48. TRAPEZUNTIUS (Τραπεζούντιος
) of TRAPEZUS or TREBIZOND. The surname of George Trapezuntius is taken, not from the place of his birth, for he was a native of Crete (Nic. Comnenus Papadopoli says of Chandace (Candia ?), the capital of the island), but from the former seat of his family. His contemporary, Cardinal Bessarion, commonly designates him " Cretensis."
He was born 4th April, A. D. 1396, and came into Italy probably about A. D. 1428, as he was invited into that country by Franciscus Barbarus, a Venetian noble, to teach Greek in Venice after the departure of Franciscus Philelphus who left that city in that year. George received the freedom of the city from the senate.
It appears from his commentary on Cicero's Oration for Q. Ligarius, that he learned Latin (Nic. Comnenus Papadopoli says at Padua) under Victorinus of Feltre, who was also the teacher of Theodore Gaza.
After a few years he removed from Venice, and, after several ineffectual attempts to establish himself as a teacher in different towns, settled at Rome, where he was made professor of philosophy and polite literature, with a salary from the Papal government; and where his lectures were attended by hearers from Italy, France, Spain, and Germany.
The year of his settlement at Rome is not ascertained.
The account of Boissardus, who says (Icones Viror. Illustr.
) " Primus omnium Graeccrum Graecas literas docuit summa cum laude utpote qui clarebat A. Chr. 1430 Eugenio IV. pontificatum tenente," is not accurate, as Eugenius did not become pope till 1431. Trithemius says that he flourished at Rome in the time of Eugenius IV., A. D. 1435, which may be true ; at any rate, he was at Rome before the council of Florence, A. D. 1439.
He had become eminent in Italy before 1437, when he wrote to the Byzantine emperor, .oannes or John II., exhorting him to disregard the promises of the council of Basel, and to attend the council which was to be summoned at Ferrara, in Italy; but it is not clear from what part of Italy the letter was written.
He was secretary, according to Hody, to the two popes, Eugenius IV. and Nicholas V. (who acceded to the papal crown A. D. 1 447),but according to other statements he received the appointment from Nicholas V. apparently about A. D. 1450.
He occupied for many years a position of unrivalled eminence at Rome, as a Greek scholar and teacher, and a translator of the Greek authors; but the arrival of many scholars whom Nicholas invited to that city, and the superior reputation of the version of Aristotle's Problemuta,
made by Theodore Gaza subsequently to George's version of the same treatise, and the attacks of Laurentius Valla, threw him into the shade. Valla attacked him because he had censured Quintilian; and this literary dispute led to a bitter personal quarrel between Valla and George ; but after a time they were reconciled. Poggio, the Florentine, had also a dispute with George, who boxed his antagonist's ears, in the presence of the pope's other secretaries, a tolerable proof of the greatness of the provocation, or the irritability of George's temper. For some time George had Bessarion for his patron, but he lost his favour by his attack on the reputation of Plato, in maintaining the rival claims of Aristotle. George ceased to teach as professor in A. D. 1450, perhaps on his appointment as papal secretary.
Beside the duties of his professorship and his secretaryship, he was much engaged in translating into Latin the works of Greek authors; but, from the haste with which they were brought out, arising from his anxiety to receive the promised payment for them, they appeared in an imperfect or mutilated form.
Having lost the favour of Nicholas, who was alienated from him, as George himself states, because he refused to allow his versions of certain Greek philosophers and fathers to appear under the names of others, and perhaps also by the intrigues of his rivals, lie went to Naples, to the court of Alfonso the Magnanimous, who gave him a respectable salary; but he was, after a time, reconciled to the pope by the friendly offices of Franciscus Philelphus, and returned to Rome about A. D. 1453.
In A. D. 1465 he visited his native island, and from thence went to Constantinople. On his return by sea from Constantinople to Rome, he was in imminent danger of shipwreck, and, in his peril, he besought the aid of the martyr, Andreas of Chios, who had a few months before suffered martyrdom at Constantinople; and he made a vow that if he escaped and came safely to his destination, he would write in Latin the narrative of his martyrdom.
He fulfilled his vow about two years afterwards, and embodied in the narrative an account of the circumstances which led him to write it.
In his old age George's intellect failed, and he sunk into second childhood. His recollection was completely lost in literary matters, and he is said to have forgotten even his own name.
In this crazy condition he wandered about the streets of Rome in a worn cloak and with a knotted staff.
According to some accounts, this wreck of his intellect was the result of a severe illness; others ascribe it to grief and mortification at the trifling reward which he received for his literary labours.
A store is told of him (Boissard, l.c.
), that having received of the pope the trifling sum of 100 ducats for one of his works which he had presented to him, he threw the money into the Tiber, saying, “Periere labores, pereat et eorum ingrata merces
” (" My labours are lost, let the thankless recompense of them perish too "): but the similarity of the story to an anecdote of Theodore Gaza destroys, or at least much impairs its credibility. George's son, Andreas Trapezuntius, in his prefatory address to Pope Sixtus IV., prefixed to George's translation of the Almagest of Ptolemy, declares that his life was shortened by the malignity of " his powerful enemy;" but who this enemy was Andreas does not mention.
It could hardly have been Theodore Gaza, the rival of George, for he died A. D. 1478, while George himself did not die until A. D. 1485 or 1486, at the age of about 90.
He was buried near his residence, in the Church of the Virgin Mary, formerly the Temple of Minerva at Rome, where was a monumental inscription in the floor of the church; but it had been so worn by the feet of the persons frequenting the church, that even in Allatius's time nothing was visible but the traces of the name.
George of Trebizond left a son, Andreas or Andrew, who, during his father's lifetime, wrote in his defence against Theodore Gaza; but he was a person of no talent or eminence.
A daughter of Andrew was married to the Roman poet Faustus Magdalena, who was killed at the sacking of Rome by the troops of Charles V., A. D. 1527. Faustus, who was a friend of Leo X., used to speak much of his wife's grandfather.
The character of George is unfavourably represented by his biographers Allatius and Boerner, the latter of whom describes him as deceitful, vain, and envious.
The disputes in which he was involved with the principal scholars with whom he had any thing to do confirm these unfavourable representations.
The works of George of Trebizond are numerous, consisting partly of original works, a few in Greek, the rest in Latin; partly of translations from Greek into Latin. many of them, however, remain in MS. We notice only those that have been printed; arranging them in classes, and giving the works in each class chronologically, according to the date of their earliest known publication.
I. Original Works.
2. In Greek.
Subjoined by Pontanus, together with a Latin version, to his Latin versions of Theophylact Simocatta and Phranza, 4to. Ingolstadt, 1604.
Both of these were published with a Latin version in the Graecia Orthodoxa of Allatius, vol. i. pp. 469-582. Rome, 1652.
II. In Latin
fol. Venice, 1470.
This date is fixed by the chief bibliographical authorities, but is not given in the work.
has been often reprinted. Valentine Curio, in the preface to his edition, 4to. Basil, 1522, states that the work was left by the author in so imperfect a state that its revision had cost the editor much labour.
He adds that it embodied a translation of a considerable part of the rhetorical works of Hermogenes.
4to. Milan, 1472. The same work appears to have been printed in 1537 in 8vo. at Augsburg, under the title of De Octo Partibus Orationis Compendium, omitting ex Prisciano;
though some of our authorities hesitate about identifying the two works.
(sometimes described as Expositio in Orationem Ciceronis pro Q. Ligario);
Printed with the commentaries of some other writers on some of the orations of Cicero, fol. Venice, 1477
, and several times reprinted.
The year of publication is not known.
These two works have been reprinted in some collections of commentaries on Cicero's orations.
4to. Strasburg, 1509. Twelve editions of this little work were published between 1509 and 1536.
The work entitled Compendiuum Dialectices ex Aristotele,
by George of Trebizond, published without note of time or place, is probably the same work.
8vo. Venice, 1523.
We are not aware that the work was printed before this date, but it must have been circulated in some form, as it was the work which drew upon George the anger of Cardinal Bessarion, who published a reply to it under the title Adversus Calumniatorem Platonis, Libri Quinque,
fol. Rome, 1469.
In this reply he criticises George's translation of Plato's treatise De Legibus,
which has never been printed.
These two works were printed with Omar De Nativitatibus, 8vo. Venice, 1525.
In this exposition of a passage (100.21.22) in the Gospel of John, George contended that the evangelist was still living on the earth.
8vo. Basil. 1543
; and reprinted in both editions of the Orthodoxographa (Basil. 1555 and 1569)
and in the Bibliotheca Patrum, vol. vi. ed. Paris, 1576.
with a reprint of Nos. 10 and 11, and with the treatise of Joannes Pontanus, Quatenus credendum sit Astrologis,8vo. Cologne, 1544.
printed in the De Probatis Sanctorum Vitis of Surius, Maii, 29. p. 324, fol. Cologne, 1618
, and in the Acta Sanctorum of Bollandus, Maii, tom. vii. p. 184, &c.
fol. Venice, 1470
In this version the whole of the fifteenth book is omitted; yet it obtained great reputation, as was shown by its being reprinted nine or ten times during the fifteenth century.
Fol. Cologne, 1487
. There is an edition without note of time or place, but which, from the character of the type, is supposed to be printed by Mentelius of Strasburg, whose other works bear date from 1473 to 1476. This translation is not wholly original ; in some of the homilies it is only the ancient version of Anianus revised.
A version of this work of Aristotle, which some of our authorities state to be by George of Trebizond, but which does not bear his name in the title, was published in fol., Leipsic, 1503, and Venice, 1515
; but his version was certainly printed, at Paris, 8vo. 1539
, and with the rest of Aristotle's works at Basel, 1538.
fol. Paris, 1508
. Of the twelve books of which this work consists George translated the first four and the last four; the remainder were translated by Jodocus Clichtoveus, who edited the work.
fol. Leipzig, 1510.
fol. Paris, 1513
This version of the work of Cyril on the Trinity has been often reprinted.
fol. Venice, 1515
4to. Vienna, 1517.
The version of the third book was printed with the Acta Concilii Florentini, and other pieces, fol. Rome, 1526
; and the whole version has been printed in some Latin and Graeco-Latin editions of the works of Basil.
subjoined to the works of Joannes Damascenus, fol. Basel, 1548.
So wretchedly is this version executed, that doubts have been cast upon its authorship.
The reputation of George as a translator is, however, very low. Beside the errors which resulted from haste, he appears to have been very unfaithful, adding to his author, or cutting out, or perverting passages almost at will.
Among his unpublished translations are several of Aristotle's works, including the Problemata
, De Anima
, De Animalibus
, De Generatione et Corruptione;
also the De Legibus
and the Parmenides
of Plato. His version of Plato's work, De Legibus,
was severely criticised by Bessarion in his Adversus Calumniatorem Platonis;
and his version of Aristotle's De Animalibus
is said to have been used by Theodore Gaza, though without acknowledgment, in the preparation of his own version.
Boissard, Icones Viror. Illustr.,
pars i. p. 133., &c.; Cave, Hist. Litt.
vol. ii., Appendix,
by Gery and Wharton, p. 149; Hody, De Graecis Illustribus
Linguae Graecae, &c., Instauratoribus;
Boernerus, De Doctis Hominibus Graecis, Litterarum Graecarum in Italia Instauratoribus;
Fabric. Bibl. Graec.
vol. iii. pp. 102, 242, vol. vii. p. 344, vol. viii. pp. 76, 552, 571, vol. ix. pp. 22, 103, 454, vol. xi. p. 397; Allatius, Diatrib. de Georgiis,
apud Fabric. vol. xii. p. 70, &c.; Panzer, Annales Typographici.