- Traversari, Ambrogio
- (1386-1439)Florentine monk and hu-manist who made the study of ancient Christian authors (the Church Fathers) his scholarly specialty, though he also studied and wrote about pagan authors and translated from Greek into Latin the Lives of the Philosophers by Diogenes Laertius, an important source for Renaissance understanding of ancient philosophy. Born in Portico, a village of the Romagna, he came to Florence in 1400 and entered the Camaldolese monastery there. He claimed to have learned Greek through private study, though he probably had some help from a na-tive Greek who resided in the same monastery. His mastery of Greek and of ancient Latin literature attracted the attention of the wealthy Florentine humanist Niccolô Niccoli, who opened to him his private library of manuscript books. Traversari's monastery became the meeting-place of the influential humanist circle (including the physi-cian Paolo Toscanelli and a great patron of Florentine humanism, Cosimo de'Medici) that flourished during the 1420s.Traversari was a close student of the works of Latin Church Fathers such as St. Jerome, Lactantius, and Tertullian, but his mastery of Greek led him to the study and translation of Greek Church Fathers, including Athanasius, Basil, [pseudo-]Dionysius the Areopagite, Ephraem, Gregory of Nazianzen, and John Chrysostom. These trans-lations opened the little-known world of ancient Greek Christian lit-erature to Latin-reading Western scholars. Like many humanists, Tra-versari valued this patristic literature far more highly than the prevailing scholastic theology of the universities. In 1431 he became general of his order, an administrative position that forced him to travel widely to inspect and reform Camaldolesian communities throughout Italy. He wrote a narrative of these journeys, the Hodoe-poricon, and carried on an extensive correspondence, much of which is preserved. Traversari was one of the papal legates at the Council of Basel in 1435 and was a member of the Western delegation at the Council of Ferrara-Florence, where his command of Greek and his expertise in Greek patristic literature gave him a prominent role in the negotiations to reunite the Greek and Latin churches.
Historical Dictionary of Renaissance. Charles G. Nauert. 2004.