DEMETRIUS CYDONES (C.1324-C.1397): INTELLECTUAL AND DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS BETWEEN BYZANTIUM AND THE WEST IN THE FOURTEENTH CENTURY

FRANCES KIANKA, Fordham University

Abstract

The diplomatic and scholarly career of Demetrius Cydones is one of the most noteworthy examples of the many contacts between Byzantium and Western Europe in the fourteenth century. Born into an era of internal conflict which undermined Byzantium's ability to defend itself against external enemies, Cydones looked outside his own society towards Western Europe for solutions to problems which were both public and private. His long political career was marked by attempts to secure alliances with the papacy and with Latin rulers in Europe and in the Levant in order to prevent Byzantium from falling under the domination of the Ottoman Turks. At the same time, Cydones sought to resolve for himself problems raised by the major intellectual controversies of his age: the internal controversy over the theology of Gregory Plamas and the far-reaching problem of relations with the Roman Church and with Latin theology, especially that of Thomas Aquinas.^ The purpose of this study is to provide a basic understanding of the life of Demetrius Cydones, to describe the major problems which he faced as a statesman and scholar, and to indicate the nature of his personal and public solutions to these problems. Its main theme, therefore, has two aspects: Cydones's anti-Turkish, pro-Latin diplomacy and his intellectual appreciation for the philosophy and theology of the Latin West.^ The major sources for this study are the abundant literary works which survive from the latter part of the fourteenth century, including letters, speeches, occasional writings, and polemical literature. Cydones's own contributions to all these categories of literary work are of primary importance. An introductory chapter, therefore, presents a brief survey of Cydones's literary works: his correspondence, imperial and political speeches, apologies, polemical treatises, and miscellaneous writings. The letters of emperor Manuel II Palaeologus and of Manuel Calecas provide valuable information concerning Cydones's last years for which his own correspondence, so rich a source for the preceding period, is of slight help.^ The study examines Cydones's intellectual and diplomatic activities, beginning with his early life in Thessalonia, his attachment to the cause of John Cantacuzenus during the civil war, and his early career in the government of John VI. A central chapter deals with his study of Latin and with his many important translations of Latin patristic and scholastic texts, especially the works of Augustine, Aquinas, and Anselm of Canterbury. The translations became the major intellectual work of Cydones's life and influenced contemporary and future generations of Byzantines who were able for the first time to read some of the major sources of Latin theology in their own language. ^ Cydones's study of Latin theology, especially the scholastic theology of Aquinas, supported his conviction that Palamite theolgy was in error and contributed to his conversion to Roman Catholicism. His political role as mesazon for John V Palaeologus gave him the opportunity to act on his pro-Latin convictions. He supported the emperor's journey to Rome and conversion to Catholicism in 1369 and worked for a Byzantine-papal entente in the hope of receiving military aid for the empire in its struggle against the Ottoman Turks.^ Although his diplomacy ultimately failed, Cydones maintained his admiration for Thomistic theology and his respect for Latin culture. The continuity of his views in the fifteenth century, in the careers of Manuel Calecas, Maximus Chrysoberges, Manuel Chrysoloras, and cardinal Bessarion, is yet to be investigated. It was, perhaps, Cydones's recognition of the many ties which bound together the Christians of East and West which these men found most attractive and worthy of emulation. ^

Subject Area

History, Medieval

Recommended Citation

FRANCES KIANKA, "DEMETRIUS CYDONES (C.1324-C.1397): INTELLECTUAL AND DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS BETWEEN BYZANTIUM AND THE WEST IN THE FOURTEENTH CENTURY" (January 1, 1981). ETD Collection for Fordham University. Paper AAI8123553.
http://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI8123553

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