The migration waves of Byzantine Greek scholars and émigrés in the period following the end of the Byzantine Empire in 1453, is considered by many scholars key to the revival of Greek studies that led to the development of the Renaissance humanism and science. These émigrés brought to Western Europe the relatively well-preserved remnants and accumulated knowledge of their own (Greek) civilization, which had mostly not survived the Early Middle Ages in the West. The Encyclopædia Britannica claims: "Many modern scholars also agree that the exodus of Greeks to Italy as a result of this event marked the end of the Middle Ages and the beginning of the Renaissance", although few scholars date the start of the Italian Renaissance this late.
The main role of Byzantine scholars within Renaissance humanism was the teaching of the Greek language to their western counterparts in universities or privately together with the spread of ancient texts. Their forerunners were Barlaam of Calabria (Bernardo Massari) and Leonzio Pilato, two translators who were both born in Calabria in southern Italy and who were both educated in the Greek language. The impact of these two scholars on the humanists was indisputable.
By 1500 there was a Greek-speaking community of about 5,000 in Venice. The Venetians also ruled Crete, Dalmatia, and scattered islands and port cities of the former empire, the populations of which were augmented by refugees from other Byzantine provinces who preferred Venetian to Ottoman governance. Crete was especially notable for the Cretan School of icon-painting, which after 1453 became the most important in the Greek world.
After the peak of the Italian Renaissance in the first decades of the 16th century, the flow of information reversed, and Greek scholars in Italy were employed to oppose Turkish expansion into former Byzantine lands in Greece, prevent the Protestant Reformation spreading there and help bring the Eastern Churches back into communion with Rome. In 1577, Gregory XIII founded the Collegio Pontifico Greco as a college in Rome to receive young Greeks belonging to any nation in which the Greek Rite was used, and consequently for Greek refugees in Italy as well as the Ruthenians and Malchites of Egypt and Syria. The construction of the College and Church of S. Atanasio, joined by a bridge over the Via dei Greci, was begun in that year.
Although ideas from ancient Rome already enjoyed popularity with the scholars of the 14th century and their importance to the Renaissance was undeniable, the lessons of Greek learning brought by Byzantine intellectuals changed the course of humanism and the Renaissance itself. While Greek learning affected all the subjects of the studia humanitatis, history and philosophy in particular were profoundly affected by the texts and ideas brought from Byzantium. History was changed by the re-discovery and spread of Greek historians’ writings, and this knowledge of Greek historical treatises helped the subject of history become a guide to virtuous living based on the study of past events and people. The effects of this renewed knowledge of Greek history can be seen in the writings of humanists on virtue, which was a popular topic. Specifically, these effects are shown in the examples provided from Greek antiquity that displayed virtue as well as vice.
The philosophy of not only Aristotle but also Plato affected the Renaissance by causing debates over man’s place in the universe, the immortality of the soul, and the ability of man to improve himself through virtue. The flourishing of philosophical writings in the 15th century revealed the impact of Greek philosophy and science on the Renaissance. The resonance of these changes lasted through the centuries following the Renaissance not only in the writing of humanists, but also in the education and values of Europe and western society even to the present day.
Deno Geanakopoulos in his work on the contribution of Byzantine Greek scholars to Renaissance has summarised their input into three major shifts to Renaissance thought:
CHALCONDYLES (DEMETRIUS), a learned modern Greek, and a native of Athens, came over into Italy about 1447, and after a short abode at Rome
Demetrius Chalcondyles (1423-1511), a Greek refugee who taught Greek at Perugia, Padua, Florence, and Milan. Around 1493 he produced a Greek textbook for beginners.
John Argyropoulos (ca. 1415-87) played a prominent role in the revival of Greek philosophy in Italy. He came to Italy permanently in 1457 and held
BESSARION, JOHN (c. 1395-1472) + Greek scholar, cardinal, and statesman. One of the foremost figures in the rise of the intellectual Renaissance in the
Between the 15th and 19th centuries the University of Padua attracted a great number of Greek students who wanted to study medicine. They came not only from Venetian dominions (where the percentage reaches 97% of the students of Italian universities) but also from Turkish-occupied territories of Greece. Several professors of the School of Medicine and Philosophy were Greeks, including Giovanni Cottunio, Niccolo Calliachi, Giorgio Calafatti...
Nicolò Duodo riuniva alcuni pensatori ai quali Andrea Musalo, oriundo greco, professore di matematica e dilettante di architettura chiariva le nuove idée nella storia dell’arte.
CALLIACHI, (Nicolas) grec de Candie, y naquit en 1645. Il profefla les belles
John Cigala (born at Nicosia 1622). He studied at the College of Saint Athanasios, Rome (1635–1642), which he graduated as Doctor of Philosophy and Theology and at which he taught Greek successfully for eight years (1642–1650). From Rome he moved to Venice, where he practised law for a short time, therefore he may have also studied law. – In 1666 he was appointed Professor of Philosophy and Logic at the University of Padova. In 1678 he was appointed Professor to the second chair of Philosophy of the same University and in 1687 (214) to the first. From some time before 1678 he had also been censor of the books published by the S. Ufficio, Venice, which presupposed his Catholic loyalty, actually praised by D’ Alviani. His Greek and theological wisdom, his modesty, piety and other humane virtues are praised by Petin, Nicholas Bouboulios and D’ Alviani. In 1685 he appears as bestman at the marriage of Antonia daughter of Const. Tzane the Cretan painter to Mario Botza. Some of his epigrams have survived published in books of other scholars. Because of his duties as censor he seems to have lived in Venice from time to time. He died on the 5/11/1687.
Leonardos Filaras (1595–1673) devoted much of his career to coaxing Western European intellectuals to support Greek liberation. Two letters from Milton (1608–1674) attest Filaras’s ptriiotic crusade.