[St. Pachomius Library]

George Gemistus Pletho

XIV/XV Centuries
Born in Constantinople and educated at the Ottoman court at Adrianople, Georgius Gemistus Plethon (c. 1355/1360-c. 1450/1452) was a Platonist scholar whose knowledge was broad and thinking original. He had no followers.

Plethon taught philosophy at Constantinople and studied Zoroastrianism, as well as occult teachings, with Eliseus, a learned Jewish scholar. After the violent death of his teacher, Plethon moved or was exiled to Mistras in the Pelopennesus; he was suspected of heresy and paganism. He continued to teach at Mistras. He proposed to the emperor Theodore that society be reformed to have only three classes and to rely on an army of citizens, rather than of professional soldiers or mercenaries. In 1428, Plethon became an advisor to John VIII, PalŠologos and was a delegate at the Council of Ferrara-Florence (1438/1439), which discussed the reunion of the churches at Rome and Constantinople. Although he signed the statement of union, he wrote a treatise on the procession of the Holy Spirit that, some say, defends Eastern theology. Both Georgius Scholarius, an Eastern theologian, and John Bessarion, a Western theologian, attacked it. In Florence, Plethon met Cosimo de' Medici, who established the Platonic Academy of Florence, which promoted Platonic thought into western Europe. Plethon wrote commentary on both Plato and Aristotle; he attempted to synthesize neo-Platonic philosophy with belief in the Olympian gods. Georgius Scholarius, as Patriarch Gennadius II, burned Plethon's books.

Karen Rae Keck


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