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20 Consolation from Prison: Mara bar Sarapion and Boethius

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Chapter Summary

"The consolatio as a genre of literature had a long history going back to the fifth century BCE, in the course of which it developed its own repertoire of standard arguments and topoi to soothe the sufferer". The main topic in consolation literature is of a paraenetic nature: how to behave in a situation of bereavement, whether it be the death of a relative or friend, the loss of freedom by imprisonment or exile, the loss of health or wealth, etcetera. Even though the Syriac letter of Mara bar Sarapion to his son is not a letter of consolation stricto sensu, it nevertheless evinces many elements of the traditional consolation literature. The writer of this epistle clearly composed it mainly to consolate himself in a terrible situation that he fears will lead to his death. This chapter compares Boethius' Consolatio and Mara's letter.

Keywords: Boethius; Consolatio; consolation literature; Mara bar Sarapion; Mara's letter; parenetic nature



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