Doi umaniști greci în Italia: Mihail Sofianos și Teodor Rentios/Two Greek Humanists in Italy: Mihail Sofianos and Teodor Rentios

Alexandru Elian’s doctoral thesis, drawn up under the guidance of scholar Demosthene Russo (1869-1938), was published 81 years after it had been defended. The edition was initiated by the late Byzantinologist Nicolae-Șerban Tanașoca and completed thanks to the efforts and persistence of Father Vasile V. Muntean. 

Publication of this dissertation was all the more necessary as it sets forth ideas, theses and results unmatched so far, offering Romanian specialists a precious source concerning the history of Hellenism in the diaspora. Moreover, given its admirable punctiliousness, the attention given to detail, the responsible examination of the documents under scrutiny, and the scientific argumentation of any thesis or idea dealt with, the work constitutes a brilliant model to be followed by young doctoral students and research workers.
A trail-blazing work since the time it was written, the dissertation outlines the biography and work of two Greek humanists born in the island of Chios who made a name in 16th century Italy, making an important contribution to salvaging and spreading classical Greek culture in that area. “Both Sofianos and Rentios – the author shows – are representative of the new, didactic aspect Greek Humanism takes on in Italy in the mid-16th century: both are first of all teachers, falling within a neo-Greek tradition according to which, from the end of the Byzantine epoch to the foundation of the new Hellenic state, the most distinguished elements of Greek culture were inspirited by a strong didactic vocation that they largely exercised beyond the ethnic borders of Hellenism. The two scholars also share other traits with most of the learned Greeks settled in Italy: they are copyists of manuscripts, versifiers and pursue philosophy [...]. Copying Greek manuscripts, they continue a Byzantine tradition [...];composing epigrams in the Homeric meter and language, they observe another, older tradition: of concise elegance, often combined with the Attic spirit, which had never been lost from ancient Hellas to their time. They furthermore added the old Greek enthusiasm for philosophy, serving it as much as they could through translations, copies and commentaries. Both therefore were, in the West, the praiseworthy messengers of Hellenism, whose clearest traditions they represented.” The two Greek scholars, whose path and career on Italian soil Alexandru Elian follows and analyzes so minutely, enjoyed the appreciation of European specialists in their time, who, as was the custom, paid their respects with special epigrams.
The edition is curated by professor FatherVasile V. Muntean, who in his turn underscores “the remarkable contribution to the history of Hellenism in Italy, that the Romanian readership, too, will read with keen interest, since it also contains information related to the localhistory and culture in the Middle Ages.”
Academician Emilian Popescu evokes, in moving words, the personality of the Romanian Byzantinologist.
The work also reproduces the brief presentation of Academician Alexandru Elian included in the volume The Members of the Romanian Academy. A Dictionary 1866-2016, Part I (A-L), compiled by Academician Dorina N. Rusu. Here below are some essential biographical milestones, culled from that presentation.
Born in Bucharest, Alexandru Elian studied philosophy and history at Bucharest University, defending his doctoral thesis in 1938. A member of the Romanian School at Fontenay-aux-Roses, in France (1932-1934), he further studied in Venice. A paleographer and head of department at the Manuscripts Section of the Library of the Romanian Academy (1936-1956), he taught paleography (1937-1948) at the Higher School of Archival Science. He taught Byzantinology at Bucharest University(1948-1952) and at the Theology Institute(1956-1975). Head of department and then of section (1956-1968) at the Nicolae Iorga History Institute. In his works he approached the history of Byzantium, its relations with the Romanian Principalities, as well as the history of the Romanian Orthodox Church. The volumeFontes Historiae Daco-Romanae.III. Byzantine writers (11th-14th c.), which he co-authored, won the Romanian Academy’s “Vasile Parvan” Prize. A corresponding member first (as of 1991), Alexandru Elian became a full member of the Romanian Academy in 1993.
Having studied Theology in Sibiuand obtained a doctor’s degree in Theology in 1985 in Bucharest, under the guidance of prof. Alexandru Elian, professor Father Vasile V. Muntean, PhD(b.1949) was an associate professor at the West University in Timisoara from1993 until not long ago. Between 1996 and 2006, he also taught at the Eftimie Murgu University in Resita. He authored works on church history (The History of the Romanian Church, 2 vol, 2009, 2010) and on Byzantinology (Byzantinology, vol I, 1999) and he also tackled the relations between the Romanian Principalities and Byzantium (Byzantine and Romanian Spirituality, 2004, Byzantium and the Romanians, 2009). A major pursuit of the Byzantinologist Vasile V. Muntean is the publication of the work of his brilliant teacher, Alexandru Elian.



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