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PART I.

CHAP. V. successive protection of Cosmo, Lorenzo, and their descendant on the papal throne (a care they so well repaid), the teachers of Germany, France and England,—all these require no illustration at our hands; and for our special purpose it will suffice to give a brief consideration to the labours of those few in the long array, whose names are most prominently associated with the revival of Greek learning and its consequent introduction into the Transalpine universities.

Florence and

Constantinople contrasted.

the four

teenth and

fifteenth centuries.

In the fifteenth century there was but one capital in Europe that could vie with Florence in the combination of the beautiful in art with the beautiful in nature, and that capital was the city of the Golden Horn. But while marked by this general resemblance, the two cities offered in their culture, their sympathies, and their political circumstances, a yet more striking contrast. Even at this long interval of time, it is difficult for the believer in human progress and Florence in the lover of art and literature to look back upon what Florence then was, and what she afterwards became, without something of emotion. Alone among the Italian republics she still reared aloft the triple banner of freedom, virtue, and patriotism. While other republics had become subject to a tyrant's yoke, or, like Genoa and Venice, were pursuing an isolated, ignoble, and selfish policy, Florence was still to be found the champion of the common weal. With a spirit of heroism that has often been deemed characteristic solely of a martial race, she combined a rare genius for commercial enterprise that had raised her to the summit of mercantile greatness. Her bankers ruled the markets of Europe. Her surrounding territory in its wondrous productiveness bore witness to the skill and industry of her agriculturists. Within her walls successively arose those marvels of architectural art round which the ancient glory still seems to linger, though her greatness and power have fled. In the desolation that followed upon the Great Plague the university had been broken up, but it had been refounded and endowed with ample revenues by the state: and it is significant of the liberal conception of learning that there prevailed, that in the year 1373 a chair had been established, at the special request

PART I.

of many of the citizens, for promoting the study of the works CHAP. V. of Dante, which was afterwards combined with the chair of philosophy and rhetoric. It was fit that at such a centre the genius of intellectual freedom should gird itself for a conquest compared with which the proudest achievements of Florence on the field of battle seem insignificant indeed.

tinople.

between the

two cities.

To all these features the city of the Bosporus offered Constana complete antithesis. It was the tottering seat of a moribund dynasty. At the time that the palaces of the Medici reflected back the joyous spirit of the Tuscan capital, the home of the Palæologi was haunted by gloomy forebodings or echoed with the utterances of actual dismay. The learn- Contrast ing of the two capitals was in like contrast. As we turn the culture of the pages of the Florentine writers, from Petrarch to Politian, all is ardent, enthusiastic, and inspiring; a glow of youthful vigour lends a charm to the crudest fancies of the scholar exultant in the discovery of a new world. The sentiment often, it is true, now strikes us as singularly trite and little beyond that of a clever schoolboy, the scholarship is often of an order that many a modern schoolboy would blush to own; but the defects are those of immaturity not of incapacity, of ambitious talent rather than of hopeless mediocrity. Even its most serious blemish, its grossness, seems venial when compared with the sycophancy that repels us at a later time, with the pedantic despotism of the Averroists that ushered in the decline that awaited it in the sixteenth century, or with the yet deeper degradation that befel it in a yet later age,-when a greater than Petrarch visited that classic land and lamented over the servile condition to which letters had there been brought, until 'the glory of Italian wits was damped,' and 'nothing written but flattery and fustian'.' In Constantinople, on the other hand, learning had deteriorated even when compared with the period which has already occupied our attention, when Psellus compiled his treatise on logic. The capture of the capital by the Crusaders in 1204, and the discouragement to literary culture given by their barbarous rule, mark the complete Milton, Areopagitica. 2 See supra, pp. 175–6.

PART I.

CHAP. V. disappearance of authors, or different works of authors, that had survived up to that time. In the days of Petrarch the city had regained its independence, but not its literary spirit. It was again an acknowledged centre of learning, and attracted numerous students from far and near, but its culture, in many respects strongly resembling that of the western scholasticism, had become mechanical in spirit and purely traditional in method; whatever of genuine mental activity was to be discerned seems to have been mainly expended on those theological subtleties to which perhaps the peculiar refinements of the Greek language offered a special temptation.

Causes of variance be

tween the two cities.

Italian scho

lars at Con

Philelphus,
b. 1398.
d. 1481.

To differences thus marked must be added the great political elements of variance. Ever since that eventful day when Pope Leo placed upon the head of Charlemagne the diadem of the Roman empire, the attitude of the Byzantine emperors and their subjects towards the nations of western Christendom had been one of sullen aversion; and ever since that inauspicious day in the succeeding century, when Photius drew up the articles of faith that were to divide, it would seem for ever, the Churches of the East and the West, political estrangement had been intensified by theological antipathies.

Nevertheless the Italian scholar bent a longing eye stantinople. towards the city of the Bosporus, for there were still treasured the masterpieces of a literature which he regarded with none the less veneration because it was to him so imperfectly known. Occasionally, like John of Ravenna, Philelphus, Giacomo of Scarparia, and Guarino of Verona, he was to be seen in the streets of Constantinople, seeking to acquire a knowledge of the language, and to gain possession of copies of the most esteemed authors. But instances like these were rare, and attended with but partial success. Philelphus thus describes his own experience in the year

1 'The coronation of Charles was in their eyes an act of unholy rebellion; his successors were barbarian intruders, ignorant of the laws and usages of the ancient state, and with

1441 :-' When

no claim to the Roman name except that which the favour of an insolent pontiff might confer.' Prof. Bryce, Holy Roman Empire, 1913.

PART L

of Greek

Constantin

there,' he says, 'I studied hard and long, and made diligent CHAP. V. search for some one or other of the full and careful treatises of Apollonius or Herodian on grammar, which however were nowhere to be found. The text-books used and the intro- His account duction given by the lecturers in the schools are full of the learning at merest trifles, and nothing certain or satisfactory is to be ople. gained from their teaching with respect to the grammatical construction of a sentence, the quantity of syllables, or accent. The Æolic dialect, which is that chiefly used by Homer and Callimachus in their compositions, the teachers of to-day are altogether ignorant of. Whatever I have learned of those matters has been the result of my own study and research, although I would be far from denying the important aid that the instructions of my father-in-law, Chrysoloras, have afforded me'.'

Occasionally, on the other hand, the teacher sought his pupils, and a native Greek crossed the Adriatic and announced in Italy his ability and willingness to impart the coveted knowledge. But from Barlaamo downwards these men were mostly impudent charlatans, and their pretensions were soon exposed even by those whom they pretended to teach'. The true commencement of a systematic study of Greek in Italy, dates from the arrival in 1396 of Emmanuel Emmanuel Chrysoloras, a relative of the John Chrysoloras of whom d. 1415. Philelphus above makes mention, as an ambassador from the emperor of the eastern empire to solicit aid against the Turks.

Chrysoloras,

character

Chrysoloras was honorably distinguished from those of His high his countrymen who had hitherto assumed the literary cha- and literary racter in Italy, by his noble descent, his high and not unde

1 Hody, p. 188.

2 Eneas Sylvius, in his Europa, c. 52, tells an amusing story of how Ugo Benzi of Sienna, the learned physician, discomfited a whole party of these pretenders in a formal philosophic discussion.

Many writers, among whom I notice so recent a contributor to the literature of the subject as Dr Geiger, have dated this revival from the fall of Constantinople in 1453. Voigt

justly observes of the Greek refugees
on that occasion, 'Sie waren in kei-
ner Weise die Männer, von denen
eine tiefgreifende Bewegung hätte aus-
gehen können. In der That wurde
der Anstoss schon bedeutend früher
durch Chrysoloras und seine Schüler
gegeben, unter denen wir die rüstig-
sten Förderer beider Literaturen
finden, und auf dem Unionsconcil
wurde der Funke zur Flamme.' Voigt,
p. 330.

reputation.

PART I.

the Latin

language.

CHAP. V. served reputation, and his real knowledge of the Greek literature. To the man of letters he added the man of the world and the diplomatist; he was acquainted with most of the countries of Europe, and had visited our own court in He masters the reign of Richard II in an official capacity. He was, however, like most of his countrymen, ignorant of the Latin tongue, for the Greeks, while still claiming for their emperor the sovereignty of the Roman empire, had well-nigh lost all traces of western civilisation. It attests the energy of his character, that though already advanced in years, he now applied himself to the study of the language, and eventually mastered it. The literary fame of Chrysoloras had preceded him; for Guarino of Verona had studied the Greek language for five years under his guidance at Constantinople, and he now drew the attention of his countrymen to the rare opportunity presented by the arrival of so illustrious a scholar. Eventually the services of Chrysoloras were secured by the university of Florence, and he soon found himself the centre of an enthusiastic circle of learners. His success in the field of labour to which he was thus unexpectedly summoned was as conspicuous as his efforts as an ambassador were fruitless. His eminence Most of those who had listened to Petrarch's famous pupil, John of Ravenna, at Ferrara, in his exposition of the Latin literature, now gathered with many others round the new teacher of Greek at Florence. For their use he compiled a Greek grammar, the Erotemata,—egregium libellum grammaticum, as Boerner justly terms it, the same that afterwards served Reuchlin for a model at Orleans, that was used

as a teacher of Greek.

His Greek
Grammar.

1 Voigt's language implies that Chrysoloras was already acquainted with Latin, but the statement of Julianus is explicit :-'Nam cum jam grandis esset, nullius præceptoris auxilio nostras perdidicit literas, neque sibi oneri visum est, cum tot annis philosophiæ studiis vacasset, ad puerilia literarum elementa reverti.' Boerner, p. 31.

2 See authorities quoted by Boerner, p. 21. Geiger, Johann Reuchlin, 19, 20. Reuchlin himself compiled a Greek grammar, the μikpoжaidela, for

his own scholars. This however wa never deemed worthy of being printed, and as the title suggests contained probably the merest elements, while the Erotemata went through many editions, and was par excellence the Greek grammar of the first century of the Renaissance. See Hallam, Literature of Europe, r6 101. According to Constantine Lascaris it suffered considerably from being often abridged by ignorant compilers,—τὸ βιβλίον οὐκ οἶδ' ὅπως τινὲς τῶν ἀμαθῶν συστεί λαντες διέφθειραν. Hody, p. 22.

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