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History of Philosophy
Byzantine Philosophy During the Middle Ages
by Turner, William (S.T.D.)


Hellenistic philosophy, banished from Athens by Justinian (529) and driven from Alexandria by the Arabs (640), was perpetuated at Constantinople by an irregular and intermittent tradition which, after the great schism (858) that separated the East from the West, took the form of commentary on and exposition of the works of Plato and Aristotle. Michael Psellus (the elder) and Photius [9] are the chief representatives of this tradition in the ninth century; Arethas, Wicetas the Paphlagonian, and Suidas represent it in the tenth century; Michael Psellus (the younger) is the sole representative of Byzantine learning in the eleventh century: Johannes Italus, Anna Comnena, daughter of the Emperor Alexis, and Michael Ephesius brought Byzantine learning to its highest degree of development in the twelfth century; finally, Nicephorus Blemmydes and George Pachymeres are the best known of the Byzantine scholars of the thirteenth century, the age in which the learning of Constantinople made its first impression on the Scholastic movement. [10] Although the influence of the learning of Constantinople on the progress of philosophic thought in western Europe may be said to begin with the first Crusade (1096-1100), yet it was not until the taking of Constantinople by the Crusaders in 1204 that the treasures of ancient Greek literature and philosophy were thrown open to the schoolmen. The debt which Scholasticism owes to Byzantine learning should not be exaggerated; at the same time we must not underrate the importance of the introduction of the original and complete works of Aristotle into western Europe at a time when the Aristotle of the Arabians was being invoked as the champion of pantheism and rationalism.
[9] Cf. Migne, Patr. Graeca, Vols. CI-CIV.

[10] Cf. Krumbacher, Geschichte der Byzantinischen Litteratur (Munich, 1897).


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