Trapezuntius, George

, a learned modern Greek, was born in 1395, in the island of Crete, but took the name of Trapezuntius, or “of Trebisond,” because his family were originally of that city. In his youth he wenj; to Venice, where Francis Barbaro, who had invited him, became his patron. Having been instructed in the Latin language he went to Padua, and afterwards to Vicenza, where in 1420 his patron obtained for him the professorship of the Greek, but he did not remain long in this situation. Finding himself harassed by the intrigues of Guarino, of Verona, who regarded him with sentiments of determined hostility, he gave up his professorship, on which Barbaro recalled him to Venice, where by the interest of this steady friend he was appointed to teach rhetoric, and was enrolled among the citizens of Venice. Barbaro afterwards recommended him to the court of Rome, where we find Trapezuntius in 1442, in the pontificate of | Eugenius, teaching the belles lettres and the Aristotelian philosophy. During the same time he was employed in translating several Greek authors into Latin, which induced Nicholas V. the successor of Eugenius, to make him apostolic secretary. These translations he was thought to have executed well, but his reputation declined so far on one occasion as to end in his disgrace. He had received orders from the pope to translate the Almagest of Ptolemy, and to add a commentary, or notes. This he performed in 1451, and the following year was banished from Rome on account of this work. What there was so offensive as to bring upon him this punishment is not known, or at least not clearly expressed by his biographers; but it seems not improbable, that his general temper, which was irritable, had disgusted some of his contemporaries, and that the pope had listened to the insinuations of his enemies. Many errors had been detected in his translations by some of those able scholars whom Nicholas V. had assembled at his court, and this probably rendered Trapezuntius more apt to take offence. It was probably while in this temper, that a disgraceful quarrel took place between him and the celebrated Poggio, in Pompey’s theatre, where the pontifical secretaries were assembled, for the purpose of correcting certain official papers. It was occasioned by some satiric remarks of Poggio, which provoked Trapezuntius to give him a blow on the face. Poggio returned it, and continued the battle until, as we may suppose, the combatants were parted.

Trapezuntius now retired to Naples with his family, and wrote to his old protector Barbara, but found he had been dead about a month. The good offices of Philelphus, however, made his peace with the pope, and Philelphus wrote to him, that he might not only return to Rome by permission, but that the pope even wished it; and he was accordingly reinstated in his former office. He had always defended the peripatetic philosophy against the Platonists with great vehemence and acrimony, and now wrote his “Comparison of Aristotle and Plato,” full of bitter invective. This involved him in a controversy with Gaza, and particularly with Bessarion; the particulars of which we have already given in our account of the latter. His first quarrel with Gaza was owing to their having jointly undertaken the translation of Aristotle, “On Animals,” each claiming to himself the exclusive merit of having overcome | the difficulties which arose from the great number of names of animals which are found in that work.

Trapezuntius appears to have met with some reverse after this controversy, for in 1549 he was again at Venice, supplicating the aid of the State, and was in consequence appointed professor of the belles-lettres. While in this office he wrote his Art of Rhetoric, dedicated to the Venetians, which appeared under the title of “Rhetorica Trapezuntina,” but was not printed until 1470, at Venice, in folio, and then only the first book. In 1464 and 1465, he took a voyage to Crete, and another to Constantinople. On his return, being informed that one of his scholars was now pope, under the name of Paul II. he went to Rome, in hopes of being well received; but all he received was an order to be imprisoned in the castle of St. Angelo, where he remained for four months, and was afterwards under confinement in his house. The most probable cause of this treatment was his having returned to Rome without leave; but this is merely conjecture; the pope, however, at length condescended to forgive him, and he remained at Rome much respected. In his latter years his faculties began to decay, and before his death, which took place in 1484, in the ninetieth year of his age, all traces of memory and understanding were gone.

Among the translations executed by Trapezuntius, are several parts of the works of Eusebius, Cyril of Alexandria, Gregory Nyssen, Nazianzen, Chrysostom, Aristotle, Plato, Ptolemy, &c., but in many of these he is neither accurate nor faithful, having made unpardonable variations, omissions, or additions. 1


Hody de Groecis Illustribus. —Tiraboschi. Bullart’s Academic des Sciences. Landi Hist, de la Litt. d’Italie. Shepherd’s Life of Poggio. Fabricii Bibl. Lat. Med, J.v. —Saxii Onomast.