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Form: Magnus Aurelius
was born in Bruttium, about 480 A.D. He belonged to an old Roman family which had, particularly in the three preceding generations, distinguished itself in the public service. His father stood in high favour with Theodoric, who had an equal regard for his talented and highly educated son, Cassiodorus Senator. On account of his trustworthiness and ability as a statesman, the younger Cassiodorus was appointed to the highest offices by Theodoric and his successors. He was consul A.D. 514, and four times praefectus. For a period of nearly forty years he enjoyed an active and successful career in the public administration, notably as Theodoric's private secretary. After the fall of Vitiges in 540, Cassiodorus retired to the monastery of Vivarium (Vivarese), which he had founded on his estates in Bruttium. Here he passed the rest of his life in religious exercises and literary labour. He died about 575. Among the works which he composed during his career as a statesman, we have a universal history called Chronica, from Adam down to the year when it was written. This consists mainly of a catalogue of the Roman consuls, and is the longest of all the lists which have come down to us. Another work of his which has survived is the Variae (Epistulae) in twelve books. This is a collection of imperial rescripts, and has considerable historical importance. These recripts he made out, partly in the name of Theodoric and his successors, partly in his own name as praefectus. The book likewise contains a collection of formularies for decrees of nomination. His Gothic history, in twelve books, is only preserved in extracts, and in the paraphrase of Jordanes. The chief aim of his monastic life was a noble one. He hoped to make the monasteries an asylum of knowledge, in which the literature of classical antiquity and of the Christian age might be collected. The number of books was to be increased by copyists, and the clergy were to gain their necessary education by studying them. The libraries and schools of the monasteries in succeeding centuries were ultimately formed upon the model which he set up. Besides a number of theological writings, he composed, in about 544 A.D., a sort of Encyclopaedia, in four books, for the instruction of his monks. This is the "Instructions in Sacred and Profane Literature" (Institutiones Divinarum et Saecularium Litterarum). The first part is an introduction to the study of theology, the second a sketch of the seven liberal arts. Finally, in his ninety-third year, he compiled a treatise De Orthographia or on Orthography.
Type: Standard
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