Protoepistemology of Mechanical Engineering in Cassiodorus’ Variae or Mission Impossible at Theoderic’s Court

Conference paper
Part of the History of Mechanism and Machine Science book series (HMMS, volume 32)


Starting from the early 6th century CE, the Roman patrician Cassiodorus writes a conspicuous corpus of letters, entitled Variae, on behalf of his sovereign, the Ostrogoth Theoderic, and of his successors. These official letters, intended to show the king’s positive attitude towards other members of the court or to foster political relationships with foreign monarchs, offer the well-educated author the opportunity to address high-profile cultural issues. In one letter of the collection, he sings the praises of mechanical engineering, described as one of the most inspiring and powerful arts, competing none less than with nature.


Mechanics Engineering Cassiodorus Theoderic Archimedes Letters Ostrogoth Liberal arts Mechanical arts Boëthius Clock Machine 


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© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Università Degli Studi Di MilanoMilanItaly

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