Anicius Manlius Torquatus Severinus Boethius Torquatus may have been a later addition was born at Rome between 475 480. He lost his father Flavius Narsetes Manlius Boethius, consul in 487 while still young and was taken in by the family of the nobleman Quintus Aurelius Memmius Symmachus, where he received his early education. The cognomen Boethius may indicate Greco-Byzantine roots. His paternal grandfather was Flavius Boethius, praetorian prefect, whom the emperor Valentinian III had put to death along with general Aetius in 454 for reasons still not entirely clear. Both his natural family, the Anicii, and his adoptive family, the Symmachi whose ancestors included the famous Symmachus who a century earlier had petitioned the emperor to restore the Altar of Victory, had long been Christian, and there is no reason to doubt that he received sound religious instruction. His higher education, however, has been much disputed.
A supposed stay in Greece at the school of Athens is no longer believed, despite its being attested by De disciplina scholarium PL 64, 1232 B: annis duobus de viginti Athenis convalui, a work no longer attributed to Boethius by anyone, and a mention in Cassiodorus Var. I, 45,3: sic enim Atheniensium scholas longe positus introisti, on whose erroneous interpretation the false information of De disciplina is presumably based. On the basis of more concrete indications the possibility of identifying Boethius’s father with the Boethius who was prefect of Alexandria from 475 477, and the supposed presence of the exegetical works of Ammonius Hermiae among the sources of many Boethian writings the hypothesis of a more or less direct contact with the school of Alexandria has been formulated. Today, however, the Ammonian influence, repeatedly upheld esp. by Courcelle, is contested on all sides, and scholars no longer credit the theory of an Alexandrian apprenticeship unconditionally.