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Demetrios Chalkokondyles

Demetrios Chalkokondyles
Δημήτριος Χαλκοκονδύλης
Demetrios Chalkokondyles,[1][2][3][4][5] detail of Zachariah in the Temple by Domenico Ghirlandaio. Fresco. Santa Maria Novella, Cappella Tornabuoni, Florence, Italy. 1486–1490.
Born August 1423
Athens, Duchy of Athens
Died 9 January 1511
Milan, Duchy of Milan
Occupation Scholar, politician, diplomat, philosopher
Nationality Greek[6]
Literary movement Renaissance

Demetrios Chalkokondyles (Greek: Δημήτριος Χαλκοκονδύλης), Latinized as Demetrius Chalcocondyles and found variously as Demetricocondyles, Chalcocondylas or Chalcondyles (1423 – 9 January 1511) was one of the most eminent Greek scholars in the West. He taught in Italy for over forty years; his colleagues included Marsilius Ficinus, Angelus Politianus, and Theodorus Gaza in the revival of letters in the Western world, and Chalkokondyles was the last of the Greek humanists who taught Greek literature at the great universities of the Italian Renaissance (Padua, Florence, Milan). One of his pupils at Florence was the famous Johann Reuchlin. Chalkokondyles published the first printed publications of Homer (in 1488), of Isocrates (in 1493), and of the Suda lexicon (in 1499).[7]


  • Life 1
  • Work 2
  • See also 3
  • Notes 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


Demetrios Chalkokondyles was born in Athens in 1423[6][8][9][10] to one of the noblest Athenian families and was the brother of the chronicler of the fall of Constantinople, Laonicus Chalcocondyles. He soon moved to the Peloponnese, with his Athenian family who had migrated after its persecution by the Florentine dukes. He migrated to Italy in 1447[11] and arrived at Rome in 1449 where Cardinal Bessarion became his patron.[12] He became the student of Theodorus Gaza and later gained the patronage of Lorenzo de Medici, serving as a tutor to his sons. Afterwards Chalkokondyles lived the rest of his life in Italy, as a teacher of Greek and philosophy. One of Chalkokondyles' Italian pupils described his lectures at Perugia, where he taught in 1450:

A Greek has just arrived, who has begun to teach me with great pains, and I to listen to his precepts with incredible pleasure, because he is Greek, because he is an Athenian, and because he is Demetrius. It seems to me that in him is figured all the wisdom, the civility, and the elegance of those so famous and illustrious ancients. Merely seeing him you fancy you are looking on Plato; far more when you hear him speak.[11]

Among his pupils were Janus Lascaris, Poliziano, Leo X, Castiglione, Giglio Gregorio Giraldi, Stefano Negri, and Giovanni Maria Cattaneo.[8]

In 1463 Chalkokondyles was made professor at Padua, and later, at Francesco Philelpho's suggestion, in 1479 he took over the place of Ioannis Argyropoulos, as the head of the Greek Literature department and was summoned by Lorenzo de Medici to Florence.[12] Chalkokondyles composed several orations and treatises calling for the liberation of his homeland Greece[13] from what he called “the abominable, monstrous, and impious barbarian Turks.”[14] In 1463 Chalkokondyles called on Venice and "all of the Latins" to aid the Greeks against the Ottomans, he identified this as an overdue debt[14] and reminded the Latins how the Byzantine Greeks once came to Italy’s aid against the Goths in the Gothic Wars (535-53 C.E.):

Gravestone in Milan.
"Just as she [Greece] had empended in their behalf [the Latins] all of her most precious and outstanding possessions liberally and without any parsimony, and had restored with her hand and force of arms the state of Italy, long ago oppressed by the Goths, they [the Latins] should in the same way now be willing to raise up prostrate and afflicted Greece and liberate it by arms from the hands of the barbarians."[14]

It was during his tenure at the Studium in Florence that Chalkokondyles edited Homer for publication, which, dedicated to Lorenzo, Piero de' Medici's son, is his major accomplishment. He assisted Marsilio Ficino with his Latin translation of Plato. During his tenure at Florence, the German classical scholar Johannes Reuchlin was one of his pupils.[12]

Chalkokondyles married in 1484 at the age of sixty-one and fathered ten children.[8] Finally, invited by Ludovico Sforza, he moved to Milan (1491/1492), where he taught until he died.


He wrote in Ancient Greek the grammar handbook "Summarized Questions on the Eight Parts of Speech With Some Rules" (Ἐρωτήματα συνοπτικὰ τῶν ὀκτὼ τοῦ λόγου μερῶν μετὰ τινῶν κανόνων). He translated Galen's Anatomy into Latin.

As a scholar, Chalkokondyles published the editio princeps of Homer (Ὁμήρου τὰ σωζόμενα, Florence 1488), Isocrates (Milan 1493) and the Byzantine Suda lexicon (Σοῦδα, 1499).

See also


  1. ^ Sandys, Sir John Edwin (1908). A History of Classical Scholarship ...: From the revival of learning to the end of the eighteenth century (in Italy, France, England, and the Netherlands). Cambridge : Univ. Pr. pp. 62–64.  
  2. ^ Festa, Nicola (1935). Umanesimo: Ventisette tavole fuouri testo. U. Hoepli. p. 108.  
  3. ^ Riccardi, Palazzo Medici (1939). Mostra Medicea: Palazzo Medici, Firenze, 1939-XVII. Casa Editrice Marzocco. p. 109.  
  4. ^ Geanakoplos, Deno John (1979). Medieval Western civilization and the Byzantine and Islamic worlds: interaction of three cultures. D. C. Heath. p. 463.  
  5. ^ Belloni, Gino; Fantoni, Marcello; Cassamarca, Fondazione; Drusi, Riccardo (2007). Il Rinascimento italiano e l'Europa, Volume 2. Fondazione Cassamarca. p. 596.  
  6. ^ a b Bisaha, Nancy (1997). Renaissance humanists and the Ottoman Turks. Cornell University. p. 125.  
  7. ^ "Demetrius Chalcocondyles.". Retrieved 2009-09-25. 
  8. ^ a b c Valeriano, Pierio; Gaisser, Julia Haig (1999). Pierio Valeriano on the ill fortune of learned men: a Renaissance humanist and his world. University of Michigan Press. p. 281.  
  9. ^ Stanford University; Libraries. Dept. of Special Collections; Carolan, James M.; Watson, Robert (1984). Scholars, texts, traditions: the influence of classical antiquity in Western culture. Dept. of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries. p. 31.  
  10. ^ Hulme, Edward Maslin (2004). The Renaissance, the Protestant Revolution and the Catholic Reformation in Continental Europe. Kessinger Publishing. p. 91.  
  11. ^ a b Cubberley, Ellwood Patterson (2008). The History of Education Volume 1. BiblioBazaar, LLC. p. 264.  
  12. ^ a b c  
  13. ^ Bisaha, Nancy (1997). Renaissance humanists and the Ottoman Turks. Cornell University. p. 29.  
  14. ^ a b c Bisaha, Nancy (2006). Creating East and West: Renaissance humanists and the Ottoman Turks. University of Pennsylvania Press. pp. 113–115.  


  • Nancy Bisaha, Creating East and West: Renaissance humanists and the Ottoman Turks, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006, pp. 113–15. ISBN 978-0-8122-1976-0
  • Deno J. Geanakoplos, "The discourse of Demetrius Chalcocondyles on the inauguration of Greek studies at the University of Padua", Studies in the Renaissance, 21 (1974), 118–44 and in Deno J. Geanakoplos, Interaction of the ‘Sibling’ Byzantine and Western Cultures in the Middle Ages and Italian Renaissance (330–1600), New Haven and London, 1976, pp. 296–304
  • Jonathan Harris, Greek Émigrés in the West, 1400–1520, Camberley: Porphyrogenitus, 1995. ISBN 978-1-871328-11-0
  • Armando Petrucci: CALCONDILA (Calcocondila, Χαλκονδύλης Χαλκοκανδύλης), Demetrio. In: Alberto M. Ghisalberti (Ed.): Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani (DBI), vol. 16 (Caccianiga – Caluso), Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana, Rome 1973 (Italian)
  • Robert Proctor, The Printing of Greek in the Fifteenth-Century, London, 1930, pp. 66–9.
  • Fotis Vassileiou & Barbara Saribalidou, Short Biographical Lexicon of Byzantine Academics Immigrants to Western Europe, 2007.
  • N.G. Wilson, From Byzantium to Italy. Greek Studies in the Italian Renaissance, London, 1992. ISBN 978-0-7156-2418-0

External links

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