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Walter Berschin  

From the Middle of the Eleven Century to the Latin Conquest of Constantinople

From: Greek Letters and the Latin Middle Ages.
From Jerome to Nicholas of Cusa.
Translated by Jerold C. Frakes.
Revised and expanded edition.
The Catholic University of America Press,  http://cuapress.cua.edu/


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4. Venice

The rise of Venice began around the turn of the millenium, when the city, under the doges Pietro and Otto Orseoli, extended its rule to Dalmatia. Ιn the course of the eleventh century, the Venetians gradually took the place of Amalfi in the eastern Mediterranean; in 1082 they obtained trade privileges in Constantinople. The crusades, which due to the hardships of the land route always made part of the journey by sea, soon gave the Venetians a key position in the eastern Mediterranean which they then exploited to the point of villainy on a world scale, especially in diverting the fourth crusade to Constantinople (1204): prima Veneziani poi cristiani was, "from the very beginning, fundamental" in Venetian policy.43 Compared with the enormous influx of Greek art into Venice, what was undertaken in literary studies seems rather modest. Important traces of the early reception of Aristotle nevertheless lead back to a Venetian of the early twelfth century who translated from Greek-Jacobus Veneticus Grecus, the first systematic translator of Aristotle since Boethius.44 Boethius had made important works of Aristotelian logic available to the Latin world through his translations; this Arrstoteles logicus was not, however, entirely complete.45 It was primarily the Analytica posteriora which were lacking for the completion of the "Organon," as Aristotle's collection of epistemologico-logical works was called. This work was the fundamental text of the "new logic" that was of such great significance for the new scientific and scholastic direction of Western thought after the mid-twelfth century. 

The Analytica posteriora are the most certain attribution to Jacobus and also his most successful work; his translation held its own against several later translations even up to the fifteenth century.

Robert of Torigny, Abbot of Mont Saint Michel in Normandy, reports that Jacobus translated and wrote commentaries on "certain of Aristotle's books ... namely, the Topica, Analytica priora et posteriora, and Sophistici elenchi, although older translations of these works already existed" (Migne PL 160, cols. 443 f.). Thus is one to take Jacobus for the translator and commentator of the entire Organon, with the exception of the short works, the Categoriae and De interpretatione? Modern scholarship is inclined to accept all that and much more. B. G. Dod, one of Minio-Paluello's collaborators on the Aristoteles latinus, cites, in addition to the titles noted above, Aristotle, De physica, De anima, De memoria, De longitudine, De iuventute, De respiratione, De morte, De intelligentia, and the earliest translation of the Metaphysica (in the Cambridge History of Later Medieval Philosophy [Cambridge 1982], p.55). The problems of authorship here are complicated in the same way as in the glossary literature that was amassing at the same time ("Glossa ordinaria"). These works were tools, which were copied and transmitted; but scarcely anyone was interested in their practical, although artless, originators.

Jacobus Veneticus  Grecus  styled himself philosophus once.  This appellation is certainly also applicable to him in the sense that he was one element in the filiation of philosophers who taught in Constantinople. Ιn 1045 Constantine ΙX Monomachus had reopened this school, founded in late antiquity. A new stage in the confrontation with ancient philosophy began with the philosopher Michael Psellus -first mainly with Plato's philosophy, then under Michael's successor, Johannes Italus, with Aristotle. Just as Boethius' translations of Aristotle are to be seen in the context of the Alexandrian Aristotelianism of his day, one might also regard the translation work of Jacobus of Venice -as does Minio-Paluello- as a distant effect of the Aristotle renaissance in Constantinople. 

The enigmatic Cerbanus, who must have led an exciting life (if it is the case that only one person is to be sought behind this name), seems also to have been a Venetian. From around 1118 to 1123, he was at the imperial court in Constantinople, working on translations from Greek hagiographical literature.46 Ιn the monastery of St. Μan in Pásztó (Hungary), he found  Maximus Homologetes' (the Confessor) ΚΕΦΑΛΑΙΑ ΠΕPΙ AΓΑΠΗC (Capita de caritate), which he translated and dedicated to Abbot David of Pannonhalma (1131-50)." The manuscript tradition indicates that the same person also executed the first (partial) Latin translation of John of Damascus' ΕΚΘΕCΙC ΑΚΡΙΒΗC ΤHC OΡΘΟΔΟΞΟΥ ΠΙCTEΩC  (De fide orthodoxa);Gerhoh of Reichersberg used this translation in 1147.

Ed. by R. L. Szigeti, Translatio latina Ioannis Damasceni [De orthodoxa fide III  1-8]  saec. XΙΙ  in Hungaria confecta,  Magyar-Görög Tanulmányok 13 (Budapest 1940); new edition by É. Μ. Buytaert (together with Burgundio's translation), Saint John Damascene: De fide orthodoxa. Versions of Burgundio and Cerbanus (Louvain/Paderborn 1955). On the method of translation, see J. de Ghellinck, "L'entrée littéraire de Jean de Damas dans le monde occidental," BZ 21 (1912)  448-57, and recently, Ι. Boronkai, "Übersetzungsfehler in Cerbanus' lateinischer Version von Johannes Damascenus und Maximus Confessor," Philologus 115 (1971) (Festschrift Johannes Schneider), 32-45. E. Hocedez deals with the translations by Cerbanus, Burgundio, and Grosseteste in "Les trois premières traductions du 'De orthodoxa fide,"' Le Musée Belge 17 (1913), 109-23. On the use of Cerbanus' translation by Gerhoh of Reichersberg, see P. Classen, "Der verkannte Damascenus," 52 (1959), 297-303, and Gerhoch von Reichersberg, pp. 124 f.