus’ labors were not well acknowledged. After his death he was only partially recognized
by historians of the age, including Bede, as an obscure supporter of the Church. In their descriptions of Cassiodorus, medieval
scholars have been documented to change his name, profession, place of residence, and
even his religion. Some chapters from his works have been copied
into other texts, suggesting that he may have been read, but not generally known.==Criticism==
The works not assigned as a part of Cassiodorus’ educational program must be examined critically. Because he had been working under the newly
dominant power of the Ostrogoths, the writer demonstrably alters the narrative of history
for the sake of protecting himself. The same could easily be said about his ideas,
which were presented as non-threatening in their approach to peaceful meditation and
its institutional isolationism.==Works==
Laudes (very fragmentary published panegyrics on public occasions)
Chronica (ending at 519), uniting all world history in one sequence of rulers, a union
of Goth and Roman antecedents, flattering Goth sensibilities as the sequence neared
the date of composition Gothic History (526–533), a lengthy and
multi-volume work, survives only in Jordanes’ abridgment Getica, which must be considered
a separate work and is the only surviving ancient work about the Goths’ early history
Variae epistolae (537), Theoderic’s state papers. Editio princeps by M. Accurius (1533). English translations by Thomas Hodgkin The
Letters of Cassiodorus (1886); S.J.B. Barnish Cassiodorus: Variae (Liverpool: University
Press, 1992) ISBN 0-85323-436-1 Expositio psalmorum (Exposition of the Psalms)
De anima (“On the Soul”) (540) Institutiones divinarum et saecularium litterarum
(543–555) De artibus ac disciplinis liberalium litterarum
(“On the Liberal Arts”) Codex Grandior (a version of the Bible)==References====Sources==
Barnish, S.J. Roman Responses to an Unstable World: Cassiodorus’ Variae in Context in:
Vivarium in Context 7–22 (Centre Leonard Boyle: Vicenza 2008). ISBN 978-88-902035-2-7
Cassiodorus, Flavius Magnus Aurelius (780). “Institutiones divinarum et saecularium litterarum”. Bamberg, Staatsbibliothek, Msc.Patr. 61, fol. 1v–67v. Southern Italy. Retrieved 24 September 2013. Cassiodorus, Flavius Magnus Aurelius (1167). “Gesta Theodorici”. Leiden, Universiteitsbibliotheek, Ms. vul.
46. Fulda. Retrieved 24 September 2013. Frassetto, Michael (2003). Encyclopedia of Barbarian Europe: Society
in Transformation. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO. ISBN 978-1-57607-263-9. O’Donnell, James J. (1969). Cassiodorus University of California Press,
Berkeley, CA. O’Donnell, James J. (1979). Cassiodorus (Berkeley: University of California
Press). On-line e-text.==External links==
James J. O’Donnell’s Cassiodorus webpage: an assessment of Cassiodorus’ cultural predicament
Works by Senator Cassiodorus at Project Gutenberg Works by or about Cassiodorus at Internet
Archive Opera omnia vol. 1, Joannes Garetius, ed.,
Rouen, 1679. (Google Books)
Opera omnia vol. 2, Joannes Garetius, ed., Rouen, 1679. (Google Books)
History of the Christian Church/A.D. 590–1073 by Philip Schaff at ‘ccel.org’
History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire — Volume 4 by Gibbon at Project Gutenberg. Cassiodorus – Catholic Encyclopedia article
Site of the Vivarium of Cassiodorus – An account of survey and recognition at the proposed
archaeological site of Vivarium (Coscia di Staletti’, Catanzaro, Calabria). Societas internationalis pro Vivario for the
study of Cassiodorus and his times The fountain of Cassiodorus A spring situated
at the Coscia di Staletti on the grounds of the monastery of Cassiodorus, with a grotto,
formerly a site of pagan worship and eventually Christianized by the addition of two large
crosses. Vivarium in Context. Book description and reviews of the essays
by Sam J. Barnish and Lellia Cracco Ruggini.

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