Chapter 7: Old Age and Afterlives

BECAUSE the whole span of Cassiodorus' activity in his monastery presents itself to us in one image in the Institutiones, it is easy, too easy, to think of that period as homogeneous. For that reason it is particularly valuable to separate the study of his activity there into two parts, following natural lines offered by the evidence. There are two particular pieces of evidence, one a text, the other the history of a text, that show us the progress of Cassiodorus' work.

To begin with, Cassiodorus gave a clear list of works written after his retirement in the preface to the De orthographia: "[1] After the Psalm commentary, to which I gave my first attention at the time of my conversion, [2] and after the Institutiones, ... [3] and after the commentary on Romans, from which I removed the blots of Pelagian heresy, leaving the rest for others to expurgate, [4] and after the volume in which I gathered the Artes of Donatus with his Commenta, a work on etymologies, and another book of Sacerdos on schemata, for the benefit of the less sophisticated brethren [simplices fratres], [5] and after the book of tituli of Scripture..., [6] and after the volume of Complexiones, [7] I have come to treat my old friends the orthographers in the ninety-third year of my life" (De orth. 144.1-16). It will quickly be seen that in the preceding chapter we have really only examined Cassiodorus' career through the production of the first three of these seven works: the Expositio Psalmorum, the Institutiones, and the expurgation of the commentary on Romans. We have already put a terminus ante quem for the first draft of the Institutiones, embodying most of the educational program and the collection of manuscripts, at 562, almost a decade after Cassiodorus' return to Squillace. Thus the remaining four works are the fruits of almost two decades of presumably less intense work by the aging Cassiodorus.

Here the textual history of the Institutiones comes into play, albeit with arguable significance. The evidence on the question makes only one thing certain: that Cassiodorus himself did put a hand to revising his own work, including new material (mentioning, e.g., the De orthographia), and correcting obvious errors in the first edition (such as calling a Priscian a Greek, a slip rectified when Cassiodorus had obtained a codex of his work in Latin). The further difficulty, however, is that the original edition survived (apparently) and was itself the basis for successive interpolated editions by other hands of the second book particularly, which includes further information on the seven liberal arts. There is some possibility, then, that a copy of the Institutiones in its first draft left the Vivarium and began to receive accretions. Thus there survive copies of the entire work (revised by Cassiodorus, uninterpolated), copies of Book 11 (also revised and uninterpolated), and numerous additional copies of Book 11 (not revised by Cassiodorus, interpolated by persons unknown in two stages).[[1]]

This new information is not decisive, but it throws light on the subject from a new angle, putting better relief on the contours of the later years of Cassiodorus' career. Returning to the Complexiones and to the De orthographia, we can examine the quality, as well as the quantity, of the later works. What is most noteworthy is the decline in originality; of the last four works named, three are mere compilations, including a codex of grammatical texts, a handbook of chapter headings from the Bible for ready reference, and the De orthographia itself. Only the Complexiones shows any meager originality on Cassiodorus' part. Far from surprising us, this should confirm what we can surmise about Cassiodorus' life at this period. He had by and large completed the establishment of his library, with a few lacunae remaining, and prepared the major textbooks for the training of young monk-scholars. By this time Cassiodorus was in his mid-seventies, full of years and for the most part ready to rest in the contemplation of divine things. While he did not cease literary activity entirely, there were yet no gaps that he alone could fill; for he had not the vigor to undertake any major labors of commentary on other books of scripture, the more so because of his earlier diligence in preparing codices containing comments gathered from many sources where integral works did not exist. There was then a last major textbook to be put together on grammar (matching the ones already mentioned in the Institutiones on rhetoric and dialectic) and the handbook of chapter headings, perhaps something of an old man's pastime, something to keep the pen moving while he read through the whole corpus of scripture over several months.

There is no particular reason why either of those works should have survived; what did survive from this period were the Complexiones and the purely functional De orthographia.

Turning to the Complexiones from the Expositio Psalmorum, we see how much Cassiodorus' approach to writing scriptural commentary had changed from his active days at Constantinople (when he was in his fifties) to the last years at Squillace (for the preface to the De orthographia seems to say that the Complexiones was being written just at the time of that work, in other words, at some time around the turn of Cassiodorus' tenth decade, c. 575). The single surviving manuscript, discovered in 1712 by Scipio Maffei with his trove of Verona manuscripts, goes back itself to the sixth century, but apparently to a northern writing center otherwise unidentifiable.[[2]] Maffei was excited by the work because he thought it provided independent authority for textual readings in the Latin Bible, since Cassiodorus clearly did not follow the Vulgate. In particular, Maffei leapt to point out that Cassiodorus already knew the trinitarian interpolation at I John 5.7-8, and took that as proof that the reading is valid (it is not).

The difference between this work and the Expositio Psalmorum is not merely in the scale, but also in the purpose and the style. In the preface, Cassiodorus put forth this cryptic explanation of his work: "Breves of the Apostles, which we can more accurately call complexiones, embrace various things summarily, showing what things are treated there, striking a balance between diffuse description and excessive (omissive) brevity" (PL 70.1321-1322). What Cassiodorus then promised was a brief narration, summarizing the intentiones of the sacred authors, not discussing every word of the text. "This is the difference between breves and complexiones: that breves are an analytical index of what follows, while complexiones give a consecutive narration of the same things" (PL 70.1322). This seems to mean that Cassiodorus is not intending to provide a set of canons to accompany a text of scripture, but rather an independent work capable of being read on its own.

The purpose of the work, then, is to introduce the reader to the non-evangelical books of the New Testament: "For reasons of brevity I omit mention of some doctrinal disputes, the purpose being to introduce the reader to the text, not to tell him all there is to know" (PL 70. 1382A).

The procedure by which this introduction is achieved is formal and simple to a much greater degree than that of the Expositio Psalmorum. The scripture was divided up arbitrarily into numbered sections, which are the units of commentary.[[3]] The numbered sections each begin with a scriptural lemma, the first words of that section of the text. Explanation follows very literally, very directly; what is given is scarcely more than a paraphrase. The actual words of the lemma need not be the subject of the explanation (cf. ad Rom. 9.1 [PL 70. 1327B]), nor is every word of the passage considered (cf. ad Rom. 1.18-24 [PL 70. 1323A], where Romans 1.20, a popular text in the middle ages but one neglected in the Expositio Psalmorum, is passed over in silence). Throughout the work the purpose of the comments is to clarify and to simplify, with frequent references to parallel texts of scripture, especially the Psalter.

Insofar as this work fits the categories of early medieval exegesis, it is resolutely literal. There is virtually no allegorical interpretation, not even of individual figures; thus the mention of Noah in I Peter 3.17 is ignored. On the other hand, no part of the text is considered worthy of outright neglect; on I Peter 5.8, Cassiodorus summarizes the contents of the author's personal greetings and commendation of the letter's bearer. The closest he comes to allegory is on Apocalypse 3.1, where he reads a phrase thus: "and in shining vestments, that is, a purified conscience" (PL 70. 1408A). Nor is there digression, nor anything not explicitly called for by the text.

As described so far, then, this is a work almost without interest except as a guide to the original text itself, perhaps intended as a way of finding explicit references to particular contents of the books of scripture covered. But in this apparent desert, the one visible theological preoccupation stands out all the sharper. The work is filled, even overflowing, with repeated and fervent insistences on the entirety and unity of the Holy Trinity. Most commonly, these take the form of gratuitous assertions, when one member of the trinity is mentioned, that the naming of the one implies automatically all three. This is a pronounced habit particularly in the Pauline epistles, where the first verse of every letter, offering greetings in the name of God, is elucidated by reference to all three members of the Trinity. At the beginning of II Corinthians, for example, Cassiodorus describes Paul as "seeking that peace and grace be granted them by God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: these two are named, but the Holy Spirit is recalled often, for the simple mention of one member of the Trinity embraces all three completely" (PL 70. 1339A-B). On Ephesians, he describes Paul as hoping "that they might have grace and peace from the Father and Christ the Lord; where the religious spirit senses the allusion to the Holy Spirit" (PL 70. 1345D). More explicitly, on the opening of I Thessalonians: "Nor does it matter that he omits mention of the Holy Spirit; for whether he mentions one or, as just now, two persons of the Trinity, he means the whole Trinity to be understood" (PL 70. 1349C). This same admonition is repeated over and over again throughout the commentary. For example, the triple prepositional phrases of Romans 11.36 excite the remark: "Veritably he proclaims the work of the Holy Trinity to be incomprehensible; for ex ipso, namely from the Father, and per ipsum, namely through the Son, and in ipso, namely in the Holy Spirit, all things exist; and to show the unity indivisible in them he adds, 'glory to them forever'" (PL 70. 1329A).

What is remarkable and valuable about this penchant of the nonagenarian scholar for insisting on the unity and coequality of the members of the Trinity is that it is not (apparently) directed at any particular heretical tendency of the age; where the Trinitarian features of the Expositio Psalmorum showed Cassiodorus very much bound up in the controversies that raged around him in Constantinople, this habit in the Complexiones is merely the repetitiousness of an old man who is also a patient teacher, insistently drumming the central dogma of the Christian faith into his students' ears and eyes. A lifetime spent in the company of heretics and controversialists disagreeing violently among themselves about the Trinity had left Cassiodorus acutely conscious of the necessity of inculcating proper doctrine in the inexperienced, to avoid prolongation and repetition of the controversies that had rent the church for centuries. The enemies of the truth had receded in the distance from Squillace, but the need to teach and preserve the true interpretation lived on. It is particularly noteworthy that Cassiodorus shows no sign of contact with Lombard Arianism, with lingering disagreement in Italy over the Three Chapters edict, or with any contemporary eastern arguments. The isolation of the Vivarium was complete.

We have seen, therefore, that the originality of Cassiodorus' last independent work of scholarship is not very great after all. In his old age he was still preparing textbooks, but with none of the resourcefulness that he showed when doing the Expositio Psalmorurn.[[4]] Apart from witnessing the progress of Cassiodorus the man into grave old age, however, we should also notice that there was still a demand for this kind of work in his community. Not all of his monks, however many had stayed on through twenty years and however many new ones had entered, were capable of advancing to the level of their teacher, and the ones for whom he was writing were still relatively unadvanced in their own studies.

If this strikes us as being the case with the Complexiones, it forcibly speaks to us on every page of the De orthographia. The very need for the textbook clearly shows us something of the state of affairs inside the Vivarium around 580. For comparison, we should first recall that Cassiodorus had already had something to say about the subject of correct spelling, in the Institutiones; in the chapter on copying manuscripts, after the careful instructions to observe the idioms of scripture, there follows about a page of orthographic instructions (Inst. 1.15). The instructions are simple and very much to the point; they enjoin, for example, careful observation of the use of b and v, n and m, and -e and -ae endings. Some of what he advised was exotic as well, as his insistence that narratio be spelled with one r out of deference to its derivation (and he has his etymology right for once) from gnarus--not even the manuscripts of that particular passage obey him on that point. But in general at that stage, Cassiodorus was addressing serious problems faced by the best scribes of the period; his advice reflects not any local weakness of scribes but a general difficulty in the contemporary Latin culture. If we date that state of affairs to around 560, we can see how much things had changed by the time Cassiodorus came to write the De orthographia. We see first that the idea for the work came from someone else (as Cassiodorus always claimed except, significantly, for the Institutiones): "When I was working on my Complexiones of the Apostles, monks suddenly began to clamor, 'What use is it to us to know the thoughts of the ancients, or even your own, if we have no idea [omnimodis ignoremus] how to write them down? Neither can we read aloud things written in indecipherable script'" (De orth. 143.1-6). The picture conjured up is striking and sufficiently unflattering to Cassiodorus and his enterprise to make us think there is truth in it. Consider the situation: Cassiodorus, in his tenth decade of life, the most senior and most revered member of the community, even if loved as much for his knowledge as for his sanctity, is approached by his monks to set down on paper a last volume of ideas for their benefit: a spelling book.

Now consider the implications: For this spelling book they came to Cassiodorus himself, already preoccupied with the Complexiones and surely slowed by age, instead of approaching any other member of the monastic community. Are we to assume that he was the only one who retained the confident ability to handle even so rudimentary a subject in a professional fashion? I fear that we are, for when we look at the contents of the work we see that it is but a digest of other texts, all of which must have been readily present. Thus we are to presume that no one in the community had the minimal ability to do the relatively mechanical task of compilation, and more, that the brothers who needed this service could not make use of the original works themselves, but positively needed to have the digest made. If any reader of the Institutiones has come away with a glamorous notion of the lofty intellectual life of the ordinary monks at the Vivarium, this state of affairs will be enough to disillusion him and more. How dismal a failure was the whole enterprise if, almost thirty years after the founder's arrival from Constantinople, there was still more need for a spelling book than anything else?

When we turn to the work, we find our fears confirmed. It is no particular surprise that the old, old man has not written an original tract, nor that he has abridged material sometimes carelessly and ineffectively. His sources are a handful of Roman grammarians going back to the first century A.D., including L. Annaeus Cornutus Neptitanus (from the age of Nero, not otherwise known), Curtius Valerianus (of whom nothing is known), Papirianus (also known to Priscian), Adamantius Martyrius (whose work survives separately for comparison with Cassiodorus' treatment), Eutychis (also surviving), Caesellius Vindex (quoted only twice, known to and quoted by Aulus Gellius), and finally Priscian himself.[[5]] Cassiodorus' task was to abridge these authors' works, following certain observable principles.

Particularly where we can compare Adamantius Martyrius on the same page of Keil's edition, we can see that Cassiodorus followed his source closely, with some few liberties. He abbreviated a number of the examples given, but above all he simplified. For example, Adamantius said, "Greek usage vindicates Bacchus and baccar" (Adam. 172.4-5),[[6]] the meaning of which could be elusive; Cassiodorus gives the rule to be followed very simply: "for Bacchus and Baccha and baccar are written with a b" (De orth. 172.4-5). Later there is a complicated hypothetical case that does not in fact occur in Latin; Cassiodorus omits it entirely (Adam. 187.10-13). In other places, he reverses procedure to insert explanations and examples where Adamantius may be opaque.[[7]] A little later, Cassiodorus gives the example, "ut amo amabo, voco vocabo, doceo docebo," where Adamantius has only "ut amabo docebo" to illustrate the future (De orth. 198.11; Adam. 198.6).

If Cassiodorus digested the different prescriptions and etymologies of his sources, he was not always able to sort them out. The two following dicta from different sources occur scarcely ten pages apart. Following Cornutus he said, "There are those who write quotidie with a co-: cotidie; they would give up that error if they knew quotidie is derived from quot diebus, that is, 'on all days'" (De orth. 149.6-8). Following Papirian: "Cotidie is spoken and written with co-, not with a quo-, since it is derived not from quoto die, but from continenti die" (De orth. 158.18-19). Only the alert reader, not the aged Cassiodorus, notes any contradiction here.

To recount the vicissitudes of a spelling book is a tedious chore and happily ended. What emerges from even the briefest glance, however, is that the whole purpose of the work was different from Cassiodorus' earlier brief essay in orthographic instruction in the Institutiones. Then the purpose had been to warn against the most common errors; now the need was to lay down the most basic rules for every contingency. In the earlier case, Cassiodorus seems to have envisaged giving advice to inexperienced but competent scribes; here he is offering the rudiments to scribes with very little competence at all. It is impossible to refrain from what seems the obvious conclusion: that the intellectual level of achievement at the Vivarium, as judged from competence in reading and writing Latin texts, had fallen off so far (or perhaps had never risen above a level that Cassiodorus had originally overestimated) as to give a very poor showing for the members of the community. One sturdy argument from silence stands forth to support this hypothesis: we never hear of any work written, or any students taught, by any member of the community of the Vivarium not under the immediate supervision and initiative of Cassiodorus himself. If the expurgation of the Pelagian commentary extended in time past the founder's death, it is the only work we know of that did so, and we have already seen the decline in intellectual acuity and accuracy from the portions revised by Cassiodorus to the remaining sections. After thirty years of Cassiodorus instructing the monks in the sciences of scriptural interpretation, not one of Cassiodorus' students ever had a career independent of the master. This Socrates had neither a Plato nor a Xenophon (for that matter, this Anselm had no Eadmer); the intellectual history of the Vivarium ends with Cassiodorus' death. Moreover, as we shall see, the history of the community at the most rudimentary level is wrapped in mystery and rapidly comes to an end; the works preserved there disseminated to Europe, but through means we can only surmise. After Cassiodorus, there is silence at Squillace.

If Cassiodorus was being besought for a spelling book in his ninety-third year, he must have had some inkling that his experiment had failed on the level of worldly success; he does not speak of this, nor is he concerned by it visibly, nor, on the level of contemplation, should he have been. It is possible that one factor in our ignorance of the fate of the Vivarium may not be the fault of the inhabitants, but of the broader sweep of history. Throughout the Vivarium years, there is something missing from the life of Cassiodorus that we have always seen there before: an awareness of wider geographical horizons. For a man who had been a statesman in the highest circles of power, who had traveled the Mediterranean himself and sent others on missions around the known world, the horizons from Squillace were suddenly very close and very narrow indeed. There is some mention of seeking out manuscripts from a distance, but this may or may not ever have been successful. Instead we see Cassiodorus isolated and alone at Squillace, out of touch with the political and theological events of the day, with only the companions of his self-imposed exile to write to and for. When he came to mention ecclesiastical writers of his own age, he named only Dionysius and Eugippius, both some decades dead. On the rest of the history of the second half of the sixth century in Italy, Cassiodorus is silent. (Out there in the wider world, by around 575-580, Justinian was a decade and more dead, the Lombards were in control of the plains of northern Italy, and Gregory was on his way to Constantinople as papal apocrisiarius.)

This isolation in turn is an accident of history and a byproduct of the remoteness of Cassiodorus' hideaway. The farthest tip of the Calabrian peninsula is unique in having been spared the ravages of the sixth century's wars. When Roman and Gothic forces raged up and down, they always clung to the west coast, seeking the straits of Messina. Years later, when the Lombards entered Italy in the late 560's, they never quite got as far as Squillace. The toe of Italy had passed quietly back into Byzantine hands while Cassiodorus was away in the north and then in Constantinople, and it remained Byzantine until the Normans came in 1060. The actual fate of Cassiodorus' monastery is murky, as we have said. Gregory the Great mentioned the establishment in two letters, one arbitrating a dispute with the bishop of Squillace as late as 598; but after that there is silence.[[8]] As discussed in the last chapter, we surmise that Basilian monks took over some of the remnants of the institution, and we saw how Cassiodorus himself might have been an object of their veneration (to judge by the Greek graffiti on his sarcophagus). The patria of the man who had run all of Italy for the Ostrogoths, the site of his last and proudest achievement, is reduced to merely another gaggle of monks looking no farther than the next cloister.

What is remarkable about Cassiodorus in his old age, however, is that in his last work, the De orthographia, there appeared personal touches and signs of the individual spirit behind the literary persona with which we have for so long dealt, to an even greater degree than in the Institutiones. We have already quoted his proud, quiet passage listing the works he had written since his retirement and taking up the request of his monks to provide them with one more textbook. He saw that this was the task of a true "modern," receiving and preserving some of the heritage of antiquity: "It is our intention to weave into one fabric and assign to proper usage whatever the ancients have handed down to modern custom. But the things which were only customary in the past it is best to abandon with hesitation, lest extra care be taken beyond what is needed nowadays" (De orth. 145.14-18).[[9]] This very nearly summarizes the entire enterprise of Cassiodorus' years in retirement, discarding what is useless of the ancient, preserving into the new age the useful treasures of olden days. Cassiodorus was never, as we have seen, the most original of writers, always preferring another man's carefully chosen words to his own composition. So too at the end of his preface, when he wished to say a few words of general advice, he had recourse to another writer's words: "But before beginning our treatise on orthography, we have decided to cite the preface of Phocas, the writer on artes, since it seems to fit our whole endeavor [cuncto operi nostro]as if we had written it ourselves" (De orth. 146.20-22). Note how he insists that these verses are so much of his sense that they are as good as his own.

Ars mea multorum es, quos saecula prisca tulerunt;
   sed nova te brevitas asserit esse meam. 
omnia cum veterum sint explorata libellis,
   multa loqui breviter sit novitatis opus. 
te relegat iuvenis, quem garrula pagina terret,
   aut siquem paucis seria nosse iuvat; 
te longinqua petens comitem sibi ferre viator
   ne dubitet, parvo pondere multa vehens; 
te siquis scripsisse volet, non ulla queretur
   damna nec ingrati triste laboris onus.
est quod quisque petat: numquam censura diserti
   hoc contemnet opus, si modo livor abest.

(De orth. 146.13-24)[[10]]

This elegy is good as an epitaph for Cassiodorus himself and shows us more clearly than anything else how he envisioned his own work. There can be no question that his was an age for the abbreviator; the second book of the Institutiones, prepared as an ancilla to the more important first book and as a propaedeutic to the Expositio Psalmorum, itself became a prime source of handbook knowledge of the liberal arts, revised and interpolated as the opportunity came. We see here, too, antiquity's prolixity reduced into a shorter, simpler, modern compass; and there is the plea that the work not be scorned by learned men simply because it is brief, since it directly serves a useful human purpose.

Those are not quite the last words of a personal nature from Cassiodorus, however. There is a conclusion at the end of the De orthographia, a final envoi. It would not be a work of Cassiodorus, one feels, if the number twelve were not a distinguishing feature, and certainly this is no exception. There have been twelve chapters of excerpts, which the conclusion explains once again: "For if, as we know, twelve hours make a day, twelve months complete the year and its seasons, twelve signs of the zodiac hem in the plains of heaven in a solid ring, then it ought to be enough that we have excerpted twelve volumes of orthographical writings to set out the rules for correct spelling" (De orth. 209.22-27). Then there is a last, more personal paragraph of direct address: "Farewell, brethren; deign to remember me in your prayers. I have written this brief guide to spelling, and I have prepared copious instructions on the interpretation of scripture. Just as I have sought to separate you from the ranks of the unlearned, so may the heavenly power not allow us to be mixed with evil men in community of punishment" (De orth. 209.28-210.5). There can be no doubt that this conclusion refers to the spelling book just completed. There is not, to be sure, any mention of secular sciences here; Cassiodorus' achievement, the thing on which he stakes his hope of heaven, is the material he has prepared copiosissime (contrasted neatly with the brevitas of the work at hand) for the understanding of holy scripture.

And that is that. Completed in the ninety-third year of his life, somewhere around 580, the De orthographia is the last thing Cassiodorus ever wrote, excepting minor modifications to the Institutiones. When did Cassiodorus die? There are no legends of his having been taken off into the hills around Squillace to return again at the onset of the next dark age, but neither is there any evidence to tell us of the scholar's death and the monk's entry into the next life. We only know that he survived into his ninety-third year, but not how much longer; our conclusion in Chapter 1 was that his birth was somewhere between 484 and 490, so we see him surviving until at least 576 and perhaps as late as 582 by the time of the De orthographia. As with Cassiodorus' birth, his death enfolds us in ignorance.

We have already alluded to the speedy disappearance of his monastery from the stage of history, perhaps within about two decades of his death. Cassiodorus himself suffered one injustice at the hands of fate, perhaps as a result of the speedy dissolution of his monastery: he never achieved recognition as a saint. In large part this is the result of there never having been an organized cultus and, more pertinently, the result of Cassiodorus' having neglected to leave behind a hagiographer prepared to state his case. If one looks into the Acta Sanctorum, however, one will find the name Cassiodorus listed, on the authority of a late martyrology, under March 17, a day already associated with a saint of the century of Cassiodorus' birth. But this is at best legend. The most interesting survival of Cassiodorus' name in hagiographical history turns Cassiodorus into two martyrs of a group of four assigned to the age of the Antonines and recorded in Acta Sanctorum on September 14 under the names Senator, Viator, Cassiodorus, and Dominata. Hippolyte Delahaye published the story of this text, which he dated to the eighth to eleventh centuries, discounting all historical authenticity except to note that the name of our subject must have been embraced by legend at some time in the early middle ages.[[11]]

As we saw in the last chapter, there has come to light in this century evidence of a debatable nature that may indicate the rudiments of a cultus directed toward the founder of the Vivarium: the graffiti on the sarcophagus from San Martino di Copanello at Squillace. Written in Greek, their clear import is to appeal to the coffin's occupant as a holy spirit and intercessor.[[12]] Even this, however, would not be enough to establish a formal case for canonization. What recognition Cassiodorus has reccivcd in the afterlife will have to be confined to the land that eye has not seen; for what it is worth, Dante did not recall seeing him there.

There is a more mundane kind of afterlife that writers of books are given to suffer here below in the material world. In the past the survival and transmission of Cassiodorus' works in the middle ages has been a favorite pastime for scholars, especially palaeographers. This study does not pretend to present original research on the subject for many reasons, the most substantial of which is the simplest: the topic is of less pressing interest than we have, in the past, wanted it to be.

The vulgate opinion of Cassiodorus has it that he is the veritable savior of western civilization,[[13]] and even that he was a pagan at heart secretly using the monastic system to preserve for future generations the fruits of ancient culture.[[14]] Moreover, just at the point when scholarship found itself in a position to assess this claim, there arose the theory that the manuscripts of the Vivarium had been transported to Bobbio, providing a nucleus library around which the Irish additions brought by Columbanus were built. While that theory, now totally exploded, clung to a tenuous existence, the moment of crisis passed and Cassiodorian scholars with the range and depth of learning to attack the broader assumption had passed from the scene or come to work no longer on Cassiodorus. In the last decades, there has been a gradual tendency in the most specialized studies to recognize the nature of Cassiodorus' contribution and influence for what it was, but old misconceptions die hard.[[15]]

Cassiodorus' influence on medieval culture was, to be blunt, insignificant. When we assess his contribution we can say, for example, that he was found useful without going beyond that to insist that his utility had any particular influence on the recipients of his intellectual legacy. Likewise we can find that he was a respected author without making the further leap to deducing that hc was influential. These things need to be kept in mind as we glance briefly at the history of Cassiodorus' legacy since his death.

We lack direct evidcnce for the earliest history of the dissemination of the Vivarium's manuscripts. The only sixthcentury manuscript surviving of any of Cassiodorus' own works, that of thc Complexiones, already comes from a northern scriptorium and offers no information except that the dissemination began early; on the other hand, of this particular work no other copy survives anywhere, implying that this one case may be irregular to begin with. There is one surviving manuscript that seems to be a product of the Vivarium itself (MS Leningrad Q.v.l.6-10); this codex, with several characteristic Cassiodorian features, is only a collection, however, of works of a pseudo-Rufinus, Fulgentius, Origen, and Jerome, and its post-Vivarian history is obscure. [[16]] An hypothesis has grown up in this century which argues that the contents of the Vivarium were at some point around the end of the sixth century transferred to the library of the Lateran at Rome. [[17]] The idea is attractive, since it hearkens back to the original effort to found a school of Christian learning in Rome (for the contents of Agapetus' library were probably also taken over by the Lateran). On the other hand, such conscious design seems to imply that Cassiodorus himself had something to do with the decision to transfer, even if only as a deathbed instruction to his monks to give up all they had strived for in the intellectual sphere and send the library to Rome. Another hypothesis, with benefits and disadvantages of its own, might be that Cassiodorus had a copy of each of the important manuscripts of his library made to be sent to Rome as a present to a reigning pontiff. This runs into the particular obstacle that not only the works of Cassiodorus and his colleagues themselves but also the particular codices of compilations of other authors' works seem to find themselves represented among the survivors (to judge by later manuscripts). Moreover, we do know that at least one of the great biblical manuscripts, or a copy of one, went eventually to England. At that point we must ask whether there was such a surplus of personnel and materials at the Vivarium to allow for the conception of so substantial a program of production of gift copies; then we must add the query whether Cassiodorus would have prepared such a gift without making a slightly revised edition of the Institutiones (with a new preface and cosmetic modifications elsewhere) to accompany the library as an index.

On balance, then, our ignorance will go so far as to allow us to say that it seems that Cassiodorus' library made its way to Rome, and thence to the world, not long after his death. The circumstances are opaque to us.

Of Cassiodorus' own works the early fate is no less obscure. We saw that the second book of the Institutiones in its interpolated versions may have derived from a copy of the first edition prepared by Cassiodorus and unrevised later. All this is obscure to us as well, raising the question whether a copy left the Vivarium before the revised edition was prepared or whether the original edition was kept uncorrected (most of the changes were very minor) side by side with the revision. Compared with his other works, however, the Institutiones tells a simple and clear tale of its origins; for we know nothing of the early history of the others until they begin receiving mention in the works of other authors and are copied in manuscripts that survive.[[18]]

Of the medieval fate of the Vivarium works themselves rather more is known. Of course, the Gothic History perished completely, and the Complexiones survived in only one manuscript. All of Cassiodorus' other works were more fortunate, with the historical translations (Josephus and the Historia tripartita) being the most widely successful, while of his own original works, the second book of the Institutiones and the Psalm commentary had the widest vogue. Let us now examine the fate of each work in sequence.[[19]]

1. Variae. Apparently not known in England before the Normans, this work survives in manuscripts that are all comparatively late and mostly contain only portions of the entire work.[[20]] Two manuscripts of the last four books survive from the eleventh century, with the bulk from the twelfth through fourteenth centuries.[[21]] Of the three surviving manuscripts of the entire work, two are fourteenth-century, one fifteenth. One surmises that the work became more popular in the later middle ages when Europe rediscovered political thought as a subject distinct from ethics and saw in the Variae a handbook of examples of moral Christian political action.[[22]] This is certainly the impulse that drove Marsilius of Padua to open his Defensor Pacis with a quotation on the benefits of the tranquility of civil regimes taken from the first letter of the Variae (Theoderic's appeal to Anastasius to reaffirm their peaceful relations in 508). Manitius' manuscript catalogues show that copies are indicated only beginning in the twelfth century. Today over a hundred manuscripts are known.[[22a]]

2. Chronica. The only mention in Manitius' catalogues is ninth-century and German. The work, obviously, was not especially important, since it was abbreviated, derivative, and ended with the sixth century. One surmises that it remained useful for a time, however, wherever other historical calendars of this sort were lacking. Ranulphus Higden only quotes Cassiodorus indirectly, but his entry for him mentions the Chronica: "There flourished also Cassiodorus Senator, who expounded the Psalter and published a chronicle [chronicam] of emperors and pontiffs.''[[23]]

3. Ordo generis Cassiodororum. As discussed in Appendix 1, this survived only in connection with two relatively early copies of the Institutiones, from which the individual paragraphs have occasionally been borrowed as they appear in other manuscripts. The information that the fragment contains, particularly the crucial affirmation of Boethian authorship of theological tractates, was forgotten.

4. De anima. One hundred and eighteen manuscripts survive independently or with unrelated works (including the Institutiones), another fifty bound with the Variae, which Cassiodorus tells us was the original disposition of the manuscript. Mentions in medieval catalogues are fewer but come as early as the tenth century;[[24]] the work was specifically cited by Rabanus Maurus and Hincmar of Rheims and used in the De anima of Aelred of Rievaulx, then quoted later by Albertus Magnus and Johannes Pccham. Representing a typical prescholastic view of the soul, it had its small place in late controversies; short and attractive, it was useful as a devotional tract. It was unknown in England bcforc the Normans.

5. Expositio Psalmorum. This was the most successful of Cassiodorus' own works. It was known in continental catalogues of every century and used frequently as early as Bede and Alcuin, who spoke of the work highly; Alcuin listed it in the York library. The utility of the work was obvious, since it was the only complete Psalm commentary from the patristic era except for Augustine's much bulkier and less well-organized collection of sermons; and Cassiodorus' express purpose had been to produce a more useful work than Augustine's. The passage from Ranulphus Higden cited above shows the priority of mention of this work.[[25]] Adriaen collected testimonia to this work from Bede and Paul the Deacon (in the eighth century); Alcuin, Theodulf of Orleans, Amalarius, Hildemar, Gottschalk, Hincmar of Rheims, Prudentius of Troyes, Angelome, and Notker Balbulus (in the ninth century); Flodoard of Rheims (in the tenth century); Berno of Reichenau, Bruno of Wurzburg, and Durandus of Troarn (in the eleventh century); and Abelard and the Decretals of Gratian (in the twelfth century). The work's popularity faded only with that of its style of exegesis and the rise of the great Glossa ordinaria.[[26]]

6. Institutiones. At a very early date, the two books were dissociated from each other in most copies. The first book, with its specific references to the library of the Vivarium, was less universally useful and had much less broad distribution. The second book was a handy introduction to the liberal arts and spread far and wide (influencing Rabanus Maurus' De institutione clericorum); it was also interpolated frequently, however, and used by authors of other textbooks as much as it was used directly itself. Alcuin's De rhetorica is an example of the later trend, more interesting because by that time the first book of the Institutiones had not, to our knowledge, reached England. The difficulties in using Book I, however, were not insurmountable, and it found itself used, and modified, in many ways. A short eighth-century abstract of Italian origins, for example, interpolated a schedule of readings from scripture throughout the church year into the last chapter on the books of the Bible.[[27]] Some later monasteries seem to have used it as a loose guide in establishing and organizing their own libraries.[[28]] In the later middle ages, the first book was taken occasionally for a "De viris illustribus" and passed on under such a title.[[29]]

7. De orthographia. Spelling books were always popular, and there are a variety of catalogue citations from the eleventh to the fourteenth centuries. This particular work may have been known to Bede, and was definitely known to Alcuin.[[30]]

To the catalogue of Cassiodorus' own works, the most important additions to be made are the Latin Josephus and the Historia tripartita, published in Latin at the Vivarium, and the Instituta of Junillus, in whose transmission the Vivarium played a crucial part.

1. Josephus. Not yet published in a full modern edition, the Latin version of the Antiquitates gave the medieval scripture student priceless background information about the historical context of the New Testament. By an examination of relative numbers of citations in Manitius' report of medieval library catalogues, this appears in fact to be the single most often copied historical work of the middle ages, followed most closely by Sallust, more distantly by writers like Orosius, Prosper of Aquitaine, and Paul the Deacon. There are 171 manuscripts of the Latin Josephus listed by the most recent editor, including a fragmentary sixth-century papyrus in Milan, perhaps a close relative of the original. Bede knew and used Cassiodorus' translation.[[31]]

2. Historia tripartita. Cassiodorus' abridgment of the ecclesiastical historians was less popular by far than either Josephus, Eusebius, or Orosius. Nevertheless, preserving the story of an important century of church history, it retained a vigorous antiquarian interest and its survival was assured. Boniface and Alcuin quoted the work, and all six surviving ninth-century manuscripts are in continental monasteries with close English connections, perhaps indicating a crucial role for Alcuin in its distribution. A specific check of its appearance in medieval catalogues is available, showing it in seven from the ninth century, two from the tenth, nine from the eleventh, thirteen from the twelfth, seven from the thirteenth, and six each from the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.[[32]] The earliest reference to the work, however, is contemporary with Cassiodorus: Liberatus of Carthage used the work in his Breviarium (dated 560-566). Gregory the Great knew the work in 597, only to reproach its indulgence toward the authors of the Three Chapters.[[33]] A competitor appeared in the ninth century in the form of a Chronographia tripartita translated into Latin by Anastasius Bibliothecarius, but this work spread much less rapidly and widely.[[34]] A medieval translation by one Leopold Stainreuter of Vienna has recently been edited, showing a vernacular interest in Cassiodorus' compilation.[[35]]

3. Junillus That Cassiodorus was instrumental in the transmission of Junillus' Instituta to the western world can be easily demonstratcd; in the Institutiones Cassiodorus gave Eucherius and Junillus as the last two authors (in that order) of the five whosc works were included in his codex introductorius (Inst. 1.10. 1). In three manuscripts of the seventh to ninth centuries, that is precisely the order in which those two authors appear one after the other.[[36]] Since, moreover, the Instituta was written c. 542 and apparently returned to Italy with Cassiodorus ten years later, it is already probable that the Vivarium marked the work's entry into the west. It was a popular treatise, containing as it did a brief introduction to the Antiochene style of scriptural exegesis.[[37]]

But the transmission of Junillus contains a significant blunder that was not uninfluential in later medieval literature. The original work was a dialogue between a teacher asking questions and his pupils answering; writing in Constantinople, Junillus used a device from the Greek alphabet to indicate this, using the Greek capital letter delta (for didaskalos to indicate the teacher's questions and a Greek capital mu (for mathetes) for the students' responses. But in the manuscripts of Junillus this system has gotten confused. They give the following text in the preface: "Lest any confusion should arise, as so often does through scribal negligence, I have designated the teacher [magister] with a Greek letter M and his students [discipuli] with a D, so that all error may be avoided by the use of foreign characters not used in writing Latin" (PL 68.17). The vulgate text says shortly afterwards that the work gives the text of the dialogue in true-to-life fashion, where "everything is simply and clearly written as if with students asking questions and the teacher answering them" (ibid.) The scribes have taken the Greek letter M to apply to the Latin word beginning with the same letter and have reversed the application of the two Greek letters; in their versions the dialogue takes place between inquisitive students and an answering teacher, a press conference style rather than the catechism that the work was originally intended to be.[[38]]

The confusion that exists in the Junillus manuscripts sprang, one doubts not, from the copying of the work by Latin-trained scribes, presumably away from Constantinople, to whom the allusion to the Greek words for "teacher" and "students" did not occur.[[39]] My purpose in rehearsing this history is to suggest that, given Cassiodorus' crucial role in the transmission of Junillus, it is worth asking whether he and his monks were to blame, at least partially, for the confusion. There are two possibilities: either they reversed the delta and mu in the introduction and rewrote the other passage into "discipulis interrogantibus" and "magistro respondente," thus setting the tradition reversed only by a few isolated and presumably early scribes who knew a little Greek; or they copied the original manuscript slavishly, never thinking that the apparent contradiction between the initials and words would be puzzling to Latin readers, in which case the three surviving accurate or halfaccurate readings would be direct survivals and the vast majority of corrupted manuscripts would be the result of an easy and natural corruption. On balance, the latter is more likely, with Cassiodorus meriting at least some blame for not recognizing the likely confusion and taking steps to produce a version that would be immediately intelligible to a Latin audience. (Reversing the letters both in the preface and all the way through in the dialogue would have sufficed, as one scribe tried to do later.) In either case, the history of Junillus' text shows Cassiodorus' enterprise at its best and worst, preserving a mildly influential work otherwise unknown in the west, but not thinking through adequately the circumstances of its transmission to insure an accurate tradition.

In addition to these specific traces of individual works, there is of course a variety of other information about the uses to which Cassiodorus was put in the middle ages. Lehmann has shown that he was known to and drawn upon by Isidore for his Etymologiae, for example.[[40]] In the confusion of medieval attributions of authorship, we find the curious product of a commentary on the Psalms attributed to Bede; in that work each comment on a given Psalm is preceded by a shorter explanatio depending heavily, sometimes word for word, on Cassiodorus.[[41]] Another pseudo-Bedan work on music consists of only twenty-nine definitions of technical terms, twenty-five wholly from Cassiodorus, and two more partly from him and partly from Arnobius and Jerome.[[42]] Similarly there is a phony letter on clausulae attributed to Cicero confected out of Martianus Capella and Cassiodorus.[[43]] Finally there are little traces up and down the middle ages of the survival of various Vivarian influences, as in the case of Cluny, where we know Mutianus' version of Chrysostom on Hebrews was included in the annual round of reading in the refectory.[[44]]

The picture of Cassiodorian survivals in the medieval period is thus set out before us like a mosaic whose pattern momentarily eludes us. What emerges from the welter of detail is a realization of the importance of the distinction that I suggested we carry into this examination. There can be no question that Cassiodorus was a respected author, not quite of the rank of a Father of the Church, but yet approved and appreciated by all who mention his name; and their number is considerable. There can further be no question that much of what Cassiodorus did was of great utility to medieval scribes and readers. The situation for which he prepared his own works at the Vivarium and designed the program of compilations and translations was very much the paradigm case of the medieval center of intellectual activity: the monastic school of scripture and spirituality. Thus the works he put together for his monks were of considerable use to monks up and down Europe. Further, it is important that Cassiodorus, a guide to the monastic intellectual life, began to fade from view in the twelfth and later centuries, when the center of intellectual life was shifted to the universities and thus changed into something radically new. It is in this period that Cassiodorus' major surviving work from his own secular career, the Variae, began to come into its own. The final judgment of the middle ages, however, was respectful but, coming from a Renaissance humanist who resembled Cassiodorus in more ways than one, not enthusiastic: "1 readily number Cassiodorus among the happy and distinguished--a man of such high rank and such good fortune, so learned and so pious; but I cannot altogether approve his embracing all the sciences, both sacred and profane, in his writings."[[45]]

But was Cassiodorus influential? Have we seen anything to indicate that his ideas themselves had any greater life in the middle ages, that his educational scheme itself took root and thrived? We have not. As constituted, Cassiodorus' works lend themselves to being used, but do not succeed in passing on theological or educational ideas.[[46]] For example, the Cassiodorian notion of the harmony of scripture and secular learning very nearly died with the author.

There is another level at which Cassiodorus has often been presumed to have been an influential figure: in the model he gave of the monastic intellectual life, by the example of the Vivarian enterprise. Unfortunately, the evidence is lacking to support this hypothesis (one might almost call it rather a vain hope), and the balance of probability weighs against it. In order for Cassiodorus to be important in this regard, the success of the first book of the Institutiones would have to be more noticeable; for that work to fall into disregard for centuries indicates that such was not the case. We know too well now that the Vivarium was not the only monastery copying manuscripts in the sixth century, and we have seen in this study that the scope and nature of Cassiodorus' enterprise itself is nowhere so ambitious as has been suggested in the past. In particular, apart from a faint hint that we may owe the survival of Cato's De re rustica to Cassiodorus, his long-presumed importance in the history of the transmission of classical manuscripts has almost disappeared in the light of close scrutiny.[[47]] Where his works did appear and become most useful, apparently reaching the continent anew from England with Alcuin, they followed upon a revival of interest in monastic intellectual activity and cannot be shown to have instigated it in any way. In fact, it is still more probable that it is with Cassiodorus that we see the beginning of the period of neg1ect of secular classics; into his own century the senatorial aristocracy had been patronizing the copying of the most pagan of classics, but after Cassiodorus and the decision to concentrate on litterae divinae, the practice virtually disappeared until the Carolingjan revival.[[48]]

But we can see how Cassiodorus won his reputation. The superficial reader of the Institutiones would notice that there was apparently equal treatment of secular and sacred science (in Migne and earlier editions, the two books were printed as separate works, the second almost as long as the first, owing to the interpolations) and would find a chapter in the first book devoted to the science of copying manuscripts. That chapter in particular would warm the hearts of palaeographers and textual critics wishing later medieval scribes had been so well-instructed those œactors combined in minds desirous of finding a little classical humanism in the long gap between the last pagan aristocrats and the Carolingian Renaissance, and the monster oF that Cassiodorus who could be called "a pagan at heart" was born.[[49]]

Happily the modern fate of Cassiodorus has not been marred completely by those who would make of him what he was not. He broke into print irregularly through the first centuries after Gutenberg, finding an editor for his complete works in the rather undistinguished Maurist Johannes Garet, who gave the complete works (lacking only the then-undiscovered Complexiones) to the light of day at Rouen in 1679.[[50]] This is the version that survives in Patrologia Latina. The nineteenth and twentieth centuries have been kinder, however, with a wide variety of eminent scholars doing serious, if piecemeal, work on his texts.[[51]] Because of the fragmentation of Cassiodorian studies into separate departments for church historians, theologians, Roman historians, palaeographers, etc., the immediate benefit was that scholars of considerable eminence from different fields would be moved to the study of the one author. The only problem is that Cassiodorus has thus had to wait so long to be treated as a unity.

The real landmarks of modern Cassiodorus scholarship mark a proud record of scholarly advance. Two German dissertations just over a century ago, one by A. Franz and the other by A. Thorbecke, performed the useful service of setting forth the state of knowledge at that time in convenient Form.[[52]] Not long after, while Mommsen had been editing the Chronica, Holder's happy discovery of the Ordo generis and its publication with a commentary by Hermann Usener offered new stimuli to look at Cassiodorus. Mommsen, by default, became the editor of the Variae for the Monumenta Germaniae Historica, having just done the Getica, but his edition shows no trace of haste or carelessness; what is more, it is graced with an index by Ludwig Traube that is a model of its kind and the starting place for all serious study of the Variae. For several decades, scholars were digesting this new mass of material; Lehmann's "Cassiodorstudien" and van de Vyver's first article were fruits of this rumination. Then in the 1930's, apparently unbeknownst to each other, two young scholars undertook work on Cassiodorus and the Institutiones. Pierre Courcelle was intending an edition of the work when he was forestailed by the remarkable edition published by R.A.B. Mynors. This edition was limited in its intention, providing a text of considerable critical authority for the use of scholars, without pretending to a final determination of the history of the text and its interpolations or providing a commentary on the many problems the text raised. Courcelle's work went not for naught, as we have seen repeatedly in the notes to this study.[[53]] His early article on the site of the Vivarium was followed by the magisterial study of Greek influence in the west in the fifth and sixth centuries, which includes the most careful study of the survival of Cassiodorian manuscript materials. Since that time there has been a new scattering of work, some missing the mark but stimulating much helpful discussion in so doing, such as Cappuyns' identification of Cassiodorus as the author of the Regula Magistri and Momigliano's hypothesis about the origins of the Getica. With the establishment of the Corpus Christianorum project, the means were at last at hand to bring the remaining works into modern editions. Adriaen's edition of the Expositio Psalmorum is scarcely more than a redaction of Garet's original edition, and plagued by typographical errors at that; a critical edition is in preparation by J.W. Halporn for the Vienna Corpus. The new volume of Corpus Christianorum containing the Variae and the De anima is a more useful contribution, though the Variae there is plagued by misprints and sorely misses Traube's index. The only remaining work from Cassiodorus' pen without a critical edition is the Complexiones[[54]] but that is the work least desperate for a new edition, since it survives in one undamaged uncial manuscript ably published by Maffei.

Go on to Epilogue or return to Table of Contents.