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of Theodore Gaza, of George of Trebizond, of John Argyropulus, and Demetrius Chalcocondyles, who taught their native language in the
schools of Florence and Rome. Their labours were not Their faults and merits. inferior to those of Bessarion, whose purple they revered, and whose fortune was the secret object of their envy. But the lives of these grammarians were humble and obscure : they had declined the lucrative paths of the church ; their dress and manners secluded them from the commerce of the world ; and since they were confined to the merit, they might be content with the rewards of learning. From this character Janus Lascaris 105 will deserve an exception. His eloquence, politeness, and Imperial descent, recommended him to the Frenci monarchs; and in the same cities he was alternately employed to teach and to negociate. Duty and interest prompted them to cultivate the study of the Latin language, and the most successful attained the faculty of writing and speaking with fluency and elegance in a foreign idiom. But they ever retained the inveterate vanity of their country: their praise, or at least their esteem, was reserved for the national writers to whom they owed their fame and subsistence; and they sometimes betrayed their contempt in licentious criticism or satire on Virgil's poetry and the oratory of Tully.106 The superiority of these masters arose from the familiar use of a living language; and their first disciples were incapable of discerning how far they had degenerated from the knowledge and even the practice of their ancestors. A vicious pronunciation, 107 which they introduced, was banished from the schools by the reason of the succeeding age. Of the power of the Greek
105 He was born before the taking of Constantinople, but his honourable life was stretched far into the xvith century (A.D. 1535). Leo X. and Francis I. were his noblest patrons, under whose auspices he founded the Greek colleges of Rome and Paris (Hody, p. 247-275). He left posterity in France; but the counts de Vintimille, and their numerous branches, derive the name of Lascaris from a doubtful marriage in the xiiith century with the daughter of a Greek emperor (Ducange, Fam. Byzant. p. 224-230).
106 Two of his epigrams against Virgil, and three against Tully, are preserved and refuted by Franciscus Floridus, who can find no better names than Græculus ineptus et impudens (Hody, p. 274). In our own times an English critic has accused the Æneid of containing multa languida, nugatoria, spiritû et majestate carminis heroici defecti; many such verses as he, the said Jeremiah Markland, would have been ashamed of owning (præfat. ad Statii Sylvas, p. 21, 22).
107 Manuel Chrysoloras and his colleagues are accused of ignorance, envy, or avarice (Sylloge, &c., tom. ii. p. 235). The modern Greeks pronounce the ß as a V consonant, and confound three vowels (now) and several diphthongs. Such was the vulgar pronunciation which the stern Gardiner maintained by penal statutes in the university of Cambridge; but the monosyllable for represented to an Attic ear the bleating of sheep, and a bellwether is better evidence than a bishop or a chancellor. The treatises of those scholars, particularly Erasmus, who asserted a more classical pronunciation, aro collected in the Sylloge of Havercamp (2 vols, in ostavo, Lugd. Bat. 1736, 1740); but it is difficult to paint sounds by words; and, in their reference to modern use, they can be understood only by their respective countrymen. We may observe that our peculiar pronunciation of the , th, is approved by Erasmus (tom. i. p. 130),
accents they were ignorant; and those musical notes, which, from an Actic tongue and to an Attic ear, must have been the secret soul of harmony, were to their eyes, as to our own, no more than mute and anmeaning marks, in prose superfluous and troublesome in verse. The art of grammar they truly possessed; the valuable fragments of Apollonius and Herodian were transfused into their lessons; and their treatises of syntax and etymology, though devoid of philosophic spirit, are still useful to the Greek student. In the shipwreck of the Byzantine libraries each fugitive seized a fragment of treasure, a copy of some author, who, without his industry, might have perished : the transcripts were multiplied by an assiduous and sometimes an elegant pen, and the text was corrected and explained by their own comments or those of the elder scholiasts. The sense, though not the spirit, of the Greek classics was interpreted to the Latin world: the beauties of style evaporate in a version ; but the judgment of Theodore Gaza selected the more solid works of Aristotle and Theophrastus, and their natural histories of animals and plants opened a rich fund of genuine and experimental science.
Yet the fleeting shadows of metaphysics were pursued with more curiosity and ardour. After a long oblivion, Plato was re- The Platonie vived in Italy by a venerable Greek, 108 who taught in the philosophy. house of Cosmo of Medicis. While the synod of Florence was involved in theological debate, some beneficial consequences might flow from the study of his elegant philosophy : his style is the purest standard of the Attic dialect, and his sublime thoughts are sometimes adapted to familiar conversation, and sometimes adorned with the richest colours of poetry and eloquence. The dialogues of Plato are a dramatic picture of the life and death of a sage; and, as often as he descends from the clouds, his moral system inculcates the love of truth, of our country, and of mankind. The precept and example of Socrates recommended a modest doubt and liberal inquiry; and if the Platonists, with blind devotion, adored the visions and errors of their divine master, their enthusiasm might correct the dry, dogmatic method of the Peripatetic school. So equal, yet so opposite, are the merits of Plato and Aristotle, that they may be balanced in endless controversy; but some spark of freedom may be produced by the collision of adverse servitude. The modern Greeks were divided between the two sects: with more fury than skill they fought under the banner of their leaders, and the field of battle was removed in
les George Gemistus Pletho, & various and voluminous writer, the master of Beso sarion, and all the Platonists of the times. He visited Italy in his old age, and soon returned to end his days in Peloponnesus. See the curious Diatribe of Leo Allatius de Georgiis, in Fabricius (Biblioth. Græc. tom. I. p. 739-756),
of the Latins.
their flight from Constantinople to Rome. But this philosophical debate soon degenerated into an angry and personal quarrel of grammarians; and Bessarion, though an advocate for Plato, protected the national honour by interposing the advice and authority of a mediator. In the gardens of the Medici the academical doctrine was enjoyed by the polite and learned; but their philosophic society was quickly dissolved ; and if the writings of the Attic sage were perused in the closet, the more powerful Stagyrite continued to reign the oracle of the church and school.109 I have fairly represented the literary merits of the Greeks; yet it
must be confessed that they were seconded and surpassed and progress by the ardour of the Latins. Italy was divided into many
independent states; and at that time it was the ambition of princes and republics to vie with each other in the encouragement and
reward of literature. The fame of Nicholas the Fifth 110 has not been adequate to his merits. From a plebeian origin
he raised himself by his virtue and learning: the character of the man prevailed over the interest of the pope, and he sharpened those weapons which were soon pointed against the Roman church." He had been the friend of the most eminent scholars of the he became their patron; and such was the humility of his manners, that the change was scarcely discernible either to them or to himself. Jf he pressed the acceptance of a liberal gift, it was not as the measure of desert, but as the proof of benevolence; and when modest merit declined his bounty, “ Accept it,” would he say, with a consciousness of his own worth : "you will not always have a Nicholas among ye." The influence of the holy see pervaded Christendom; and he exerted that influence in the search, not of benefices, but of books. From the ruins of the Byzantine libraries, from the darkest monasteries of Germany and Britain, he collected the dusty manuscripts of the writers of antiquity; and wherever the original could not be removed, a faithful copy was transcribed and transmitted for his use. The Vatican, the old repository for bulls and legends, for superstition and forgery, was daily replenished with more precious furniture; and such
109 The state of the Platonic philosophy in Italy is illustrated by Boivin (Mém. de l'Acad. des Inscriptions, tom. ii. p. 715-729) and Tiraboschi (tom. vi. P. i. p. 259-288).
110 See the Life of Nicholas V. by two contemporary authors, Janottus Manettus (tom. iii. P. ii. p. 905-962) and Vespasian of Florence (tom. XXV. p. 267-290), in the collection of Muratori; and consult Tiraboschi (tom. vi. P. i. p. 46-52, 109) and Hody, in the articles of Theodore Gaza, George of Trebizond, &c.
III Lord Bolingbroke observes, with truth and spirit, that the popes in this instance were worse politicians than the muftis, and that the charm which had bound mankind for so many ages was broken by the magicians themselves (Letters on the study of History, 1. vi. p. 165, 166, octavo edition, 1779).
was the industry of Nicholas, that in a reign of eight years he formed a library of five thousand voluines. To his munificence the Latin world was indebted for the versions of Xenophon, Diodorus, Polybius, Thucydides, Herodotus, and Appian; of Strabo's Geography, of the Iliad, of the most valuable works of Plato and Aristotle, of Ptolemy and Theophrastus, and of the fathers of the Greek church. The example of the Roman pontiff was preceded or imitated by a Florentine merchant, who governed the republic without Lorenzo arms and without a title. Cosmo of Medicis father of a line of princes whose name and age are almost synonymous with the restoration of learning : his credit was ennobled into fame ; his riches were dedicated to the service of mankind; he corresponded at once with Cairo and London; and a cargo of Indian spices and Greek books was often imported in the same vessel. The genius and education of his grandson Lorenzo rendered him not only a patron but a judge and candidate in the literary race. In his palace, distress was entitled to relief, and merit to reward : his leisure hours were delightfully spent in the Platonic academy; he encouraged the emulation of Demetrius Chalcocondyles and Angelo Politian ; and his active missionary Janus Lascaris returned from the East with a treasure of two hundred manuscripts, fourscore of which were as yet unknown in the libraries of Europe. '13 The rest of Italy was animated by a similar spirit, and the progress of the nation repaid the liberality of her princes. The Latins held the exclusive property of their own literature; and these disciples of Greece were soon capable of transmitting and improving the lessons which they had imbibed. After a short succession of foreign teachers, the tide of emigration subsided; but the language of Constantinople was spread beyond the Alps, and the natives of France, Germany, and England " imparted to their country the sacred fire which they had kindled in the schools of Florence and Rome.115 In the productions of the mind, as in those
112 See the literary history of Cosmo and Lorenzo of Medicis, in Tiraboschi (tom. vi. P. i. 1. i. c. 2), who bestows a due measure of praise on Alphonso of Arragon, king of Naples, the dukes of Milan, Ferrara, Urbino, &c. The republic of Venice has deserved the least from the gratitude of scholars.
113 Tiraboschi (tom. vi. P. i. p. 104), from the preface of Janus Lascaris to the Greek Anthology, printed at Florence 1494; Latebant (says Aldus, in his preface to the Greek orators, apud Hodium, p. 249) in Atho Thraciæ monte.
Eas Lascaris .. in Italiam reportavit. Miserat enim ipsum Laurentius ille Medices in Græciam add inquirendos simul, et quantovis emendos pretio bonos libros. It is remarkable enough that the research was facilitated by sultan Bajazet II.
114 The Greek language was introduced into the university of Oxford in the last years of the xvth century by Grocyn, Linacer, and Latimer, who had all studied at Florence under Demetrius Chalcocondyles. See Dr. Knight's curious Life of Erasmus. Although a stout academical patriot, he is forced to acknowledge that Erasmus learned Greek at Oxford, and taught it at Cambridge.
15 The jealous Italians were desirous of keeping a monopoly of Greek learning.
of the soil, the gists of nature are excelled by industry and skill: the Greek authors, forgotten on the banks of the Ilissus, have been illustrated on those of the Elbe and the Thames; and Bessarion or Gaza might have envied the superior science of the barbarians, the accuracy of Budæus, the taste of Erasmus, the copiousness of Stephens, the erudition of Scaliger, the discernment of Reiske or of Bentley. On the side of the Latins the discovery of printing was a casual advantage ; but this useful art has been applied by Aldus and his innumerable successors to perpetuate and multiply the works of antiquity." A single manuscript imported from Greece is revived in ten thousand copies, and each copy is fairer than the original. In this form Homer and Plato would peruse with more satisfaction their own writings; and their scholiasts must resign the prize to the labours of our Western editors. Before the revival of classic literature the barbarians in Europe
were immersed in ignorance; and their vulgar tongues were abuse of an: marked with the rudeness and poverty of their manners. ing.
The students of the more perfect idioms of Rome and Greece were introduced to a new world of light and science; to the society of the free and polished nations of antiquity; and to a familiar converse with those immortal men who spoke the sublime language of eloquence and reason. Such an intercourse must tend to refine the taste and to elevate the genius of the moderns; and yet, from the first experiment, it might appear that the study of the ancients had given fetters, rather than wings, to the human mind. However laudable, the spirit of imitation is of a servile cast; and the first disciples of the Greeks and Romans were a colony of strangers in the midst of their age and country. The minute and laborious diligence which explored the antiquities of remote times might have improved or adorned the present state of society; the critic and metaphysician were the slaves of Aristotle; the poets, historians, and orators were proud to repeat the thoughts and words of the Augustan age: the works of nature were observed with the
eyes of Pliny and
When Aldus was about to publish the Greek scholiasts on Sophocles and Euripid 38, Cave (said they), cave boc facias, ne Barbari istis adjuti domi maneant, et pauciores in Italiam ventitent (Dr. Knight, in his Life of Erasmus, p. 365, from Beatus RheDanus).
16 The press of Aldus Manutius, a Roman, was established at Venice about the year 1494: be printed above sixty considerable works of Greek literature, almost all for the first time ; several containing different treatises and authors, and of several authors two, three, or four editions (Fabric. Biblioth. Græc. tonn. xiii. p. 605, &c.). Yet his glory must not tempt us to forget that the first Greek book, the Grammar of Constantine Lascaris, was printed at Milan in 1476, and that the Florence Homer of 1488 displays all the luxury of the typographical art. See the Annales Typographici of Mattaire, and the Bibliographie Instructive of De Bure, a knowing bookseller of Paris.