Manuel Chrysoloras

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Manuel Chrysoloras

Manuel Chrysoloras - Imagines philologorum.jpg

Engraving of Manuel Chrysoloras
Born ca. 1355
Died 15 April 1415
Free imperial city of Constance
Nationality Greek
Occupation Diplomat, scholar and teacher
Years active 1390 – 1415
Known for Translating works of Homer and Plato into Latin
Notable work Erotemata Civas Questiones

Manuel (or Emmanuel) Chrysoloras (Greek : Μανουὴλ Χρυσολωρᾶς; c. 1355 – 15 April 1415) was a pioneer in the introduction of Greek literature to Western Europe during the late middle ages.

Greek language language spoken in Greece, Cyprus and Southern Albania

Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages, native to Greece, Cyprus and other parts of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea. It has the longest documented history of any living Indo-European language, spanning more than 3000 years of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the major part of its history; other systems, such as Linear B and the Cypriot syllabary, were used previously. The alphabet arose from the Phoenician script and was in turn the basis of the Latin, Cyrillic, Armenian, Coptic, Gothic, and many other writing systems.



Chrysoloras was born in Constantinople to a distinguished family. In 1390, he led an embassy sent to Venice by the emperor Manuel II Palaeologus to implore the aid of the Christian princes against the Muslim Turks. Roberto de' Rossi of Florence met him in Venice, and, in 1395, Rossi's acquaintance Giacomo da Scarperia set off for Constantinople to study Greek with Chrysoloras. In 1396, Coluccio Salutati, the Chancellor of Florence, invited him to Florence to teach Greek grammar and literature, quoting Cicero:

Istanbul Metropolitan municipality in Marmara, Turkey

Istanbul, formerly known as Byzantium and Constantinople, is the most populous city in Turkey and the country's economic, cultural and historic center. Istanbul is a transcontinental city in Eurasia, straddling the Bosporus strait between the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea. Its commercial and historical center lies on the European side and about a third of its population lives in suburbs on the Asian side of the Bosporus. With a total population of around 15 million residents in its metropolitan area, Istanbul is one of the world's most populous cities, ranking as the world's fourth largest city proper and the largest European city. The city is the administrative center of the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality. Istanbul is viewed as a bridge between the East and West.

Ottoman Empire Former empire in Asia, Europe and Africa

The Ottoman Empire, historically known in Western Europe as the Turkish Empire or simply Turkey, was a state that controlled much of Southeast Europe, Western Asia and North Africa between the 14th and early 20th centuries. It was founded at the end of the 13th century in northwestern Anatolia in the town of Söğüt by the Oghuz Turkish tribal leader Osman I. After 1354, the Ottomans crossed into Europe, and with the conquest of the Balkans, the Ottoman beylik was transformed into a transcontinental empire. The Ottomans ended the Byzantine Empire with the 1453 conquest of Constantinople by Mehmed the Conqueror.

Roberto de' Rossi was an early humanist in Florence, a follower of Coluccio Salutati and, as the first pupil of Manuel Chrysoloras, one of the first Florentines to read Greek. Roberto de' Rossi was a wealthy patrician who never married and avoided public office but devoted his life to books and his studies in his house and garden in the Oltr'Arno district of Florence. His translations of Aristotle and other classical Greek writers made them widely available to the Latin-reading public, but his modern claim to fame is as the tutor of Cosimo de' Medici, a role for which he was selected by Giovanni di Bicci. Roberto's friends Leonardo Bruni and Niccolo Niccoli were inherited by Cosimo and formed part of his circle.

"The verdict of our own Cicero confirms that we Romans either made wiser innovations than theirs by ourselves or improved on what we took from them, but of course, as he himself says elsewhere with reference to his own day: "Italy is invincible in war, Greece in culture." For our part, and we mean no offence, we firmly believe that both Greeks and Latins have always taken learning to a higher level by extending it to each other's literature."

Chrysoloras arrived in the winter of 1397, an event remembered by one of his most famous pupils, the humanist scholar Leonardo Bruni, as a great new opportunity: there were many teachers of law, but no one had studied Greek in northern Italy for 700 years. Another very famous pupil of Chrysoloras was Ambrogio Traversari, who became general of the Camaldolese order. Chrysoloras remained only a few years in Florence, from 1397 to 1400, 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. Aside from Bruni and Ambrogio Traversari, they included Guarino da Verona and Palla Strozzi.

Leonardo Bruni Italian humanist, historian and statesman

Leonardo Bruni was an Italian humanist, historian and statesman, often recognized as the most important humanist historian of the early Renaissance. He has been called the first modern historian. He was the earliest person to write using the three-period view of history: Antiquity, Middle Ages, and Modern. The dates Bruni used to define the periods are not exactly what modern historians use today, but he laid the conceptual groundwork for a tripartite division of history.


The Camaldolese monks and nuns are two different, but related, monastic communities that trace their lineage to the monastic movement begun by Saint Romuald.

Renaissance humanism

Renaissance humanism is the study of classical antiquity, at first in Italy and then spreading across Western Europe in the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries. The term humanism is contemporary to that period, while Renaissance humanism is a retronym used to distinguish it from later humanist developments.

Having visited Milan and Pavia, and having resided for several years at Venice, he went to Rome on the invitation of Bruni, who was then secretary to Pope Gregory XII. 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, having been chosen to represent the Greek Church, when he died suddenly. His death gave rise to commemorative essays of which Guarino da Verona made a collection in Chrysolorina.

Milan Italian city

Milan is a city in northern Italy, capital of Lombardy, and the second-most populous city in Italy after Rome, with the city proper having a population of 1,372,810 while its metropolitan city has a population of 3,245,308. Its continuously built-up urban area has a population estimated to be about 5,270,000 over 1,891 square kilometres. The wider Milan metropolitan area, known as Greater Milan, is a polycentric metropolitan region that extends over central Lombardy and eastern Piedmont and which counts an estimated total population of 7.5 million, making it by far the largest metropolitan area in Italy and the 54th largest in the world. Milan served as capital of the Western Roman Empire from 286 to 402 and the Duchy of Milan during the medieval period and early modern age.

Pavia Comune in Lombardy, Italy

Pavia is a town and comune of south-western Lombardy in northern Italy, 35 kilometres south of Milan on the lower Ticino river near its confluence with the Po. It has a population of c. 73,000. The city was the capital of the Kingdom of the Lombards from 572 to 774.

Venice Comune in Veneto, Italy

Venice is a city in northeastern Italy and the capital of the Veneto region. It is situated on a group of 118 small islands that are separated by canals and linked by over 400 bridges. The islands are located in the shallow Venetian Lagoon, an enclosed bay that lies between the mouths of the Po and the Piave rivers. In 2018, 260,897 people resided in the Comune di Venezia, of whom around 55,000 live in the historical city of Venice. Together with Padua and Treviso, the city is included in the Padua-Treviso-Venice Metropolitan Area (PATREVE), which is considered a statistical metropolitan area, with a total population of 2.6 million.

Chrysoloras translated the works of Homer and Plato's Republic into Latin. His own works, which circulated in manuscript in his lifetime, include brief works on the Procession of the Holy Ghost, and letters to his brothers, to L. Bruni, Guarino, Traversari, and to Strozzi, as well as two which were eventually printed, his Erotemata (Questions) which was the first basic Greek grammar in use in Western Europe, first published in 1484 and widely reprinted, and which enjoyed considerable success not only among his pupils in Florence, but also among later leading humanists, being immediately studied by Thomas Linacre at Oxford and by Desiderius Erasmus at Cambridge; and Epistolæ tres de comparatione veteris et novæ Romæ (Three Letters on the Comparison of Old and New Rome, i.e. a comparison of Rome and Constantinople). Many of his treatises on morals and ethics and other philosophical subjects came into print in the 17th and 18th centuries, because of their antiquarian interest. He was chiefly influential through his teaching in familiarizing men such as Leonardo Bruni, Coluccio Salutati, Giacomo da Scarperia, Roberto de' Rossi, Carlo Marsuppini, Pietro Candido Decembrio, Guarino da Verona, Poggio Bracciolini, with the masterpieces of Greek literature.

Homer name ascribed by the ancient Greeks to the legendary author of the Iliad and the Odyssey

Homer is the legendary author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, two epic poems that are the central works of ancient Greek literature. The Iliad is set during the Trojan War, the ten-year siege of the city of Troy by a coalition of Greek kingdoms. It focuses on a quarrel between King Agamemnon and the warrior Achilles lasting a few weeks during the last year of the war. The Odyssey focuses on the ten-year journey home of Odysseus, king of Ithaca, after the fall of Troy. Many accounts of Homer's life circulated in classical antiquity, the most widespread being that he was a blind bard from Ionia, a region of central coastal Anatolia in present-day Turkey. Modern scholars consider these accounts legendary.

Plato Classical Greek philosopher

Plato was an Athenian philosopher during the Classical period in Ancient Greece, founder of the Platonist school of thought, and the Academy, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world.

Guarino da Verona Italian humanist

Guarino Veronese or Guarino da Verona was an early figure in the Italian Renaissance.

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Further reading

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Wikisource-logo.svg This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain : Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Chrysoloras, Manuel". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 

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