The Greeks never had any interest in Latin culture: This was true in the classical period and was inherited by the Church Fathers (the interest of the Greeks in St. Gregory the Great is the exception that proves the rule). It began to change at the end of the thirteenth century, when, in the wake of the Byzantines’ outright rejection of the reunion negotiated at the Second Council of Lyon in 1274, the Emperor Michael VIII Palaiologos commissioned a translation of Augustine’s De Trinitate, to inform the Greeks about Latin theology. The translator also translated Boethius’ De Consolatione Philosophiae, as well as some Ovid, which suggests genuine interest among the Greeks in Latin culture.

The process initiated by the emperor continued and grew apace. The most striking example of this is the Byzantine interest in Thomas Aquinas, several of whose works were translated into Greek, beginning with his Summa contra Gentiles, translated in 1354, and continuing with much of the Summa Theologiae, several quaestiones, some of his opuscula, and commentaries on Aristotle—all this backed up by works expounding and commenting on Aquinas, as well as attacking him, a process that continued to the end of the Byzantine Empire in 1453. This is the core of Marcus Plested’s magnificent book, the fruit of vast erudition and research in territory as yet very imperfectly mapped.

Continue reading the rest of this article
by subscribing
Subscribe now to access the rest of this article