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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

Vasilief, A History of the Byzantine Empire

The Empire of Nicaea (1204-1261)

Education, learning, literature, and art 


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Page 4

In contradiction to this opinion, another scholar, Th. Uspensky, wrote of the same work: Blemmydes has no idea of contemporary requirements; he lives in the realm of fairy tales, beyond the limits of reality; he has no realization of contemporary life and the needs of the epoch. Blemmydes abstract king is wise but lacking in human passions and emotions. He is placed in a setting entirely isolated from life and everyday relations, and therefore his advice and suggestions cannot correspond to real requirements The misfortune of the medieval Greek was that he was weakened by classical reminiscences; he had no creative force, and real life was veiled from him by books. We imagine Blemmydes to be such a man from his political treatise.

Of course, classical traditions and religious emotions influenced Blemmydes a great deal. Still, in the course of his life, he was several times closely connected with the interests of the Empire and its Emperor, so that, perhaps, he was not always a dweller in another world, entirely strange to the interests of the sinful earth. Under the rhetorical disguise of his treatise one may distinguish some realistic traits which resemble the personality of Theodore II. It is very probable that when Blemmydes was writing his imperial statue the real image of Theodore II was hovering before his eyes, though the real traits in his ideal ruler are overshadowed by his rhetoric and classical erudition.

Of the philosophical writings of Blemmydes based mainly on Aristotle, the best known are Abridged Physics and Abridged Logic, especially the latter. After the author's death, his Logic became known all over the Empire and, little by little, became the basis for teaching and the favorite textbook of philosophy not only in the East, but also in western Europe. The editor of Blemmydes' autobiographies, A. Heisenberg, remarked that these two works have really created an immortal name for the author.

Blemmydes' Logic and Physics are also important both from the point of view of understanding the philosophical movements in Byzantium of the thirteenth century, and from the point of view of elucidating the dark problem of the influence of Byzantium on the development of western European thought. There is also a correspondence of Blemmydes with Theodore II Lascaris, which gives much information on the history and culture of the time. Two small geographical writings in the form of textbooks, A History of the Earth and A General Geography, as well as some poems of secular character, complete the rich and various literary inheritance left by Blemmydes to subsequent generations. Though it is true that he failed to open up new ways in his works and thoughts, Nicephorus Blemmydes was a brilliant figure in the complicated epoch of the Empire of Nicaea and justly occupies one of the most prominent places in the history of Byzantine culture.

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