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Flavius ​​Magnus Aurelius Cassiodorus Senator

Cassiodorus , Latin Cassiodorus (full name Flavius Magnus Aurelius Cassiodorus Senator , just Cassiodorus Senator ; * to 485 in Scylaceum , Bruttium ; † around 580 in the monastery Vivarium at Scylaceum ) was a late antique Roman statesman, scholar and writer.


Cassiodorus came from an old and highly respected family of the senatorial imperial aristocracy , which before his time had already provided important officials in the two capitals of the Roman Empire, Rome and Constantinople . The family, whose origins lay in the Syrian province of the empire and which had made it considerably rich, later owned extensive lands , especially in southern Italy (near Squillace , Calabria ). The great-grandfather, the grandfather and also the father, who were all also called Cassiodorus, held - like himself later - high state offices. A fragment from a lost work of Cassiodorus, the so-called Anecdoton Holderi , briefly describes his career.

Cassiodor's great-grandfather had done a great job defending the coasts of Sicily and southern Italy against the navies of the Vandal King Geiseric , who lived in Carthage . The grandfather of the same name was a tribune under Valentinian III. been; he had worked with the Roman army master Aëtius and had been sent together with his son Carpilio as a negotiator to Attila when he threatened Italy. Cassiodor's grandfather later retired to Bruttium , where the family owned their lands.

After his father had served Odoacer and the Ostrogoth king Theodoric one after the other , Cassiodorus was appointed quaestor sacri palatii in the Italian Ostrogothic empire in 507 at a disproportionately young age . In this function he was responsible for drafting the official letters in the stylized Latin language of the office. He also functioned in other high offices, such as corrector Lucaniae et Bruttiorum and magister officiorum (523 to 527). Since the state infrastructure of Italy had remained intact, all of these late Roman offices were also retained by the Ostrogoths after their conquest of Italy (from 489). There was occasional tension between the Goths and the Romans. Cassiodorus was instrumental in promoting reconciliation between the two groups. In 514 he was also consul ordinarius . After Theodoric's death in 526, Cassiodorus headed the civil administration of Italy under the reign of his daughter Amalasuntha as praefectus praetorio and patricius (533 to 537). After the confusion of the throne after King Athalaric's death and the beginning of the Eastern Roman reconquest of Italy (see Justinian and Gothic War (535–554) ) he withdrew from state affairs around 540. He then stayed for a long time in Ravenna and Constantinople . His plan agreed with Pope Agapit to found a Christian theological college in Rome, like the school of Nisibis in the east, could not be realized (due to the turmoil in Italy during the Gothic War) and went back to southern Italy.

In 552 the Ostrogothic kingship was extinguished, and in 554 Italy was again placed under direct imperial rule. At the age of almost seventy, Cassiodor founded the monastery-like educational institute Vivarium (more correctly: Monasterium Vivariense , as it was called by Cassiodor himself) on his father's inheritance on the beach of the Gulf of today in Squillace in Calabria , which owes its name to the numerous fish tanks that had been hollowed out in the rock there. In the older literature it was often assumed that he himself entered the monastery as a monk and became abbot there . This assumption is based on written statements by Cassiodorus, which, although they can be interpreted in this sense, do not allow any reliable and unambiguous conclusion. He repeatedly speaks of his conversio , which occurred after the end of his political career. In the foreword to his great commentary on the Psalter it says: "May God show us the grace that we furrow our Lord's field, like tireless draft animals, with the ploughshare of observance and monastic exercises." He also calls the monks several times "my monks" ( monachi mei ). It is also known that he made it the duty of the monks to copy manuscripts he had collected himself, which made him the savior of important writings and thus a mediator between antiquity and the Middle Ages. As a result, he should have been authorized to give instructions to the monks.

However, passages of his works also allow the conclusion that he may have lived outside the monastery. He differentiates clearly between his private library and the monastery library. In recent research, therefore, the view that Cassiodorus was never an abbot or a monk has largely prevailed. With the foundation of the monastery, which was based on the monastic writings of Johannes Cassianus , Cassiodorus apparently pursued the goal of giving Latin- Western Roman monasticism a similarly well-developed theological basis as the Eastern Roman-Greek already had (see also School of Nisibis ) and thus prepared the basis for scientific activities in the monasteries, as can be seen from the holdings of their libraries.

Works and meaning

Cassiodor, Institutiones divinarum et saecularium litterarum in a late 8th century manuscript. Bamberg, State Library , Ms. Patr. 61, fol. 29v

At the end of Late Antiquity, considerable parts of ancient Latin literature had already been lost in the western part of the Roman Empire ; especially the Gothic War from 535, which had devastated Italy badly, had once again led to dramatic losses. Cassiodorus' outstanding achievement is therefore that he - alongside Boëthius and Martianus Capella and in succession to Quintus Aurelius Symmachus and Quintus Aurelius Memmius Symmachus - received important literature and educational material from antiquity and conveyed it to the Latin West of the early Middle Ages . Knowing the manuscripts of ancient literature, he wrote, among other things, a literary guide in his text Institutiones divinarum et saecularium litterarum , in which he recommends both scholarly writings from antiquity and writings from the Church Fathers and the Bible, and instructions for carefully copying religious and expressive texts also profane manuscripts based on reliable templates and declared their reproduction and collection to be the task of the monks. He had the transcripts and their templates archived and combined in a library. In addition, translations and excerpts were prepared, which, in view of the increasing dwindling Greek education in the Latin-speaking West, was a crucial prerequisite for the transmission of Greek literature in the West. His most important students were Bellator , Mutianus Scholasticus and Epiphanios Scholastikos , whose Latin Historia ecclesiastica tripartita, based on the Greek church historians Socrates Scholastikos , Sozomenos and Theodoret , became widespread.

Cassiodorus is also considered to be the creator of the Christian medieval curriculum. With his institutions as a study regulation he created one of the constitutive requirements for the occidental school. The didactic intention was aimed at an awareness of the systematic connection in a synthesis of pagan science and Christian faith. He saved the classical studies in the first Western curriculum in the monastery. After the dissolution of the monastery seminary in the newly created occidental cultural area, the institutions experienced a consecutive tradition in various forms of the school.

Cassiodorus wrote numerous writings. For example, a brief and unproductive world chronicle ( Chronica , see Chronicle (Cassiodorus) ), which extends to 519 and is particularly important because of the consular dating, has survived. His Variae (epistulae) collection , which includes 12 books, has also been preserved. The collection was probably made around 538 by Cassiodorus and contains over 400 administrative letters that give important insights into the administration of the Ostrogothic kingdom. It includes letters and edicts of the Ostrogoth kings in Italy, as well as documents and decrees of Cassiodor in his function as praefectus praetorio . In most cases, the letters were drawn up by Cassiodor in a highly rhetorical style and are often enriched with digressions of ethical or cultural-historical content that go far beyond the occasion.

Cassiodor's work History of the Goths ( Historia Gothorum ) in 12 books, which he started on behalf of King Theodoric and completed under Athalaric , has been lost. However, it was available to Jordanes for a few days (according to his own statement), who used it as a source for his summarizing historical work Getica . There have long been research problems associated with Jordanes' reference to Cassiodor's history of the Goths . It is unclear to what extent the abridged version prepared by Jordanes is ultimately based on Cassiodor's work. Modern research assumes that the prehistory of the Goths was idealized by Jordanes and partially enriched with fictional elements.

Based on the enarrations in the Psalmos of Augustine, Cassiodorus also wrote his most influential work of the Middle Ages, a theological interpretation of the Psalms , instructions for studying the Bible and grammatical writings. When he was 93 years old, he wrote the last text De orthographia , a compilation of Latin orthography based on the works of eight grammarians. The font is considered valuable because it contains extracts from lost works. In the introductory chapter he added a list of his own writings since 540.

His work De artibus ac disciplinis liberalium litterarum (Book II of his Institutiones ) contains an important source on medieval music theory with Institutiones musicae .

List of works (excerpt)

  • Chronica
  • Historia Gothorum (not preserved, used as a source by Jordanes for his work Getica )
  • Variae (epistulae)
  • Acta synhodorum habitarum Romae a. ProzCXCVIIII. DI. DII.
  • De orthographia
  • Expositio in psalterium
  • Complexiones in epistolis apostolorum et actibus eorum et apocalypsi
  • Historia ecclesiastica tripartita (together with Epiphanios Scholastikos )
  • Institutiones divinarum et saecularium litterarum , contains De artibus ac disciplinis liberalium litterarum
  • Complexiones in epistolas et acta apostolorurn et apocalysin

Editions and translations

Entry in Clavis Historicorum Antiquitatis Posterioris (CHAP) .

  • Theodor Mommsen (Ed.): Auctores antiquissimi 12: Cassiodori Senatoris Variae. Berlin 1898 ( Monumenta Germaniae Historica , digitized version )
  • Cassiodori senatoris chronica . In: Theodor Mommsen (Ed.): Auctores antiquissimi 11: Chronica minora saec. IV. V. VI. VII. (II). Berlin 1894, pp. 109–161 ( Monumenta Germaniae Historica , digitized version )
  • Lieve Van Hoof, Peter Van Nuffelen ( eds / translators) : The Fragmentary Latin Histories of Late Antiquity (AD 300-620). Edition, Translation and Commentary. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2020, pp. 194ff.
  • Michael Shane Bjornlie (Ed.): Cassiodorus. The Variae. The Complete Translation. University of California Press, Oakland 2019.
  • Wolfgang Bürsgens (translator): Cassiodor: Institutiones divinarum et saecularium litterarum. Introduction to the spiritual and secular sciences (= Fontes Christiani , volumes 39/1 and 39/2). Two volumes. Herder, Freiburg 2003, ISBN 3-451-27271-7 for volume 1, ISBN 3-451-27273-3 for volume 2 (critical edition with translation)
  • Andreas Pronay (translator): Cassiodorus Senator: Introduction to the spiritual and secular sciences (Institutiones divinarum et saecularium litterarum) (= Spudasmata , Volume 163). Olms, Hildesheim 2014, ISBN 978-3-487-15207-3 (translation and commentary)
  • Peter Dinzelbacher (translator): Letters from the Ostrogoth king Theodoric the Great and his successors. From the "Variae" of Cassiodorus. Heidelberg 2010.
  • Christine Boot: Cassiodorus' Historia ecclesiastica tripartita in Leopold Stainreuter ’s German Translation. MS germ. Fol. 1109. I – II, Rodopi, Amsterdam 1977 (= Amsterdam publications on language and literature , 29–30).


  • José M. Alonso-Núñez, Joachim Gruber: Cassiodor (us) . In: Lexicon of the Middle Ages . Volume 2, Artemis, Munich / Zurich 1983, ISBN 3-7608-8902-6 , Sp. 1551–1554.
  • Michael Shane Bjornlie: Politics and Tradition Between Rome, Ravenna and Constantinople. A Study of Cassiodorus and the Variae, 527-554. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2013.
  • Arne Søby Christensen: Cassiodorus, Jordanes and the History of the Goths. Studies in a Migration Myth . Museum Tusculanum Press, Copenhagen 2002.
  • Brigitte English: The Artes Liberales in the Early Middle Ages (5th – 9th centuries). The quadrivium and the computus as indicators of continuity and renewal of the exact sciences between antiquity and the Middle Ages. (= Sudhoff's archive. Supplements. Issue 33). Stuttgart 1994.
  • Georg Jenal : (Flavius) Magnus Cassiodorus Senator . In: Wolfram Ax (ed.): Latin teachers in Europe. Fifteen portraits from Varro to Erasmus of Rotterdam. Böhlau, Cologne 2005, ISBN 3-412-14505-X , pp. 217–246
  • Christina Kakridi: Cassiodors Variae . Saur, Munich 2005.
  • Günter Ludwig : Cassiodor. About the origin of the occidental school . Academic Publishing Company, Frankfurt a. M. 1967.
  • Arnaldo MomiglianoCassiodoro. In: Alberto M. Ghisalberti (Ed.): Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani (DBI). Volume 21:  Caruso – Castelnuovo. Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana, Rome 1978, pp. 494-504.
  • James J. O'Donnell: Cassiodorus . Berkeley 1979 ( online ).
  • Johannes Weißensteiner: Cassiodor / Jordanes as historian . In: Anton Scharer , Georg Scheibelreiter (Hrsg.): Historiography in the early Middle Ages . Vienna 1994, pp. 308-325.

Web links

Commons : Cassiodorus  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Cassiodorus  - Sources and full texts
Secondary literature


  1. ^ Hermann Usener : Anecdoton Holderi. A contribution to the history of Rome in the Eastern Gothic period. Bonn 1877 ( online at ).
  2. Ludo Moritz Hartmann : Cassiodorus 1 . In: Paulys Realencyclopadie der classischen Antiquity Science (RE). Volume III, 2, Stuttgart 1899, column 1671.
  3. ^ Ludo Moritz Hartmann : Cassiodorus 2 . In: Paulys Realencyclopadie der classischen Antiquity Science (RE). Volume III, 2, Stuttgart 1899, column 1671.
  4. ^ Ludo Moritz Hartmann : Cassiodorus 3 . In: Paulys Realencyclopadie der classischen Antiquity Science (RE). Volume III, 2, Stuttgart 1899, column 1671 f.
  5. Cf. Cassiodor, Institutiones divinarum et saecularium litterarum 1, praef. 1.
  6. See Migne , Patrologia Latina LXX, 1105 f.
  7. ^ Heinrich Schipperges †: Cassiodorus, Senator Flavius ​​Magnus Aurelius. In: Werner E. Gerabek , Bernhard D. Haage, Gundolf Keil , Wolfgang Wegner (eds.): Enzyklopädie Medizingeschichte. De Gruyter, Berlin / New York 2005, ISBN 3-11-015714-4 , p. 233 f .; here: p. 233.
  8. Friedrich Bautz (Ed.): Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon. Volume 1. Hamm 1996, Col. 953-955.
  9. The reasons for this assumption are explained in detail in André van de Vyver: Cassiodore et son œuvre. In: Speculum 6 (1931) 244-292, here: pp. 260-263. Vito A. Sirago, among others, follows his view: I Cassiodoro , Soveria Mannelli 1983, p. 108f .; Rudolf Helm: Cassiodorus . In: Reallexikon für Antike und Christianentum Vol. 2, Stuttgart 1954, Sp. 915–926, here: Sp. 919–920; Åke Fridh : Cassiodor . In: Theologische Realenzyklopädie , Vol. 7, 1981, pp. 657-663, here: 659 ; Walter Eder: Cassiodorus . In: Der Neue Pauly Vol. 2, Stuttgart 1997, Sp. 1004-1007, here: 1005; Wolfgang Bürsgens (Ed.): Cassiodor: Institutiones divinarum et saecularium litterarum , Freiburg i. Br. 2003, p. 20; Arnaldo Momigliano: Cassiodoro . In: Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani Vol. 21, 1978, pp. 494-504, here: 499; Charles Pietri, Luce Pietri (ed.): Prosopographie chrétienne du Bas-Empire , part 2: Prosopographie de l'Italie chrétienne (313-604) , vol. 1, Rome 1999, p. 407; Salvatore Pricoco: Spiritualità monastica e attività culturale nel cenobio di Vivarium . In: Sandro Leanza (ed.): Flavio Magno Aurelio Cassiodoro , Soveria Mannelli 1986, pp. 357–377, here: 360. 373. Hans Thiele was of the opposite view: Cassiodor, his monastery founding Vivarium and its aftermath in the Middle Ages . In: Studies and communications on the history of the Benedictine order and its branches . Vol. 50 (1932), pp. 378-419.
  10. See Dietrich Benner and Jürgen Oelkers (eds.): Historical Dictionary of Education , Beltz Verlag, Weinheim / Basel 2004, p. 642 and Hermann Weimer: Geschichte der Pädagogik , 3rd edition, GI Göschen'sche Verlagshandlung, Leipzig 1910, p 15.
  11. Josef Dolch : Curriculum of the Occident . Ratingen 1959, p. 78
  12. See Günter Ludwig: Cassiodor. About the origin of the occidental school. Frankfurt a. M. 1967, pp. VII, 1, 4, 161-166.
  13. Cf. generally Weißensteiner, Cassiodor / Jordanes als historian .
  14. See in detail Christensen, Cassiodorus, Jordanes and the History of the Goths .
  15. Institutiones divinarum et saecularium litterarum (Latin text)