17. ARGYROPULUS (Ἀργυροποῦλος
), one of the learned Greeks whose flight into Western Europe contributed so powerfully to the revival of learning. Joannes Argyropulus (or Argyropylus, or Argyropolus, or Argyropilus, or Argyrophilus, for the name is variously written) was born at Constantinople of a noble family, and was a presbyter of that city, on the capture of which (A. D. 1453) he is said by Fabricius and Cave to have fled into Italy; but there is every reason to believe that his removal was antecedent to that event. Nicolaus Comnenus Papadopoli (Hist. Gymnas. Patavini
) states that he was twice in Italy; that he was sent the first time when above forty years old, by Cardinal Bessarion, and studied Latin at Padua, and that his second removal was after the capture of Constantinople. What truth there is in this statement it is difficult to say : he was at least twice in Italy, probably three, and perhaps even four times ; but that he was forty years of age at his first visit is quite irreconcileable with other statements.
A passage cited by Tiraboschi (Storia della Lett. Italiana,
vol. vi. p. 198) makes it likely that he was at Padua A. D. 1434, reading and explaining the works of Aristotle on natural philosophy. In A. D. 1439 an Argyropulus was present with the emperor Joannes Palaeologus at the council of Florence (Michael Ducas, Hist. Byzant.
100.31) : it is not clear whether this was Joannes or some other of his name, but it was probably Joannes. In A. D. 1441 he was at Constantinople, as appears from a letter of Francesco Filelfo to Pietro Perleoni (Philelphus, Epistol.
5.3), engaged in public teaching, but it is uncertain how long he had been established there. Probably he had returned some time between A. D. 1434 and 1439, and accompanied Bessarion to and from the council of Florence. Among his pupils at Constantinople was Michael Apostolius. Argyropulus must have left Constantinople not long after the date of the letter of Philelphus, for in 1442 he was rector of the university of Padua (Facciolati, Fasti Gymnasii Patavini
); and he was still there A. D. 1444, when Francesco della Rovere, afterwards pope Sixtus IV., took his degree, not, however, as Nic. Comnen. Papadopoli (l.c.
) states, as a student (discipulus), but, according to the better authority of Tiraboschi (l.c.
), as master of the school of philosophy (philosophiae magister scholaris).
That he returned to Constantinople after 444 is improbable, and rests on no better evidence than the assertion, chiefly of later writers, that he fled into Italy on its capture in 1453. During his abode in Italy, after his last removal thither, he was honourably received by Cosmo de' Medici, then the principal person at Florence, for whose assistance in becoming acquainted with the philosophy of Aristotle, some of his Latin versions of that great writer were made.
He also assisted the studies of Piero de' Medici, son of Cosmo, and was preceptor to Lorenzo de' Medici, the celebrated son of Piero, whom he instructed in Greek and in the Aristotelian philosophy, especially in ethics. When Lorenzo, who, from his father's ill health, took a leading part in affairs during his life, and succeeded, on his death (A. D. 1469), to his pre-eminence at Florence, established the Greek academy in that city, Argyropulus read and expounded the classical Greek writers to the Florentine youth, and had several among his pupils who afterwards attained to eminence, as Angelo Poliziano (Politianus) and Donato Acciajuoli.
Argyropulus is said to have visited France (A. D. 1456), to ask the assistanceof the French king in procuring the release of some of his kindred who were detained in captivity by the Turks, but he returned to Florence. From Florence he removed to Rome, on account of the plague which had broken out in the former city : the time of his removal is not ascertained, but it was before 1471. At Rome he obtained an ample subsistence, by teaching Greek and philosophy, and especially by publicly expounding the works of Aristotle.
He died at the age of seventy, from an autumnal fever, said to have been brought on by eating too freely of melons.
But the year of his death is variously stated : all that appears to be certainly known is, that he survived Theodore Gaza, who died A. D. 1478. Fabricius states that he died A. D. 1480; but this date appears from the anecdote of his interview with Reuchlin to be too early.
The attainments of Argyropulus were highly estimated in his own and the succeeding age.
The love and reverence of his most eminent pupils, Lorenzo de' Medici, Poliziano, and Acciajuoli, is an honourable testimony to his character. Yet he has been severely censured; and is charged with gluttony, to which his corpulence is ascribed, and with drunkenness, as well as with conceit and jealousy.
These last qualities were so likely to be manifested by persons in the situations of these Greek exiles, reverenced and sought as instructors by the men most eminent in Italy for intellect and social position, and yet dependent upon their pupils, and competitors with each other for their patronage, that the charge is credible enough.
A letter of introduction or recommendation written by Francesco Filelfo, while speaking highly of his erudition, apologises for his " moroseness and fickleness."
The allegation, sufficiently improbable in itself, that it was jealousy which led him to depreciate Cicero's acquaintance with Greek literature (by which depreciation he incurred much reproach), shows the judgment which was formed of his character. Yet Theodore Gaza is said to have esteemed him very highly; and when he found that Argyropulus was engaged in translating some pieces of Aristotle on which he had also been occupied, he burnt his own versions, that he might not, by provoking any unfavorable comparison, stand in the way of his friend's rising reputation.
Reuchlin when in Italy had an interview with Argyropulus at Rome. Argyropulus was explaining Thucydides; and having asked Reuchlin to translate and expound a passage, was so astonished at the extent of his erudition, that in the words of Melancthon, nephew of Reuchlin, who has recorded the anecdote, " gemens exclamat, 'Graecia nostro exilio Alpes transvolavit'" (Melancthon, Oratio de Jo. Capnione,
This anecdote deserves notice, inasmuch as, if it refers (which is probable) to Reuchlin's visit to Italy in 1482, it shows that the date 1480, assigned by some to Argyropulus's death, is inaccurate.
Argyropulus had several sons. Hody thinks that the Joannes Argyropulus who translated Aristotle's work Περὶ Ἑρμηνείας
, and to whose name some subjoin the epithet " junior," was one of his sons, and that he died before his father; but this version was the work of Argyropulus himself, nor does he appear to have had a son Joannes.
He had a son Bartolommeo, a youth of great attainments, who was mortally wounded by assassins (A. D. 1467) at Rome, where he was living under the patronage of Cardinal Bessarion. Another son, Isaac, survived his father, and became eminent as a musician. Demetrius Argyropulus, who is mentioned (A. D. 1451) in a letter of Francesco Filelfo, was apparently a brother of Joannes.
The works of Argyropulus are as follows :--
I. Original works that have been printed.
printed with a Latin version in the Graecia Orthodoxa of Leo Allatius (vol. i. pp. 400-418).
Cited by Nicolaus Comnenus Papadopoli in his Praenotiones Mystagogicae.
We do not know if this has been published, or whether it is in Latin or Greek.
This work comprehends the substance of his expository lectures on the Nicomachean Ethics of Aristotle, taken down from his lips, and published by Donatus Acciaiolus or Donato Acciajuoli, who has already been mentioned as a pupil of Argyropulus, and who dedicated this work to Cosmo de' Medici.
fol. Florence, 1478.
Published with Bessarion's version of that work, fol. Paris, 1515.
Works still in MS
The other original works of Argyropulus are scattered in MS. through the libraries of Europe. They are,
This work is mentioned by Allatius in his book De Synodo Photiana,
The title is indefinite, but the comparison instituted in the work is, according to some of our authorities, between the Greek emperors of Constantinople and their Turkish successors.
by Argyropulus and others.
A manuscript in the Bodleian library (Cod. Barocc. lxxxvii.,
according to the (Catalog. MStorum Angliae et Hiberniae
), contains Porphyrii Isagoge cum scholiis nmarginalibus fortè Jo. Argyropuli, et Aristotelis Organon cum scholiis fortè per eundem.
It has an effigy of Argyropulus in his study, which is engraved in Hody's work cited below.
Fabricius (Bibl. Gr.
vol. iii. p. 479) speaks of his Expositiones in Aristotelis Ethica, Physica, Lib. de Anima et Mechanica ;
and distinguishes them from the work published by Acciajuoli, with which we should otherwise have supposed the Expositiones in Ethica
to be identical.
Harless, in a note to Fabricius (Bibl. Gr.
vol. vi. p. 131), speaks of his Prolegg. in Progymnasm.
as contained in a MS. at Heidelberg.
The Latin versions of Argyropulus are chiefly of the works (genuine or reputed) of Aristotle.
Works of Aristotle
The following edition contained versions of the above works of Aristotle by Argyropulus.
There is reason to think that this was printed at Florence about A. D. 1478
, in which year the Commentarii
taken down by Acciajuoli were printed : it was certainly printed at Rome A. D. 1492
, and in the Latin edition of the works of Aristotle published by Gregorius de Gregoriis, 2 vols. fol. Venice, 1496.
Some of his translations are reprinted in the volume of Latin versions which forms a sequel to Bekker's edition of Aristotle.
Translations without known print versions
Some of our authorities speak of the following works as having been translated by him, but we have not been able to trace them in print :--
These two works are said to have been published in 8vo. Venice, A. D. 1506, but we doubt the correctness of the statement.
He also translated the Praedicabilia
or De quinque Vocibus
of Porphyry, and the Homiliae S. Basilii in Hexaemeron.
His version of Porphyry was printed with his translations of Aristotle at Venice in 1496, and that of Basil at Rome A. D. 1515.
Hody, de Graecis Illustribus,
pp. 187-210 ; Boerner, de Doctis Hominibus Graecis ;
Roscoe, Life of Lorenzo de' Medici,
4th edition, vol. i. pp. 61, 101, vol. ii. pp. 107-110; Wharton apud Cave, Hist. Litt.
vol. ii., Appendix,
p. 168; Fabric. Bibl. Graec.
vol. iii. p. 496, &c., vol. xi. p. 460, &c.; Facciolati, Tiraboschi, Nic. Comnenus Papadopoli, ll. cc.;
Bayle, Dictionnaire, s. v. Acciaioli (Donat.) Aygyropyle.