An Introduction to Divine and Human Readings

An Introduction to Divine and Human Readings

An Introduction to Divine and Human Readings

An Introduction to Divine and Human Readings

Excerpt

In its length and industry Cassiodorus' career as a statesman and scholar is almost without parallel. From A.D. 503 to 539, the period during which he held a succession of important political offices under four Ostrogothic rulers--Theodoric, the regent Amalasuentha, Theodahad, and Witigis--he strove to build a strong Italian state in which Gothic and Roman elements might work together in complementary and harmonious fashion. His dream was utterly shattered by the victories of Belisarius. From 539 to 575, the year in which he died, at the advanced age of ninety-five, he devoted an equal amount of energy to matters which ultimately proved of much more importance to the world: commenting on the Christian Scriptures, assembling an important collection of theological and of classical works, and teaching the monks of the two monasteries which he had founded precise rules for the copying and preservation of his precious manuscripts.

The two books of the present work belong to the monastic phase of his activities. The contents of the work are analyzed in detail in my Introduction. Here, however, it will be enough to state that Book I considers, among other things, the nature of the Bible; the importance of various ecclesiastical and secular works as keys to its understanding; and the procedure to be followed by the monks in copying, emending, and annotating manuscripts. Book II is a treatise on the seven liberal arts. Both books are also bibliographical guides and inspirations to librarians to collect sound copies of the works recommended.

Except in approximately a dozen instances in which I have preferred a different reading, I have based my translation upon the excellent Latin text of Mynors. To the best of my knowledge, my translation is the first in any language. The task has been difficult for reasons which I have pointed out in my Introduction. The wordy and elaborate style seems to cry out for simplification. In his translation of a more difficult work of Cassiodorus, the Variae, Hodgkin omitted half of the original contents and para-

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