I remember watching several videos on the Early Middle Ages on YouTube by YaleCourses. 04. The Christian Roman Empire is one of the videos in the series. (The entire series is The Early Middle Ages, 284--1000 with Paul Freedman.)

In one of the videos, I recall a book was mentioned. This book was written by a Christian who was sentenced to prison or death. I do not recall the details, but I believe he wrote the book while in prison.

What book I might be talking about? I tried skimming through a few videos but could not find it.

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    – bobble
    Nov 22, 2021 at 19:19

1 Answer 1


This sounds like The Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius. It was written in 523 AD.

Wikipedia tells us the following about the circumstances of the work's composition:

The Consolation of Philosophy was written in AD 523 during a one-year imprisonment Boethius served while awaiting trial—and eventual execution—for the alleged crime of treason under the Ostrogothic King Theodoric the Great. Boethius was at the very heights of power in Rome, holding the prestigious office of magister officiorum, and was brought down by treachery. This experience inspired the text, which reflects on how evil can exist in a world governed by God (the problem of theodicy), and how happiness is still attainable amidst fickle fortune, while also considering the nature of happiness and God. It was described in 1891 as "by far the most interesting example of prison literature the world has ever seen."

This is the best-known Latin text from the sixth century and the only Early Medieval text I read while learning Latin at school.

Another candidate is the Apology of Origen, written by Pamphilus of Caesarea and Eusebius. Eusebius spent two years in prison; according to Wikipedia

While he was in prison, Pamphilus and Eusebius worked together on five books in defense of Origen.

This took place during the Diocletianic Persecution in the early 4th century. Boethius was not persecuted for being a Christian, but Pamphilus was. However, the transcript of the lecture says,

He [Boethius] was imprisoned for a year. In prison he wrote one of the most magnificent works of philosophy, of why we are alive and why we die. The Consolation of Philosophy. And then he was executed.

  • The only part of the OP's description that doesn't quite match is that Boethius wasn't a "persecuted Christian" as in the question title—or, at least, he wasn't persecuted for being a Christian. State persecutions of Christians hadn't been a thing in the Roman Empire for nearly 200 years by the time of Boethius's death. Nov 22, 2021 at 20:19
  • @MichaelSeifert I know. The problem with identification requests is that people often misremember details and it's only by posting an answer or a comment that the correctness of an educated guess like this can be confirmed.
    – Tsundoku
    Nov 22, 2021 at 20:39
  • @b4rtr Thanks. I have added a quote from the transcript.
    – Tsundoku
    Nov 22, 2021 at 21:18
  • Oh, of course; and I think this answer is probably right. It seems pretty likely that this text would have been mentioned in a course like the one mentioned in the OP, and plausible that someone might have interpreted "important work of Christian philosophy written by a prisoner" to mean that the writer was in prison for being Christian. Nov 22, 2021 at 21:47
  • Thanks for the thorough answer. The Consolation of Philosophy is the book. I must have misremembered why the author was in prison!
    – abc123
    Nov 25, 2021 at 3:40

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