FHW Button

General Introduction

he intellectual world of the Byzantines in the late period presents a picture, which is among the most interesting in the history of the empire.

The Byzatines were familiar with classical texts and studied them in order to revive classical civilization. They cultivated the sciences and literature in a rational and humanistic spirit and reorganized the sectors of justice and education. Finally, they developed a philosophical way of thinking which tended to reverse the traditional and conservative theological thinking. This intellectual movement whose development was due to various reasons (political, economical, social or others) is known by the name "Palaiologan Renaissance".

These activities co-existed with manifestations that were not rational at all: the metaphysical prejudices of daily life and the equally flourishing cultivation of the traditional theological thinking. The way in which these tendencies co-existed was very interesting: some times they co-existed in peace, other times in conflict and contention (such as the controversy of Hesychasm or of the union of the Churches) and other times they ended up producing new ideas and combinations found in the intellectual people of that era. In all three cases, these people with their personalities gave to the intellectual movement of their time its special style and characteristics.

The sources
All this information is drawn from certain manuscripts which were written during the late Byzantine period, survived until today and are now kept in large Libraries or Museums all over the world.

In many cases, copies rather than the originals survived; these copies were made by successive scholars later, in order to be used in various ways. We find a large number of texts in the above manuscripts, which are estimated to have been written between 1204 and 1453, usually on the basis of some date which is written at the end of the text.

In the case of some manuscripts, the date is not mentioned. Then their dating is estimated either through linking the name of the author to a historical person of that era, known from other sources, or by linking the way that this manuscript is written to the one that was used in workshops of manuscript creation during that era.

These texts, in combination with the information that we get from later writers on the same period of time (based perhaps on testimonies which have not survived to date) help us to recreate the picture of the intellectual movement in the Byzantium during the 13th, 14th and 15th century.