Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 June 2012
Boethius (ca. 480–524/6) was born into a patrician family in Rome and, having been orphaned, was raised by the aristocrat Symmachus. He quickly gained a reputation for learning, and his public career was marked by honors. He occupied a position of trust under the Arian king Theodoric and was consul in 510. Eventually he was accused (unjustly, most scholars now hold) of treason, as well as of practicing magic and astrology. After a term of imprisonment at Pavia during which he wrote his most famous work, The Consolation of Philosophy, he was put to death at Theodoric's order.
It was Boethius's plan to translate all the works of Plato and Aristotle into Latin, but he succeeded only in producing translations of and commentaries on most of Aristotle's logical works. In addition, he wrote five theological treatises, two treatises on mathematics, and one on music, as well as several other works on logic, including the De divisione translated here. Boethius's influence on subsequent medieval philosophy and theology is hard to overestimate; he was one of the main philosophical sources for the early scholastics, second only to Augustine as an authority among Christian philosophers.
De divisione was probably written sometime between 505 and 509. It is a study of different sorts of division – e.g., the division of a genus into its species or the division of a whole into its integral parts – an important part of the logical heritage on which the scholastic period built.