Chapter 4: Conversion (Notes)

[[1.]] Belisarius already had a praetorian prefect of his own, one Fidelis, at Rome in early 537 (Proc. De bello gothico 1.20.19-20), whose authority probably increased along with Byzantine control of Italy.

[[2.]] Belisarius was first invited by the Goths to accept their kingship; he pretended to agree to win access to the city, then reneged and proclaimed his allegiance to Justinian.

[[3.]] It has been suggested that Cassiodorus resigned in protest against Witigis' murder of senators given in hostage by the besieged Romans in 537. There is (1) no evidence for this, and (2) little likelihood that the Variae would have grown out of so acrimonious a parting of the ways.

[[4.]] This preface to the Psalm commentary, it should be noted, was clearly written some years after the events described. Thus the conventionally antithetical opposition between the bitterness of secular cares and the sweet delights of the Psalter probably represents accurately only the sentiments that had developed over the years following the period described. There is no contemporary evidence that at the time of the transition from public to private life Cassiodorus was motivated by any notable spiritual distress.

[[5.]] See A. van de Vyver, Speculum, 6(1931), 244-292.

[[6.]] The long sojourn at Constantinople thesis began with J. Sundwall, Abhandlungen zur Geschichte des ausgehenden Römertums (1919), 154-156, and was accepted by M.J. Cappuyns, DHGE, 11(1949), 1349-1408.

[[7.]] Cappuyns, op. cit., 1355. Cassiodorus was one of eleven illustres urged by Pope John II to oppose Nestorianism (PL 66.20-24); but he was addressed there in his public capacity.

[[8.]] For a good study of early medieval conversio, see P. Galtier, Revue d'histoire ecclé‚siastique, 33.1(1937), 1-26, 277-305.

[[9.]] The exact meaning of the three vows of the Benedictine Regula (Chapter 58) is much debated. The two schools of opinion (conversatio in Chapter 58 does/does not mean "conversion") can be found most carefully presented in the notes to the edition of the Regula by J. McCann (1952), who discusses the question extensively and sensibly, concluding that conversatio does roughly equal conversio in the crucial passages; for the opposing view, see H. Hoppenbrouwers, Graecitas et Latinitas Christianorum Primaeva, Supplementa, Fasciculus 1 (1964), 47-95, who gives a fairly complete bibliography (no less than fifteen studies) of the quarrel.

[[10]]. Reg. Ben. 58: "suscipiendus autem in oratorio coram omnibus promittat de stabilitate sua et conversatione morum suorum, et obedientiam .... "

[[11.]] The issue of terminology has grown simpler with the years. Hoppenbrouwers has reduced his point of view to arguing that "morum suorum" is not a mere redundancy (leading to limp translations like J. Chapman's "monasticity of behavior"for the whole phrase), but an epexegetic genitive; it is unclear whether in this case that term is anything more than a euphemism for redundancy, however. The main thrust of the case McCann expounds seems to prevail by showing (1) the existence of other passages in the rule where conversatio clearly does have the sense of "conversion," (2) the medieval acceptance of conversio as the reading for conversatio in the crucial passages of the Regula, and (3) the silliness of all attempted translations denying the equivalence. If conversatio does not mean something more than simply mores, we make of Benedict and ourselves only hairsplitters.

[[12.]] Reg. Ben. l:"heremitarum... qui non conversationis fervore novicio sed monasterii probatione diuturna... contra vitia carnis vel cogitationum ... pugnare sufficiunt." Cf. Inst. 1.29.

[[13.]] Augustine, Soliloquia 1.1.6, for example, uses converto actively of God's effect on men. The same idea is fully developed by Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, la, 1, 62, art. 2, ad 3.

[[14.]] Var. 11, Praef. 7: "Sed postquam duodecim libris opusculum nostrum desiderato fine concluseram, de animae substantia vol de virtutibus eius amici me disserere coegerunt, ut per quam multa diximus, de ipsa quoque dicere videremur."

[[15.]] The connection between the De anima and the Variae is further strengthened by the rubrics used at the beginning and end of the shorter treatise. The incipit of the De anima attributes the work to "Magnus Aurelius Cassiodorus Senator." This is the same form of the name as the one given in the rubrics of the Variae; it is used consistently in the manuscripts of the De anima, at the beginning and end of the work.

[[16.]] Inst., praef l:"Cum studia saecularium litterarum magno desiderio fervere cognoscerem, ita ut multa pars hominum per ipsa se mundi prudentiam crederet adipisci, gravissimo sum, fateor, dolore permotus ut scripturis divinis magistri publici deessent, cum mundani auctores celeberrima procul dubio traditione pollerent" (emphasis added).

[[17.]] There has been a general assumption prevalent that Cassiodorus' De anima depends heavily on the fifth-century De statu animae of Claudianus. But Halporn has argued (CCSL 96.508-509), and by independent investigation I concur, that there are no detectable verbal reminiscences of Claudianus' treatise in Cassiodorus. A. Souter, Texts and Studies, 9.1 (1922), 322, stated without reference that Claudianus is referred to in Cassiodorus' revision of Pelagius' commentary on the Epistles; I have been unable to verify this claim. J.H. Waszink, in the first published version of his edition of Tertullian's De anima (1933), 16-17, thought that Cassiodorus had been greatly influenced by Tertullian's work; in the second edition (1947), 49, Waszink retracted that claim completely. Now M. Hofinger, Cassiodors und Tertullians De Anima (1970), has investigated the relationship at considerable length; he also concludes that no dependence existed.

[[18.]] H.-I. Marrou, M‚langes J. de Ghellinck, 1(1951), 235-249, has argued that the chapter headings in Augustine's De civitate Dei are similarly interpolated on the basis of a list of topics prepared by the author. Cassiodorus in the Hist. trip., praef 5, makes explicit mention of his interpolation of headings in that text as a special case.

[[19.]] It is true, as Professor Halporn has pointed out to me, that similar preparations are often found for new chapter headings in the Inst., e.g., at the end of 1.9. I only find it probable that the chapter titles were not present in the De anima as it was originally composed.

[[20.]] The use of the second person singular pronouns to address God begins at De an. 17.40, about halfway through the "Recapitulatio."

[[21.]] Augustine and Claudianus Mamertus did not rigorously distinguish the two similar words.

[[22.]] Cf. Macrobius, Saturnalia 7.16.

[[23.]] This was a point on which Augustine expressed strong uncertainty; see De libero arbitrio voluntatis 3.21.59 (and elsewhere), where he reviewed four theories: that all souls descend from Adam's soul, that they are created specially for each person, that they arc pro-existing entities sent by God, and that they are pre-existing entities that come of their own free will. Augustine concludes, "aut enim nondum ista quaestio a divinorum librorum catholicis tractoribus pro merito suae obscuritatis et perplexitatis evoluta atque illustrata est; aut si iam factum est, nondum in manus nostras huiuscemodi litterae pervenerunt." Cassiodorus notes this uncertainty at De an. 9.21-24; it is the first occasion in the treatise where he cites any authority by name.

[[24.]] At De an. 11.115, the chanting of the Psalter is cited as the characteristically noble act of the human body and soul, performed in spite of the ills that afflict man.

[[25.]] De an. 18.4-5: "Dona quod offeram, custodi quod exigas ut velis coronare quod praestas," with echoes of Augustine.

[[26.]] "Invidit, pro dolor, tam magnis populis, cum duo essent, et adhuc temporales persequitur quos impio ambitu fecit esse mortales."

[[27.]] The history of this controversy is summarized by Halporn, CCSL 96.506, n. 14; Halporn himself avoids taking a position. See a faint echo of the phrase at Jordanes, Get. 48.246: "dum utrique gentes [sc. Ostrogothi et Visigothi]... in uno essent." I cannot help but wonder, however, whether the passage in the De anima is not a glancing allusion to Augustine's two cities.

[[28.]] "Confessional" in the dual sense of praise of God, blame of self, as in Augustine's great work.

[[29.]] De an. 18.57: "alma lumina veracium litterarum," echoing the contrast with secular letters.