CASSIODORUS, cas"si-o-do'rus (CASSIODORIITS), MAGNUS AURELIUS: Roman historian, statesman, and monk; b. at Scylacium (the modern Squillace, on the gulf of the same name, 40 m. s.s.e. of Cosenza), Calabria, c. 480; d. in the monastery of Vivarium, near Scylacium, c. 570. Owing to the esteem in which his father was held by Theodoric, a public career was early open to him; and he pursued it until he had reached the highest dignities under the Ostrogothic monarchs. He stood in close personal relations with Theodoric, with whose efforts to bring about a fusion between the Germanic and Roman elements among his subjects he thoroughly sympathized. About 540 he retired from public life to the peace and quiet of the monastery founded by him on his own estates at Vivarium. Here he devoted himself to literary work, of which he had already made a beginning amidst his political activity, and pursued it zealously until his ninety-third year. He insisted on the duty of intellectual labor for his monks, helped their studies by every means
His literary work, like his life, falls into two periods. To the first belong a consular chronicle written in 519; twelve books of Gothic history, composed in the spirit of the policy of fusion already referred to, known to us only in the recast version of Jordanes, De origine actibusque Getarum (the work of Cassiodorus seems to have borne the same title); panegyrics on the kings and queens of the Goths, of which only dubious fragments remain; a collection (made about 538) of rescripts composed by him during his long and varied official life, and formulas of appointment to a great variety of offices, in twelve books, under the title Vari; a small philosophical work, De anima, written immediately after the completion of the Vari, at the request of friends, whose questions about the soul he answers, following Claudianus Mamertus and Augustine. The last-named work forms a sort of transition to those of the second period. The most important of these, composed probably in 544, is the Institutiones divinarum et scularium litterarum (or better lectionum). The first book is devoted to spiritual learning, the second to secular; and both together form the first part of a complete course of instruction designed by Cassiodorus for the Western clergy, and especially for his own monks. The first book is only an introduction to the study of theology, explaining the most important preliminary knowledge required and the literary helps at the student's command for his further education; the second gives brief compendiums of various branches of secular learning. To this the last work of Cassiodorus, De orthographia, forms a supplement. Another voluminous theological work, begun before the Institutiones but finished long after, was a full explanation of the Psalms in their threefold aspect, spiritual, historical, and symbolic. He wrote other exegetical works, of which his Complexiones in epistolas et acta apostolorum et apocalypsin is still extant. Of much greater value to posterity is his Historia ecclesiastica tripartita in twelve books, composed of extracts from the Greek historians Socrates, Sozomen, and Theodoret, whose works he had translated by Epiphanius. It is in no sense an original work, and is put together in a patchwork fashion; but it filled up a great gap in the general Western knowledge of church history, and, incomplete as it is, was the principal handbook used in the Middle Ages for its period.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: The Vari and Orationum reliqui, with introduction, are in MGH, Auct. ant., xii. 1-385, 459-484; the Vari are also in MPL, lxix. The Letters of Cassiodorus, a Condensed Transl. of the Vari, ed. T. Hodgkin, appeared London, 1886. Consult: A. Olleris, Cassiodore, conservateur des livres de l'antiquité latine, Paris, 1841; R. Köpke, Deutsche Forschungen. Die Anfänge des Königtums, pp. 78-94, Berlin, 1859; A. Thorbecke, Cassiodorus Senator, Heidelberg, 1867; A. Franz, M. Aurelius Cassiodorius Senator, Breslau, 1872; H. von Sybel, Entstehung des deutschen Königtums, pp. 184-208, Frankfort, 1881; A. Ebert, Geschichte der Literatur des Mittelalters, i. 198, 498-514, Leipsic, 1889. For further literature consult Potthast, Wegweiser, p. 198.
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