Gaza, Theodore

, a very eminent promoter of the revival of letters in Europe, was born at Thessalonica in Greece in 1398. Some have erroneously called him Theodore de Gaza, as if he had been a native of that village. His country being invaded by the Turks in 1430, he went into Italy, and applied himself, immediately on his arrival there, to learn the Latin tongue, under the tuition of Victorinus de Feltre, who taught it at Mantua. He was, indeed, past the age when languages are usually attained, yet he made himself such a master of Latin, that he spoke and wrote it with the same facility and elegance as if it had been his native tongue: though Erasmus is of opinion, that he could never fairly divest himself of his Greek idiotn. His uncommon parts and learning soon recommended him to public notice; and particularly to the patronage of cardinal Bessarion. Gaza had taken a very fair and exact copy of Homer’s “Iliad,” which the cardinal was extremely desirous to purchase; and he obtained either that, or one like it, which was long extant in his library at Venice. | About 1450, Gaza went to Rome, in consequence of an invitation from pope Nicholas V. with many other professors of the Greek language, scattered about Italy, to translate the Greek authors into Latin, but unfortunately jealousies and dissensions arose among them, and in particular a quarrel between Gaza and George Trapezuntius. Panl Jovius assures us, that Gaza not only far surpassed all the Greeks, his fellow-labourers and contemporaries, in learning and solidity of judgment, but also in the knowledge of the Latin: which, says Jovius, he attained to that degree of perfection, that it was not easy to discern, whether he wrote best in that or his native tongue. On account of these extraordinary qualities probably, he was admitted to such a familiarity with cardinal Bessarion, as to be called by him in some of his writings his friend and companion.

Nicholas V. dying in 1456, Gaza went to Naples, where he was honourably received by king Alphonsus, to whom he had been well recommended; but this prince dying in 1458, he returned to his patron the cardinal at Rome, who soon after gave him a benefice in Calabria. This would have been a very competent provision for a man of his temperance, but he was always poor and in distress; for he was so extremely attentive to letters, that he left the management of his substance to servants. It is related, that towards the latter end of his life he went to Rome, witli one of his performances finely written upon vellum, which he presented to Sixtus IV. expecting to receive from his holiness an immense reward for so curious and valuable a present. But the pope, having coolly asked him the expence he had been at, gave him but just what was sufficient to defray it: which moved him to say, with indignation, that “it was high time to return to his own country, since these over-fed asses at Rome had not the least relish for any thing but weeds and thistles, their taste being too depraved for what was goqd and wholesome.Pierius Valerianus, who relates this in his book “De Infelicitate Literatorum,” adds, that Gaza Hung the money into the Tiber, and died of disappointment and grief, at Rome, in 1478. There is not, however, much reason to credit this cause of his death, as he had attained the eightieth year of his age.

His works may be divided into original pieces and translations. Of the former are, 1. “Grammaticae Graecoe Libri quatuor.” Written in Greek, and printed first at | Venice in 1495: afterwards at Basil in 1522, with a Latin translation by Erasmus. 2. “Liber de Atticis Mensibus Greece;” by way of supplement to his grammar, with which it was printed with a Latin version. 3. “Epistola ad Franciscum Phiielphum de origine Turcarum, Graece, cum Versione Leonis Allatii.” Printed in the Symmicta of the translator at Cologne in 1653. His translations are also of two sorts; from Greek into Latin, and from Latin into Greek. Of the latter sort are Cicero’s pieces, “De Senectute,” and “De Somnio Scipionis:” both printed in Aldus’s edition of Cicero’s works in 1523, $vo. Of the former sort are, “Aristotelis Libri novem Historise Animalium de Partibus Animalium Libri quatuor & de Generatione Animalium Libri quinque. Latine versi. Venet. 1476.” It was Aristotle’s “History of Animals,” which is said to have caused the enmity between Gaza and Trapezuntius. Trapezuntius, it was alleged, had translated the same work before Gaza: and though Gaza had made great use of Trapezuntius’s version, yet in his preface he boasted, that he had neglected to consult any translations whatever; and declared contemptuously, that his design was not to enter the list with other translators, or to vie with those whom it would be so easy to conquer. This conduct, if the statement be true, Trapezuntius might very justly resent. The same “History of Animals,” or rather, as P. Valerianus says, his divine lucubrations upon it, were memorable on another account; for it is said to have been the work which he presented in a Latin translation to pope Sixtus, and for which he underwent so severe a disappointment. He translated also other Greek books into Latin: as, “Aristotelis Problemata,” Theophrasti Historiae Plantarum Libri decem,“” Alexandri Problematum Libri duo,“JEAiani Liber de Instraendis Aciebus,“J. Chrysostomi Homiliae quinque de incomprehensibili Dei Natura." There are extant also some works of Gaza which have never been published.

There is no man of learning spoken of in higher terms, and more universally, than Gaza. Scaliger used to say, that “Of all those who revived the belles lettres in Italy, there were not above three that he was inclined to envy: the first was Theodore Gaza, who was certainly a great and learned man, though he has committed some mistakes in his version of Aristotle’s” History of Animals.“The second was Angelus Politianus; and the third was Picus of | Mirandnla.” In another place, he calls him “doctissimus,” a most learned man; commends his grammar, and says, that he ought to be ranked among the best translators of Greek authors into Latin.“Huetius observes, that though he does not differ from the judgment of Joseph Scaliger, in regard to Gaza’s translations, where he allows that some- things might be better, and some entirely altered; yet, that upon the whole he should be glad, if all translators would do as well, would exhibit the same fidelity, perspicuity, and elegance, that Gaza has displayed.” He is with propriety recorded by Pierius Valerianus in his work “De infelicitate literatorum.1

1 Hodius de Graecis illustribus. NiceroD, vol. XXIX. Morert. Saxii Opo masticon.