New Perspectives on Byzantine and Italian Platonism
Fabio Pagani is Assistant Professor of Greek and Latin at the Catholic University of America (Washington, DC). He holds a PhD from the Scuola Normale Superiore of Pisa. His research focuses on the reception of Greek philosophy (mainly Plato and Aristotle) during the Latin Middle Ages through the Italian Renaissance, with particular attention to the roles played by Byzantine intellectuals. He has published on Byzantine philosophy, the Italian Renaissance, Petrarch, and documentary papyri. He is a member of the board of the Library of Early Christianity.
Neoplatonism is probably the most distinguished philosophical movement of the Renaissance. Yet, how did it come about? And what is the exact relation between Byzantine and Italian Neoplatonism? Was Byzantine Platonism intrinsically incompatible with Christianity? As Marsilio Ficino made clear, a crucial role has been played by the school of Mystra and its leader, the scholar and philosopher Gemistos Pletho (1355-1452 ca.). Yet, Gemistos and his school have long been the object of radically different (and often incompatible) interpretations. By making full use of recent paleographic discoveries, this project aims to shed new light on Gemistos and his impact on the Italian Renaissance. By studying his edition of the text of Plato, the project intends to describe how Plato has been read, interpreted, corrected, censored, and ultimately ‘transformed’ at Mystra. In an attempt to understand how Gemistos’ mind operated, particular attention will be payed to the philological and philosophical assumptions that justify Gemistos’ approach to ancient texts. By placing Gemistos into the framework of the history of philology and defining what sort of influence he had on his students, this research seeks to make two contributions to scholarship. First, it provides a better understanding of how Neoplatonism affected not simply the interpretation, but the very text of Plato. Second, it re-defines of what exactly Italian Renaissance inherited from the Byzantines.