Essay: on Boethius’ Gifts of Fortune, Philosophy, and Reason

Contemplative Nature of Humankind:

on Boethius’ Gifts of Fortune, Philosophy, and Reason

by A.D. Shaffer

{Graduate Studies; originally written for Humanities 520 Fall 2014}

Who better to offer guidance than real aspects of human nature? Human aspects that assist the self in distinguishing emotional experience are displayed through contemplative reasoning and the guidance of Wisdom, Truth, Fate, and naturally – Philosophy. Boethius invokes the celestial elements of the universe along with the human experience; Reason and Philosophy grant him comfort: “There is a moral here for you to learn: / Deceitful are the goods you first discern. / Withdraw your neck, and leave their yoke behind; / Then truth at once will infiltrate your mind” (Boethius Book 3 Chapter 1 Verse 11-14).  Speaking of the autonomic self and the ability to contemplate appropriate actions via Reason, man is able to achieve fulfillment to duty while maintaining a decent grasp on self-love and community expectations. Philosophy suggests he look inward first, and return to the natural now that deceitful pleasures cannot sate his hunger. His exile and eventual death equated to a separation of the luxuriant and worldly customs which his position afforded him, raised as a privileged, though orphaned, child.

The significance in contemplation and the acknowledgement of human thought thrives passionately in his words, retreating back to when man and nature held closer bonds, when man remembered the plentiful splendor of the earth. Philosophy reminds Boethius that long ago, when man was natural, he loved the earth and succeeded in his life. She said, “Acorns at hand, when day was spent, / Sated their hunger. None then knew / the liquid honey to apply / To Bacchus’ gifts; nor to imbue / The sheen of silk with Tyrian dye” (Boethius Book 2 Chapter 5 Verse 4-8). Manners of old are noted as wholesome; man would benefit from a natural approach to life. The narrator speaks to the elements, as old as time, and personifies the abilities of man – to think and put into action possible changes which effect the world at large. The winds and sky are prevalent in The Consolation of Philosophy which implies respect and significance of the air and/or the vastness of the unknown; the sky as a natural wonder sure to offer hope.

The writing style of the text, at once personable and quick to empathize with, utilizes the sense of the divine through verse, and then on a deeper level demonstrates that man holds great gifts which he needs only to activate by acknowledgement of the struggle of man – that joy may be appreciated only when great sorrow is inflicted, that lifelong gifts of Fortune, once withdrawn, were still grand gifts to be pleasantly remembered in times of strife. Philosophy sings of the greed of man: “Relentless greed devours those earlier gains, / Reopens wide its jaws; / Can headlong lust be curbed by any reins, / Be bounded by fixed laws? // Thirst for possessions* blazes all the more, / The more those gifts extend; / With anxious sighs, believing he is poor, / The rich man hates to spend” (Boethius Book 2 Chapter 2 Verse 13-20). Man is greedy, filled with a lust for riches but loathe to let them go once attained; man is constantly wanting more without the appreciation of what he already has/is experiencing. Philosophy urges to absorb happiness as it comes, to store it up in memories so that in times of strife grand pleasure may be contemplated.

The imagery cast by Boethius in divine revelry of the celestial bodies {such as: the directional winds, firey volcanoes, abundant sands, crashing waves, bountiful soil, natural man} imply not only that man is related to an a priori connection and understanding of life, but also that Wisdom, Fortune, and Reason may or may not assist during the mortal struggle. The key factor is that man, once enlightened to life’s systematic offerings, understands the need for his suffering – one cannot know safety without experiencing fear, or recognize happiness if misery had not been a shadow. The careful man is noted by Philosophy as wise for respecting the east and south-west winds, steep mountainous terrain, consumptive sands, and wave-tossed deep and building, appropriately for safety and success (Boethius Book 2 Chapter 4 Verse 1-14). She goes on to say, “Enclosed by your walls’ silent strength, / You’ll live untroubled for the length / Of all your days; and by and by / Smile at the anger of the sky” (Boethius Book 2 Chapter 4 Verse 15-18). A careful man will succeed once he accepts his slice of the vast universe of life – man is not the center of existence but a mere counterpart.

Work Cited

Boethius. The Consolation of Philosophy. Trans. P.G. Walsh. New York: Oxford

University Press, 2008.

Picture c/o:

Essay: Poetic Power and Intrigue

Picture c/o:×6239641/detail-of-love-fables-from-ovid-frescoes-of-the-coved-ceiling-of-the-galleria-1597-160304-by-annibale-and-agostino-carracci-palazzo-farnese-rome-italy.jpg

by:  A.D. Shaffer

{Graduate studies; originally written for Humanities 510 Spring 2014}

Under Emperor Augustus’ rule, new morals sculpted Roman society and tolerance. Firm determination to attain the virtue of justice insisted that standards were met or repercussions would prevail. Ovid sang praises of the emperor and composed works in his honor. Ovid also pushed the limit of social standard – when standards hit too close to home for Augustus. Tap-dancing with bawdry tactics to woo and illicit affairs among society, and using poetic metaphor to soften sexual innuendos, Ovid states what a man should do with a woman, he said, “A hunter has to work, / Know where to spread his stag-nets, in which glens boars lurk, / A fowler’s familiar with copses, fishermen learn / Which streams are the most rewarding” (Ovid 46-49). Ovid honors the emperor because that is what poets do, they bring fame; he did not truly believe Augustus to be a god.

Augustus hid behind principles that he did not live up to; he implemented a façade of the Republic yet behaved like a monarch, pretending to acknowledge the voice of the people and hypocritically behaving how he chose (Jones 112-114). In 8 C.E., Augustus exiled Ovid, who never returned to Rome. Through his poems, Ovid deifies Augustus to a god, and is noted for praying to Augustus once the emperor was deceased. Scott notes that this deification is similar to another, he said, “In other words, {Ovid} wrote for the Getae a poem explaining the apotheosis of Augustus in exactly the same way that he had years before unfolded to his Latin reader the deification of Julius Caesar” (Scott 45). Insomuch, I prove that Ovid’s poetic attempts were flattery as means to acceptance. However, Augustus refused to submit. At this point in the poet’s life, he was so dejected from Roman life and presence of high society that he unknowingly clings to the shards of his imagination; dementia, I wonder? Possibly a reference to past years, or Ovid’s way of saying, “Back in my day…” While Augustus is still in charge of Rome, I see Ovid petitioning him with poetic praise to win back the emperor’s heart – I do not believe all of the flattery as true, this is an easy means for an artist to regain grace.

While not shown as high as a god, the emperor is subject in “The Imperium of Augustus.” The author discusses the relevance of the time period of one’s rule – with Augustus breaking tradition, secretly ignoring the Republic, and holding office for years to come. Jones said, “{Augustus} thus placed himself in a position which could hardly be called republican. … Moreover, in addition to ruling the great provincia which the Senate had assigned to him, he possessed the vast and undefined powers of a consul, which he would stretch to include an ultimate control over all proconsuls” (Jones 113). The cities held offices that reported to Augustus; as the empire spread, Augustus received more tribute and authority. Hence the establishment of a unified, or universal, empire – in the Roman opinion, there were either Romans or non-Romans.

Ovid, believing the Emperor as an ally due to the poets praise in early works, felt that he could press Augustus’ moral requirements and bring pleasure to the people of Rome. Ovid felt untouchable and above the law. What triggered the Emperor’s reaction to Ovid and his eventual exile to Tomis is not the mere content of The Art of Love, nor the explicit verbiage on how to acquire a mistress – the breaking point was that people wanted to be like Ovid more than they wanted to be like Augustus. The public longed to have a lover or be a lover – an attainable goal for man and woman no matter rank or stage of life. I wonder if Augustus himself daydreamed of shrugging his duty, morals, and virtues to run off on a randy chase of lovemaking? Being the rigid emperor that he was, if Augustus did long to be a poet – or the poet Ovid – perhaps that brought him regret to duty, which in a virtuous man would be seen as a violation of morals. For the times, it goes without saying that men took lovers, it was woman who was forbidden the act as a wife needs be true to her husband for the succession of lineage.

The sensual and humorous poem, all three of the books, fits Ovid’s description of poetry as it educates and brings pleasure to the reader. Created between 2 B.C.E. and 2 C.E., the lyrical flow of the words offer soothing and rhythmical meter. Ovid embodies the ultimate lover – one cultured in verse, flattery, and conversation. He charges poets with charming Love and bending him to the author’s will. Ovid said, “So I am appointed by Venus as the technician / Of her art – my name will live on / As Love’s Tiphys, Love’s Automedon” (Ovid 8-10). Part of Augustus’ New Morals implemented in Roman society could be rooted in response to his daughter Julia’s wanton behavior, resulting in her exile to Pandateria. Prior to this specific situation, exile was a way against being convicted of a crime; a way for the guilty to choose his new city to start fresh; Julia’s exile illustrates punishment and confinement – leaving an island would require means. A specific secluded island of the Emperor’s choice reverberates contempt and the need to keep Julia away from others (Cohen 206-08).

The Art of Love fell out of the emperor’s favor blaming Ovid for making such bold statements in the third book, directed toward women, the poet said, “Virtue’s dressed as a woman, she’s feminine in gender – / No wonder her sex’s view of her is tender – / {..} What you’ll learn through me is only naughtiness; / I’m going to teach you nothing less / Than how you should be loved” (Ovid 23-29). Ovid claims Venus’ inspired him in creating book three to defend and arm he fairer sex. He encourages multiple sexual experiences for women, with variant lovers, and ensures her that her vagina will not show any wear, he said “Though flint and iron get worn down by attrition, / That part remains unscratched, in mint condition” (Ovid 96-97).

Poetry became the language of love as well as history. In Metamorphoses, Ovid explains the history of the world up to present day, which would have been Julius Caesar’s time. The ease of listening to this story of creation – though accepted as fictional – implies the impact the Roman gods and goddesses held in society.   Through literature Roman belief was passed with ease and assisted in the assimilation of Roman culture throughout the vast empire. The Romans were meticulous with laws and rules, thus creating a stable platform to carry by many and bring justice and order to the savage; all the while strengthening the heart of Rome and fueling her creation of a vast empire.

Ovid offers a Roman equivalent to the Great Flood. Interestingly enough, there are no survivors: even the animals drown or starve in a world that has become a vast ocean with no shore, he said, “The Flood has taken / All things, or nearly all, and those whom water, / By chance, has spared, starvation slowly conquers” (Ovid 312-14).   Humanity’s evil nature drove Jove to extinguish the human race. Heaven was divided between gods/goddesses who would feel the remorseful loss of humanity. Jove promises to begin humanity anew, Ovid said, “Jove told them not to worry; he would give them / Another race, unlike the first, created / Out of a miracle; he would see to it” (Ovid 250-52). I find it intriguing, the relationship between individual humans and the gods, versus humanity as a whole and the gods.   Is this why not a single living being survived the flood? Without subjective focus, the Roman perspective shows that the gods were powerful enough to destroy the race of mankind, and through miracles rebirth the world again.

Changing from one being into another being is a theme throughout the piece – the world itself goes from sunlit shores to all ocean, a vast stormy void, he said “Neptune called / His rivers all, and told them, very briefly, / To loose their violence, open their houses, / Pour over embankments, let the river horses, / Run wild as ever they would” (Ovid 278-82). Daphne turns into a laurel tree to escape the obsession of Apollo; however, he loved her still as tree and created wreaths in her honor, he said “Since you can never be my bride, / My tree at least you shall be!” (Ovid 571-72). Attis castrated himself and became a pine tree, he notes “Attis put off his human form, took on that likeness, / And the cone-shaped cypress joined them, now a tree, / But once a boy, loved by the god Apollo” (Ovid 111-112). Seems Apollo’s love comes at vast price. Pygmalion’s ivory statue is granted life by Venus because he charmed her with his passion and devotion. Happily they live together in praise of the goddess. Orpheus and Adonis do not heed the warnings of the gods; the former directly disobeys the command to not look back and his wife dies again, the latter ignores Venus’ pleas and is struck down by a wild boar. In honor of her great love Adonis, Venus transforms his blood into the wind-flower anemone, and mourns her youthful lover whose death came too soon like the flowers blow away too quickly, Venus said, “Adonis, for my sorrow, / Shall have a lasting monument: each year / Your death will by my sorrow, but your blood / Shall be a flower” (Ovid 499-503).

Ovid’s romantic approach to life is exemplified throughout his works. The value of literature holds historic importance as the poet tells stories to the people. Ovid recounts the history of the world in Metamorphoses, and attaches Love to secret affairs in The Art of Love. The mistress is more romantic and mysterious than the wife. The pale, artistic, poet is more agreeable to coddle than a stuffy husband full of business. While Rome grows larger on soundness and reason, she also grew softer with poetic bliss.

Works Cited

Cohen, Sarah T. “Augustus, Julia and the Development of Exile ‘Ad Insulam.’” The

Classical Quarterly. Cambridge University Press Vol. 58 No. 1 (2008): 206-217. JSTOR. Web. 04 Jul 14.

Jones, A.H.M. “The Imperium of Augustus.” The Journal of Roman Studies Vol. 41,

Parts 1 and 2 (1951): 112-119. JSTOR. 04 Jul 14.

Ovid. The Art of Love. trans. James Michie. New York: The Modern Library, 2002.


—. “Metamorphoses.” The Bedford Anthology of World Literature: The Ancient World,

Beginnings – 100 C.E. Book 1. ed. Paul Davis, Gary Harrison, David M. Johnson, Patricia Clark Smith, and John F. Crawford. New York: Bedford/St.Martin’s, 2004. pp. 1270-1293. Print.

Scott, Kenneth. “Emperor Worship in Ovid.” The Johns Hopkins University Press. Vol. 61 (1930), pp. 43-69. JSTOR. Web. 02 Jul 14.