Macrobius

By reading Cicero the Latin-speaking Christian could thus get a pretty comprehensive picture of at least the outline pattern of ancient Greek thought. Macrobius' Commentary on the Dream of Scipio would help further on a number of points. Eriugena seems to have known it. He makes a reference to the question of the location of hell within the circle of the planets and thus 'within the ambit of this world', and comments on the difficulty that the Platonists do not allow for any place outside the cosmos where the soul may experience punishment or enjoy its reward.30 There is more evidence of the use of Macrobius in the twelfth century. Rupert of Deutz finds it helpful in several places in his De Trinitate et Operibus Eius, for example, and it was familiar to many authors who touched on aspects of cosmology.

Macrobius ranges widely in his commentary. He compares Plato and Cicero and considers the claims of a number of other philosophical schools (he was himself opposed to 'the whole faction of the Epicureans'); he discusses the immortality of the soul (I.i.5); he goes into a question always of great mediaeval interest: the use of images and illustrations to convey what is ultimately beyond human grasp, as are the Good, the First Cause, the nature of Ideas; he looks at the idea of boundary in a long discussion of number theory which mediaeval scholars found extremely useful; he explores the way the elements are mixed together to make the world; he discusses the Ciceronian virtues of prudence, temperance, fortitude and justice; he asks whether the soul has a recollection of heaven from the time before its

PHILOSOPHY AND THEOLOGY IN THE MIDDLE AGES arrival on earth, and what moves the soul (comparing the views of half a dozen ancient philosophers). In all this he takes Cicero much further, and thus provides a substantial reference work on questions of mathematics and natural science as well as upon issues obviously germane to theology.

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