Posted in personalities, tagged Benny Thomas, erotemata Civas Questiones, fall of Constantinople, humanism, Manuel Chrysolarus, pedagogue, pen portraits, Plutarch, renaissance on August 7, 2012 |
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MANUEL CHRYSOLORAS (c.1350-1415)
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.
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Posted in personalities, tagged bawdy, Benny Thomas, Chinon, du Ballay brothers, French scholar, Gargantua and Pantagruel, humanism, humor, pen and ink, pen portraits, Rabelaisean gusto, renaissance, Sorbonne, the Church on June 13, 2012 |
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There is not a single reliable portrait of Rebalais extant. Not one of them is like another. One engraving produced towards the end of the 16th century seems more true to the real person. Here quoting from one of the introductory remarks attached to Gargantua and Pantagruel we read thus ‘his features are strong furrowed with deep wrinkles; his beard is short and scanty; his cheeks are thin and already worn-looking. On his head he wears the square cap of the doctors and the clerks, and his dominant expression, somewhat rigid and severe, is that of a physician and a scholar..’Details of his birth and date also seem rather vague. Making up for scant information of his life his references in his romances to names persons and places become more valuable. In his patrons and intercourse, friendships, his sojournings, and his travels we have a treasure trove of details.
Like Descartes and Balzac he was a native of the Touraine and by general opinion he was born in Chinon, whose praises he sang with which such heartiness and affection. Because he was the youngest his father destined him for the Church.While a novice his future patrons Brothers du Ballay were studying an the University of Angers. He entered the monastery of the Franciscan Cordeliers at Fontenay-le-Comte. It was here his powers were ripening and he began to study also think. The encyclopaediac movement of the Renaissance was in the air and Rabelais threw himself with all his energy into it. The Church position favored Latin and study in Greek was thought as dangerous. In their eyes it invited free thought, heresy. But Rabelais pursued it with vigor.
He was well versed in science, philology, and law, already becoming known and respected by the humanists of his era, including Budé. Harassed due to the directions of his studies, Rabelais petitioned Pope Clement VII and was granted permission to leave the Franciscans and enter the Benedictine order at Maillezais, where he was more warmly received.
In 1532, he moved to Lyon, one of the intellectual centres of France, and not only practiced medicine but edited Latin works for the printer Sebastian Gryphius. As a doctor, he used his spare time to write and publish humorous pamphlets, which were critical of established authority and stressed his own perception of individual liberty. His revolutionary works, although satirical, revealed an astute observer of the social and political events unfolding during the first half of the sixteenth century.
Using the pseudonym Alcofribas Nasier (an anagram of François Rabelais minus the cedille on the c), in 1532 he published his first book, Pantagruel, that would be the start of his Gargantua series. In this book, Rabelais sings the praises of the wines from his hometown of Chinon through vivid descriptions of the eat, drink and be merry lifestyle of the main character, the giant Pantagruel and his friends. Despite the great popularity of his book, both it and his prequel book on the life of Pantagruel’s father Gargantua were condemned by the academics at the Sorbonne for their unorthodox ideas and by the Roman Catholic Church for their derision of certain religious practices. Rabelais’s third book, published under his own name, was also banned.
With support from members of the prominent du Bellay family, Rabelais received the approval from King François I to continue to publish his collection. However, after the king’s death, Rabelais was frowned upon by the academic elite, and the French Parliament suspended the sale of his fourth book.
Rabelais traveled frequently to Rome with his friend Cardinal Jean du Bellay, and lived for a short time in Turin with du Bellay’s brother, Guillaume, during which François I was his patron. Rabelais probably spent some time in hiding, threatened by being labeled a heretic. Only the protection of du Bellay saved Rabelais after the condemnation of his novel by the Sorbonne. du Bellay would again help Rabelais in 1540 by seeking a papal authorization to legitimize two of his children (Auguste François, father of Jacques Rabelais, and Junie). Rabelais later taught medicine at Montpellier in 1534 and 1539.
Between 1545 and 1547, François Rabelais lived in Metz, then a free imperial city and a republic, to escape the condemnation by the University of Paris. In 1547, he became curate of Saint-Christophe-du-Jambet and of Meudon, from which he resigned before his death in Paris in 1553.
There are diverging accounts of Rabelais’ death and his last words. According to some, he wrote a famous one sentence will: “I have nothing, I owe a great deal, and the rest I leave to the poor”, and his last words were “I go to seek a Great Perhaps.”(ack:wikipedia)
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Plutarch as a writer of biographies is always a pleasure to come back to when one’s vital forces are vitiated by the meanness of living close to the plough. Our earthly existence has to deal with much of doing what are necessities that lay our larder stocked but do not however satiate the spirit. Plutarch is a writer of Parallel Lives. For examples he treats the lives of Alexander the great and Julius Caesar as pendent to one another. ‘For,’ he says, ‘I
do not write Histories, but Lives; nor do the most conspicuous acts of
necessity exhibit a man’s virtue or his vice, but oftentimes some slight
circumstance, a word, or a jest, shows a man’s character better than
battles with the slaughter of tens of thousands, and the greatest arrays
of armies and sieges of cities. Now, as painters produce a likeness by a
representation of the countenance and the expression of the eyes,
without troubling themselves about the other parts of the body, so I
must be allowed to look rather into the signs of a man’s character, and
thus give a portrait of his life, leaving others to describe great
events and battles.’ The object then of Plutarch in his Biographies was
a moral end, and the exhibition of the principal events in a man’s life
was subordinate to this his main design; and though he may not always
have adhered to the principle which he laid down, it cannot be denied
that his view of what biography should be, is much more exact than that
of most persons who have attempted this style of composition. The life
of a statesman or of a general, when written with a view of giving a
complete history of all the public events in which he was engaged, is
not biography, but history… Though altogether deficient in that critical sagacity
which discerns truth from falsehood, and distinguishes the intricacies
of confused and conflicting statements, Plutarch has preserved in his
Lives a vast number of facts which would otherwise have been unknown to
us. He was a great reader, and must have had access to large libraries.
It is said that he quotes two hundred and fifty writers, a great part of
whose works are now entirely lost.” (_Penny Cyclopaedia)
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ALBERT CAMUS (French) (1913 - 1960)
Camus emerged from an obscure Algerian background to become an increasingly international figure as writer and moralist, after the WWII. He worked for the clandestine newspaper ‘Combat’ during the French occupation and continued writing independent and human editorials on social and political questions between 1945 and 1948. His first major novel ‘The Outsider’ was followed by ‘The Plague’(1948) and both works remain impressive in terms of their technical skill and challenging intellectual content. They revealed Camus as an important spokesman of his generation and commentator on its problems. A third novel ‘The Fall’ is another artistic tour de force containing stinging attacks on the hypocrisy of the left wing as well as the bourgeois vanities. His views on nihilism and defence of an anti-marxist political liberalism are outlined in the essays ‘The Myth of Sysiphus’ and ‘The Rebel’. Although his plays are generally less admired, the overall quality of Camus’ working and his position as an exemplary figure remain remarkably high. In 1957 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature.
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Cicero, Marcus Tullius(106-43 B.C) Orator
Even as a child he won fame among his school fellows and Masters alike for his excellent wit and quick capacity to learn. It is said that the fathers of other boys used to come to school to see the boy who carried such an excellent report.
He left for Rhodes to study Rhetoric under Appolonius. His tutor who was not so proficient in latin tongue, wanted Cicero to declaim certain passages in Greek. He took up the task hoping thereby his faults,if any, would be corrected. His tutor kept a deadpan expression throughout to observe in the end,”As for me Cicero I not only praise thee but more than that I wonder at thee: and yet I am sorry for Greece to see that learning and eloquence( which were the only two gifts and honor left to us)are by thee carried unto the Romans”.
When he got into active politics he took the trouble of knowing the names of citizens with whom he came into contact as well as those who were influential.
He was very vain and loved to hear his own praise. After a long absence from Rome when he returned to the city he asked his friend what the Romans said of him. His friend asked,”You mean you have been
away?”It made him shut up. ( Plutarch’s Lives- Thomas North’s version. )
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Had I been the subject to a king in a kingdom at the time of The Sun King
“ Never to be more loyal than the King.”
Since the Age of Kings is past I can happily lay that rule aside. So my rule is this: ‘to be no more human than fellow human beings.’
Or do you think if I pull myself by my bootstraps I could be more unto God-like? For those who are inclined to think it is possible I shall recommend the well known fable of the Mother Frog who tried to puff herself to resemble an ox.
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