George of Trebizond


George of Trebizond
(1396-ca. 1472; Latin name, Trapezuntius)
   Humanist and philosopher, born on the island of Crete. He settled in Venice in 1416 and initially worked as a Greek scribe. His study under the famous schoolmaster Vittorino da Feltre gave him a mastery of Latin rare among Greek emigres, and by 1420 he was appointed to teach Latin grammar at Vicenza. He is now best known for the hostility to the philosophy of Plato and the strong defense of Aristotle expressed in several works, especially his Comparatio Platonis et Aristotelis / Comparison of Plato and Aristotle (1458). This book accused the humanist circle patronized by the Greek-born Platonist Cardinal Johannes Bessarion of undermining the foundations of medieval Aristotelian theology. It also attacked the pagan message concealed in the thought of the contemporary Greek Platonist Georgios Gemistos Pletho and warned of the danger to orthodoxy if a Platonist like Bessarion were ever elected pope. The book precipitated a sharp controversy between defenders of medieval Aristotelianism and supporters of Neoplatonism, and it provoked a strong rebuttal from Bessarion.
   Converted from Orthodoxy to Roman Catholicism about 1427, Trebizond conducted his own school at Venice (1428-1436) and published books on rhetoric and logic that established his reputation as a teacher and scholar. The work on logic, Isagoge dialéctica, was widely used as a textbook in northern Europe during the 16th century. In 1438 he began teaching at the University of Florence but soon became an official of the papal curia, which was located in Florence at that period. He ultimately rose to the rank of papal secretary. Pope Nicholas V employed him as a translator of Greek patristic and pagan authors; his retranslations from Aristotle became particularly influential. Trebizond's loss of the pope's favor forced him to leave Rome and work for King Alfonso of Naples (1452-1455), but he resumed his position as papal secretary after Nicholas V's death in 1455 and remained there for the rest of his career except for a brief and unsuccessful tenure as a teacher in Venice and a trip to Constantinople (1465-1466), where he attempted in vain to convert the sultan Muhammad II to Christianity.

Historical Dictionary of Renaissance. . 2004.

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