Theodorus Gaza

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Not to be confused with Dorotheus of Gaza.
Theodorus Gaza
Θεόδωρος Γαζῆς
A portrait of Theodore Gaza.
A portrait of Theodore Gaza.
BornTheodorus Gaza
c. 1398[1]
Thessaloniki, Eyalet of Rumelia, Ottoman Empire
Diedc. 1475
San Giovanni a Piro, Calabria, Kingdom of Naples
OccupationGreek literature, philosophy and humanism
Literary movementItalian Renaissance

Theodorus Gaza or Theodore Gazis (Greek: Θεόδωρος Γαζῆς, Theodoros Gazis; Italian: Teodoro Gaza; Latin: Theodorus Gazes), also called by the epithet Thessalonicensis[2] (in Latin) and Thessalonikeus[3] (in Greek) (c. 1398 – c. 1475), was a Greek humanist[4] 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).


Theodorus Gaza was born a Greek[5][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 became 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.[citation needed]

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 fellow Byzantine Greeks 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 Scipionis 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[edit]


  1. ^ Jost Trier, Philologische Studien und Quellen, Vol. 101, p.120 (BRD, 1981).
  2. ^ Coates, Alan; et al. (2005). A Catalogue of Books Printed in the Fifteenth Century now in the Bodleian Library. Oxford University Press. p. 236. ISBN 0-19-951905-6. Theodorus Graecus Thessalonicensis ie Theodorus Gaza
  3. ^ 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. ISBN 0-299-11884-3. That Gaza was born in Thessalonica seems clear from the epithet Thessalonicensis (in Latin) or Thessalonikeus (in Greek) found in his own treaties as well as those of Italian humanists.
  4. ^ Wollock, Jeffrey (1997). The noblest animate motion: speech, physiology and medicine in pre-Cartesian linguistic thought. J. Benjamins Pub. p. 77. ISBN 90-272-4571-1. Soon afterward, another Greek Humanist, Theodore Gaza (1398-1478), warmly supported by Cardinal Bessarion (1403-ca.l472), was called in to retranslate the Problems and a number of other texts of Aristotle.
  5. ^ 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. ISBN 0-8018-4914-4. Theodorus of Gaza — [b. ca. 1400] a Greek from Thessalonica who went to Italy in 1429 and died in 1478. – appeared for the first time in Venice in 1476.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  6. ^ Bisaha, Nancy (2006). Creating East and West: Renaissance humanists and the Ottoman Turks. University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 77. ISBN 0-8122-1976-7. Filelfo, who had commissioned a Greek, Theodore Gazes, to write a history of the Turks for him, may have arrived at this conclusion
  7. ^ Surtz, Edward L. (1957). The praise of pleasure: philosophy, education, and communism in More's Utopia. Harvard University Press. p. 139. OCLC 248237281. Constantine Lascaris and Theodore Gaza, both fifteenth- century Greeks, as grammarians
  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. OCLC 10091987. Theodore Gaza, a youth of an illustrious family of Thessalonica, arrived in that country.
  9. ^ Barnhart, Clarence Lewis (1954). The New Century cyclopedia of names, Volume 2. Appleton-Century-Crofts. p. 1704. OCLC 123650044. Teodoro Gaza; English, Theodore Gaza; Greek, Theodoros Gazes.] b. at Salonika, in Macedonia, c1400; d. in Italy, 1478. Greek scholar, resident in Italy after the capture of his native town by the Turks, and a professor of Greek at Ferrara (1447-50).
  10. ^ Milner, Henry (2009). The Turkish Empire: The Sultans, the Territory, and the People. BiblioBazaar. p. 87. ISBN 1-113-22399-5. Theodore Gaza, one of these exiles, escaped from Saloniki, his native city, upon its capture by Amurath.
  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. ISBN 0-299-11884-3. In the service of these persons he (Theodore Gaza) continued his work of copying Greek manuscripts in his elegant hand and especially under the aegis of Sixtus IV, again took up the task of translating Aristotle’s works into Latin. It is reported that on one occasion, when Sixtus paid him a number of gold pieces (not so much, it seems, for his elegantly rendered Latin version of Aristotle’s De animalibus as for the cost of the expensive gold binding of the manuscript), Gaza angrily cast the money into the Tiber river..
  12. ^ Diller, Aubrey (1983). Studies in Greek manuscript tradition. A. M. Hakkert. p. 260. ISBN 90-256-0837-X. He had put Bessarion in touch with Andronicus Callistus, who was his kinsman. Callistus was cousin (consobrinus) of Theodore Gaza, who remembered him so in his will .
  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. ISBN 0-299-11884-3. There in Calabria, historically so long tied to the Byzantine East, Theodore Gaza died obscurely, doubtless in 1475, and was buried in the Basilian monastery of San Giovanni de Piro..
  14. ^ Soudavar, Abolala (2008). Decoding old masters: patrons, princes and enigmatic paintings of the 15th century. I.B.Tauris. p. 47. ISBN 1-84511-658-5. Sylvia Ronchey has identified two portraits of Theodore of Gaza, one with a white beard among the Medici retinue (fig. 84a) and the other with a black beard in a Botticelli painting at the Uffizi (fig. 84b)
  15. ^ Beullens, Pieter; Gotthelf, Allan. "Theodore Gaza's Translation of Aristotle's De Animalibus" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-06-14. 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.
  • PD-icon.svg Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Theodore of Gaza". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  • 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 –[permanent dead link]
  • 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

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