Demetrios Chalkokondyles (Greek: Δημήτριος Χαλκοκονδύλης Dēmḗtrios Chalkokondýlēs), Latinized as Demetrius Chalcocondyles and found variously as Demetricocondyles, Chalcocondylas or Chalcondyles (1423 – 9 January 1511) was one of the most eminent Greek scholars in the West. He taught in Italy for over forty years; his colleagues included Marsilio Ficino, Poliziano, and Theodorus Gaza in the revival of letters in the Western world, and Chalkokondyles was the last of the Greek humanists who taught Greek literature at the great universities of the Italian Renaissance (Padua, Florence, Milan). One of his pupils at Florence was the famous Johann Reuchlin. Chalkokondyles published the first printed publications of Homer (in 1488), of Isocrates (in 1493), and of the Suda lexicon (in 1499).
Athens, Duchy of Athens
|Died||9 January 1511 (aged 87)|
Milan, Duchy of Milan
|Occupation||Scholar, politician, diplomat, philosopher|
Demetrios Chalkokondyles was born in Athens in 1423 to one of the noblest Athenian families and was the cousin of the chronicler of the fall of Constantinople, Laonicus Chalcocondyles. He soon moved to the Peloponnese, with his Athenian family who had migrated after its persecution by the Florentine dukes. He migrated to Italy in 1447 and arrived at Rome in 1449 where Cardinal Bessarion became his patron. He became the student of Theodorus Gaza and later gained the patronage of Lorenzo de Medici, serving as a tutor to his sons. Afterwards Chalkokondyles lived the rest of his life in Italy, as a teacher of Greek and philosophy. One of Chalkokondyles' Italian pupils described his lectures at Perugia, where he taught in 1450:
A Greek has just arrived, who has begun to teach me with great pains, and I to listen to his precepts with incredible pleasure, because he is Greek, because he is an Athenian, and because he is Demetrius. It seems to me that in him is figured all the wisdom, the civility, and the elegance of those so famous and illustrious ancients. Merely seeing him you fancy you are looking on Plato; far more when you hear him speak.
In 1463 Chalkokondyles was made professor at Padua, and later, at Francesco Philelpho's suggestion, in 1479 he took over the place of Ioannis Argyropoulos, as the head of the Greek Literature department and was summoned by Lorenzo de Medici to Florence. Chalkokondyles composed several orations and treatises calling for the liberation of his homeland Greece from what he called “the abominable, monstrous, and impious barbarian Turks.” In 1463 Chalkokondyles called on Venice and "all of the Latins" to aid the Greeks against the Ottomans, he identified this as an overdue debt and reminded the Latins how the Byzantine Greeks once came to Italy's aid against the Goths in the Gothic Wars (535-554 AD)
"Just as she [Greece] had empended in their behalf [the Latins] all of her most precious and outstanding possessions liberally and without any parsimony, and had restored with her hand and force of arms the state of Italy, long ago oppressed by the Goths, they [the Latins] should in the same way now be willing to raise up prostrate and afflicted Greece and liberate it by arms from the hands of the barbarians."
It was during his tenure at the Studium in Florence that Chalkokondyles edited Homer for publication, which, dedicated to Lorenzo de' Medici, is his major accomplishment. He assisted Marsilio Ficino with his Latin translation of Plato. During his tenure at Florence, the German classical scholar Johannes Reuchlin was one of his pupils. He also taught Alessandra Scala, the Florentine Greek and Latin poet.
He wrote in Ancient Greek the grammar handbook "Summarized Questions on the Eight Parts of Speech With Some Rules" (Ἐρωτήματα συνοπτικὰ τῶν ὀκτὼ τοῦ λόγου μερῶν μετὰ τινῶν κανόνων). He translated Galen's Anatomy into Latin.
MARSILIO FICINO, CRISTOFORO LANDINO, ANGELO POLIZIANO, and DEMETRIUS CHALCOCONDYLES. Reproduced (by permission) from part of Alinari’s photograph of Ghirlandaio’s fresco on the south wall of the choir in Santa Maria Novella, Florence (ep. p.64 n.6)… A fresco in Santa Maria Novella painted by Ghirlandaio (d.1498) represents an apparently friendly group of scholars who have been identified as Ficino, Landino, Politian and Demetrius.
DEMETRIO CALCONDILA Ritratto: copia dall'originale di Domenico Ghirlandaio negli affreschi della cappella Tornabuoni in SM Novella (1490)
This detail of a fresco by the painter Ghirlandaio in Santa Maria Novella, Florence.... Poliziano and Landino, and the Byzantine Demetrius Chalcocondyles, at the extreme right. The latter explained difficult passages in Plato to Ficino.
Demetrio Calcondila in un particolare dell'Apparizione dell'angelo a Zaccaria di Domenico Ghirlandaio, Firenze
Another Greek of importance was Demetrius Chalcocondyles of Athens (1424–1511), who reached Italy in 1447. In 1450 he became professor of Greek at Perugia.
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