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Magnus Aurelius Cassiodorus was a Roman statesman, renowned scholar of antiquity, and writer serving in the administration of Theodoric the Great, king of the Ostrogoths.


485 - 585 A.D.



THE great revolutions of the fifth and sixth centuries which broke up the Roman Empire were very various in their violence and forms of change. Our knowledge of the Northern races or nations who conquered and settled, and who to the Roman world were all alike barbarians, is at best imperfect and vague; but we know enough to perceive that the differences between them were as great then as those which mark the several nations which now occupy their old seat in the north of Europe. The German Franks, who broke into Gaul, or the German Vandals, who conquered Africa, were fiercer, coarser, more uncompromising races than the Goths, who won for a moment the great prize of Italy itself, and seemed likely at one time to make of it a new and great kingdom. In the neighbourhood of Byzantium, the new Rome, in frequent intercourse with it, and often in its service, the Goths had come to know something of its strength and weakness, and had learned something of its statecraft and its religion. Theodoric's conquest of Italy was something very different from the contemporaneous Frank conquest of Gaul. Clovis and his North Germans, after they had spoiled and ruined, only thought of living as they had been accustomed to live, but in greater and freer abundance of all that makes barbarian enjoyment; and after they had conquered and partitioned the Catholic Provincials, they were only too glad to find in the propagation of the Catholic faith a pretext for indulging their insatiate love of fighting at the expense of the Arian Goths of Southern Gaul. But Theodoric aimed at founding a state, in which all that the great Romans had invented and used to strengthen and order it should be preserved and made available for the benefit and the improvement of the new masters of Italy. It was necessarily a military state, which means under all disguises a ruling and a subject population; but it was his definite purpose and object that the signs of this should be visible as little as possible on the surface of things, and should in the course of time actually disappear in the gradual fusion and union of the two races, Gothic and Italian; and this purpose might perhaps, if he had left a line of successors like himself, have been more than a dream.

As it was, events were hopelessly against him. The daughter and grandson whom he left were swept away and perished by their own weakness and folly, and the Gothic chiefs who took his place were no match for the power of Justinian and the genius of Belisarius. What Theodoric had built up with so much care and intelligence, and invested with such promise of order and stability, vanished utterly; nothing remained of it but the palace and tomb of its founder at Ravenna, and the echoes of the renown of the Teutonic hero of Verona, "Dietrich of Bern", in the legends of distant Germany. But in its short time of life his reign seemed like a great and successful experiment, by which the new was to be welded with the old. It seemed as if the barbarian intruders, who had caused so much mischief and even greater terror, had voluntarily and spontaneously shown a desire for improvement, and a disposition to submit to the taming and widening discipline of Italian civil order.

The general character and policy of Theodoric's kingdom, which, as Montesquieu observed, was entirely different from the plan of all the other barbarian kingdoms, is sufficiently known from the account which Jordanes has abridged from the great historical work of Cassiodorus, from the notices of the shrewd and well-informed Greek observer, Procopius, and from the collection of legal and administrative rules, which goes by the name of Theodoric's Edict, and which embodies the principles and spirit of his policy. But in the case of this remarkable attempt of political sagacity in one of the new race of conquerors we have something more than a general character. We have a great mass of State papers which exhibit in detail the working out of the scheme of government conceived by the Gothic king, the Vance, or "Miscellaneous Letters", of Cassiodorus. These letters are not, indeed, as interesting as they would have been if they had been written or dictated by Theodoric himself; if any part of the collection had been preserved in his own familiar mother speech, the noble Gothic tongue, which, except in the precious remains of Ulfilas's version of the Scriptures and a few unimportant fragments picked up by chance, has perished from the earth alike in Italy and Spain, where it was once the language of rulers; or even if his orders had been expressed in the rude army Latin, the dialect of the camp, which was probably the only Latin or Italian which Theodoric could speak. The letters are not of his own composition : these orders, despatches, instructions, are the work of his Italian secretary; and if anything is certain, it is that assuredly Theodoric would not himself have written as the zealous and accomplished gentleman and rhetorician wrote, to whom he gave his commands, and who transmitted them in his own form to the officials for whom they were meant The contrast must have been remarkable in the intercourse of business or amusement, one cannot but suppose, between the great German king, who could not write his name, and had not much respect for mere literary education, but was full of large and bold ideas on the subject of governing Italy, and his ready and useful secretary, Catholic and Roman to the core, yet loyal to the service which he had embraced, brimful of curious and rather idle erudition, and inexhaustible in florid combinations of verbiage which the fashion of the time took for eloquence. If three-fourths of what we have written by Casriodonis in the twelve books of his Variae were blotted out, we should still have all, or probably more than all, which really shows the working of the administration of which he was the mouthpiece and organ. But in those dim days we must not complain of the form in which information otherwise unattainable, and more than we could have hoped for, is preserved for our use.


THE interest of the life of Cassiodorus is derived from his position rather than from his character. He was a statesman of considerable sagacity and of unblemished honour, a well-read scholar, and a devout Christian ; but he was apt to crouch before the possessors of power however unworthy, and in the whole of his long and eventful life we never find him playing a part which can be called heroic.

His position, however, which was in more senses than one that of a borderer between two worlds, gives to the study of his writings an exceptional value. Born a few years after the overthrow of the Western Empire, a Roman noble by his ancestry, a rhetorician-philosopher by his training, he became what we should call the Prime Minister of the Ostrogothic King Theodoric ; he toiled with his master at the construction of the new state, which was to unite the vigour of Germany and the culture of Rome; for a generation he saw this edifice, stand, and when it fell beneath the blows of Belisarius he retired, perhaps well-nigh broken-hearted, from the political arena. The writings of such a man could hardly fail, at any rate they do not fail, to give us many interesting glimpses into the political life both of the Romans and the Barbarians. It is true that they throw more light backwards than forwards, that they teach us far more about the constitution of the Roman Empire than they do about the Teutonic customs from whence in due time Feudalism was to be born. Still, they do often illustrate these Teutonic usages ; and when we remember that the writer to whom after Tacitus we are most deeply indebted for our knowledge of Teutonic antiquity, Jordanes, professedly compiled his ill-written pamphlet from the Twelve Books of the Gothic History of Cassiodorus, we see that indirectly his contribution to the history of the German factor in European civilisation is a most important one.

Thus then, as has been already said, Cassiodorus stood on the confines of two worlds, the Ancient and the Modern ; indeed it is a noteworthy fact that the very word modernus occurs for the first time with any frequency in his writings. Or, if the ever-shifting boundary between Ancient and Modern be drawn elsewhere than in the fifth and sixth centuries, at any rate it is safe to say, that he stood on the boundary of two worlds, the Roman and the Teutonic.

But the statesman who, after spending thirty years at the Court of Theodoric and his daughter, spent thirtythree years more in the monastery which he had himself erected at Squillace, was a borderer in another sense than that already mentioned a borderer between the two worlds of Politics and Religion; and in this capacity also, as the contemporary, perhaps the friend, certainly the imitator, of St. Benedict, and in some respects the improver upon his method, Cassiodorus largely helped to mould the destinies of mediaeval and therefore of modern Europe.

I shall now proceed to indicate the chief points in the life and career of Cassiodorus. Where, as is generally the case, our information comes from his own correspondence, I shall, to avoid repetition, not do much more than refer the reader to the passage in the following collection, where he will find the information given as nearly as may be in the words of the great Minister himself.

The ancestors of Cassiodorus for three generations, and their public employments, are enumerated for us in cthe letters which in the name of Theodoric he wrote on his father's elevation to the Patriciate. From these letters we learn that

(1) Cassiodorus, the writer's great grandfather, who held the rank of an Illustris, defended the shores of Sicily and Bruttii from the incursions of the Vandals. This was probably between 430 and 440, and, as we may suppose, towards the end of the life of this statesman, to whom we may conjecturally assign a date from 390 to 460.

(2) His son and namesake, the grandfather of our Cassiodorus, was a Tribune (a military rank nearly corresponding to our 'Colonel') and Notarius under Valentinian III. He enjoyed the friendship of the great Aetius, and was sent with Carpilio the son of that statesman on an embassy to Attila, probably between the years 440 and 450. In this embassy, according to his grandson, he exerted an extraordinary influence over the mind of the Hunnish King. Soon after this he retired to his native Province of Bruttii, where he passed the remainder of his days. We may probably fix the limits of his life from about 420 to 490.

(3) His son, the third Cassiodorus, our author's father, Father, served under Odovacar (therefore between 476 and 492), as Comes Privatarum Rerum and Comes Sacrarum Largitionum. These two offices, one of which nominally involved the care of the domains of the Sovereign and the other the regulation of his private charities, were in fact the two great financial offices of the Empire and of the barbarian royalties which modelled their system upon it. Upon the fall of the throne of Odovacar, Cassiodorus transferred his services to Theodoric, at the beginning of whose reign he acted as Governor (Consularis) of Sicily. In this capacity he showed much tact and skill, and thereby succeeded in reconciling the somewhat suspicious and intractable Sicilians to the rule of their Ostrogothic master. He next administered (as Corrector) his own native Province of 'Bruttii et Lucania.' Either in the year 500 or soon after, he received from Theodoric the highest mark of his confidence that the Sovereign could bestow, being raised to the great place of Praetorian Praefect, which still conferred a semi-regal splendour upon its holder, and which possibly under a Barbarian King may have involved yet more participation in the actual work of reigning than it had done under a Roman Emperor.

The Praefecture of this Cassiodorus probably lasted three or four years, and at its close he received the high honour of the Patriciate. We are not able to name the exact date of his retirement from office; but the important point for us is, that while he still held this splendid position his son was first introduced to public life. To that son's history we may now proceed, for we have no further information of importance as to the father's old age or death beyond the intimation that Theodoric invited him, apparently in vain, to leave his beloved Bruttii and return to the Court of Ravenna.

MAGNUS AURELIUS CASSIODORUS SENATOR was born at Scyllacium (Squillace) about the year 480. His name, his birthplace, and his year of birth will each require a short notice.

(1) Name. Magnus (not Marcus, as it has been sometimes incorrectly printed) is the author's praenomen. Aurelius, the gentile name, connects him with a large gens, of which Q. Aurelius Memmius Symmachus was one of the most distinguished ornaments. As to the form of the cognomen there is a good deal of diversity of opinion, the majority of German scholars preferring Cassiodorius to Cassiodorus. The argument in favour of the former spelling is derived from the fact that some of the MSS. of his works (not apparently the majority) write the name with the termination rius, and that while it is easy to understand how from the genitive form ri a nominative rus might be wrongly inferred instead of the real nominative rius, it is not easy to see why the opposite mistake should be made, and rius substituted for the genuine rus.

The question will probably be decided one way or the other by the critical edition of the 'Variae' which is to be published among the 'Monumenta Germaniae Historica'; but in the meantime it may be remarked that the correct Greek form of the name as shown by inscriptions appears to be Cassiodorus, and that in a poem of Alcuin's occurs the line

'Cassiodorus item Chrysostomus atque Johannes,'

showing that the termination rus was generally accepted as early as the eighth century. It is therefore to be hoped that this is the form which may finally prevail.

Senator, it is clear, was part of the original name of Cassiodorus, and not a title acquired by sitting in the Roman Senate. It seems a curious custom to give a title of this kind to an infant as part of his name, but the well-known instance of Patricius (St. Patrick) shows that this was sometimes done, and there are other instances of this very title Senator being used as a proper name.

It is clear from Jordanes (who calls the Gothic History of Cassiodorus 'duodecem Senatoris volumina de origine actibusque Getarum'), from Pope Vigilius (who speaks of 'religiosum virum filium nostrum Senatorem'), from the titles of the letters written by Cassiodorus, and from his punning allusions to his own name and the love to the Senate which it had prophetically expressed, that Senator was a real name and not a title of honour.

(2) Scyllacium, the modern Squillace, was, according to Cassiodorus, the first, either in age or in importance, cium. of the cities of Bruttii, a Province which corresponds pretty closely with the modern Calabria. It is situated at the head of the gulf to which it gives its name, on the eastern side of Italy, and at the point where the peninsula is pinched in by the Tyrrhene and Ionian Seas to a width of only fifteen miles, the narrowest dimensions to which it is anywhere reduced. The Apennine chain comes here within a distance of about five miles of the sea, and upon one of its lower dependencies Scyllacium was placed. The slight promontory in front of the town earned for it from the author of the Aeneid the ominous name of 'Navifragum Scylaceum.' In the description which Cassiodorus himself gives of his birthplace we hear nothing of the danger to mariners which had attracted the attention of Virgil, possibly a somewhat timid sailor. The name, however, given to the place by the Greek colonists who founded it, Scylletium, is thought by some to contain an allusion to dangers of the coast similar to those which were typified by the barking dogs of the not far distant Scylla.

According to Cassiodorus, this Greek city was founded by Ulysses after the destruction of Troy. Strabo attributes the foundation of it to the almost equally widespread energy of Menestheus. The form of the name makes it probable that the colonists were in any case of Ionian descent; but in historic times we find Scylletion subject to the domineering Achaian city of Crotona, from whose grasp it was wrested (B.C. 389) by the elder Dionysius. It no doubt shared in the general decay of the towns of this part of Magna Graecia consequent on the wars of Dionysius and Agathocles, and may very probably, like Crotona, have been taken and laid waste by the Bruttian banditti in the Second Punic War. During the latter part of this war Hannibal seems to have occupied a position near to, but not in, the already ruined city, and its port was known long after as Castra Hannibalis.

A century before the end of the Republic, a city much more considerable than that which had existed in the past was again established near the point where the Greek Scylletion had existed. Among the colonies of Roman citizens founded B.C. 123 on the rogation of Caius Gracchus, was one sent to this part of Bruttii, under the name of Colonia Minervia Scolacium, a name parallel to those of Colonia Neptunia Tarentum and Colonia Junonia Karthago, decided on at the same time. Scolacium is the form that we meet with in Velleius Paterculus, and that is found in an extant Latin inscription of the time of Antoninus Pius. This is the old Latin form of the name of the town. Scylacium, which first appears as used by the writers of the first century of our era, is a purely literary form springing from the desire to get nearer to the Greek type Scylletion.

Scolacium, or Scylacium, a town purely Roman by reason of the origin of its first colonists, was from its earliest days an important city, and remained such till the end of the Empire. Pomponius Mela, Strabo, Pliny, and Ptolemy speak of it as one of the principal cities of Bruttii. It had for its port Castra Hannibalis. Under Nero its population was strengthened by a new settlement of veterans as colonists. The city then took the names of Colonia Minervia Nervia Augusta Scolacium. We read these names in an inscription discovered in 1762 at 1,800 metres from the modern Squillace, between that city and the sea an inscription which mentions the construction of an aqueduct bringing water to Scolacium, executed 143 A.D. at the cost of the Emperor Antoninus.

For the appearance of this Roman colony in the the seventh century of its existence the reader is referred at the to the letters of Cassiodorus The picture of the city, hanging like a cluster of grapes upon the hills, basking in the brightness of the sun all day long, yet cooled by the breezes from the sea, and looking at her leisure on the labours of the husbandman in the corn-fields, the vineyards, and the olive-groves around her, is an attractive one, and shows that kind of appreciation of the gentler beauties of Nature which befits a countryman of Virgil.

This picture, however, is not distinctive enough to enable us from it alone to fix the exact site of the Roman city. Lenormant , while carefully distinguishing between the sites of the Greek Scylletion and the Latin Scolacium, and assigning the former with much apparent probability to the neighbourhood of the promontory and the Grotte di Stalletti, has been probably too hasty in his assertion that the modern city of Squillace incontestably covers the ground of the Latin Scolacium. Mr. Arthur J. Evans, after making a much more careful survey of the place and its neighbourhood than the French archaeologist had leisure for, has come to the conclusion that in this identification M. Lenormant is entirely wrong, and that the Roman city was not at Squillace, where there are no remains of earlier than mediaeval times, but at Roccella del Vescovo, five or six miles from Squillace in a north-easterly direction, where there are such remains as can only have belonged to a Roman provincial city of the first rank.

We pass on from considering the place of Cassiodorus' birth to investigate the date of that event.

(3) The only positive statement that we possess as to the birth-year of Cassiodorus comes from a very late and somewhat unsatisfactory source. John Trittheim (or Trithemius), Abbot of the Benedictine Monastery of Spanheim, who died in 1516, was one of the ecclesiastical scholars of the Renaissance period, and composed, besides a multitude of other books, a treatise 'De Scriptoribus Ecclesiasticis,' in which is found this notice of Cassiodorus:

'Claruit temporibus Justini senioris usque ad imperii Justini junioris paene finem, annos habens aetatis plus quam 95, Anno Domini 575.'

This notice is certainly not one to which we should attach much importance if it contradicted earlier and trustworthy authorities, or if there were any internal evidence against it. But if this cannot be asserted, it is not desirable entirely to discard the assertion of a scholar who, in the age of the Renaissance and before the havoc wrought among the monasteries of Germany by the Thirty Years' War, may easily have had access to some sources which are now no longer available.

When we examine the information which is thus given us, we find it certainly somewhat vague. 'Cassiodorus was illustrious' (no doubt as a writer, since it is 'ecclesiastici scriptores' of whom Trittheim is speaking) 'in the time of Justin the Elder [518-527] down nearly to the end of the reign of Justin the Younger [565-578], attaining to more than 95 years of age in the year of our Lord 575. But on reflection we see that the meaning must be that Cassiodorus died in 575 (which agrees well with the words 'paene finem imperii Justini junioris'), and that when he died he was some way on in his 96th year, or as we say colloquially 'ninety-five off.' The marvel of his attaining such an age is no doubt the reason for inserting the 'plus quam,' to show that he did not die immediately after his 95th birthday. If this notice be trustworthy, therefore, we may place the birth of Cassiodorus in 479 or 480.

Now upon examining all the facts in our possession as to his career as a statesman and an author, and especially our latest acquired information, we find that they do in a remarkable manner agree with Trittheim's date, while we have no positive statement by any author early or late which really conflicts with it. The only shadow of an argument that has been advanced for a different and earlier date is so thin that it is difficult to state without confuting it. In some editions of the works of Cassiodorus there appears a very short anonymous tract on the method of determining Easter, called 'Computus Paschalis,' and composed in 562. In the 'Orthographia,' which was undoubtedly written by Cassiodorus at the age of 93, and which contains a list of his previously published works, no mention is made of this 'Computus.' It must therefore, say the supporters of the theory, have been written after he was 93. He must have been at least 94 in 562, and the year of his birth must be put back at least to 468. In this argument there are two absolutely worthless links. There is no evidence to show that the 'Computus Paschalis' came from the pen of Cassiodorus at all, but much reason to think that Pithoeus, the editor who first published it under his name, was mistaken in doing so. And if it were his, a little memorandum like this only two pages long, and with no literary pretension whatever we may almost say with certainty would not be included by the veteran author in the enumeration of his theological works prefixed to his 'Orthographia.'

The reason why a theory founded on such an absurdly weak basis has held its ground at all, has probably been that it buttressed up another obvious fallacy. A whole school of biographers of Cassiodorus and commentators on his works has persisted, in spite of the plainest evidence of his letters, in identifying him with his father, who bore office under Odovacar (476-493). To do this it was necessary to get rid of the date 480 for the birth of Cassiodorus Senator, and to throw back that event as far as possible. And yet, not even by pushing it back to 468, do they make it reasonably probable that a person, who was only a child of eight years old at Odovacar's accession, could in the course of his short reign (the last four years of which were filled by his struggle with Theodoric) have held the various high offices which were really held during that reign by the father of Senator.

We assume therefore with some confidence the year 480 as the approximate date of the birth of our author; and while we observe that this date fits well with those which the course of history induces us to assign to his ancestors in the three preceding generations, we also note with interest that it was, as nearly as we can ascertain, the year of the birth of two of the most distinguished contemporaries of Cassiodorus: Boethius and Benedict.

Of the training and education of the young Senator we can onty speak from their evident results as displayed in the 'Variae,' to which the reader is accordingly referred. It may be remarked, however, that though he evidently received the usual instruction in philosophy and rhetoric which was given to a young Roman noble aspiring to employment in the Civil Service, there are some indications that the bent of his own genius was towards Natural History, strange and often laughable as are the facts or fictions which this taste of his has caused him to accumulate.

In the year 500, when Senator had just attained the age of twenty, his father, as we have already seen, received from Theodoric the high office of Praetorian Praefect. As a General might make an Aide-de-camp of his son, so the Praefect conferred upon the young Senator the post of Consiliarius, or Assessor in his Court. The Consiliarius had been in the time of the Republic an experienced jurist who sat beside the Praetor or the Consul (who might be a man quite unversed in the law) and advised him as to his judgments. From the time of Severus onwards he became a paid functionary of the Court, receiving a salary which varied from 13 to 72 solidi. At the time which we are now describing it was customary for the Judge to choose his Consiliarius from among the ranks of young jurists who had just completed their studies. The great legal school of Berytus especially furnished a large number of Consiliarii to the Roman Governors. In order to prevent an officer in this position from obtaining an undue influence over the mind of his principal, the latter was forbidden by law to keep a Consiliarius, who was a native of the Province in which he was administering justice, more than four months in his employ. This provision, of course, would not apply when the young Assessor, as in the case of Cassiodorus, came with his father from a distant Province : and in such a case, if the Magistrate died during his year of office, by a special enactment the fairlyearned pay of the Assessor was protected from unjust demands on the part of the Exchequer. The functions thus exercised by Senator in his father's court at Rome, and the title which he bore, were somewhat similar to those which Procopius held in the camp of Belisarius, but doubtless required a more thorough legal training. In our own system, if we could imagine the Judge's Marshal invested with the responsibilities of a Registrar of the Court, we should perhaps get a pretty fair idea of the position and duties of a Roman Consiliarius.

It was while Cassiodorus was holding this agreeable but not important position, that the opportunity came to him, by his dexterous use of which he sprang at one bound into the foremost ranks of the official hierarchy. On some public occasion it fell to his lot to deliver an oration in praise of Theodoric, and he did this with such admirable eloquence, admirable according to the depraved taste of the time that Theodoric at once bestowed upon the orator, still in the first dawn of manhood, the Illustrious office of Quaestor, giving him thereby what we should call Cabinet-rank, and placing him among the ten or eleven ministers of the highest clas , by whom, under the King, the fortunes of the Gothic-Roman State were absolutely controlled.

The Quaestor's duty required him to be beyond all other Ministers the mouthpiece of the Sovereign. In the 'Notitia' the matters under his control are concisely stated to be 'Laws which are to be dictated, and Petitions.'

To him therefore was assigned the duty (which the British Parliament in its folly assigns to no one) of giving a final revision to the laws which received the Sovereign's signature, and seeing that they were consistent with one another and with previous enactments, and were clothed in fitting language. He replied in the Sovereign's name to the petitions which were presented to him. He also, as we learn from Cassiodorus, had audience with the ambassadors of foreign powers, to whom he addressed suitable and stately harangues, or through whom he forwarded written replies to the letters which they had brought, but always of course speaking or writing in the name of his master. In the performance of these duties he had chiefly to rely on his own intellectual resources as a trained jurist and rhetorician. The large official staff which waited upon the nod of the other great Ministers of State was absent from his apartments; but for the mere manual work of copying, filing correspondence, and the like, he could summon the needful number of clerks from the four great bureaux (scrinia) which were under the control of the Master of the Offices.

We have an interesting summary of the Quaestor's duties and privileges from the pen of Cassiodorus himself in the 'Variae' nder the title 'Formula Quaesturae,' and to this document I refer the reader who wishes to complete the picture of the occupations in which the busiest years of the life of Cassiodorus were passed.

To a ruler in Theodoric's position the acquisition of such a Quaestor as Cassiodorus was a most fortunate event. He himself was doubtless unable to speak or to write Latin with fluency. According to the common story, which passes current on the authority of the 'Anonymus Valesii,' he never could learn to write, and had to 'stencil' his signature. I look upon this story with some suspicion, especially because it is also told of his contemporary, the Emperor Justin; but I have no doubt that such literary education as Theodoric ever received was Greek rather than Latin, being imparted during the ten years of his residence as a hostage at Constantinople. Years of marches and counter-marches, of battle and foray, at the head of his Ostrogothic warriors, may well have effaced much of the knowledge thus acquired. At any rate, when he descended the Julian Alps, close upon forty years of age, and appeared for the first time in Italy to commence his long and terrible duel with Odovacar, it was too late to learn the language of her sons in such fashion that the first sentence spoken by him in the Hall of Audience should not betray him to his new subjects as an alien and a barbarian.

Yet Theodoric was by no means indifferent to the power of well-spoken words, by no means unconcerned as to the opinion which his Latin-speaking subjects held concerning him. He was no Cambyses or Timour, ruling by the sword alone. His proud title was 'Gothorum Romanorumque Rex', and the ideal of his hopes, successfully realised during the greater part of his long and tranquil reign, was to be equally the King of either people. He had been fortunate thus far in his Praetorian Praefects. Liberius, a man of whom history knows too little, had amid general applause steered the vessel of the State for the first seven years of the new reign. The elder Casgiodprus, who had succeeded him, seemed likely to follow the same course. But possibly Theodoric had begun to feel the necessity laid upon all rulers of men, not only to be, but also to seem, anxious for the welfare of their subjects. Possibly some dull, unsympathetic Quaestor had failed to present the generous thoughts of the King in a sufficiently attractive shape to the minds of the people. This much at all events we know, that when the young Consiliarius, high-born, fluent, and learned, poured forth his stream of panegyric on 'Our Lord Theodoric' a panegyric which, to an extent unusual with these orations, reflected the real feelings of the speaker, and all the finest passages of which were the genuine outcome of his own enthusiasm the great Ostrogoth recognised at once the man whom he was in want of to be the exponent of his thoughts to the people, and by one stroke of wise audacity turned the boyish and comparatively obscure Assessor into the Illustrious Quaestor, one of the great personages of his realm.

The monument of the official life of Cassiodorus is the correspondence styled the 'Variae,' of which an abstract is now submitted to the reader. There is no need to say much here, either as to the style or the thoughts of these letters; a perusal of a few pages of the abstract will give a better idea of both than an elaborate description. The style is undoubtedly a bad one, whether it be compared with the great works of Greek and Latin literature or with our own estimate of excellence in speech. Scarcely even do we find a thought clothed in clear, precise, closely- fitting words, or a metaphor which really correspond to the abstract idea that is represented by it. We take up sentence after sentence of verbose and flaccid Latin, analyse them with difficulty, and when at last we come to the central thought enshrouded in them, we too often find that it is the merest and most obvious commonplace, a piece of tinsel wrapped in endless folds of tissue paper. Perhaps from one point of view the studyof the style of Cassiodorus might prove useful to a writer of English, as indicating the faults which he has in this age most carefully to avoid. Over and over again, when reading newspaper articles full of pompous words borrowed from Latin through French, when wearied with 'velleities' and 'solidarities' and 'altruisms' and 'homologators,' or when vainly endeavouring to discover the real meaning which lies hidden in a jungle of Parliamentary verbiage, I have said to myself, remembering my similar labour upon the 'Variae,' 'How like this is to Cassiodorus.'

Intellectually one of the chief deficiencies of our author a deficiency in which perhaps his age and nation participated, was a lack of humour. It is difficult to think that anyone who possessed a keen sense of humour could have written letters so drolly unsuited to the character of Theodoric, their supposed author, as are some which we find in the 'Variae.' For instance, the King had reason to complain that Faustus, the Praetorian Praefect, was dawdling over the execution of an order which he had received for the shipment of corn from the regions of Calabria and Apulia to Rome. We find the literary Quaestor putting such words as these into the mouth of Theodoric, when reprimanding the The lazy official : 'Why is there such great delay in sending ayour swift ships to traverse the tranquil seas? Though the the south wind blows and the rowers are bending to their oars, has the sucking-fish fixed its teeth into the hulls through the liquid waves ; or have the shells of the Indian Sea, whose quiet touch is said to hold so firmly that the angry billows cannot loosen it, with like power fixed their lips into your keels'? Idle stands the bark though winged by swelling sails ; the wind favours her but she makes no way; she is fixed without an anchor, she is bound without a cable ; and these tiny animals hinder more than all such prospering circumstances can help. Thus, though the loyal wave may be hastening its course, we are informed that the ship stands fixed on the surface of the sea, and by a strange paradox the swimmer [the ship] is made to remain immovable while the wave is hurried along by movements numberless. Or, to describe the nature of another kind of fish, perchance the sailors in the aforesaid ships have grown dull and torpid by the touch of the torpedo, by which such a deadly chill is struck into the right hand of him who attacks it, that even through the spear by which it is itself wounded, it gives a shock which causes the hand of the striker to remain, though still a living substance, senseless and immovable. I think some such misfortunes as these must have happened to men who are unable to move their own bodies. But I know that in their case the echeneis is corruption trading on delays ; the bite of the Indian shell-fish is insatiable cupidity; the torpedo is fraudulent pretence. With perverted ingenuity they manufacture delays that they may seem to have met with a run of ill-luck. Wherefore let your Greatness, whom it specially concerns to look after such men as these, by a speedy rebuke bring them to a better mind. Else the famine which we fear, will be imputed not to the barrenness of the times but to official negligence, whose true child it will manifestly appear.'

It is not likely that Theodoric ever read a letter like this before affixing to it his (perhaps stencilled) signature. If he did, he must surely have smiled to see his few angry Teutonic words transmuted into this wonderful rhapsody about sucking-fishes and torpedoes and shellfish in the Indian Sea.

The French proverb 'Le style c'est l'homme,' is not altogether true as to the character of Cassiodorus. From his inflated and tawdry style we might have expected to find him an untrustworthy friend and an inefficient administrator. This, however, was not the case. As was before said, his character was not heroic ; he was, perhaps, inclined to humble himself unduly before mere power and rank, and he had the fault, common to most rhetoricians, of over-estimating the power of words and thinking that a few fluent platitudes would heal inveterate discords and hide disastrous blunders. But when we have said this we have said the worst. He was, as far as we have any means of judging, a loyal subject, a faithful friend, a strenuous and successful administrator, and an exceptionally far-sighted statesman. His right to this last designation rests upon the part which he bore in the establishment of the Italian Kingdom 'of the Goths and Romans,' founded by the great Theodoric.

Theodoric, it must always be remembered, had entered Italy not ostensibly as an invader but as a deliverer. He came in pursuance of a compact with the legitimate Emperor of the New Rome, to deliver the Elder Rome and the land of Italy from the dominion of 'the upstart King of Rugians and Turcilingians',Odovacar. The compact, it is true, was loose and indefinite, and contained within itself the germs of that misunderstanding which, forty-seven years later, was developed into a terrible war. Still, for the present, Theodoric, King of the Ostrogoths, was also in some undefined way legitimate representative of the Old Roman Empire within the borders of Italy. This double aspect of his rule was illustrated by that which (rather than the doubtful Rex Italiae) seems to have been his favourite title, 'Gothorum Romanorumque Rex.'

The great need of Italy was peace. After a century of wars and rumours of wars ; after Alaric, Attila, Cand Gaiseric had wasted her fields or sacked her capital; after she had been exhausting her strength in hopeless efforts to preserve the dominion of Gaul, Spain, and Africa; after she had groaned under the exactions of the insolent foederati, Roman soldiers only in name, who followed the standards of Ricimer or Odovacar, she needed peace and to be governed with a strong hand, in order to recover some small part of her old material prosperity. These two blessings, peace and a strong government, Theodoric's rule ensured to her. The theory of his government was this, that the two nations should dwell side by side, not fused into one, not subject either to the other, but the Romans labouring at the arts of peace, the Goths wielding for their defence the sword of war. Over all was to be the strong hand of the King of Goths and Romans, repressing the violence of the one nation, correcting the chicanery of the other, and from one and all exacting the strict observance of that which was the object of his daily and nightly cares, CIVILITAS. Of this civilitas which we may sometimes translate 'good order,' sometimes 'civilisation,' sometimes 'the character of a law-abiding citizen,' but which no English word or phrase fully expresses the reader of the following letters will hear, even to weariness. But though we may be tired of the phrase, we ought none the less to remember that the thing was that which Italy stood most in need of, that it was secured for her during forty years by the labours of Theodoric and Cassiodorus, and that happiness, such as she knew not again for many centuries, was the result.

But the theory of a warrior caste of Goths and a trading and labouring caste of Romans was not flattering to the national vanity of a people who, though they had lost all relish for fighting, could not forget the great deeds of their forefathers. This was no doubt the weak point of the new State-system, though one cannot say that it is a weakness which need have been fatal if time enough had been given for the working out of the great experiment, and for Roman and Goth to become in Italy, as they did become in Spain, one people. The grounds upon which the praise of far-seeing statesmanship may be claimed for Cassiodorus are, that notwithstanding the bitter taste which it must have had in his mouth, as in the mouth of every educated Roman, he perceived that here was the best medicine for the ills of Italy. All attempts to conjure with the great name of the Roman Empire could only end in subjection to the really alien rule of Byzantium. All attempts to rouse the religious passions of the Catholic against the heretical intruders were likely to benefit the Catholic but savage Frank. The cruel sufferings of the Italians at the hands of the Heruli of Belisarius and from the ravages of the Alamannic Brethren are sufficient justification of the soundness of Cassiodorus' view that Theodoric's State-system was the one point of hope for Italy.

Allusion has been made in the last paragraph to the religious differences which divided the Goths from the Italians. It is well known that Theodoric was an Arian, but an Arian of the most tolerant type, quite unlike the bitter persecutors who reigned at Toulouse and at Carthage. During the last few years of his reign, indeed, when his mind was perhaps in some degree failing, he was tempted by the persecuting policy of the Emperor Justin into retaliatory measures of persecution towards his Catholic subjects, but as a rule his policy was eminently fair and even-handed towards the professors of the two hostile creeds, and even towards the generally proscribed nation of the Jews. So conspicuous to all the world was his desire to hold the balance perfectly even between the two communions, that it was said of him that he beheaded an orthodox deacon who was singularly dear to him, because he had professed the Arian faith in order to win his favour. But this story, though told by a nearly contemporary writer 1 , is, it may be hoped, mere Saga.

The point which we may note is, that this policy of toleration or rather of absolute fairness between warring creeds, though not initiated by Cassiodorus, seems to have thoroughly commended itself to his reason and conscience. It is from his pen that we get those golden words which may well atone for many platitudes and some ill-judged display of learning: 'Religionem imperare non possumus, quia nemo cogitur ut credent invitus'. And this tolerant temper of mind is the more to be commended, because it did not proceed from any indifference on his part to the subjects of religious controversy. Cassiodorus was evidently a devout and loyal Catholic. Much the larger part of his writings is of a theological character, and the thirty-five years of his life which he passed in a monastery were evidently

'Bound each to each in natural piety'

with the earlier years passed at Court and in the Council-chamber.

We cannot trace as we should like to do the precise limits of time by which the official career of Cassiodorus was bounded. The 'Various Letters' are evidently not arranged in strict chronological order, and to but few of them is it possible to affix an exact date. There are two or three, however, which require especial notice, because some authors have assigned them to a date previous to that at which, as I believe, the author entered the service of the Emperor.

The first letter of the whole series is addressed to the Emperor Anastasius. It has been sometimes conected with the embassy of Faustus in 493, or with that of Festus in 497, to the Court of Constantinople, the latter of which embassies resulted in the transmission to Theodoric of 'the ornaments of the palace' (that is probably the regal insignia) which Odovacar had surrendered to Zeno. But the language of the letter in question, which speaks of 'causas iracundiae,' does not harmonise well with either of these dates, since there was then, as far as we know, no quarrel between Ravenna and Constantinople. On the other hand, it would fit perfectly with the state of feeling between the two Courts in 505, after Sabinian the general of Anastasius had been defeated by the troops of Theodoric under Pitzias at the battle of Horrea Margi ; or in 508, when the Byzantine ships had made a raid on Apulia and plundered Tarentum. To one of these dates it should probably be referred, its place at the beginning of the collection being due to the exalted rank of the receiver of the letter, not to considerations of chronology.

The fortieth and forty-first letters of the Second Book relate to the sending of a harper to Clovis, or, as Cassiodorus calls him, Luduin, King of the Franks. In the earlier letter Boethius is directed to procure such a harper (citharoedus), and to see that he is a first- rate performer. In the later, Theodoric congratulates his royal brother-in-law on his victory over the Alamanni, adjures him not to pursue the panic-stricken fugitives who have taken refuge within the Ostrogothic territory, and sends ambassadors to introduce the harper whom Boethius has provided. It used to be thought that these letters must be referred to 496, the year of the celebrated victory of Clovis over the Alamanni, commonly, but incorrectly, called the battle of Tulbiacum. But this was a most improbable theory, for it was difficult to understand how a boy of sixteen (and that was the age of Boethius in 496) should have attained such eminence as a musical connoisseur as to be entrusted with the task of selecting the citharoedus. And in a very recent monograph Herr von Schubert has shown, I think convincingly, that the last victory of Clovis over the Alamanni, and their migration to Raetia within the borders of Theodoric's territory, occurred not in 496 but a few years later, probably about 503 or 504. It is true that Gregory of Tours (to whom the earlier battle is all-important, as being the event which brought about the conversion of Clovis) says nothing about this later campaign; but to those who know the fragmentary and incomplete character of this part of his history, such an omission will not appear an important argument.

The letters written in Theodoric's name to Clovis, to Alaric II, to Gundobad of Burgundy, and to other princes, in order to prevent the outbreak of a war between the Visigoths and the Franks, have been by some authors assigned to a date some years before the war actually broke out ; but though this cannot, perhaps, be disproved, it seems to me much more probable that they were written in the early part of 507 on the eve of the war between Clovis and Alaric, which they were powerless to avert.

More difficult than the question of the beginning of the Quaestorship of Cassiodorus is that of its duration ancl its close. It was an office which was in its nature an annual one. At the commencement of each fresh year 'of the Indiction'. that is on the first of September of the calendar year, a Quaestor was appointed; but there does not seem to have been anything to prevent the previous holder of the office from being re-appointed. In the case of Cassiodorus, the Quaestor after Theodoric's own heart, his intimate friend and counsellor, this may have been done for several years running, or he may have apparently retired from office for a year and then resumed it. It is clear, that whether in or out of office he had always, as the King's friend, a large share in the direction of State affairs. He himself says, in a letter supposed to be addressed to himself after the death of Theodoric : 'Non enim proprios fines sub te ulla dignitas custodivit;' and that this was the fact we cannot doubt. Whatever his nominal dignity might be, or if for the moment he possessed no ostensible office at all, he was still virtually what we should call the Prime Minister of the Ostrogothic King.

In the year 514 he received an honour which, notwithstanding that it was utterly divorced from all real authority, was still one of the highest objects of the ambition of every Roman noble: he was hailed as Consul Ordinarius, and gave his name to the year. For some reason which is not stated, possibly because the City of Constantinople was in that year menaced by the insurrection of Vitalian, no colleague in the East was nominated to share his dignity ; and the entry in the Consular Calendars is therefore Senatore solo Consule.'

In his own Chronicle, Cassiodorus adds the words, 'Me etiam Consule in vestrorum laude temporum, adunato clero vel [ = et] populo, Romanae Ecclesiae rediit optata concordia.' This sentence no doubt relates to the dissensions which had agitated the Roman Church ever since the contested Papal election of Symmachus and Laurentius in the year 498. Victory had been assured to Symmachus by the Synod of 501, but evidently the feelings of hatred then aroused had still smouldered on, especially perhaps among the Senators and high nobles of Rome, who had for the most part adopted the candidature of Laurentius. Now, on the death of Symmachus (July 18, 514) the last embers of the controversy were extinguished, and the genial influence of Cassiodorus, Senator by name and Consul by office, was successfully exerted to induce nobles, clergy, and people to unite in electing a new Pope. After eight days Hormisdas the Campanian sat in the Chair of St. Peter, an undoubted Pontiff.

Not only in maintaining the dignity of the Consulship, but also in treating the Roman Senate with every outward show of deference and respect, did the Ostrogothic King follow and even improve upon the example of the Roman Emperors. The student of the following letters will observe the tone of deep respect which is almost always adopted towards the Senate ; how every nomination of importance to an official post is communicated to them, almost as if their suffrages were solicited for the new candidate ; what a show is made of consulting them in reference to peace and war ; and what a reality there seems to be in the appeals made to their loyalty to the new King after the death of Theodoric. In all this, as in the whole relation of the Empire to the Senate during the five centuries of their joint existence, it is difficult to say where well-acted courtesy ended, and where the desire to secure such legal power as yet remained to a venerable assembly began. Perhaps when we remember that for many glorious centuries the Senate had been the real ruler of the Roman State, we may assert that the attitude and the language of the successors of Augustus towards the Conscript Fathers were similar to those used by a modern House of Commons towards the Crown, only that in the one case the individual supplanted the assembly, in the other the assembly supplanted the individual. But whatever the exact relations between King and Senate may have been, and though occasionally the former found it necessary to rebuke the latter pretty sharply for conduct unbecoming their high position, there can be no doubt that the general intention of Theodoric was to soothe the wounded pride and flatter the vanity of the Roman Senators by every means in his power : and for this purpose no one could be so well fitted as Cassiodorus, Senator by name and by office, descendant of many generations of Roman nobles, and master of such exuberant rhetoric that it was difficult then, as it is often impossible now, to extract any definite meaning from his sonorous periods.

It was possibly upon his laying down the Consulship, that Cassiodorus received the dignity of Patrician, a dignity only, for in itself it seems to have conferred neither wealth nor power. Yet a title which had been borne by Ricimer, Odovacar, and Theodoric himself might well excite the ambition of Theodoric's subject. If our conjecture be correct that it was conferred upon Cassiodorus in the year 515, he received it at an earlier age than his father, to whom only about ten or eleven years before he had written the letter announcing his elevation to this high dignity.

Five years after his Consulate, Cassiodorus undertook a little piece of literary labour which he does not appear to have held in high account himself (since he does not include it in the list of his works), and which has cer tainly added but little to his fame. This was his 'Chronicon,' containing an abstract of the history of the world from the deluge down to A.D. 515, the year of the Consulship of the Emperor Justin, and of Theodoric's son-in-law Eutharic. This Chronicle is for the most part founded upon, or rather copied from, the wellknown works of Eusebius and Prosper, the copying being unfortunately not correctly done. More than this, Cassiodorus has attempted with little judgment to combine the mode of reckoning by Consular years and by years of Emperors. As he is generally two or three years out in his reckoning of the former, this proceeding has the curious result of persistently throwing some Consulships of the reigning Emperor into the reign of his predecessor. Thus Probus is Consul for two years under Aurelian, and for one year under Tacitus; both the two Consulships of Carus and the first of Diocletian are under Probus, while Diocletian's second Consulship is under Carinus and Numerianus ; and so forth. It is wonderful that so intelligent a person as Cassiodorus did not see that combinations of this kind were false upon the face of them.

When the Chronicle gets nearer to the compiler's own times it becomes slightly more interesting, but also slightly less fair. Throughout the fourth century a few little remarks are interspersed in the dry list of names and dates, the general tendency of which is to praise up the Gothic nation or to extenuate their faults and reverses. The battle of Pollentia (403) is unhesitatingly claimed as a Gothic victory; the clemency of Alaric at the capture of Rome (410) is magnified; the valour of the Goths is made the cause of the defeat of Attila in the Catalaunian plains (451); the name of Gothic Eutharic is put before that of Byzantine Justin in the consular list; and so forth. Upon the whole, as has been already said, the work cannot be considered as adding to the reputation of its author ; nor can it be defended from the terrible attack which has been made upon it by that scholar of our own day whose opinion upon such a subject stands the highest, Theodor Mommsen. Only, when he makes this unfortunate Chronicle reflect suspicion on the other works of Cassiodorus, and es- pecially on the Gothic History, the German scholar seems to me to chastise the busy Minister more harshly than he deserves.

I have just alluded to the Gothic History of Cassiodorus. It was apparently shortly after the composition of his Chronicle that this, in some respects his most important work, was compiled and arranged according to his accustomed habit in twelve books. His own estimate and it is not a low one of the value of this performance is expressed in a letter which he makes his young Sovereign Athalaric address to the Senate on his promotion to the Praefecture: 'He extended his labours even to our remote ancestry, learning by his reading that which scarcely the hoar memories of our forefathers retained. He drew forth from their hiding-place the Kings of the Goths, hidden by long forgetfulness. He restored the Amals to their proper place with the lustre of his own lineage (?), evidently proving that up to the seventeenth generation we have had kings for our ancestors. He made the origin of the Goths a part of Roman history, collecting as it were into one wreath all the flowery growth which had before been scattered through the plains of many books. Consider therefore what love he showed to you [the Senate] in praising us, he who showed that the nation of your Sovereign had been from antiquity a marvellous people; so that ye, who from the days of your forefathers have ever been deemed noble, are yet ruled over by the ancient progeny of Kings'.

In reading this estimate by Cassiodorus of his own performance, we can see at once that it lacked that first of all conditions precedent for the attainment of absolute historic truth, complete impartiality. Like Hume and like Macaulay Cassiodorus wrote his history with a purpose. We may describe that purpose as two-fold:

(1) To vindicate the claim of the Goths to rank among the historic nations of antiquity by bringing them into some sort of connection with Greece and Rome; and (2) among the Goths, to exalt as highly as possible the family of the Amals, that family from which Theodoric had sprung, and to string as many regal names as possible upon the Amal chain.

I have said that the possession of a purpose like this is unfavourable to the attainment of absolute historic truth; but the aim which Cassiodorus proposed to himself was a lofty one, being in fact the reconciliation of the past and the future of the world by showing to the outworn Latin race that the new blood which was being poured into it by the northern nations came, like its own, from a noble ancestry: and, for us, the labour to which it stimulated him has been full of profit, since to it we owe something like one half of our knowledge of the Teutonic ancestors of Modern Europe.

The much-desired object of 'making the origin of Gothic history Roman' was effected chiefly by attributing to the Goths all that Cassiodorus found written in classic authors concerning the Getae or the Scythians. The confusion between Goths and Getae, though modern ethnologists are nearly unanimous in pronouncing it to be a confusion between two utterly different nations, is not one for which Cassiodorus is responsible, since it had been made at least a hundred years before his time. When the Emperor Claudius II won his great victories over the Goths in the middle of the Third Century, he was hailed rightly enough by the surname of Gothicus; but when at the beginning of the Fifth Century the feeble Emperors Arcadius and Honorius wished to celebrate a victory which, as they vainly hoped, had effectually broken the power of the Goths, the words which they inscribed upon the Arch of Triumph were 'Quod Getarum nationem in omne aevum docuere extingui.' In the poems of Claudian, and generally in all the contemporary literature of the time, the regular word for the countrymen of Alaric is Getae.

The Greek historians, on the other hand, freely applied the general term Scythian, as they had done at any time ince the Scythian campaign of Darius Hystaspis, to any barbarian nation living beyond the Danube and the Cimmerian Bosporus. With these two clues, or imaginary clues, in his hand, Cassiodorus could traverse a considerable part of the border-land of classical antiquity. The battles between the Scythians and the Egyptians, the story of the Amazons, Telephus son of Hercules and nephew of Priam, the defeat of Cyrus by Tomyris, and the unsuccessful expedition of Darius all were connected with Gothic history by means of that easily stretched word, Scythia. Then comes Sitalces, King of Thrace, who makes war on Perdiccas of Macedon; and then, 'in the time of Sylla,' a certain wise philosopher-king of Dacia, Diceneus by name, in whose character and history Cassiodorus perhaps outlined his own ideal of wisdom swaying brute force. With these and similar stories culled from classical authors Cassiodorus appears to have filled up the interval which was to him of absolutely uncertain duration between the Gothic migration from the Baltic to the Euxine and their appearance as conquerors and ravagers in the eastern half of the Roman Empire in the middle of the third century of the Christian era. Now, soothing as it may have been to the pride of a Roman subject of Theodoric to be informed that his master's ancestors had fought at the war of Troy and humbled the pride of Perdiccas, to a scientific historian these Scytho-Getic histories culled from Herodotus and Trogus are of little or no value, and his first step in the process of enquiry is to eliminate them from 'Gothica historia,' thus making it, as far as he can, not 'Romana.' The question then arises whether there was another truly Gothic element in the history of Cassiodorus, and if so, what value can be attached to it. Thus enquiring we soon find, both before and after this intrusive ScythoGetic element, matter of quite a different kind, which has often much of the ring of the true Teutonic Saga. It is reasonable to believe that here Cassiodorus, whose mission it was to reconcile Roman and Goth, and who could not have achieved this end by altering the history of the less civilised people out of all possibility of recognition by its own chieftains and warriors, has really interwoven in his work some part of the songs and Sagas which were still current among the older men who had shared the wanderings of Theodoric. This legendary portion, which Cassiodorus himself perhaps half despised, as being gathered not from books but from the lips of rude minstrels, is in fact the only part of his work which has any scientific value.

In his glorification of the Amal line, Cassiodorus follows more closely these genuine national traditions than in his history of the Gothic people. References to Herodotus and Trogus would have been here obviously out of place, and he accordingly puts before us a pedigree fashioned on the same model as those which we find in the Saxon Chronicle, and therefore probably genuine. By genuine of course is meant a pedigree which was really current and accepted among the people over whom Theodoric ruled. How many of the links which form it represent real historical personages is a matter about which we may almost be said neither to know nor care. We see that it begins in the approved fashion with 'Non puri homines sed semidei id est Anses,' and that the first of these half-divine ancestors is named Gaut, evidently the eponymous hero of the Gothic people. Some of the later links : Amal, Ostrogotha, Athal. have the same appearance of names coined to embody facts of the national consciousness. At the end of the genealogy appear the undoubtedly historical names of the immediate ancestors of Theodoric. It is noteworthy that several, in fact the majority of the names of Kings who figure in early Gothic history, are not included in this genealogy. While this fact permits us to doubt whether Cassiodorus has not exaggerated the pre-eminence of the Amal race in early days, it must be admitted to be also an evidence of the good faith with which he preserved the national tradition on these points. Had he been merely inventing, it would have been easy to include every name of a distinguished Gothic King among the progenitors of his Sovereign.

Such then was the general purpose of the Gothic History of Cassiodorus. The book itself has perished, a tantalising loss when we consider how many treatises from the same pen have been preserved to us which we could well have spared. But we can speak, as will be seen from the preceding remarks, with considerable confidence as to its plan and purpose, because we possess in the well-known treatise of Jordanes 'On the Origin o of the Goths' an abbreviated copy, executed it is true by a very inferior hand, but still manifestly preserving some of the features of the original. It will not be necessary here to go into the difficult question as to the personality of this writer, which has been debated at considerable length and with much ingenuity by several German authors. It is enough to say that Jordanes, who was, according to his own statement, 'agrammatus,' a man of Gothic descent, a notary, and then a monk , on the alleged request of his friend Castalius, 'compressed the twelve books of Senator, de origine actibusque Getarum, bringing down the history from olden times to our own days by kings and generations, into one little pamphlet.' Still, according to his statement, which there can be little doubt is here thoroughly false, he had the loan of the Gothic History for only three days from the steward of Cassiodorus, and wrote chiefly or entirely from his recollection of this hasty perusal. He says that he added some suitable passages from the Greek and Latin historians, but his own range of historical reading was evidently so narrow that we may fairly suspect these additions to have been of the slenderest possible dimensions. Upon the whole, there can be little doubt that it is a safe rule to attribute everything that is good or passable in this little treatise to Cassiodorus, and everything that is very bad, childish, and absurd in it to Jordanes.

The literary labours of Cassiodorus, of which thGe othic History was one of the fruits, were probably continued for two or three years after its completion. At least there is reason to believe that he was not actively engaged in the service of the State during those terrible years (524 and 525) in which the failing intellect of Theodoric, goaded almost to madness by Justin's persecution of his Arian co-religionists, condescended to ignoble measures of retaliation, which brought him into collision with Senate and Pope, and in the end tarnished his fame by the judicial murder of Boethius and Symmachus. It was fortunate indeed for Cassiodorus if he was during this time, perhaps because of his unwillingness to help the King to his own hurt, enjoying an interval of literary retirement at Squillace. His honour must have suffered if he had abetted the intolerant policy of Theodoric; his life might have been forfeit if he had openly opposed it.

Whatever may have been the cause of the temporary obscuration of Cassiodorus, he was soon again shining in all the splendour of official dignity ; for when Theodoric died, his old and trusted minister was holding, probably not for the first time in his official career, the great Place of Master of the Offices.

The Magister Officiorum, whose relation to the other members of the Cabinet of the Sovereign was somewhat indefinite, and who was in fact constantly trying to enlarge the circle of his authority at their expense, was at the head of the Civil Service of the Roman Empire, and afterwards occupied a similar position in the Ostrogothic State. It was said of him by the Byzantine orator Priscus (himself a man who had been engaged in important embassies), 'Of all the counsels of the Emperor the Magister is a partaker, inasmuch as the messengers and interpreters and the soldiers employed on guard at the palace are ranged under him.' Quite in harmony with this general statement are the more precise indications of the 'Notitia.' There, 'under the disposition of the illustrious Magister Officiorum,' we find five Scholae, which seem to have been composed of household troops. Then comes the great Schola of the Agentes in rebus and their deputies a mighty army of 'king's messengers,' who swarmed through all the Provinces of the Empire, executing the orders of the Sovereign, and earning gold and hatred from the helpless Provincials among whom their errands lay. In addition to these the four great stationary bureaux the Scrinium Memoriae, Scrinium Dispositionum, Scrinium Epistolarum, and Scrinium Libellorum the offices whose duty it was to conduct the correspondence of the Sovereign with foreign powers, and to answer the petitions of his own subjects, all owned the Master of the Offices as their head. Moreover, the great arsenals (of which there were six in Italy, at Concordia, Verona, Mantua, Cremona, Ticinum, and Lucca) received their orders from the same official. An anomalous and too widely dispersed range of functions this seems according to our ideas, including something of the Secretaryship for Foreign Affairs, something of the Home Secretaryship, and something of the War Office and the Horse Guards. Yet, as if this were not enough, there was also transferred to him from the office of the Praetorian Praefect the superintendence of the Cursus Publicus, that excellent institution by which facilities for intercourse were provided between the capital and the most distant Provinces, relays of post-horses being kept at every town, available for use by those who bore properly signed 'letters of evection.' Thus to the multifarious duties of the Master of the Offices was added in effect the duty of Postmaster-General. It was found however in practice to be an inconvenient arrangement for the Master of the Offices to have the control of the services of the 'public horses,' while the Praetorian Praefect remained responsible for the supply of their food ; and the charge of the Cursus Publicus was accordingly retransferred at any rate in the Eastern Empire to the office of the Praefect, though the letters of evection still required the counter-signature of the Master .

Such was the position of Cassiodorus when, on the Death 3oth of August, 526, by the death of Theodoric, he lost the master whom he had served so long and so faithfully. The difficulties which beset the new reign are pretty clearly indicated in the letters which Cassiodorus published in the name of the young King Athalaric, Theodoric's grandson, and which are to be found in the Eighth Book of the 'Variae.' Athalaric himself being only a boy of eight or ten years of age, supreme power was vested in his mother Amalasuentha, with what title we are unable to say, but apparently not with that of Queen. This Princess, a woman of great and varied accomplishments, perhaps once a pupil, certainly a friend, of Cassiodorus, ruled entirely in accordance with the maxims of his statesmanship, and endeavoured with female impulsiveness to carry into effect his darling scheme of Romanising the Goths. During the whole of her regency we may doubtless consider Cassiodorus as virtually her Prime Minister, and the eight years which it occupied were without doubt that portion of his life in which he exercised the most direct and unquestioned influence on State affairs.

His services at the commencement of the new reign will be best described in his own words : 'Nostris quoque to the principiis... ' (the letter is written in Athalaric's name) quanto se labore concessit, cum novitas regni multa posceret ordinari ? Erat solus ad universa sufficiens. Ipsum dictatio publica, ipsum consilia nostra poscebant ; et labore ejus actum est ne laboraret imperium. Reperimus eum quidem Magistrum sed implevit nobis Quaestoris officium: et mercedes justissima devotione persolvens, cautelam, quam ab auctore nostro didicerat, libenter haeredis utilitatibus exhibebat'.

Cassiodorus then goes on to describe how he laboured for his young Sovereign with the sword as well as with the pen. Some hostile invasion was dreaded, perhaps from the Franks, or, more probably, from the Vandals, whose relations with the Ostrogoths at that time were strained, owing to the murder of Theodoric's sister Amalafrida by Hilderic the Vandal King. Cassiodorus provided ships and equipped soldiers at his own expense, probably for the defence of his beloved Province of Bruttii. The alarm of war passed away, but difficulties appear to have arisen owing to the sudden cancellation of the contracts which had been entered into when hostilities seemed imminent; and to these difficulties Cassiodorus tells us that he brought his trained experience as an administrator and a judge, resolving them so as to give satisfaction to all who were concerned.

Seven years of Amalasuentha's regency thus passed, and now at length, at fifty-three years of age, Cassiodorus was promoted (Sept. 1, 533) to the most distinguished place which a subject could occupy. He received from Amalasuentha the office of Praetorian Praefect. As thirty-three years had elapsed since his father was invested with the same dignity, we may fairly conjecture that father and son both climbed this eminence at the same period of their lives; yet, considering the extraordinary credit which the younger Cassiodorus enjoyed at Court, we might have expected that he would have been clothed with the Praefecture before he attained the fifty-third year of his age. And, in fact, he hints in the letter composed by him, in which he informs himself of his own elevation, that that elevation had been somewhat too long delayed, though the reason which he alleges for the delay (namely, that the people might greet the new Praefect the more heartily ) is upon the face of it not the true cause.

The majesty of the Praetorian Praefect's office is fully dwelt upon and its functions described in a letter in the following collection, to which the reader is referred. Originally only the chief officer of those Praetorian troops in Rome by whom the Emperor was guarded, until, as was so often the case, he was in some fit of petulance by the same pampered sentinels dethroned, the Praefectus Praetorio had gradually become more and more of a judge, less and less of a soldier. In the great changes wrought by Constantine the Praetorian guards disappeared somewhat in the same fashion after which the Janissaries were removed by Sultan Mahmoud. The Praetorian Praefect's dignity, however, survived, and though he lost every shred of military command he became or continued to be the first civil servant of the Empire. Cassiodorus is fond of comparing him to Joseph at the Court of Pharaoh, nor is the comparison an inapt one. In the Constantinople of our own day the Grand Vizier holds a position not altogether unlike that which the Praefect held in the Court of Arcadius and Theodosius. The office of this Praefect,' said one who had spent his life as one of his subordinates, 'is like the Ocean, encircling all other offices and ministering to all their needs. The Consulate is indeed higher in rank than the Praefecture, but less in power. The Praefect wears a mandye, or woollen cloak, dyed with the purple of Cos, and differing from the Emperor's only in the fact that it reaches not to the feet but to the knees. Girt with his sword he takes his seat as President of the Senate. When that body has assembled, the chiefs of the army fall prostrate before the Praefect, who raises them and kisses each in turn, in order to express his desire to be on good terms with the military power. Nay, even the Emperor himself walks (or till lately used to walk) on foot from his palace to meet the Praefect as he moves slowly towards him at the head of the Senate. The insignia of the Praefect's office are his lofty chariot, his golden reedcase [pen-holder], weighing one hundred pounds, his massive silver inkstand, and silver bowl on a tripod of the same metal to receive the petitions of suitors. Three official yachts wait upon his orders, and convey him from the capital to the neighbouring Provinces.

The personage thus highly placed had a share in the government of the State, a share which the Master of the Offices was for ever trying to diminish, but which, in the hands of one who like Cassiodorus was persona grata at the Court, might be made not only important but predominant. The chief employment, however, of the ordinary Praefectus Praetorio consisted in hearing appeals from the Governors of the Provinces. When the magical words 'Provoco ad Caesarem' had been uttered, it was in most cases before the Praetorian Praefect that the appeal was practically heard; and when the Praetorian Praefect had pronounced his decision no appeal from that was permitted, even to the Emperor himself. .

Cassiodorus held the post of Praetorian Praefect, amid arious changes in the fortunes of the State, from 533 to 538, or perhaps a year or two longer. Of his activity in the domain of internal administration, the Eleventh and Twelfth Books of the 'Variae' give a vivid and interesting picture. Unfortunately, neither those books nor the Tenth Book of the same collection, which contains the letters written by him during the same time in the names of the successive Gothic Sovereigns, give any sufficient information as to the real course of public events. Great misfortunes, great crimes, and the movements of great armies are covered over in these documents by a veil of unmeaning platitudes and hypocritical compliments. In order to enable the student to 'read between the lines,' and to pierce through the verbiage of these letters to the facts which they were meant to hint at or to conceal, it will be necessary briefly to describe the political history of the period as we learn it from the narratives of Procopius and Jordanes narratives which may be inaccurate in a few minor details but are doubtless correct in their main outlines.

The Romanising policy of the cultivated but somewhat self-willed Princess Amalasuentha met with considerable opposition on the Part of her Gothic subjects. Above all, they objected to the bookish education which she was giving to her son, the young King. They declared that it was entirely contrary to the maxims of Theodoric that a young Goth should be trembling before the strap of a pedagogue when he ought to be learning to look unfalteringly on spear and sword. These representations were so vigorously made, and by speakers of such high rank in the State, that Amalasuentha was compelled to listen to them, to remove her son from the society of his teachers, and to allow him to associate with companions of his own age, who, not being wisely chosen, soon initiated him in every kind of vice and dissipation.

The Princess, who had not forgiven the leaders of the Gothic party for their presumptuously offered counsels, singled out three of the most powerful nobles who were at the head of that party and sent them into honourable to death, banishment at the opposite ends of Italy. Finding, however, that they were still holding communication with one another, she sent to the Emperor Justinian to ask if he would give her an asylum in his dominions if she required it, and then gave orders for the secret assassination of the three noblemen. The coup d'état succeeded : she had no need to flee the country ; and the ship bearing the royal treasure, which amounted to 40,000 pounds weight of gold, which she had sent to Dyrrhachium to await her possible night, was ordered to return home. Athalaric's health was now rapidly failing, owing to his licentious excesses, and Amalasuentha, fearing that after his death her own life might be in danger, began again secretly to negotiate with Justinian for the entire surrender of the kingdom of Italy into his hands, on receiving an assurance of shelter and maintenance at the Court of Byzantium. These negotiations were masked by others of a more public kind, in which Justinian claimed the Sicilian fortress of Lilybaeum, which had once belonged to the Vandals; insisted on the surrender of some Huns, deserters from the army of Africa; and demanded redress for the sack by the Goths of the Moesian city of Gratiana. These claims Amalasuentha met publicly with a reply as brave and uncompromising as her most patriotic subjects could desire, but in private, as has been already said, she was prepared, for an adequate assurance of personal safety, to barter away all the rights and liberties of her Italian subjects, Roman as well as Gothic, and to allow her father's hard-earned kingdom to sink into a mere dependency of Constantinople.

Such was the position of affairs when on the 2nd October 534, little more than a year after Cassiodorus had donned the purple of the Praefect, Athalaric died, and by his death the whole attitude of the parties to the negotiations was changed. The power to rule, and with it the very power to make terms of any kind with the Emperor, was in danger of slipping from the hands of Amalasuentha. The principle of female sovereignty was barely accepted by any Teutonic tribe. Evidently the Ostrogoths had not accepted it, or Amalasuentha would have ruled as Queen in her own right instead of as Regent for her son. In order to strengthen her position, and ensure her acceptance as Sovereign by the Gothic warriors, she decided to associate with herself, not in matrimony, for he was already married, but in regal partnership, her cousin Theodahad, the nearest male heir of Theodoric, and to mount the throne together with him. Previously, however, to announcing this scheme in public, she sent for Theodahad and exacted from him 'tremendous oaths' that if he were chosen King he would be satisfied with the mere name of royalty, leaving her as much of the actual substance of power as she possessed at that moment.

The partnership-royalty and the oath of self-abnegation associates were the desperate expedients of a woman who knew herself to have mighty enemies among her subjects, and who felt power slipping from her grasp. With one side of her character her new partner could sympathise ; for Theodahad, though sprung from the loins of Gothic warriors, was a man of some literary culture, who preferred poring over the 'Republic ' of Plato to heading a charge of the Gothic cavalry. But his acquaintance with Latin and Greek literature had done nothing to ennoble his temper or expand his heart. A cold, hard, avaricious soul, he had been entirely bent on adding field to field and removing his neighbour's landmark, until the vast possessions which he had received from the generosity of Theodoric should embrace the whole of the great Tuscan plain. It will be seen by referring to two letters in the following collection that Theodoric himself had twice employed the pen of Cassiodorus to rebuke the rapacity of his nephew ; and at a more recent date, since the beginning of Athalaric's illness, Amalasuentha had been compelled by the complaints of her Tuscan subjects to issue a commission of enquiry, which had found Theodahad guilty of the various acts of land-robbery which had been charged against him, and had compelled him to make restitution.

The new Queen persuaded herself, and tried to persuade her cousin, that this ignominious sentence had in some way put the subject of it straight with the world, and had smoothed his pathway to the throne. She trusted to his gratitude and his tremendous oaths for her own undisturbed position at the helm of the State, but she found before many months of the joint reign had passed that the reed upon which she was leaning was about to pierce her hand. Only four letters, it will be seen, of the following collection were written by order of Amalasuentha after the commencement of the joint reign. Soon Theodahad felt himself strong enough to hurl from the throne the woman who had dared to compel him to draw back the boundary of his Tuscan latifundium. The relations of the three noblemen whom Amalasuentha had put to death gathered gladly round him, eager to work out the blood-feud; and by their help he slew many of the strongest supporters of the Queen, and shut her up in prison in a little lonely island upon the lake of Vulsinii. This event took place on the 3oth of April, 535, not quite seven months after the death of Athalaric.

During all these later months there had been a perpetual flux and reflux of diplomatic communications between Ravenna and Constantinople. The different stages of the negotiations are marked, apparently with clearness, by Procopius ; but it is not always easy to harmonise them with the letters published by Cassiodorus, who either did not write, or shrank from republishing, some of the most important letters to the Emperor. This remark applies to the missive which was probably taken by the Senators Liberius and Opilio, who were now sent by Theodahad to Justinian to apologise for the imprisonment of Amalasuentha, and to promise that she should receive no injury. MeanwhilePeter, a rhetorician and an ex-Consul, was travelling from Constantinople with a commission the character of which was being constantly changed by the rapid current of events. He started with instructions to complete the transaction with Amalasuentha as to the surrender of Italy, and to buy from Theodahad, who was still a private individual, his possessions in Tuscany. Soon after his departure he met the ambassadors, who told him of the death of Athalaric and the accession of Theodahad. On the shores of the Hadriatic he heard of Amalasuentha's captivity. He waited for further instructions from his master, and on his arrival at Ravenna he found that all was over. The letter which he was to have handed to the deposed Queen, assuring her of Justinian's protection, was already obsolete. The kinsmen of the three nobles had been permitted or encouraged by Theodahad to end the bloodfeud bloodily. They had repaired to the Lake of Vulsini and murdered Amalasuentha in her bath. The Byzantine ambassador sought the presence of the King, boldly denounced his wicked deed, and declared on the part of his master a war which would be waged without truce or treaty till Amalasuentha was avenged. Thus began the eighteen years' war between Justinian and the Ostrogoths.

It might certainly have been expected that a statesman who had been honoured with the intimate friendship of Theodoric and his daughter, even if unable to avenge her death, would have refused to serve in the Cabinet of her murderer. It is i accordingly with a feel- ing of painful surprise that ee find Cassiodorus still holding the Secretary's pen, and writing letter after letter (they form the majority of the documents in the Tenth Book of the 'Variae') in the name of Theodahad and his wife Gudelina. Dangers no doubt were thickening round his beloved Italy. He may have thought that whoever wore the Gothic crown, Duty forbade him to quit the Secretum at Ravenna just when war with the Empire was becoming every day more imminent. On the other hand, the Praetorian Praefecture, the object of a life's ambition, was now his, but had been his only for two years. It was hard to lay aside the purple mandye while the first gloss was yet upon it; hard to have to fall back into the ranks of the ordinary senators, and no longer to receive the reverent saluta- tions of the chiefs of the army when he entered the hall of meeting. Whether the public good or the private advantage swayed him most who shall say ? There are times when patriotism calls for the costliest sacrifice which a statesman can make the sacrifice, apparently, of his own honour. The man who has made such a sacrifice must be content to be misjudged by his fellow-men. Certainly, to us the one stain upon an otherwise pure reputation seems to be found in the service, the apparently willing service, which in the Tenth Book of his letters Cassiodorus renders to Theodahad.

Throughout the latter half of 535, Belisarius in Sicily and Mundus in Dalmatia were warring for Justinian against Theodahad. The rhetorician Peter, who had boldly rebuked the Gothic King for the murder of his benefactress, and had on his master's behalf denounced a truceless war against him, still lingered at his Court. Theodahad, who during part of the summer and autumn of 535 seems to have been at Rome, not at Ravenna, was more than half inclined to resume his old negotiations with the Emperor, and either to purchase peace by sinking into the condition of a tributary, or to sell his kingdom outright for a revenue of 48,000 a year and a high place among the nobles of the Empire. Procopius gives us a vivid and detailed narrative of the manner in which these negotiations were conducted by Theodahad, who was perpetually wavering between arrogance and timidity ; trembling at the successes of Belisarius, elated by any victory which his generals might win in Dalmatia; and who at length, upon receiving the tidings of the defeat and death of Mundus, broke off the negotiations altogether, and shut up Peter and his colleague Athanasius in prison.

Here again, while not doubting the truth of the narrative of Procopius, I do not find it possible exactly as to to fit in the letters written by Cassiodorus for Theodahad with the various stages of the negotiation as described by him. Especially the striking letter of the King to the Emperor, striking by reason of its very abjectness, which is quoted by Procopius in the sixth hapter of his First Book, appears to be entirely unrepresented in the collection of Cassiodorus. Evidently all this part of the ' Variae ' has been severely edited by its author, who has expunged all that seemed to reflect too great discredit on the Sovereign whom he had once served, and has preserved only some letters written to Justinian and Theodora by Theodahad and his wife, vaguely praising peace, and beseeching the Imperial pair to restore it to Italy; letters which, as it seems to me, may be applied with about equal fitness to any movement of the busy shuttle of diplomacy backwards and forwards between Ravenna and Constantinople.

The onward march of Belisarius trampled all the combinations of diplomatists into the dust. In the early part of July, 536, he had succeeded in capturing the important city of Neapolis, and had begun to threaten Rome. The Gothic warriors, disgusted at the incapacity of their King, and probably suspecting his disloyalty to the nation, met (August, 536) under arms upon the plain of Regeta, deposed Theodahad, and elected a veteran named Witigis as his successor. Witigis at once ordered Theodahad to be put to death, and being himself of somewhat obscure lineage, endeavoured to strengthen his title to the crown by marrying Matasuentha, the sister of Athalaric and the only surviving descendant of Theodoric.

Whether Cassiodorus had any hand in this revolution, Lwhich was pre-eminently a Gothic movement, we cannot tell; but certainly one of the best specimens of his letters is that written in the name of the new King, in which he makes Witigis thus speak, 'Universis Gothis', not as Theodoric had so often ' spoken, 'Universis Gothis et Romanis.

We have only five letters written by Cassiodorus for Witigis (who reigned from August, 536, to May 3, 540). One has been already described. All the other fouro are concerned with negotiations for peace with Justinian, and may probably be referred to the early part of the new reign.

It will be seen that the letters written by Cassiodorus for the Sovereign during the five years following the death of Athalaric are few and somewhat unsatisfactory. But, on the other hand, it was just during these years that he wrote in his own name as Praetorian Praefect the letters which are comprised in the Eleventh and Twelfth Books of his collection, and which are in some respects the most interesting of the whole series. There is a strong probability that he was not present at the long siege of Rome (March, 537, to March, 538), nor is it likely that he, an elderly civilian, would take much part in any of the warlike operations that followed. Upon the whole, it seems probable that during the greater part of this time Cassiodorus was, to the best of his power, keeping the civil administration together by virtue of his own authority as Praetorian Praefect, without that constant reference to the wishes of the Sovereign which would have been necessary under Theodoric and his daughter. Perhaps, in the transitional state of things which then prevailed in Italy, with the power of the Gothic sceptre broken but the sway of the Roman Caesar not yet firmly established in its stead, men of all parties and both nationalities were willing that as much as possible of the routine of government should be carried on by a statesman who was Roman by birth and culture, but who had been the trusted counsellor of Gothic Kings.

I have endeavoured as far as possible to fix the dates of these later letters. It will be seen that we have one probably belonging to the year 536, five to 537, and one (possibly) to 538. These later letters refer chiefly to the terrible famine which followed in the train of the war, and of which Cassiodorus strenuously laboured to mitigate the severity.

It is possible that the Praefect may have continued to hold office down to the capture of Ravenna in May, 540, which made Witigis a prisoner, and seemed to bring the Ostrogothic monarchy to an end. Upon the whole, however, it is rather more probable that in the year 538 or 539 he finally retired from public life. The dates of his letters will show that there is nothing in them which forbids us to accept this conclusion ; and the fact, if it be a fact, that in 540, when Belisarius, with his Secretary Procopius in his train, made his triumphal entry into Ravenna, the late Praefect was no longer there, but in his native Province of Bruttii, a little lessens the difficulty of that which still remains most difficult of comprehension, the entire omission from Procopius' History of the Gothic War of all mention of the name of Cassiodorus.

The closing years of the veteran statesman's tenure of office were years of some literary activity. It was in them that he was collecting, and to some extent probably revising, the letters which appear in the following collection. His motives for publishing this monument of his official life are sufficiently set forth in the two prefaces, one prefixed to the First Book and the other to the Eleventh. Much emphasis is laid on the entreaties of his friends, the regular excuse, in the sixth century as in the nineteenth, for an author or a politician doing the very thing which most pleases his own vanity. A worthier reason probably existed in the author's natural desire to vindicate his own consistency, by showing that the influence which for more than thirty years he had wielded in the councils of the Gothic Sovereigns had been uniformly exerted on the side of law and order and just government, directed equally to the repression of Teutonic barbarism and the punishment of Roman venality.

The question how far the letters which now appear in the 'Variae' really reproduce the actual documents oriinally issued by Cassiodorus is one which has been a were good deal discussed by scholars, but with no very definite result. It is, after all, a matter of conjecture; and every student who peruses the following letters is entitled to form his own conjecture especially as to those marvellous digressions on matters of Natural History, Moral Philosophy, and the like whether they were veritably included in the original letters that issued from the Royal Secretum, and were carried over Italy by the Cursus Publicus. My own conjecture is, that though they may have been a little amplified and elaborated, substantially they were to be found in those original documents. The age was pedantic and half-educated, and had lost both its poetic inspiration and its faculty of humour ; and I fear that these marvellous letters were read by the officials to whom they were addressed with a kind of stolid admiration, provoking neither the smile of amusement nor the shrug of impatience which are their rightful meed.

The reader will observe that in many, in fact most of the letters, which were meant to serve as credentials to ambassadors or commissions to civil servants, no names are inserted, but we have instead only the tantalising formula, 'Ilium atque Ilium,' which I have generally translated, 'A and B.' This circumstance has also been much commented upon, but without our arriving at any very definite result. All that can be said is, that Cassiodorus must have formed his collection of State-papers either from rough drafts in his own possession, or from copies preserved in the public archives, and that, from whichsoever source he drew, the names in that source had not been preserved : a striking comment on the rhetorical unbusinesslike character of the Royal and Imperial Chanceries of that day, in which words were deemed of more importance than things, and the flowers of speech which were showered upon the performer of some piece of public business were preserved, while the name of the performer was forgotten.

As soon as he had finished the collection of the 'Variae,' the Praefect, again in obedience to the entreaties of his friends, composed a short philosophic treatise on the Nature of the Soul ( De Anima ). As he said, it seems an absurd thing to treat as a stranger and an unknown quantity the very centre of our being ; to seek to understand the height of the air, the extent of the earth, the causes of storms and earthquakes, and the nature of the wandering winds, and yet to leave the faculty, by which we grasp all this knowledge, itself uncomprehended. He therefore sets himself to enquire, in twelve chapters :

1. Why the Soul is called Anima?

2. What is the definition of the Soul ?

3. What is its substantial quality ?

4. If it is to be believed to have any shape ?

5. What moral virtues it has which contribute to its glory and its adornment ?

6. What are its natural virtues [or powers], given to enable it to hold together the framework of the body?

7. Concerning the origin of the Soul.

8. What is its especial seat, since it appears to be in a certain sense diffused over the whole body ?

9. Concerning the form and composition of the body itself.

10. Sufficient signs by which we may discern what properties the souls of sinners possess.

11. Similar signs by which we may distinguish the souls of righteous men, since we cannot see them with our bodily eyes.

12. Concerning the Soul's state after death, and how it will be affected by the general resurrection.

The treatise ends with a prayer to Christ to preserve the body in good health, that it may be in tune with the harmony of the soul ; to give reason the ascendancy over the flesh ; and to keep the mind in happy equipoise, neither so strong as to be puffed up with pride, nor so languid as to fail of its proper powers.

The line of thought indicated by the 'De Anima' led, in such a country as Italy, at such a time as the Gothic War, to one inevitable end the : cloister. It can have surprised none of the friends of Cassiodorus when the veteran statesman announced his intention of spending the remainder of his days in monastic retirement. He was now sixty years of age ; his wife, if he had ever married, was probably by this time dead; and we hear nothing of any children for whose sake he need have remained longer in the world. The Emperor would probably have received him gladly into his service, but Cassiodorus had now done with politics. The dream of his life had been to build up an independent Italian State, strong with the strength of the Goths, and wise with the wisdom of the Romans. That dream was now scattered to the winds. Providence had made it plain that not by this bridge was civilisation to pass over from the Old World to the New. Cassiodorus accepted the decision, and consecrated his old age to religious meditation and to a work even more important than any of his political labours (though one which must be lightly touched on here), the preservation by the pens of monastic copyists of the Christian Scriptures, and of the great works of classical antiquity.

It was to his ancestral Scyllacium that Cassiodorus retired; and here, between the mountains of Aspromonte and the sea, he founded his monastery, or, more accurately, his two monasteries, one for the austere hermit, and the other for the less aspiring coenobite. The former was situated among the sweet recesses of Mons Castellius, the latter among the well-watered gardens which took their name from the Vivaria (fish-ponds) that Cassiodorus had constructed among them in connection with the river Pellena. Baths, too, especially intended for the use of the sick, had been prepared on the banks of the stream. Here in monastic simplicity, but not without comfort, Cassiodorus ordained that his monks should dwell. The Rule of the order in so far as it had a written Rule was drawn from the writings of Cassian, the great founder of Western Monachism, who had died about a century before the Vivarian monastery was founded. In commending the writings of Cassian to the study of his monks, Cassiodorus warns them against the bias shown in them towards the SemiPelagian heresy, and desires them to choose the good in those treatises and to refuse the evil. Whatever the reason may have been, it seems clear that Cassiodorus did not make the Rule of Benedict the law of his new monastery; and indeed, strange as the omission may appear, there is, I believe, no allusion to that great con- temporary Saint, the Father of Monks,' in the whole of his writings.

Though the founder and patron of these two monasteries, it seems probable that Cassiodorus never formally assumed the office of Abbot in either of them. He had probably still some duties to perform as a large landholder in Bruttii ; but besides these he had also work to do for 'his monks' (as he affectionately called them), work of a literary and educational kind which perhaps made it undesirable that he should be burdened with the petty daily routine of an Abbot's duties. Some years before, he had endeavoured to induce Pope Agapetus to found a School of Theology and Christian Literature at Rome, in imitation of the schools of Alexandria and Nisibis . The clash of arms consequent on the invasion of Italy by Belisarius had prevented the fulfilment of this scheme; but the aged statesman now determined to devote the remainder of his days to the accomplishment of the same purpose in connection with the Vivarian convent.

In the earliest days of Monasticism men like the hermits of the Thebaid had thought of little else but mortifying the flesh by vigils and fastings, and withdrawing from all human voices to enjoy an ecstatic communion with their Maker. The life in common of monks like those of Nitria and Lerinum had chastened some of the extravagances of these lonely enthusiasts while still keeping their main ends in view. St. Jerome, in his cell at Bethlehem, had shown what great results might be obtained for the Church of all ages from the patient literary toil of one religious recluse. And finally St. Benedict, in that Rule of his which was to be the code of monastic Christendom for centuries, had sanctified Work as one of the most effectual preservatives of the bodily and spiritual health of the ascetic, bringing together Laborare and Orare in friendly union, and proclaiming anew for the monk as for the untonsured citizen the primal ordinance, 'In the sweat of thy brow thou shalt eat bread.'

The great merit of Cassiodorus, that which shows his deep insight into the needs of his age and entitles him o the eternal gratitude of Europe, was his determination to utilise the vast leisure of the convent for the preservation of Divine and human learning and for its transmission to after ages. In the miserable circumstances of the times Theology was in danger of becoming brutified and ignorant ; the great treasures of Pagan literature were no longer being perpetuated by the slaves who had once acted as librarii to the Greek or Roman noble ; and with every movement of the Ostrogothic armies, or of the yet more savage hordes who served under the Imperial standard, with every sacked city and with every ravaged villa, some Codex, it may be such as we should now deem priceless and irreplaceable, was perishing. This being the state of Italy, Cassiodorus resolved to make of his monastery not merely a place for pious meditation, but a theological school and a manufactory for the multiplication of copies, not only of the Scriptures, not only of the Fathers and the commentators on Scripture, but also of the great writers of pagan antiquity. In the chapter which he devotes to the description of the scriptorium, of his monastery he describes, with an enthusiasm which must have been contagious, the noble work done there by the antiquarius: 'He may fill his mind with the Scriptures while copying the sayings of the Lord. With his fingers he gives life to men and arms them against the wiles of the devil. So many wounds does Satan receive as the antiquarius copies words of Christ. What he writes in his cell will be scattered far and wide over distant Provinces. Man multiplies the heavenly words, and by a striking figure if I may dare so to speak the three fingers of his hand express the utterances of the Holy Trinity. The fast-travelling reed writes down the holy words, and thus avenges the malice of the Wicked One, who caused a reed to be used to smite the head of the Saviour.'

It is true that the passage here quoted refers only to the work of the copyist of the Christian Scriptures, but it could easily be shown from other passages that the literary activity of the monastery was not confined to these, but was also employed on secular literature.

Cassiodorus then goes on to describe the care which he has taken for the binding of the sacred Codices in covers worthy of the beauty of their contents, following the example of the householder in the parable, who provided wedding garments for all who came to the supper of his son. One pattern volume had been prepared, containing samples of various sorts of binding, that the amanuensis might choose that which pleased him best. He had moreover provided, to help the nightly toil of the scriptorium, mechanical lamps of some wonderful the construction, which appears to have made them self-trimming, and to have ensured their having always a sufficient supply of oil. Sun-dials also for bright days, and water-clocks for cloudy days and the nightseason, regulated their labour, and admonished them when it was time to unclose the three fingers, to lay down the reed, and to assemble with their brethren in the chapel of the convent for psalmody and prayer.

Upon the whole, though the idea of using the convent as a place of literary toil and theological training was not absolutely new, Cassiodorus seems certainly entitled to the praise of having first realised it systematically and on an extensive scale. It was entirely in harmony with the spirit of the Rule of St. Benedict, if it was not formally ordained in that document. At a very early date in the history of their order, the Benedictines, influenced probably by the example of the monastery of Vivaria, commenced that long series of services to the cause of literature which they have never wholly intermitted. Thus, instead of accepting the obsolete formula for which some scholars in the last age contended, 'Cassiodorus was a Benedictine,' we should perhaps be rather justified in maintaining that Benedict, or at least his immediate followers, were Cassiodorians.

In order to set an example of literary diligence to his monks, and to be able to sympathise with the difficulties of an amanuensis, Cassiodorus himself transcribed of the Psalter, the Prophets, and the Epistles, no doubt from the translation of Jerome. This is not the place for enlarging on the merits of Cassiodorus as a custodian and transmitter of the sacred text. They were no doubt considerable; and the rules which he gives to his monks, to guide them in the work of transcription, show that he belonged to the Conservative school of critics, and was anxious to guard against hasty emendations of the text, however plausible. Practically, however, his MSS. of the Latin Scriptures, showing the Itala and the Vulgate in parallel columns, seem to have been answerable for some of that confusion between the two versions which to some extent spoiled the text of Jerome, without preserving to us in its purity the interesting translation of the earlier Church.

Besides his labours as a transcriber, Cassiodorus, both as an original author and a compiler, used his pen for the instruction of his fellow-inmates at Vivarium.

(1) He began and slowly completed a Commentary on the Psalms. This very diffuse performance (which occupies more than five hundred closely printed pages in Migne's edition) displays, in the opinion of those who have carefully studied it , a large amount of acquaintance with the writings of the Fathers, and was probably looked upon as a marvel of the human intellect by the Vivarian monks, for whose benefit it was composed, and to whom it revealed, in the Psalms which they were daily and nightly intoning, refutations of all the heresies that had ever racked the Church, and the rudiments of all the sciences that flourished in the world. It is impossible now for this or any future age to do aught but lament over so much wasted ingenuity, when we find the author maintaining that the whole of the one hundred and fifty Psalms were written by King David, and that Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun have only a mystical meaning ; that the first seventy represent the Old Testament, and the last eighty the New, because we celebrate the Resurrection of Christ on the eighth day of the week, and so forth. A closer study of the book might perhaps discover in it some genuine additions to the sum of human knowledge ; but it is difficult to repress a murmur at the misdirected industry which has preserved to us the whole of this ponderous futility, while it has allowed the History of the Goths to perish.

(2) The 'Complexiones in Epistolas Apostolorum' have at least the merit of being far shorter than the Commentary on the Psalms. Perhaps the only points of interest in them, even for theological scholars, are that Cassiodorus evidently attributes the Epistle to the Hebrews without hesitation to the Apostle Paul, and that he notices the celebrated passage concerning the Three Heavenly Witnesses (i John v. 7) in a way which seems to imply that he found that passage in the text of the Vulgate, though on examination his language is seen to be consistent with the theory that these words are a gloss added by the commentator himself.

(3) In order to supply the want of any full Church History in the Latin tongue, a want which was probably felt not only by his own monks but throughout the Churches of the West, Cassiodorus induced his friend Epiphanius to translate from the Greek the ecclesiastical histories of Socrates, Sozomen, and Theodoret, and then himself fused these three narratives into one, the wellknown 'Historia Tripartita,' which contains the story of the Church's fortunes from the accession of Constantine to the thirty-second year of the reign of Theodosius II (306-439). The fact that the numerous mistranslations of Epiphanius have passed uncorrected, probably indicates that Cassiodorus' own knowledge of Greek was but slight, and that he depended on his coadjutor entirely for this part of the work. The 'Historia Tripartita' has probably had a larger circulation than any other of its author's works ; but Cassiodorus himself thought so little of his share in it, that he does not include it in the list of his writings prefixed to the treatise 'De Orthographia.' And, in fact, the inartistic way in which the three narratives are soldered together, rather than recast into one symmetrical and harmonious whole, obliges us to admit that Cassiodorus' work at this book was little more than mechanical, and entitles him to scarcely any other praise than that of industry.

(4) Of a different quality, though still partaking somewhat of the nature of a compilation, was his chief educational treatise, the 'Institutiones Divinarum et Humanarum Lectionum.' About the year 543 some three or four years after his retirement from public life, while he was slowly ploughing his way through the Commentary on the Psalms, twenty of which he had already interpreted, he seems to have laid it aside for a time in order to devote himself to this work, which aimed more at instruction than at religious edification. In the outset of this book he describes that unsuccessful attempt of his, to which allusion has already been made, for the establishment of a theological school in Rome, and continues that, 'as the rage of war and the turbulence of strife in the Italian realm had prevented the fulfilment of this desire, he felt himself constrained by Divine charity to write for his monks' behoof these libri introductorii, in which, after the manner of a teacher, he would open to them the series of the books of Holy Scripture, and would give them a compendious acquaintance with secular literature.' As the book is not written for the learned, he undertakes to abstain from 'affectata eloquentia,' and he does in the main keep his promise. The simple, straightforward style of the book, which occasionally rises into real and 'unaffected eloquence' where the subject inspires him to make an appeal to the hearts of his readers, presents a striking and favourable contrast to the obscure and turgid phraseology in which the perverted taste of the times caused him generally to shroud his meaning .

In the first part of this treatise (commonly called the De Institutione Divinarum Litterarum) Cassiodorus briefly describes the contents of the nine Codices which made up the Scripture of the Old and New Testaments, and mentions the names of the chief commentators upon each. After some important cautions as to the preservation of the purity of the sacred text and abstinence from plausible emendations, the author proceeds to enumerate the Christian historians Eusebius, Orosius, Marcellinus, Prosper, and others; and he then slightly sketches the characters of some of the principal Fathers: Hilary, Cyprian, Ambrose, Jerome, and Augustine. This part of the work contains an interesting allusion to Dionysius Monachus, Scytha natione, sed moribus omnino Rornanus,' of whom Cassiodorus speaks as a colleague in his literary enterprises. This is the so-called Dionysius Exiguus, who fixed (erroneously, as it now appears) the era of the birth of Christ, and whose system of chronology founded on this event has been accepted by all the nations of Christendom. At the conclusion of this the first part of the treatise we find some general remarks on the nature of the monastic life, and some pictures of Vivarium and its neighbourhood, to which we are indebted for some of the information contained in the preceding pages. The book ends with a prayer, and contains thirty-three chapters, the same number, remarks Cassiodorus (who is addicted to this kind of moralising on numbers) that was reached by the years of the life of Christ on earth.

The second part of the treatise, commonly called 'De Artibus ac Disciplinis Liberalium Litterarum' contains so much as the author thought that every monk should be acquainted with concerning the four liberal arts, Grammar, Rhetoric, Logic, Mathematics, the last of which is divided into the four 'disciplines' of Arithmetic, Geometry, Music, and Astronomy. As illustrating the relative importance of these sciences (as we call them) as apprehended by Cassiodorus, it is curious to observe that while Geometry and Astronomy occupy only about one page, and Arithmetic and Music two pages each, Logic takes up eighteen pages, Grammar two, and Rhetoric six.

(5) Some other works, chiefly of a grammatical kind, which have now perished, together with the exegetical treatises already named, occupied the leisure hours of the old age of Cassiodorus. At length, in the ninetythird year of his age, the veteran statesman, nobleman, and judge crowned his life of useful service by writing for his beloved monks his still extant treatise 'De Orthographia.' He tells us that the monks suddenly exclaimed, 'What doth it profit us to study either those works which the ancients have composed or those which your Wisdom has caused to be added to the list, if we are altogether ignorant how we ought to write these things, and on the other hand cannot understand and accurately represent in speech the words which we find written ?' In other words, ' Give us a treatise on spelling.' The venerable teacher gladly complied with the request, and compiled from twelve grammarians various rules, the observance of which would prevent the student from committing the usual faults in spelling. It is no doubt true that this work is a mere collection of excerpts from other authors, not arranged on any systematic principle. Still, even as such a collection, it does great credit to the industry of a nonagenarian; and it seems to me that there is much in it which a person who was studying the transition of Latin into the Lingua Volgare might peruse with profit. To an epigraphist especially it must be interesting to see what were the mistakes which an imperfectly educated Italian in that age was most likely to commit. The confusion between b and v was evidently a great source of error, and their nice discrimination, to which Cassiodorus devotes four chapters, a very crux of accurate scholarship. We see also from a passage in the 'De Institutione Divinarum Litterarum' that the practice of assimilating the last letter of the prefix in compound words, like illuminatio, irrisio, improbus, though it had been introduced, was as yet hardly universal; and similarly that the monks required to be instructed to write quicquam for euphony, instead of quicquam.

The treatise 'De Orthographia' was the last product, as as we know, of the industrious brain of Cassiodorus. Two years after its composition the aged statesman and scholar, in the ninety-sixth year of his age, entered into his well-earned rest. The death of Cassiodorus occurred (as I believe) in the year 575, three years before the death of the Emperor Justin II, nephew and successor of Justinian. The period covered by his life had been one of vast changes. Born when the Kingdom of Odovacar was only four years old, he had as a young man seen that Kingdom overthrown by the arms of Theodoric ; he had sat by the cradle of the Ostrogothic monarchy, and mourned over its grave ; had seen the eunuch Narses supreme vicegerent of the Emperor ; had heard the avalanche of the Lombard invasion thunder over Italy, and had outlived even the Lombard invader Alboin. Pope Leo, the tamer of Attila and the hero of Chalcedon, had not been dead twenty years when Cassiodorus was born. Pope Gregory the Great, the converter of England, was within fifteen years of his accession to the Pontificate when Cassiodorus died. The first great schism between the Eastern and Western Churches was begun in his boyhood and ended before he had reached old age. He saw the irretrievable ruin of Rome, such as Augustus and Trajan had known her; the extinction of the Roman Senate; the practical abolition of the Consulate; the close of the schools of philosophy at Athens. Reverting to the line of thought with which this chapter opened, if one were asked to specify any single life which more than another was in contact both with the Ancient World and the Modern, none could be more suitably named than the life of Cassiodorus.

Cassiodorus was a remarkable person. We must take all men with what they have of their times; the fashions which their times impose on them, the dwarfing, the distortion, the limitations, the shaping and moulding, which the general circumstances of their times cause in all who are born to grow up and live among them. He was born in an age when civilisation had run to seed, when it had been broken into by barbarian force, when great disasters and great moral corruption had eaten out vitality and strength from the still prized forms of public service and individual thought. He was all over a man in bondage to the limitations and false standards and measures of the sixth century; but he was a man of Italian activity, perseverance, and resource of mind. He had gone through a great deal of reading, and had practised diligently the application of what he had stored up of knowledge or hearsay information. He was a man, in an infinitely lower degree of course, with the encyclopaedic culture of Cicero or the elder Pliny; a state official or a public servant first, but then also a man of letters, a logician, a natural philosopher, a moralist, a divine, a student and lover of art and nature. Without any of that genius which sometimes, even under disadvantageous conditions and in rude and imperfect forms, breaks through the monotony of a degenerate and barren age, he was a man eminently useful to his generation and to those which succeeded it. He did his best for his time, and in the way and measure in which only it could derive advantage from his activity. He began with being an industrious and, as far as appears, public-spirited and upright administrator. Then in his days of leisure he compiled and digested the learning and wisdom of better times for the use of his poorly-educated contemporaries. He was a great collector of books, and earnestly encouraged their transcription and multiplication. He popularised grammar and the "liberal" sciences, as far as they survived in the schools of the day. He wrote a popular introduction to the study of Scripture. He compiled a popular ecclesiastical history of the great dogmatic struggles of the fourth and fifth centuries, the Historia Tripartite, from Socrates, Sozomen, and Theodoret, which became the historical text-book of the Middle Ages. And he put together, mainly from St. Augustine, an elaborate commentary on the Book of Psalms, which conveyed the ideas and the manner of the great teacher to many who might not find it easy to get access to or to use the original works, from which Cassiodorus extracted and selected. Nor was his industry confined to theology. Besides the collection of his State papers, of which more will be said, he was the author of a work which, if it had survived, would have been counted next in interest to the Germania of Tacitus : a history of the Goths in twelve books. We know it only from the abridgment of it by Jornandes, or, as he is now called, Jordanes. But though we know enough of Cassiodorus to know that his work would be diffuse and uncritical, yet Theodoric's secretary and familiar friend must have had opportunities, and the disposition to use them, of learning the legends and traditions of the Goths such as no other Roman of the time could have had; and we cannot doubt that even in the very uncongenial and unsuitable dress of Latin rhetoric, enough of their outlines and features would have appeared to show us something of the distant and dim past of that remarkable race of which the language of Ulfilas's Gospels is now almost the only thing to tell what manner of men they were.

Cassiodorus was born just when the line of the Western Emperors was coming to a close in the boy who was named in derision Romulus Augustulus (476), and who was so insignificant as to be spared by the barbarian conqueror for a life of luxury on the shores of Campania. The glory of Western Rome was quenched for many a long year, and Italy had finally come down to be the appointed prey and heritage of the stranger. This was the Italy into which Cassiodorus was born, and in such an Italy his long life was spent. He saw in his youth the Gothic kingdom begin under the great Theodoric (493), whose servant he early became, and whom he served to the end; he saw it overthrown, not by Italians, but by other strangers, the Moorish, Isaurian, and Hunnish bands, whom barbarian generals, Belisarius, and Narses, led to victory in the service of the Greek Empire; and he probably lived to see the next change, the coming in of the new masters, the Lombards (568). In his ninety-third year, as he himself has recorded, he was writing a treatise on orthography for the use of the monks of the monastery near Squillace, in which he passed his later years, and which he made a place of study, manuscript copying, and even of physical experiments. The date given by Clinton for his death 576 is probably too late, but cannot be far wrong. His father and his grandfather before him had filled public offices; and his father had been one of those Italians who, in the confusion of the time, with all the old authority of the Imperial government overthrown, with the ancient military system of Rome utterly shattered and its spirit departed, with nothing to represent the traditions of the great commonwealth but the pretensions and con- spiracies of feeble upstarts and mock emperors who were the nominees of the Barbarians, thought it the wisest thing, as well as the safest, to offer their experience and their skill to the service of those among the German chiefs who seemed most likely to be masters in Italy.

The elder Cassiodorus had served Odoacer in an administrative capacity, and is said to have served him loyally and well. Then, when Odoacer fell before the power of Theodoric, he continued, with the same faithfulness and from the same motives, to serve Theodoric. He brought his son into the same service. The son was an apt pupil and learned his lesson well. At a critical moment he deserved the gratitude of the new ruler by securing to his allegiance Sicily and the southern provinces of Italy, Apulia, and Bruttium. He rose through the grades of the official hierarchy to the consulship and to be Praetorian Prefect at Rome. But his public life was one of much more than mere routine. The Gothic king, with his political ideas and aims, was yet as little at home in his Italian kingdom as the first Englishmen were in India. He could crush and punish; but he knew that he lived among one set of thoughts and interests and the Italians in another, and what was necessary for his policy was not fear only, but confidence, goodwill, attachment. Accordingly he attempted to use Italians in order to conciliate, to manage, to protect, to govern Italians. He thus employed Boethius and Symmachus. Apparently with still greater confidence he thus employed the younger Cassiodorus.

Cassiodorus was his secretary, from whom he sought information and counsel, and by whom his orders and instructions were interpreted and transmitted to the Italian civil authorities and sometimes to Gothic ones. The position of Cassiodorus was very much like that of an Italian minister in the service of a benevolent Austrian viceroy or governor of Lombardy; he was such a man, both in his usefulness and in his obsequiousness, as the Lombard nobles, Beccaria, and Cristiani, and Pallavicini, and Verri, who served Maria Theresa and Joseph II at Milan.

In his days of leisure, when he had retired to his monastery in Bruttium, after escaping the storms which swept away his and his master's work in Italy, and in which Boethius perished and the Gothic kingdom was wrecked, the energetic old man, among his other literary employments, collected, at the request of his friends, he says, as many as he could find of his despatches and State papers, and arranged them in twelve books. It had been a way with Romans, ever since Cicero set the fashion, to collect and publish their letters, if they had been engaged in affairs, or if they thought they could write well; and the habit continued through the early and middle ages to later days. The examples of Pliny, of Cyprian, of Augustine, of Jerome, were followed in this age by Sidonius, the elder Symmachus, and Ennodius; the widespread business of the Popes and the growing importance of their letters made a regular "Regestum", and an establishment of clerks and transcribers, a matter of course at Rome; and the great collection of the letters of Gregory the Great attested its industry and its business-like method. With such precedents, almost every man in a prominent place made it his duty to preserve his own letters. They were not always worth keeping for the reasons for which they were kept. But this is a department of literature in which the self-complacency of authorship has incidentally done great service to knowledge. Letters are the great checks on professed and studied narratives. They give the aspect of transactions as they appeared at the moment and on the spot, either to the actors or to bystanders looking on. And they preserve and exhibit often in full work institutions and arrangements of which otherwise no record is kept, because they are known to every one, and are part of every one's daily life. The Collection of Cassiodorus, the most extensive yet made in the later times of Rome, is the only thing which gives us anything like a detailed and real picture of the beginnings of that long servitude of Italy to the "barbarian," which, once begun, continued almost to the present day. We may pardon a good deal and there is a good deal to pardon in so authentic and so indispensable an informant.

The characteristic weaknesses of Cassiodorus come out in the account which he gives of the origin of this collection. He was exceedingly vain of his learning, his rhetorical abundance and richness, and his skill and tact in affairs. But he followed the fashion of ostentatious self-depreciation, and he presents this monument of his labours in the public service with a transparent and amusing air of mock modesty. His accomplished friends, he says in the Preface to his letters, pressed him to collect into one work all that he had from time to time in his numerous and important offices put forth for the purpose of throwing light on public business or expediting it; posterity, they said, ought to know all the toil and trouble he had gone through in the public service, and would be glad of such knowledge. He doubts. Posterity, he thinks, is more likely to think differently from his too partial friends, and to find his papers very dry and uninteresting; and, besides, they are so hurriedly and rudely written. His friends ought to remember the circumstances under which they were composed; the impatience of applicants waiting attention; the answers which had to be written on the spur of the moment and could not be recalled or amended The great masters of style bid you keep your compositions till the ninth year, and he had not an hour to think of the proprieties of composition; as soon as he began to write, the noise and hurry round him made it impossible to write with care.

"One man", he says, "overwhelms me with a stream of captious questions; another worries me with the burden of his distresses; others compass me about with furious and mutinous demands. And then you ask for fine writing and style! Why, I have hardly time to find the plainest words for my meaning. All my nights are haunted by endless anxieties lest food should fail in the towns, where people care a great deal more for what satisfies their bellies than what pleases their ears; further, we have to move about the provinces and see how our orders are obeyed, for it will not do with military people to issue commands unless there are civil authorities to see them carried out. Please do not love me so unkindly as to press me to publish."

And then come all the answers they are his own reasons for the publication; the high stations he had filled, up to that of Praetorian Prefect; the concentration in one hand of all public business (the pay of the army, the sustenance of the population, the administration of justice); his whole time devoted, without interruption, to the public good; his high character for stainless integrity and hereditary virtue; the confidence and familiarity of great princes; the power, so rare a possession, of producing, amid such occupations, anything that was valuable for readers; the great use to others of his State papers, as precedents and models; finally, the opportunity of doing due honour to the distinguished personages to whom his letters were addressed, or of whom they made mention.

"You restrain vice by your authority", he supposes his friends to say to him; "you crush the audacity of the transgressor; you restore its terrors to the law; and yet you doubt about publishing what must conduce to such great ends. You hide, so to speak, the mirror which reflects your mind from the view of posterity."

He yielded, he tells us, to the representations of his friends, and collected his letters for public reading. But it is amusing, when we come to the letters, to find the form into which he has cast these State papers and despatches. He deprecates criticism for the agrestis sermo into which hurry and pressure of business forced him; he had no time to choose words and discriminate meanings. He apologises for hasty and unpolished phrases; he also has had to adapt his style to occasions, and the fastidious may even find fault with what is to his credit, that in addressing inferior persons he has suited his speech to their capacity or their importance. But how shall the real style of the letters be described? There used to be, and probably still is, in Italy, a class of persons found there only, called improvisatori. Give these persons a subject of whatever kind, and forthwith they start off without hesitation or pause into a poetical com- position about it, pouring forth an uninterrupted flow of words, allusions, figures, usually of a very common-place kind, but with an affluence which is amazing and seems inexhaustible. Except that Cassiodorus writes prose and not verse, this is the kind of impression which his letters produce. They are State papers put into the hand of an improvisatori to throw into form, and composed with his luxuriant verbiage, and also with his coarse taste.

The shortest instructions begin with an aphorism or an epigram. If they are more important or lengthy, they sparkle and flash with conceits and antitheses, and every scrap of learning, every bit of science or natural history, every far-fetched coincidence which may start up in the writer's memory, however remote in its bearing on the subject, is dragged in to exalt or illustrate it, though the subject itself may be of the plainest and most matter-of-fact kind. You read through a number of elaborate sentences, often tumid and pompous, sometimes felicitous and pointed, but all of the most general and abstract sort; and, nestling in the thick of them, towards the end of the letter or paper, you come upon the order, or instruction, or notification, for which the letter or paper is written, almost smothered and lost in the abundance of ornament round it. They show what the Latin schools had come to towards the close of the Empire.

It is exactly analogous to the flabby degeneration which came on the Italian language on the final extinction of Italian liberties under the foreign masters, Spanish and German, from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century. But though the form be so bad, the substance deserves a different judgment. They are the letters of a man who was doing his best to uphold justice, to protect the oppressed, to curb the lawless, and to secure as much quiet and happiness to his country and his people as under the hard conditions of the time could be assured to them.

It was not a time when an Italian could speak of liberty and greatness in the old tones. It was not a time when, if he was wise, he would dream of striking a blow for independence, or of attempting to call forth the temper and strength of ancient Rome in generations which had such a history of irretrievable and fixed decay. Vengeance had come to the uttermost on the guilty "Lady of Kingdoms". "She that was great among the nations and princess among the provinces she was become tributary"; and Italy lay, an exhausted and paralysed body, incapable of raising an arm in her own cause, condemned to see whatever victories were won on her own soil used, not for herself, but for the profit of the strangers who fought for her possession, Greek or German. She was condemned for her monstrous sins, and this was her hour of punishment. None of her sons could hope to deliver her out of the hand of the nations round her, to whom the strength of the world had passed. She had not in her population the materials for a national army to assert her independence against the East and North, against the discipline and resources of Byzantium, against the manliness and massive strength and enthusiasm for war of the German tribes. She had lost the traditions of soldiership; there was no bond of union and reciprocal trust; it was idle to hope that her conquerors would give time to raise and organise an Italian force for Italian purposes. Anyhow, there was no one to do it. Her noblest children only thought how they might mitigate the tyranny and relieve the sufferings which they could not prevent.

Boethius, when he recollects what he had suffered in his love for Italy, has no visions of freedom, no words about breaking the yoke off her neck. He only recounts what he had done in the cause of justice and mercy, as the minister and magistrate of her Gothic master. He had brought on himself the enmity of the bad, and had offended the powerful by standing up for right. He had withstood Conigast in his assaults on the fortunes of the weak; he had resisted the barbaric avarice of the king's chamberlain, Triggvilla ; he had rescued Paulinus from the jaws of the "dogs of the palace," who were thirsting for his blood and his possessions. He had maintained the claims and honour of the Senate. But Boethius, in opening his heart to Philosophy, the Consoler, breathes not a word to show that he had ever thought, as an Italian patriot, of delivering Italy from her conquerors. Indeed, he disclaims it. He makes a merit of loyal service to the Goths, not of efforts and hopes for the enfranchisement of Italy.

The first letter in the collection of Cassiodorus shows the character which, between them, Theodoric and his Italian secretary desired to give to the German conquest of Italy. It is a letter addressed to the Greek Emperor, Anastasius, sent with an embassy commissioned to arrange some differences which threatened peace. It assumes that the Roman Empire is intact, and that the Roman Emperor is unique in his greatness and dignity among the rulers of the earth; and, without for a moment or by a single word compromising his own independence, Theodoric is made by his secretary to claim a Roman dignity for his crown, and to feel it his highest honour to govern Romans in concert and harmony with the Empire and after the emperors' example.

It was a position like that adopted by the great bishops of Africa or Alexandria towards the Roman See; any amount of honour for it, but not a jot of their own independence conceded in the acknowledgment.


"You are the fairest beauty of all kingdoms, you are the shield and safeguard of the world which other rulers acknowledge, because they recognise in you something peerless, and we especially, who, by God's help, have learned in your commonwealth how to rule over Romans with equity. Our rule is modelled on yours, the transcript of a good design, the copy of an empire which has no fellow. Just in proportion as we follow you we are before all other nations. You urge me to cherish the Senate, to embrace with favour the imperial laws, to bind together all the interests of Italy. How can you exclude from your august peace him whom yon would not wish to see tlienitfd from your ways?And there is besides the tic of reverence which binds you to the city of Rome, which they cannot break who have joined themselves in the unity of that name. . . . We cannot think that you will allow that between the two states, which, as it is clear, under the former princes always formed one body, any discord can be permanent. They ought not only to be connected by a barren amity, but to be mutually assisted by each other's power. In the Roman kingdom let there be but one will, but one sentiment Whatever we can do shall be at the service of your commands".


The collection of letters and State papers composed by Cassiodorus in the name of Theodoric supply in numberless and varied forms the commentary on this : that is, they exhibit the effort to continue under the new and foreign rule the customary and traditional administration of Roman experience and of Roman civilised government. Forms and machinery are preserved. All the framework of the official hierarchy is kept, and exhibited in the Formula or commissions composed by Cassiodorus. Consulars and Patricians and Praetorian Praefects and Quaestors very different from their republican namesakes Counts of the first order and the second, all are as carefully distinguished as in the Notitia itself, or in the order of a modern court and administration; and, further, the arrangements and regulations of the Roman finance and revenue system are all continued.

There is, of course, the plain fact which no fictions or accommodations could get rid of or disguise, that Italy, with its lands and populations, had changed masters; and that its masters, in the last resort, whether they are moderate and reasonable masters, or cruel and greedy ones, were Goths and conquerors. But there is also visible the serious desire that this condition of things should be made as easy as possible for the dethroned and partially dispossessed race; that they should be taught to consider and feel themselves one with the new comers, possessed of an equal interest in the land and committed to the same fortunes; that they should be persuaded of the sincerity of the king's care for their welfare and purpose to protect and benefit them.

Theodoric wished that they should be convinced that the famous Roman virtue of justice, with the methods for carrying it out, of which Romans were so proud, was of equal value in the eyes of Goths; and that Goths, while fairly proud on their side of their prowess and achievements, were not ashamed to own themselves inferior in historical renown, and in the arts of peace to those whom they wished to call their Roman fellow- citizens, and could even honestly afford, in comparison with elder brethren who had had such a splendid history, to confess themselves "barbarians". These objects of Theodoric's policy are of course expressed the more emphatically by passing through the mind and by being illustrated by the rhetoric of an Italian penman. But Cassiodorus never could have given the orders which he did, or drawn up the Formula in which he describes the business and duties of the various officers of the State, from the Consul, Patrician, and Praetorian Prefect, the Vicar of Rome, the Duke of the Ithfietias, and the Counts of the Goths, down to the chiefs of police at Rome and Ravenna, the heads of the medical staff, the superintendents of the lime-kilns and the armouries, the masters of the mint and the notaries, tax-collectors, and police, unless he was pretty clear about what his master meant him to say. He was too intimate and familiar with Theodoric to mistake him, and Theodoric was too formidable a person to deceive or misinterpret.

The leading and prominent subject of the papers is undoubtedly the enforcement and maintenance of right and justice. There were two classes of questions which under the circumstances of the time were continually requiring the interference of a just ruler. There were questions about the collection of the revenue, and questions arising from the changes in property consequent on the barbarian settlements in Italy. In both these matters the orders which Cassiodorus was commissioned to put into shape and to transmit show watchfulness, humanity, and the desire to uphold equity and right against the encroachments of power or the privilege of race. Thus, it is one of the commonplaces of history that one of the causes of the downfall of the Empire was the inequality and oppression of the fiscal administration. It was not only, or so much, that the assessment of revenue demanded for the State was excessive, though this at times was the case; it was that the collection was partial and unjust. The revenue consisted mainly of two great portions, customary poll taxes and ground rents, or land tax, and a varying taxation professedly revised and assessed anew every fifteen years; and each province and curia, or municipality, had its portion assigned of the general sum, which it was bound to make up in a lump to the treasury. But in the repartition of these imposts on the estates of a province or the individuals of the curia there was room for all kinds of unfairness. Powerful men set at nought their obligations; crafty men, on one pretence or another, sometimes by entering into the service of the Church, wriggled out of them. Corrupt or lazy collectors lined their pockets or saved themselves trouble by making those who were in their power pay for those who evaded or defied them. All the tricks and villanies of uncontrolled tax-farming and tax-gathering were practised, and drove the wretched tax-payers to despair. Men ran away from their property, or were sold up for hopeless debts.

The collection of Cassiodorus shows how sensible Theodoric was to evils which were destroying the resources of the kingdom and the peace and happiness of its inhabitants. The senators at Rome, the great landed proprietors throughout Italy, were the great offenders. Theodoric appeals to their honour and their pride. They had inherited their great place, he tells them, that they might set a public example of justice and sense of duty; but it had appeared from the official reports of his judges and inspectors for the provinces that the great senatorial houses had paid little or nothing of their quota to the revenue. The consequence was that the collectors had turned upon the poorer proprietors on the spot, and had increased their burdens to make up the full sum of the assessment, to the great damage of the provinces.

The king proceeds to require the Conscript Fathers, who are equally bound with him to exert themselves for the common weal, to pay their assessment for the year in the usual three instalments; and he informs them that he intends to make this order public in the provinces, that any person who has been aggrieved may know that justice is to be had. And accordingly he sends a circular to the provinces, setting forth these abuses in the collection of the revenue, declaring his intention to stop them, and inviting all proprietors or members of municipalities, who have been unjustly surcharged on account of the default of others, to make their complaints. He is as peremptory with the Gothic defaulters of Adria, who probably did not see why such valiant soldiers as themselves should be taxed like provincials, and who, if they had been allowed, would have left their quota of the taxes to be added to that of their Italian neighbours and to be paid by them. His language is a remarkable testimony to the silent resignation with which the provincials endured the oppression of the fiscal officials, and which Theodoric invites them to break.


"The voice of suffering is ordinarily loud. People, when they are aggrieved, do not usually restrain themselves, and the mind of the injured feeds itself with outcries. Still language will flow forth more freely if it is set at liberty by our authority. Now we hate that the wretched should be oppressed. We are distressed at the wrongs of men who make no complaint. The sufferings which the victims hide reach us all the more swiftly".


This regard for equity appears in another form in the care taken that a grant to one person of exemption from a fiscal burden should not increase those of his neighbours. In a letter to the proprietors and municipal authorities of Trent, Theodoric informs them that he has granted a property free of taxes to Butilianus the priest. But he says that he does not choose that his liberality should be hurtful to others; and so he deducts from the sum total of their assessment the portion of it chargeable on the land of Butilianus, and remitted to him, which otherwise would have been thrown on the other tax-payers.

"We will not have that contributed by others which we have excused in an individual case; lest what God forbid a deserving man's reward should be an innocent man's loss".

After a time of distress he suspends the excise on wine, corn, and oil, levied, according to ancient custom, at markets and harbours; the pro- vinces needed rest after hard times, and ships must not be frightened away from the ports by the collectors, who often inflicted more damage on them than the sea itself.

The march of armies, even friendly ones, was usually a terrible scourge to the provinces. Theodoric takes off the yearly contribution from the provincials of the Cottian Alps, the dwellers in the Valley of Susa, because the passage of the Gothic troops had unavoidably damaged those for whom they fought.

But this anxiety to be just, and to improve the methods of collecting the revenue, is combined with keen vigilance for the revenue itself. "That it is our wish to oppress no one", he says, "is no reason why we should lose what is our due". Officials are warned not to let the taxes which are due on three terms in the year fall into arrear; it is in the interest of the tax-payer that his debt should not grow through the collector's easy carelessness. "In a certain way kindness becomes the mother of harshness, when you first neglect to give a man notice of what is due from him, and afterwards are compelled to exact it from him."

Not unnaturally, the conquering race did not always see why they should have to pay rent and taxes like the Romans; the Gothic settlers in Tuscany and Picenum were refractory and fell into arrears, and a strict commission was issued to bring them to reason. It was necessary, the king says, to stop "this kind of extravagance in the beginning, or it would spread"; and accordingly the houses of those who would not pay were to be seized for the treasury, and the ungrateful military settlers, who, besides their "donative" as soldiers, had received their lands from the king's bounty, as they would not pay the little that was due from them, were to lose much.

One of the great difficulties of the state of things with which Theodoric had to deal, in carrying out his policy of conciliation and fusion, must, of course, have been the relations between the two races. He claimed that they had become one; he wished that they should appear so to themselves and to the world; he saw that the strength of his kingdom depended on the two nations working willingly together. But, whatever he might wish, they could not forget what each was to the other, any more than at the best of times English and Irish, Austrians and Lombards, hare been able to forget it. Yet, as far as it appears, he did his best to avoid the faults so easily and so commonly committed under like circumstances. He kept a strong check on the claims of the conquering race. He showed the most frank and willing readiness to do full justice to those of the conquered race. The following are the terms of a commission of a provincial "Count of the Goths," addressed to the people over whom he was placed :


"Seeing that, by God's help, we know that there are Goths dwelling and mingled among you, we have thought it necessary, lest among neighbours there should arise, as is wont, any want of order, to send to you [So-and-so], a right honourable person, well approved to us by his good behaviour, as count. It will be his business, according to our edicts, if any matter arise between Goth and Goth, to decide it; if a controversy should arise between a Goth and a Roman, he shall call in a prudent Roman as assessor, and shall settle the dispute according to right. But between two Romans, Romans are to hear the case that is, the judges whom we appoint throughout the provinces. Thus every one's rights will be maintained, and under a diversity of judges one and the same rule of justice will embrace all. Thus joined in a bond of common peace, both nations, by God's favour, may enjoy a happy tranquillity. But know ye, that we have equally a love towards all; he, however, will best recommend himself to our regard who restrains his will and is well affected to the laws. We love not aught unbecoming the life of a citizen; we detest the wickedness of insolence with all who are guilty of it. Violence is hateful to our love of mercy. In matters of judgment let the laws prevail, not the strong arm. You, who all form one kingdom, shape your objects of life in common. Let each people hear what we value. Let the Romans be your neighbours in love as they are in possessions; and you, Romans, ought heartily to love the Goths, who increase the numbers of your population in peace, and who in war are the defenders of the whole commonwealth".


Goths and Romans could not but be distinct in feelings and ways of life, and it is assumed everywhere that the calling of the Goths was war, and that of the Romans peace. But, as far as Theodoric could do it, their equal rights were maintained. The Roman machinery of civil life was sedulously and universally kept up; any invasion of Roman civil rights called forth rebuke and repression. A question of disputed possession between a Roman and a "barbarian" is settled on this principle : if the "barbarian" took possession since the day when Theodoric won his victory on the Isonzo (489), the victory which gave him Italy, the claimant must produce his written title; if it was before that date, Theodoric refuses to be responsible for anything that took place before he was king, or to open any controversy about it.

Theodoric's anxiety to introduce habits of law and order among his barbarian subjects is illustrated by two letters relating to the population which had taken the place of the Goths in their old seats by the Danube and the Drave, that part of the old Pannonia of which Sirmium, not far from the modern Belgrade, was the capital. They were probably a mixture of races -Herules, Gepids, and Suabes- who had followed in the track of the Goths as the Goths moved westward; but they formed part of what Theodoric claimed as his kingdom. He sends a governor to keep them in order, and to accustom them to the rule of impartial law and justice. He is a person with the singular name of Colossseus. The proper names which occur in Cassiodorus are often curious, and suggest questions as to the intermixture and dispersion of races which are now perhaps beyond our reach to answer. To this Colossaeus Theodoric gives his commission, and further commends him to the people whom ho is to govern "Universis Barbaris et Romania per Pannoniam constitutis, Theodoricus Rex." There are two points which are worth noticing in these letters. One is that the particular "barbarous" custom winch Theodoric wants to put down is that of the duel, or judicial combat.


"This further we wish to say to you, is the king's address to the population, that you should seek to direct your courage, not against yourselves, but against the enemy. Let not trifles urge you to extremities. Be content with justice, in which the world rejoices. Why should you have recourse to a duel when you have a judge who cannot be bribed? Lay aside your swords, as you have no foe. It is an evil thing to lift your arm against your kinsmen, for whom you ought with glory to die. What is the use of the tongue to man if it is his armed hand which pleads his cause?or how can it be believed that there is peace if under civilised order (sub civilitate) men still fight?"


"Make them contend," says the commission to Colossaeus, "with words rather than weapons. Let them not count it a reproach to lose their cause".

The other point is the amusing self-complacency with which the example of the Goths, and their progress in the ways of order and civilisation, are held up for the imitation of their less advanced barbarian kinsfolk. "Favour justice," the king writes to Colossaeus; "protect with courage innocence of heart; so that, in contrast to the evil customs of the Nations, you may hold up the justice of the Goths, who have ever so kept the mean of excellence, that they had both the wisdom of the Romans and the prowess of the Nations". "Imitate our Goths", he writes to his Pannonian subjects, "who know how to fight when abroad and to be self-controlled at home. We desire you so to live as by God's help you see that our kinsfolk have nourished."

It is this strong desire for justice, for conciliation, for a good understanding between his various subjects, for their protection, for their welfare, for the improvement and advancement of their conditions of life, and the visible care and forethought for these objects appearing throughout this miscellaneous collection of public papers, which impart strength and substance to the idea of Theodoric's rule which they present. But for this it might easily seem that the interest shown by him in the results and adjuncts of Roman civilisation was merely a thin veneer over the still untamed coarseness of barbarian habits and character.

That the natural fierceness of the barbarian chief was not yet tamed in the King of Italy appeared but too clearly in the outbreak of savage cruelty towards the end of his reign, in which Boethius perished. But it is impossible to read these curious documents without seeing through the rhetoric of the Latin secretary how thoroughly in earnest his great German master was in his wish to govern justly, wisely, temperately. We know too little to be able to say how his instructions were carried out Self-will was powerful; distances were great between the King and the Prefect, and between the Prefect and the provincial Count Every order, too, which we read in Cassiodorus may not have been of Theodoric's dictation; something, perhaps much, may have been left to the secretary's own responsibility and judgment But the general outline of the purpose of government is too strongly drawn to be mistaken.

A Roman with Christian ideas of right, with the ideas of these State papers about the reconciliation of conqueror and conquered, could not have continued so long to be the confidential and actively employed minister of the Gothic king, if the Gothic king, with all his short-comings, had not had the instincts, the wisdom, the high ambition, which were afterwards to be seen on a grander scale in the great Frank emperor. But a collection of Parliamentary blue-books could not contain a more miscellaneous assortment of subjects than the Variae of Cassiodorus.

The first letter in the collection is a grand assertion of the unity of the Roman Empire, and of Romans and barbarians in government and interest. The second is a wonderful objurgation of a negligent provincial officer, whose business it was to provide purple dye for the silk and woollen of the king's robes. The dye was produced at Hydruntum or Otranto, from a shell-fish, the murex, the collection of which, and the preparation from it of the dye, employed a great number of persons, and appears to have been superintended by a State official. Cassiodorus is not content with scolding this officer as if he had been guilty of something as bad as treason, but he takes the opportunity of showing how he can describe in grand language the very disgusting process by which the coveted purple was produced from heaps of the rotting and stinking shell-fish. But the tone in which the superintendent of the manufacture is taken to task for his delays is curious.


"We have learned from the report of Count Stephen [it is Theodoric who is supposed to speak] that the work of the Sacred robes, which we wish to be completed with the necessary speed, is suspended, and the making of them interrupted; and it is clear that you are the person who, by withholding a usual supply, have produced this abominable delay; for we are convinced that some negligence must have occurred to cause that the milky tresses of silk, twice or thrice dipped, have yet blushed less than they ought with that most beautiful intoxication, or that the wool has not drunk the choicest quality of the adorable purple. So that if the inspector of the sea at Otranto had collected the shell-fish which give the dye, in the usual way, and at the right time, that Neptunian heap, the parent of the ever-blooming purple, the adorner of the throne, dissolved with abundance of rains, would have set free the courtly shower with its flame-coloured liquid. That colour, in the overpowering charm of its freshness that blushing darkness, that crimson blackness, distinguishes the ruler, points out the lord, ami is the warrant to the human race that it cannot be mistaken in its prince's countenance".


Then, after enlarging on the very disagreeable process of preparing the dye from the fish they were left for six months to rot, "till even to the most sagacious of nostrils they ceased to be noisome" he proceeds with his invective against the unlucky defaulter.


"If no part of the usual process of preparation was left out, we wonder that yon did not recollect your own dangers, considering that it is the guilt of sacrilege to offend in respect of such robes. What are they about, all these workmen, all these crews of sailors, all these families of labourers? You, too, with the dignity of a count, give orders to such numbers, you fence yourself round with the prestige of so great a name, that you are thought almost to act the king, you seem in many things to be despotic over your fellow-citizens. Your negligence is a blow to this position, which had both given you a high place in the province and was the occasion of your appearing with honour in the presence of your prince. So that, if regard for your own interest does not forsake you, if you have any feeling for your own safety, within such and such a day after the bearer of this reaches you hasten to come with the dye, which you have been accustomed to provide every year for our wardrobe; for we shall send you not a commissioner, but an avenger, if you imagine that you may trifle with any further delays."


The fidgety letter about purple dyes is a curious survival of the Oriental ideas of pomp which had gradually, under the Caesars, worked their way into the Latin world; the occasion, the temper, the etiquette of phrases, as about the "Sacred robes", the rhetoric and taste are what might be looked for in a Persian or Syrian court rather than in that of Theodoric. But it was part of Theodoric's policy to enter into the fashions and humours of his Latin subjects, as well as to care for their substantial prosperity. As at Rome it was the mode to take a side with one or other of the colours in the circus, the Green or the Blue, Theodoric, probably at the suggestion of Cassiodorus, confers his patronage on the Greens; and as party feeling ran high, and resulted in rioting and some high-handed proceedings on the part of powerful Blues, the great Gothic king and his minister have to send letter after letter to the authorities at Rome instructing them to take care that the Green party, and especially the favourers of Helladius, the pantomime dancer, have their fair chance, and that if the jealousy of the opposite party leads to foul play, the culprit, however high their rank, are to be made an example of.

But these letters are adverted to only to illustrate the multifarious character of the collection, and to show how the administration under the great barbarian king descended into minute details which might have been thought entirely alien from his habits and interests. The bulk of the papers refer to much more serious matters, though everywhere the letters abound with curious and often instructive particulars. The care of the king appears in them for the repair, the adornment, the defence, of his cities, for the reclaiming of waste lands and the draining of those marshes which were then, as they are now, the plague of Italy, for keeping the aqueducts and sewers in good order, for the provisioning of the provinces, for the encouragement of such trade and commerce as existed and in spite of wars and invasions there was a good deal for the protection of harbours, the regulation of the postal service established under the Empire, as well as for the due administration of justice, and the alleviation of the burdens which war and marching armies brought upon the sorely stricken provinces. And alternating with these subjects we have instructions to individual officers on service, decisions, which usually seem equitable ones, on individual cases of hardship or distress brought to the king's knowledge, and all that interference of the supreme power in the cause of the poor and helpless which, though it belongs to a rude and imperfect stage of government, is yet, till government has attained its higher stages of improved responsibility, the only real remedy against the inevitable abuses of power in the hands of subordinate agents.

As all these letters were called for by special cases -by reports, complaints, appeals, petitions for grants- they throw such a light on the actual working of the machine of government as no general account of the time, even if such existed, could supply. They show very close attention to the current business and wants of the kingdom; they show the kind of diffi- culties and questions which arose where the old and the new were daily meeting, and the ambitious and sanguine German was trying to infuse new life into the exhausted and damaged frame of Italian civilisation, both in its rural and its civic forms. And though they only show us part of what was going on under the Gothic rule, and show it as through the eyes of an Italian who was the devoted servant of the barbarian king, they leave the impression of remarkable industry, good sense, and honesty in administering the State, and of a sincere attempt to repair the ruins which war and misgovernment had made in Italy. "Nos, quibus cordi est in melius cuncta mutare", was no idle boast, whether applied to what Cassiodorus calls the "tellus naufraga" of the stagnant and useless marshes of Spoleto, or to the still more truly "shipwrecked land" which once had been the seat of the empire of the world.

Two features are very characteristic of these curious letters. One is, as has been already noticed, the style. They belong, as every one knows, to a declining time of Latin literature; but yet it was a time when the great models of Latin writing were still admired. It was not so long ago since St Augustine was writing with wonderful force and command of the language, and contemporaries of Cassiodorus, like Boethius, though a long way from the classical writers in style and vocabulary, were still writing clearly and unaffectedly. But the first thing that strikes the reader of Cassiodorus is his grandiloquence. He is a master of what, we believe, is now called "high faluting". The simplest orders must be given in strained and pompous language : and as the words which he chooses are frequently used with a turn and colour not familiar in classical Latin, his instructions are sometimes obscure and hard to construe. But it is not the language only. His idea of an official document, an appointment, an ordinary command, a set of instructions, is the oddest conceivable. He always, or almost always, begins with a general maxim, from the truth and importance of which he deduces the particular order which he has to convey; and he usually clenches the order with another generality. Thus:


"To Ampelius, Despotius, and Theodulus, senators, King Theodoric. It becomes the discipline of our time that they who give themselves to what is useful to the public should not be hindered with unnecessary burdens. Nor is it fitting that any one's ill-will should prejudice our customary arrangements. Wherefore apply your industry strenuously to the potteries granted you by royal authority; and fear not that you can be transferred to other employments, considering that we hardly believe that you can accomplish what is at present enjoined on you. There shall be an end, then, once for all, to the wicked interference of bad men, and our authority shall bring to nought the success of obscure intrigues. For he hates in vain, against whom the clemency of the prince presents its shield".


This is a type of numberless letters. Never was an official in his public correspondence so "full of wise saws and modern instances", brought from every department of nature, history, and literature. The king gives leave to the sons of Ecdicius, who want to attend their father's funeral, to be absent from Rome : for Theodoric was very strict in not allowing Romans of rank to leave Rome without reason or for an indefinite time, it being a great point with him to keep up the population and the attractions of the capital. But his secretary is not content with simply giving the permission; he gives in antithetic sentences the reasons for paying the last honours to the dead.


"Mourning is inconsolable when we may not be present at the burial of our dead; for a man never can forgive himself who has not paid due honour to their ashes. With what a ransom did not Priam redeem Hector? He besought Achilles in the height of his wrath : he knelt before him armed as he was; he preferred to risk his own life to defrauding the corpse of its due".


Again, he orders the execution of some slaves who had killed their master and left him unburied. He enlarges on the atrocity of their crime, and he proceeds to compare human beings with vultures, very much to the disadvantage of the former.


"Alas! alas! kindness is found in birds of the air which is forgotten by mankind. The vulture itself, which lives on the corpses of the dead, this huge creature is known not to molest the smaller birds, but when the hawk attacks the life of the feathered race the vulture smites it with its wings, tears it with its beak, and with all its force tries to help those in danger. And these men cannot spare one whom they know to be their fellow-man! The vulture will not kill in order that it may feed; these servants chose to kill him who in his lifetime had been wont to feed them. Let him, then, become the repast of the pious vulture who had the heart so cruelly to wish for the death of the shepherd. It is well that he should be allotted such a sepulchre, who caused his master to be without burial".


But he has a still more curious habit. He is always ready to turn a purely business letter on the most matter-of-fact subject into a regular dissertation on physics, mechanics, philosophy, or history. Thus he has to write in the king's name to Boethius, informing him that the chiefs of the bodyguard have sent in a joint complaint to the king that their pay was given them in coin which was under weight, and commanding Boethius to see that so serious and so dangerous a malpractice was set right. But then the secretary makes the king go off into a long series of reflections on the properties and value of the art of arithmetic and from this, into considerations on the importance of true weights and measures. These sentences and maxims are often vigorous and striking enough, but they have obviously nothing to do with the real business of the letter; they are grotesque when imagined in the mouth of the Gothic king, and it is too plain that they are simply put in to show off the secretary's varied knowledge and power of fine writing.

Another letter of the same kind, also to Boethius, tells him that Gundibald, King of the Burgundians, had asked Theodoric to send him a water-clock; and Boethius is requested to apply his renowned mechanical skill to its construction. All this is spun out into a long epistle. The policy of Theodoric suggests that the neighbouring kings should be kept in good humour by compliance with their requests for presents toys and mechanical inventions which in Italy every one is familiar with, but which abroad among Burgundians and such like are miraculous. Then Boethius's learning and scientific attainments are set forth, and the marvels which physical science has achieved are enumerated with as much enthusiasm as they might be by a modern lecturer, in a catalogue which, though indistinct from the poetical terms employed, contains some curious details of the application of chemical and mechanical arts. And then after some rather fine bursts about the victories of science over nature Boethius is instructed to make the clock.

The other feature to be noticed is equally characteristic of the time and of the man. Several of these letters are about Cassiodorus himself, or addressed to him by the king. If these letters were merely instructions officially directed to him about the business of his department, such as two letters from one of Theodoric's successors, Theodahad, about the regulations of the market and trades, there would be nothing extraordinary in the minister himself drawing up the orders on which he was to act. But the letters referred to are much more than this. They are letters written in the king's name by Cassiodorus himself, about himself, and to himself letters of highest commendation, full of unstinted praise of his qualities and services, and supplying us with a full and eulogistic account of his career and employments. The fashion of a man puffing himself is an old one, and is not likely in any age to become obsolete. We have heard of distinguished authors reviewing their own books, and of a popular divine announcing himself, in a communication traced to his own pen, as " the great and good"; but this was veiled under a modest reserve. There is no concealment about Cassiodorus. With the utmost simplicity and frankness he introduces these specimens of laboured eloquence and historical panegyric on himself, composed by himself, into the collection which he himself publishes. It is, no doubt, a trait of the man's natural vanity, which comes out with equal distinctness in the display which he everywhere makes of his literary accomplishments. But the unsuspicious openness of the self-glorification of Cassiodorus seems to belong to the time. He obviously thought there was nothing to be shy about or to be ashamed of. The habit of panegyrics, cultivated in the Roman schools and practised in the Roman assemblies, the taste for it, and the prevalent idea that this was the great use of artificial eloquence, had deadened men's sense of the becoming. Men who were vying with one another in strained and extravagant praises of others, naturally came to think that this was the natural mode of expressing their fair sense of their own claims and merits. It was the way, at which his age at least would not be shocked, of putting on record services which really were valuable and unwearied, the opinion which Theodoric had of him, and the free and confidential relations between the Gothic king and his Italian minister.

But one would like to know what were Theodoric's thoughts, and perhaps comments, when Cassiodorus read over to him the letters about Cassiodorus which were to go out in the great "Barbarian's" name. Probably most of their eloquence was lost upon him.

Gibbon, of course, sneers at Cassiodorus. He might, perhaps, have had an instinct that the palpable faults of Cassiodorus were, in exaggeration and caricature, just the faults with which his own manner of writing was reproached. But with all these faults the collection is invaluable. It is one of the most varied and lifelike pictures of the daily march of a real administration in a very dim and distant time which we possess. What would we give if Augustus or Trajan had had a Cassiodorus, a secretary who preserved his despatches and records on passing emergencies as well as on large questions of policy. The interest of some of Pliny's letters shows what the value of such records would be. And the collection of Cassiodorus refers to a very critical and important period in the history of Italy and Christendom. It was the meeting point of two great tendencies, and Theodoric's great attempt was to reconcile and harmonise them. He was not going to give up his German sympathies, his German habits of thought, the conviction that the Germans were the stronger, nobler, greater race, the national consciousness that led him to take the position of the elder brother among his wilder and less instructed and ruder brethren, the kings of the Franks, and Visigoths, and Burgundians, and Vandals, and Herules. But he saw and valued what they knew nothing about except to despise it : all that Rome had done and had won for the good order, the peace, the growing welfare, of human life. Without giving up or imperilling the interests of his own great race, he wanted to preserve this. He did more; he wanted to make it, as far as it was useful, the possession and heritage of his people. He wanted to educate his Goths, not in Latin customs and elegancies and softnesses, but in the Latin value for law and justice, for settled life, for husbandry, for building; and ultimately he hoped, by protecting the weaker but subtler Latins without allowing them any dangerous superiority, to fuse the two races into a new nation with the old name of Roman. This was his aim and line of work, not the same, but in part coincident with that of those Italians who are represented by Cassiodorus, and of whom there were certainly not a few men who thought it best for Italy frankly and in good faith to co-operate with Theodoric in his evident efforts after conciliation, justice, and general improvement.

But to them their great interest was in what had come down from the great times of the Empire. Their aim and hope was still to keep Italy Italian, and to make the Goths, as Theodoric professed, Romans. They naturally put their experience to account in carrying out Theodoric's policy, and sought to help him, in their own interest as much as in his. And in such a monument as the Variae of Cassiodorus we see the desperate efforts of Italian nationality to save what could be saved in the wreck and confusion of the "naufraga tellus". We see in the literary colour, as well as in the political earnestness of Theodoric's minister, the agonised and convulsive grasp at the fragments of departing culture and organisation amid the destructive and unknown forces of the revolution which was running its course. Theodoric hoped to have directed and shaped it, to have controlled its fierceness, to have averted its dangers. He had the idea of a new, a revived, a united Italy. And it might have been, if what he began had been carried on. But it was not to be. He died and left anarchy in the young and unripe kingdom. Then came Belisarius and Narses. After them came the Lombards. After the Lombards came the Franks. And then the destiny of Italy during the Middle Ages was decided. There was to be no such Italy as Theodoric imagined yet.

The letters of Cassiodorus, besides the light which they throw on the public history of his time, are a storehouse of curious and authentic information on the condition of Italy and its social state; the ways of everyday life, the productions, the industries, the tastes and fashions of its people. These glimpses of real life come from Cassiodorus's very unbusiness-like and very absurd way of writing; he never can resist the temptation to tack on a description, more or less elaborate, to a despatch or an order. Thus he has to protect the inhabitants of Como, a town which lay at the junction of many roads, from the excessive burdens required of them in the service of the posts; and to this we owe a very interesting picture of the town and lake as they appeared to him. 1He orders a sum of money to be paid for the supply of paper to the public offices; and on this he takes the opportunity to write at large about the use and the manu- facture of paper at his time. It was part of his business to stock the royal cellar, and to cater for the royal buttery and cheese-room; he has to send orders to the landed gentry of Verona to provide certain wines to be purchased for the royal table, to the Chancellor of Lucania to forward with all speed a supply of Brutian wine and cheese from the Calabrian Sila, of the quality which, when put before the king from his secretary's own cellars, had greatly pleased the taste of the Rerum Dominus; and on this we get an interesting though very irrelevant little lecture on the character of the wines then in fashion, and on the qualities which then made good cheese its oiliness, its sweetness, its smell of aromatic herbs. He writes to exempt the territory of Rhegium from the obligation of supplying so much wheat and lard; the exception is grounded on the nature of its soil, suited not to corn and pasture, but to vineyards and spade husbandry; and then we have an account of its market gardens and its choice fish.

In his character as Praetorian Prasfect he writes to order the chancellor of the province to put an end to some oppressive exactions in the shape of purveyance and judicial fees, of which the people of Scyllacium Squillace complained; and this gives him the opportunity of describing the beauty and the fine climate of the district, a region where his own patrimony was situated, and where he afterwards founded the monastic and literary retreat in which he ended his days.

Another letter describes the repairs necessary for the Flaminian Way in an order to get the road ready for the passage of the army; another gives directions for the construction of a wooden bridge over the Tiber for the king's entry into Rome; another, in an order to send wine and oil by sea from Istria, puts before us the barge navigation of the north of Italy, by craft that were at once, like some of our London barges, canal boats and sea-going vessels.

The correspondents of Cassiodorus must, we should suppose, have thought him the most tiresome of bores; but for us he preserves sketches of the goings on of his time, full of colour and life, which we might look for in vain elsewhere.

Cassiodorus continued in office after the death of his great master (526), and served his successors, Amalasuutha and her son, the boy-king Athalaric, her base murderer, Theodahad, and her avenger, Vitiges. Letters written in the name of Vitiges (536-540), and written apparently early in his short reign, are the last State papers which he has inserted in his collection. He probably retired about this time to his monastery near Squillace, to spend his last days in devotion and literary pursuits, in the study of Scripture, in the composition of elementary treatises, meant to be useful to the ill-educated people round him, in the multiplication of copies of books and the formation of an instructive library. He saw the overthrow of the Goths; he probably heard of the advent of the Lombards. With all his faults, he was a man who redeemed his ago from the imputation of want of public spirit, of stupid and inert selfishness, of coarse ignorance. So important a collection as that of his "various" letters deserves a better and more helpful edition than we yet possess of it. If our Universities are too busy for such tasks, we must hope that the distinguished German scholars who are at work on the Monunenta Historica Germania, who have given us such admirable specimens of their work in Waitz's Scriptoris Rerum Lomgobardicarum, in the editions of Salman, Victor Vitensis, Eugippius, and others, and who are preparing an edition of Jordanes, and are said to be contemplating one of the letters of Gregory the Great, will in due time take in hand the important and not very easy work of editing, as they ought to be edited, both as to text and elucidations, the letters of the Italian secretary of the greatest of early Italian kings.



The letters of Cassiodorus,

being a condensed translation of the Variae epistolae of Magnus Aurelius Cassiodorus Senator .