All Scholars

CHRYSOLARAS, Manuel

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  • Date of Birth: ca. 1350
  • Born City: Constantinople
  • Born State/Country: Turkey
  • Date of Death: April 15, 1415
  • Death City: Konstanz
  • Death State/Country: Germany
  • Education:

    Study in Venice, 1390-1; Florence and Lombardy, 139601403; 

  • Professional Experience:

    Prof., Florentine Studio, 1397-9; poetical activity in Constantinople, 1391-6, 1403-7; Embassies to Venice, Genoa, Paris, London, Salisbury, Spain, 1407-10; at Curia of John XXIII, 1410-13; travel in Italy an Greece, 1413-14; participant, Council of Konstanz, 1415.

  • Publications:

    Ἐρωτήματα τῆς `Ελληνικῆς γλώσσης (Athens, 1484); Manuelis Chrysolarae J.-P. Migne (1866, 23-59; H. Noiret, “Huit lettres inédites de DC,” in Mélanges d'archéologie et d'histoire, VII (1887) 472-500; E. Legrand, Bibliographie hellènique…, I (Paris 1885) passim; II (1885) 255, 304-311, 322-4, 330-3, 396; ------, “Cent dix lettres grecques de Francois Philelphe,” in Publications de l'École des langues orientales vivantes, ser. 3, XII (1892) 190-4, 347-50; J. E. Powell, “Two Letters of Andronicus Callistus to D. C.,” in Byzantinisches und Neugriechisches Jahrbuch (1939) 14-20;

  • Notes:

    Chrysoloras (or Chrysolaras) came from a politically prominent family in Constantinople. He studied with Demetrios Cydones (1324-97), mesazon (chancellor) of the Byzantine empire under three different emperors. Chrysoloras probably saw Italy for the first time in the company of Cydones. Cydones also taught the future emperor Manuel II Palaiologus (1455-1512) and through Cydones’ agency Chrysoloras was appointed an ambassador and collector of indulgences for life. He returned to Italy when sent by Palaiologus to the Venetian court to plead for aid against the Turks. During his stay in Venice Chrysoloras began to teach Greek and attracted Giacomo Angeli da Scarperia (d. 1411), on the recommendation of Chrysoloras’s first pupil, Roberto de’ Rossi (1355-1417), an intimate of Coluccio Salutati (1331-1406). Salutati, the chancellor of Florence, called for Chrysoloras to come to the Florentine Studium to be its first professor of Greek in order to teach the language to those in Salutati’s influential circle of humanists and their children. As an aid to his teaching, Chrysoloras conceived of a Greek grammar (the first of the Renaissance--1496) modelled on Dionysius Thrax’s small (50 pp.) outline Τέχνη γραμματική hitherto confined to the East and its epitome by Theodosius of Alexandria’s. The material was presented in an easy question-and-answer form, with Theodosius’s 56 declension classes reduced to ten,  which later grammars adopted. For his students he also made word-for-word translations of portions of the Odyssey and Plato’s Republic. The roster of his students reads like a Who’s Who of Florentine humanists: starting with De Rossi and including Guarino da Verona (1374-1460), Niccolò de’ Niccoli (1364-1437), Leonardo Bruni (1370-1444), Carlo Marsuppini (1399-1453) & Ambrogio Traversari (1386-1439); Pier Paolo Vergerio (1498-1565); Palla Strozzi (1372-1462). Chrsolras’s grammar, influential in its time, was soon surpassed as the rising Italian desire to learn Greek, which Chrysoloras had done so much to engender, was met by texts made in the next generation. 

    As interest in Greek developed, Chrysoloras was among the first scholars to circulate around Italy the Greek manuscripts from his own extensive family collection. He sold some and allowed others to be studied and copied, including Ptolemy’s Geography, which his student Angeli translated. As scholar and diplomat, he wrote letters, some intended for publication, like his comparison of Rome and Constantinople, and some private for his influential friends. He is best remembered, however, through his teaching, by which he became one of the earliest of the Greeks who brought the language and literature of ancient Greece to Italy. 

  • Sources:

    Hermanns (von der Hardt), Memoria Chrysolorae, Byzantinischer...et Wesseli, Gröningensis Frisii... (Helmstadt, 1718); Hodius (Humphrey Hody), De Graecis Illustribus (London, 1742) 12-54; G. Cammelli, I dotti Bizantini e le origini dell’ Umanesimo I: Manuele Crisolara (1941); J. Hankins, Chrysoloras and the Greek Studies of Leonardo Bruni (Naples, 2002); Antonio Rollo, Gli Erotemata tra Crisolora e Guarino (Messina, 2012); L. Voltz, “Zur Ueberlieferung der griechischen Grammatik in byzantinischer Zeit,” in Neue Jahrbücher für Philologie und Paedagogik, 139 (1889) 579-99; D. G. Kampouroglous, Οί Χαλκοκόνδυλαι. Μονογραϕία…. (Athens 1926) 171-211; J. Hutton, The Greek Anthology in Italy to the Year 1800 (Ithaca, NY, 1935) 30, 36, 100, 124; G. Cammelli, “Calcondiliana,” in Miscellanea G. Mercati, III (Vatican City 1946) 252-72; M. Vogel-V. Gardthausen, Die griechischen Schreiber des Mittelalters und der Renaissance (Hildesheim 1966) 107 (C’s manuscripts); A. Pontani, "Manuel Crisolora. Libri e scripture (con un Benno su Giovanni Crisolara," in Bolletino della Badia Greca di Grottaferrata n.s. 53 (1999) 255-83; L. Thorn-Wickert, Manuel Chrysoloras (ca. 1350-1415). Eine Biographie des byzantinischen Intellektuellen vor dem Hintergrund der hellenistischen Studien in der italienischen Renaissance (2006). (With thanks to Willum Westenholz)

  • Author: Ward Briggs