Sunday, June 26, 2011

Connection #15 - Cosimo de' Medici to Emperor John VIII Palaiologos

Còsimo di Giovanni degli Mèdici (27 September 1389 – 1 August 1464) was the first of the Medici political dynasty, de facto rulers of Florence during much of the Italian Renaissance; also known as "Cosimo 'the Elder'" ("il Vecchio") and "Cosimo Pater Patriae".

Cosmo The Elder, b. 1389, d. 1 Aug., 1464, the founder of their power and so-called "Padre della Patria", was the son of Giovanni di Averardo de' Medici, the richest banker in Italy. He obtained the virtual lordship of Florence in 1434 by the overthrow and expulsion of the leaders of the oligarchical faction of the Albizzi. While maintaining republican forms and institutions, he held the government by banishing his opponents and concentrating the chief magistracies in the hands of his own adherents. His foreign -policy, which became traditional with the Medici throughout the fifteenth century until the French invasion of 1494, aimed at establishing a balance of power between the five chief states of the Italian peninsula, by allying Florence with Milan and maintaining friendly relations with Naples, to counterpoise the similar understanding existing between Rome and Venice. He was a munificent and discerning patron of art and letters, a thorough humanist, and through Marsilio Ficino, the founder of the famous Neo-Platonic academy. Sincerely devoted to religion in his latter days, he was closely associated with St. Antoninus and with the Dominican friars of San Marco, his favourite foundation. 
The Catholic encyclopedia: an international work of reference ..., Volume 10  edited by Charles George Herbermann

In 1439 he was also instrumental in convincing pope Eugene IV to move the Ecumenical council of Ferrara to Florence. The arrival of notable Byzantine figures from the Empire in the East, including Emperor John VIII Palaiologos himself, started the boom of culture and arts in the city.

 Outside of the council, all philosophy was not theology. One of the five or so most important theologians appointed to represent the Greek church was, in fact, not a theologian. George Gemistus of Mystras, better known as Plethon, was so far from being Orthodox that his greatest and final work, composed in the decade after the council, was a synthesis of Platonic and Zoroastrian philosophies of religion; even the previous Byzantine Emperor Manuel II, known as the "Philosopher Emperor," had exiled him from Constantinople for a time, although his writings were not suppressed; Gill describes him as an "the ardent octogenarian Platonist and semi-pagan" (Gill Council 188). He was the most renowned and honored scholar of his day in Constantinople, so thoroughly versed in Plato that he adopted the name 'Plethon' in imitation, and attracted students from throughout the Greek world to his lectures. Bessarion had traveled from Trebizond, on the Black Sea in Asia Minor, to Constantinople to study with him. Isidore had been his student as well. Although George Scholarios had been a student of his, in accordance with his admiration for Aristotle he criticized Plethon's Neo-Platonism. Mark of Ephesus rejected Plethon's teaching on Patristic grounds. As Plethon would have been completely incompetent in defending Greek Orthodoxy, his presence wasn't needed at the council sessions, which allowed him to expound his philosophy to interested Florentines. Among them were the most prominent: Cosimo di Medici was a great admirer, and Traversari, Cavalcanti, Alberti, and many others participated in discussions on his lectures. Ranking above these others in his assiduity and degree of influence was the young Marsilio Ficino. Ficino was so taken with Plethon that he dubbed him a "second Plato," and when Cosimo de Medici resolved to re-found Plato's Academy in Florence, Ficino was to be the head. This plan came, partially, into fruition: "Ficino writes that he was selected to run it when he was still only a boy" (Letters of Massilio Ficino 14). The school itself was not in Florence proper, but in nearby Correggio, in the villa where both Cosimo il Vecchio and Lorenzo il Magnifico died. Cosimo had Ficino serve as Lorenzo's tutor: thus Lorenzo's humanistic education, and the intellectual and artistic culture of Florence, was shaped by Ficino's study of Plethon. Ficino was also the teacher of the Hellenist and poet Poliziano and the Neoplatonist philosopher, Kabalist, and Arabicist Pico della Mirandola.
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