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Studying Plato at Mystra: New Perspectives on Gemistos Pletho and His School

Fabio Pagani, Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities, Fellow 2015–2016

My research investigates Byzantine intellectual history at the end of Palaiologan period. Against the widespread assumption that the Byzantine Middle Ages were unable to produce original philosophical speculation, I focused my attention on Gemistos Pletho and his school operating at Mystra in southern Greece. Pletho and his school have been the object of conflicting ideological interpretations, particularly when it comes to the relationship between philosophy and Christianity. Against this background, I have brought to the discussion a methodology based on the combination of philology, paleography, and textual criticism. Gemistos reappropriated the legacy of ancient Platonism by producing a text of Plato consistent with his own philosophical ideas. The result of this work is a better understanding not only of Gemistos Pletho, but also of how the reappropriation of antiquity interacted with the creation and spread of new ideas.