Gaza, Theodore of


Gaza, Theodore of
(ca. 1415-ca. 1476)
   Greek humanist and author. Born and educated at Constantinople, Gaza favored the union of the Latin and Greek churches negotiated at the Council of Ferrara-Florence and in 1440 emigrated to Italy, where he found employment as a Greek copyist at Milan and then as an assistant teacher at the school of Vittorino da Feltre in Mantua. In this period he worked to acquire fluency in Latin, the international language of learning in Western Europe. In 1446 he became teacher of Greek at the University of Ferrara and also studied medicine there. The emigré Greek scholar and cardinal Johannes Bessarion helped him win the patronage of Pope Nicholas V, who hoped to sponsor the translation of all of Greek literature into Latin. After the pope's death in 1455, Gaza continued working as a translator, at Rome under the patronage of Bessarion and then at the court of the King of Naples, Alfonso I. His most important work as a translator was his new version of works of Aristotle, especially the zoological treatises, and of Aristotle's pupil Theophrastus.
   Renaissance humanists dissatisfied with the inelegant and sometimes mistranslated medieval versions of Aristotle hailed his new translations and agitated for their use in place of the traditional ones, since they were prepared directly from the Greek. Also important was Gaza's grammar of the Greek language (first printed at Venice in 1495). The Dutch humanist Erasmus regarded this as the best Greek grammar available and published his own translation of the first two books into Latin (1516). In the philosophical controversies of the later 15th century, Gaza supported the platonizing interpretation of Aristotle put forward by his patron Bessarion against the defense of medieval Aristotelianism by his fellow Greek exile George of Trebizond. Gaza also translated several ancient Latin authors, notably Caesar and Cicero, into Greek, and wrote several treatises, letters, and orations in both Greek and Latin.

Historical Dictionary of Renaissance. . 2004.

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