Medieval and Ancient Research Seminars
Humanities Research Institute, 34 Gell Street, S3 7QY
5pm drinks, 5.30pm paper begins
5 October 2016
Hugh Pyper (SIIBS) Cassiodorus and the Crisis in Humanities.
Cassiodorus – his full name was Flavius Magnus Aurelius Cassiodorus Senator – is one of the less well-known, but nonetheless fascinating, characters of the later Roman period. He was born into a wealthy family in Calabria, on the toe of Italy, in about 485 AD. He trained as a lawyer, and went to work first for Theoderic, King of the Ostrogoths, then for his successor Athalaric.
He kept copious notes and meticulous records, and his work was so much admired that when he was in Ravenna – these days famous for its beautiful mosaics of Justinian and Theodora, created some time later in about 547 AD – he was entrusted with writing important public documents.
He rose to become Praetorian Prefect of Italy, which meant that he was in effect the Prime Minister of the Ostrogoths.
He was very interested in literature, and in collaboration with Pope Agapetus I he founded a library of Greek and Roman texts in Rome, intended for Christian educational purposes.
Political turmoil forced him to move from Italy to Byzantium, where he lived for the next twenty years or so, trying to bring about unity between East and West, Roman Greek and Gothic cultures, and the Orthodox and Arian religious divide.
On retirement, he founded the monastery of Vivarium on his family estates in Calabria and spent the rest of his life there engaged in religious writings.
Professor Pyper writes in advance of his lecture: At a time when there is widespread talk of a threat to the humanities in contemporary universities and lecturers bewail the lack of knowledge of the classical and biblical traditions among students, Cassiodorus's attempts to ward off the effects of the collapse of the institutions of public education in his day take on a new significance.