The Consolation of Philosophy, Paperback Book
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Boethius composed the De Consolatione Philosophiae in the sixth century AD whilst awaiting death under torture, condemned on a charge of treason which he protested was manifestly unjust. Though a convinced Christian, in detailing the true end of life which is the soul's knowledge of God, he consoled himself not with Christian precepts but with the tenets of Greek philosophy.

This work dominated the intellectual world of the Middle Ages; writers as diverse as Thomas Aquinas, Jean de Meun, and Dante were inspired by it. In England it was rendered in to Old English by Alfred the Great, into Middle English by Geoffrey Chaucer, and later Queen Elizabeth I made her own translation.

The circumstances of composition, the heroic demeanour of the author, and the 'Menippean' texture of part prose, part verse have combined to exercise a fascination over students of philosophy and literature ever since.

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Boethius was the adopted son of Symmachus a highly committed christian and consul at Rome in the late 5th century AD. Boethius in his turn also became consul and the was then appointed by Theodric (King of Italy) to a high ranking position at his court at Ravenna. After a year in post Boethius fell foul of court intrigue and was imprisoned on charges of treason. Whilst in prison and hopeful of reprieve he wrote the Consolation of philosophy. His reprieve never came and he was executed around 525 AD.The Consolation is not a religious tract, it is more a philosophical argument for the existence of God and its aim is to provide comfort to all unfortunate souls who find themselves like Boethius in extreme distress. There are five short books: Book 1: introduces the persona of philosophy and Boethius pours out to her his woes. She promises to provide medicine to cure his moral sickness. Book 2: is a condemnation of the material advantages that Boethius has already enjoyed and looks forward to a time when these will no longer be needed. Book 3: examines the nature of true happiness and the search for true good and puts forward the idea that the perfect good in which lies true happiness is God. Book 4: examines whether God apportions appropriate justice to good and evil men in the world and attempts to explain the apparent irrationality in which the widespread operation of chance seems to be at odds with Gods wise governance. Book 5: asks the question; how can man's free will be reconciled with divine providence. a summary of the arguments then lead the prisoner to spiritual freedom, to shake off the shackles of earthly serfdom and rise to be at one with God.When philosophy first visits Boethius he is surrounded by the muses of poetry, which she drives away calling them "these harlots". A question the reader might ask is whether Boethius would have been better off sticking with the muses of poetry. I think the logical arguments that are easily followed would convince many people that philosophy is the better bet. There are of course gaps in the logic to the modern mind but overall I thought that much of what is said seemed to speak to me down the ages. The one big issue that is not examined satisfactorily is why there is evil in the world If God is omnipotent, A knotty question I know but the consolation seems to shy away from this. I read the Oxford world's classics edition translated and introduced by P G Walsh, which I found to be excellent. Each chapter of text is either introduced or followed by a poem and these are worth the price of the book alone. They either sum up the text or give additional information. I loved them. Walsh provides plenty of background information and his notes are easy to follow and precise. The only advice I would give to readers before starting the book would be to make sure that they are familiar with the basic tenets of Neoplatonism. Walsh has a short chapter on it but to get the most out of the consolation which is based on neoplatonism do a bit of background reading.I will return to this marvellous little book, especially those poems

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