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Biographies (4)

Emperors

Constantine Palaeologos

, , 1404 - 1453

  CONSTANTINE XI PALAEOLOGOS (1404-1453) , also called Dragases, last Byzantine emperor, was born in 1404 in Mistra, the son of Emperor Manuel II. He was trained as a soldier, and in 1441 conquered the peninsula of Morea in Greece, which had been under the Frankish principality of Achaia, a state established by the Crusaders.
  Constantine later occupied Boeotia. In 1446, however, the Turkish ruler Murad II reconquered these lands.
  The Turks had begun their invasions of the Balkans nearly a century before, and now began to close in on Constantinople.
  Constantine was crowned emperor on Jan. 6, 1449, succeeding his brother, John VIII. A little less than four years later, on Dec. 12, 1452, the union of the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches was proclaimed in Constantinople in the presence of the papal legate and the Patriarch Gregory.
  Constantine had been a strong advocate of this union, but the people generally opposed it, and riots ensued. The popular insistence on Byzantine religious autonomy furthered the estrangement between eastern and western Roman Christendom and weakened Byzantine resistance to the Turks. The Turkish sultan, Mehmed II, advanced on Constantinople, sacked the country around it and, after a determined siege, captured the city on May 29, 1453.
  Constantine was killed in the final assault.

This text is cited Apr 2003 from the Laconian Professionals URL below, which contains image.


Writers

Gemistus, Georgius - Plethon

Gemistus, Georgius, (Georgios ho Gemistos), or Georgius Pletho (ho Plethon). one of the later and most celebrated Byzantine writers, lived in the latter part of the fourteenth and in the beginning of the fifteenth century. He was probably a native of Constantinople, but passed most of his life in the Peloponnesus. In 1426 he held a high office, under the emperor Manuel Palaeologus. He was called Gemistos, or Plethon, on account of the extraordinary amount of knowledge which he possessed in nearly all the branches of science; and the great number of writings which he left prove that his surname was by no means mere flattery. Gemistus was one of the deputies of the Greek church that were present at the council of Florence, held in 1438, under pope Eugenius IV., for the purpose of effecting a union between the Latin and Greek churches. Gemistus at first was rather opposed to that union, since his opinion on the nature of the Holy Ghost differed greatly from the belief of the Romish church, but he afterwards gave way, and, without changing his opinion on that subject, was active in promoting the great object of the council. The union, however, was not accomplished. Gemistus was still more renowned as a philosopher than as a divine. In those times the philosophy of Aristotle was prevalent, but it had degenerated into a mere science of words. Disgusted with scholastic philosophy, Gemistus made Plato the subject of long and deep study, and the propagation of the Platonic philosophy became henceforth his principal aim: the celebrated cardinal Bessarion was one of his numerous disciples. During his stay at Florence he was introduced to Cosmo de Medici; and having succeeded in persuading this distinguished man of the superiority of the system of Plato over that of Aristotle, he became the leader of a new school of philosophy in the West. Plato's philosophy became fashionable at Florence, and had soon gained so much popularity in Italy as to overshadow entirely the philosophy of Aristotle. But Gemistus and his disciples went too far: it was even said that he had attempted to substitute Platonism for Christianism; and before the end of the century Plato had ceased to be the model of Italian philosophers. Gemistus is, nevertheless, justly considered as the restorer of Platonic philosophy in Europe. He was, of course, involved in numberless controversies with the Aristotelians, in the West as well as in the East, among whom Georgius, of Trebizond, held a high rank, and much bitterness and violence were displayed on each side. In 1441 Gemistus was again in the Peloponnesus as an officer of the emperor: he was then advanced in years. He is said to have lived one hundred years, but we do not know when he died.

  Gemistus wrote a surprising number of scientific works, dissertations, treatises, compilations, &c. concerning divinity, history, geography, philosophy, and miscellaneous subjects. Several of them have been printed. The principal are:
1. Ek ton Diodorou kai Ploutarchou, peri ton meta ten en Mantineiai machen, en kephalaiois dialepsis, being extracts of Diodorus Siculus and Plutarchus, which are better known under their Latin title, De Gestis Graecorum post pugnam ad Mantineam Duobus Libris Digesta. Editions: The Greek text, Venice, 1503; a Latin translation, by Marcus Antonius Antimachus, Basel, 1540. the Greek text, together with Herodotus. Basel, 1541; the Greek text, by Zacharias Orthus, professor at the university of Greifswald, Rostock, 1575; the same by professor Reichard, under the title Georgiou Gemistou tou kai Plethonos Hellenikon Biblia B, Leipzig, 1770. There are French, Italian, and Spanish translations of this book.
2.Peri Heimarmenes, De Fato. Edition: With a Latin translation, and Bessarion's epistle on the same subject, by H. S. Reimarus, Leiden, 1722.
3. Peri Areton, De Virtutibus. Editions: The text, together with some of the minor works of the author, Antwerp, 1552; with a Latin translation, by Adolphus Orcanus, Basel, 1552; by H. Wolphius, Jena, 1590.
4. Orationes duae de Rebus Peloponnesiacis constituendis, one addressed to the emperor Manuel Palaeologus, and the other to the despot Theodorus. Ed. with a Latin translation, together with the Editio Princeps of the Eclogae of Stobaeus, by G. Canterns, Antwerp, 1575.
5. Peri hon Aristoteles pros Platona diapheretai, De Platonicae atque Aristotelicae Philosophiae Diferentia. Ed.: The Greek text, with a Latin paraphrase, by Bernardinus Donatus,Venice, 1532; the same, with a dissertation of Donatus on the same subject, ib. 1540; the same, with the same dissertation, Paris, 1541; a Latin translation, by G. Chariandrus, Basel, 1574. This is one of his most remarkable works.
5. Magika logia ton apo Zoroastrou exegethenta. The Greek title differs in the MSS.: the work is best known under its Latin title, Oracula Magica Zoroastris, and is an essay on the religion of the ancient Persians. Ed.:--The text, with a Latin translation, by T. Opsopoeus, Paris, 1599; by Thryllitsch, Leipzig, 1719.

Besides these works, Gemistus made extracts of Appian's Syriaca, his object being to elucidate the history of the Macedonian kings of Syria: of Theophrastus (History of Plants); Aristotle (History of Animals, &c.); Diodorus Siculus (with regard to the kingdoms of Assyria and Media); Xenophon, Dionysius Halicarnasseus, and several other writers, whose works are either partly or entirely lost. He further wrote Prolegomena Artis Rhetoricae, Funeral Orations (G. Gemistii sive Plethonis et Michaelis Apostolii Orationes Funebres Duae, in quibus de Immortalitate Animae exponitur, nunc primum ex MSS. editae, by Professor Fulleborn, Leipzig, 1793); Essays on Music, Letters to Cardinal Bessarion, and other celebrated contemporaries, &c. &c., which are extant in MS. in different libraries of Europe. His geographical labours deserve particular notice. The Royal Library at Munich has a MS. of Gemistus, entitled Diagraphe hapases Peloponnesou paraliou kai mesogeiou, being a description of the Peloponnesus, in which he fixes the positions according to the system of Ptolemy, with the writer's own corrections and additions. Gemistus wrote also a Topography of Thessaly, and two small treatises, the one on the form and size of the globe, and the other on some geographical errors of Strabo, which are contained in the Anecdota of Siebenkees. Laporte Dutheil, the translator of Strabo, derived considerable advantage from extracts of Gemistus, from the 7th, 8th, and 1 th book of Strabo; and the celebrated Latin edition of Ptolemy, published in 1478, and dedicated to pope Sixtus IV., by Calderino, was revised after an ancient Greek MS. of Ptolemy, in which Gemistus had written his corrections. A publication of all the different inedited MSS. of Gemistus extant in various libraries in Europe would be most desirable: the classical no less than the Oriental scholar would derive equal advantage from such an undertaking.

This text is from: A dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology, 1873 (ed. William Smith). Cited Dec 2005 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks


Georgius Gemistus Plethon. Born in Constantinople about 1355, died in the Peloponnesus, 1450. Out of veneration for Plato he changed his name from Gemistos to Plethon. Although he wrote commentaries on Aristotle's logical treatises and on Porphyry's "Isagoge", he was a professed Platonist in philosophy. Owing, most probably, to the influence of Mohammedan teachers, he combined with Platonism, or rather with Neo-Platonism, the most extraordinary kind of Oriental mysticism and magic which he designated as Zoroastrianism. It was due, no doubt, to these tendencies of thought that he openly abandoned Christianity and sought to substitute paganism for it as a standard of life. When he was about fifteen years old he visited Western Europe in the train of the Emperor John Palaeologus. After his return to Greece, he settled at Misithra in the Peloponnesus, the site of ancient Sparta, and there he spent the greater part of his life. In 1438, although he was then in his eighty-third year, he again accompanied the Emperor to Italy, where he was designated as one of the six champions of the Orthodox Church in the Council of Florence. His interest in ecclesiastical matters was, however, very slight. Instead of attending the Council, he spent his time discoursing on Platonism and Zoroastrianism to the Florentines. It was his enthusiasm for Platonism that influenced Cosimo de Medici to found a Platonic Academy at Florence. In 1441 Plethon had returned to the Peloponnesus, and there he died and was buried at Misithra in 1450. In 1465 his remains were carried to Rimini and placed in the church of St. Francis, where an inscription, curiously enough, styles him "Themistius Byzantinus". Among his disciples was the learned Cardinal Bessarion. Plethon's most important works are the "Laws" written in imitation of Plato's "Laws", which was condemned by Gennadios, Patriarch of Constantinople, and "On the Differences between Plato and Aristotle", in which he attacks the Aristotelian philosophy and asserts the superiority of Platonism. He also composed a work in defence of the Greek doctrine of the Procession of the Holy Ghost. In his philosophical system he borrows largely from the Neo-Platonist, Proclus, and mingles with the traditional Neo-Platonic mysticism many popular Oriental superstitions. His influence was chiefly negative. His attack on Aristotelianism was to some extent effective, although opposed to him were men of equal ability and power, such as Gennadios, Patriarch of Constantinople. He was honoured by the Italian Platonists as the restorer of the Academy, and as a martyr for the cause of Platonism.

William Turner, ed.
Transcribed by: Douglas J. Potter
This text is cited Dec 2005 from The Catholic Encyclopedia, New Advent online edition URL below.


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