The greatest Greeks in the world: Jean Argyropoulos, apostle of the Greek language and philosophy

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That day, June 26, 1487, died Jean Argyopoulos.

John Argyopoulos (Ἰωάννης Ἀργυρόπουλος) was a Greek scholar, lecturer, philosopher and humanist, one of the Greek emigrant scholars who pioneered the revival of learning classical Greek in Italy at the dawn of the Renaissance.

Argyopoulos translated Greek philosophical and theological works into Latin and produced his own rhetorical and theological works in Latin; ensure that their wisdom and teachings can be disseminated throughout Italy.

In doing so, he exerted considerable influence on Western thought, earning himself a reputation as one of the greatest humanists of the Renaissance era.

The main works of Argyropoulos were translations of Aristotle, including; Categoriae, De Interpretatione, Analytica Posteriora, Physica, De Caelo, De Anima, Metaphysica, Ethica Nicomachea, Politica; and an Expositio Ethicorum Aristotelis. Several of his writings still exist in manuscript.

Argyropoulos’ legacy also rests on his exceptional work in Italy as a teacher as part of his commitment to transport Greek philosophy to Western Europe.

The life of Jean Argyropoulos

Born around 1415 in Constantinople, Argyropoulos studied theology and philosophy.

A teacher in Constantinople, Argyropoulos had among his students the scholar and grammarian Constantin Lascaris.

Argyropoulos was an official in the service of one of the rulers of Byzantine Morea. In 1439 he was a member of the Byzantine delegation to the Council of Florence, the ecumenical council of the Roman Catholic Church (1438-1445) in which the Latin and Greek Orthodox Churches attempted to reach agreement on their doctrinal differences, se ending an agreed decree of meeting, even of short duration.

Around 1443-4, Agryopoulos obtained a doctorate in theology from the University of Padua in northern Italy before returning to Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire.

In 1453, Constantinople was captured by the Ottoman Empire at the height of a ruthless and savage invasion and looting by the soldiers. According to historical reports, thousands of Christians around the city were slaughtered, while more than 30,000 civilians were enslaved and forcibly deported. Incredibly, Argyropoulos survived this ordeal.

During the fall of Constantinople, Argyropoulos managed to escape to the Peloponnese. In 1456, he took refuge in Italy where he worked as a professor for the revival of Greek philosophy, first in Padua then as head of the Greek department of the first university in Florence, the Studium Generale from 1456 to 1470.

In a short time, he became one of Italy’s most famous academics, attracting humanists from all over the country to study alongside him.

Among his most notable pupils were Angelo Poliziano, John Filelfo, son of Franciscus Filelfo, Donato Acciaiuoli, Leonardo DaVinci, Johannes Reuchlin and Alamanno Rinuccini.

Other prominent students included Pietro de ‘Medici, Lorenzo de’ Medici, Angelo Poliziano and Johann Reuchlin.

Leonardo Da Vinci was one of the many notable students of John Argyropoulos

Jean Argyropoulos and Aristotle

For Argyropoulos, there were three most important philosophers: Socrates, Plato and Aristotle – however, Aristotle was by far his favorite.

Indeed, Aristotle was one of the greatest philosophers who ever lived and the first true scientist in history. He made pioneering contributions in all fields of philosophy and science and invented the discipline of formal logic.

Appointed tutor of Alexander the Great when Alexander was only 13 years old, one of the main axes of Aristotle’s philosophy was his systematic concept of logic. Aristotle’s goal was to develop a universal process of reasoning that would allow humanity to learn every conceivable thing about reality.

With Socrates and Plato, Aristotle laid the foundations for Western philosophy, and even Western civilization.

“Aristotle not only invented formal logic as the first systematic researcher in biology,” explains Henry Mendell, professor of philosophy at California State University, “his most important work was in the field of metaphysics, namely the study of the structure of reality. “

John Argyropoulos worked tirelessly as an apostle of Greek language and philosophy throughout his life, and through his translations of Aristotle’s important works into Latin, the West found Aristotle.

Bust of Aristotle, Jean Argyropoulos
Bust of Aristotle. John Argyropoulos taught and translated Aristotelian philosophy, helping to spread Greek culture throughout Italy and the Western world

The teachings of Agyropoulos in Florence were recognized as a turning point in Florentine humanism because it diverted interest from the emphasis on eloquence towards metaphysics.

Argyropoulos taught Platonic and Aristotelian philosophy in innovative ways, leaving his home always open to his students and humanists who wished to philosophize and discuss with him.

John Argyropoulos, a champion of the Greek spirit and culture

John Argyropoulos became the most famous representative of Aristotelian philosophy in Italy and contributed immensely to the restoration of classical studies and the connection of humanists to the Greek spirit.

His translations, teaching and participation in scholarly debates helped transfer a valuable aspect of his own Greek culture to Italy and the Western world.

When the plague broke out in 1471, Argyropoulos moved to Rome, where he continued his work as a teacher of Greek for the rest of his life.

John Argyropoulos died at the age of 72, in utter poverty, on June 26, 1487. It was believed at the time that the cause of his death was overconsumption of watermelon.

By the end of his life, John Argyropoulos had gained thousands of followers inside and outside Italy.

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Keywords:
Alexander the Great, Argyropoulos, Aristotle, Byzantine, Constantine Lascaris., Fall of Constantinople, Greek language, Greek philosopher, Greek philosophy, John Argyropoulos, Leonardo Da Vinvi, plato, socrates, Studium Generale, The plague, the Renaissance, watermelon


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