A web of translations: Planudes in search of human reason

Evangelia Anagnostou-Laoutides

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This piece originates from a comment made by Stinger in his Humanism and the Church Fathers, where he reflects on the fact that Byzantine scholars, particularly Planudes and Demetrius Cydones among others, chose to translate Latin works such as Cicero’s Dream of Scipio along with Macrobius’ Commentary of it, Boethius’ On Topical Differences and Consolation of Philosophy and Augustine’s De Trinitate when they had access to Porphyry and other neoplatonists in their original Greek. To explain this choice, I argue that Maximus Planudes translated such works precisely because they transplanted in the West the combined thought of Aristotle and Plato as already discussed by Plotinus and Porphyry. Neoplatonic thinkers had absorbed Aristotelian theses on many issues with Porphyry, for example, being accepting of Aristotle’s division of Reason to higher and lower (despite insisting on the unity of the human soul), which confuses the notion of the triple hypostasis of god. The neoplatonic approach fitted exceptionally Planudes’ aim of advocating the union of the two Churches under the instructions of Michael VIII, because it demonstrated that Latin theological thinking emanated from the same tradition as that of the Orthodox Church which could, of course, serve as a first point of reconciliation for the supporters of the union of the Churches. Here, I will focus particularly on Planudes’ translations of Boethius’ and Augustine’s discussions on aspects of human reason, especially memory, our grasp of the trinity of god, and the ex nihilo creation. These instances offer tangible clues of the translation approach which Planudes employed in handling Latin texts and an introduction to a topic which begs further study.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationByzantine Culture in Translation
EditorsAmelia Brown, Bronwen Neil
Place of PublicationLeiden The Netherlands
Number of pages22
ISBN (Electronic)9789004349070
ISBN (Print)9789004348868
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Publication series

NameByzantina Australiensia
ISSN (Print)0725-3079

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