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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 5

Among the pupils of Blemmydes two became particularly distinguished: George Acropolita and Emperor Theodore II Lascaris. Born at Constantinople, George Acropolita had gone in his youth to Nicaea, during the reign of John Vatatzes. Together with Theodore Lascaris, he had received a good education under Nicephorus Blemmydes. He later even became a teacher of Theodore himself. He reached the highest offices but failed in his military career. Then he accompanied Michael Palaeologus to Constantinople, devoted himself to diplomacy and, by the order of the Emperor, conducted the negotiations at the Council of Lyons in 1274, where he succeeded in accomplishing the union with the western church, against which he had formerly struggled. Acropolita died at the beginning of the ninth decade of the thirteenth century.

The main literary work of Acropolita is the history narrating the events from the capture of Constantinople by the crusaders to the restoration of the Byzantine Empire (1203-1261), which is very important as a source. This work may be called a special history of the epoch of the Nicene Empire and serves as a continuation of the work of Nicetas Choniates. As a contemporary of the events described, who in his official position had taken part in them, Acropolita gave a reasonable and reliable narration of the events of his epoch in clear language. Among the short writings of Acropolita, is the sensitive and beautiful funeral oration on John Vatatzes.

With the name of Blemmydes is also closely connected the name of Emperor Theodore II Lascaris. George Acropolita was the official teacher of Theodore, but Blemmydes had a very strong influence upon the future Emperor, who in his letters called him his teacher and who felt profound reverence for him. Both Blemmydes and Acropolita succeeded in instilling into the soul of their young pupil, during the lifetime of his father John Vatatzes, a real love for knowledge. The correspondence of Theodore published at the end of the last century by the Italian scholar, Festa, affords a new and fresh source of information on this interesting personality. Theodore studied the Greek writers, both ecclesiastical and secular, became acquainted with different sciences, and devoted his chief attention to philosophy, particularly Aristotle.

Trained in the ideas of Hellenism and classical literature, he beautifully described, in one of his letters, the profound impression produced upon him by the contemplation of the ancient monuments and ruins of Pergamum. This letter, as far as content and style are concerned, might have been written by an Italian humanist.

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