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The Renaissance "Rediscovery" of Greek in the West

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The Renaissance "Rediscovery" of Greek in the West

Postby thesaurus » Mon May 19, 2008 8:19 pm

In my scattered readings I've seen multiple references to the so called 're-discovery' of (ancient) Greek by Western/Latin Europe during the Renaissance. Humanists like Erasmus are noted for having attained skill in the language and to have read, translated, and preserved Plato, Aristotle, etc. I read somewhere Boethius is supposed to have been one of the last of his earlier generation with that kind of attainment.

I don't understand why Greek had to be rediscovered. It's not as if Greece went anywhere, and from what I understand there were many scholars in that country who were aquainted with their ancient texts. Some of these were later responsible for 'reintroducing' them to their Latinate colleagues. Also, due to the close proximity of Italy and Greece I'm astonished that there wasn't more linguistic exchange between the countries. There seemed to have been Classical Rome, when Greek was all the rage.

Are the hazy 'dark ages' themselves to blame? I don't know much history, but after the collapse of the Empire, I imagine most academics and people were constrained to the limits and political struggles of their various polities. I'd love to hear some enlightened thoughts on this...
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Re: The Renaissance "Rediscovery" of Greek in the

Postby annis » Mon May 19, 2008 9:10 pm

thesaurus wrote:Are the hazy 'dark ages' themselves to blame? I don't know much history, but after the collapse of the Empire, I imagine most academics and people were constrained to the limits and political struggles of their various polities.


The Great Schism left mutual hostilities that persist to this day. The people most likely to benefit from scholarly communication were also most schooled in the theological divide.
William S. Annis — http://www.aoidoi.org/http://www.scholiastae.org/
τίς πατέρ' αἰνήσει εἰ μὴ κακοδαίμονες υἱοί;
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Postby Didymus » Tue May 20, 2008 4:46 pm

If you're interested in this subject, Nigel Wilson should become your best friend. Scribes and Scholars, Scholars of Byzantium, and From Byzantium to Italy are all relevant. Scribes and Scholars ought to be mandatory reading for everything interested in classics anyway. If you have access to a university library you shouldn't have any trouble finding these books, and they really are fascinating.
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Re: The Renaissance "Rediscovery" of Greek in the

Postby Misopogon » Tue May 20, 2008 6:13 pm

thesaurus wrote: Also, due to the close proximity of Italy and Greece I'm astonished that there wasn't more linguistic exchange between the countries.


There was a lot of linguistic exchange between Italy and Greece, even during the Dark Ages. The merchants in cities like Venice or Genua had a good command of Greek and probably some priests. If you read Dante's De Vulgari Eloquentia, you will see that he had some superficial knowledge of Greek.
Moreover, don't forget that some parts of Italy were largely Greek-speaking till the sixteenth century, (Calabria and Puglia): if I recall correctly, Boccaccio - one of the first western intellectuals which studied Greek properly - was advised to go to Calabria to learn the language by some Greek scholar (sorry I cannot cite).
The catholic church struggled to impose Latin as liturgical language and, by the way, some small catholic communities of eastern rite still exist in Calabria.

That said, most educated people started began learning Greek only in the fifteen century, after the arrival of Greek scholars.
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Re: The Renaissance "Rediscovery" of Greek in the

Postby bedwere » Tue May 20, 2008 7:59 pm

Misopogon wrote:if I recall correctly, Boccaccio - one of the first western intellectuals which studied Greek properly - was advised to go to Calabria to learn the language by some Greek scholar (sorry I cannot cite).

He was Barlaam of Calabria
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Re: The Renaissance "Rediscovery" of Greek in the

Postby Misopogon » Tue May 20, 2008 8:17 pm

bedwere wrote:
Misopogon wrote:if I recall correctly, Boccaccio - one of the first western intellectuals which studied Greek properly - was advised to go to Calabria to learn the language by some Greek scholar (sorry I cannot cite).

He was Barlaam of Calabria


Thanks, it could be, but after posting I started thinking that I could make a mistake and attribuite wrongly the anedocte to Boccaccio :oops: .
If you have more details please let me know.
Anyway this Baarlam seems an interesting person, I didn't know his biography.

Where do you come from exactly, Bedwere (if I may ask)?

Regards
Ciao
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Postby annis » Tue May 20, 2008 8:35 pm

Didymus wrote: Scribes and Scholars ought to be mandatory reading for everything interested in classics anyway.


I second this recommendation.
William S. Annis — http://www.aoidoi.org/http://www.scholiastae.org/
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Re: The Renaissance "Rediscovery" of Greek in the

Postby bedwere » Tue May 20, 2008 9:11 pm

Misopogon wrote:

Where do you come from exactly, Bedwere (if I may ask)?

Regards
Ciao
Misopogon

I was born in Ferrara and lived in the province (Migliarino first and, from age 7, Portomaggiore) until 1997, when I moved to San Diego. My parents
live there
Ciao!
:D
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Re: The Renaissance "Rediscovery" of Greek in the

Postby Misopogon » Tue May 20, 2008 9:31 pm

bedwere wrote:
Misopogon wrote:

Where do you come from exactly, Bedwere (if I may ask)?

Regards
Ciao
Misopogon

I was born in Ferrara and lived in the province (Migliarino first and, from age 7, Portomaggiore) until 1997, when I moved to San Diego. My parents
live there
Ciao!
:D


I live not too far (Treviso) and, maial! I studied at University of Ferrara. But I never stopped in Migliarino e Portomaggiore, sorry. Anyway I know the area pretty well. Good food (salama da sugo and cappellacci), friendly people, nice girls, funny accent and the way you pronounce the sound L: I love it so much. I only don't miss your perrennial fog and helicopter-like mosquitos :x
Ciao
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Postby Interaxus » Wed May 21, 2008 2:56 am

Thesaurus:

The year 1453 mean anything to you? Check this out:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fall_of_Constantinople

This too is worth looking at:

http://www.mathpages.com/home/kmath219/kmath219.htm

The role of the Arabs in preserving classical Greek culture - especially science (erroneous or otherwise) - is difficult to exaggerate.

Cheers,
Int
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Postby Gonzalo » Wed May 21, 2008 5:30 am

Interaxus wrote:Thesaurus:

The year 1453 mean anything to you? Check this out:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fall_of_Constantinople

This too is worth looking at:

http://www.mathpages.com/home/kmath219/kmath219.htm

The role of the Arabs in preserving classical Greek culture - especially science (erroneous or otherwise) - is difficult to exaggerate.

Cheers,
Int


Following Interaxus' suggestion, I would recommend two essays written by M. Ernest Renan whose names are De philosophia peripatetica apud Syros (On aristotelian Philosophy amongst the Syrians) and an essay written about a Spanish philosopher: Averroès et l'averroïsme: essai historique. At this moment, I have only read the first one and I have only leafed through the latter and it seems worth to be read.

http://books.google.es/books?id=HCgCAAA ... ry_s&cad=0
http://books.google.es/books?id=nNYOAAA ... ry_s&cad=0


Regards,
Gonzalo
Verus enim amor semper tempore tristi elucescit magis. (Philipp Melanchthon: Decl. de studiis Linguæ Græcæ)
Quin age, si quid habes (P. Vergilii Maronis Ecloga III:52)
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Postby thesaurus » Wed May 21, 2008 1:38 pm

Gonzalo wrote:
Interaxus wrote:Thesaurus:

The year 1453 mean anything to you? Check this out:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fall_of_Constantinople

This too is worth looking at:

http://www.mathpages.com/home/kmath219/kmath219.htm

The role of the Arabs in preserving classical Greek culture - especially science (erroneous or otherwise) - is difficult to exaggerate.

Cheers,
Int


Following Interaxus' suggestion, I would recommend two essays written by M. Ernest Renan whose names are De philosophia peripatetica apud Syros (On aristotelian Philosophy amongst the Syrians) and an essay written about a Spanish philosopher: Averroès et l'averroïsme: essai historique. At this moment, I have only read the first one and I have only leafed through the latter and it seems worth to be read.

http://books.google.es/books?id=HCgCAAA ... ry_s&cad=0
http://books.google.es/books?id=nNYOAAA ... ry_s&cad=0


Regards,
Gonzalo


Thank you for these resources. And yes, my knowledge of history is flimsy, so I'll be reading up on the Byzantine empire for now. I'm definitely going to read Scribes and Scholars when I have the chance, as it's been on my list for a while now.

I'm going to read the article on the Syrians, but since I am Frenchless I'll have to skip the Averroes one for now. (Strange that I've managed to learn Latin better than any Romance languages!)
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Postby Ireclan » Wed May 21, 2008 7:29 pm

What I was always taught was that it was indeed the Dark Ages that resulted in Greek having to be rediscovered. You have to remember, during the Dark Ages (save for the time of Charlemagne), the world was a savage place, and in chaos. I'm sure you know from your Latin studies how powerful Rome was, so when it fell (well, more like slowly died, but still), it left a HUGE power vacuum. In to that vacuum plunged the so-called "barbarians" of the world- the Vandals, the Alans, the Goths, etc. The fall of Rome left every two-bit war prince eager for a slice of the Roman pie able to declare war indiscriminately. Really, if it hadn't been for Byzantium, who knows how long the turmoil would have lasted.
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Postby MiguelM » Wed May 21, 2008 8:06 pm

That is a very reductive view. The classics were preserved albeit sparingly by monasteries, and in fact there are pieces which survived to us from there rather from the Roman Empire of the East. To call the Mediaeval age "Dark" is a mostly antiquated expression: already in the decline of the Empire of the West we could see the aristocracy coming increasingly from those you call "barbarians".

However, it is very true that in a way the classics had to be (re)discovered, and although I know very little about that, I would tend to believe annis who attributes importance to the growing schisms, and the reparation to the exodus after the fall of the Eastern Empire...

Also, I just checked, and my university library doesn't have that book! Way to water my mouth and then take the food away.
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Postby Misopogon » Wed May 21, 2008 8:18 pm

Ireclan wrote:What I was always taught was that it was indeed the Dark Ages that resulted in Greek having to be rediscovered. You have to remember, during the Dark Ages (save for the time of Charlemagne), the world was a savage place, and in chaos. I'm sure you know from your Latin studies how powerful Rome was, so when it fell (well, more like slowly died, but still), it left a HUGE power vacuum. In to that vacuum plunged the so-called "barbarians" of the world- the Vandals, the Alans, the Goths, etc. The fall of Rome left every two-bit war prince eager for a slice of the Roman pie able to declare war indiscriminately. Really, if it hadn't been for Byzantium, who knows how long the turmoil would have lasted.


The idea that in Middle Age Europe (I am sure you meant just Europe, not "the world") was "a savage place" is not accepted by many, probably most, historians nowadays, just have a look at Le Goff.
The Dark ages weren't so dark. There were lot of scholars, theologists, poets and painters.
The Barbarians preserved also many Roman institution and laws. The Roman laws were applied to native people, on personal basis, in most early barbarian kingdoms (see lex romana Burgundiorum, lex romana visigothorum etc.) and the Corpus Iuris Civilis were studied and applied before the 1000 a.d. (so it is dated the first manuscript the so-called littera pisana); later it spread in all Europe from Bologna and Padua, influencing feudal and germanic laws and creating an European Common Law, known everywere as Jus Commune.
As wars are concerned, Europe was not more peaceful later, during the Renaissance, or in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, letting aside 25 or 30 milion deaths in the 20th century.
The trade route were open in the Middle ages and culture travelled among goods like always happens. Prosperity changed society, a class of merchants and businessman took the power, first in the Italian cities and then in other part of Europe (e.g. Flanders, Languedoc).
You can say that the new society, the new economy, grown during the Dark Ages, helped to the rediscovery of the Greek, to development of arts, poetry (the troubadors, the Minnesaenger etc.) and music (Gregorian chant); at the same time, the Classics gave ideological basis to the new era. I said classics since also the Latin writers were read with new eyes.
Again, as I said, the Dark Ages were not so dark. Byzantium didn't count so much in changing the geopolitical assets of Europe after 1000 a.d. and the Renaissance (and earlier the Humanism) was autocton cultural movement, whose debts to the Middle Age are deeper than one could suppose just following acritically the illuministic and positivistic idea of "Dark Ages".
I'd like know the opinions of other people on this point.

Regards
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Postby Scribo » Sun May 25, 2008 9:04 am

http://www.sacred-texts.com/isl/ath/index.htm

I actually found that link a while ago, I think chapter IX may be helpful, though I've never read any of it. :lol:
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Postby quendidil » Sun May 25, 2008 4:41 pm

What about the retranslation into Latin of Greek works in Arabic during the Renaissance?

I remember posting something about this in the Greek section a while ago, but nothing came of it.
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Postby IreneY » Sun May 25, 2008 6:41 pm

Misopogon, with all respect, if it wasn't for Byzantium hmmm, let's just say that modern historians wouldn't have a reason to disagree over the significance of the Battle of Poitiers. Plus, the Eastern Roman Empire, just by existing, influenced pretty much every geopolitical aspect of Europe for the longest time.
And while anyone who says that Renaissance owes all to Byzantium is wrong it is also wrong to "diminish" it's importance in Renaissance's development at it's early stages.

As to the original question, I think the fact that i.e. the term "Hellenes" for the longest time was a term to be avoided has something to do with "rediscovering" ancient Greeks.
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Postby Misopogon » Sun May 25, 2008 7:33 pm

IreneY wrote:Misopogon, with all respect, if it wasn't for Byzantium hmmm, let's just say that modern historians wouldn't have a reason to disagree over the significance of the Battle of Poitiers. Plus, the Eastern Roman Empire, just by existing, influenced pretty much every geopolitical aspect of Europe for the longest time.
And while anyone who says that Renaissance owes all to Byzantium is wrong it is also wrong to "diminish" it's importance in Renaissance's development at it's early stages.


OK, Irene, I was exagerrating about "insignificance of Byzantium" in geopolitical assets of western Europe :oops:, and no doubts you're right.
In fact I was unconfortable especially with the idea that 1) Middle Ages=Chaos and barbarians and, on lesser extend 2) that discovering Greek language and culture = only cause of Renaissance.
Of course, I am not going to"diminish" the role of the Byzantines in the early stages of the Renaissance and even during the all Middle Ages: it would foolish if I did (I hope it's clear I have a strong allergy to any nationalism and chauvinism).
As I said, the relations West-East did exist and were important during all Middle Ages. The influence of Byzantium on Western Europe, and on Italy in particular, seems to me pretty documented. What do you think about? Can we agree on this point?
Now I'd like to ask you a question: if I can understand the Byzantine influence on West, but I am pretty ignorant about the opposite (western influence on Byzantium in the Middle Ages, before the Crusades), if existed at all. In my defence I've legal background. I'd like to know something about and have some reading list.
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