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Archive for August 7th, 2012

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MANUEL CHRYSOLORAS (c.1350-1415)
Scholar, Diplomat

His life and work by a stroke of luck coincided with a time of crisis when the world order of Eastern Roman Empire was being occulted by Islam. His work laid the soil ready for a catastrophe,- the fall of Constantinople that came later. When it did come humanism and Greek thought from the wreckage of Eastern Roman Empire could put out roots deep and grow in Europe.
Manuel who had embraced the Catholic faith was in favor of Catholic and Orthodox Churches united in faith against the onslaught of an alien faith and culture. This union was first endorsed in Lyons in 1274 but it did not come to fruition. Many like Manuel Chrysoloras saw it as a political necessity.
Chrysoloras remained in Florence 1397-1400. The scholars saw it as a great new opportunity: there were many teachers of law, but no one had studied Greek in Italy for 700 years. While in Florence he began teaching Greek, starting with the rudiments. He moved on to teach in Bologna and later in Venice and Rome. Though he taught widely, a handful of his chosen students remained a close-knit group, among the first humanists of the Renaissance. Among his pupils were numbered some of the foremost figures of the revival of Greek studies in Renaissance Italy.
In 1408, he was sent to Paris on an important mission from the emperor Manuel Palaeologus. In 1413, he went to Germany on an embassy to the emperor Sigismund, the object of which was to fix a place for the church council that later assembled at Constance. Chrysoloras was on his way there, representing the Greek Church, when he died suddenly. His death gave rise to commemorative essays (Chrysolorina).

Chrysoloras translated the works of Homer and Plato’s Republic into Latin. His own works, which circulated in manuscript in his life time. His Erotemata Civas Questiones, which was the first basic Greek grammar in use in Western Europe, first published in 1484 and widely reprinted, and it enjoyed considerable success all over Europe. The Lives by Plutarch served as a catalyst to ideals of humanism and a bible for the nascent Renaissance humanist movement. His contribution to spread ideals of Hellenism and Greek scholarship to the West was of immense value.
benny

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Justinian I (c. 482 – 14 November 565), commonly known as Justinian the Great, was Byzantine Emperor from 527 to 565. During his reign, Justinian sought to revive the Empire’s greatness and reconquer the lost western half of the classical Roman Empire.
One of the most important figures of Late Antiquity and the last Roman Emperor to speak Latin as a first language, Justinian’s rule constitutes a distinct epoch in the history of the Eastern Roman Empire. The impact of his administration extended far beyond the boundaries of his time and domain. Justinian’s reign is marked by the ambitious but only partly realized renovatio imperii, or “restoration of the Empire”. This ambition was expressed by the partial recovery of the territories of the defunct Western Roman Empire. His general Belisarius swiftly conquered the Vandal Kingdom in North Africa, extending Roman control to the Atlantic Ocean. Subsequently Belisarius, Narses, and other generals conquered the Ostrogothic Kingdom, restoring Dalmatia, Sicily, Italy, and Rome to the Empire after more than half a century of barbarian control.

A still more resonant aspect of his legacy was the uniform rewriting of Roman law, the Corpus Juris Civilis, which is still the basis of civil law in many modern states. His reign also marked a blossoming of Byzantine culture, and his building program yielded such masterpieces as the church of Hagia Sophia, which was to be the center of Eastern Orthodox Christianity for many centuries.
A devastating outbreak of bubonic plague in the early 540s marked the end of an age of splendor. The Empire entered a period of territorial decline not to be reversed until the ninth century.
Justinian is considered a saint amongst Orthodox Christians, and is also commemorated by some Lutheran Churches.
Empress Theodora has come up for her share of adulation and vilification that often accompanies when the subject is a woman and who has a mind of her own. The main historical sources for her life are the works of her contemporary Procopius, scribe for General Belisarius. However the historian has offered three contradictory portrayals of the Empress. The Wars of Justinian, largely completed in 545, paints a picture of a courageous and influential empress.
Later he wrote the Secret History, which was not published at the time. The work revealed an author who had become deeply disillusioned with the emperor Justinian, the empress, and even his patron Belisarius. Justinian is depicted as cruel, venal, prodigal and incompetent; as for Theodora, the reader is treated to a detailed and titillating portrayal of vulgarity and insatiable lust, combined with shrewish and calculating mean-spiritedness; Procopius even claims both are demons whose heads were seen to leave their bodies and roam the palace at night. Yet much of the work covers the same time period as The Wars of Justinian.
Procopius’ Buildings of Justinian, written about the same time as the Secret History, is a panegyric which paints Justinian and Theodora as a pious couple and presents particularly flattering portrayals of them. Besides her piety, her beauty is excessively praised. Although Theodora was dead when this work was published, Justinian was very much alive, and probably commissioned the work. (wikipedia)
benny

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