This study offers a reappraisal of the Variae that demonstrates how Cassiodorus compiled his letter collection as an epistolary apologetic that was responsive to the political vulnerability of the Italian bureaucracy after the fall of the Ostrogothic court at Ravenna. Cassiodorus’ letters sought to illustrate the moral suitability of Italian bureaucrats, particularly their suitability to resume palatine service after the conclusion of the Gothic war, by depicting a specific kind of legal traditionalism as a guiding principle of bureaucratic culture at Ravenna. By emphasizing the confluence of concepts of law and nature, Cassiodorus appealed to the sensitivities of the eastern bureaucracy of Constantinople, from which he sought to win support. In order to bring this theme into proper focus, this article also considers the relationship between the Variae and Cassiodorus’ De Anima, which supplies critical evidence for how readers of the Variae should understand the moral qualities of bureaucratic corporatism. By reading the Variae and De Anima as a thematically integrated whole, one may appreciate Cassiodorus’ epistolary collection as a carefully staged historical and moral model for a community of the bureaucratic elite.


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pp. 143-171
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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