John Argyropoulos

Dafato Team | May 24, 2023

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John Argyropoulos (born around 1395, according to recent studies that contradict the previously accepted date of 1415, Constantinople and died in 1487, Rome) (Greek: Ἰωάννης Ἀργυρόπουλος, Ioannis Argiropoulos, Italian: Giovanni Argiropulo) was a Byzantine scholar, philosopher and humanist, who emigrated to Italy after the fall of Constantinople in 1453 where he taught Greek philosophy and rhetoric for a long time. He played an essential role in the revival of classical culture in Western Europe, translating numerous texts into Latin. He left an important personal production of theological and philosophical works.

Recent research has shown that Argyropoulos was probably not born in 1415 but actually some twenty years earlier, around 1395. His father's name was Manuel while his mother was a Chrysobergina, as a contemporary Greek poem reveals. His mother's surname might suggest that she was related to the three Chrysoberges brothers, the Dominicans Maximus, Theodore and Andrew, famous converts to the Roman faith.

His parents having died when he was only 10 years old, he was brought up by an uncle in Thessalonica, where he began his studies with the prothonotary Alexis Phorbenos. At the age of 14, around 1410, he returned to Constantinople and continued his education under the guidance of several distinguished teachers, in particular the famous George Gemiste Plethon and the preacher Joseph Bryennios. However, his principal teacher was apparently John Chortasmenos, patriarchal notary and future metropolitan of Selymbria under the name of Ignatius. Very influential with the patriarchate, deprived of child and very attached to his student, Chortasmenos obtains as of 1420 for Argyropoulos the office of deacon and the patriarchal office of archon of the churches (" archon tôn ekklesiôn ").

In 1421, still thanks to the support of Chortasmenos, Argyropoulos receives from the emperor Manuel II Palaeologus the authorization to open his own private school in the capital, where he teaches physics and the logic of Aristotle. His students included the Italians Francesco Filelfo and Giovanni Aurispa, who were staying in Constantinople at the time. In the summer of 1423, Argyropoulos left Constantinople for Venetian Crete, with the aim of becoming even more familiar with Latin culture. He stayed on the island for a year and opened a school to support himself. This Cretan episode is only formally documented by a notarized deed registered in Candia on October 29, 1423, by which "John Argyropoulos of Constantinople, educated in Greek literature or science" commits himself to the notary Constanzio Maurikas to teach his son Zorzino the above-mentioned subjects for a year. But it is from this Cretan stay of Argyropoulos that we must also date the three letters of invective that he addresses to George of Trebizond (Trapézoundios), letters following a 'disputatio' recently organized between the two scholars, and which until now were reputed to have been written in the 1440's following an improbable meeting of the two men in Constantinople. At that time, George of Trebizond had recently become "rector scolarum" in Candia after six years of study in Italy. Feeling some difficulty in establishing his intellectual reputation among the Cretan high society, Trapezuntios would have persuaded his former master, the powerful protopapas of Candia John Symeonakis, to organize a public dispute with Argyropoulos, with the aim of proving his superiority against this representative of the multisecular Byzantine culture. But this "disputatio", which is held in 1424 in the church Saint-Tite of Candie (ru), ends in the defeat of George of Trebizond, and seriously poisons the relations between these two future humanists, degenerating into a reciprocal animosity which was to last all their life.

Back in Constantinople in 1425, Argyropoulos reopens his school, becomes a priest and is appointed judge. At the very beginning of the 1430s, he enters in conflict with another judge, Dèmètrios Katablattas, who brings a lawsuit against him, accusing Argyropoulos, among other things, of impiety, a very serious accusation for a priest and a patriarchal officer. It seems that Katablattas took as a pretext for this attack the fact that Argyropoulos had been formerly the pupil of Pléthon, more and more suspected of professing polytheistic ideas. Argyropoulos writes the Comedy of Katablattas to try to clear his name of most of the charges brought against him by Katablattas, except the one relating to his alleged impiety, which he leaves to the imperial court to judge. Whether or not he lost this trial, the fact remains that very quickly afterwards Argyropoulos fell into disgrace with both the ecclesiastical and the imperial powers: although he remained a priest at first, a later correspondence suggests that he is dismissed from his patriarchal office; moreover, he will never be invited by the emperor John VIII Palaeologus to take part in Constantinople in the preparatory discussions concerning the Union of the Churches, when one notes that many intellectuals younger and less qualified than him were in it; finally, and contrary to the late testimony of the chronicler Doukas, who confuses on this occasion Argyropoulos with Amiroutzès, he is not invited to be part of the imperial and patriarchal Byzantine delegation of the council of Basel-Ferrare-Florence-Rome in 1437-1439, neither as an intellectual, nor as a patriarchal officer. In fact, while the Byzantine delegation remained in Italy for three years, it can be proved that Argyropoulos continued to teach in Constantinople, especially to Pietro Perleone of Rimini, a former student of his old friend Francesco Filelfo, as well as to Filelfo's own son, Gian Mario.

Towards the end of 1441 or at the beginning of 1442, Argyropoulos left Constantinople for Italy, perhaps thanks to the financial support of his compatriot Bessarion, recently promoted cardinal of the Roman Church, to study at the University of Padua, where he obtained a doctorate in 1444. Upon his return to Constantinople, his career made great strides, especially because he resolutely supported the much-disputed unionist policies of Emperor John VIII. Somewhere between 1448 and 1451, having visibly renounced the priesthood in the meantime, he accompanied Cardinal Isidore of Kiev to Rome for a short trip to officially pledge allegiance to Pope Nicholas V. He then made his profession of Roman faith and asked the pontiff to admit his sons Alexander and Nicholas into the Roman clergy. On his return to Byzantium he was elevated to the rank of senator by the new emperor Constantine XI and became the most famous teacher of the Xenon of Kral. Until the end of the empire he taught philosophy and medicine at this prestigious institution, where he had among his many students the scholar Constantine Lascaris and the copyist Demetrios Angelos.

Taken prisoner with his family at the time of the fall of Constantinople in 1453, Argyropoulos manages to redeem himself and his family and takes refuge initially in Peloponnese. In 1456, he was sent on a diplomatic mission to Italy by the despot Demetrios Palaeologus of Morea, but he did not return to Greece at the end of his mission. From 1457 he settled permanently in Italy where he taught for a long time in Florence, called by Cosimo de Medici and becoming, in fact, the head of the Greek department of the Studium Florentinum of that city, then in Rome. He played a prominent role in the revival of Greek philosophy in Italy, devoting his efforts to its "translatio" in Western Europe. His students included Peter of Medici, Lorenzo of Medici and the famous Politian. He died in Rome, somewhat forgotten, on June 26, 1487, very old and in a state of great poverty.

He left Latin translations of Aristotle, including the Physics, the Morals and several other works.


  1. John Argyropoulos
  2. Jean Argyropoulos
  3. Kazhdan 1991, vol. 1, p. 164., entrée « Argyropoulos, John »
  4. Iôannès Argyropoulos, Géôrgios Trapézountios et le patron crétois Géôrgios Maurikas de Thierry Ganchou
  5. 1,0 1,1 1,2 Εθνική Βιβλιοθήκη της Γερμανίας: (Γερμανικά, Αγγλικά) Gemeinsame Normdatei. Ανακτήθηκε στις 9  Απριλίου 2014.
  6. ^ Sleptzoff, L. M. (1978). Men or supermen?: The Italian portrait in the fifteenth century. Magnes Press. p. 68. OCLC 4331192. Cf. E. Steinmann, Ghirlandaio, Leipzig, 1897, pp. 18-21, and pl. 10 and 13, who recognizes, among the members of the Florentine colony in Rome, Argyropoulos and Giovanni Tornabuoni.
  7. ^ Burnell, Frederic Spencer (1930). Rome. Longmans, Green & co. p. 217. OCLC 7141638. We may perhaps recognize, in the group on the right, the bearded head of the famous Greek scholar, Argyropoulos, and, immediately to the left, the wealthy banker, Giovanni Tornabuoni
  8. ^ Marle, Raimond van; Marle, Charlotte van (1923). The development of the Italian schools of painting, Volume 13. M. Nijhoff. p. 30. OCLC 162830458. Among the portraits Herr Steinmann has succeeded in recognizing the Greek, Jean Argyropoulos, commentator of Aristotle, who is the old man with a long beard, the papal treasurer, Giovanni Tornabuoni ... he is the clean-shaven man to the right of Argyropoulos while the oldest of the three boys might be Lorenzo, the son of Giovanni Tornabuoni.
  9. Masters, Roger D., Fortune Is a River: Leonardo Da Vinci and Niccolo Machiavelli's Magnificent Dream to Change the Course of Florentine History. Plume (1999), pp. 55. ISBN 0-452-28090-7.
  10. Spyr. P. Lampros, Argyropouleia, published: P.D. Sakellariou, 1910, p. liii.; Jonathan Woolfson, Padua and the Tudors: English Students in Italy, 1485-1603, James Clarke & Co, 1998, p. 4.

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