Plethon's Greek

Are you learning Koine Greek, the Greek of the New Testament and most other post-classical Greek texts? Whatever your level, use this forum to discuss all things Koine, Biblical or otherwise, including grammar, textbook talk, difficult passages, and more.
Post Reply
User avatar
pster
Textkit Zealot
Posts: 1085
Joined: Wed Oct 07, 2009 3:05 am

Plethon's Greek

Post by pster »

What kind(s) of Greek did Plethon write? Attic? If not, what is the best grammar for the Greek that he wrote? A modern one if possible. An medieval one if necessary.

What kind(s) of Greek did Plethon speak?

I'm reading Radical Platonism in Byzantium by Niketas Siniossoglou and I'd like to know just a bit about the Greek written and spoken by Plethon.

Thanks in advance.

User avatar
jeidsath
Administrator
Posts: 4817
Joined: Mon Dec 30, 2013 2:42 pm
Location: Γαλεήπολις, Οὐισκόνσιν

Re: Plethon's Greek

Post by jeidsath »

Here's the beginning of a piece that I picked out at random. I put brackets around what seem to be some extra words. The vocabulary is all common words (τανῦν = τα νῦν, I guess). I don't notice any special constructions. I don't know if I've seen things like that impersonal νενόμισται before (I assume, reading κυβερνήτην as subject of ἄγειν, and ἅπαντα τὰ... as object), but the meaning seems clear. ἀλλά seems to be used mid-sentence once, which I think is unusual? None of those funny να's and so on of demotic Greek that always throw me. If this is representative, I can't imagine this being a problem for anyone who can read, say, Plutarch and standard Attic authors.
ΠΛΗΘΩΝΟΣ ΣΥΜΒΟΥΛΕΥΤΙΚΟΣ ΠΡΟΣ ΤΟΝ ΔΕΣΠΟΤΗΝ ΘΕΟΔΩΡΟΝ ΠΕΡΙ ΤΗΣ ΠΕΛΟΠΟΝΝΗΣΟΥ

Καὶ ἐν πλοίῳ κυβερνήτην νενόμισται μὲν ἅπαντα ἄγειν τὰ πρὸς τὴν τῶν ἐμπλεόντων σωτηρίαν ᾗ ἂν δοκῇ αὐτῷ καὶ ἐν στρατοπέδῳ δὲ στρατηγὸν ὡσαύτως τὰ πρὸς τὴν τῶν ἑπομένων νίκην ᾗ οὐκ ἂν οὔτε τοῖς πλέουσιν οὔτε τοῖς πολεμοῦσί τε καὶ μαχομένοις σωθήσεσθαι οὐδ’ ὁσονοῦν χρόνον τὰ πράγματα μὴ οὐχ ὑφ’ ἑνὶ ἀνδρὶ ταττόμενα ἑκατέροις· σαφέστατα γὰρ οὖν ἔν γε τοῖς τοιούτοις μάλιστα ὁρῶμεν ἐν οἷσπερ μέγιστοί τε καὶ ὀξύτατοι οἱ κίνδυνοι τὴν μοναρχίαν ἀσφαλεστάτην τε οὖσαν καὶ λυσιτελεστάτην. Οὐδὲν μέντοι ἧττον ὁρῶμεν ἐξὸν καὶ ἐν νηὶ τῶν πλωτήρων τῷ ἐθέλοντί τε καὶ οἰομένῳ τι τῶν πρὸς τὴν κοινὴν ἂν σωτηρίαν φερόντων ἔχειν συμβουλεῦσαι καὶ ἐν στρατοπέδῳ τῶν στρατιωτῶν τῷ ὡσαύτως ἔχοντι προσιόντας ἔνθα μὲν τῷ κυβερνήτῃ, ἔνθα δὲ τῷ στρατηγῷ ἀνακοινοῦσθαί τε καὶ ὑποτίθεσθαι τὰ ἐπεληλυθότα· τοῖς δέ που ἀκούσασιν ἔξεστι μὲν ἑλέσθαι, ἔξεστι δὲ καὶ διώξασθαι πράως, ἀλλὰ μὴ πικρῶς τὴν συμβουλήν. Τῷ γὰρ ὄντι πολλή που συγγνώμη τῷ ἐν τῷ [ἐν τῷ] κοινῷ συμβουλεύοντι εἰ τῆς ὑπὲρ τῆς κοινῆς σωτηρίας φροντίδος καὶ αὐτῷ τι οἴοιτο προσήκειν. Καὶ δὴ καὶ ἐπὶ τῆς ἡμετέρας τῆσδε πόλεως καὶ ἔθνους ἐπιτέτραπται μὲν σοί, ὦ θειοτάτη κεφαλή, ἡ τῶν ὅλων ἐπιμέλεια καὶ κατελήλυθεν ἐκ συχνῶν βασιλέων καὶ προγόνων διὰ πατρὸς καὶ τούτου βασιλέως ἐς σὲ κλῆρος ἡ ἡμετέρα ἥδε ἡγεμονία, καί σοι ἔξεστι τὰ ἡμέτερα ταύτῃ ἄγειν ὅπη ἄν σοι δόξειε σαυτῷ τε ἅμα καὶ ἡμῖν ἕξειν λυσιτελῶς, ἁπάντων συγχωρούντων τε καὶ οὐδενὸς ἂν ἐναντία τίθεσθαι τολμῶντος. Ἔχοντι δὲ σοὶ μὲν οὕτω, τῶν δὲ πραγμάτων ἡμῖν ἐν μεγάλῳ κινδύνῳ φερομένων ὡς ἂν πολλαχόθεν μὲν ἡμῶν ἐπιβουλευομένων καὶ ἐκ γῆς καὶ ἐκ θαλάττης· προσθείην δ’ ἂν ὅτι καὶ οἴκοθεν ἐκ τῆς χώρας ὑπό τε βαρβάρων ἅμα καὶ ὁμοφύλων, μάλιστα δ’ ὑπὸ τῶν πλησιοχώρων τανῦν τούτων βαρβάρων, ὑφ’ ὧν καὶ τῆς ἄλλης ἐπικρατείας τὸ πλεῖστον καὶ οἰκειότατον περιῃρήμεθα, οἳ, Παραπαμισάδαι μὲν τὸ πάλαι ὄντες, ὑπὸ δὲ Ἀλεξάνδρου τοῦ Φιλίππου καὶ τῶν μετ’ ἐκείνου Ἑλλήνων ἐπιβουλευθέντες τε καὶ κρατηθέντες, πάρεργον τῆς ἐς Ἰνδοὺς τότε παρόδου δίκας νῦν ἡμᾶς ταύτας διὰ μακροῦ μέν, πολλαπλασίας δὲ τῶν ὑπηργμένων εἰσπράττουσιν, Ἕλληνας ὄντας, καὶ νῦν, πολλαπλασίαν τὴν δύναμιν κεκτημένοι ἢ ἡμεῖς, τὰ ἔσχατα περὶ ἡμῶν βουλευόμενοι ἑκάστοτε διατελοῦσιν.
EDIT: I'll add this to the unseens thread if anyone wants to give it a crack there before opening up the dictionary.
"Here stuck the great stupid boys, who for the life of them could never master the accidence..."

Joel Eidsath -- jeidsath@gmail.com

User avatar
pster
Textkit Zealot
Posts: 1085
Joined: Wed Oct 07, 2009 3:05 am

Re: Plethon's Greek

Post by pster »

Thanks for looking at some. You inspired me to give it a try myself and the letter you chose is a good one to look at for historical reasons. Plethon dies a year before Constantinople falls and eight years before Mystra falls. Medieval and Modern Greek by Robert Browning has an introduction that can be partially viewed on Amazon and it is fascinating to me as I know little about the changes Greek has undergone. Based on what Browning says in the bit I can see on Amazon--that Attic and Homer were paradigms always--and the historical background, I'm entertaining the idea that competence in Attic saw its biggest decline in the 15th century. If I had more to say, I'd start a new thread. I can't buy the Browning at the moment because I'm travelling around Greece and mail is not straightforward. The whole Attic thing is very weird to me. I know that one of the great German scholars of the 20th century--I can't remember which one--said that his Attic was at the level of a 10 year old Athenian boy. I guess he meant speaking? But even in 1453 and for a while after you had people who seemed to be quite competent in Attic. Again I guess I want to include speaking. Not sure what happens in the 16th century in the church and the monastaries and the schools after the Ottomans. I'm way out of my depth here. Browning says Homer was always the most important Greek text in schools. But Amazon cuts me off before I can learn what happens in the last 500 years.

Hylander
Textkit Zealot
Posts: 2493
Joined: Mon Aug 17, 2015 1:16 pm

Re: Plethon's Greek

Post by Hylander »

This book might address some of your questions,

https://www.amazon.com/Greek-History-La ... deae8f9840
Bill Walderman

User avatar
jeidsath
Administrator
Posts: 4817
Joined: Mon Dec 30, 2013 2:42 pm
Location: Γαλεήπολις, Οὐισκόνσιν

Re: Plethon's Greek

Post by jeidsath »

Browning is more pleasant and readable than Horrocks, I find, and he has digested his source material somewhat better. The language-evolutionary focus rather than the source-focus is much easier to follow. I like the fuller extracts in Horrocks. Unfortunately as regards Plethon, for both of them the real interest is the vernacular, not the purist literary language. (Which I assume Plethon is from this extract, but of course I'm to ignorant to really compare vernacular Greek.) Horrocks mentions that the classicizing tendency increased as the empire went into decline, and that it's difficult to distinguish 15th century (non-vernacular) literature from Procopius. Chapter 9 from Horrocks on the literary writers is mostly general comments on a few extracts (Procopius, Psellus, Komnene) though he does discuss the modal imperfect.
"Here stuck the great stupid boys, who for the life of them could never master the accidence..."

Joel Eidsath -- jeidsath@gmail.com

User avatar
pster
Textkit Zealot
Posts: 1085
Joined: Wed Oct 07, 2009 3:05 am

Re: Plethon's Greek

Post by pster »

Joel, where did you get that excerpt from. I am having trouble tracking down almost any of his writings.

User avatar
jeidsath
Administrator
Posts: 4817
Joined: Mon Dec 30, 2013 2:42 pm
Location: Γαλεήπολις, Οὐισκόνσιν

Re: Plethon's Greek

Post by jeidsath »

I took it from TLG. But I see it in Migne as well. See starting on pg. 774 of volume CLX (linked below) for a number of his writings. It's all very interesting. I got distracted while writing this post by his comparison of Plato and Aristotle on pg. 889

What I quoted above is pg. 841

https://www.google.com/books/edition/Pa ... l=en&gl=US
"Here stuck the great stupid boys, who for the life of them could never master the accidence..."

Joel Eidsath -- jeidsath@gmail.com

User avatar
pster
Textkit Zealot
Posts: 1085
Joined: Wed Oct 07, 2009 3:05 am

Re: Plethon's Greek

Post by pster »

How did you search for him on TLG? I can't find him with any form of his name?

I don't see a list of his works on p. 774. Maybe I'm too lazy with rusty Latin?

User avatar
jeidsath
Administrator
Posts: 4817
Joined: Mon Dec 30, 2013 2:42 pm
Location: Γαλεήπολις, Οὐισκόνσιν

Re: Plethon's Greek

Post by jeidsath »

He's listed as "Georgius GEMISTUS Phil." on TLG.

In the linked Migne volume, you'll see "...sive Pletho"

Image

And the Notitia starting on pg. 773/774 contains a list of his works, though it only seems to be a selection in Migne and TLG. After the Notitia, there's another Notitia on pg. 793/794, an Encomium on pg. 805/806, a funeral laudation on pg. 811/812, and then his works proper. Contents of Migne:

pg. 821/822 ΠΕΡΙ ΤΩΝ ΕΝ ΠΕΛΟΠΟΝΝΗΣῼ ΠΡΑΓΜΑΤΩΝ ΛΟΓΟΣ Α΄ - DE REBUS PELOPONNESIACIS ORATIO I
pg. 841/842 ΠΕΡΙ ΤΩΝ ΕΝ ΠΕΛΟΠΟΝΝΗΣῼ ΠΡΑΓΜΑΤΩΝ ΛΟΓΟΣ B΄ - DE REBUS PELOPONNESIACIS ORATIO II
pg. 865/866 ΠΕΡΙ ΑΡΕΤΩΝ - QUATUOR VIRTUTUM JUSTA EXPLICATIO
pg. 881/882 PLATONICAE ET ARISTOTELICAE PHILOSOPHIAE COMPARATIO (Preface by CHARIANDER)
pg. 889/890 ΠΕΡΙ ΩΝ ΑΡΙΣΤΟΤΕΛΗΣ ΠΡΟΣ ΠΛΑΤΩΝΑ ΔΙΑΦΕΡΕΤΑΙ - DE PLATONICAE ET ARISTOTELICAE PHILOSOPHIAE DIFFERENTIA
pg. 935/936 Two funeral orations, Preface
pg. 939/940 ΕΠΙΤΑΦΙΟΣ ΕΠΙ Τῌ ΤΟΥ ΘΕΙΟΤΑΤΟΥ ΗΜΩΝ ΗΓΕΜΟΝΟΣ ΚΥΡΙΟΥ ΘΕΟΔΩΡΟΥ ΓΥΝΑΙΚΙ ΚΥΡΙᾼ ΚΛΕΟΠῌ ΚΛΕΟΠῌ - IN DOMINAM CLEOPEN DIVINISSIMI PRINCIPIS NOSTRI UXOREM ORATIO FUNEBRIS
pg. 951/952 ΕΠΙΤΑΦΙΟΣ ΕΠΙ Τῌ ΒΑΣΙΛΙΣΣῌ ΕΛΕΝῌ Τῌ ΠΑΛΑΙΟΛΟΓΙΝῌ - LAUDATIO FUNEBRIS HELENAE PALAEOLOGINAE IMPERATRICIS
pg. 957/958 ΝΟΜΩΝ ΣΥΓΓΡΑΦΗ - LIBER DE LEGIBUS (selections, apparently)
pg. 959/960 ΠΙΝΑΞ ΤΗΣ ΤΟΥ ΠΛΗΤΩΝΟΣ ΝΟΜΩΝ ΣΥΓΓΡΑΦΗΣ
pg. 961/962 ΠΕΡΙ ΕΙΜΑΡΜΕΝΗΣ
pg. 965/966 ΠΕΡΙ ΑΘΑΝΑΣΙΑΣ ΨΥΧΗΣ ΤΗΣ ΑΝΘΡΩΠΙΝΗΣ
pg. 965/966 ΠΕΡΙ ΔΙΚΩΝ
pg. 967/968 ΕΠΙΝΟΜΙΣ - conclusion of DE LEGIBUS
pg. 973/974 ΖΩΡΟΑΣΤΡΕΙΩΝ ΤΕ ΚΑΙ ΠΛΑΤΩΝΙΚΩΝ ΔΟΓΜΑΤΩΝ ΣΥΚΕΦΑΛΑΙΩΣΙΣ (also part of DE LEGIBUS?, it's mentioned in the intro)
pg. 975/976 ΥΠΕΡ ΤΟΥ ΛΑΤΙΝΙΚΟΥ ΔΟΓΜΑΤΟΣ ΒΙΒΛΙΟΝ
pg. 979/980 ΥΠΕΡ ΑΡΙΣΤΟΤΕΛΟΥΣ ΓΕΩΓΙΟΥ ΤΟΥ ΣΧΟΛΑΡΙΟΥ ΑΝΤΙΛΗΨΕΙΣ

He's not a fan of Aristotle, from what I've read of the Plato/Aristotle comparison.
"Here stuck the great stupid boys, who for the life of them could never master the accidence..."

Joel Eidsath -- jeidsath@gmail.com

User avatar
NolanusTrismegistus
Textkit Neophyte
Posts: 16
Joined: Wed Dec 28, 2022 7:31 pm

Re: Plethon's Greek

Post by NolanusTrismegistus »

I'm very much fascinated by Plethon, so I appreicate this post. His desire to revive Hellenic paganism is a pretty striking view for that time period. He is on my reading list once I've gotten there with my Greek.

( This post is a brain dump of some things I've learned about Plethon and medieval philosophy over the years. Take it with a grain of salt, I may be incorrect about some things. )
He's not a fan of Aristotle, from what I've read of the Plato/Aristotle comparison.
Something that's often overlooked in Medieval and Rennaissance philosophy is that Aristotle and Plato were very much considered complimentary to eachother, rather than rivals, as is the understanding today*. A big reason for this view is in the literary record: the medievals mistook key writings from Plotinus, Porphyry and Proclus -- all giants in the early Neoplatonic movement -- for being works of Aristotle (the Theologia Aristotelis). Too, many of the Arabic philosophers and commentators reinforced this view, so the Latin West also adopted the view when they were recieving the traditions from them. As well of course, the medievals, depending on when and where they were in the world (Latin West, Byzantium, Al-Andalus, Baghdad, etc.), had varying levels of completeness of the literary record for Aristotle and Plato.

* There's a lot to say about this, but basically, even what most of us were taught in a Philosophy 101 class about Plato's theory of forms, and "Plato the Rationalist" vs. "Aristotle the Empiricist" has been criticized by a lot of modern scholars as grossly inaccurate, overly simplified, and a total mischaracterization. So, the view that the two philosophers hold complementary / reconcilable views I don't think would even be too unreasonable a position to argue even today.

This view of Aristotle was widespread in the medieval world. Significantly, it was also the basis of the positon held by the medieval Latin Averroists, who did a lot more aggressive Neoplatonizing interpretations of Aristotle (especially of Περὶ Ψυχῆς "On The Soul"). Their views are based on a reading of Averroes' commentary on this book**. The Latin Averroists were despised by the intellectual establishment for behaving quite provocatively and openly challenging Thomas Aquinas and certain Latin Church doctrines, but the movement stuck around, and it was considered an insult for a time to be likened to an "Averroeist".

** Averroes' commentary itself that the Latin Averroeists worked with was a Latin translation of the Arabic original, or a Latin translation of the Hebrew of a translation of the Arabic original. Averroes' commentary was based on an Arabic translation of "On the Soul", which itself was likely an Arabic translation by Hunayn ibn Ishaq possibly of a Greek source or even a Syriac-Aramaic source. I really wonder sometimes how much the history of philosophy and science is at the begging mercy of the translators.

So, I'm wondering outloud here if Plethon's attack on Aristotle was more about trying to do the following:

1) Distancing himself from the Latin Averroists. This allows him to stay in the good graces his patrons and supporters in the West, and he was in regular contact with the church in Rome as an official emissary. Honestly, a lot of Plethon's positions, including his criticisms of Christianity, could easily be construed as "ramblings of yet another Averroist", but Plethon brings far, far more to the table than just his interpretation of Plato.

2) Get people interested in Plato. Aristotle was all the rage in the medieval West especially under the influence of the Arabo-Persian philosophers and Western philosophers like Thomas Aquinas. Very few of Plato's works were actually known about to the medieval West. It's my understanding that basically all the West had from Plato was the dialogue Τίμαιος "Timaeus", and even that, only in a Latin translation. So, exaggerating the differences between Plato and Aristotle I think was a branding decision on Plethon's part to not only be known as the guy to (re-)introduce Plato to the West, but introduce him along with his own pedigree and bringing the rest of the Neoplatonic legacy he's attached with to interpret Plato in a very specific way that has effected the Western understanding of Plato ever since. (Don't just take my word for this -- this can easily be made into the topic of a long research paper.)

3) Contributing to the project for recovering and understanding Hermetic and other ancient texts that might contain secret knowledge, like of the Alkahist, the Philosopher's Stone, the Humunculus, immortality, etc. This was a big driver back then for why states and the nobility (especially the Medici) were so active in philosophy and recovering and translating ancient texts. The quest back in the Middle-Ages for recovering such secret knowledge from the ancients is comparable in significence to today's quest for general artificial intelligence or the search for extraterrestrial life.

User avatar
pster
Textkit Zealot
Posts: 1085
Joined: Wed Oct 07, 2009 3:05 am

Re: Plethon's Greek

Post by pster »

@NolanusTrismegistus
Thank you for such an informative post. I am going through Siniossoglou's book extremely carefully because it is quite dense and I am equally interested in the historical context and the philosophy. I was actually in Mistra just two months ago. In a month I will be finished and then I will try and respond to each of your points as Sinisossoglou might. Unlikely I'll have anything original to say. For the time being, I will say that my reply will probably have more to do with the Byzantine intellectual context (e.g., the Hesychast controversy of the previous century) than with interactions with the West (e.g., the Council of Ferrara-Florence). But Aquinas' influence in the East is finally coming up for discussion so I might have more to say about that in the end. It does seem to be quite an interesting sub-plot. While you await my reply--hehe--I encourage you to check out a Youtube video about Siniossoglou's book by an Australian guy. It's mostly about Plethon's ontology but it's sharp and fun. He drinks some wine while he gives his take, so you might want to pour yourself some too to get in the spirit of things. Thanks again for your post and I promise I will write double the length once I'm done.

User avatar
NolanusTrismegistus
Textkit Neophyte
Posts: 16
Joined: Wed Dec 28, 2022 7:31 pm

Re: Plethon's Greek

Post by NolanusTrismegistus »

Thanks, will definitely check out Siniossoglou! Looking forward to your response! Would love to hear about the impact of the Hesychast controversy on Byzantine philosophy.

Post Reply