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Theodorus Gaza

Not to be confused with Dorotheus of Gaza.
Theodorus Gaza
Θεόδωρος Γαζῆς
A portrait of Theodore Gaza.
Born Theodorus Gaza
c. 1398[1]
Thessaloniki, Eyalet of Rumelia, Ottoman Empire
Died c. 1475
San Giovanni a Piro, Calabria, Kingdom of Naples
Occupation Greek literature, philosophy and humanism
Ethnicity [2]
Literary movement Italian Renaissance

Theodorus Gaza or Theodore Gazis (Greek: Θεόδωρος Γαζῆς, Theodoros Gazis; Italian: Teodoro Gaza; Latin: Theodorus Gazes), also called by the epithet Thessalonicensis[3] (in Latin) and Thessalonikeus[4] (in Greek) (c. 1398 – c. 1475), was a Greek humanist[5] and translator of Aristotle, one of the Greek scholars who were the leaders of the revival of learning in the 15th century (the Palaeologan Renaissance).


  • Life 1
  • Works 2
  • See also 3
  • Notes 4
  • References 5
  • External Links 6


Theodorus Gaza was born a [2][6][7] in an illustrious family[8] in Thessaloniki, Macedonia[9] in about c. 1400 when the city was under its first period of Turkish rule (it was restored to Byzantine rule in 1403). On the final capture of his native city by the Turks in 1430 he escaped to Italy.[10] In December 1440 he was in Pavia, where he become acquainted with Iacopo da San Cassiano, who introduced him to his master Vittorino da Feltre. During a three years' residence in Mantua where Vittorino held the celebrated humanistic school "La Giocosa", he rapidly acquired a competent knowledge of Latin under his teaching, supporting himself meanwhile by giving lessons in Greek, and by copying manuscripts of the ancient classics.

In 1447 he became professor of Greek in the newly founded University of Ferrara, to which students in great numbers from all parts of Italy were soon attracted by his fame as a teacher. His students there included Rodolphus Agricola. He had taken some part in the councils which were held in Siena (1423), Ferrara (1438), and Florence (1439), with the object of bringing about a reconciliation between the Greek and Latin Churches; and in 1450, at the invitation of Pope Nicholas V, he went to Rome, where he was for some years employed by his patron in making Latin translations from Aristotle and other Greek authors. In Rome, he continued his teaching activities: it was reported that on one occasion Pope Sixtus IV commissioned Gaza to translate Aristotle’s works into Latin, with the pay of a number of gold pieces; however on receiving the pay Gaza was insulted at the amount paid, and furiously cast the money into the Tiber river.[11] Amongst his students were Demetrius Chalcondyles, a leading scholar of the Renaissance period and Andronicus Callistus, a cousin of Theodore Gaza's.[12]

After the death of Nicholas (1455), being unable to make a living at Rome, Gaza removed to Naples, where he enjoyed the patronage of Alphonso the Magnanimous for two years (1456–1458). Shortly afterwards he was appointed by Cardinal Bessarion to a benefice in Calabria, where the later years of his life were spent, and where he died about 1475 and was buried in the Basilian monastery of San Giovanni a Piro.[13]

Theodorus Gaza as depicted by Botticelli in the "Adoration of the Magi" in the Uffizi Gallery of Florence, Italy.[14]

After Gaza’s death he was remembered by renaissance writers and praised for his skills; a letter written to Pope Sixtus IV by Ermolao Barbaro in 1480 includes a detailed appraisal of Gaza’s translating abilities:

In the campaign waged by Plethon against Aristotelianism he contributed his share to the defence. His influence on humanists was considerable, in the success with which he taught Greek language and literature. At Ferrara he founded an academy to offset the influence of the Platonic academy founded by Plethon at Florence.


His translations were superior, both in accuracy and style, to the versions in use before his time. He devoted particular attention to the translation and exposition of Aristotle's works on natural science.

Gaza stood high in the opinion of most of his learned contemporaries, but still higher in that of the scholars of the succeeding generation. His Greek grammar (in four books), written in Greek, first printed at Venice in 1495, and afterwards partially translated by Erasmus in 1521, although in many respects defective, especially in its syntax, was for a long time the leading textbook. His translations into Latin were very numerous, including:

He also turned into Greek Cicero's De senectute and Somnium Scipioni with much success, in the opinion of Erasmus; with more elegance than exactitude, according to the colder judgment of modern scholars. He was the author also of two small treatises entitled De mensibus and De origine Turcarum.

The flowering plant Gazania, of southern Africa, is named after him.

See also


  1. ^ Jost Trier, Philologische Studien und Quellen, Vol. 101, p.120 (BRD, 1981).
  2. ^ a b Cuvier, Georges (baron) ; Cuvier, Georges; Pietsch, Theodore W. (1995). Historical portrait of the progress of ichthyology: from its origins to our own time. Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 49.  
  3. ^ Coates, Alan; et al. (2005).  
  4. ^ Geanakoplos, Deno John (1989). Constantinople and the West: essays on the late Byzantine (Palaeologan) and Italian Renaissances and the Byzantine and Roman churches. Univ of Wisconsin Press. p. 69.  
  5. ^ Wollock, Jeffrey (1997). The noblest animate motion: speech, physiology and medicine in pre-Cartesian linguistic thought. J. Benjamins Pub. p. 77.  
  6. ^ Bisaha, Nancy (2006). Creating East and West: Renaissance humanists and the Ottoman Turks. University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 77.  
  7. ^ Surtz, Edward L. (1957). The praise of pleasure: philosophy, education, and communism in More's Utopia. Harvard University Press. p. 139.  
  8. ^ Dalzel, Andrew (1821). Substance of Lectures on the Ancient Greeks, and on the Revival of Greek Learning in Europe. A. Constable & Co. p. 400.  
  9. ^ Barnhart, Clarence Lewis (1954). The New Century cyclopedia of names, Volume 2. Appleton-Century-Crofts. p. 1704.  
  10. ^ Milner, Henry (2009). The Turkish Empire: The Sultans, the Territory, and the People. BiblioBazaar. p. 87.  
  11. ^ Geanakoplos, Deno John (1989). Constantinople and the West: essays on the late Byzantine (Palaeologan) and Italian Renaissances and the Byzantine and Roman churches. Univ of Wisconsin Press. p. 87.  
  12. ^ Diller, Aubrey (1983). Studies in Greek manuscript tradition. A. M. Hakkert. p. 260.  
  13. ^ Geanakoplos, Deno John (1989). Constantinople and the West: essays on the late Byzantine (Palaeologan) and Italian Renaissances and the Byzantine and Roman churches. Univ of Wisconsin Press. p. 88.  
  14. ^ Soudavar, Abolala (2008). Decoding old masters: patrons, princes and enigmatic paintings of the 15th century. I.B.Tauris. p. 47.  
  15. ^ Beullens, Pieter ; Gotthelf, Allan. "Theodore Gaza's Translation of Aristotle's De Animalibus." (PDF). Retrieved 2009-11-23. However, it adds a dedicatory letter to Matthäus Lang, a councillor of Emperor Maximilian, and a long quotation from the preface by Ermolao Barbaro to his translation of Themistius’ paraphrasis of Aristotle’s Posterior Analytics, written in 1480 and dedicated to none other than Sixtus IV, in which he includes an elaborate appraisal of Gaza’s translating abilities: Not long ago, Your Holiness, we suffered a great and incomparable loss in the person of Theodore Gaza. That Greek man outdid all Latins in the task of writing and translating. If he had lived longer, he would have enriched the Latin language in this field as well. He did that indeed in those most perfect books of Aristotle’s On Animals and Theophrastus’ On Plants. In my view, he is the only one to challenge antiquity itself. I have set myself to honour and imitate this man. I admit and I confess that I was helped by his writings. I read him with no less curiosity than I read M. Tullius, Pliny, Columella, Varro, Seneca, Apuleius, and the others that one needs to examine in this kind of study. 


  • For a complete list of Gaza's works, see Fabricius, Bibliotheca Graeca (ed. Harles), x.
  •  "Theodore of Gaza".  
  • Nancy Bisaha, Creating East and West: Renaissance humanists and the Ottoman Turks, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006. ISBN 0-8122-1976-7
  • Deno J. Geanakoplos, `Theodore Gaza, a Byzantine scholar of the Palaeologan "renaissance" in the Italian Renaissance', Medievalia et Humanistica 12 (1984), 61-81 and in *Deno J. Geanakoplos, 'Theodore Gaza: a Byzantine Scholar of the Palaeologan "Renaissance" in the early Italian Renaissance, c. 1400-1475', in Geanakoplos, Constantinople and the West, University of Wisconsin Press, 1989, pp. 68–90. ISBN 0-299-11884-3
  • Jonathan Harris, 'Byzantines in Renaissance Italy', in Online Reference Book for Medieval Studies –
  • Jonathan Harris, Greek Émigrés in the West, 1400-1520, Porphyrogenitus, Camberley UK, 1995. ISBN 1-871328-11-X
  • Fotis Vassileiou & Barbara Saribalidou, Short Biographical Lexicon of Byzantine Academics Immigrants in Western Europe, 2007.
  • N.G. Wilson, From Byzantium to Italy. Greek Studies in the Italian Renaissance (London, 1992). ISBN 0-7156-2418-0

External Links

  • Di natura animalium libri novem; De partibus animalium libri quattour; De generatione animalium libri quinq (1492) - digital facsimile of Theodoros's translation of Aristotle, available from Linda Hall Library
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