Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/578

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for translations from Plato, Aristotle, Demosthenes, and Plutarch. He has described the powerful spell by which the new teacher drew him away from the study of Civil Law. It is especially noteworthy that he speaks of Chrysoloras, without hesitation, as opening a new era. "The knowledge of Greek," he says, "was revived, after an interval of seven centuries." (He might have said, eight or nine.) "Chrysoloras of Byzantium... brought us Greek learning...! gave myself to his teaching with such ardour, that my dreams at night were filled with what I had learned from him by day." Another scholar, who met Chrysoloras at Pavia, Pier Candido Decembrio, speaks of him with a similar enthusiasm. The Greek Grammar of Chrysoloras, in the form of questions and answers (Erotemata), was the earliest modern book of the kind. Florence was then the intellectual centre of Italy; and throughout the fifteenth century it continued to be pre-eminently the home of Greek studies, while at the same time taking its full share in the advancement of Latin scholarship. But Chrysoloras did not confine his activities to Florence. He taught Greek at Pavia (for some time between 1400 and 1403); as well as at Milan, at Venice, and perhaps at Rome. He visited Padua also, but did not teach there.

The movement so powerfully and widely initiated by Chrysoloras was continued by several of his compatriots, most of whom came to Italy between 1400 and the capture of Constantinople in 1453. The restoration of Greek letters in Italy preceded the fall of the Eastern Empire, and was not, as has sometimes been supposed, a result of emigrations caused by that event. The Greeks who chiefly effected the revival were drawn westward by the demand for teachers which offered them distinguished and lucrative careers. The subsequent break-up of Byzantine society sent over, no doubt, a fresh stream of exiles, and reinforced the ranks of Hellenism in the West; but by that time Greek studies in Italy were already vigorous.

A few names stand pre-eminent in the series of Greeks who furthered the Hellenic Renaissance. Georgius Trapezuntius (George of Trebizond), who came to Italy about 1420, taught at Venice, Florence, Rome, and elsewhere. His work is more especially associated with Rome, where his criticisms on Plato brought him into controversy with his compatriot, Cardinal Bessarion. While primarily busied with his native language, George of Trebizond also gained the highest repute as a master of Latin style. Theodorus Gaza, arriving in Italy about 1430, taught Greek for some nine years (1441-50) at Ferrara, and afterwards settled at Rome. His best-known works were translations from Aristotle, and a Greek grammar, which was already a classic when printed by Aldus in 1495. The study of Plato and the Neoplatonists at Florence received a marked impetus from the visit in 1438 of Gemistos Plethon, whose mysticism, if eccentric and sometimes extravagant, was allied with power and sincerity. It was his influence which